Buried Deep, Scattered Wide 10

For the next few weeks I lived in a world of engines and hyperdrives. My father had not been joking about the shortage of half decent mechanics. There was certainly no shortage of work and I threw myself into it. I could forget about pretty much everything when I was fixing a ship. None of my family pressed me for answers or details. Uncle Vahlek had told them everything Rikka Blane had said, there wasn’t much to add. I think everyone was waiting for me to open that up and they were all afraid to push. That night, after dinner I had hidden on my ship under the pretence of doing work. Instead, I had sat at the little dining table and tried re read all of Thrawn’s letters as if that very act would bring me some peace of mind but after reading the same sentence over and over again, I realised that not even Thrawn’s words would help. Uncle Vahlek had come to find me long after everyone else had gone to bed. He had looked at the small pile of hand written paper letters but had not commented. He watched as I had cleared them from the table and slipped them back in the ornate box I stored them in.

“I brought you this.” He had said sitting down across from me placing the metal box with my birth mother’s lightsaber in it in front of me.

I had let out my breath noisily and shaken my head. “I don’t want it.” I had said, folding my arms across my chest. I didn’t want to touch it.

Uncle Vahlek had looked at me for a while and then had said slowly. “Okay.”

“Will you keep it for me?” I had asked. “I don’t want anyone else to know about it and I don’t know what to do with it.”

He had nodded slowly and taken it back, returning it to the satchel. “When you are ready, you know where to find it.” He’d said.

“Thank you.” I had said.

“Get some sleep, lei’lei, sitting up all night brooding won’t change what has happened, won’t change the past and won’t change the universe.” He had said. “I doubt that this knowledge will even change you all that much, it just gives you a bigger picture of yourself, is all.”

“I just don’t know what to think of it all, Zte’sa.” I had said. I was so tired.

“Well then, don’t think. Give it time. You have been through an awful lot in the last year and a half, why do you feel you need to race through it all and have answers for everything now? You should know by now the universe unfolds its secrets one piece at a time, you can’t force it or rush it and trying to do so will only drive you insane.” He had said. “You always did try to run before you could walk.”

I had given him a small smile and nodded.

He had studied me for a few moments. “Look, if you want to talk or a place to think, come out to the house. I’ll have a key made for you and couriered out. The jaxes would love it, I’m sure.” He paused. “That woman in Mos Espa, Rikka Blane, will be there when you want to know more about Akali L’uanna and if you don’t want to go out to Mos Espa alone I will go with you. I always have things I can do in the city, even if it is only to pester Bareq.” He smiled. “You are not alone lei’lei, so don’t isolate yourself, you have a wonderful family who loves you very much. Don’t shut them, us, out.”

“Thanks Zte’sa.”

“Any time.” He had said as he got up to leave. “I’ll take care of this for you.” He had patted his satchel.

I had nodded and watched as he left my ship.

He had been right. Sitting around brooding was not the answer, fixing things was and my father put me to work.

Both Bedi and Bel had tried to cheer me up but I didn’t need cheering up, I needed time to think. In the end it had been my father who had understood. He let me work, he didn’t nag about the long hours I kept, or that I sometimes spent the night sleeping on my ship instead of in the house, and that sometimes I went up out to the Bluff and sat there for hours and hours on end. Of course, we had been through a similar situation before, when my mother had been killed. This time he understood that space and time was what I needed most of all and he gave it. When I was ready, I talked about it all and he listened.

It had taken me longer than I had thought it would to sort through all the information I had gathered and put it down into some sort coherent report for Lord Vader, my mind was on other things. What had seemed to me to be a huge jumble of images and thoughts had not seemed like much once I had transcribed everything from my head to datapad. When I was finished and felt that the report was as full as it would ever be I contacted Lord Vader, or tried to. For several weeks all I got was a sour faced officer on board Lord Vader’s ship telling me the Dark Lord was unavailable for personal contact but I was welcome to leave a message. I should have been worried, perhaps, but I didn’t sense anything wrong and put this lack of contact down to standard operating procedure while on some sort of covert operations. Although it wasn’t normal for him to completely ignore me for long periods of time, Lord Vader was often unreachable. I didn’t mind, I was happy on Tatooine and quite content to tinker with engines and manage my duties from home and Bestine. He contacted me five days before Boonta Eve.

“You have information for me?” he asked.

“Good afternoon Lord Vader, I hope that you are well?” I said ignoring his usual brusque manner for a moment then added. “Yes, I do you wish me to uplink now?”

“No, you will deliver this in person. I do not trust this to even the most secure channel. We will be in your sector shortly and you may rendezvous with me at these co ordinates and personally deliver all the information you have. I shall expect you here at 22:00 CST at the latest.”

“Am I to remain on board with you?” I asked, wondering if I should say my goodbyes now or not.

“That will be determined when I have studied the information.” He replied tersely. “I shall expect you not to be late.” He said and shut the connection.

By my calculations it would take me three hours to reach the rendezvous point pushing the engines just a little bit so I aimed for four and went to talk to my father. I wasn’t sure what would happen so I wanted to leave properly and not just on a rush and hope that I’d be coming back. With Lord Vader it was impossible to tell what he wanted and I wasn’t about to try and second guess him.

I arrived at the rendezvous point on time and once on board the Executor I was escorted to his personal chambers by two stormtroopers who refused to hold a conversation with me. Stormtroopers don’t have much of a sense of humour. Once inside his private rooms I was left alone.

He was sitting in his hyperbaric chamber which was just opening up like some giant egg split in two. The dim lighting in the room made it difficult to see details and I was glad of this. I watched in morbid fascination as his helmet was mechanically lowered onto his scarred head. I breathed a small sigh of relief when his damaged skull was covered and the soft hiss of the pressure equalization signalled completion of the mechanical arm’s task. I waited with my hands behind my back while he slowly got out of the strange cocoon like chamber and it closed up on its own.

He signalled me to follow him into one of the smaller conference rooms.

“I trust your flight here was uneventful.” He said being uncharacteristically pleasant. “My aide readied coffee or tea if you wish.” He gestured to the tray on the table, two carafes, milk in a jug and a single cup. He waited until I had poured a cup of coffee then asked about my work.

I handed him the data pad. I sat down, sipped my coffee and waited while he scanned it carefully.

“Is this all you found out?” he asked once he was done. He tossed the data pad on the table.

“There isn’t much to find. He didn’t have an exciting life in Tatooine and not that many people really knew him.” I said. “I did find this at the farm he lived on.” I pulled out the broken toy from my satchel and handed it to him.

He took it carefully from my fingers and looked at it, turning it over in his large, black gloved hands. “What am I supposed to get from this?” he asked annoyed.

“You don’t get images, sensations from objects?” I asked a little surprised.

He regarded me for a moment then asked. “Do you?”

I nodded slowly, “My uncle called it psychometry.” I said.

He paused for a moment and seemed to be re-evaluating me. “Another little talent you seem to have kept hidden.” He said dangerously. “Show me what you saw.”

I shook my head. I didn’t want to do that. All the images I held in my head were a jumbled mess and disorganized. I had no way to sort them out and present them in any logical manner; this included the images of Shmi’s burial and the images of my birth mother. I didn’t want him to see these things. I wasn’t going to get a choice in this matter though. He had plucked me out of my chair by my arm and pulled me up close to his face.

“Show me!” he commanded.

“My lord, everything is in the report….” I didn’t get the chance to finish my sentence before his grip on my arm turned very painful.

“Your disobedience is tedious, show me now!” he snarled.

I nodded and he let go of my arm. I was scared and tired so it was a struggle to get my thoughts in order and my breathing steady. I needed to be able to concentrate so that I did not show him the wrong thing.

I focused on the little toy and pulled the images it had shown me to the fore front of my thoughts, Luke as a small boy, Luke as a young man, Luke arguing with his uncle, Luke with new droids. Up until that image Lord Vader was calm but as soon as he saw the two droids, an R2 unit and a Protocol droid he growled shaking my concentration. As I tried to get back on track he pushed at me and I lost the train of thought completely. Random images cropped up instead. Images of the burial, of the boy I thought was Anakin, the chulpas laid on the mourning marker. Sharp and clear images of my birth mother flashed through my mind as well until he broke the mental connection and pushed me away from him. He stared at me and the anger coming from him in waves was a physical thing.

“You must learn control.” He hissed. “You were told to find out about Luke Skywalker and instead I find you disobeyed me.” He was angry.

“I did not! It is impossible to ask about the name Skywalker without hearing the name Anakin as well. He is a folk hero on Tatooine!” I retorted hotly.

He advanced on me with a deadly menace. “I told you never to mention that name again! I told you he is dead!”

I put my hands on my hips; I was starting to get annoyed. “Well he may be dead but he is not forgotten! Why does it make you so angry, anyway? Why do you care?” I asked.

He turned away from me but his rage flowed about him like sand on the wind. Seconds seemed like hours until he asked. “Who is the woman, the one who looks like you?”

I did not want to get into this conversation.

“Who is she?” he asked again keeping his back to me. His tone of voice said he would not ask again nicely.

“Her name was Akali L’uanna, she was a Jedi.” I said quietly.

“I remember her.” He nodded. “Why do you have images of her in your head?”

I paused not quite certain how to say what I needed to say. I could feel his rising temper start to get the better of him and blurted it out. “She was my birth mother.” I said through gritted teeth.

He nodded slowly. “Yes, now I see. Now, I understand why you always seemed familiar to me.”

I stared at his back in disbelief. I wanted to scream at him but instead drew a deep breath. “When we met for the first time, you knew I had been adopted even when no one else knew, you did. How?”

He whirled around to face me and I involuntarily stepped back from him. “Do you think, for a second that I would allow you to work for me, so closely with me and I should not know exactly who and what you are? I make it my business to know everything about those around me, especially people with force powers.” he said. “Your adoption papers are on record, it was never kept secret, except maybe to you. Now I see that these papers were cleverly created, excellent forgeries I might add to get past our Intel screening. They indicated your birth parents were traders from Corellia and there was nothing to suggest otherwise, except your force talents. You were never what you appeared to be and now I understand why.”

I looked at him, “Did you know? Did you know she was my birth mother?” my heart was pounding but not from fear, I was angry and I was having trouble controlling it.

He shook his head. “No, but I suspected you had some Jedi blood in you. I did not see the resemblance until now. I did not know Jedi L’uanna well, our paths did not cross very often and it was a very long time ago” He added.

“Why did you not ever say anything about what you suspected?”

“What should I have said?” he asked. “Telling you of your possible heritage was none of my concern as long as you did your job and remained loyal to the Empire what do I care about who gave birth to you?”

My anger flared. “Did you kill her? Did you hunt her down?” I asked.

“I did not have to; her lover did that for us as he was supposed to, as he was ordered to.” He replied coldly.

I opened my mouth to answer but was at a loss for words. I wanted to ask if he knew how she had died but could not. Instead anger and grief poured out into the room, both his and mine and clashed. I yelled at him without thinking about the consequences.

“You really are heartless! Why did you ask me to find out about this boy, Luke? He’s just some poor kid who never even knew who his real parents were. He had a miserable life in the middle of nowhere on the most forsaken planet in the galaxy!”

He stopped for a moment. “You sympathise with him.” He said in amazement.

“I know what it is like to lose someone I loved. I know what it is like to grow up without a mother. I know how it feels not to know who my real parents are, not to know anything about where I come truly come from. So yes, I sympathise with him. I understand what he must have felt growing up on that hell hole of a farm, alone not knowing who he really was. What would you know about any of this? You don’t have a heart or a soul; you don’t know what it feels like to love or to lose someone, especially your mother!”

He snarled at me. “Mind your mouth!”

I ignored the prickling sensation I usually associated with extreme danger. “Why? You don’t give a Spicer’s damn about anyone or anything! You are nothing but a monster all wrapped up in black armour and hiding behind that mask. You hunt down people for sport. I was wrong about you; you have no redeeming qualities at all! In fact I am beginning to wonder if you even had a mother at all or if you weren’t something the Emperor hatched from a bad nightmare that he….”

I never got to finish my sentence. He moved so fast I never saw it coming. His hand clamped around my neck as he slammed me backwards against the wall so hard I saw stars when my head collided with it. His hand crushed my throat painfully and if he squeezed even the tiniest bit harder I knew he would break my neck. I stood very, very still and didn’t fight him. My anger swiftly replaced by fear.

“You hold your tongue you stupid, ignorant girl!” he hissed. “You know nothing of me or my life and you will never speak of my mother again!” he spat. As he spoke I saw flashes, inadvertent images sent to me through his anger which spilled about him like flowing water. His mother, letting him as a small fair haired boy leave home, telling him not to look back, his mother held captive and tortured in the Tusken camp, dying in his arms and worst of all his helplessness. I saw images of Padmé Naberrie and she was pregnant, flashes violent anger and jealousy, he was hurting her. I saw fire, lots and lots of fire. It was the fire and the agonizing pain that finally broke me. I screamed.

I wanted to stop the barrage of images but neither he nor I could control them. Sent in anger they shoved their way into my head like an angry mob and it was all I could do to stay conscious and sane. I gripped at the arm attached to the hand at my throat with my hands, wanting him to either let me go, to break the contact or kill me quickly and get it over with instead he stood transfixed on me. And then, as though I had been slapped on the face, it came to me, the link I had missed. I could not believe I hadn’t seen it before now.

Wide eyed I stared at him and before I could think to shut up I whispered, “Anakin. You are Anakin Skywalker.” I thought he would crush my neck but instead he pulled his hand away from me as though he had been stung. I slid clumsily to the floor and stared up at him.

“Luke is your son?” I whispered hoarsely.

He stormed away from me to the other side of the room, I could feel his conflict, his anger mingled with something else I couldn’t define and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I didn’t understand why I was still alive. I didn’t dare break the heavy silence and stayed as still as I could. When he turned around and came back to face me I was certain he would kill me. I cowered against the wall trying to make myself as small as possible. Instead he regarded me for a long time with a gaze hidden behind his mask.

“Anakin Skywalker is dead. Luke Skywalker is a traitor to the Empire. You will never speak of this again.” He said coldly. “Now, leave!”

When I didn’t move he hauled me to my feet and dragged me to the door of the outer chamber, summoning the two guards who waited outside.

“Escort Miss Gabriel to her ship! See that she leaves immediately.” He said shoving me over to them. I shook my arm free when one of them reached for me. Lord Vader grabbed me by the chin forcing me to look at him directly. I whimpered. He was hurting me.

“You will stay on Tatooine and you will do your job from there until I say otherwise. Is this understood?” he said in a voice that told me I had no choice in the matter.

I nodded. I wasn’t very successful at stopping the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I thought for a moment we would stand locked together like that forever. His anger and my fear mixed together in one awful combination. Then he hissed into my face, “Get out of my sight.” He waited a hair’s breadth before shoving my face away from him so violently I thought he might break my neck after all and then without further word he returned to his chamber leaving me, shaken to the core, with two very confused looking guards.

“I know my way to the docking bay. “ My voice was hoarse and they insisted on accompanying me anyway, despite my protests.

I arrived back on Tatooine very early in the morning in a state of shock. I didn’t want to return to Mos Eisley, my father and the others would ask too many questions so I landed out by my uncle Vahlek’s house.

Even though I had tried to be quiet about entering his house at that hour of the morning, I had woken him. Tying his robe and yawning, he came down into the kitchen to find me sitting at the table. The bruises on my chin and neck were beginning to blossom like colourful flowers. I didn’t look at him; I just stared blankly at the wall, unable to speak, unable to cry. The shock of what had happened slowly sinking in.

“Lei’lei, what is it?” he asked.

I didn’t say anything and I didn’t resist when he inspected my jaw and neck. His touch was gentle as he surveyed the damage Lord Vader had done.

“Who did this to you?” he asked.

I told him. My voice was still hoarse and rough.

“Why?” his voice was tight and angry.

I bit back the first surge of sorrow I had felt since I had left the Executor. “Lord Vader doesn’t like to be reminded of the past.” I said. “He sent me away and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why he is so angry, why he is so afraid.”

Uncle Vahlek pursed his lips and sighed. “The Zabrak have a saying. To bury your past deep is to scatter your fears wide.” He said. “I have some salve that will help with the pain, don’t go any where.” He told me getting up and vanishing for a few moments. When he came back he was holding a small tin, which when he opened it, filled the kitchen with a pungent scent. It wasn’t unpleasant. I winced as he applied a small amount to the nasty looking bruises on my throat and jaw.

“Can I stay with you? If I go home there will be too many questions and I can’t handle that right now.”

He nodded. “Of course. I’ll let Kit know you’re here later on. You should get some sleep, you look like hell.”

I shook my head. “He’s banished me, Zte’sa.” I suddenly said on the verge of tears, looking into my uncle’s eyes for the first time since he had come into the kitchen. “I made him angry, hurt him somehow and now he’s banished me. I should be dead, I thought he would kill me but he didn’t and I don’t know why. Instead he sent me away and I don’t think he’ll ever want to see me again.” I blinked away the tears welling up in my eyes.

Uncle Vahlek regarded me for a moment; the expression on his face was unreadable. “Perhaps,” he said softly, “then again, perhaps not.”

I just looked at him. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Then you do what one always does when any terrible storm hits.” He said gently.
“You wait it out, lei’lei, just wait it out.”

End of Part 1
Part 2:

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