I missed Naboo and its quiet. Coruscant was a never ending buzz of traffic and people. I had forgotten how busy and full it was. The move itself had gone smoothly enough and for the most part there was very little disruption in my work, of course, since no one wanted to upset Lord Vader this made sense.
As Winter Fete Week drew nearer so did the gear up for end of year. The office was inundated with memos and reminders about the various reports that had to be filled out and sent in. I was also busy sorting out the usual plethora of fan mail, junk mail and stalker mail that had not been sent to Naboo and had managed to pile up while I was there. I was grateful for the massive amount of work because it took my mind off missing Naboo.
It surprised me that I would actually feel some sort of attachment to the apartment I lived in, but oddly enough it had been strangely comforting to return. As I had unpacked my things, my clothes and my books I felt a strange sense of belonging creep into my actions. A couple of days after returning to Coruscant, I had sat in the comfy chair by the huge picture window and re read all of Thrawn's beautiful letters to me. The next day I had gotten a hold of Shiv and we had gone shopping for stationary. He had dragged me to many wonderful little stores and it was a nice way to spend a late afternoon. I ended up buying in addition to some very expensive but exquisite paper, an ornately hand carved wooden box. It was the perfect place for me to keep Thrawn’s letters in. All of this had made Shiv extremely curious but he was getting used to my secrets.
It had taken me longer than I had expected to reacclimatize and I seemed to spend more time awake at night wandering around the old parts of the palace than sleeping. I had gone back to working out, both in dance and in the martial art Master Kjestyll had been teaching me. I had been secretly pleased to find the rooms I used to use in the older disused part of the palace still there, untouched, dusty and for all intensive purposes mine.
I loved the stillness of the old part of the palace and thanks to the generosity of the Emperor I had access to a small but incredible library that was hidden away. I spent many hours after work in this library reading about history of various worlds in the Galaxy, lore, stories and tales from all kinds of cultures and peoples and most amazing of all, a history of the rise and fall of the Jedi. More than once I woke up, not in my bed, but curled up in the big old fashioned chair that was tucked in the corner of the library with a book.
Time slipped away from me when I read. There was a kind of magic to sitting alone in the old unoccupied part of the palace with my nose buried in a book. I was in the middle of reading a short tale about Freedom Nadd, a Sith Lord from ancient history when I felt a presence enter the room. I barely had time to stand so that I could kneel when the Emperor appeared.
“My dear,” he said. “Such formality is not necessary in this place.”
I stood up and curtsied then gestured to the chair I had been sitting in. With a smile the Emperor sat and motioned for me to sit on the lush carpeted floor at his feet.
“I was hoping to find you here. I have not had a chance to properly thank you.” He said.
“You did an excellent job bringing my dancer back in one piece. She was very impressed with your piloting skills.” He said.
“I was just doing my job, your Excellency.” I said, daring to glance up to look into his eyes.
The Emperor chuckled and patted my shoulder. “Yes, little one, indeed you were.” He said slowly, placing great emphasis on the words little one. I wondered if he read the surprise in my eyes and then realised that he had not only read it but had expected it. I looked away from his piercing yellow gaze. I felt as though he could read every inch of my soul and it was not a pleasant feeling. I wondered how much he really knew about what had happened on Rothana. He had never called me ‘little one’ before.
“I hope I have not displeased you, your Excellency.” I said quietly.
“On the contrary, my dear, you surprise me at almost every turn and surpass my expectations.” He said with a smile. “Tell me, what are you reading?”
I picked up the book and showed him.
“Ah yes, Sith Legends and Lore. What do you think of it?” he asked.
“It’s fascinating.” I said honestly. “I had no idea the Sith had such an interesting history.”
The Emperor smiled. “Sith culture is rich and diverse. It was suppressed for centuries during the rule of the Jedi Knights.”
“Why?” I asked.
The Emperor gave an almost imperceptible shrug. “The Jedi decided that only their history and tales were worthy of note. They were afraid that anyone learning about other ways to use the force would be tainted. Sith history was almost eradicated but I was able to save it.”
“That makes no sense. Why would learning about other methods of the Force be a bad thing? Shouldn’t history reflect all sides and not just one?” I asked.
The Emperor’s laughter echoed about the room. “You really are delightful, my dear, no wonder you are such a source of fascination to certain members of my... staff.” He said. “History is always written by the victors to reflect how they wish the galaxy to be seen.” He leaned forward and lifted my chin with the tips of his fingers. “Your naiveté is most endearing. You are quite the contradiction in terms, most amusing to watch.”
I didn’t know how to respond and so I lowered my eyes and looked away. The Emperor sat back in the chair. “Now, how about you make this old man happy and read to me from that book you are enjoying so much. To hear the old stories told by such a lovely young lady such as your self would be a most enjoyable way to pass time.”
I smiled, opened the book and began to read.
It was almost three in the morning when I went to bed. The Emperor had listened with an almost eerie stillness while I read some of the stories aloud. Many questions about the Jedi and their kind had come to mind as I read, perhaps the Emperor had sensed this disquiet and as I finished reading the third tale he had asked me what I was concerned about. I had taken a chance that perhaps in the quiet of this room and the dark of the night I could ask without fear of punishment, asking Lord Vader anything about the Jedi usually resulted in some sort of angry outburst.
“You have many questions.” He said softly when I put the book down. “Yet, you are afraid to ask me, why?”
“When I bring the subject of the Jedi up with Lord Vader he…” I searched for a diplomatic way to say he usually smacked me across the face or sent me flying into a wall.
The Emperor smiled. “Ah yes, Lord Vader’s temper does have a nasty habit of surfacing when the name Jedi is mentioned. You must understand, girl, that Lord Vader’s relationship with the Jedi was not a happy one.”
“Lord Vader was trained as a young boy in the Jedi ways. They tried very hard to indoctrinate them into their narrow minded view of the world and the Force. He has every reason to despise them. You are lucky to have been born in an age where the Jedi no longer rule.”
I looked up at his face and found his eyes boring into mine. The question on my lips was never spoken but he answered it anyway.
“Had you been born in an earlier time the Jedi council would have discovered that you were connected to the Force and they would have sent someone to extract you from your parents while you were still an infant. There would have been no choice in this matter. They would have come, you would have been taken and all contact with your parents forbidden. From that moment on the only life you would have known would have been the one the Jedi chose for you.” He explained.
“That doesn’t sound very fair. What if I had not wanted to become a Jedi?” I asked.
The Emperor chuckled. “Choice.” He snorted. “Do you think the Jedi would have cared about what you wanted? In their eyes it was a great honour to be chosen for the Jedi Order, why should you or your parents have any choice in this matter?”
“That sounds very arrogant to me.” I said tartly.
“It was their greatest failing. They were blinded by their arrogance and their narrow minded view of the Force.” He replied. “You would have been taken away and indoctrinated into a world without love or possession, without belongings or even a sense of self. You were there to serve the Jedi’s perceived greater good. Individuality had little to do with the matter. For one such as you, this would have been a hard road I think.”
“My dear girl, you are a creature of great passion. It is this emotion which rules your actions, your heart, your very being. I have seen it when you dance, when you fight and when you are with the people you care about. Such emotion was distasteful to the Jedi. They believed that to feel passion, or love, that to attach one’s self to another through a bond of emotion was to lead to the dark side of the force. This they feared greatly.”
“Is the dark side bad?” I asked.
The Emperor smiled slightly and shrugged. “That depends greatly on your point of view, doesn’t it?” He said. “Is it bad to wish for the power to do good? Is it bad to use what ever means are available to one for this ability? The Jedi despised the Sith because the Sith found a way to harness the power of the dark side, this power gave the Sith access to many abilities the Jedi considered to be unnatural and wrong.” He sighed. “But let me ask you this; is it wrong to use a power that already exists in nature simply because it is contrary to the doctrine of a certain belief? Who decides such things and why?” He continued. “The answer is no, it is no more wrong to use the power granted to us through our deeper passions and our anger than it is to harness the power of a powerful and devastating storm and use it to our advantage, in, for example, powering the city’s lights. On the one hand the storm’s power is terrible and something to be feared on the other hand it is a source of energy and light. How does one decide what is good and what is bad?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question but I could hazard a guess. “Would fear play a part in that?”
He nodded. “Yes, fear would be a deciding factor. The Jedi feared the Sith, feared their ability to use the darker nature of the Force. They feared their own passions and stifled all such emotions. Yet in doing so they closed a door way to understanding the nature of all things and were lost to their own arrogance that they were right in these things. Their methods did not work as well as they thought and in the end they were destroyed by their own short sightedness.” He paused. “Now the Sith rule and the Empire is glorious. We have peace, law and order throughout the galaxy. People such as you now have great opportunities to become anything you wish rather than stifled in within the confines of the Old Jedi Temple. You are free to live as you choose, love whomever you wish and express yourself through your emotions and still learn the ways of the Force under such masters as myself or Lord Vader, should that be your wish.”
I nodded not knowing what to add or to say. I was tired, it was late. For every question the Emperor had answered another had sprung to mind in its place. He believed passionately everything that he had said and while he had not lied to me there was a ripple underneath his words that I could not put my finger on, as though the words were somehow being bent to fit the story and not the other way around. He must have sensed my feelings. I was more certain now than ever before that there was very little if anything I could ever hope to hide for this man.
“People fear what they hate, and they hate what they do not understand.” He said. “They do not understand that which is different from what they know. It is a simple enough thing yet it causes chaos. Take Lord Vader for example, he is feared and thus hated. You see that every day in the death threats that you read through then pass along to Intel. Now this hatred and fear has been passed along to you, I have been informed that you too have been receiving less than pleasant mail. How does this make you feel?”
I glanced up at him in surprise. Certainly in the last week or so I had also been surprised by the fact that some of the hate mail had been addressed solely at me, strange letters really, that had said such things as, ‘We know who you are and we know what you are’ and, ‘we will come for you’. I had passed them along to Intel along with the rest of the usual nonsense. I had not taken the notes seriously but suddenly I wondered if I should.
“I honestly didn’t think about it” I said frowning, “Should I worry about such things?”
The Emperor smiled and it made me shiver. “Not at all, after all you are safe here. No intruders could get into the palace to harm you.” He said with an edge to his voice I didn’t really understand. “I consider you a daughter of my empire and as such you are under my protection. I thought that would have been perfectly clear after the Grand ball.”
I sighed. His words twisted in my head and my gut. Jyrki had managed to sneak into the palace, if he could do it so could others. If I said something would I not also get into trouble for not reporting the incident earlier? I was sure that if the Emperor had known about it he would have said something, yet it had never come up. I feared the Emperor even in this benevolent guise in which he chose to spend time with me. There was something deep and dark in his being that frightened me more than anything else ever had. I did not want to do anything to earn his displeasure so I held my tongue and said nothing.
“It is late and you must be very tired, child. While I do so enjoy these little chats of ours I would not want to be responsible for you not being able to perform your duties properly and efficiently. I am quite sure that neither Lord Vader nor Captain Thrawn would wish to see you in a state of exhaustion.” He said. I glanced at him sharply wondering what exactly he meant by that but he simply chuckled. “While you do work primarily for Lord Vader have you not also done some work for the captain?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Then it is reasonable to state that you should be in good health should they be in need of your services again. Both men have spoken highly of you. I am certain you would not wish to let either of them down.”
“No, of course not.” I said.
The Emperor stood up and motioned that I do the same. “Walk with me to the entranceway and then go to bed, my dear. Do not worry your pretty little head about these weighty issues. I assure you I have everything well in hand.”