The Elegant Dance 1

Some days, life just minds its own business and gets on with itself. Even the Palace had days like that. The usual nonsense came in and got sorted out. People avoided my office and I didn’t perform any more magical feats of food and beverage levitation. Yet, for all the quiet solitude, I was not bored. The better I got at being ‘annoyingly efficient’ it seemed the more work I ended up having to do.

It had been several days since Thrawn had shown up at my apartment. His presence was like a shipwreck. He came, shattered the peace and left again. I don’t know what bothered me more, the effect he was having on me when he was around or that I actually liked it in some perverse, masochistic way. This was exactly how I had felt about Jyrki, all dizzy highs and want, sleepless nights and restless days. Except, this time, it was not a one sided thing, or at least it didn’t appear to be. Thrawn was the one doing the chasing, although I was not exactly telling him to go away. Not for the first time did I wonder what exactly it was he wanted from me, the obvious not withstanding. I also wondered what it was I wanted from him because if I actually seriously thought about where it could all end up, none of the endings I could imagine were very happy or even pretty. It was all around very bad news. Sort of like working for Lord Vader, but I hadn’t handed in my resignation from that yet, either.

I was in the middle of eating lunch when Lord Vader summoned me to his office. When he was around, this had become normal, our daily briefing so to speak but his timing always sucked. I sighed and put down my fork and was glad it was a cold salad I was eating. It would still be cold when I got back. I gathered my datapads and walked over to his office, the door always opened for me just as I reached out to touch it. I hated it when he did that.

“Good afternoon, my lord.” I said walking in. I took my usual place beside him at the window. He was always there, watching the city, I never knew if he actually sat at his desk or if he even sat anywhere. I wondered if he even slept. Probably not, best to not even go there.

He handed me a datapad. I took it and ran down the list. This was a fairly new game, he had discovered that part of my job was to actually do things for him, set up meetings and so on and now that is what I was also doing. It kept me busy so that was okay.

“I want the appointment with the Tailor rescheduled.” He said. “You can inform him that I will want several new cloaks and he will bring a selection of fabrics.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Also, I have placed a requisition for new combat training droids. See to it that they understand the need for haste and make sure they have all the specs.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“I understand, you have all that you require for the Grand Ball?”

“Yes, my lord, thank you.”

“Then I will expect you to accompany me as is protocol. I trust you understand all that is required.”

I hesitated and he looked at me.

“Not really, my lord.”

“You are expected to learn the etiquette involved.” He said.

“How? It isn’t written anywhere and no one here will speak to me.” I said giving him a look.

Lord Vader seemed to take a deep breath and just stood staring at me. There was a build up of power in the room and I worried about whether or not I would have to by a high-collared dress.

“Explain.” He said finally.

“Well, it is like this, I work for you and everyone is scared of you so they don’t talk to me about anything. They are all too terrified that if they say the wrong thing you will choke them to death in their sleep or something. Even Shiv hasn’t been returning my comms although I suspect he has his hands quite full with the palace courtesans. I have gone through the Palace data base but there is no reference to Palace Grand Ball Etiquette or any palace etiquette for that matter, something I find a little odd considering the Emperor places so much emphasis on it. So, if I need to know something about all this palace etiquette stuff, I will need to hear it from you!” I was annoyed.

The force flickered a little between us but I stayed very still, if I didn’t stand my ground I would never get anything done. I put my hands behind my back and waited.

Vader turned back to looking out of the window. “Very well, pay attention!”

I did.

“This event is bound by etiquette. All attendees are announced upon arrival, you will be my consort for the evening. The Emperor has expressed a wish that you attend as such, so be it. That is you will stand at my side until I say you may leave. You will obey me in these things, to do otherwise reflects poorly.” He said

“Yes, my lord.”

“Do not over indulge in the food or drink.”

“No, my lord.”

“The Emperor will make his entrance later than stated on the programme as is his way, when he is announced you will genuflect and look at the ground. Do not look up at him as he passes, I shall know if you do, so don’t.” he paused. “He will sit and announce that all may rise. Then you may rise. After which, at some point during the evening, you shall be presented before him by me, again you will genuflect and bow your head until you are told other wise. You will address him as ‘your eminence’ and you will not speak out of turn. Do you understand?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Once he has dismissed you, you will take three steps backwards before you turn your back on him. You will be representing me so I expect complete obedience from you in all things during the event.”

I nodded. “Yes, my lord.”

“You will not under any circumstances discuss anything to do with your job. You are expected to make small talk and interact with the guests but make no mistake, you will be watched. The Empire values confidentiality, as do I.”

“I understand, my lord.” I was a little insulted about that but let it go. Sometimes he liked to get me going and annoy me, I was sure of it.

“You will accompany me to the entrance when I leave but you may stay if you should wish to do so.”

“Thank you, my lord.” I said.

Lord Vader nodded. “What do you have for me today?” he asked getting back to business.
I handed him the datapad with his itinerary and notes, along with his encrypted messages. He looked it over and acknowledged his schedule, making no changes.

“You may go.” He said.

“Yes, my lord.” I said and I left.

These meetings never took that long and I was always glad to get back to my own office, I enjoyed the illusion of safety. My salad was still there and my droid had replaced my cold half finished coffee with a new one.

Some days were just normal days and for that I was grateful.

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