Chapter 1: A Meeting
9-13-09: Some Chapters in THIS STORY IS BEING RE-EDITED to fix a few grammatical or writing errors.
Title: Vader's New Love (formerly titled: Colors of The Wind)
Summary: Darth Vader finds love on Naboo ten years after Padme's death. Can he trust his heart? Can he bring himself to trust her?
Disclaimer: Star Wars is owned by the head honcho, George Lucas and LucasFilmsltd.
Reviewing: Please feel free to review or ask question it fuels my creativity! I WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT - thanks!
Comments: Yeah, it's like an old Harlequin Romance, with the selfish, sexist male and the abiding woman. I guess the early influence of books read during my teenage years are somewhat noticeable here. But I expect Vader to behave no other way.
Mariana Nafur/Olee Starstone
It was Vader's first trip to Naboo since his beloved Padme Naberrie died. Or to put it more aptly, ten years ago to the day since he killed her. A day which also shared the anniversary of his decade long confinement to the cage he was forced to wear. Vader washed the memory from his mind.
Anakin Skywalker had a wife. He was Darth Vader.
An Imperial troop from his special brigade commandeered Vader's ship as the Sith Lord stared out of the viewing window. There was nervousness in the pit of his stomach as they descended onto the landing strip just beyond the queen's estate, a large stone structure of beautiful and elaborate design. Naboo was just as he remembered it. Mountains etched into the landscape beneath a vibrant sky, flowers blossoming in every corner in pots, and in fields.
Beyond the queen's palace was a meadow that stretched as far as the eyes could see. He remembered frolicking about, rolling in it with his beloved Padme. No. Anakin's Padme- not his, he reminded himself. He shook his head. I am Vader. The trip to Naboo was to be a short one. It wouldn't take long to find the Jedi who hid there. This one escaped the purge more than ten years ago to hide among Naboo civilians. Ten long years he'd been on the run. The Jedi will be destroyed, Vader resolved.
He thought of Anakin Skywalker and the lights on his chest plates danced. Times like these he suspected the emperor of using the panel to control his thoughts. Whenever he reflected on Anakin's life, his wife, his deceased child, the lights danced, flashed red, then he was suddenly back on task - amazingly focused.
Diplomats sent by the Queen approached his ship. One of which was a young man who looked to be a teen. He had curly hair, tanned skin, and olive-colored eyes. The other was ayoung woman. Naboo still held its tradition of seating young politicians. Perhaps because they were naive and would bring fresh ideas to Naboo policy. Anakin was young when he met Padme Amidala. She was a politician, he thought.
Vader descended the platform and walked toward them - a shining black Lord of the Sith. His dark silken cape whipped wildly behind him in the wind. Ten armed Imperial underlings followed. One of the Naboo diplomats, a woman, waved a hand and motioned for him to stop. Vader contemplated moving forward and crushing her under his big black boot. Instead, he paused.
"Lord Vader, pleasure to meet you. I am Mariana Nafur and this is my colleague, Dole Linot. We're diplomats sent by the queen to welcome you."
Mariana looked at Vader, her pointy nose raised in the air proudly. He stared at the woman's dark eyes, high cheek bones, and shiny black hair.
"I'm aware of who you are, Nafur."
The sound of Vader's voice was louder than usual, meaner. His gaze lingered. The Sith Lord clasped both mechanical hands behind his back and strode past her to address Dole.
"As well you should," she retorted.
Vader turned, and for a second he thought he saw her looking through his mask right into his eyes.
"Take me to your queen," he roared.
Dole shook. Vader sensed his fear and felt himself smile. This was the way it should be, even if Mariana wouldn't allow him such an indulgence. In time, he decided, he would deal with her insolence.
"The queen is away on business, Lord Vader. As I understand it your business here is with a rebel. Dole will you show you to your room."
Dole stared at Mariana, not wishing to escort the Emperor's right hand. People had been known not to return from such trips.
"Linot, you will tell your queen that I expect her to be in my company no later than sundown. Nafur, you will take me to my room," he thundered. The woman's response smacked of impertinience. Mariana shrugged and turned on her heels.
"Then follow me," she said, with a toss of her hair.
To Vader, this sounded like an order. His men looked nervously at each other then at Vader who faced them with his back. Without turning around, he barked "Mind your posts!" The mask on his face whistled in frustration.
Mariana turned, her eyebrows raised.
"Are you okay, Lord Vader?" She dared herself to look at him. The mask he wore gasped.
"You will speak only when spoken to, Nafur. You will also address me as 'Your Lordship' from hence forth. Are we clear?"
"Yes- your Lordship."
She said it as though the words left a bad taste in her mouth. The Sith Lord was displeased.
Chapter 2: Housemates
Mariana walked with Darth Vader, the evil henchman of the ever-absent Emperor. The former Chancellor turned hermit betrayed the Republic when he left this bully in charge - Vader was now the face of the Galactic Empire. But strangely enough, he left Naboo to the queen. Most planets had to deal with the Governors he sent.
Mariana, Vader, and the troops marched past the palace. She had no desire for him to meet with the queen or sleep in her palace as a guest. Not yet. Vader couldn't be trusted. He was so volatile at times she wouldn't be surprised if he killed her Highness in a fit of rage. His reputation was known throughout the galaxy - he was not a man to toy with.
Mariana led him down a brick path that winded over a bridge, down a grassy hill, to the lake.
She could hear the sound of his mask with every breath he took "Chaaaaaaaaa Shiiiiiish".
They stopped in front of a tan colored ancient looking stone structure with large windows. The windows, didn't have glass in them though, which made the view all the more beautiful. The lake was as blue as the sky, so crystal clear that she could see fish swimming below its depths. She wondered if Vader stopped to look, or had even bothered to appreciate the view. Otherwise, why even waste it on him?
The mosaic tan and peach tiles on the floor buckled under his boots as they walked inside. He raised a hand and the troops came to a halt just outside of the door. Dole stood with them.
"See that my men are given proper accomodations," he ordered.
Mariana turned to Dole, raising a hand to his shoulders. "There's a guest house just around the bend. It's small, but they should find comfort there."
Vader watched. For some unexplainable reason seeing Mariana touch Dole on the shoulder irritated him.
She turned and caught him staring. Vader swore she looked through the mask right onto his face and wished he were as beautiful as he was all those years ago. Perhaps she would appreciate him as much as she did the view outside of the Villa.
"Your Lordship, I sincerenly hope you will enjoy your stay," she said, bowing her head politely.
"Is the suite properly staffed?"
"Of course, Your Lordship."
Every time she uttered the words "Your Lordship", he regretted telling her to call him that.
"Nevertheless, I will require your services here," Vader demanded.
"Then I will make it my business to return in the morning."
"You will remain at my beck and call. Understood?"
"How do you propose I do that?" Mariana protested.
"I'm sure you will figure something out. Or else I will be forced to assign a garrison to your Naboo - and they will meet my needs and properly tend to me."
"If you mean wait service, we have maidens for that."
"How many bedrooms are in this house?"
"You will take the one nearest mine."
Vader stormed away, He sensed through Mariana the location of his room and climbed the stairs to the top floor. He hated stairs. But he wouldn't let her know how much it pained his stubs as he walked up.
Chapter 3: Dinner With The Queen
The room Mariana chose for Vader was too bright and cheerful for him to stay in. He felt less serious there, more civilian than military like some idiotic commoner taking a vacation. But the space was large enough to accomodate the medical facilities he needed to keep him alive. Equipment his troops would install when he beckoned them.
Vader walked toward the window and stared out. He wished he saw whatever it was Mariana thought too beautiful to waste on him. From his perspective, the view was an all red terrain with coordinates being measured out before him. But he knew there was a lake. A lake that flooded him with memories of his time on Naboo with Padme and the blue vibrant waves that crashed against the rocks piled beneath her terrace on their wedding night. He could even smell the air and the seaweed in it.
A solemn knock on the door broke into his thoughts. He was grateful. He wouldn't have to fight the depression that slowly crept into his heart. A tug of the force, and the door opened a crack. Mariana Nafur peeked in, then slid a shoulder into the door.
She had changed from the formal diplomat robes young politicians wore into a yellow shoulderless dress. She wore her hair wrapped in strange looking braids that coiled about her head like ropes which from where he stood, made the pattern of a star-fighter. Her necklace was an elaborate beaded necklace with what appeared to be blue and yellow colors, he was close enough to make them out. Strangely enough though, she didn't wear shoes. He felt underdressed. Overdressed actually, in his black med-suit and helmet. It was hot in there.
"The queen is here. She will be joining us for dinner"
Dinner? Did they even bother to consider how and what he could eat? Vader bristled.
"Then you will take me to your dining area," he said, his voice as flatter than usual.
"I'm well aware of what I need to do, Your Lordship. That's why I'm here - to escort you."
Why wasn't she afraid of him? And why did he suddenly feel as though he needed her approval ?
Vader walked across the room, but instead of walking out he pushed the door closed and stared down at Mariana.
"If you continue this disrespectful attitude of yours... I assure you, you won't last long around me."
"If you find my attitude disrespectful, then I owe you an apology. But you see, Your Lordship, too many terrible things have happened since the advent of the Galactic Empire, and -"
"Are you a rebel?" he asked.
A wave of fear flushed through her. Mariana swallowed.
"No, but I don't agree with some of your policies. I believe there's always a diplomatic alternative to war and fighting."
Mariana turned and opened the door a crack. She felt the heat of his gaze upon her back and for some reason, half expected him to strike her down. Who spoke such things to Darth Vader himself and lived to tell about it? But Vader said nothing as he followed her into the corridor.
The pair descended the staircase and entered the dining area, where the queen sat with jewels weaved into her elaborate hairdo. She wore white face paint, a dash of red paint on her lips, and a large dark robe over her body.
Mariana directed Vader to the opposite end of the table, the head and sat next to him.
Seeing Mariana and the queen at the same table reminded him of Padme posing as a handmaiden and Sabe posing as the queen. But Mariana was a diplomat. However, because of her arrogance he reduced her to wait staff and she complied for the good of Naboo.
The queen smiled graciously at Vader.
"It is good to see you again," she said to the masked military commander.
"Yes. So it is," he answered in a calculated voice.
Wait staff rushed the table to issue food to their plates. Then it dawned on Mariana. How does Vader eat? She looked at the queen, a question in her eyes. How terribly rude of them. Did he remove his mask? Was he fed intravenously?
Vader sat with both arms spread forth, each hand on opposite sides of the plate and watched as the queen and galactic senators from Naboo, scarfed down their meals between polite conversation. Mariana didn't eat at all, she simply watched between shooting ideas back and forth with the others.
He watched as Mariana arched her head forward, bony pointed shoulders leaning over her untouched meal as she spoke with great confidence to senators much older than she. Mariana looked to be in her early twenties.
"So, Lord Vader, tell us about this rebel on the run here in Naboo..." the queen requested.
"The rebel is a Jedi and must be captured. He is hiding here. He will be destroyed when we find him."
Mariana's lips drew a tight white line on her face. She looked at Vader... his body sat motionless, like a black lacquer statue.
"Your Lordship, you don't find the Jedi deserving of some kind of judicial process? Perhaps he is not a rebel. Perhaps he's been falsely accused..."
"Our policy is to seek and destroy all terrorist."
"I find your policies, and you to be barbaric."
The queen gasped, fork clanking to her plate. She shot Mariana a disdainful look but the young politician remained undaunted.
"Then perhaps you might join the rebels and we might find ourselves not only on opposite sides of the table, but opposite sides of the war. Then I might be forced to destroy you. Better yet, I might forego it all and dispose of you now."
Vader's fist banged the table.
"That won't be necessary, Lord Vader. I apologize, on behalf of Naboo and our young politician here... she's a bit headstrong. I will summon another diplomat to act as your liason to the palace. I assure you, this will never happen again."
Vader's shoulders relaxed and he fell back against his seat.
"That won't be neccessary. Thank you for having me, I will retire now... Nafur," he barked.
Mariana threw her napkin on top of her plate, pushed her chair back, and followed him up the stairs.
Chapter 4: Vials
Vader stalked across his room with Mariana two paces behind him. He could feel her frustration, but could care less. Why didn't he just choke her to death and get it over with?
"I'm going to bed. Is there anything I can do for you, Your Lordship?"
"Perhaps you didn't notice amid all the interesting conversation... that I didn't have the opportuniteee to eat," he said in that weird mechanical accent of his.
"Sure you did. You chose not to take advantage of it. You sat at the dinner table with the rest of us..."
"You don't understand, miladeee. I assure you, no one at that table would have much appreciation for my table manners."
Did he just call her milady? When was the last time he called someone that?
"What can I do, Your Lordship?"
"That vial in the cabinet..." he said, pointing. "Retrieve it so that I might eat."
Mariana turned. Across the room in a wooden cabinet sat tall vials of liquid. The top shelf had been marked "breakfast" the second "lunch" the third "dinner".
Mariana walked across the room, opened the cabinet door and grabbed a vile from the dinner shelf.
She then scanned the room for a feeding syringe. Where was it? She thought Vader would point her in the right direction, but he stood silently, watching as she fumbled through containers and searched behind the sofa.
"Are you really that incompetent! How should I know?" he roared.
Mariana's hands dropped at her sides in exasperation. She returned to the cabinet, found a small drawer and opened it. Inside were plastic individually wrapped syringes.
Vader sat in a round arm chair and waited. Mariana kneeled at his side, found a small opening on the side of his neck and positioned the syringe. But how would she attach the vial to the needle? It made no sense.
"You incompetent fool," Vader raged. "If you knew anything you'd attach the syringe to my feeding pump then insert it into the opening of my suit."
Mariana sighed. Her eyes roamed the room until she located the pump. It sat in a box next to the special chair the troops brought to Vader's room.
Mariana poured the contents of the vial into the pump, then attached the syringe to his neck and throat. She clicked the pump's switch to the "on" position then watched as the liquid climbed the tube all the way into his neck.
"Anybody ever teach you how to feed yourself?"
"I am not surrrre that I could," he answered.
"I find it hard to believe a mighty warrior like you would have difficulties doing something as trivial as feeding himself."
He wasn't all bad, Mariana thought. He was an involent, in many ways as helpless as a newborn baby. Maybe his dependence on his underlings and servants fed his irritation.
Mariana looked down, suddenly feeling guilty. Why did she feel such sympathy for him? "I'll be back," she said.
Vader ignored her, sitting still as the pump fed liquid into his body. He was used to eating dinner alone. He assumed the diplomat had probably left in disgust. Who wanted to watch a mechanically enhanced fleshless asthmatic handicap eat chemically broken down food through a vial?
The liquid in the bottle had decreased by twenty-five percent when Mariana returned. She walked in, not bothering to knock, a plate of food in her hands.
Vader looked at her without so much as moving his head. Mariana couldn't be sure if he saw her or not. Or if he slept behind the mask. But she sat across from him anyway.
Tonight they would eat dinner. Together.
Chapter 5: Lap Dance
Vader watched as Mariana nibbled at the food on her plate. SHe stared at him ocassionally, a question in her eyes as she peeked at him through her lashes. He could tell she wasn't exactly sure if he were sleep or awake because he sat so still. Nor would he tell her. Instead he watched, as the liquid meal pumped articifical flavor into his senses.
Mariana knew nothing about the tyrant. Was he old? Or young? Was he human? Was he born in this terrible predicament or did something happen to him? For some reason, she wanted to know more. She had no idea the suit was there to protect him. She thought he wore it to intimidate and frighten. Who was the man beneath the mask?
Vader sensed her curiousity... concern, and dare he acknowledge it... care? When was the last time somebody really cared about him?
He thought about Padme. But Padme was a liar. She kept secrets from him. She brought Obi-Wan to Musafar to kill him. She conspired against the chancellor with the 2000 senators behind his back to embarrass him.
And why did Mariana care about him anyway? He was an evil tyrant, a role he humbly accepted because all other options were lost after Padme died and the emperor rescued him.
The pump made a loud sifting noise and Mariana realized it was done. How long was he going to let the pump pull air from the empty vial?
"I don't understand you," Mariana said. She felt foolish. Did he even hear her? It was like talking to a wall.
"What is there to understand?" he asked. "Understanding is useless," he added offhandedly.
So bitter... she thought. "How does someone as powerful as you, Your Lordship , become so..." Mariana shrugged-suddenly at a loss for words.
"That wasn't exactly my line of thought. I hardly think you're weak. Quite the contrary. I was going to say 'dependant'. People cater to you morning, noon, and night. Do you do anything on your own?"
Beneath the black mask, Vader smiled. He killed on his own. Wiped entire armies from the face of the galaxy on his own... what more did he need to do?
Mariana stood and walked toward the machine which sat next to his chair. She leaned next to him, then turned the air from the pump off. She was surprised she was able to reach it, since it was barely within her grasp. Why did he move it? Far enough in fact, to throw her off balance and cause her to fall right in his lap.
Mariana gasped and her face turned beet red. She was a dead woman...
But Vader was still again, like some a statue carved of dark obsidian rock. Mariana froze. Behind the darkness was a face of terror. She gazed at him... then tried to see the eyes beyond the mask... Up close, he didn't look real. He looked like a machine.
"Am I so hideous to your eyeeees that you can only stare at me?"
Mariana covered her mouth with a hand, "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed.
"I don't neeeeed your pity," he answered.
Mariana slid from his lap.
"I wasn't showing you pity. I was curious... Like, how old are you?" she blurted.
Vader sat still.
"I mean, are you young? Old? Alive?"
Vader did not move.
Mariana walked toward the door and opened it, certain she had crossed the line. "Nevermind..." she mumbled. "I'm sorry."
Then stepped into the corridor, and closed the door behind her.
Chapter 6: Run
Vader watched as Mariana slipped through his bedroom door. Why did he let her go? More importantly, why did he let her live? What was happening to him? Whatever it was, he didn't like it.
When he felt the soft curves of her body curled on his lap, he longed for more of her touch. He longed for Padme... his mother's warm hugs, even.
She didn't see his hands moving toward her, or him stopping himself from wrapping his mechanical arms around her. Arms he feared were so strong and so powerful that he would crush her just as he had crushed Padme that awful day on Musafar. He was a monster. Even his love killed people.
But he wasn't a boy anymore, full of unrequited love and desire. The suit made him feel old. Not even Mariana could be sure of his age, thinking him an involent and an old man when he was only in his early thirties and quite agile despite the suit. Even worse was her question... "are you alive?"
What did she mean?
Was he human?
He used to be.
Was he a droid?
His heart still beat, even with wires pumping blood through what remained of his body. He still felt things that humans felt... like hatred and anger. Sometimes he felt love - but only in his memories.
Vader remained in the round arm chair and felt himself drifting into sleep. He often dreamed of a peaceful galaxy. But there was little peace in his dreams on this night.
Mariana was there...
Vader woke with a start. A knock on his door intruded upon his dreams. He said nothing, but watched as the door creaked open. He sensed it was Mariana before she even walked inside.
"You have any idea what time it is?"
Vader turned his head, surprised that he slept so soundly in his mask. He usually closed the special chair which was also a hyperbaric chamber, over his head so he could sleep without his gear.
Sunlight streamed through the windows onto her peach colored dress. "The queen really had it for me," Mariana continued. "She said, I spoke too freely yesterday. That I should apologize."
Vader had a thing about apologies. They were for the weak.
"I only said what was on my mind. So I won't apologize for my words. But I do regret calling you barbaric. It wasn't fair. You're so much more than that."
His heart leapt at the words. But he said nothing. Mariana walked toward the wooden cabinet and grabbed a breakfast concoction from the shelf.
She then kneeled before Vader who sat motionless, as though he were not watching her... She grabbed his arm and pressed the vial into his hand.
Vader's fingers closed around the glass and snap! The vial shattered.
The look on Mariana's face was one of confusion. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Vader's hand moved to his lap. He looked at her face, the way her eyebrows furrowed, the way her eyes seemed to sparkle, the sad pout of her lips, the shine of her dark hair, which draped over her shoulders like a dark black cape.
Mariana stood, stormed across the room and grabbed another vial. She then walked back to Vader and pressed the breakfast concoction into his hand. He sat motionless for a second, until she slid the air pump close to his feet.
Using the force, he cracked the second vial. Liquid spilled to the floor.
"I gather you're not interested in learning how to feed yourself!" Mariana raged. "If so, get someone else to do it!"
Mariana stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
She marched down the stairs in a huff. Who in the hell does he think he is? She raged. This type of service was beneath her. She was an educated woman, a decorated politician. Not some handmaiden or servant.
Mariana left the villa without her shoes, feet bearing down on the tile, the grass, the bridge beyond it, the meadow, all the way home.
Vader sat motionless in his chair. Run Mariana. Run as fast as you can, he said to himself. It is too late for me...
Chapter 7: the mission
Mariana found herself running. This man...machine was rumored to have killed Padme Amidala, the former Naboo queen during the great Jedi Purge. A friend of her father's who also served on the Senate. Apparently two thousand senators, including her father, signed a petition to remove the chancellor from office. Forced confessions, jail time, torture and murder were their punishments. Mariana had even heard Vader was said to have executed the former queen with his own hands.
And yet... she pitied him. How could she? Her father survived, but how long did he live behind prison walls?
She had him... right there in her hands and let him go. She could have poisoned him the first night. But was she really a murderer? No. She needed him to poison himself, but Vader was too hard-headed to heed her advice! Mariana wondered if he knew about the toxic potion she slipped into the vial...
He couldn't know, or else he would have killed her already.
Mariana stood in a meadow, staring into the distance at the queen's palace. Tiny purple flowers stretched toward the clear blue sky around her. She would go to the palace and retrieve her clothing. Why did she feel so instantly drawn to Vader? Why was he so drawn to her?
It was enough to force Mariana to come to a decision. She must leave Naboo. She sensed, the situation was to become worse... especially if he found the 'jedi' he was looking for.
Mariana walked through the halls with the queen, hands clasped around her suitcases as paused before a set of romanesque styled columns.
"You can't leave. Darth Vader has summoned you back to the guest Villa," the queen said upon hearing Mariana's request.
Mariana gasped. "Why?"
"He admitted to being a bit harsh with you. That he might have frightened you."
"I wouldn't say that," the queen admitted. "But it sounded like he wanted to."
"I was only trying to help," Mariana said.
"Of course... if you leave, he's promised to send a baron to Naboo."
Mariana knew it was just too good to be true. Vader? Apologizing?
"He'll send a baron if I leave? What does he want with me?"
"I don't know, but he seems to have taken a shine to you, young lady."
"Has he found the rebel? The Jedi he's looking for?"
"Not yet," the queen said, walking again. "He seems to like you though. Maybe being around you will soften his heart."
"What heart?" Mariana griped.
"You don't mean that..."
Mariana sighed. "I'll go back. But only for Naboo. Hopefully I'll convince him that he doesn't need me. That a servant will do much better with him than I will."
"You're a public servant . So I am," the queen corrected. "That means doing things you don't want for the good of the people...for the good of Naboo."
"I know..." Mariana admitted.
"I'll have your luggage sent to the villa."
"How long will Vader be on Naboo?"
"For as long as it takes him to find the Jedi."
Chapter 8: Embers
Cont'd:It was nightfall when she finally returned to the Villa where Vader waited. Mariana stood near the bridge and watched the shadow of his darkly cloaked figure as he gazed through the window toward the lake.
Instantly she felt his pull. It was as though he planted a voice in her head...his voice.
The villa was dark and the staff apparently had gone for the night. Under a spell of some kind she drifted across the grassy hill and climbed the crumbling stone staircase to its entrance.
She pushed the door open and dropped her luggage on the tile floor.
Mariana looked around. Had she imagined the silhouette in the window? The pull, the voices in her head? She sighed.
Mariana dragged her suitcase up the stairs and pushed opened the door to her room. It was late and Vader was probably asleep. In the few days she spent with him he went to bed early.
Mariana showered quietly in an adjoining bath, hoping not to disturb his hyperbaric rest.
She toweled herself dry and found a gown to sleep in. She silently mulled over the selection. The villa was cool, with a breeze from the lake blowing through the windows. But she chose a sheer tan colored gown.
Mariana slipped it over her body then slid into bed.
Mariana closed her eyes. She pulled the covers to her neck and couldn't help but wonder what her conversation with Vader would be like the following day.
No sooner than she had drifted into sleep, did a howling wind blow the door to her room open. Mariana shuddered, then climbed out of bed and walked toward the door. It didn't take long for her curiosity to best her. Instead of closing it, she stepped into the corridor and tip toed down the stairs.
Mariana sat on the stairs and peered through the banister. Fire crackled in the fireplace and Vader's shadow danced on the wall. He turned and looked at her, flames flickering in the black orbs of his mask.
Who lit the fire for him? She wondered.
Mariana slipped down the rest of the stairs and walked across the room prepared to douse the flames with the growing pile of ash beneath it. He needed his rest. But instead of admonishing him, she paused.
Vader stood as still as he sat...as though he'd been chiseled out of stone.
Behind the mask, he watched...concentrated, spoke without speaking. This connection - whatever it was, was bigger than them both. His gaze worked its way over her form. She was young. About the age he was when he turned to the dark side. The gown she chose to sleep in - he chose for her to sleep in, was thin enough for him to see what was beneath. Her freshly washed hair flowed to her shoulders a like a blanket of thick black oil over her back and shoulders.
They were silent as she took a step forward and lunged forth into his arms, her legs coiling around his waist, her arms tight around his shoulders.
What am I doing? Mariana panted...
She couldn't breathe. Something had stolen her breath away. But she held tight, not even loosening her grip when she felt his arms fold around her.
Her neatly coiffed hair was now wild, mussed all over her head and covering her eyes as her face sunk into the depths of his collar. What was happening to them?
The only time Vader held anyone this close, was when they were taking a dying breath. Perhaps her outcome would be the same. Maybe not. He felt the need in her hold, the passion. He sensed her confusion...there they were, he a Sith, and she a...
Vader pushed her back against the side of the fireplace. For ten long years he felt as though he spoke, communicated, and interacted with the universe and all the people he met from behind a locked door. But with Mariana he felt as though she alone had made an effort to unlock it and walk inside.
He felt alive.
More man than droid. Less droid and more like a man... Like Anakin Skywalker and less like Darth Vader - killing machine.
Electrical impulses sent messages to the nerves in his brain that allowed him to feel his mechanical hands roving over the small mounds beneath her gown. He heard her exhale...then sigh. He looked at her face, her closed eyes, then leaned against her.
What was he doing?
He let her go and she slid to the floor on top of a fur rug. Embers flickered and sparked out of the fireplace, the flecks glowing about her.
She curled her legs, knees pressed against her chest.
"You were unwise to return," Vader said.
"I came back because you asked. I did it for Naboo."
"This...changes nothing," he said. What did he care about politics? Or keeping his word?
Orange colored flames danced in her eyes. She felt his presence in the force, touching her in ways only the force could. She closed her eyes and wished she wanted him to stop.
Mariana exhaled and crossed both arms over her knees. Vader was using Naboo to control her. Leaving was in fact, her only recourse.
Vader crossed the rug. The room had grown so quiet she could hear the whirring of the machinery in his knees that enabled him to walk.
Vader climbed the stairs. How long until she fully realized that he was truly a monster?
Chapter 9: A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Mariana opened her eyes. She looked around, the night's stress washed from her eyes. She laid in bed with the covers pulled to her neck. Somehow she'd found her way up stairs. Or did he carry her there? Either way, she couldn't remember.
Mariana climbed out of bed and hurried into the adjoining shower, washed herself, then dressed. Her plan was to get someone from the staff to care for Vader's breakfast. She would resume her normal political duties and save the work Vader sought her to do for those who should be responsible for doing it.
She walked down the stairs dressed in full Naboo political regalia. Elaborate hairdo, makeup, a dark dress, covered by a robe. She would visit the palace and join the queen for formal daily briefings.
Nervous servants scuttled by, cleaning and getting the villa to his Lordship's specifications. Vader stood in the living room with imperial troops flanked at his sides. She could hear the clipped tones of his voice as he dressed them down. Mariana opened the door then hurried out. But two guards with blasters in their hand stood on the other side.
"We're not allowed to let you pass," a troop dressed in white armor informed.
Mariana opened her mouth in protest.
But instead of saying anything she turned, opened the door, then stormed back inside. She marched toward Vader, hand crumpled into a fist. "Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"
Vader nodded at the troops, signaling them for a bit of privacy. He turned away, hands clasped behind his back as he walked across the room. Mariana followed him with her eyes.
"What is the meaning of this? Tell your guard dog to let me by," she ordered.
"My arrangement with the queen means you are in my service from hence forth."
"Surely you're mistaken. I have a permanent role as a diplomat here in Naboo. In fact, my plan is to join Queen Miracova at the palace for daily briefings."
"Perhaps I haven't made myself cleaaaaar," he said in a menacing mechanical voice. "You no longer report to the queen, you report to me. You are my liason to Naboo. A garrison will be stationed here in this villa soon. They will update you and you are to brief me. Understood?"
"This is insane! You...you can't push the queen out of power. And you certainly can't force me to accept this! Naboo doesn't need a garrison, we're the most peaceful planet in the Republic."
Vader bristled at the word "Republic".
"Then I will leave the queen to Naboo and you will join me on the imperial starship. Permanently."
"Permanently? Doing what?" she exclaimed.
Vader was surprised by the disappointed sound of her voice. Especially considering the night before.
"You sound displeased with our the new arrangement."
"I've been groomed to serve as a politician. Someday I plan to sit on the senate."
"Not anymore," Vader said.
His hand found her chin and squeezed. But Mariana pointed her nose in the air and challenged his gaze with one of her own.
Vader remembered being young and begging Padme Amidala to be with him, to be her secret love. But now, he was mature beyond his years. His new life as Vader saw to that. He saw no need to ask. He was in control, he was most powerful now. The new Republic, the Galactic Empire did away with such formalities. There were no Jedi to tell him what he could or could not do. Whether he could or could not possess. With him, she would have a new life and no one could say or do anything about it.
"I like what I do!" she spat.
"What you do or do not like matters little to me."
"If you cared about me at all then it would. Forget anything nice I've said about you. I hate you," Mariana raged, turning toward the stairs.
Vader followed her with his eyes as he parted. How many times had he said those words as a young Jedi and meant it?
Chapter 10: Emotional Tyranny
Mariana didn't see Vader until much later in the day when he stopped by her room to throw her Naboo Judicial Policies handbook out of the window declaring that if he saw it again, he'd replace it with a Galactic Rule book. She had been reading.
Mariana sighed. If she were up to trying to poison him again, she would. But somehow, she couldn't bring herself to do it. Perhaps he was only misunderstood. Afterall, his tyrannic actions did bring a measure of peace - but in many ways there was saddness in the harmony... fear.
Night fell. That afternoon she didn't serve him lunch. He deserved to starve for the horrible way he treated her. But she checked on him when it was time to eat dinner, certain the servants had been sent away. This was his usual Modus operandi. Send them away so he could bother her in peace.
She didn't understand why he extended his tyrannical ways to her when she'd already shown him some level of interest. It was as though he'd staken his claim, marking his territory with some kind of black flag on Naboo, this villa, and her.
Mariana walked into Vader's room and found him sitting in the round chair, watching coordinates of some kind flash across the small viewing screen.
"Why do you do it?"
He turned, but didn't acknowledge her words. She interpreted this as his way of dismissing her. Instead she walked toward the vials, gathered the air pump and syringe, then moved toward the chair.
"I have already eaten," he said.
Mariana sat the pump near his chair. "You never answered my question. Why do you treat people and systems like possessions when they are already yours?"
"I learned at an early age how easy it is to lose what one has regardless of one's perceived possession of it."
"Do you mean death?"
Vader sat still, but she was certain his silence meant "yes".
"No one can prevent death," Mariana answered. "You just have to accept it."
Doesn't mean he has to like it, Vader thought. For as long as he could hold on, he would.
"You're too controlling. You have to learn to let go," Mariana said.
There was no way he was letting go of her, if that's what she meant.
"In some ways, I've already accepted your overtures," she continued. "But you make me feel like a prisoner."
That is what you are, he thought.
"You must learn to accept change."
He hated change.
"Things grow, go away, die... it's a part of life."
"It doesn't have to be," he said.
"What do you mean?"
He fell silent. "I should have killed you days ago. But you are still alive."
Her heart jumped at the thought. Kill her?
"I'm not afraid of death," Mariana answered. She slipped the vial through his suit and pierced his neck. He felt notsomuchas a tiny pinch.
"That is what you tell yourself, but you and I both know the truth."
The liquid pumped flavor into his senses, but he pulled the syringe from his neck and threw it to the floor. Using the force he turned the pump off without so much as a glance.
He didn't want food, he wanted her.
"Join me," he said.
Mariana stared into the black orbs of his mask.
Vader had a mother once, a wife, a child. One thing he always needed in balance of his brute strength was a woman's touch. Someone kind, someone gentle, someone to soften his heart. Someone to hold and comfort him amid all the death, conquering, battles, and fighting that wreaked havoc on his dreams. He felt merciful with this balance in his life.
Gloved hands clasped onto hers and pulled her into the chair and control center. The space was large, round and surprisingly cool.
Mariana fell onto his lap and curled her feet beneath her. He was a giant against her dimuniative form.
His eyes focused on the screen. She laid her head against his shoulder, hands clasped in her lap.
In the viewing window she saw imperial troops razing land. "What is this?" she asked.
"My Imperial troops have taken a planet in the Outer Rim. It belongs to the Empire now."
"Why are those houses on fire?"
He sat still now, not wanting to answer.
"What happened to the families that lived there?"
Mariana sat up, leaping from where she sat. But Vader grabbed her arm and held her in place.
"Things grow, go away, and die. It is a part of life," he said, forcing her to eat her words.
"Not like this-" Mariana protested. "That's not what I meant!"
"You must accept the truth. The Cheecon Fighters brought the wrath of the Empire upon their people. I am not to blame."
"Did you even try to listen to them?"
He didn't want her thinking about politics. Politics were bad. Politics destroyed him and Padme. He gave his wife choice. He wouldn't make the mistake of giving Mariana the same thing.
Vader turned the viewing window off. She took the joy out of watching the programming.
To Mariana, his way of life depressed her.
"I can't accept you... not if you do these terrible things."
"Your acceptance is not required."
Vader pressed a button and the area shifted. The back to the chair fell away, and a compartment beneath his feet rose. The control panel spread apart, and the top of the hyperbaric chamber covered them.
Chapter 11: Scars proceed with caution
The hyperbaric chamber was dark... cool. Mariana felt Vader reach over her, toward the control panel. A gust of air filled the tightening space.
She heard the sound of the black suit coming apart. The armor first and the chest plate with the dancing lights. He could live without it, as long as he remained in the hyperbaric chamber. He then peeled away the voice modulator he wore around his neck then the stretchy black material he wore beneath. Mariana laid with her legs still stretched across his lap. Her back rested against the cushions of the now-flattened seat.
For Vader it was now or never. A true test of her affection and acceptance. He was removing the mask. Would she recoil in disgust? Shriek in terror and fear? He'd kill her if she did. He'd kill her if she broke his heart. He trusted no one with his wounds. On this night, he trusted her.
Mariana's felt as though her heart had stopped. She heard the suit as it fell to the chamber's floor. He reached toward her. It was so quiet, she could hear the machine whirring in his arms. Except, the arms were not very droid-like. They looked surprisingly human.
Vader sat at the edge of technology. He no longer wore the chrome colored titantic covered prothestic limbs he used ten years ago. No. His limbs were flesh colored. Tailored to his near egg-shell sun-deprived skin tone.
Mariana saw his eyes in the darkness. They were blue with red circles around them. A craggy looking scar marked his cheek and a cross-like wound scarred his eye.
He had no hair. Clearly, he'd been burned. Burned badly. But the flames must have caught him from behind. His chest was smooth with minimal scarring, as was his face other than what the searing heat tore away on his cheek. Perhaps he laid on his stomach and only the heat of the flames reached the front of his body causing some damage, but not as much as what she felt with her hands as they caressed the grooves on his back.
She understood his anger...his suffering. She let her fingers caress him as though she could soothe away the memories of the pain he endured.
Vader leaned against her. How long had it been since he felt a woman's body pressed against his own? How long since he felt someone's - anyone's touch?
He could kiss her. But would she let him? Did she mask her disgust with sympathy?
Mariana touched his face. She was so happy to see him.
"Do I repulse you?" he asked.
His voice was surprisingly soft, wispy even. She liked that voice and would prefer to hear it more often. But Vader preferred the voice of his dark mask. Because it was fearsome.
"You could never repulse me," Mariana answered. She lied. When he killed people, he repulsed her. When he razed homes and conquered systems, he repulsed her. But he could change. She could change him.
Mechanical arms gripped her bony shoulders, squeezing them together. She pressed against him. She understood he hadn't as much control of his strength as she would like, but she could always teach him. She let her hands hold his cheeks, and let her lips kiss his.
She was nervous. So was he.
He wasn't supposed to, according to his Jedi teachings, but he could use the Force...to help him be closer to her. Just this once, he thought. To cement what they have. What was growing between them.
Vader's body was heavy against hers, like dead weight. Mariana had to fight for breath time and again. The Hyperbaric chamber wasn't for her really and he increased the air so there was enough for them both. The vault was highly pressurized now, and the highly concentrated oxygen made her light-headed. Was this his trap?
His movements were slow, calculated, precise as he peeled away the layers of her clothing. He knew where to touch. And this time, his hands were more controlled, less heavy, grazing softly against her skin as they touched her exposed breast.
Mariana loved his complexity or dare she admit it, loved him.
He was like the body she caressed so freely. Course like his scarred back. Soft like the skin on his chest, which she grazed with her lips. It was fitting that this part of him had been spared. This is where his heart beat. Where she felt his heart beating as he moved against her in the dark confines of his chamber.
They held each other for what felt like interminable hours. In the chamber, time seemed to stop. Mariana wiped her mind, thinking of nothing as she drifted into throughout her slumber, as she dreamt, memories of their night flashed across her mind, guiltily. Guilt for many reasons. Vader collected his clothing, pants and knitted shirt then slipped them on. He wouldn't torture her with his wounds for the rest of the night. Let them bask in their lovemaking until morn.
Chapter 12: Secrets
Vader had an uncanning sense of time. He sensed, rays of light beaming through the window of his room... he sensed it striking the lake, shimmering against it waves. He sensed it filtering through the trees, sparkling against the ice caps on the top of a distant mountain, awakening the flowers of some meadow. He felt it all around him, its life-giving essence.
Mariana was his sunshine. He suited up then opened the chamber. Light slipped between the crack as it opened its mouth and revealed to Vader a whole new world. One filled with happiness, even if temporary, he realized. How long had he ever been allowed to be happy?
Mariana, without time to dress, opened her eyes and pulled her gown against her nude body. He wanted to see her in the light. He heard her fuss and found himself laughing at her embarrassment. What was there to be embarrassed about now?
She slid into her gown and Vader gripped her arm. He spoke through his mask, that dark menacing voice. "Where do you think you're going?"
She hated when he took that tone with her. When he treated her like a possession.
Wherever she was going Vader decided, she wouldn't get far.
Even still, Mariana refused to indulge him with an answer. She walked to her bedroom, Vader following, and closed the door in his face.
She needed time to regroup, and rein her emotions in. She needed time to consider how best to deal with Vader, or else she might fall victim to his heavy persuasion.
Mariana showered, changed clothes, primped and styled her hair. She opened the bedroom door.
Vader stood on the other side. Servants were now awake and Imperial Troops made use of the villa for meetings and briefings.
"Will you walk with me?" Mariana asked. She wouldn't take him far. Just over the bridge, she wanted out - away from the Imperial troops.
His silence always meant "yes". Mariana and Vader walked toward the stairs. He went first, and was sure to keep her a few paces behind him - appearances for the troops she supposed.
Outdoors, Vader felt foolish as he walked amid the blooming flowers, running streams, and grassy hills in his dark black suit. He moved slowly, with hands clasped behind his back as he followed her to the bridge.
Mariana was perfect in her billowy cream colored chiffon dress. So beautiful, he thought. He wondered how long he'd get to keep her. How long until some force of nature, or terrible event stole her away from him?
Even happy he was sad.
Now away from the curious prying eyes of the Imperial troops and servants, Vader felt himself relax. Mariana leaned over the bridge, following a gaggle of strange looking animals with her eyes as they swam down stream. Vader grabbed her arm, fearful of her falling over. Fear... that ugly word.
"It's all so beautiful," Mariana said. She wanted him to see it...appreciate the beauty around him.
"The Force isnt' so giving that it would waste such beauty on my eyes."
"What do you mean?" Mariana asked.
Vader scoured the terrain with his eyes, red coordinates measured the distance of nearby trees, lifeforms, and the rate of the moving water.
"The mask has its limitations," he answered.
"What do you see?"
"Red, the color of blood. Darkness..."
"It's what you want to see, Your Lordship-"
He sighed and the mask whistled. He didn't like the idea of her calling him "Vader" either.
And she certainly could never call him Anakin. It was a name she mustn't know.
"I understand..." she said. "We'll have to think of a better way to address you. Perhaps I will call you Vee. V for Vader."
It was a decent alternative.
"Look around you," Mariana said. She spun around. "Trees swaying in the wind, leaves falling, streams running... What your physical vision or what the mask reveals to you isn't important. See the colors of the wind? The purple haze of the flowers and trees giving back to the world? New life for the coming seasons?" Purple pollen blew past them, painting the landscape violet and other purple-colored hues. "See with your heart. Remember what it is like. Don't be afraid to remember."
Vader remembered seeing the sunshine that morning, even without leaving his chamber. But only because of her.
"You've been given a second chance," Mariana said. "A chance at happiness."
A chance? Things always went bad for him. It was his curse.
"My happiness has always been short-lived."
"That's not true," Mariana said.
She leaned against him, facing the bridge. His hands found their way to her arms. He held her.
"Your happiness doesn't have to be short-lived. I know things can go wrong here. You and I are a conflict of interest. As long as you work for the Emperor-"
Two strong hands nearly crushed her arms as his grip tightened.
"Or as long as I work for the queen...but I have the answer to our problems. We could run away together. Away from Naboo... Away from the emperor."
Vader shook his head.
"Your life as a politician and the emperor aren't the only conflicts of interest between us."
He spun her around, forcing her to gaze into the blackness of his mask. He saw the question in her eyes and reached forth and grabbed her face.
"I know your secret."
It was time for the truth. Mariana's heart thumped wildly.
"You are the Jedi I've been looking for..."
Her face blanched and heknew it was true.
"I was...thirteen... a padawan learner when the temple was overtaken by Clone troops. I never learned to use the force. I did not have a master. I hid when the other Padawan learners were killed. But I did not see the face of the killer. Was it you? Did you kill the children?" she asked.
"No." Vader answered. He justified this lie, believing he was Anakin Skywalker then.
"I was dispatched to destroy the Jedi. For ten years, I've traced them throughout the galaxy, leaving no rock unturned. And now, you are the last. I knew the moment I laid eyes on you."
"So you pretended not to know? But eventually planned to destroy me?"
She stared at him. Her large green eyes glistened with tears.
"Mariana Nafur... you are my captive."
It was the only way to justify posessing her. He knew it was wrong, but the words spilled from his mouth anyway. "The queen has already been informed. When I leave, you will come with me."
"And go where?" Mariana protested.
"We will conquer the galaxy together."
"But...you can't leave the emperor behind? The wars? The fighting? And love me?"
She leaned against the dancing lights on his chest and closed her eyes. She suddenly felt miserable. The guilt of having survived the massacre at the temple was enough? But to love the man responsible for killing Jedi... to love him in spite of being his prisoner? Why did she feel this way? How did she justify it?
"I will be traveling to the Outer Rim territories to finish the war with the Cheecon fighters. It is far too dangerous for you. You will remain in this villa, under the guard of my troops. When I return, you will leave with me. Permanently."
Chapter 13: Fire and Lies
Vader was gone and he had taken her freedom with him. But she let him. Accepted the terms of what he offered. What he demanded. Perhaps if she didn't he'd punish all of Naboo.
But that was just an excuse. She wanted to go. She hated herself for feeling that way but she couldn't help it. After all he'd done to the Jedi. After all he'd done to the Republic. After all he'd done to the galaxy itself.
Queen Miracova had said she'd soften his heart. So, perhaps, being Vader's mistress was good for the galaxy. But if that were true, why did he go to the Outer Rim?
Mariana had seen another side of him. Watched him closely and realized he was human and had feelings too. He wasn't the monster people thought it was. He could change and undo the harm he'd already done... someday. If he would allow her to help him.
Mariana thought about the queen. She knew about Vader's plan was to take her as a prisoner and yet she sacrificied her. Surely the queen knew Mariana would go willingly to save the palace. Why didn't she tell her the truth?
And to think, he'd known about her past all along. Perhaps he sensed it. Perhaps she'd told him without realizing it. Or perhaps, he'd read the defiance in her eyes. A powerful Force user like Vader would be an adept mind reader.
Everything Vader had said was true.
Mariana was a padawan learner during the Jedi purge and had hid in the temple when the troops invaded. She felt like a selfish coward. Bail Organa rescued her a short time later, sending Mariana to Naboo, vowing to fund her education and give her a new life. A young padawan had saved his life. He was repaying a debt. On Naboo, Mariana attended school for young politicians. Her Jedi past was a secret shared between the two of them and no one else. Vader uncovered that secret. She was what he called the last of the Jedi. But was she really a Jedi? She had very little training. She was a troubled padawan who had difficulty following the strict tenants of the religion. She had no master because no one would teach her. Still, the Jedi were family and she, their disobediant child.
Still, Vader was a Sith Lord. Could they ever be together? Could she really change him? Or would he change her?
The villa felt empty without him there.
Mariana looked out the window. The sun had begun its descent. Armed troops stood guard outside of compound, watching her intently, ready to report her every move to Vader. Someday she'd earn his trust. The fate of their galaxy depended on it.
The following morning a knock on her bedroom door awakened her. Mariana leapt out of bed and tore the door open. To her surprise, Bail Organa stood on the other side. His face bore the burden of worry. How long had it been since she'd seen him?
"Senator Organa! How did you get past the troops?"
Mariana looked out the window. Imperial guards lay scattered and dead. She gasped.
"The queen told me about Vader."
"The queen? Why would she do that?"
Mariana's stomach was aflutter.
"I'm here to rescue you. But we must go quickly."
Poor Bail. He had no idea! She didn't want to be rescued! She wanted to stay.
"Don't worry about clothes, we'll get you new ones."
"What if I don't want to go?"
Bail stared at her, a look of utter shock on his face.
"He'll kill you," Bail said.
"He wouldn't..." Mariana answered, unable to look at his face.
"I don't understand-"
"Vader loves me. He would never hurt me. We've had some rough patches but our days and nights in this villa have been wonderful. I love him."
"No no no...there are things you don't understand, Mariana. That's why I have to get you out of here. I knew something like this would happen. He has this ability...this hold on women."
"What do you mean? He's not as evil as you think."
"Vader spares no one, not even children. What do you think he'll do with you? He knows you're a Jedi!"
"That's not true-" Mariana exclaimed. "I was just a padawan."
"Which makes you a threat. There are secrets I will entrust you with only because we've kept each other's secrets for so long... I know you can be trusted."
"What is it?" she asked.
Bail pulled her aside, standing her before a mirror.
"Notice anything peculiar?"
"No..." Mariana answered. The suspense was killing her.
"You bear an uncanny resemblance to another politician from Naboo."
Mariana sighed. It wasn't the first time she'd heard it. "Yeah, I know. Senator Padme Amidala. I've heard this many times before."
"You are alive today for that very reason," Bail said.
"How do you mean?"
"Vader isn't who you think he is. He's a Jedi."
"I've never heard of him..."
"Indeed you have. That day at the temple, during the massacre do you remember seeing any Jedi when the children were slayed?"
"Cinn Drallig was there. He was protecting us. I hid just as Anakin Skywalker came in. He looked at me. Then I ran away. They were both killed along with the children."
"Anakin Skywalker was behind the murders. And he is very much, alive. Not in spirit, but in the body of Vader."
"No! You're wrong. Anakin Skywalker was a hero of the Republic and the Jedi Order," she protested.
"There's more...Anakin Skywalker was in love with Senator Amidala. She was his wife, but in secret. He turned on the Jedi to save her life, joining the Sith. After the temple murders he was bested in a duel with his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi - which left him burned and scarred beyond recognition. But this was after he'd already killed Padme Amidala and their unborn child in a jealous rage. He'll do the same to you."
It was horrible. Too horrible too be imagine. Mariana sat on the bed shaking her head in disbelief.
"I can't leave you with him. Not only because I'd be leaving you in danger, but should something go wrong, it could mean bad news for the galaxy itself. He''ll become more dangerous than you could ever imagine - especially if there is any threat of losing you."
She couldn't breathe.
"What happens if I leave now?"
"I don't know. He'll look for you. Unless... he believes your dead."
Mariana stood, looked in the mirror. She knew she bore some resemblance to the late senator, but not so much that he would spare her from death ten years ago, only to spare her again ten years later.
"Please, let me take you somewhere... where you will be safe."
Mariana grabbed what she could of her clothing, then took one last look at her room.
Bail tossed poured a toxic smelling liquid on the bed, then lit a match... setting the blanket ablaze. Fire consumed the room as they ran down the stairs, outside of the villa to a waiting ship.
Chapter 14: Lost
Vader boarded his Imperial Starship, the Executor and tried to submit a message to Naboo via Holovoid. To no avail. No response from his troops, not even a briefing or an update on Mariana's activities as ordered. It had been two days since the last report.
Something was wrong.
Vader gathered a small army of Imperial soldiers and set the coordinates of his ship to Naboo. His captains and garrison in the Outer Rim could finish the job with the Cheecon fighters.
He sensed something was wrong with Mariana. Vader sighed. Just as he suspected... happiness for him could never last.
Vader arrived on Naboo with his Imperial fleet not long after. The trip from the Outer Rim territory was a long one, but hyperspeed hastened their arrival.
The fleet of Imperial Troops descended onto Naboo's landing platform and from what Vader could see, nothing seemed out of place. Civilians mulled about quietly, peacefully. The palace was standing... No invaders.
Vader treaded the platform of his ship his eyes off into the distance, toward the villa. A line of troops followed, blasters in hand. Wary civilians exchanged curious glances.
Dole, the diplomat he met when he first laid eyes on Mariana greeted him.
"Lord Vader, back so soon?" he asked nervously.
"Spare me the small talk. Where is she?"
Dole coughed nervously into his fist then looked toward the villa.
"There was a fire..." he started.
Vader seized Dole by the throat, his fingers digging into the boy's skin. Dole choked and tried to pry Vader's fingers loose.
"What do you mean...a fire?"
Dole choked and Vader set him free.
"I don't know sir... there was a fire... we found troops outside of the villa... dead."
"Shot. We left them as they were, pending an investigation, sir."
Dole looked down. "We suspect, the fire in her room was an act of arson."
"Take me to the villa," Vader ordered.
Dole walked... scrambled toward the villa sure to keep some distance between himself and the simmering Sith Lord.
The troops marched quickly and in unison. The sound of their feet was thunderous, like a cacophony of death, with Vader leading the way. They crossed the bridge just beyond the meadow, where the Sith Lord could see smoke charred windows.
He reached the crumbling stairs at the base of the compound and the first of the murdered troops. Shot, just as Dole informed him.
Vader barged into the house leaving his troops outside to search the parameters for criminals or evidence. He climbed the stairs, faster than he thought possible and hurried into Mariana's room. He looked around. The walls were blackened from the burns. Arson indeed. This was no accident.
He opened her closet door. Her clothes were still there. Then he sensed it. He sensed her. She was still alive. There was also another scent in the room... an old familiar one though he could not place it. Someone from the Old Republic, of that he was certain.
Vader left Mariana's room and joined the Imperial Troops outside of the villa.
"I want Mariana Nafur found. Leave no planet unsearched, no rock unturned. Understood?"
"Yes Lord Vader," a troop answered.
Why would she runaway? He thought, she was happy with their arrangement. In fact, she had even wanted to run away with him. He could almost see her through the force. A captive.
How else would he explain the dead troops? Mariana couldnt' have killed them herself. She wouldn't have. Was this the new alliance rumored to exist in small pockets of the Republic? Were they going to use her as collateral? But who would know of her value to him?
Vader turned and gazed at the house again. So many good memories there... a shame he'll have to destroy it along with the rest of Naboo.
Chapter 15: Besmirched
Vader sat on deck in the Executer, wondering why, how, and where Mariana could have gone. Why couldn't he sense her? Was Mariana even worth the resources he poured into her search?
Vader remembered the night after they first made love. He'd left her to her room, careful not to seek her out or request her presence.
People were beginning to question their relationship, wondering why he sent the servants away at night and why Mariana's bed hadn't been slept in. Why did they find her garments near the fireplace? And why did he insist on having her in the villa night after night? Of course, they knew nothing of her ties to the Jedi Order.
Her reputation at the palace had been properly besmirched - because of him. To protect Mariana's reputation, Vader left the servants to mill about the house hoping to dispell any lingering rumors, pretending they had nothing to hide. It wasn't until well into the night, moon shining high, did he sense Mariana's presence outside of his hub. Tapping softly, she whispered against the wall of the tank "My room is cold. Let me in," she demanded.
Vader cracked the hyperbaric chamber. Not even the Force could prepare him for what he saw. He pulled Mariana in, for she dared a servant to see her naked body, aglow in the pale blue moonlight.
Vader smiled, thinking her besmirched reputation was well deserved...and he wouldn't have it any other way. But in the back of his mind he wondered if she were a plant, someone there to distract him. To keep him from invading systems and planets that dared to defy the Empire.
That night he whispered his secrets and dreams. Certainly not his most kept secrets, but places he planned to conquer... and people who wanted to conquer, like the Emperor... He told her how he wanted her by his side, as his Empress -- he would be the master and she, his apprentice. With their combined strength, they would conquer the galaxy together.
Chapter 16: Clarme
(Note: Chapter 16 has been re-written, edited, and appended. So there's more beyond what was here the first time in this chapter so read on. )
Mariana stood on the terrace and watched as the sun slipped behind the Alderaan horizon, turning the light blue sky to dusk. She was back on the planet after her sixth move and miserable. Vader made his way toward the Outer Rim territories prompting Bail Organa's security team to move her again. This time to Alderaan, but only until they find a new place to hide her. Somewhere they hoped would be more permanent.
But the Sith Lord didn't seem to let up, even as the weeks passed by. It seemed wrong to keep them apart this way. But they assured her it was in her best interest to stay away. In the best interest of the galaxy.
But what did they know? Vader's encounters with the planets she left grew more and more violent. He sensed her on Krune. A craterous planet on the outskirts of the Outer Rim. Even she saw the fleet of Imperial ships converging on the planet like a cloak of death. Hundreds, if not a thousand of them.
It was in the thick of night that Bail's security team slipped her away, hiding her in a box on a cargo fleet. Had Vader been at the check point he'd have sniffed her out like a bloodhound.
She was tired of hiding. Tired of running. And how could she be sure anything Bail Organa told her was the truth? He did keep his word and send her to Naboo after the great Jedi Purge. So on the other hand, what reason did she have not to trust him?
Mariana remembered Vader's words... his ideas about the planets he intended to conquer -- Krune being one of them. She couldn't tell the security team not to hide her there or else they'd want to know why. Secretly, she hoped Vader would show up...that he would find her there and that she would go with him, and all would be right again.
If only she had the nerve to tell Bail Organa how much she wanted to go back to Vader. But she couldn't. Not after all he'd done for her. How could she say this to the man who bore witness to all of Vader's past atrocities?
Mariana decided she'd be dead if it weren't for the senator. Dead by the hands of Vader himself, if not the clone troops had they found her first all those years ago.
Mariana hoped Vader wasn't angry with her. He'd made his intentions known. What if he hunted her down with the intent to kill her?
The thought made her stomach churn. She knew too many secrets.
Nevertheless, Mariana reflected, preferring to think only of their nights together and the good times they shared. There were always new things to learn about Vader, which made getting to know him all the more exciting.
It was during their second week on Naboo that she'd made her latest discovery...
The sun was still high, but would soon begin to set.
Clarme, a servant of Tattoine origin tapped on her room door, just as Mariana had finished changing her clothes. Clarme was an older woman with twinkling eyes and a trusting smile. Of all the handmaidens she was her favorite. In fact, a very good friend.
The woman pushed the door open and peered inside. "You're looking rather beautiful tonight, Milady. I remember those days... of being young and in love," she mused.
Mariana spun around, turning surprised, embarrassed eyes on the elder woman.
"In love? What makes you think I'm in love?"
Clarme smiled. "Matters of the heart is my speciality". You wear your heart like a crown."
She walked into the room, pulled a necklace from the bed and draped it around Mariana's neck.
"You have great ease with Lord Vader - of all people. And he, with you."
Of all people? "Don't say it like that-" Mariana griped.
"Don't get yourself into a huss, missy," Clarme admonished. "There's more than one side to a person. I should know. Like you, I was in love once. And he wasn't believed to be the kindest person in the Republic...but heaven knows he was good to me..."
Mariana pulled Clarme to the bed to sit beside her, her curiosity piqued. "What happened to him?"
"Oh, it's too long a story tell," Clarme laughed.
"But I want to hear it," Mariana pleaded.
"Let's just say we got an ending. And it wasn't a happy one. But if I had to do it all over again, I would."
Clarme smiled. But there was an emptiness in it, a sadness she couldn't disguise.
For a handmaiden there was something regal about her. She was poised, confident, understanding. Wise... But hers was a wisdom that could't be taught, but learned from experience.
"Enough about me, young lady. Lord Vader has requested that you to join him for dinner."
Mariana stood. She wore a yellow dress with lines that wrapped to the side like a seashell.
"Be careful." Clarme warned. "Eyes are always watching."
Mariana wiped the smile from her face.
"You're Vader's prisoner. Conduct yourself accordingly."
Clarme winked and pulled a wisp of hair from Mariana's face.
"Would you see to sending the others sent away?" Mariana asked.
"Of course, with Lord Vader's permission. I will also keep in mind to make myself scarce once dinner is served."
Mariana hugged Clarme. Her hair smelled of fruit.
"You are heaven sent," Mariana said.
"Perhaps I am..."
Clarme parted with a smile that warmed Mariana's heart. .
Chapter 17: Love and Conquer
Mariana walked down the stairs... she could smell dinner. Roasted meat... mashed vegetables... wine.
Clarme walked ahead of her, leading her to the dining area where Vader sat at the head of the table. She seated Mariana in a chair closest to him. He turned, peered at her through the mask, surprised by the servant's boldness. He calmed when he saw the knowing smile in Clarme's eyes as she and Mariana exchanged glances. He sensed secrets between the two women, happy ones.
Food steamed in serving dishes on the table. The lights dimmed and candles flickered.
A plate of food sat before Vader and Mariana wondered why. Until, he moved his voice box and began to eat.
Her fork dropped to her plate as she stared at him, mouth agape.
"You can eat whole food!" Mariana exclaimed.
She thought better of her words then slunk back into the cushions of her chair. Vader ate more bites, then put the modulater back into his mask.
"The vials are a convenience, not a necessity."
"I feel as though I've been duped! I worried about you-"
He smiled behind the mask. She really cared. Vader's hands crossed the table and covered her own. Mariana's eyes fell to her plate as she lifted her fork again and ate in silence.
"Have you given my proposal consideration?" he asked.
Mariana mumbled between bites. "You mean your demand."
"I've never been good at compromise."
She mulled over his words.
"What was your proposal?" she asked.
Mariana didn't bother with the meaning behind his words. Vader was always so straightforward, she never felt the need to.
"To conquer the galaxy. To rule it together."
"The galaxy has already been conquered. By you... by the emperor."
"The time for the emperor's fall has come."
Vader saw the disappointment in her eyes, which fell to her plate.
" But I don't want to conquer the galaxy... I want to conquer your heart."
Mariana stood, crossed her chair, then sat on his lap. This was beyond improper. In fact, downright unruly table behavior. Nevertheless, she draped an arm over his shoulder the other around the front of his neck and locked her hands together.
"I want to be married and have children. They will be the center of my universe...here on Naboo. I will have a husband who loves me, and is good because I know his heart. I'll follow wherever he goes with the hope that he'll only take me to good places to do good things and that I will be enough."
She couldn't mean him? Vader thought. This was his curse. He came from nothing and now he wanted everything - Mariana included. He wished she were enough. But sadly, she could never be.
Besides, he was anything but good. Suddenly Vader felt dangerously close to snapping her neck. If he couldn't give her the life she wanted, no one else could.
What would life be like knowing she were on Naboo, married, with a family that wasn't his? But Mariana, blissfully ignorant of his darkening thoughts leaned forward and ate from Vader's plate... and he knew, things would be no other way. They were together. And he promised himself that he would take her to good places, and keep his savage conquests a secret.
Who said he couldnt' have it all? He smiled.
Mariana might help him forget Padme. She might help him move on, heal...
He slid an arm under her legs and stood, carrying her in his arms.
"Set me down, Clarme might see us."
"And you worry about that now?"
Chapter 18: Day of Tears
It was a day of tears.
Mariana finally relented. She told Bail the truth. That she wanted to go home -- and back to Vader. Mariana thought the senator would be surprised by her request. But it was his response that shocked her.
"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this... but there is no home. Naboo has fallen. The queen is dead and a garrison is in control of it now. Naboo has become one of the Empire's manufacturing planets."
Not even Bail had expected this level of raw hate from Vader. That he would go against the ever weakening senate and justify destroying Naboo with allegations that the queen and the government had committed acts of treason against the Republic. He also hadn't realized how deeply involved Vader had been with Mariana. Perhaps, they should have left her to the Sith Lord. But it was too late. Bail chose to keep her away for her own safety. She didn't understand how dangerous these times were for everyone. It would only get worse when Vader killed her. Everyone would pay for his guilt.
Mariana broke the holovoid connection, not wanting the sullen-looking senator to see her cry.
Clarme, who traveled with her from Naboo prepared a meal for Mariana. But she couldn't eat. She was miserable and swollen.
"Please, eat something, Milady. You can't go on this way," Clarme pleaded.
"It's my fault...they told me he was a monster but I didn't believe them. He's doing this because I stayed away, because he's angry with me."
She resisted the constant interruptions to her thought. Vader could mind speak from across the galaxy. She felt him in her mind not long after she left Naboo. It was how he learned she'd been hiding on Krune. He could send her messages and trace her if she let him. But some of her old padawan training was still there so she managed to successfully block him from her thoughts. She felt him everywhere. Even in her belly.
Clarme squatted before Mariana, pulling her hands into her own.
"They do what they do because they're ill. But unfortunately for us they're powerful men so there's nothing we can do to get them the help they need."
"You don't understand," Mariana cried.
"I understand my child, I do."
Clarme ran fingers along Mariana's cheek. She'd always been the closest thing Mariana had to a mother.
"How? How could you possibly understand?"
"I told you I too, once loved a very powerful man. A man who also became a monster. Mariana... that man was the emperor himself."
"We're two of a kind," Clarme said.
"The troubling part is that I still love him." Mariana cried.
"Understandable, given your condition. You' have a connection to him. But it'll be over soon," Clarme promised.
"It won't. Not until he finds me. Why don't they let me go back? It's done more harm to the Republic than good. He destroyed Naboo! A place he loved. A place his dead wife once ruled. A place we found love with each other," Mariana said. "I want to go back. I want to end this reign of tyranny even if it means sacrificing myself. I know he'll kill me. Why would he take Naboo knowing how much it would hurt us both?"
Clarme stood, shook her head. "Naboo was also my home. As a young woman, I too, sat upon its throne. That's how I met the emperor. He was a senator and somehow charmed and wooed his way into my heart. And when I married him, he controlled me with lies, and hid his lust for power. I believed he was a good man. Mariana, you must listen to me..."
Clarme's silvery long hair shone. She was still beautiful, elegant, and graceful. Mariana could easily see her sitting on Naboo's throne as a very young woman.
"I hid among the servants after thirty years of marriage to get away from him. When he found me, I also thought I would be killed. But... he showed me mercy... said I'd suffer under the hand and foot of politicians who weren't my equals. But I was happy working for you. I've treated you as I would my own daughter. And have loved you over the years. I couldnt' have asked for a better politician to serve. Not once did you treat me like a servant, but like a mother and a friend."
"That is who you are..." Mariana said. "I love you too..."
"Then please, eat for me. Don't let this tear you apart. Be strong. Like the emperor he serves, he will show you mercy. I promise you... You must have faith. When he sees how much you believe in him, and see what you carry inside of you, his anger will dissolve."
"I hope you're right, Clarme. If he should ever find me."
"He will," she said.
Chapter 19: LOST AND FOUND
For the first time in many weeks she slept soundly.
She finally let go.
The fight to keep him from her...
From her mind.
From her thoughts.
The room was a dreamy purple-blue color in the darkness with only pale luminescent moonlight which streamed onto her face. She felt something graze that face... it was soft, like a scarf...
She reached up, grabbing what was actually a gloved hand. It caressed her cheek and she sighed against it, finding comfort in the touch. Suddenly, realizing someone was in fact in the room she opened her eyes and there he stood - Vader.
Mariana tried to sit up but he touched her shoulder, pushing her back onto the cushion and closed her eyes with his hand.
She felt herself panic and opened her eyes against the touch. But instead of Vader two Imperial troops with blasters strapped to their armour stood on both sides of her. One of the soldiers yanked the covers back and both grabbed one of herarms and pulled her from the bed.
"Lord Vader wishes to speak to you," one of the troopers said.
The other released her and tossed a cloak about her shoulders.
"My things-" Mariana protested.
"I don't think you'll be needing those," the trooper mocked.
"Not where she's going," the other replied.
Mariana was boarded onto the Executor.
Fitting name, she thought.
Amazingly, she wasn't afraid. Why? She and Clarme were the only two left alive. Bail Organa's security detail had been killed. The men refusing to give up the senator's name. They died honorable, even if painful deaths.
She wondered if Vader interrogated them himself.
Two guards sat flanked at her sides. Why so many guards? she thought.
"Where's Vader?" Mariana asked.
"You'll see him soon enough."
"Please... where are you taking us?" Mariana looked at Clarme. The elder woman knitted a pair of tiny socks.
"Rea. You will see him when you get there."
Rea was a beautiful place. As beautiful as Naboo. Perhaps he wanted to capture the essence of what they had. She could live with that. But he could never replace Naboo in her heart.
The ship landed after days of travel. Troops walked her every step. Mariana hid herself, slinking even further into the cloak she wore. Vader said the price of losing her was death. She didn't understand the value he placed on her life. So many had died because of her already...a tear pricked the corner of her eye. Clarma, who sat across from her for most of the trip, reached forth, and cupped her chin. What would she ever do without Clarme?
The troops pulled Mariana to her feet, and walked both ladies toward the exit. The door opened, and the women descended the landing platform.
Off in the distance, an absorbing dark hole stood amid the light. Vader.
Why didn't he come to her? Mariana wondered. The troops pulled her away, taking both she and Clarme in the other direction.
Clarme looked over her shoulder at the Sith Lord, a gentle smile touching the corner of her mouth.
Vader had a special place in his heart for elder women like Clarme. Women who reminded him of his mother. But he couldn't look at her, not now. Not after what they had done.
The troops escorted the two women to a bridge that extended across the ocean, right to its center where a tower stood. Their rooms were on the top floor and could only be reached by elevator - which required a security code to even use.
The troops separated Mariana and the elder woman but their rooms were only a few doors away from each other's.
Mariana sighed with relief. She needed Clarme. If Vader didn't understand then, he would understand how much soon enough.
The troops stood in Mariana's door way, leaving her to roam about.
"Lord Vader has left special instructions for you."
Mariana turned, a confused look on her face.
THe troop held his held down, as though he'd suddenly become too embarrassed to even speak. "He left you these," the trooper said. "There's also something in the refresher for you."
He passed her a pile of undergarments and a sleeping gown.
"Thank you," Mariana replied. "Shall I expect to be in Lord Vader's company tonight?"
"We can't be sure, Milady. But you'll know soon enough."
The troopers left. And for the first time in days, she was alone. Well, there couldn't be any worry of escape. Not from the top of a tower at the center of an ocean on an outer rim planet like Rea.
Mariana walked into the refresher, and found a basin full of steaming hot water. A bath! she thought happily, commencing to stripping out of her clothes.
She slipped a foot into the water and found small flower petals floating about. The water smelled good, and now, so did she.
She washed, letting the warm water run down her body as she squeezed a sponge over dirty hair.
Ocassionally, she'd turn and look over her shoulder, with a sinking feeling that someone watched her. Only to dismiss the thought as paranoia, for Vader had yet to arrive.
But little did she know, he did watch. He watched as she slipped into the water, her backside facing him. He wished she'd turned his way even once as he peered through the dark plexiglass plastered wall to look at her.
As Mariana slid beneath the bubbles, she let her feet slip over the edge of the tub. What a spoiled wretched, he thought. Vader sat motionless, his heart aching, angry, daring to reach through the barrier to wrap his fingers around her scrawny neck.
LIAR! he thought. How could he ever forgive her? She betrayed him, after all. Told the leaders of Krune about his plans to invade. How many men did he lose that day? Were it not for his senses, he'd have lost his own head. And this is what she called love?
And then the dying words of the queen... it was a game, she said. And he lost!
He'd show her. He show them all. Mariana seduced him with the intent of getting close enough to spy on him, to keep an eye on the activities of the Empire and where they stood on Naboo. To distract him...
She was a Jedi, and yet, he'd let her live... because he loved her. He loved her for who she was, not because she looked like Padme. Because she was Mariana, and he thought she loved him too.
Chapter 20: Proposal?
Mariana felt as though she were in heaven.
The water was delightful. And somewhere Vader waited for her. If he came that night, she would be fresh. Her body spelled of lavender and the soap she used in her hair spelled of Jasmine.
Mariana covered the top of her body with a hand then reached for a bath towel, struggling not to get out of the water. For some reason she still felt as though eyes watched her. She didn't mind so much if they were Vader's, but she couldn't be sure so she went to great lengths to cover up.
She walked into the adjoining room, her feet leaving wet little imprints across the plush carpeting.
Suddenly, Mariana paused mid-way, something on the bed catching her eye.
It was a beautiful cream-colored satin dress with intricate cream-colored lace and a matching headpiece. The headpiece looked like a tiara, except it would be worn on the forehead. Tiny little tear drop-shaped pearls hung from it.
Mariana gasped, hands covering her mouth. The towel around her body dropped to the floor.
Was this another proposal? Mariana began to hyperventilate.
She grabbed the towel and covered herself again. Her face had gone bright red as she leapt onto the bed and pulled the dress to her body to see if it fit.
It might be a little tight but she could work it over her form, she surmised.
A knock on the door snapped her back to reality. Not another Imperial trooper! she thought. Leave it to them to ruin the moment.
"Who's there?" she called.
"It's Clarme, dear. Is everything okay?"
"Clarme! Clarme! Come in!" Mariana called.
The young woman raced across the room and pulled a sleeping gown from a chester drawer. One the trooper gave her earlier. He said Vader sent it. She sighed. Vader didn't know what size she wore nowadays, but it would do.
Clarme walked in and saw the excited look on Mariana's face.
"You were right!" Mariana exclaimed.
Clarme laughed and grabbed her by the shoulders, giving her a shake. "What? What is it?"
Mariana pointed toward the bed.
"It's a dress," Clarme noted.
"Of course it's a dress! But look what kind of dress it is."
Clarme pulled the gown from the bed and held it against Mariana's form. "I could stitch this up, make sure it fits."
"Wait a minute... it's a wedding dress," Clarme exclaimed.
She threw the gown aside and the women hugged. Clarme held Mariana's face in her hands.
"I told you! I told you it would all work out."
"When? When do I wear this? Today? Tomorrow? In a week? Why hasn't he come to me?" Mariana asked.
"Maybe he'll come tonight," her friend said, wiggling silver-colored eyebrows.
"Clarme!" Mariana smacked the old woman's hand then covered her flustered face.
"After Naboo I was so afraid, but now I know he still loves me."
"Who wouldn't?" Clarme added.
A knock on the door disrupted the ladies' excited chatter.
Mariana gave an exasperated sigh. "Come in!" she yelled.
An Imperial trooper stuck his head in the door.
It's dark out. Your Lordship has suggested you get your beauty rest. You'll need it," the man said.
"What is this dress? When do I wear it?" Mariana asked.
"Oh? Tomorrow night, Milady, before supper."
Mariana smiled and for the first time wanted to hug an Imperial Troop.
"Good night," Mariana said.
The troop saluted her then left the room.
"Well, it appears we've been issued not only a curfew, but a bed-time," Clarme noted somewhat ominously.
"I'm getting married tomorrow."
Mariana climbed into bed and Clarme hung the dress in the tiny closet on the other side of the room.
"And so you are," Clarme muttered proudly.
The old woman left and Mariana thought of Vader. She remembered the only time he ever said he loved her. Well, he didn't exactly say it. They stood on the terrance outside of her bedroom, gazing at the parting sun.
She could see a reflection of the glowing gold orb disappearing behind the horizon in the eyes of his mask.
"I've enjoyed the time we've spent together," Vader announced.
He turned her toward him. This is when normal people kissed. But he wore the mask, so she settled for wrapping her arms around him as much as she could, laying her head on his chest.
"You've given me hope, Mariana. Faith that I can love again."
"Do you love me?" she asked, looking into the darkness of his mask again.
Vader was as still as the sun-shimmering lake beneath her balcony. His silence always meant "yes".
"I love you too," she said, laying her head on his chest again.
Vader slid an arm under legs and scooped her into his arms. He sat her on the ledge of the balcony and she leaned against him, knowing he wouldn't let her fall.
Chapter 21: Past Loves
Bright morning sun reflecting on small ocean waves bid Mariana to wake.
She climbed out of bed and traisped toward the large picturesque window and looked beyond to dry land.
Today was her big day. She felt a fluttering of her heart. She needed to see him. She missed him so. Why did he make her wait?
Mariana began to pace nervously back and forth across the room. She would have worn a hole into the carpet had she been wearing shoes, she thought humorously.
There were so many things to cover... like, the good news. iHow do I tell him/i She wondered. What would he say about the months apart? Four long months. In that time he'd done so much damage. Was he still the Vader she left behind?
She craved him.
Vader told her she gave him hope. This admission gave her some hope. That the violence across the Republic would end. She could stop him, convince him to turn away from evil and tyranny. That's why fate brought them together... the force willed it. And she was strong enough.
Shortly after breakfast Clarme joined her and both of the women were glad for each other's company. Clarme wondered what Vader intended to do with her. Did he know about the emperor? Did the emperor ask him to keep her until he arrived? Did Vader even know of her marriage to the destested leader?
Clarme sat on Mariana's bed and taught her how to weave little socks. Mariana found it difficult. She wasn't good with her hands. Not in that way.
The women laughed and talked of past loves. For Clarme, her first and only love was Senator Palpatine. She remarked on his face after the "accident", how much it looked like a hog's arse.
The women exploded with laughter, falling back on Mariana's bed. It was the best day ever.
The younger of the women could never speak that way of Vader. She thought him beautiful... but strange how both men had been scarred on the same day ten years ago. The women ate lunch together, and chatted for the rest of the afternoon.
But as dusk set in and the sun began its descent into the horizon, Mariana slipped into the bath in preparation for her big day. When she was done, she smelled of lavender and jasmine.
Mariana dressed quickly, sliding into her undergarments, a slip, and finally the beautiful cream colored gown.
When that was done she gave her face a delicate paint.
She wore a touch of eyeshadow, a small dust of rouge...and lipstick on her lips. She wanted to look dainty, not overly made up as they did in Naboo.
Just as Mariana slipped the headpiece onto her head, a crowning moment, the door opened.
"Vader!" Mariana exclaimed.
Chapter 22: Where is the love?
The towering Darth Vader stood near the door. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest at the sight of him. She was surprised that he hadn't crossed the room to her hug her and she didn't know whether or not to hug him. He seemed distant, like there was some kind of barrier between them.
He hated when she called him Vader. But she was lovely. As lovely as he could have possibly imagined her to be.
"You're here," she said, stating the obvious in her nervousness.
Unable to contain herself any longer she raced across the room and threw her arms around hesitant shoulders. Vader's hands fell to her sides as he looked into her beautifully painted face.
"I missed you," she gasped.
And I missed you...
But instead of replying he released her and walked toward the window, facing her with his back.
"What's wrong?" Mariana asked.
She wasn't really that clueless, was she?
Vader turned then sat on the edge of the bed, bidding her to sit by his side. They faced each other now and his hands traced intimate circles on her knee. Behind the mask he smiled. But it wasn't a smile that stretched from his now blackened heart, but a smile of pure malevolence.
"How was youuuur trip?" he asked. He wanted to say more, but couldn't. Not yet.
"Exceptional. I could hardly wait to see you again," she said.
The hand paused and rested on her leg.
"And your room?"
"Comfortable. I thought only of you," she answered.
The hand suddenly squeezed and pain shot through her thigh.
"Of how well you thought you might dupe me?" he asked.
Vader's mechanical voice hummed. She knew this meant he was angry. The hand remained on her leg.
Mariana searched her mind for the right words. Why would he think she duped him?
"Your liiiies don't come fast enough," he observed.
She heard the smile in his voice. The sarcasm. Which startled her.
"I never ran away, if that's what you're thinking," she answered. "I was ordered by the queen to leave Naboo."
Mariana wringed both hands into her lap.
She was nervous. It was all unraveling and fast.
"Your lies," he started "Will not be tolerated.
He rose and Mariana also stood and backed away from her sulking would-be husband. Why was she so afraid?
But Vader had already resolved that he wouldn't commence to chasing her about the room. It needed to be quick or else his anger would absolve and he'd forgive her. She didn't deserve forgiveness.
"We're here now. Together again."
"Why?" he barked.
"Because we love each other."
She smiled. But it was a nervous smile. She wringed the material of her dress together in her hands.
Mariana didn't know afraid, Vader thought.
"I knooow it was not the queen who ordered you to leave Naboo."
Mariana could only shake her head. The Sith Lord inched toward her and she met him halfway, throwing herself in his arms. Mariana stared into the blackness of the mask, hoping to sense something...
Where was the love?
Chapter 23: Never Again
"It doesn't matter. I love you so much. And I know you love me."
Vader peeled her away.
More LIES. Now that he found her, she had resorted to professing love she didn't feel, he thought.
He stared into the orbs of her worried eyes. She was good at lying. As most politicians were. For now, he would resist the urge to force-choke the beauty. Why didn't she tell him the truth? Mariana blinked tears from her eyes. This was supposed to be her wedding day. But instead, he had used the time to interrogate her.
"Remove the dress," Vader ordered. "You are not fit to wear it now."
Shocked, Mariana stared at him. But he made no effort to clarify the demand, so she slid out of the wedding gown, leaving only the slip she wore beneath to cover her body. He stared at her bony shoulders - and remembered holding her in his arms...their stolen kisses in the night.
Who could he trust if he couldn't trust her? If she would only tell the truth. But she was a politician...just liked Padme. Just like Palpatine...
Mariana turned and faced him, her eyes full of sadness. "We're not getting married?" she asked.
A gust of air left Vader's mask. He scoffed.
"But the wedding dress-"
"Who said the dress was for a wedding?"
"Then what is it for?"
"A funeral," he answered, a maniacal tone to his voice.
Unchecked tears suddenly spilled from her eyes. Vader smiled.
Why did she mock him with tears? The only thing she grieved was her own death, he thought.
Mariana sobbed at his words. "I only did what I was told. I wanted to come back, but I couldn't."
"Liar!" he raged
"But it's true," Mariana exclaimed.
"The queen told me about your lies."
What did he mean? What lies?
Mariana felt Vader's intrusion into her thoughts and blocked him from her mind. She feared he'd learn the truth and Alderaan would go the way of Naboo. The Sith Lord's chest swelled with rage.
"I'm not afraid," she said. "If I was afraid... I wouldn't have taken the chance of having a relationship with you. But there's something important you don't understand there, there's something I need to tell you," she exclaimed.
"More lies?" he said. "Acceptance, will make the task easier for us both," he replied. "I have been made aware of the truth, that your affection was a ploy to destroy the Empire. My Empire."
This is exactly what the others told her: He'll kill you.
"I love you," Mariana exclaimed.
The sound of Vader's boots crushed the carpeting as he walked toward her. Mariana stepped away, pressing her back against the door. Bail Organa...Alderaan...or herself? Give them up? Let them suffer like Naboo?
She couldn't do it.
Suddenly, gloved hands seized her throat.
Mariana shook her head, wriggled and struggled against his grasp. He could always use the force to choke her but he wanted to feel her writhing and squirming into death and blackness with his own hands. But even as he extracted the life from her body, he still loved her. What a twisted man he was, Vader couldn't help but think to himself.
Mariana dug her nails into the gloved mechanical fists and kicked her legs as he lifted her from the ground by her throat.
She muttered something-
"It's toooo late," he replied in that terrifying monotonic voice of his.
Vader spun her around, threw her to the bed as he squeezed her neck. Everything was blackness now... But Mariana didn't see a light at the end of a tunnel yet.
She heard voices.
"He'll kill you," Bail said.
Mariana flittered in and out of conciousness. She still loved him... The shadow of death that snuffed the life from warmed her in the night, held her in its arms, whispered in her ear, told her it loved her. He may have forgotten, but she didn't. Her dying thought would not be hatred of him, but of love - for all they shared, and for all they would have shared.
his is for pretending the scars didn't matter. This is for making me trust you. He throttled and shook her, bouncing her head against the bed cushion.
The willowy beauty gurgled, shuddered until her legs and arms went limp.
Vader cowered over her body.
Even his love killed people... a voice whispered.
He then pulled her into his arms, held her, rocked her, then tossed her beaded headpiece aside and smoothed hair from her forehead. He wanted to kiss her lovely, lifeless face but couldn't.
Mariana's arms rested at her sides, arms bent upward, hands close to her shoulders.
"Only the truth would have saved you," he said, brushing hair about her head and pressing her body close to his.
Vader gathered the cream colored dress. He would dress her for the funeral himself. It was the least he could do. She had to pay...but he hated himself more than ever now. The vision of her lying, there, her life force gone made him shudder. It was like seeing dead bodies at the temple all over again some eleven years ago. But the thought of a clone trooper dragging her body away as though it was a slab of meat was too much for him to forbear.
Vader stretched Mariana's body, prepared to slip the gown over her head. But instead of doing so, he touched her. One last time. He let his hand rove over her form, starting with her head. Her eyes were still open.
He closed them. His hand moved over her face. Her lips. Her neck. Her breast... Then slid over the bump of her protruding belly...
The bump of her belly.
The word nested in his head...
Suddenly Mariana's words came crashing back to his mind. "There's- there's something I need to tell you," she mechanical heart beating in his chest suddenly beat even faster. Vader slid the slip she wore over her stomach.
Inside, a tiny life fought an unwinning battle against death. And he knew. This was his death. His final death into the darkside. And there was no turning back. He pulled Mariana to him and shook her, then turned her head side to side. If he could breath into her mouth he would... but with the mask?
He turned her head again and a bone in her neck popped.
How long would the little one survive? He wanted to cry out, call for help, do something - but he was paralyzed...
I did this.
I did it. Not an act of fate, nor a curse... Me.
The door to Mariana's room banged open. Clarme walked inside, a pair of little knitted socks in her hand. She dropped them.
Vader held Mariana in his arms, his dark form cowering over her.
Clarme's beautiful little flower laid crushed beneath a big black boot, the petals falling away from the stem, dress pulled over her small bulbuous belly.
Clarme backed away from the storm.
"It is still aliiiive," the mask wheezed.
It? It? Did he mean the baby? The one that was about to die because it was too young to survive outside of its womb?
"What have you done? Clarme cried. "You've killed her."
Vader shook his head. "I... it was necessary-" the deep mechanical voice hummed.
The old woman turned and raced from the room. Vader left Mariana to her deathbed and followed Clarme into the corridor. His hand rose, reached out and seized the elder woman from afar by her throat. She shook her silvery head as he force-choked her into eternal sleep.
Because she knew.
Under normal circumstances he would have sensed the baby. But anger had a way of numbing his senses. At least, until the anger subsided.
He killed Mariana, who probably loved him. He killed his unborn child.
Whatever fate dealt him he deserved.
Clarme collapsed, her lifeless body on the floor of the corridor.
I did it.
And for all he did, all he could do is stare.
Vader gazed through the mask into Mariana's bedroom where the little one within her fought in vain its battle against death.
Chapter 24: Life for a Life
(The shocking ending is the chapter prior to this one: I've amended this chapter to the story because the other one was... well too heartbreaking and tragic to leave that way.)
A presence even darker than what lurked inside of Vader called him by name.
"Lord Vader..." the voice rumbled. "What have you done?"
Vader turned, the eyes of his mask falling upon the Lord of the Sith.
He could feel his master's anger... his attachment to the elder woman. It gave him reason to smile.
"Have you taken leave of your senses?" the emperor admonished.
"No, my master..."
The short darkly cloaked figured kneeled over the body of Clarme Belltop and pressed hands into her chest. He felt the life force drained from her body and shuddered with anger.
The sweetest creatured he'd ever known...killed by a monster.
A monster he created. A fitting punishment for his actions, but Clarme was undeserving of such an outcome, such disrespect.
He let Clarme live because he couldn't bring himself to kill her. Vader's lack of restraint made him powerful. The monster had even killed his own women and children. Imagine what he would have been like had he been allowed to live to his full potential.
The emperor loved the drama and theatrics of it all... but Clarme was above that, a class act. She wasn't like that tawdry Naboo queen or that trampy woman Vader had left slain at the other end of the hall... this was Clarme.
Vader felt the powers of the force, and it wasn't with him. The emperor called upon it for what he hoped might will the old woman back to life. But why? Who was Clarme Belltop to him? Steadily the old man worked, for several minutes until it was done. Faint, but softened heart beats pattered beneath the emperor's wrinkled old hands. He turned, then looked to Vader.
"She has been renewed and is sure to survive if she is left here, to heal. I will have a med-droid repair the damage to her tissue. But you-" he started.
"My dearest... Palpatine..."
The emperor turned, hearing the softness of Clarme's voice call him by name...
He kneeled beside her again, staring into her beautiful face. Palpatine the emperor knew to her eyes he was different now. As hidious as his blackened soul. But he wanted her to live. Had willed her to live so that he'd hear her wonderful voice again.
"My love?" he croacked, in that malevolent voice of his.
Clarme was the only person he ever trusted. The only person he ever respected. And the only person he ever loved.
"Don't worry about me," she coughed "Do what you can to save Mariana and the little one."
The emperor bristled. But it was what she wanted. And Palpatine had always given her whatever she wanted.
"On one condition," he said.
Clarme grasped his hand, holding it within hers.
"You will leave with me."
Clarme nodded. But her eyes spoke for him to help her friend first.
The emperor stood. Vader stepped aside, allowing the master to pass. He watched as Palpatine laid hands on Mariana, touching the satin of her slip. He felt the old man's smile and knew he did it to annoy him.
Palpatine muttered and in the force, Vader felt him will Mariana Nafur back to life. What he didn't know was that Palpatine drained the child within her of his life force, and funneled it into her body.
The child would not be allowed to live.
No son of Skywalker's would ever live.
Were it not for the little one, she'd have long been gone. But the child, fighting for its life willed her heart to beat a while longer. Softly enough that Vader would not detect it, and now, the little one was dead.
The child would have been strong in the force indeed. Strong enough to destroy the emperor himself.
The old man smiled. A life for a life, he thought, looking over his shoulder to Clarme's newly resurrected body.
Chapter 25: Changes
(The shocking ending is chapter 24: I've amended a new ending to this story because the other one was... well too heartbreaking and tragic to leave that way.)
Mariana Nafur pressed her face against the soft pillows of her bed. Vader's bed. The one he pressed himself against as he strangled her into the cushions. How she survived was even beyond her understanding. But the little one was gone from the space just below her rib cage where the child once flipped and kicked the inside of her belly. She felt empty.
The bandages covering her neck and throat indicated some type of work had been done to sustain her. Unbeknownst to Mariana, it'd taken several operations to repair the damage to her tissue and bone. Perhaps, she thought, Vader thought about what he'd done and tried to undo the damage. But could he bring the little one back? Was it even worth bringing her back now with her baby gone?
A servant droid wheeled into the room, a glass of liquid on its cart. It stood next to Mariana's bed, its mechanical parts whirring softly. A steel arm left its chest box and a pair of claws opened to grab the glass, which it passed to Mariana. She pushed it aside dismissively, staring at the ocean view outside of her window. "I don't want anything. Go away," she whispered softly.
Vader watched from the plexi-glass sided wall, and Mariana was none the wiser. He stood with both arms across his massive chest, his mind a blank as he watched her. Commander Ixo stood at his side, a question on his face.
"Since you'll be leaving Your Lordship, should we prepare the patient for inner-space travel?"
"Then what shall we do with her, sir?"
"Take her wherever she wants to go. Give her whatever she wants at the Empire's expense."
"Whatever she wants," Vader said.
Ixo coughed into a hand, staring out of the plexi-glass window with Vader. "Will you be going in to see her?"
Vader turned the black eyes of his mask onto the subordinate. "I'm sure Miss Nafur has no desire to see me."
"When has another's desire trumped your own, My Lord?" Ixo regretted the questioned as soon as it left his lips. "I-"
Vader waved a hand. "Business on the Imperial Isle. Remember my instructions. Take her wherever she wants to go. And whatever you do, be sure her whereabouts remain a mystery to me."
"But if you should change your mind-"
"This order should not be superceded by any others, not even by my own."
"Yes, My Lord."
Vader strode from the secret room, but not before one parting glance at the curling figure in the bed.
Mariana opened her eyes at the sound of a knock on the door. An Imperial Commander, judging by the badges he wore, stood on the other side of the room.
"Good Morning, my lady. How are things?"
"Spare me the small talk, Commander. What do you want?"
"Commander Ixo," he said. "Vader has informed me that you shall be leaving today."
"Ah, yes. Vader. What does he plan to do with me now?" There was a hint of bitterness in her tone.
"I've been instructed to take you wherever you want to go."
Mariana struggled into a sitting up position, fingers touching the bandages around her neck.
"Wherever I want to go? What's the catch?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
"None. Wherever I take you will be between you and I."
"It's what Lord Vader has instructed of me."
"And why does he trust you?"
"I'm a bit of an odd sort," is all Ixo said.
Mariana racked her brain. She couldn't go to Naboo. There was no Naboo. There was no temple. They were the only two places she'd ever known. She knew no one. For all of her colleagues and friends were dead.
Rea was a beautiful planet. Beautiful like Naboo, but lots of water, ocean. She could simply stay where she is. Why would Vader come back anyway? He seemed to know better than to come near her. After what he'd done to her and their baby.
"I want a house," she said. "A big one. A majestic one."
"As you wish, milady."
"I want to live near the oceanhere on Rea."
"Umm... a starship?"
Mariana gave him a curious look. "My wardrobe will need replacing and I'll help getting about."
Mariana's heart began to pace. What became of Clarme?
"Ixo, what happened to my friend Clarme? Did Vader do something to her?"
"She left me here?"
"Well... it's not my job to fill in the blanks. But I'll oblige you with answers just this once... I heard she bartered her life for yours. She's with the emperor now."
"She did that for me?"
Mariana sighed. How much more could she stand to lose?
"Will Vader return to Rea?"
"I see no reason why he would need to. It would be difficult to keep on top of Empire business from this location."
Mariana nodded. "Thank you, Ixo. I await my discharge."
Chapter 26: Peach Pavillion
It was the spoils of war.
The "Peach Pavillion", Ixo called it. Mariana Narfur walked up the stairs of the villa with much trepidation.
Blood money purchased this house, she thought. She was alive. But why didn't she feel grateful to be alive? Was it because she lived at the expense of so many others? Their deaths?
Ocean waves crashed against the rocky shores beneath the terrace. The villa was peach colored, with a dark tiled rooftop above it's stoned walls. Big glass windows opened outward. She could see herself opening them in the morning and breathing in the oceanside air.
How would she live in such a big house by herself? She once saw herself with Vader, living happily, perhaps having a family of their own. How delusional, she thought. Who was she to believe there was still good in the man? A man who had slaughtered untold numbers in the name of power? Because she pitied him? Found love through her sympathy? Because she thought she could "cure" him of his thirst for blood?
Was there really a thirst for blood? Or simply an intolerance for anything he felt went against his rule? Vader did bring peace to the galaxy. But with it, fear and unrest. For him, what he deluded himself into believing was "peace" was enough. His tyrannic activities made the galaxy anything but peaceful.
Mariana walked through the house. There were only three bedrooms. Two small, the master bedroom large. She took that one. She liked the way the sun filtered through the windows and terrace.
A soft buzzing noise startled her as she pulled the covers back on the bed to inspect it. A servant droid.
"How many of you should I expect?" Mariana inquired.
"Three, milady," the droid mumbled.
The wounds around her neck began to ache. Mariana sat on the bed.
"Is there anything I could do milady?" the droid warbled.
"No, I'm fine. I'll just lay here a while."
"We have a med-droid here at your disposal."
"Thank you, should I come to need her, please send for me."
"I will report to check on you, milady," the droid answered.
Mariana could tell the time in the villa would be lonely. How populated was Rea? Would she ever make friends? Or would she make use of the droids for company?
Darth Vader thought often of Mariana Nafur. He wondered how she lived, where she lived, but restrained himself from pressing Ixo for information of her whereabouts. Thinking about Mariana overtaxed him physically, it was always best to avoid her - and Rea... too many memories there. Awful memories of what he'd done. He would avoid it just as he'd avoided Tattoine and Naboo for most of his life.
One trip to Naboo changed the course of his existence. Indeed, he was truly married to the dark side now. He'd proven that he couldn't trust himself to love anyone. He didn't know how. The only thing that happened was that his insecurities boiled to the surface. And he killed as a result.
Sometimes he felt her through the force, for she made no effort now to hide herself from him. Beneath it all, he sensed she still loved him, but ultimately would never accept him again.
Chapter 27: Vader Schmader
Commander Ixo stood atop the mid-ocean tower and scoured the distant landscape with a set of binoculars. Beside him stood a casual young Imperial soldier dressed in standard blue-grey uniform, hat, with curly hair pushing from beneath. He was Imperial Soldier Danny Maxo.
"You have five standard minutes before the next shift arrives. Have all of the perimeters been secured?" Ixo asked.
"Yes Commander," Danny answered formally.
Both men stood, arms clasped behind their backs, legs apart.
"Your vacation begins when tonight. I hear you've been squiring a certain beautiful young lady," Ixo inquired.
"Yes, she is most wonderful, Commander. With enough time, I might even propose."
"Well, congratulations in any case, soldier. Might I inquire about the identity of your lady friend?"
"She was a Naboo politician. However, she's been in Rea for several standard months now. If I should be granted a permanent rank at this station a proposal would be more than possible, but inevitable I suppose."
"Would this young lady happen to be Mariana Nafur?" Ixo queried.
"Yes, she would. How did you know?" Danny asked, his face unmasking surprise.
"Then I must warn you." The muscles in Ixo's jaw locked. "Mariana Nafur is Lord Vader's lady."
Danny laughed. "I find that very difficult to believe. Lord Vader?"
"Why is that so hard to believe?" Ixo asked.
"He's more cyborg than human, isn't he?"
"Though his extremities are made of prostethics, Vader is most certainly human."
Danny thought about the bandages she wore about her neck and considered the possibilities. Vader had a penchant for strangulation...
"He's left his territory unmarked for several months now, I'd say he's done. If not, then she is most certainly done with him."
Ixo shook his head. "Lord Vader isn't done with her yet. He's simply biding his time."
Danny was young, handsome, rugged, and tall. He wasn't an ambitious guy. He was simply happy to have a job.
"Permission to be frank, sir?"
"Of course," Ixo answered.
"I could give a damn about Lord Vader's attempt to squire my girl. She'll never have him. He's a beast."
"Then I should count on not seeing you alive again. Lord Vader is here in Rea."
"No worries. Lord Vader is hardly any competition for me. Besides, he will never know."
"Well, I shan't bother to tell him. He's asked that I keep Lady Nafur's business to myself. And I plan to honor that agreement. In any case, good luck young man."
Two Imperial Soldiers marched into the room and saluted Commander Ixo, then Danny.
The two parted, with a polite bow of their heads as they descended the staircase. Ixo to a night of rest, Danny to what Ixo believed was certain death.
The following morning, Danny rolled the legs of his pants up to his knees, removed his shoes, and walked across the beach toward Mariana's villa. From a distance he could see her on the terrace working feverishly over another art piece. The dress she wore was white, but it was smudged with clay as she worked on what appeared to be a clay vase, slightly misshapen under her hands.
She waved to him from afar, a beautiful smile plastered across her face. When he reached the Peach Pavillion, he climbed up the balcony, leaning over it to flash a handsome grin.
"You are most beautiful this morning," he said, passing her a bouquet of posies.
"For me?" Mariana smiled.
"No, for the service droid," he answered sarcastically.
Mariana wiped clay from her hands and grabbed the flowers, pressing them to her nose as she inhaled the scent.
"What brings you my way?" Mariana asked.
"I've been given a vacation of sorts, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it."
Danny climbed over the balcony and seated himself opposite of her in one of Mariana's patio chairs.
"I'm flattered," she answered. "But I'm not so sure that it's a good idea."
Vader, he quickly deduced. "Why?"
Mariana shook her head and took the posies into another room. Danny followed.
"How's your neck?"
Mariana turned on her heels, looked at him. It was the only time he'd ever asked her about the wounds. "Fine, she answered."
"They're taking a bit long to heal though, aren't they?"
Mariana sighed. "There's a hole in my trachea. It'll take a lot of time to heal. I sleep with an oxygen filter pressed into my nose, should I cease to breathe in my sleep. I hope that doesn't bother you - not that you'd ever catch me sleeping."
"No, not at all," he answered. "What happened to you?"
"Oh...an unhappy misunderstanding, that's all."
Mariana left Danny to his thoughts as she found one of the vases she made, filled it with water, and put the flowers in them.
When she returned, Danny extended an arm. "Are you in too delicate a situation for a walk along the beach?"
Maybe emotionally, but not physically, she thought. "Not at all. I'd love to join you."
Chapter 28: Hunger
Mariana and Danny Maxo walked along the beach. He slipped a nervous hand into hers and she smiled at him. Tiny little waves rolled against the sandy shore. Danny leaned over, grabbed a rock and hurled it into the distance.
"Forgive me for being blunt," Danny said, returning to grab Mariana's hand. "But I heard about you and Vader."
Mariana raised her eyebrows, suddenly a bit perturbed by Danny's admission.
"Really? What exactly did you hear?"
"Just that you were involved and something split you apart."
Mariana paused, then pulled her hand from Danny. He stared into her face. Eyebrows pressed together in concern. He gently touched her neck. A small breeze stirred the curls about his head.
"Did he do this to you?"
Mariana averted her gaze. "No..." she said.
"Don't lie," Danny pressed. He grabbed another rock from the sand and hurled it into the distance.
"Everyone knows how Vader is. I wonder why he didn't finished you off."
"What makes you think he wants to?" Mariana griped.
Danny looked at her. "Oh, well the fact that he did it in the first place-"
"You know nothing about us," Mariana snapped. "And I'm not going to explain it to you you because you'll never understand."
"I understand all right... but if it were me, I'd never do that to you."
He touched Mariana's face.
Darth Vader stood with Commander Ixo atop the ocean tower in the control center. In the distance sun beams struck tiny ocean waves and sparkled against the glass window, nearly blinding Ixo. Vader, vision shaded by his dark goggles wasn't the least bit uncomfortable.
The commander furrowed worried eyebrows as Vader gazed into the distance, eyes seeming to miss no detail as he scanned.
"As I were saying, Lord Vader, the factories are producing double the output We've now amassed untold numbers of Star Destroyers, and other weaponry you'll find more than useful for maintaining the peace. Especially with this so called rebellion I hear is trying to surface."
"What do you make of this rebellion, Captain Ixo? I've seen nothing of it yet."
"Ah, but Intelligence has reported clandestine meetings throughout the Empire, from core planets to the Outer Rim."
"They will be squashed quickly," Vader said.
"I'm certain they will, my Lord."
Vader's gaze froze.
"...Interesting," he said.
The Sith Lord honed in some miles away, toward an eastern beach. Two figures stood close together, near embrace. He pulled a scope from the tower overhead for a better look. He could magnify the images far better that way.
Looking inside, he could see Mariana Narfur and an unknown human male.
"Commander Ixo, you were instructed to take Mariana Narfur elsewhere. And yet she is here in Rea. Were you aware of this?"
"Yes, my Lord. I believe your instructions were to take her wherever she wanted to go. Lady Nafur requested a villa here in Rea."
"And you obliged?"
"You said, anywhere she wanted to go."
Vader's mask approximated a sigh.
"Who is the man at the villa with her?"
"I would have to see, my Lord."
Vader swung the scope toward Commander Ixo with a bit of fury behind it. The Commander peered through the goggles then pushed it away.
"An Imperial soldier," Ixo informed. "Danny Maxo."
"From the lower ranks of the Imperial forces."
Vader scoffed. "You should have given me fair warning, Commander."
The metal lungs inside of Vader began to wheeze.
"Yes, but I was instructed not to divulge information regarding her whereabouts and so I complied, my Lord."
"Leave me," Vader suddenly roared. He grabbed hold of the periscope and pulled it from the ceiling, bending the steel with brute strength and will. He summoned the force with a furious rage and a tornado-like wind sent it careening across the control room.
Commander Ixo saluted the Sith Lord then motioned for the others, who thankfully were just out of hearing range, away from the control center.
Vader held tight to the control panel and willed his circuits back under control. To gain control of his heart rate, blood flow, and breathing. He'd finally gotten past his relationship with Mariana...somewhat. Enough to convince himself to move on, to give her the space she needed, and to never look back again. Apparently she moved on too. But much too quickly.
Errant thoughts raced through Vader's brain. Angry thoughts that questioned whether or not she ever loved him at all. Thoughts that pushed him into harming her, and splitting them apart to begin with. Mariana cared, he assured himself. He needn't feel so insecure.
Move on, he pleaded with himself.
But it was impossible now. He'd already seen her and thus unleashed a hunger that couldn't be satisfied until he had her again. He wanted it all. The Universe, the powers of the dark side, and Mariana too.
Of little significance was getting rid of Danny Maxo. A flick of his hand would see to that.
Chapter 29: Crash Bang
Danny Maxo and Mariana drifted toward the villa, having exhausted themselves with conversation. Mariana seemed happy enough again, suddenly relieved that the truth was out... that she didn't have to hide her past with Vader and that Danny hadn't run away upon hearing the news. It was bad enough that he was an Imperial Soldier and Vader's subordinate. If he ever found out...
"I'm really quite smitten with you," Danny said.
Mariana held the young man's brown orbs with her own.
"I'm not so sure it's a great idea," she said.
"If Vader ever found out-"
"I'm not worried about Vader."
"You should be," Mariana warned. "He's covetous. Possessive."
"I'd stand up to him."
Mariana turned and walked up the staircase, leaving Danny standing below. She went inside and closed the door. Danny climbed the balcony, leaning over it to look into the house.
Mariana met him at the terrace. "I'm trying to spare you-"
"Because you're worried about me, or because you're still in love with Vader?"
"Both," she answered.
"Why?" he asked, his face publishing his state of confusion.
"Love isn't something one can just turn off, like running water."
Danny scoffed. "Vader did."
"Vader is a different kind of beast."
"A beast... exactly."
Mariana smiled. "Danny, I worry about you coming here."
"I'll deal with it," he said.
Danny climbed over the balcony and walked toward Mariana. "I'll keep you company."
Vader descended the platform of The Executer, which landed somewhere close to Mariana's beach, his arms folded across his chest, his posture evincing mass authority.
A crowd of Imperial Troops rolled a long steel strip for him to walk upon. He wanted to avoid sand, blast if he got it into his boots.
The sun had already set, and Vader could tell Danny Maxo was still in Mariana's house. What did that matter? The boy was already dead. He just didn't know it yet.
Vader cross leapt over the sand to walk up the stairs. Each step he took shook the very foundation of the villa. Fair warning... were they in a compromising situation, this would give them more than enough time. For his sake, not necessarily their own.
He reached the door, standing just on the other side then punched his way through. The door fell crashing inward, a gust of dust pouffing into the air.
Chapter 30: Mark V
Mariana barely blinked amid the cloud of dust and splintered wood that was narrowly a barrier between her, Darth Vader and Danny Maxo, who stood gallantly before her, as if to protect her.
He was no match Vader and neither was she. But with some training as a Padawan ten years ago, she'd do better at protecting herself than he would. But she was grateful nonetheless.
Although it were only mere seconds, it felt like an eternity had passed before something - anything happened, which was Danny's hand reaching behind himself to hold hers within his. But it was the vase, one Mariana crafted with her own hands, that hurled across the room and knocked the young soldier over the back.
It was a large chunk of wood from her door that blasted through the dust that had yet to settle that smacked him across the forehead. She could hear a cabinet being torn from its base as Vader, who had yet to even speak, reached through the force to tear yet another object through time and space to injure Danny further. The young man fell to the floor, unconscious.
"Leave him alone, Vader," Mariana said, adopting a threatening tone.
A dark hand reached out and grabbed her. Mariana stared into the eyes of the mask, undaunted by the terror he wanted to impose. Vader gazed at the beauty, his eyes taking stock of previously inflicted injuries. Curse his artificial hands - his anger, for doing this to her. But he would extend no such mercy to Danny Maxo.
"Why must you kill my friends! You want to hurt him, you'll go through me first."
His eyes scanned the room for more objects to hurl - anything not nailed down, preferably. Mariana gasped, then threw herself before Vader. "Look at me," she demanded.
But suddenly, something across the room caught his eye. Captivated, he brushed by Mariana then walked to a small coffee table. A dark obsidian rock born of molten lava had been carved and sat on display. It was clear, glassy, intricate in detail... a sculpture of a tiny infant with the name "Mark V" hammered into its base. He held it in his hand, the dark orbs of his mask focused on it.
The statue was too precious for him to hold, Mariana thought. A homage to the little one whose life had been sacrificed for her own. Whose life had been lost to Vader's anger.
"They told me it was a boy. I named him Mark V," Mariana said.
"Mark V..." Vader repeated, his body as still as the statue he held in his hands.
Metal lungs suddenly wheezed. Vader sat the statue of the little one on the table then stumbled onto the terrace. The wind assailed him, but Vader held tight to the balcony as he struggled to will his his breathing and heart beat back under control.
Danny Maxo came to, then slowly rose to his feet. Bruises and scratches marked his face. Mariana reached toward him and ran fingers through his curly hair.
"It's over..." she said.
Danny grabbed her arm and held it. But the look in her eyes spoke the truth: It could never be.
He stepped through the broken door giving Mariana a parting glance, wishing fate had brought them together years earlier.
Mariana turned sullen eyes toward the monstrous dark figure on the terrace. She walked toward him, past him even, and climbed over the ledge.
Chapter 31: Indigo
Mariana sat on the edge of the balcony, legs hanging over the other side. What a pair of sorry sods they were. She wondered what life would have been like had they met under different circumstances. If he weren't a Sith Lord, and she hadn't previously been a Padawan all those years ago. Or would they have met at all?
Was it too much to ask that fate not be so cruel? That it were not so cruel to Mark V?
Vader's mask emitted a sigh. For a moment, Mariana looked as though she might jump over the ledge. But where would she fall but only a short ten feet?
A gentle ocean breeze tussled hair about her head. She gazed into the distant horizon, into the starless indigo colored sky, and listened as the waves banked against the shore.
Vader, having controlled his breathing now, stood behind her and after a moment quietly wrapped his arms around her and gazed quietly into the night.
This is the man he was. Violent. Prone to angry outbursts. Intolerant. Sullen. These were also his flaws. But on the other hand he could be fiercly loyal, and in being so he expected such loyalty in return. He was fearless, willing to rise to a challenge regardless of how mountainous. He was strong, intelligent, mature and methodical. These were his virtues.
The conflicting aspects of his personality were the reasons why she loved him. Why she didn't stop loving him after all he'd done to her. After what happened to Mark V. Why she wanted to marry him five standard months ago.
This was the reason why she had already forgiven him. This was the reason why she waited for him to come back - when he finally elected to forgive himself.
The question she pondered over was, could every day be her last should he misinterpret something or is led to believe something other than the truth?
"Never again," he answered, sensing her thoughts.
A gloved hand touched the bandages of her neck. How ironic, he thought... that he would leave her so gravely wounded that they now shared a similar condition. A condition which afflicted Mariana's ability to breathe soundly. Her condition was not as severe as his. But it was severe enough that she likely required a separate breathing apparatus to protect her as she slept.
How convenient that he used such an apparatus for sleeping purposes. How convenient that when he was with her, that he actually slept?
Vader pulled her from the balcony and carried her across the terrace, through the living room, over the splintered door, down the stairs of the villa, toward the Executor, where dedicated troops stood in a line on each side, back stiff, arms at their sides as Vader marched, long black cape flapping in the wind. He carried her up the platform then set her down, bare feet touching the cold steel floor as he closed the hatch behind them.
Forgiveness is the key. It was always the key. And with it she opened the cage to his heart... shaping his destiny and what was to come in the following years - setting him upon the lighted path to redemption thereof.
The ship lifted and carried them yonder, to a place of endless suns, endless stars, endless time, and endless love...
Chapter 32: REDUX PART TWO
Title: Colors of The Wind - REDUX
Continuation: Part II
Author: Chorus Girl
Summary: Darth Vader and Mariana fight to keep their love a secret after the emperor demands him to make good on his loyalty to power and the Order of The Sith. Mariana is placed in hiding after Vader learns of his Master's plot to kill her.
Disclaimer: Star Wars is owned by the head honcho, George Lucas and LucasFilmsltd.
Comments: Yeah, it's like an old Harlequin Romance, with the selfish, sexist male and the abiding woman. I guess the early influence of books read during my teenage years are somewhat noticeable here. But I expect Vader to behave no other way.
Lady Mariana sat aboard The Executor and stared out of the viewing window at the planet below… Prassius. When her beloved Darth Vader promised her “the world” he meant it. Prassius was the most beautiful planet in the known galaxy and he was giving her the keys.
From outer space the planet glowed a radiant plum color coiled in seas of blue. The planet was largely absent of trees and used grass, foliage, and an abundance of flowers to feed its breathable atmosphere. But Vader warned her about the smell, a powdery perfumed scent he found unpleasant and noxious. Luckily for him, filters in her villa would sift the smells out at her command.
The ship descended on Spring Falls, in an open field meters away from where she would live. But to Mariana’s surprise, the house was not a villa, It was a castle surrounded by green pastures, mountains that seemed to melt into the horizon, and cobbled beneath it , rocks cooled by plentiful waterfalls.
A brigade of white-armored troops filed out of the ship behind her.
The first troop , a commander spoke, “Escort the prisoner to the Sector one, and secure the parameters.“
Mariana bristled at the word “prisoner” , but it was necessary the troops thought her as such, for sake of appearances. These were Vader’s trusted men. Her relationship with him was an open secret among the troops, but carefully guarded secret outside of their elite circle.
“Will Lord Vader be joining us?” she asked
“Lord Vader is with the Emperor. Apparently, the situation with the rebels is escalating.”
“He’s not in danger, is he?”
“Lord Vader in danger?”
There was a hint of sarcasm in the trooper’s voice. Mariana imagined the face beneath the helmet…smiling.
“Lord Vader will make contact with you via holovoid, Milady.”
“Thank you… what shall I call you sir?”
“Commander 6527,” he answered.
The man dawdled behind as a small brigade of troops carried her belongings across the field. Suitcases, supplies, dresses, trunks… all the things she needed, including her medical facilities.
Mariana graced the cross bridge that would lead her into the castle. This was home. Beautiful, elaborate… and hers. Hers and Vader’s… even with troops swarming about, searching and setting up communications, which Mariana happily raced to upon hearing that Vader was on Holovoid, awaiting her presence.
“I trust everything is to your specificaaaations,” said the living, "breathing" black hole.
“How long until you get here?” Mariana asked, casting formalities aside. “I miss you so much,” she said.
“I cannot sufficiently engage you from herrrre,” Vader thundered. “But I will arrive soon, milaaaaadeeeee. I suspect the emperor knows you are alive. I felt it through the force,” he continued.
“What will we do?” Mariana asked, worry in her eyes.
Vader had seen that look before. Padme made that face whenever their secret marriage was under the threat of being exposed. And now, he found himself in a similar situation. The Sith are to be married to the dark side. And although he had not married Mariana Narfur, his affection for her was considered a betrayal to their oath. He the adulterer, power, the betrayed wife. And now, the emperor wanted her dead.
“I will deal with the emperor,” Vader warned. “Leave him to me.”
Mariana felt him through the force, the gentle caress of his hand upon her. She waved as his image faded away.
Chapter 33: Choose
Your loving hands have soothed and healed every inch of my charred flesh and made pure my blackened heart. With you I am a new man, my own man, liberated from the chains of despair, unafraid and willing to love again. The errors of my past are vast and the consequences grave. But you, my love have freed my soul of torment and the memories that haunt my dreams like monsters in the mind of children.
You are a vestige of light, a beam peering into the dark side, setting me upon the path to power, you give me purpose and without you, I am… dead, without sight, voice, hearing, and alive only by that which imprisons me and nothing more.
You are the air I breathe, and all that sustains me. I live only to conquer that which is rightfully yours for I will lay the spoils of battle upon your feet. Someday I will join you in heaven, my sweet angel, where I will pass through the pearly gates of your thighs to partake of your forbidden fruit, my love… I can smell your perfume, your hair, your wanting, the perspiration of our passion, I am there with you, laboring in your essence, do you feel me?
We are one, of mind, spirit, and flesh. You are a long summer day, sunshine glistening upon snow, a flower in spring, beautiful you are, and mine…
I will return soon, my love
Vader’s letters were always intense, personal, they made her face burn red, her fruit moist with its own nectar, and filled her with such longing…that she felt herself explode - into colors blowing in the wind like leaves, scattering in plums, pinks, purples, blues, greens and yellows, wild and blowing through her hair… and cascading into the horizons in pastels until they are but silhouettes, parting with the sweet golden sun at dusk.
At night she slept with her legs curled beneath her, less she ached with longing again. Their parting was torture, chaos in her mind. Vader never expressed himself so verbally. He made it a point not to waste words and speech was always a challenge without his modulator, and otherwise, he hated the sound of his robotic voice. But with a pen, his passion was boundless, energetic, kinetic...
Mariana longed for the sweet days of Naboo, where they were alone on the villa, and rebels had not reared their ugly heads to disturb his restful mind.
She was tired of hiding from the emperor. Why was it so hard for Vader to see what he was doing to him? What did the emperor have that made Vader so loyal to him? The emperor had already betrayed Vader once, even killing his wife, and forcing him to destroy his own friends and brothers of the Jedi Order. An Order, she too once was a part of. Her love for him had betrayed them too. Yes, if anyone had known that she, formally Oleta Starstone, had betrayed her former master, the woman Vader had killed as she watched, what would they say? How could she live with herself?
None of it mattered anymore. The Jedi Order was no more. The only thing she needed now was to convince Vader to leave the emperor. To help him see the truth, that he was powerful enough to defeat him. That the limitations of his suit didn’t limit his power. He could destroy the emperor and they could live happily ever after. The Empire would be gone and the Jedi would be avenged and the galaxy would be free again.
Mariana barely slept at night, tossing and turning about, her mind haunted with thoughts of Vader fighting against that terrible rebellion.
Moonlight crept through the window onto her closed eyes as she pulled the cover to her chin. The soft sound of her bedroom door sliding open, and the manic flashing of the control panel on her door blinked, prompting her to open her eyes.
Then she heard it... "woooosh, shiiiiiiiish. Woooooooosh, shiiiiiish." She sat up, blanket pressed against her chest as she stared at the towering figure that darkened her door.
"Vader!" Mariana exclaimed.
He strode across the room, black cape flapping behind him in the breeze as he hurried toward her, sitting at the edge of her bed. Mariana leaped from beneath the covers, diving into his arms. She wished she could read his face, sense his emotions.
"When you said you would be here soon..."
"Better to surprise you," he said.
"I was so worried, that awful rebellion..."
"Has been squashed. For now."
"Then you’ll stay?"
Vader raised a black glove to her face, cupping her chin. "Until the emperor needs me."
"The emperor ordered you to kill me. Didn’t he?"
"I will protect you from the emperor. Leave him to me."
Mariana stood, drawing her shoulders and chin up. The gown she wore was thin and hugged her slender figure. Beneath the mask, his eyes followed her across the room.
"The emperor must be destroyed. It’s the only way we can be together," she said, turning her back to Vader.
The sound of his mask roared as he leapt from his seat on her bed in anger to grab her by the arm.
The two of them stood in the darkness, his mechanical hand gripping her elbow. Her breaths were ragged and sharp, her chest rising and falling. She could feel his hands around her throat as he choked her all those months ago. How could she ever forget?
"The emperor gave you life."
"And how soon you forget how that life was taken away from me to begin with!"
The grip on her arm tightened and Mariana turned her head, heart pounding in her chest. "I only say it because I love you. The emperor tricked you into killing Senator Amidala. And now he’s ordered you to kill me. Is that why you’re here? To kill the one person who has loved you unconditionally?"
Vader released Mariana then strode toward the veranda, eyes scanning the horizon.
"Padme once felt as you do. Before she betrayed me. Before she hid my master on her ship, so that I would wear this suit the rest of my life."
"I don’t care about the suit. I never did. I love the man inside of the suit. I’ve proven it time and time again."
"The emperor is invincible."
"The emperor is only invincible because of you. You’re the chosen one."
"Don’t call me that," Vader griped, waving an arm.
Mariana stood behind him, laying her head on his back. "Will you at least think about what I said?"
"I will give the matter my consideration. But for your sake, never speak of it again. The emperor is wise. I have no doubt that he knows you’re here. But the troops are loyal to me. You’re protected for as long as I wish you to be."
"Is that a threat?" Mariana asked.
Vader spun around. His hands gripped her at the shoulders. "You would be the one to know, I am capable of almost anything."
Mariana pulled herself free and walked away, returning to the safety of her bed. Where hours earlier she dreamt of being in his arms again. Safe and loved, certain he would choose her above the emperor. Wishing he hadn’t made the truth painfully clear.
Chapter 34: Passion Rules
Content warning: This gets a bit mature/edgy at the end of this chapter so proceed with caution.
Fighting with Vader made Mariana feel miserable. And when he was angry he made sure everyone else miserable. Growling, barking and suffocating his poor subordinates for minor infractions with the opening closing of his powerful fist - all without laying an actual finger on them. Perhaps anger was just the excuse he needed to carry out the emperor’s order to kill her. And she had given him exactly what he needed to betray her.
What was she thinking, suggesting he turn against the emperor?
Mariana threw her blanket aside then climbed out of bed, the satin of her taupe colored gown static against the curves of her body.
Was she afraid to die? No. Was she afraid of how she would die? If it must be done, then she would rather it not be by his hands. Not again. She’d rather a death by firing squad. Even if some of the storm troopers had become her friends during the time Vader was away. Mariana sighed as she opened the veranda doors letting the cool midnight breeze whip her hair into a frenzy.
The wind sent chill bumps up her spine and the sensation of a gentle caress down her arms. She spun around and drifted trance-like from her room down the corridor, walking down the hall past armed storm troopers who made no attempt to extend eye contact with her, or glimpse her barely clothed body less they had a death wish. She was Vader’s lady.
Mariana pressed the buttons on the control panel, prompting a sliding door to open at her behest and wondered how she acquired the password.
Inside, was a viewing screen of Prassius and indigenous workers toiling away in the night on mechanical parts for the Empire’s TX 130T fighter tanks.
Mariana pulled a lever on the viewing screen, shutting it down, then walked to the hyper baric chamber in the adjoining room, which was Vader’s suite. The hatch slowly opened. She could barely make out his silhouette as she climbed inside, the air already tight. Vader pressed a buttons on the control panel, adjusting the oxygen levels so that there was enough to accommodate them both.
She stretched across his lap, feeling the pale synthetic velvet soft skin against her own. In the darkness, she could see his eyes, red now - the murderous trademark of the Sith. He meant to kill her. She closed her eyes, her hands touching the scar, his angular jawbone, and remembered him as he was: The Chosen one, Anakin Skywalker, handsome and heroic.
Vader grabbed Mariana by the wrist and shook her roughly, almost throttling her senseless. He sensed her thoughts and what he felt made him angry. Anakin Skywalker was dead. A ghost. Hadn’t she accepted him as he was? The man he’d become, Darth Vader? Killing her the moment he saw her on Naboo would have solved everything. But now, there was so much conflict stirring within him, that when she suggested he kill his friend, the emperor, he actually considered it. But like Padme Amidala, Mariana also served as a Naboo politician. Asking him to kill the emperor was no different than Padme asking him to use his friendship to convince Palpatine to end the war. And what had he told her? To raise her issues before the senate. But dismissing Mariana wasn’t so easy. The empire was the senate. And this was more than the request of a Naboo politician. But that, of a former Jedi Padawan learner. The Jedi were always conjuring up ways to end Sith rule. Once a Jedi, always a Jedi. This is why they were haunted down and destroyed. For Vader it was kill or be killed.
How many times had he spared her? Was this a part of an elaborate scheme to avenge her master? The one he killed right in front of her? Mariana Nafur, no perhaps he should address her by her real name... Olee Starstone. It would make destroying her easier. After all, she might be the last of the Jedi now that Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi were possibly dead. The two masters were never seen again after the Jedi Purge and Yoda’s duel with Palpatine in the Senate Chambers.
Yes... Obi-Wan may have won their little battle on Musafar, but the Empire won the war. Could he, the powerful Darth Vader let a woman, Mariana Narfur, bring the Empire down as the emperor said she would? Would he let her? He was the Chosen One. He ended the war. He brought peace to the galaxy and she wanted to undo it.
They wrestled, Mariana struggling against him and he let her, knowing his mechanical arms, hell, even his old flesh ones could overpower her.
Tempermentally however, they were equally matched. Mariana was feisty. She matched Vader’s glare with one of her own and rolled her fist into a ball even as he held her arm. But Vader pushed her into the soft leather bedding, holding her in place as his lips found hers in the darkness. The passion between them didn’t deserve to die. The emperor did.
Mariana felt herself grow hot and moist with anticipation as Vader pushed her legs apart and wedged himself between them.
But she wanted answers and she wanted them now. Mariana turned away and Vader's lips met with the softness of her cheek.
He ripped the satin gown from her body with one forceful yank and tossed it aside. In the darkness he could see aerolas of her hardened nipples. She struggled, but her his senses gave him the permission he needed. Her body screamed yes, her mind screamed yes, as did her lips as they found their way back to his own. He released her arm and felt the breeze behind her fist blow by his face before bouncing off of his shoulder uselessly.
He pulled her legs around him and pressed himself within her, gaining steam at every audible gasp from her lips.
Chapter 35: Sleep
Content warning: This gets a bit mature/edgy at the end of this chapter so proceed with caution.
Mariana stretched, mouth open wide in a loud yawn, then suddenly recoiled, her sore muscles forcing her to remember where she was.
The hyperbaric chamber.
Vader was asleep.
Wait a minute... Vader? Sleeping?
Mariana tried to move the lead heavy arm that pinned her beside him to no avail. His ever possessive hold made it almost impossible to so much as turn over. Mariana’s hands dropped to her side in utter exasperation. The night had been so overwhelming emotionally that she felt as spent as he did. But she couldn’t sleep. Perhaps he’d see that she’d never awaken. But how fair was that? He owed her. He owed Mark IV. And who’s to say their child died as a result of Vader strangling her on Rea that awful night? What if the emperor, who claimed to revive her, was the reason their child died? The reason she was now irreversibly barren? If Vader were to ever have a child, he or she would be powerful beyond measure. The emperor’s days would be numbered the moment Vader’s heir is born. Why wouldn’t he do something to her? To their child?
Mariana rubbed the lower part of her belly and choked back tears. She felt so empty inside.
If he availed himself to her now, the mourning would pass. But last she looked into his eyes, the blood red murderous Sith glare was dying, like embers in a fireplace as they returned to a cool blue color.
Truth be told he was afraid. Afraid of being hurt. Afraid of being betrayed. He loved once, both Padme and Obi-Wan and felt they betrayed him. Distancing himself before he fell too hard for her was his way of protecting himself from hurt. But she could never hurt him. In fact, she betrayed her political oaths and her alliance with Bail Organa to be with him, and still he was afraid.
Then she felt it... an intruder in her thoughts lulling her to sleep. Jedi Mind tricks only worked on the weak minded. And she certainly wasn’t weak! But Vader's force powers were so overwhelming, that all in his presence were abandoned by it in his favor. Little did she know the buzzing of her thoughts so disturbed him, that the intrusion was out of need of shutting her up. He wanted to sleep. How long had it been since he snoozed? There was comfort knowing Mariana was by his side, the control he could exert over her at his whim. She grew weaker by the day, more his servant in any way he so desired. And soon, the transformation would be complete. He would awaken Olee Starstone and make her his apprentice. Together they would destroy the emperor. But it was clear that Yoda locked away her teachings through hypnotism or some other Jedi trick to keep her true identity a secret in order to protect her from the Empire. Mariana no longer used the force or a lightsaber, the knowledge of her teachings tucked away like a forbidden secret - so secret, not even she even knew it was there. She was more naboo politician, than former Jedi Padawan.
Alas, with the emperor destroyed they could rule the galaxy...together.
Even asleep, Vader smiled, content with his wicked thoughts. Mariana had yet to understand the power of the dark side. But someday she would and will call him Master in more ways than one.
Mariana drifted into a comatose-like sleep, curled against the warm towering figure. He could smell the sweetness of her hair, and thought to himself how beautiful a flower she was... and how much he resembled a young boy frolicking about in a meadow, viciously picking her petals apart.
She loves me.
She loves me not.
She loves me...
Chapter 36: You Will Call me Master
"You’re going to Novul," Vader said, to a waking Mariana as he stood in the doorway that lead to the veranda of his suite, black cape flapping wildly in the wind.
Mariana tied a bed sheet beneath her arms. It was the only thing handy enough to cover her naked body. Not that there was anything there that he hadn’t seen before. But when he was like this... intense, angry, she didn’t want him looking at her. Not in that way.
"Novul? Is it the emperor?"
"I’ve given your proposal my consideration. But I cannot run away with you. It is too late for me, Mariana. But it is not too late to save yourself," he said.
Mariana stood, wrapping her arms around his waist as she laid her head against his back. "And where am I supposed to go? I have nothing left," she weeped.
Naboo had been destroyed by the Empire, by Vader himself. There was no Jedi Order to return to, not that she could anyway, having slept with the enemy. Danny Maxo, someone who loved her a while ago had nearly been killed by Vader and as an Imperial soldier, wouldn’t cross that line again, nor would she let him risk his life in such a way.
"I’ve destroyed many things. Your life shouldn’t have been one of them. Get away while you can. I am only capable of hurting you."
"Don’t say that," Mariana protested. "I love you."
And there it was. Declarations of loyalty and undying love. Hadn’t he heard it all before from Padme? From Mariana on Rea the day he nearly killed her? What did she see? What did Padme see that made them love him so much? Had he, by use of the force, brainwashed them both?
Vader peeled her hands away, turning to face her. "There is something we can do to stay together."
A gentle breeze blew unfettered strands of hair about her face. Her shoulders shrunk in the cold, chill bumps racing down her spine. The sheet that covered her nude body flapped against the wind, exposing her bare legs. Mariana turned her face, laying her head against the dancing lights of his chest plate. He shook her hands, prompting her to stare into the mask. The mask she carefully avoided most of the time. She couldn’t bear to see him wear it, preferring the face beneath as hideous as it was.
"Allow me to take you as my apprentice."
"I don’t understand..."
"Your Jedi teachings are buried somewhere inside of you. Hidden by Yoda to protect you from the empire. I will awaken those memories, and you will serve me."
"I don’t think I can," Mariana said, backing away.
Vader followed her from the veranda across the room. He hoped she wouldn't flee, for in his anger, he might resort to killing her this time and for good.
"Don't you see? Together you and I can rule the galaxy," he said.
"I don’t want to rule the galaxy! It goes against everything I’ve learned, my principles, and vows to serve the greater good," Mariana protested.
"It is because of the emperor and his lies that I am in this suit. Overthrowing the emperor is the only thing that’s kept me alive all these years. I am slowly resigning to my life as the emperor's prisoner. There are no Jedi left, Mariana. You are my last hope."
"And whose fault is that? You didn’t have to kill everyone but you did," Mariana said, backing even further away. She pressed a hand to her head. She couldn’t have this conversation with him. Confronting what he’d done, would only make her hate him.
"You fear your hatred of me, Mariana. But hatred fuels the Sith. It gives us power," he said, crumpling his fist.
"I was only a padawan. I don’t remember my Jedi teachings."
"I will unlock your memories."
"And what will happen to us?"
"You will no longer call me your lover. You will call me Master."
Master... how long had he waited to hear those words? To have a pupil of his own?
"And I’m supposed to want this?"
"The emperor ordered me to destroy you. He fears I’ve become too attached and my loyalty to him is wavering. If I don’t kill you, he will. But if we join forces you and I can destroy the emperor together and rule the galaxy. And if ruling the galaxy is not for you, then perhaps I can rule it alone, with you by my side as we are now."
Vader sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Mariana by the arm. She stood before him, a river of tears threatening to spill from her eyes. She hated the idea of unlocking old memories, fighting again, thinking of the Jedi and what happened to them. But another part of her wanted to follow Vader wherever he wanted to take her, even at risk to her own life, her own sanity, and principles.
Vader traced a gloved hand along the her cheek, letting it fall to the thinness of her collarbone. His hand then fell to her breast. He massaged and caressed her gently, then laid his big dark mask against her chest in a silent plea as his arms pulled her into his lap and she wrapped her legs around him.
"I am as much the emperor's prisoner as you are," he said, voice defeated.
Mariana laid her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his neck, consolingly.
"Then I will set you free... Master."
Chapter 37: Torture
The manipulation of Mariana almost made him feel bad. Maybe not. Vader was no more a prisoner of the emperor than she was. In fact, the emperor didn’t know about Mariana. At least, that they had gotten back together.
It was a lie.
A treacherous lie planted as a means of launching his nefarious plan to seduce her into becoming his pupil.
The line about her being his last hope made him smile. The hopelessness of it all. Mariana loved the idea of saving him. It’s why she fell in love with him to begin with. The hopelessly charred invalid, incapable of so much as feeding himself... or so she thought.
Darth Vader already ruled the empire. The emperor was finished. Politically and as a Sith. He was a hermit who was so out of touch with the inner workings of the empire that he’d lost control of it. In fact, the troops and the senate reported to Vader alone. No one saw the emperor but Darth Vader, and generally he told him only what he wanted the him to know... So one might say that the emperor was Vader’s prisoner. Overthrowing him was merely forcing him to acknowledge that Vader had already seized control of everything the emperor desired, including the construction of the death star. A weapon that could be used to destroy the emperor’s ship on sight at his command.
Of course the emperor would understand Vader’s betrayal. Treachery was the way of the Sith.
And what if Mariana were to kill him? Remove Vader from power so that she was the ruler of the Empire? Wouldn't happen. She loved him too much. And he loved her too. And that gave him exactly the leverage he needed to control her.
The downside to Mariana learning to use the force again, was that he’d need to control his thoughts, since she’d become capable of sensing them. He’d also miss their nights together.
But master/apprentice boundaries would to remain firmly in place if she was to be properly trained. Their lives depended on it.
The following morning, Mariana stood in her room wearing a white one piece stretch outfit and a pair of white boots, waiting for Vader.
What would it be like? Holding a lightsaber in her hand again? She was aware of her past, but had no memories of it. She remembered her old master, but none of her teachings. It was too hard, too painful. And now, Vader wanted to awaken those memories and she allowed him to do so because she loved him. Perhaps leaving him would be better than facing the past, remembering her friends and people who were like family to her, now gone because he killed them.
The doors to her suite slid open and before she could blink, Vader stormed inside with his arm outstretched and his hand crumpled into a fist. The air in her lungs tightened and immediately, her hands rose to her throat as if to pry invisible fingers apart.
Mariana gasped and struggled not to fall to the floor. It felt as though the blood vessels in her eyes would pop.
Then suddenly, she was free, air rushing through her lungs and out of her mouth so quickly that she began to cough.
"The emperor will do much worse. You are weak, Mariana Narfur!" Vader barked.
"But I thought..."
Vader cupped her chin, fingers biting. "Perhaps a bit of torture will inspire you."
Vader yanked her by the collar of her jumpsuit, her feet barely touching the floor as he pulled her out of the suite and down the hall, passing bewildered Imperial troops.
"Open the interrogation room!" Vader barked at a scrambling soldier.
"But Lord Vader," the troop protested.
"Do as I order or meet a similar fate," he warned.
Mariana scrambled, toes scraping the clean white floors. She reached out, grabbing him by his cape and nearly tearing it from his shoulders.
"What are you doing?" she shrieked.
They paused before an open door and Vader shoved her inside, not giving her enough space to run away. Inside stood several Imperial officers going about their usual duties, viewing images on a holovoid screen.
With a point of Vader’s finger, the soldiers scrambled, nearly colliding with each other in a rush to leave as ordered.
In the center of the interrogation room sat a large vat of ice cold water. Vader pulled Mariana by the back of her jumpsuit and dumped her inside.
She went under, nearly swallowing a mouthful of water as a gloved arm reached in after her, holding her under.
It felt as though an eternity had passed before she was free, bursting from her watery grave like steam from a kettle.
Mariana gasped, swallowing gulps of air before he plunged her beneath the waters again, holding her in place. She couldnt' think. She couldn't even scream. Several moments passed as she squirmed beneath the water before he allowed her up again, holding her by the collar as she spat liquid out of her mouth. She gasped, head against the side of the tub as she struggled to control her sobs.
Then suddenly, Vader spun around and force pulled a lever on the other side of the room, running a electrical current through the water. Mariana screamed, and slipped into the tub again, prompting Vader to force pull the switch into the off position.
Mariana sunk to the bottom of the tub like a block of lead and Vader reached into the tub and pulled her out. After coughing what felt like her lungs out of her throat, Mariana opened her eyes and stared into the mask of terror.
"Kill or be killed," Vader spat.
Mariana rolled and flipped over the side of the tub and kicked his chest plate, causing the colorful lights to blink manically.
And suddenly, laughter rose from the robotic sounding mask stunning her into ever deepening silence. In fact, it was the first time she had ever heard him laugh. He laughed for so long, and so hard, that his stomach hurt, prompting him to sit and catch his breath.
His condescension hurt even more than the physical torture. But hurt led to anger and anger led to hate. He needed her to hate him more than he needed her to love him. Hate would make her strong.
Vader pulled Mariana by the back of her jumpsuit and drug her down the hall, pass the gaping mouths of his Imperial soldiers as he shoved her into his suite.
Her show of strength, as small as it was, filled him with desire and the anger swelling within her filled him with fleshly lust that left him locking the doors, for fear his subordinates might disturb them.
The embers that lit her eyes were now flames.
"If you think you’re going to have your way with me now after that stunt then you’re sadly mistaken!" Mariana barked, water spilling from her mouth.
How long had it been since he’d seen such fire in her?
Vader scooped her into his arms and carried her to the waiting hyper baric chamber as Mariana kicked her flailing legs.
Chapter 38: Return of the Officer
A firm hand shook Mariana awake from a much needed rest. She jumped, paranoid, recoiling in fear, longing for a fast retreat from Vader’s ugly world. She opened her eyes, expecting to see his Dark mask and suit.
Instead, an Imperial trooper untied the rope that bound her to the bed fastidiously.
"Vader sent you to kill me, didn’t he?"
The trooper continued to untie the knot of one leg, then the other. Mariana leapt from the bed and raced toward the veranda, smelling the fresh clean air. It was dark out, but she felt as though she could fly. How wonderful, how beautiful, the indigo colored star filled sky, her first breath of freedom.
She opened her arms as if to hug the clouds, tears streaming down her face when the Imperial trooper slid a hand behind her knee and drew her into his arms.
Her head fell back into his shoulders. She stared into his mask. It was a lot like Vader’s, only white. The thought made her stomach turn and she found herself recoiling, body shivering, her hands trembling uncontrollably.
"Don’t worry," the voice said. "You’re safe."
Mariana pulled at the bottom of the mask, her fingers too weak to pull it from his face.
"Who are you?" she whispered through dry cracked lips.
The Imperial trooper pulled the mask from his head revealing a mass of curly dark hair and handsome face.
"Danny Maxo," Mariana exclaimed. "How did you...?"
"I’ll answer your questions later. But first I’ll need to take you away from here."
Mariana held tight to his shoulders as he carried her off.
"Don’t. It’s too late for me, if Vader finds out, he’ll kill you."
"Then so be it," Danny answered. "I let you get away once. I won’t lose you a second time."
Mariana sobbed into the thick steel body armor as he slipped down the stark white corridors, carrying her outside.
Danny’s legs moved quickly as they raced across the garden toward his ship. It was not the kind that troops generally piloted. It was different, old, and disc shaped.
Suddenly, Mariana gasped.
"Vader knows you’re here!"
"How do you know?" Danny asked, his voice in a panic.
" I can sense him. He’s done something to me, he, he’s sensed that I’ve gone, please hurry he’ll kill you this time."
Danny opened the hatch, dropped her inside, then followed suit.
A young pilot stirring impatiently in the cock pit initiated lift off at Danny's signal. After the Prassius compound, grew smaller as they grew further away, Danny carried Mariana’s bruised and battered body to the infirmery and laid her on a cot. "We'll be in the back, Han."
"Make it quick," the young man called Han Solo answered. "The last thing I need is the Empire firing rounds at my ship."
Danny left the grumpy sounding pilot to sit with Mariana as med droids worked on her sickly looking body. He smoothed wisps of hair away from her face.
"Now the emperor and Vader both want me dead," Mariana cried. "There’s no escape, I can’t get away," she sobbed.
"Those are Vader’s words. He’s in your mind. You must resist him, Mariana. Or he’ll find us. In fact, there’s something I need to tell you," Danny said.
Mariana pressed her eyebrows together worringly, a question in her gaze.
"The emperor never wanted you killed. It was another of Vader’s lies."
Mariana drew a breath, the stream of tears from her eyes coming to a halt. "What?"
"My colleagues went through the trouble of telling me where you are. That Vader hid you here, telling you lies that the emperor wanted to kill you. The emperor knows nothing about you and Vader. He’s kept it a secret. As far as the emperor knows, you and Vader parted on Rea, never to see each other again.
"Take me away from here, Danny. I can’t let him hurt me again," she said.
"Don’t worry," he answered. "You’re safe..."
He ran fingers through her hair, shutting the sight of her wounds out of his mind.
Chapter 39: Mrs Danny Maxo?
Danny helped a limping Mariana into a small dilapidated house. Han Solo walked in behind them, counting a stack of money.
"Heeey," Han called. "Where’s the rest?"
Danny paused, Mariana at his side, eyes low and tired.
"I gave you exactly what I said I would give you. 900 credits."
"That was before I knew you were being chased by Vader."
"You said it was a no questions asked deal."
"Again," Han gritted, "before the Empire might have lojacked my ship. Now you either pay up, or I tell Vader where to find you."
"Just give him what he wants," Mariana ordered.
"You heard the lady, pay up."
Danny went into his pocket, counted out a stack of money then gave it to Han.
"Thanks," he said, bowing mannerably.
Danny spun around, motioning toward the roof of the house. "It’s nothing elaborate, like Vader might have been able to give you. But it’s home," he said.
"Yeah, I have a quiz for you genius. How do you know Vader won’t find you here?"
"We’re as far out in the Outer Rim as it goes and not even Vader would waste his time coming here. If it werent' for the hyperspeed of your ship it would have taken us forever to get here. Besides...nobody knows about this place and I don’t think anybody will tell if they did. Right Han?"
Han smiled. "Maybe. For the right price."
"Oh hell, how much are you going to bilk us for now? We’re doing our best here, and..."
"Not my problem lady. I got my own crap to worry about," Han griped.
Mariana limped across the room, finding a rocking chair that overlooked a field outside the window. She sat, eyes gazing.
"It’s lovely Danny," she said, eyes welling with tears. "So peaceful..."
Danny Maxo walked across the room and knelt beside her, pulling her hand into his.
"We’ll be safe here, Mariana. I won’t let Vader hurt you again."
Han shoved the rest of the money into the inner pocket of his jacket. "I’m out here. Good luck..." he said, in mock salute. "With all the trouble you’re going through... for a woman," he snapped.
Danny watched as Han slipped through the door, then he and Mariana together in silence as the Millennium Falcon lifted and took off.
That night Mariana slipped into a basil full of warm water and let the beautiful scent of flowers permeate her skin. Danny had picked wild flowers from the blue grass out in the field then put it in the water.
As she laid there in comfort her scars seemed to fade, but not the memory of how she acquired them. Could she tell Danny that in her confusion she tried to kill Vader and herself by striking a compartment releasing the gases in the hyperbaric chamber and igniting them with her lightsaber? Her actions caused a mini blast that sheared and nicked her skin in various places all over her body. The atomic book of the blast rocked her brain so hard that she’d been knocked senseless. In fact, she’d have absorbed the full blast had vader not saved her from herself. He then left her bound to her own room for her safety and that of others. But could Vader really save her when he was the reason she’d gone mad to begin with? And had he finally realized that she wasn’t a Sith or Jedi but a human being unable to comport to violence without devolving into complete and utter madness? Or was that what it meant to be a Sith? In vader’s case, a rational lunatic?
Nevertheless, the biggest question she had in all of this, was whether or not she was a threat to Danny? Would something trigger her mental illness here on Naskolus?
That night, after she had gotten dressed mariana and danny had taken a walk in the fields. She listened patiently as he told her about their world planet. Naskolus. A two season off world of summer and spring.
"We’ll have our work cut out for us," Danny said.
He grabbed her hand, holding it within his.
"What kind of work?"
"Because there are two seasons, both permissible to vegetation year round, we will have manage the grounds, keep the vegetation from growing too wildly, and preparing for spring when rain is non stop forcing us to remain inside. We’ll have to stockpile enough food for this period of three months."
"Are there others here?"
"Only primitives. Some dangerous. The Kuzi Sumo. As long as we stay out of the dense woody areas of the planet we’ll be safe from them. THey don’t like open fields or exposure to the sun."
"What do they look like?"
"Albino, orange eyes. A hairless sort. Unfortunately, since we are among little to no other humans or humanoids, there will be no one to marry us."
"Marry us? Danny, you mean it?"
Danny paused, pulled her other hand within his. They stood face to face near a winding stream where lilies floated atop the water and the sun glistened on its tiny waves.
"If we’re to keep Vader from finding us, then we’ll never leave this place again. He won’t suspect us of being here."
Danny reached into his pocket and slipped a ring onto Mariana’s left and finger, then another onto the same finger of his left hand.
"This is a promise ring. That here and now, we are bound as husband and wife," Danny said.
Mariana swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. She wasn’t in love with Danny. Part of her still felt as though she belonged to Vader.
"It is a promise. I, Mariana Narfur am wife to Danny Maxo," she said.
Chapter 40: New Vader's anger and Han Solo
Vader rose from the hyperbaric chamber, blasting it open not unlike a mad man. The message from his captain had reached him there, informing him that Mariana had run away.
It had only been a few minutes since he acquired the information and he already missed her. Yes, he was to use her in his quest to overthrow the Emperor. But it was for them. They would enjoy the spoils of warfare and the galaxy, together. Padme too, had problems seeing the big picture. Women! Blasted women!
Vader viewed a surveillance tape and saw an imperial trooper carrying her off. He immediately came to suspect the old imperial trooper: Danny Maxo.
A dead man stealing his future wife. Imagine that!
Imperial troops scurried hither and fro as they prepped for a quick and hasty departure. Vader however, relied on the fear and competence of his men to get them away from the planet. He sat in the hyperbaric chamber alone... There, he could only think of Danny Maxo...touching, kissing, making love, even... to his woman.
Vader’s fist crumbled into a ball so tight, the mechanical parts of his hand threatened to malfunction.
Han Solo kicked the engine of his ship, the Millenium Falcon, then raced to the cockpit. "Chewy!" he yelled. "Get your hairy keister up here will ya? Somebody’s gotta fly this thing."
Chewbacca, Han Solo’s loyal comrade left a cot below deck and walked awkwardly to the front of the Falcon... his height dwarfing everything about him. The Wookie howled and beat his chest.
"Alright, alright. But in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a couple of Imperial ships behind us, genius."
Chewbacca leaned forward and gazed out of the viewing window. He growled again then sat in the pilot’s chair.
"I’ll work on those parts. Fine mess we got ourselves into, eh buddy? Apparently some imperial chump stole Vader’s woman. What in the hell was I thinking, getting us involved in this?"
Chewy growled again.
"Your right. I was thinking money," Han smiled. "But don't expect me to get in trouble over a woman again. I don't care how much we're being paid. That said, I got some disappointing news. Doesn't look like this guy paid us the right amount. "
At this, Chewy wailed and growled menacingly.
Han threw his hands in the air. "Okay! Jeesh, you'll get your cut, exactly what we agreed on. Just get us out of here."
Chapter 41: Han's grumblings
The emperor warned him. A Sith is married to the dark side. Vader turned on the Jedi Order because its rules forbade him to be with the woman he loved. He had been tempted by the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, Chancellor of the Republic, Palpatine, to have it all: The galaxy, ultimate power, and Padme Amidala.
The Sith forbade it, if not more vehemently all things relating to love and marriage. It stood in stark contrast to it through its treacherous philosophies Vader had been coerced to kill the only woman he ever loved. Now, he had been gifted with the opportunity to love again and once again, the Sith religion seemed to have gotten in the way. The only way to succeed in pursuit of his love for Mariana would be to destroy it from within-- and the emperor with it. Just as he had destroyed the Jedi Order.
Unbeknowst to the Sith Lord, was that Mariana longed to leave him behind, along with everything they shared. For her life with him had caused her too much pain, especially the death of their unborn child, Mark V. But with Danny Maxo at her side, she was on the mend. If only, they could be sure the pirate Han Solo would not turn them in.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca traveled to the outer rim planet of Tantum E and laid low. There, Chewbacca cursed himself and his greed for having taken the assignment to begin with.
"But we needed the money!" Han griped. "What was I supposed to do?"
"Well, if only you'd made your feelings clear BEFORE then, then perhaps I might have given it a second thought. I didn't see you complaining when you ate that Osk Leg the other night. Believe it or not, the money we got for the Vader mission paid for it."
Chewbacca shrugged, collapsed onto a cot at the back of the Millenium Falcon.
"What's so special about her anyway? What she got that Vader wants so desperately?"
Again, Chewbacca shrugged. It seemed, Han were talking to himself and his friend.
"She's beautiful... but, nevermind. I got no use for women," Han griped. 'THey're all trouble and this one proves it."
Chapter 42: Endor Han and Leia
Han Solo had been thinking.
A rarity for him... but he just couldn't get her off of his mind. That woman, the one on the run from Vader. Ah! She was beautiful. He couldn't deny it. A few years older than him...but who cared?
Wait a minute... what was he thinking about? He wasn't actually...?
Han Solo stood and kicked the console of the Millenium Falcon. The thump jolted his sleeping best friend, Chewbacca out of his sleep. The beast released an angry howl.
"Who are you yellin' at?" Han griped.
Chewbacca cocked his head to the side and grunted suspicions.
"What makes you think there's a woman on my mind? Or that you know what I'm thinking? What are you? A Jedi?"
Chewbacca let out a series of howls and grunts. Han shrugged.
"Whenever I'm this frustrated, there's a woman involved? You think you know me so well? Just pilot the ship and shut up," Han ordered.
Chewbacca released a low chuckle, set the ship to auto-pilot, propped his feet on top of the console, and rested the back of his head in the palm of his hands.
"Look at the kind of trouble we're in. Who is she anyway? Why is she so important? And what's to stop me from telling Vader where they are? There's probably a very handsome reward involved..."
He was lashing out again. It was easier to betray the woman, than admit to having a small crush or her. Hell, she was dangerous as far as he was concerned. Dangerous enough to break his heart. how many times had he been there?
And even if he wanted to talk to her a little more, there was an even bigger problem. Danny Maxo. Who was he anyway? A boyfriend? He paid a heavy sum to smuggle the poor woman to the Outer Rim. He seemed quite attached to her too.
Chewbacca grunted and howled.
"The only reward he'll give us, is death?"
Han sighed. "I'll be the judge of that."
The Millenium Falcon drifted toward Alderaan. There were rumors of rebels meeting there. And where there were rebels there was work. And where there was work, there was money. Han took the ship off of auto pilot and set the coordinates to the planet. Vader was on the other side of the galaxy by now. So nothing to worry about there.
Besides... Han had friends there. "If we can get work, we'll have enough money to put some distance between ourselves and the Empire."
Han's comlink suddenly buzzed. An official on Alderaan seeking identification. Drats! Han of course, lied about the purpose of their visit, claiming to have cargo for the Senator and Prince, Bail Organa.
When the Falcon finally gained clearance and landed on a airstrip on the warm and normally friendly planet, it was under immediate siege by authorities. A young girl wearing a long braid at the back of her head approached the descending landing platform. Chewbacca was the first one to walk out, Han Solo followed shortly after.
He immediatly appraised the girl's appearance, bearing a sheepish grin. She wore a dirty pair of blue overalls and had oil smudged on her cute little round face.
"Good evening sir," she said in an arrogant manner. "I understand you have freight for Senator Organa."
Han smiled at the sheer audacity of the young girl. He was only twenty-three summers. But she couldn't have been more than fifteen.
"What?" she griped. "What are you smiling about?"
The girl shoved a wrench in her back pocket and folded her arms. "You have no business here."
"Really?" Han Solo ground out. "And who the hell are you?"
"Who I am is of no concern. But I tell you one thing... I have a lot of clout here, and I don't like spies. So I suggest you leave?"
CHewbacca howled and Han leaned against his friend in laughter.
"I'm no spy, kid. I'm looking for work."
"What kind of work? Did Emperor send you?"
"I'm no friend of the Empire, young lady. What are you so paranoid about?"
Somehow, looking at him the rogue, the girl began to believe him. There's no way the emperor would deal with someone so uncouth!
"I hear..." Han whispered... "There are rebels here."
"Rebels!" the girl laughed. "Don't be ridiculous. But if you're looking for work, I know someone who might have an assignment for you."
"Really? And how would you know this, little girl?"
The young woman, unknown to Han Solo, was Senator Organa's daughter... Leia Organa.
"I have my ways," she answered enigmatically. The guy was looking for work... well he's in for a ride. Vader was on the hunt for some woman, and things were hot. The Rebels needed to be moved elsewhere... to Endor.
Chapter 43: Queen's Ransom
Han Solo lugged cases of illegal cargo on to the Falcon. Nothing new, here. The girl, whoever she was had plenty of clout and all the money in the world to go with it. She ordered the shipments to Naboo, and for quite the hefty sum. But Han wasn't keen on going to the planet. It had recently taken a new queen, something unknown to the empire. Han tried telling the girl that sending rebels to Naboo would be a big mistake. But she wouldn't listen.
"Listen, kid... word across the galaxy is that there's about to be a big war on Naboo. Apparently someone decided to reclaim the terrority and the Empire will be none to happy about it. You go there, rest assured, this alliance of yours is going straight to hell."
"Listen scum-bucket," the princess hotly replied. "I may be young but I know exactly what I'm doing and so do my adviser. You do what you're paid to do. If you're that worried about it then perhaps you should find another job."
The girl moved a strand of hair from her eyes. Her hand left a smudge of dirt on her cheek. Han growled then grabbed a bag of beans from the cargo truck and tossed it onto the deck of the Millenium Falcon. "Suit yourself," he griped. "Just make sure you pay me before we get there or else-"
"Or else WHAT?" the girl barked.
Han got close to her face. A gust of rum tinged breath blew out of his mouth into her nostrils. The girl cringed. "I tell Vader about this little operation of yours. I wonder how much THAT will get me?"
"You'll get your money, don't worry," Leia said with a sneer.
And with that, she was off. Her dirty overalls hung from her body like a sack.
A few hours later the Millenium Falcon trudged slowly across the galaxy to Naboo, the ship almost too heavy to fly with all of the smuggled cargo hidden below its deck. Chewbacca howled when he heard the amount of the treasure they were to collect.
"We're takin' it right to the queen," Han replied, to the howling wookie. "Though... I gotta tell you Chewy, I have a real bad feeling about this."
Chewbacca howled again.
"I know, it's worth it. Maybe we can buy our lives back and find legitimate work, or business for ourselves with the money," he said, almost to himself.
Han navigated MF through Naboo's seemingly harmless atmosphere and set his coordinates to the palace docking area. The ship landed a few minutes later. Han raced from the cockpit down the hall to deck, opened the landing platform and scurried under the ship. He didn't care to meet the queen. He wanted no part of the Rebel Alliance or the war that was sure to follow his delivery. The queen had no business opening the palace when Vader had already shut it down.
Beads of sweat marked the pirate's forehead as he and Chewbacca finished unloading the last rest of the contraband. Han wiped his face with an old dirty rag. Chewbacca howled. Han stuffed the rag into his pocket then turned, finding a group of heavily armed men around them.
"Halt!" one of the guys yelled. They wore Naboo military regalia. Official regalia. What was happening here? The men trained their weapons on the pilots.
"Hey, I'm just making a delivery. Some kid on Alderaan paid me to smuggle this stuff here. It's not mine."
"I know," A feminine voice rang out "But unfortunately, we cannot allow you to leave."
"What are you talking about?" Han laughed nervously. "Are you taking me and my friend prisoner?"
"Too much of a risk. We don't want you talking to Vader or the Emperor."
"Nobody meets the emperor..." Han droned. "I'm just a pirate."
"A greedy one," the woman replied.
Han smirked. "What's that got to do with anything? Who are you anyway?" he said, narrowing his eyes.
"I'm Queen Mariana. Mariana Narfur."
Han's mouth fell open and his arms dropped.
Chapter 44: Does she love him enough?
One of the queen's men pushed a blaster into Han's spine, forcing him to walk. Chewbacca followed. He growled angrily at the betrayal. "Why are you doing this?" Han grumbled. "We're only doing what we were hired to do."
"The girl told us to keep you. She said you threatened to go to Vader," Mariana said in a stubborn voice.
"I guess saving your life was a big mistake."
"You did it for the money, not me. Now walk. Don't worry... we'll treat you well."
"You're not the one I'm worried about," Han frowned.
Vader stood at the control station, arms folded across his massive chest. The control room aboard the executer was large, with a holoscreen that read statistics and other information viable to their operation. Men scurried to and fro with the Sith Lord a handbreath away. Even worse, was the dreaded report they were to give him. Anyone could fall victim to the Vader's frustration.
An imperial commander stood beside Vader, body shaking with fear as he read the report.
"My lord, it appears our battalians have fallen to a rebel force stationed on Naboo. The rebellion have installed a new queen at the palace." This was how the Rebels operated, slowly trying to reinforce the old order.
Vader listened without reaction to news almost too stunning to believe. The commander stood back as tall dark warrior walked to the viewing screen and eyed the small lush planet. Who would do something so foolish? he wondered.
Vader had taken some time away from the Empire in pursuit of a personal matter, but had only a few weeks earlier decided to give up. And now this. For him, the situation couldn't have come at a worse time. But then, Vader decided, it might have been what was needed to mend his broken black heart. To get back into action of things.
The commander's head rose to meet Vader's mask. "I'm sorry, my lord."
Sorry? "No, commander... but you will be."
Vader spun on his heels. "Set our coordinates for Naboo and send communitation to our sation on Savic. We are to rendevous at 0900. We will crush this rebellion and restore Order to the planet... but the queen is not to be touched. I will deal with her myself." Vader left the control room, his dark black cape blowing behind him.
Queen? Defy him? --who would dare? Vader almost smiled. Sometimes, they made it too easy. Easy for him not to to have any remorse when he destroyed them. There was peace in the Empire. And that peace was not to be disrupted. He had sacrificed too much. His wife, his child, his old life, even his body, for that peace.
Mariana stood before a mirror in the queen's master bedroom with Danny Maxo behind her, arm encircling her waist. He nuzzled her neck with his lips and she giggled.
"Stop it before someone sees you."
"See us? We're in your bedroom. Who would come in here?"
"I don't know," Mariana shushed. "But it's not appropriate. Not in the palace. A long time ago, a queen could not marry until long after she had left office."
"Those days are over now with the ambassador's assassination, along with the rest of the delegation. You can do whatever you want."
"It's not about doing what I want, it's about restoring order and returning Naboo to its former glory."
Danny traced his lips along her arm, his body pushed against hers. Mariana slipped out of his grasp.
"I like you better with the makeup off."
"Thank you. I'll only wear it on formal occasions."
"You know, I'm glad you're doing this."
"Really?" she replied.
"Of course. Someone has to stand up to Vader. Who better than you?"
"Because I know him so...intimately? I'm afraid, that isn't enough to spare my life."
"I won't let him hurt you, Mariana."
She recalled the time Vader stormed her villa on Rea and nearly decimated poor Danny. What could he do to protect her from Vader?
"I don't need protection. I've already accepted my fate."
"Our fate will be the same. No matter the outcome."
Danny pulled her into his arms, but Mariana shrugged away. He wondered just how much Vader had done to hurt her... he hadn't even properly consumated their marriage. There had been interactions, but nothing serious. Mariana always backed out. Danny couldn't help but wonder if she still loved the evil tyrant. After all he had done to her and the former Republic...
"One day soon," he said, cupping her chin. "We'll be together as husband and wife. I'm trying to be as understanding as I possibly can. I know you need closure, to finish this thing between you and Vader."
Danny moved toward the door and Mariana stared after him.
"Where are you going?"
"To rally the troops. There was a report from field intelligence. Vader might well be on his way here now. And I have just the welcoming party."
"And you're just now telling me this?" Mariana shrieked.
"You're the queen. They fight for you, for this palace, for Naboo. I don't expect you to deal with Vader or the storm troopers directly. Our Rebellion forces will do it for you. Stay here where you will be safe until I come back."
"Be well, my love. And take care. I know how Vader operates, and he's very methodical."
"I used to be a storm trooper, and that will work to our advantage. I know just how to counter his attacks."
She almost forgotten. Danny was so unlike them. So full of life and spirit. There was a reason why she loved him. The question was... did she love him enough?
Mariana painted her face. Ending the session with a red stripe down the middle of her lips.
Chapter 45: What's His is Mine
Red blaster bolts decimated the enemy in a flurry of shots aimed at getting them closer to the queen’s palace. Insolent fools! Vader thought. Did they think their puny rebel could defeat the Empire?
Then he remembered the Trojan Horse from his studies of ancient literature. A battle too easily won, is nearly always a trap.
Perhaps his enemy believed his past with Mariana had rendered him too weak to step afoot on Naboo again. Much less, attack it. But he'd shown them. He'd conquer his fears, his pain, he'd bury the past once and fall and the destruction of Naboo would see him to it. No more Padme. No more Mariana. No more emperor. Only Vader.
The rebels had lured him to Naboo to hurt him. To stun him. What could he do but try to prove them wrong once and for all? To demolish the palace and any trace of its past so he could forget how terriblyy painful his memories were. Memories of seeing Padme for the first time, and even Mariana as a member of the queen’s delegatio would plague him no more.
As the Executor descended onto the dusty soil, he remembered the grass that was once grew there. The flowers, the beautiful lakes. He’d seen to its destruction when he’d last taken Mariana away.
The ship settled behind his storm troopers, avoiding the flash of rifle fire. Rebels fell left and right, but had managed to take several of Vader's troopers with them.
But Vader's thoughts laid elsewhere. A familiar presence awakened his senses and his heart... alas, the Trojan horse was revealed.
Vader marched across the battlefield, rejecting incoming fire with use of the force. After sending more than a dozen rebels to their deaths with the returned blaster bolts, Vader drew his lightsaber, slashing and dicing his way to the Queen’s palace.
He walked inside, an unsettled feeling washing over him.
The halls were eerily quiet and each step he took rang out, like hard ringing blaster bolts in the night. He felt a presence. A familiar one... but not the presence his heart longed for.
Danny Maxo stood outside the queen’s chambers, a lightsaber in the palm of his trembling hand.
Vader approximated a laugh. A full bellied laugh for several minutes at the sight of a low ranking ex-storm trooper prepared to battle him with a light saber.
“Your queen is beyond those doors?” Vadar began.
“Yeah,” Danny nodded. “But you’ll never see her.”
“It is you who are afraid,” Vader replied. "That perhaps your queen, should want to see me..."
Was Mariana was still in love with him? Somewhere inside, Vader wished it was true.
Danny waved the light saber. “I’ve been trained in your Jedi arts.”
“The Jedi are no more!” Vader roared. "You will tell me who the rebels are and who is responsible for this uprising."
“You’ll know when you are fallen at the end of my blade!”
“It is you, who will fall, Danny Maxo. Yes, the Jedi are no more. And so you shall be.”
Vader gave a noble bow of his head and Danny swung the lightsaber in a 360 degree spin, cutting into a nearby pillar where he missed Vader by an entire foot. Again, the Sith Apprentice laughed.
“You are feeble!” Vader taunted.
“You may laugh now, but you won’t be laughing when I cut you down.”
Danny swung the lightsaber wildly, again and again, slashing at air until he was out of breath. But Vader parried the swings, swirled around, and slashed Danny's arm with his crimson, searing hot lightsaber, separating flesh from bone. The ex-Storm Trooper fell to his knees as the singed limb fell from his body. Grunting, he looked up, staring into a mask of death.
Using the force, Vader lifted the sheared appendage , lightsaber still clutched in Danny Maxo’s twitching fingers and struck him across the neck with his own lightsaber. The blow severed the young man's head.
Vader watched as Danny Maxo’s headless body fell to the ground.
Kicking the Danny's head across the room, Vader used the Force to blow the door to the queen's chamber open. A vision of loveliness sat before a vanity, a tube of makeup in hand. The woman did not look around, but stared officiously at his reflection in her mirror.
“My Trojan Horse,” Vader proclaimed.
His heart thundered and the blood in his veins swam. He was angry, in love, in hate. He wanted to strike her, he wanted to kiss her, he wanted to cut her down, he wanted to make love to her.
Mariana Narfur rose with the grace of a queen as she spun around on her heels to face him directly.
“My guards were unable to keep you away, Lord Vader,” she said.
“Nothing ever could,” Vader replied. “and what will keep me apart from you now?"
Mariana reached for the lightsaber at her side, and unleashed a breathtaking fiery steam of blue light, pointing it at Vader. She stilled the shaking of her hand and swallowed the pain in her heart as if it were a piece of fruit.
“I am the Queen of Naboo,” she replied. "We will never give in to the Empire."
“So you have turned against me and joined the Rebellion?”
“We are the Rebellion!”
“Then your Rebellion will be squashed and you with them, Mariana Narfur…”
To this, she shook her head. “You may no longer call me Narfur, but by my husband’s name. Queen Mariana, Maxo.”
Vader stared at the tiny sliver of a woman, now a red glare through his mask as she slowly clutched her throat, gasping for air. The lightsaber fell to the ground, it's silver light dissipating.
“Go on, choke me, you coward,” she spat.
Using the Force, Vader held her by the throat as he walked across the room. Then suddenly, the invisible fingers around her throat loosened but held firm to her collar.
With a defiant lift of her chin, she met the orbs of his mask with her eyes defiantly.
A Trojan Horse indeed, Vader thought. If they meant to disarm him with Mariana's and Danny Maxo's marriage, then they have succeeded. He knew not how to react.
“Danny Maxo is dead. You needn’t concern yourself with now...”
Vader loosened his grip and Mariana fell to the floor and curled her body into a tiny ball. Danny Maxo? Dead? Her chest heaved in and out as she sobbed into the palm of her hands.
“It’s over, Narfur. The Rebellion has been crushed... The Imperial Army is sweeping Naboo of its rebels as we speak."
The doors to Mariana's chambers reopened and with a wave of Vader’s hand, two storm troopers entered the room. She could see Danny Maxo's headless body just outside of her door, far away from his body.
“I want her disrobed and the paint from her face washed,” Vader demanded.
Mariana shook her head as the troopers descended upon her, stripping her of her formal royal regalia down to a sliver of petticoat. She gasped in frustration and anger as one of the men pushed her head into a bucket of water while the other held her down, rinsing the makeup from her face.
When the ordeal was over, Vader ordered his evil minions out of the room. Mariana stood before him, humiliated, grieving for Danny Maxo, wet hair wavy and clinging to the side of her face as her chest heaved up and down. She turned, looking into the hall, wanting to place Danny's head with his body again before the minions came back to desecrate his remains.
Then she looked forward again. Vader was standing before her, feelings of lust residing in him with renewed vigor. Feelings he’d deemed useless in the time he and Mariana had been apart. He slid an arm around her waist and drew her close, his hands caressing her gently. He felt her body slacken against him in defeat as tears fell from her eyes.
“If you’re going to kill me, do it now. I have no reason to live,” she cried, thinking of Danny Maxo and their failed rebellion.
Chapter 46: The Final Chapter!
Vader gazed into Mariana's eyes and pressed into her thoughts using the Force...
She was far from weak minded, strong willed even. But Mariana's will was no match for his power. He had used the Force against her gradually when they first met: each day, a Jedi Mind Trick to make her fall deeper and deeper in love until she was his. Until... she'd become blind to the suit he wore, blind to his scars and misdeeds. He forced her to see the real Vader. The man, the "peace-maker", the enforcer, the lover.
Slowly, Mariana's resolve began to weaken as he held her against him. He sensed it. Despite the anger she was still in love with him. But was her love sincere? How could it be when he had coerced her into falling in love with him in the first place?
Vader decided he would appeal to her affections then manipulate her into telling him more about the Rebellion and the mysterious little princess he'd seen in his dreams.
"Tell me about your rebel friends," Vader commanded.
But Mariana shook her head, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes.
Again, he reached into the Force: "You will tell me about the rebels and their headquarters."
"You can kill me if you want. But I'll never betray my friends."
At this, he was taken aback. He was certain his Jedi mind trick would work. That they had always worked...but Mariana stood firm. He could sense her resolve... her determination.
His Jedi mind trick had even swayed Padme into giving in to him on Geonosis... He was sure of it. He knew Padme was in love with him but would never give in for fear of impropriety. But the Force had allowed him to obliterate those fears and soon, she was his.
Vader released Mariana from his grasp then paced the room. Reaching into the Force, he again, prompted her to betray the rebellion, and again, she declined.
"I can feel the conflict within you," he said, though realising she battled the swirling emotions her love for him created. Her resolve on not betraying her friends was strong.
Then suddenly, with a knowing gleam in her eyes, Mariana's eyes rose to meet his face..
"Your Jedi Mind trick will only work against the weak minded."
"Then you must have been weak in the strongest sense of the word."
"What do you mean?"
Vader approximated a sigh. "At the villa..."
He turned, as if he were suddenly embarrassed at having resorted to such a thing.
Mariana looked away. Suddenly, she felt the cape against her back fall to the floor at her feet. Vader stood behind her caressing her shoulders with his gloved mechanical hands.
"When I was a padawan, Master Yoda's taught us how to block such use of the Force. It meant the difference between life and death."
Vader recalled being trained by Master Qui Gonn Jinn.
"So if you're suggesting my feelings for you were coerced, then you are sadly mistaken."
"Then your feelings for me were genuine?" Vader asked. He couldn't resist.
"Loving you was a mistake. I'll never forgive you for what you did to Danny Maxo...for what you've done to me, Naboo, or the galaxy."
Vader tugged at Mariana's arm then spun her around. She loved him. She truly loved him -- he could see it in her eyes. It wasn't the Force, a Jedi Mind Trick, or a scheme to save Naboo. She had loved him despite the terror he inflicted on his enemies, despite his courseness, his arrogance and "evil". She may have loved Danny Maxo, but she would never love the ex-Imperial trooper the way she had loved him. He could see it now, but wished he had known how much she loved him when it really mattered.
Vader released her, then watched her frail arm as it fell to her side. "You and your rebel friends are free to go. But if you should ever cross the Galatic Empire again, you will not be spared."
Mariana looked at his face, surprise in her eyes. "Is this a trick?"
Vader turned his back and with a wave of his hand allowed her to walk away... out of the Queen's chamber, out of his life.
As Mariana reluctantly walked down the hall, Vader's troopers moved aside allowing her to pass. She wondered if it were a ploy so that she'd lure him to the rebels.
So she decided to stay away from her friends and took a freight ship to Rea. Something in her gut told her the entire ordeal was really over. Like Clarme and the Emperor, Vader would finally set her free. Bitterness will slowly eat away at what is left of his soul and she would disappear into complete oblivion, reminiscing over what will never be. In time, he will forget she ever existed, forget love ever existed and the galaxy will enter its darkest era.
All because she loved him. And somewhere deep inside, because he loved her. Sometimes loving someone meant setting them free. But what if she didn't want to be free?
Days would pass before she acknowledged the truth. No man, not even Danny Maxo could replace Vader; the menacing towering figure in her nightmares and dreams placing tender kisses against her flesh in the night as though he were by side.
Mariana watched the rain as it pattered against the window of her villa and waves from the ocean crashed onto the shore. Sometimes, she'd see a ship flying over the horizon and...
sometimes... those kisses felt so real and so warm...
Sometimes, he was standing before her on the other side of the door when she opened it, and sometimes, he held her in his arms when she was lonely.
One day, she'd even found a fresh marsh flower laying on her pillow... and on another night, she found a necklace fashioned out of a piece of wood hanging from her door knob. Sometimes, she would even leave her house to find footprints in the sand on her lonely beach.
Then one day, many weeks later, Mariana heard a faint tapping sound at her door. To her surprise, when she opened it, she found Vader standing there... without his troops... without his armor, baking in the sun. Quickly she moved aside, allowing him in.
Vader limped toward the sofa and collapsed on top of the cushions. He moaned and groaned in pain and Mariana wondered if the Emperor had done something to hurt him. She grabbed a blanket, laid it on top of his body and was about to run outside, hoping to find his mask and armor when a mechanical hand shot out and grabbed her by the arm.
"The Emperor is dead..." Vader said in a whispery voice.
Mariana felt like her heart was about to stop. "Dead? How can that be?"
"I killed him."
"Did he do this to you?"
Vader shook his head... "No."
"I need your suit and your mask," Mariana pleaded.
"Leave them," he said, shaking his head again.
"But you'll die without them," she cried.
Vader approximated a smile. "No I won't. I'm more alive than I have ever been."
"Who did this to you?"
His face was pale and there was a dark circle around his eyes. Vader's hair had even began to grow and even more astounding -- he was breathing all on his own.
"You saved me. I'm alive, Mariana. The Emperor was draining my life force to sustain his own. The longer he lived, the less human I became. When he died, I could breathe on my own again. I can touch my power again."
She wanted to hug him, but feared she would hurt him in this fragile state.
"I know I'll never be the man I once was. I've been evil, swayed by the Emperor's dark forces."
He sounded like Anakin Skywalker. Hero of the Republic. But there was deep sadness in his eyes. "My friends are gone," he said.
"I forgive you, Vader. I believed in you. I knew there was goodness in you. I knew it," Mariana sobbed, burying her head into his chest.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi is still alive."
"But he was killed in the Jedi Purge...How do you know?"
"I've always known. But I blocked it out. Somewhere deep inside I couldn't kill him. He was like a father to me."
"What will you do now?"
"Stay with you. Love you the way you deserve to be loved. When I'm better, we'll find him. Together."
He caressed her cheek with one of his gloved hands. For years, he'd been locked away, a prisoner in the recesses of Vader's mind. But Vader was still very much a part of who he is... Twelve years, since the fall of the Republic. There was time to atone and rebuild the Republic. He couldn't tell Mariana about Padme. That his awakening had also reawakened his love for her as well as the guilt he felt at having killed her. Padme would always be his first love even if he loved Mariana more than words could ever express.
Mariana helped Vader up the stairs to her room and laid him on the bed. He undressed. She looked away from the depression left by the control panels on his chest. It was a disturbing sight. His back was scarred, there was a cut across his eye and a burn seared into his cheek. Still, she could see how handsome he was. The man had been devastatingly handsome, truly blessed despite his wounds.
When the sun went down Mariana laid beside him and closed her eyes. His body, with the metal pieces still in tact, was heavy. A gentle breeze blew into open patio doors and her bedroom was aglow in the moonlight.
There was so much to do. So much to learn. There was even the girl Vader had seen in his dreams time and time again, traveling the galaxy with a dangerous pirate. Soon, he and Mariana would find her too. He'd also seen the desolate landscape of Tattoine in his visions, but a force of light had kept him and the Emperor's darkness away.
Vader's lips brushed across Mariana's forehead... he was getting stronger every day, and soon, the universe would be right again.
- The end.