Choose a Path 4

Even if I had wanted to I would have had no idea how to even describe what happened.

Ms. Candala walked with me to the main office area, she did not speak much at all. She was very frightened and doing her absolute best to hide it.."This is the lesser audience chamber." Ms. Candala explained in a whisper.

"His Lordship is in his, uhm, office, through those doors, knock and go in at his signal. He is expecting you." she said and was about to make a quick exit when I grabbed her arm.

"What is his name?" I hissed at her. “Who am I working for?” I was not going to meet my new employer and not even know what he was called for Sarlacc's sake.

She paled visible and trembled, stuttering badly "L..Lord... I mean... Darth Va... Vader, the Dark lord of th... the Sith."

"Thanks" I patted the arm I was holding with my free hand and let her go. That I did not seem the slightest bit worried about this job upon hearing the name of my employer seemed to really throw her and she left as swiftly and as silently as she could without appearing rude, scared to death. The bad feeling I had felt earlier was now twice as bad.

The main office area was a little over whelming, it was more like a large waiting room with serious class, ornate, painted panels on the walls, very beautiful ultra modern style furniture. You could have waited comfortably in this waiting area forever, maybe some people did. On the opposite wall right across from the entrance were a set of large double, incredibly ornate doors that lead to the main office.

I knocked.The doors opened automatically and I looked into a huge, high ceiling room with quietly elegant furniture and a fantastic view. I had never seen such elegance and opulence in my entire life. The wealth in this one room seemed to me to be enough to buy all of Tatooine and maybe more. It was unnerving.

"Come forward!" said a voice, deep, dark and disturbing.Even more disturbing was the breathing sound that completely caught me off guard, mechanical, metallic, strange. That Candala woman had not told me about his appearance, that it would be so foreboding. I had seen some odd creatures in my life but I had never encountered anything such as this. Was he truly a man or was he a machine? I suspected a little of both but I was not about to ask.

He was tall, very tall, broad shouldered and dressed completely from head to toe, in black. His face and head were completely covered by an elaborate, even elegant one could say, black mask and helmet. He stood facing away from me, hands clasped behind his back, watching the city. His dark silhouette was a sharp contrast against the hazy blue of the day sky. I could actually see the Force move about him, writhing like sand snakes. Suddenly I was terrified.

I entered the room with shaky knees and stood what I hoped would be a safe distance away from him. The door closed behind me as silently as it had opened, and that scared me even more. I must have used every ounce of my strength and courage to stay put and not run. I cannot tell you how good the idea of running as far away as possible felt, but I was not a coward. I found that place within myself and managed to get my fear under control. Just breathe, I thought to myself, just breathe.

"I do not require a personal assistant." Lord Vader had said, not moving. “However, the Imperial Human Resources Department, in its infinite wisdom, sees fit to provide me with one, never the less." he spoke slowly and darkly. He seemed to draw a deep, thoughtful breath even though his breathing did not alter.

He turned around to look at me and you know what, I actually raised my chin a notch as he did so. It was as if, not only was I not going to show my fear, but, what the heck I would challenge him to call me on it as well. I could have sworn the air about us seemed to ripple ever so slightly but the sensation vanished as swiftly as it had appeared.

"You do not look like much,” he said. "You are a mere child." he paused and walked around to where I stood then walked around me as though I were some prized bantha to be sold at an auction. "Yet,” he said with a slight pause, "I sense something about you.”

I had to fight the nervous giggle that threatened to bubble over, because I was really scared and all I could think of was replying that he had just uttered the worst come one line I had ever heard. Okay, I was terrified of this man, but I was fascinated as well, he was the only person I had ever met who had a weirding force ripple that I could actually see.

I held my breath and stood very still, as though the very act of motionlessness would make me vanish from the Dark Lord's sight. I was not a tall woman, I felt fairly diminutive next to most humans but I felt even more like a small child next to Darth Vader, barely reaching to his shoulders.

"I hope that you are better than the last one they sent to me.” He said and he walked back to the window. “He did not last… long.” The threat hung in the air.

I had no idea how I was supposed to reply to that comment so I said nothing.

"Have you no tongue, child?"

"I do, my Lord." And I actually managed to speak.

"Then, tell me your name?"

“Merlyn Ty' Erijann Gabriel." I said.

"You are from Tatooine, most interesting." He stated. It was not a question (I wondered how he knew this, then again he probably had been given a file all about me.) and while the question had been rhetorical, I sensed he waited for an answer.

"Yes." And I it was true, I was from there but I wasn’t sure where I had been born. I wondered why that should be interesting, Tatooine was not exactly the hub of civilization.

The Dark Lord merely nodded slowly. "You interest me." he said and in a movement so swift and agile I never even saw it coming, he had turned to face me and cupped my chin in his fingertips, the way the slave traders will do when checking out the slaves and seemed to be looking at me as if he could see into my very soul. His touch sent a nasty, ice-cold shock through me. I felt as though I would either vomit or pass out but since either would have been really bad form, I fought the sensations. I don’t know what happened really, it was as if, quite suddenly all my earlier frustration and anger seemed to suddenly flow freely and it was as if I somehow found an inner strength in my fear, it blossomed into strength and I let that strength keep me standing and breathing. I wanted to break the contact but dared not move. I desperately wanted to get as far away from this man as possible. I had never known such a feeling before.

Lord Vader nodded and released me. “You may well be of some assistance to me after all." he said looking into my eyes. I stared back up at him but saw only my own reflection in the black mirrors of the face-mask. "I am certain that the Candala woman will show you about and no doubt inform you about the paperwork involved with this job.”

I nodded.

"You may leave. I will call for you should I wish for anything that requires your assistance." he dismissed me with a wave of his hand and I had to fight the urge to run through the door that opened for me, as fast as I could and never, ever look back. But, I was a nosey creature of habit, instead of running I walked and I did look back. I could not help myself.

Lord Vader had turned around so that he could watch me leave. The mask hid every expression his natural face might make but something about his stance told me, that his curiosity had been aroused. I stopped and looked back at him and, for what seemed hours and was in reality a split second and something passed between us. I don’t know what it was but it was there, present, strong and icy cold.

I broke eye contact with that terrible mask and left as quickly as I could and still maintain my dignity. On the other side of the lesser chamber waited Ms. Candala. She seemed surprised, no, absolutely shocked to see me at all. I wondered then, just how many of these personal assistants ever actually even made it out of the office alive.I knew she was dying to ask me how the interview went, or more to the point why I was still alive but I didn’t feel much like talking. I could still feel the power of the Force that rippled about Lord Vader and I still felt the cold of his touch, it had stirred deep things hidden within my soul and I didn’t know what to make of it.

Unlike all the dire warnings from my father, it had not disturbed him that I had this weirding gift, in fact I had gotten the distinct impression my gift had somehow saved my life. I sure as heck was not going to share any of this with Ms. Candala, let her wonder at what had happened. Mystery is good for the soul, or so the sand people said.She showed me back to my room and left me alone. Magically, my pitiful amount of luggage had been delivered. I turned the heat up, found an extra robe and dug out the Mandalorian box my father had given me. I touched the wood and found comfort in its solidity. Not for the first time did I wonder about the strange new world I had found myself in.

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