Predators and Prey 1

Chut chut, Captain,

I apologise for the long delay in replying to your letter, I started one about a billion times but somehow just never seemed to be able to finish it. It is difficult to sort out my thoughts when it comes to communicating with you.

First I should probably apologise for falling asleep like that. Odd really, I don’t think I have actually slept curled up in someone’s arms since I was a small child. It’s a little embarrassing, to be honest, so thank you for being so understanding. And, I slept like the dead.

There are things you wrote about in your letter which have been stuck in my head. I think about them over and over again. The primary one being, how did Jyrki know? I have no answer to this. Aside from you, I discussed what I was doing with no one. Not even Lord Vader knew the exact nature of my job. He said, and I quote, “the details do not concern me. As long as you do your job for me, I do not care what else you do.” I don’t argue with him when he gets in one of those moods. Certainly these people are getting information from somewhere inside but whom, where and how… I don’t know.

You know, I am not Intel so it's not my job to sort this out. It does make me wonder if I should be writing some sort of a report or something. This is not exactly my area of expertise. I would be glad of any guidance you should have in this matter. I will take you up on your advice and speak with Lord Vader about it all. However, as I wish to do this in person rather than any other means of communication, and, he doesn’t want me to join him until after the relocation, this presents a bit of a time gap. How long can one sit on information like this before the higher ups get cross? If I lose my job because of Jyrki, I swear I will kill him. I am grateful for your discretion in this matter but do not ever question my loyalty to the Empire, to Lord Vader. Maybe my hesitation seems as though I am torn, I can tell you that I am not. Jyrki burned his bridge with me the night he broke into my flat. I don’t think I love him anymore but sometimes it is hard to let go of what he meant to me. How does one let go of the past when it keeps showing up on one’s doorstep?

You asked me about Jyrki and after lying awake pretty much every night ever since thinking about it, I guess I should try to clarify some of it all for you, and for me. Oddly enough it all seems bigger, more devastating in my head than when I try to write it out. In the end there is not much to tell, really. I was just a kid when my father hired him but we got along right from the very start. Jyrki taught me to fix ships and defend myself. He was the first person who took my love of fixing things and interest in mechanics seriously and didn’t just blow it off as a young girl’s whim. He listened to me and he was kind. I suppose, looking back, it was only natural that he was the first man I ever utterly fell in love with. I gave my heart away with out thinking, pretty much worshipped the ground he walked on. I was a teenager and he was hiding a great big secret. I thought he loved me as well but I believe he loved his secret more. That's not very fair but I think it is the truth. He has a past that is very dark and, I think, quite scary. I know there were a lot of things that he never told me or even hinted at, but he was hard and he was dangerous. I just never saw that side of him before. Things happened to him that I cannot even begin to imagine. He never spoke of any of his past while we were still speaking to each other. I had no idea what his motives for the things he did were until, perhaps the night he came to save me from the Empire. I never knew or put two and two together that he was force sensitive and that he was quite powerful, powerful enough to be able to hide it from me until very recently. His reasoning behind not being able to return my feelings for him had something to do with a Jedi code of not being allowed relationships, at least that is what he implied. He seemed to think that what he is would have placed my life, my family’s life in danger. I don’t actually know that much about it. Jedi Lore, it seems, is a bit of a taboo subject. Lord Vader gets very tetchy when I bring it up.

I wish I knew how to put into words how I feel. I can’t say that I really understand any of it, to be honest. I absolutely do not know why I am telling you all of this but you asked and you seem to care.

You talked of my strange habit of keeping secrets and it made me think about it. Ever since I can remember I have been different. I have always been able to ‘hear’ people’s thoughts, sense things and do things that were unusual. As a small child I learned that this was not a good thing and I learned to keep it hidden, all of it. I suppose I got used to being a keeper of secrets. I talk to you, not only because you somehow have this magical way of pulling information out of me but because, for what ever misguided reason, I actually trust you. And maybe I just like making you work for it, but the court is still undecided about this. When keeping secrets becomes a habit, sharing them is a very difficult thing to do, even perceived ones. I am strangely grateful that you do push, although I am never certain of why. It is a kind of game playing, though, isn’t it?

The past week has been a bit chaotic here. The Imperial Court will be moving back to Coruscant soon so all preparations are now in full swing. I find it sort of strange how crazy some people get over the smallest things. I have had some interesting run ins with a Grand Admiral named Zaarin. His manner is somewhat abrupt and extremely arrogant. He gets cross that I can’t tell him where Lord Vader is. He is a little scary and very oily. Oddly enough, when he shows up I find myself thinking of you. How strange is that? He gives me the creeps, to be honest. I hope he won’t be attending the Nubian Gala because I don’t much feel like being polite to him. I actually don’t feel much like going but I will be there at Lord Vader’s insistence. Imperial protocol really annoys the sandjiggers out of me sometimes.

I guess I should wrap this up since the courier will pick it up shortly. I didn’t think I would write such a long letter. Maybe it is easier to talk to you through a piece of paper? Or maybe it is just that we don’t really get that much time to talk? I suppose that’s normal in our line of work. I feel I know so little about yet you have become a part of my life here. I also know that when you are around me, my life is anything but boring. I am just not sure this is a good thing.

I hope that you are well and, as usual, saving the galaxy from evil doers. Again, thank you for your kindnesses.

Kaniwaturiki kinkin,

There are days when this is all I seem to do. I walked into the office early this morning and discovered a ton of mail already waiting for me as if I had done nothing the day before. My droid brought me Jawa juice and I sat down to get work done. It had been about a week since I had written and sent off my letter to Captain Thrawn and since then life had been very, very busy with office work. I can’t say that this was a bad thing but the first memo I read made me roll my eyes…

TO: Lord Darth Vader
The Imperial Social Division
RE: The Annual Nubian Gala, Theed, Naboo, 2nd reminder.

Your Lordship,
As you know it is almost time for the annual Nubian Gala which, as you know, is held each year to celebrate the Emperor’s visit to Naboo and to wish him a safe return to Coruscant. As always the Gala will be held at the Imperial Palace in Theed. Formal dress is required. It would add greatly to the atmosphere if you would grace us with your presence. Should you be unable to attend then please indicate who shall be representing you in your stead.
We would be greatly appreciative of an answer in this matter at your earliest convenience.

Yours Truly,
Marlann Taralae
Imperial Social Director.

Outgoing scandoc transmission[timestamp 09:43 cst]>>> Lord Vader, Here is the current list of things that need your attention.
---Invitation Response for the Nubian Gala in Theed. I have received the second reminder now and need to know what to tell them.
---Meeting reminder: Prince Xizor, at 13:00hrs CST, tomorrow via holo. This meeting has been postponed twice. His office is getting tetchy about it. Do you wish me to confirm or reschedule?
---Imperial Court will be relocating back to Coruscant in seven days; do you have any wishes or special requests with regards to your office in this matter?
---Can you please send me an updated schedule? I have had G.A. Zaarin asking for your whereabouts several times in a row now and I think he is getting tired of me telling him I do not know where you are, how long you will be gone for and when you will be back. He says he has important news for you which he will only deliver in person. You don’t want to know the reply I gave himJ the last time he accosted me about this, suffice to say he is a little annoyed. Can you please either contact him at your earliest convenience or let me know when he will be able to speak with you directly?
--- Is there an ETA on when I will see you in person again? <<< End transmission

Incoming scandoc transmission[timestamp 10:38 cst]>>> Miss Gabriel, thank you for the fifth reminder about this up and coming event, however, I shall not be attending this season’s Nubian Gala no matter how many times you inform me about it. As you are well aware, I have better things to do with my time than watch the entire Imperial Court fawn over itself. You may make the appropriate excuses as you see fit, although you should be aware that while I do enjoy the use of your ‘He’s hunting rebels’ line, it is not standard protocol when turning down an invitation. Try to be a little more diplomatic in your responses. As my Personal Assistant, you will go in my place and represent me. An expense account has been created for you should you require appropriate clothing for this event and HR will send you the details. Alert me if they do not. Do not bother me further with this particular matter.
--- The meeting with Xizor can be confirmed but at 14:30 not 13:00.
--- Imperial court office relocation is your job deal with it as you see fit.
--- G.A. Zaarin has the ability to reach me at his leisure and the information as to my whereabouts is available to him. He does not need to talk to you to schedule a meeting with me he can easily obtain that information from my aide-de-camp. Why he should be asking you for this information when he has clearance to obtain it himself is beyond me. Maybe you should stop smiling so much, you do seem to attract a lot of attention.
--- Once the relocation to Coruscant is completed I shall request your presence. Curb your impatience. <<< End transmission

TO: Miss Merlyn Ty’Erijann Gabriel
FROM: The Department of Human Resources
RE: Expense Account

Miss Gabriel, at the request of Lord Vader an expense account has been created in your name. Enclosed in the following package are the details you will need in order to activate it. Please be aware that while the account has granted you a certain amount of freedom due to the nature of the requesting party, your expenditures will be monitored for abuse. If you have any questions regarding this or any other HR issues do not hesitate to ask. Please assure Lord Vader that we will do everything we can to accommodate his wishes regarding your well being.

Yours sincerely,
Prissta Torrsett
Human Resources and Development Manager

IMS:to mgabriel[timestamp 10:45 cst]>>> Hey! Sorry I haven’t been in contact, been away mostly on Coruscant getting things ready for big E’s return. Dropped by the office a couple of times but your droid said you were away on business. Will you be at the palace gala in Theed? I hope so; I have not seen you in months! What have you been up to? By the way, the theme this year is pre clone war fashion. If you are coming, give me a shout maybe I can slip away and we can go shopping or something, after all I do know where all the best shops are and the gala is only three days away. Hugs, Shiv. <<< From:srimanata

Outgoing scandoc transmission[timestamp 11:02 cst]>>>Lord Vader, Prince Xizor’s office has asked that the meeting that was scheduled for tomorrow at 13:00 and then changed to 14:30 be postponed until three days from now at 10:00 am. They have expressed their regrets that the Prince is unavailable for the time requested and stress that due to the importance of the matter at hand a suitable and convenient time for both parties be found. Please let me know when you are able to meet with him, his secretary was very abrupt. I don’t think they are very happy with me these days. <<< End transmission

IMS:to srimanata[timestamp 11:08cst]>>> Shiv, holy sarlacc where have you been hiding? Yeah, been busy with office work, you know how it goes. I am obligated to attend the gala in Lord Vader’s place so you will see me. I don’t need to buy any new dresses but shopping with you sounds like fun, pick a time I will rearrange my non existent schedule. What the sandjiggers is pre clone wars fashion??????? As long as there are no metal bikinis to wear I am game. Send me a time! Looking forward to it. /hugs back , Merly. <<< From:mgabriel

Incoming scandoc transmission[timestamp 13:07 cst]>>>Miss Gabriel, inform Xizor’s people that I will be available to meet with him tomorrow at 13:30. If he cannot arrange his schedule to allow time to meet with me then I question the seriousness of his desire to do business with the Empire, you may quote this if you wish. Inform his secretary that I will not be available for any time other than this for the next two weeks. They can take it or leave it. I have better things to do that accommodate spoiled, wealthy aristocrats. If his office is unhappy with your work then you may inform them they can discuss the matter with me. You are doing what I have told you to do and their like or dislike of this is irrelevant. <<< End transmission

Outgoing scandoc transmission[timestamp 14:23 cst]>>>Lord Vader, Prince Xizor will be available to meet with you via holo tomorrow as newly scheduled at 13:30 cst. <<<
End transmission

IMS:to mgabriel[timestamp 15:43 cst]>>>Hey what are you doing this evening? Due to this gala thing many of the shops we use will be open tonight and if you wanted to we could maybe go browse? I have some last minute things to pick up for a couple of the high maintenance courtesans so it would be nice to have company. Just you and I, the rest of the gang are either busy or back on Coruscant. <<<

IMS:to srimanata[timestamp 15:52cst]>>>Sounds great, where do we meet? <<< From:mgabriel

IMS:to mgabriel[timestamp 16:04 cst]>>> I’ll swing by the office and pick you up at around 17:00, okay? <<<

IMS:to srimanata[timestamp 16:10cst]>>>Perfect see you then!<<< From:mgabriel

I sighed. At least I would not be sitting at home alone this evening. My lessons with Master Kjestyll had been cancelled, he was away and most likely I would not be training with him again until I returned to Coruscant. I practiced on my own but I missed his gentle guidance. I wondered if I would ever have any normalcy back in my life at all. This uneven schedule was a bit hard to deal with sometimes. Though, really I could not complain. A day such as this was nice though, and I got to catch up on all the really annoying stuff, like sorting out a meeting between Prince Xizor and Lord Vader. They could not ever agree on a time to meet and it took days before either one of them would compromise on a time and place and method. They drove me mad with this game. I am quite sure the who ever the secretary in Xizor's office was, she too got tired of this game. After Shiv’s last message I decided that I needed a break, went to grab a cup of tea and when I came back to my desk there was a letter waiting for me all wrapped up in an Imperial Courier envelope. These things are security sealed and encoded to match the Thumb scan of the receiver. I smiled as I opened it up. Inside was a plain cream coloured envelope with my name written in exquisite hand writing. This was the perfect end to a busy day, a letter from Captain Thrawn. I opened the envelope carefully and with my cup of tea in one hand, read his letter.

A’mia Tekari,

What a delightful gift. You surprise me at every turn and that is not easy to do. I trust that you are well despite the chaos being caused by the move back to Coruscant. No matter how many times the Imperial Court does this, it never seems to go smoothly. Bureaucracy it seems, does not learn from its past problems, but rather invents new ones along the way. I do not envy you.

It is quite late here right now and while an ISD’s captain is never truly off duty I do have a few moments of quiet to reply to your lovely letter.

There are some things that need to be cleared up. Firstly, you fell asleep because you were exhausted. That is nothing to be embarrassed about. I did try to wake you but it was rather like trying to wake a hibernating Telatt Bear. I must admit that I was flattered that you felt safe enough with me to “curl up in my arms”, as you so elegantly put it. As a matter of fact the word flattered does not do it justice; I was touched by that small moment of trust.

Secondly, I apologise for your sleepless nights. It was not my intention to create conflict by my questions, but in the end it seems to have done some good. You carry a lot on your shoulders for someone your age, and while I know you hate it when I mention this, you are very young to have such weighty secrets.

Your friend, Jyrki, was a fool in more ways than one. Do not shed tears for the past, A’myshk’a, he chose his path and chose not to share it with you. His error is my fortune. Believe me when I say I am far more attentive when it comes to taking care with beautiful, fragile things and before you start to protest, which I know you will, let me clarify. A heart is a fragile thing. You are a creature of extraordinary grace and I am honoured by your presence in my life.

You asked for my advice so I will give it to you. Speak with Lord Vader about the incident on Rothana and let him take it to Intel. Waiting until you can see him in person does not sound unreasonable to me. Aside from the name of your mechanic friend, there are not many details you can give. I also would venture to guess that a full and detailed report on what happened would come from the Emperor’s dancer. I suspect that she will probably leave certain details out and one of those details would be your presence and part in what happened. It is entirely probably she knew exactly who and what you are; to you she was and remains just a dancer. Intel sometimes has a nasty habit of making mountains out of ant hills. Your job was to get her in and out and you did this. In all honesty you have no proof that this attack was in any way rebellion related. You have no evidence as to why these people were on Rothana or why they were after this dancer. You speculate, and I suspect that you are not wrong in the train of thought, but you have no hard evidence to support any of it. You must remember that on paper at least, you are, first and foremost Lord Vader’s personal assistant, nothing more, nothing less. Lord Vader has had far more experience dealing with this sort of thing and I do not think he would be adverse to your telling him in confidence what you think or suspect.

I personally believe it would be better that, if Intel were to learn about your extra curricular activities, they should do so from the Emperor himself. In the end, taking out your personal feelings and speculation, the facts, as you have presented them to me, say very little except that information is somehow being leaked from the Imperial Court. Where you see rebels could have been a mere kidnapping attempt to obtain a professional dancer. There are many ways to read the situation and none of them or perhaps all of them could be correct. Without the whole story it is impossible to tell. You are reading more into this because you happen to have a relationship with one of the attackers, but in all honesty, how well do you really know him? How well can you guess his motives for what he was doing? I think that you worry a little too much about it because of your personal ties with this man. If the Emperor had wanted you to be more involved or to know more about the exact nature of the mission at hand and the young woman you were transporting he would have told you. The Emperor does nothing without reason or forethought. I am quite certain that should he wish more information he would not hesitate to question you. This is, of course, just my opinion.

I did not mean to give you the wrong impression with some of my words; I most certainly do not question your loyalty to the Empire or to Lord Vader. I was merely pointing out that trying to serve two opposing ideals is almost impossible. It was not meant as an insult.

Be very wary of Demetrius Zaarin, my dear. He is extremely intelligent and very ambitious. It does not surprise me that he has decided to seek you out. Aside from the fact that you are quite lovely, you also have the ear of the Emperor’s Iron Fist. Zaarin will use any advantage he can in his quest for power. He probably thinks that you are an easy mark, I should dearly love to see his face when he realises that is not the case. He is a worthy opponent, to be sure, but I wonder a little about how he makes you think of me. Perhaps it is that you have a tendency to see men as predators and you are not altogether wrong in this thought. Trust your instincts, A’myshk’a. They serve you well.

I think I have addressed all of your concerns and questions, I hope so. I am quite certain you will tell me if this is not the case. One of the things I admired about you from the very first moment we met was your ability to be straight forward. While I have told you that learning the ways of the Imperial Court are vital for one's survival in the Empire, your stubborn refusal to play these subtle games is a most endearing feature.

You wrote that you hoped I was well and, indeed, I am. I must admit I much prefer the straight forwardness of captaining an Imperial Star Destroyer to the petty political bickering that seems so prevalent within the Imperial Court. While playing such games can be interesting from a strategic point of view they do have a tendency to become tedious. I am quite sure you would not argue with me on this point.

We have been spending some time in the Ishanna System. Fairly routine I am afraid but one thing of note is the Planet S’krrr and the famous Sikadian Gardens. It is supposed to be a place of perfect ecological balance. I am hoping in the next couple of days or so to be able to explore this place further and will let you know how it is. Apart from this little diversion, life has been fairly routine and there is not much of interest to tell. You have experienced what life is like on board an ISD so you know what I am talking about. On a side note Dr. Thracer asked me how you were doing and wished me to convey his best to you. You do seem to have a way with people, my dear it is not often the good doctor expresses such concern for a patient once they have recovered and after they have left his sick-bay.

Now, I am afraid I must finish up. I have no answers as to why you would find it easier to write your thoughts rather than speak them with me, but I will not complain. I have always thought that written correspondence was an elegant way to get to know someone and there have been many books published on this subject. If I can find a copy of Tristyl Da’hlena’s book: ‘Seraina and Damiano, an Intimate Portrait of the Lives of Two Space Traders in the Old Republic.’ I shall send it to you. It is a very well done study of correspondence between two freighter pilots who, after only ever having met face to face once, spent the first five or so years of their relationship together solely through the art of writing letters to one another. They would eventually marry, and although their jobs as pilots continued to separate them they had a rather astounding life together through the writing of letters, and dairies. It is a lovely book and a very intriguing look at just how intimate the art of letter writing can be. I do believe that more often than not one can learn a great deal more about a person by reading their words than by being a room with them for an hour. Then again, maybe it is the combination of both that works out best of all. Either way I am delighted that you decided to write. Thank you.


I wondered as I read his letter how it was that even though he was light years away, he could make me blush, manage to read my thoughts and still know exactly what to say to some how sooth my fears. His letter was like a caress and as I folded it up, tucked it back in its envelope then slipped it into my satchel, I knew he was right. Such correspondence was precious. I was in the process of washing out my tea cup and shutting down the comp systems when Shiv waltzed in. I was so glad to see him.

“Ready to go?” he asked after giving me bear hug and the obligatory kiss kiss on either cheek.

“Of course! I even have Lord Vader's permission to buy new clothes for this little shin-dig, expense account and all. Can you believe it?” I said getting my coat and satchel.

“In that case we best get started, if I remember right, you are fussy about your clothes.” He grinned. I had forgotten what a sweet grin he had.

As we walked to his ship he slung his arm over my shoulder. “Missed you, rim-girl. This Naboo stint was really weird and there was just no time to socialise at all. So, come on, gossip…what has been going on in your life?”

I opened my mouth but had no idea where to start. I decided it best just to banter about the things that would have been common knowledge because as much as I adored Shiv, half the things that had happened was stuff I just couldn’t discuss. What I lacked in gossip he more than made up for and by the time we reached Theed my ears were ringing from all the strange goings on. I was looking forward to the evening though and knew we were in for a fun time the moment we entered into the first dress shop.

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