The dark Stripped Bare 9

He left me alone for three days but I felt his presence every time I woke up from a nightmare which was frequent. Peace was elusive. I was a bit of a mess. I could not sleep at night and I was tired and listless during the day. When I dreamed the images were fractured and frightening. There were no singular or clear images just powerful sensations and a lot of fear.

I made the mistake of sleeping without a light on the first night and when I woke suddenly terrified and in the dark I had no idea where I was. I sent fear showering about me. I floundered and drowned in it. I had never been one to suffer claustrophobia but waking in the darkness was terrifying. I hit the bedside lamp switch and the room flooded with brightness. I sat huddled in the large bed, soaked in sweat and trying to slow my breathing. I felt Lord Vader brush my mind with his, bothered by the intrusion more than anything else. He had been meditating and I was a disruption, a disturbance in the force that poked at his calm. For all the training I had been given I still had no idea how to control what I felt, how to control the fact that I sent out what I felt when I wasn’t careful. My passion both dark and light was a wild, unpredictable thing. It was like throwing a stone into a pond; the ripples just kept going and going.

After that I slept with a light on but it didn’t stop me from waking up gasping for breath, clawing at invisible night terrors. It just meant that when I woke up I could see where I was right away, a small comfort. The thing that I found strange was that most of the dreams I had while I was imprisoned I remembered with stunning clarity but these nightmares were faceless, invisible. Each time I woke I was conscious of Lord Vader, his presence, aware of me and my fear. Sometimes he did nothing, and sometimes he intervened. I didn’t understand why but he calmed me down. These were things we had never spoken of and I was certain that we would probably never would. While I sensed his annoyance at the disturbance, he was not angry. So it was him I reached out to. There was no one else and I got the distinct impression he understood about nightmares.

My fourth day on board the Executor he found me in the exercise room. I was hoping that working out would some how ease the restlessness, the listlessness I had been feeling. I moved slowly, deliberately going through the basic kata forms Master Kjestyll had taught me. There was a grace in the movements that eased my sense of loss. I didn’t hear him come in but I felt the force ripple around me and knew he was there. He watched me and when he felt I was ready to play he tossed me a combat staff.

It was a dance, really, and we both enjoyed it. He wasn’t angry and he wasn’t trying to teach me any lessons he was just practicing with me. Not that he needed it but I certainly did. While I knew he was going easy on me I still came out of the session with more than my fair share of knocks and bruises. After an hour or so I knelt on the floor, catching my breath. Vader used the tip of his wooden staff to raise my chin upward. I didn’t fight him.

“We will do this again tomorrow. Perhaps tonight you will sleep without interruption. You must learn some control over this talent of yours.” He said. I moved the staff away from my face and nodded. He took the combat stave I had used from my hands and put them both away. I moved to sit with my back to the wall and watched as he, now warmed up, began to practice with his lightsaber against specially designed combat remotes.

I loved to watch him practice. He was fast and agile. He moved with a grace and an ease that never ceased to astonish me. I could feel and almost see the force move about him as he tapped into its energy. He fought with a passion and a fury and it was a tangible, violent, raw thing. I sat there on the floor of the training room and allowed his energy to wash over me and in some strange way it eased a little of the pain in my spirit. I sat there and relaxed, letting my thoughts drift.

When he was done he looked at me. “You wanted to speak with me before your friend decided to remove you from the palace.”

I nodded. He waited a few seconds and walked about the room, his hands clasped behind his back. “Then speak.” He said.

So I did. I told him everything that had been on my mind since the first time Jyrki had broken into my flat in the Palace. He did not interrupt and when I was finished he remained quiet for a long time.

“He escaped from the Jedi Temple?” Lord Vader asked, breaking the silence.

I sighed. “He hates the Empire. He hates the Emperor.” I said quietly. “But I don’t understand why he hates me.”

“He does not hate you, he hates himself.” Vader replied standing still for a moment.

I looked up at him. “But why?”

“He survived.” He said simply. “He should have been eliminated in the Jedi purge.”

“He and the others, they were just children.” I asked.

“Children carry the ideals of their teachers, their parents. In order to stop the spread of their lies, their ridiculous arrogant ideals all Jedi were purged so that the order of things might start anew.”

I was silent trying to take this in. “Will they catch him?” I asked.

Vader shrugged. “The base you were held at was abandoned by the time the fleet assigned its destruction got there. The raid at Sullust never took place. I can only assume that this Jyrki Andando and his crew were warned. They escaped this round but it is only a matter of time before the Empire finds them all and hunts them down. These rebels, they are a thorn in the side of the Empire but the Emperor finds them an amusing distraction.”

“You disagree.” I said. I could feel it in his words. He paced the room, this time anger in his steps.

“The smallest grain of sand can stop the mightiest machine.” He said quoting an old Tatooine proverb.

“The woman who brought me food mentioned the name of the pilot who blew the space station up. Said his name was Skywalker. Did you know that?”

The air shimmered and I felt the weight of his emotions as though they were a rock fall. “The name is not unknown to me.” He said coldly but his words did not match what he felt.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned.” I said quietly. Lord Vader turned and stared at me intently. I thought I would burn from the heat of that gaze. “First it was from Jyrki but also from Sola Naberrie. She said that the Jedi assigned to protect your wi… I mean the then queen of Naboo was called Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker. Do you think there could be a connection?”

“Anakin Skywalker is dead.” Vader snarled. “He perished in the Clone Wars. Do not ever mention that name again.”

I nodded. “Okay, okay. Do you think that maybe he and this pilot, this other Skywalker, are related?”

He stormed over to me and hauled me to my feet. His anger was a living breathing thing. “You will speak of this to no one!”

“I promise.” I whispered, suddenly very afraid of him. He let me go and stalked back and forth, agitated. I slid back against the wall to the floor. I didn’t think that my shaking knees would support me.

“Have you told this to anyone else?” he asked suddenly.

“No one.” I answered. “I had totally forgotten about it until just now, actually. It was your quote that made me think of it. It reminded me of some dreams I have been having.” I shook my head. “I sometimes see a man and once he mentioned this name you don’t want me to say, called him the Chosen one.”

The stillness that suddenly hit the room was palpable. I thought for certain he might actually kill me as he strode over to where I sat but instead he squatted down in front of me, heel to haunch.

“What did this man look like? Did he have short hair, a beard?” he asked.

“He had a beard but his hair was very long. He looked tired, sad. He wore farmer’s clothing and a poncho, looked like a desert dweller. He was tall and had the bluest eyes I have ever seen.” I said conjuring up the images from my dreams and showing him. “Do you know who he is?”

“I knew someone who would fit that description a long time ago.” He said with an audible sigh. “Why does he haunt your dreams?” he asked more to himself than to me.

I shook my head. “I have no idea, but the dreams where he appears are very clear, almost as if they were real and not dreams at all.” I watched him as he got and resumed his pacing. “Who is he?”

“Someone long dead and best left forgotten.” Came the terse reply. “Do not mention these dreams to anyone else.”

I wanted to ask why but something about his manner made me think twice about that. Instead I asked the next question that burned in my brain. “Why did the Emperor not say anything if he knew what was going to happen to me? Why did he not stop it?”

Vader stood up. I thought that he would give the same answer he had the last time I had asked this question but instead he said. “My Master knows much, he foresees a great many events, the greater pattern of things. In your case, this was most likely a test.” He said.

“A test?” I asked in disbelief. “A test of what?”

“Your strengths, your weaknesses or your loyalty?” he shrugged. “Truly, only the Emperor can answer that question.”

“Has he done this to you? Did he test you?”

“Many times.” He said coldly. His words were laced with anger, pain and sorrow.


“He enjoys the game of it. It is a way to control those under his power, in his circle.” Vader said thoughtfully. “It is all about control and power.”

I looked at him as he spoke. He was being very candid with me and I knew that this trust was fragile and tentative. He saw something in me that reminded him of himself. I could feel the anger behind his words and I understood it because it was my anger also. I did not like these strange games that somehow I had become entangled in without my knowledge or permission.

“You interest my Master. Your gifts and Force talents are unusual in their combination and particular strengths. He is working out how best to utilise them and you. Make no mistake, girl, he will use you even if you do not wish it. We are all pawns in his universe.” He said bitterly.

“You make it sound as though we have no choice.” I said.

“We do not. It is our destiny.” He answered cryptically.

I sighed. This was an awful lot to digest. “I’m sorry I disturb you, I can’t control the nightmares, the fear they bring.”

“Then we shall have to work on that for the next few weeks while you remain onboard.” He told me.

I nodded. I suspected that would not be as easy as it sounded.

“Return to your quarters. Tomorrow you will meet me here at the same time. Be prepared to work hard.”

“Yes, my lord.” I said and because I had been dismissed, I left. Just as I was going through the door I heard the hum of his lightsaber.

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