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THE PRINCESS AND

THE SITH LORD

By Leela Starsky.
Darth Vader followed the Imperial officer down the detention bay corridor to cell number 2187. He knew breaking her would come down to him. It always did with the important ones.

He had sensed her strength and determination during her tenure in the Imperial Senate, and even held a grudging respect for her. It was a strength that seemed oddly misplaced in someone so young, and yet, from what he had seen of the interrogation recordings so far, the Princess of Alderaan had managed to tap a seemingly endless source of strength, for she remained resolute.

Part of him applauded her steadfast determination. But he did not respect her father or his foolish ideals.

Her indoctrination into the dogma of her father was unavoidable. Vader understood this, because as a child, she loved her father and wanted to please him. But the fact that the viceroy had risked his only child's life for so pathetic a cause inspired Vader's outright contempt.

She was a child!

The cell door swooshed aside and Vader stepped down into the small cell. She had been lying on the hard bench and sat up at once, eyeing him defiantly.

Defiance, not terror. Vader realised offhandedly that the Princess of Alderaan was one of the few sentients who didn't regard him with abstract terror. Perhaps, he thought, that was why he respected her. Nevertheless, her bravery was about to meet with true horror. The mind-rape he was about to commit sickened him, but Vader could see its necessity. Without it, she would not break, and the Death Star plans were too important. Yet she would fear him afterward.

Tarkin had wanted her raped physically, but Vader had curtailed that measure by imposing his specialised interrogation services long before he usually would. The threats, drugs, violence and deprivation she had already suffered had not made her talk; why would rape?

No, the real reason for Tarkin wanting her raped, Vader knew, was so that the Grand Moff could watch. Watch the defilement of a child.

And Vader had taken it upon himself to thwart Tarkin's perverse pleasures at every opportunity.

"So," she said, unable to disguise the tremor in her voice, "the real interrogation begins."

Vader knew the shakiness in her voice came from deprivation and physical abuse, but the Imperial officer with him thought it was fear. Vader could feel the smug satisfaction radiating off the man, and was revolted by him; revolted by his enjoyment of the girl's suffering.

Vader heard the door shut behind him and wondered at his own reticence. Time and experience had made him a master of using the Force to extract information from people's minds. A clean surgical strike, in and out. The whole procedure was usually over before the cell door had shut, leaving him free to leave and not witness the effect on the victim. Why was he hesitating?

He could sense the same thought forming in the mind of the officer beside him and moved closer to the small princess, using his own towering presence as a threat.

She smiled wryly up at him and said, "You'll excuse me if I don't get up."

The Imperial officer stared at her, shocked, and Vader was grateful for the concealing confines of his helmet. Smiled? She had smiled? And then he understood. Saw it in her eyes. Death. She was not afraid of death. Of dying for her cause.

What a waste.

"Princess," he said. "You know what I've come for."

She looked away. "And you know my answer."

"I know you are not afraid of death, but maybe you are afraid of life?"

She looked at him then, and he could see the truth of his words echoed in her eyes. "Don't you mean torture?" she spat.

"Oh no, Princess - you have shown skill already in surviving that. Why do you think I am here?"

"To finish the job?"

"Precisely."

Without pausing, the Dark Lord grabbed her face fiercely in one gloved hand, and plunged his consciousness into hers. Ripping through her most intimate thoughts and dreams like a tempest.

Below him, the princess gave a strangled cry and struggled to free herself, but, committed to the rape, Vader plunged deeper, callously sweeping aside incidentals which did not interest him. Her love for a governess, praise from her father, her first kiss, sunrise over the palace of Aldera.

Focusing his probe on the Rebellion, Vader sought to direct the current to a place from which he could cull answers, and abruptly found himself in the equivalent of an empty room. A nothingness. He pushed harder and still found nothing.

The child had shielded herself! Against him? Shocked, Vader released his grip on the princess, and she fell back, hyperventilating, her eyes glazed. Where had she learned to shield her thoughts? Who would think to teach her such a thing?

The witnessing officer, assuming the Dark Lord had succeeded in his mission, opened the door and waited for him to exit. Vader regarded the violated teenager a moment longer, then stalked out past the officer who followed close on his heels. Vader scarcely noticed him, and the two men parted company at the elevator well without a word spoken between them.

In the elevator, Vader thought deeply. Who could have taught her such a thing, and why? The Jedi were all dead; he'd seen to that himself. And Bail Organa was no Force user, that was certain.

Then how would the viceroy's daughter have the skills to shield her mind??

Naturally?

Vader considered the thought sceptically. Only once before had he come across the sort of natural shielding ability that Leia Organa seemed to possess.

Once.

Even Jedi had to learn it.

Once.

The memory stirred his anger. Anger remembering the pride and joy he had felt upon discovering the natural ability in the woman who would become his wife, and rage when she had used it against him. When she had left him.

Dark Force coalesced about the Sith Lord and the elevator changed direction seemingly of its own volition. He would break the Princess of Alderaan. Never again would he be thwarted by something as simple as a mind-shield.

And perhaps he would also have her tested for Force talent.

The elevator door hissed open and the detention area staff looked up at him, surprised - particularly the officer who had witnessed Vader's initial interrogation.

"My Lord --?" he started, but Vader did not let him finish.

"I want a Level Four interrogation-droid," he ordered. "Now."

Officers jumped to attention around him and the witnessing officer struggled to comprehend. "My Lord?" he tried again.

"Your presence will not be required, Commander. I will take troopers." Vader pointed at the nearest two stormtroopers. "You and you."

Both troopers stepped forward and a hum announced the activation of the interrogation droid.

Without waiting, Vader strode down the narrow corridor to her cell and opened the door himself.

She was sitting on the bench this time, huddled into the corner, and this time she looked at him with...yes, there it was. Fear.

The dark demons in Vader rejoiced. Another example of his power! And oh, how he was going to enjoy breaking her completely. What was left of the man in Vader saw only his duty to his Emperor, and the misguided child before him who would not live long enough to breed.

Her fear fed the darkness in him as he informed her, "And now, Your Highness, we shall discuss the location of your hidden Rebel base."

The spherical, black interrogation droid repulsored in behind him and he watched coldly as her expression turned to shocked terror.

For two days now, the Interrogation Officer in charge of her case had subjected her to interrogation droids, addicted her to Spice and deprived her in every way possible. He had pumped her so full of the pain-enhancing drug, Lytisil Verithinine, that she was likely to pass out stubbing her toe. But, of course, the beauty of that drug was that it wouldn't let her stay unconscious, thereby making her suffering a relentless, seemingly unending ordeal.

The Interrogator had gone as far as to order the use of a Level Three droid, certain that to go any higher would kill her. Which, Vader suspected, was what she wanted. But then she had not known the violation of which he was capable.

Now she did.

The stormtroopers took up position either side of the door as it shut, and the princess pressed herself helplessly back against the wall. She took a shuddering breath as arms started unfolding from the hovering droid, sobbed as they took hold of her, screamed as the device injected fire into her veins.

Then Vader took her face in his hand and, again, forced his mind into hers.
 
 

Leia Organa wished she could die. She wasn't sure when the pain had subsided; it seemed to have been with her all her life. And it wasn't gone; the slightest movement was agonising. Even blinking seemed too difficult.

For a long time she had stared sightlessly at the red glow from the floor. Lying face-down on it as she was, there wasn't anything else to look at. But then, as blinking became a painful necessity, she had simply kept her eyes closed. The pain was so all-encompassing, Leia was surprised to find herself still sane. What more could they do to her? She wished she could die. Just let herself go and never have to feel again.

Leia was aware she had soiled herself at some stage; she could smell it, but just the thought of moving to deal with it was too painful. Too exhausting. Hopefully, she would die soon anyway and then it wouldn't matter.

The floor beneath her cheek vibrated and a distant part of her wondered what it could mean.

Before Vader had come, Leia had felt self-righteous, despite the pain. She would be, if necessary, a martyr to her cause. She had even expected she might be raped. Had girded herself to deal with it.

But never in her wildest nightmares had she expected him to be able to force himself into her mind. The fact that he had not got what he wanted gave her a modicum of satisfaction, but it was also likely he would try again.

And Leia knew that next time he would succeed.

She should die. It must have been days since she'd had anything to eat or drink. Before Vader's onslaught, her thirst had been almost unbearable. Now it was inconsequential.

She heard the door swoosh open and did not move. Footsteps, electronically processed voices. Stormtroopers. Leia wondered if they had come to rape her and heard herself moan as one of them picked her up. For a long moment, her universe consisted of nothing but pain. Blinding, excruciating pain. As it dimmed, Leia realised she was on a repulsored gurney and a distant part of her wondered where she was being taken.

She endured the pain of forcing her eyes open for a moment but the overhead lighting flashed by at an uncomfortable pace and she shut them again.

Perhaps the Senate had demanded to have her back? Perhaps her father had come for her? Comforting thoughts, and she allowed herself to wallow in the fantasy for a little while. After all, what did she have to lose? She was probably on her way to be terminated.

She felt her transport halt and considered opening her eyes, but the deep ache in her ears told her she was in an elevator and she didn't bother.

More travel and a rush of various smells told her where she was. The Med Centre. They wanted her alive. A sudden sharp pain in her arm steadily built to burning agony thanks to the pain-enhancing Lytisil Verithinine with which they'd been drugging her. They were putting more chemicals into her body, and Leia seriously wondered how much more abuse her body would take.
 
 

It took her a moment to comprehend where she was when she finally struggled back to consciousness. The smells and sounds of the Med Centre confused her until she tried to move. Pain brought the memories of her torture rushing back, accompanied by a wave of nausea. She was Vader's prisoner and very probably here to be terminated.

Another attempt to move made her painfully aware that she was bound to a diagnostic table and, she was shocked to realise, completely naked.

To her right were five beds identical to hers, all with naked men strapped to them, none of whom seemed to be conscious.

She rolled her head to look left, wincing at the shooting pain it inspired in her neck and shoulder, and found another two beds. But this time, the man strapped to the bed beside hers was staring at her. Wondering if he was a prisoner or if this was how the Empire treated its forces, Leia looked away, uncomfortable with the way he was leering at her, and the sight of his growing arousal did nothing to lessen her fears.

"Little girl!" he hissed at her, and Leia found herself looking at him despite her desire not to. He grinned and wriggled his hips at her, making his erection bob. Leia felt her cheeks flush as she looked away, and he chuckled lewdly. "You know you want it," he whispered.

Leia glanced pointedly at the straps binding his wrists to the table then gave him a withering look. "As if you could do anything about it," she responded scornfully. She looked away, dismissing him, and concentrated on surveying the Med Centre, wondering what they had planned for her.

"Hey, bitch!" her neighbour hissed, but Leia ignored him.

A medic approached and Leia couldn't decide if it was in her best interest to attract his attention or not. Then wondered why she cared.

"Hey!" she said, and the medic moved to the end of her bed. He briefly studied the diagnostic pad attached to it, then approached her with a scanner, giving Leia the distinct impression that she had been his destination anyway.

"How long have I got to live?" she asked callously, but the medic didn't even look at her. Trained not to get involved, Leia thought. She sighed and looked at the ceiling, listening to the hum of the scanner.

"Have you been raped?"

The fact that the medic had spoken to her was more surprising than the question, and Leia felt foolish when she could only respond, "I don't know." Anything could have happened while she was unconscious, and she was in so much pain it was hard to tell where one hurt started and another finished. "I don't think so." She added viciously, "Why? Is it part of the package? I wouldn't want to miss a highlight of the tour."

She felt a strange thrill of empowerment run through her when her comment caused the medic to look at her. Really look at her. Yes, she thought. Notice me! I am a person!

"You are well enough to go back to your cell," was the response and the scanner was switched off and pocketed.

Leia tugged lightly at the strap holding her right wrist and felt the resultant burning sensation. "Ah, no," she disagreed, forcing the medic to look at her again. She smiled and added sarcastically, "I think they forgot to give me the LV dispersal shot."

The medic frowned. "There is no -- " His eyes widened fractionally as he realised she had succeeded in getting a response from him, then he abruptly turned and left.

Screaming panic was fluttering at the edge of her resolve but Leia refused to give in to it. No pain relief. Not for the rest of her life. Which was probably not that much longer, after all. Leia closed her eyes and forced herself to think about something else.

Her father.

Bail Organa would be beside himself with grief...and, oh, how she wished she could see him again. Hug him. Be held by him.

She imagined herself at the palace in Aldera. Early morning. Spring. Her room filled with birdsong and breakfast smells. And if she went to the window, Leia knew she would be able to smell the distinctive scent of the tall kurran trees, especially after rain.

Footsteps.

Leia opened her eyes to see the medic approach. Without a word he held a hypo to her neck and triggered the infuser. She intended to say something, to protest despite the pointlessness, but the pain rendered her speechless ...
 
 

"Wake up, Princess."

The voice was deep and commanding. Leia opened her eyes and frowned. She was lying on the bench in her cell. She had no recollection of her journey back from the Med Centre, but she was fully clothed, clean.

For a moment she wondered if she had passed out, remembered that the Lytisil Verithinine pumping through her veins prevented it, and decided that the medic had put her to sleep.

Then she recognised Vader and jerked reflexively away.

"Bring her," he said, matter-of-factly, and left the cell.

Two guards hauled Leia to her feet, slapped binders on her wrists, and dragged her out of the cell, following the Dark Lord.

Standing in the elevator, sensing its massive assent and reminded of similar journeys on Coruscant, Leia suddenly realised where she was.

"This is the Death Star," she said to Vader. "Isn't it?"

His nod was minuscule, but it she saw it. The elevator stopped and the door opened. Leia looked out at a corridor.

"What now?" she asked, churlishly.

"Now you wish you'd told us what we wanted to hear," Vader said, and the guards led her down the corridor, while Vader, like a spectre, followed just behind.

The corridor opened onto a large observation room and, with a shock, Leia recognised the blue-green planet hanging, jewel-like, in the centre of the view port.

Alderaan.

I'm home!

A whisper of hope fluttered through the small princess. Her father had bargained for her release somehow...perhaps the droids had found Kenobi? Perhaps the tapes-- the plans of the Death Star...

What if the tapes were the bargaining point?

Hope fluttered and died.

A thin, hawk-faced man turned to look at them as they approached and, emboldened by the sight of her home, Leia regarded the Emperor's favourite military tactician with disgust.

"Governor Tarkin," she said, acknowledging the man with unconcealed contempt. "I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash. I thought I recognised your foul stench when I was brought on board."

The Grand Moff smiled. A death's head smile. "Charming to the last," he said, then gripped her jaw with one hand and crooned sarcastically, "You don't know how hard I found it signing the order to terminate your life."

The princess' disdain was palpable. "I'm surprised you had the courage to take on the responsibility yourself!" she snapped.

Tarkin seemed to gather his disgust into a neat little ball before flinging it at her in a mockery of politeness. "Princess Leia, before your execution I would like you to be my guest at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now."

Leia regarded him with blatant disgust. The man's arrogance, the Emperor's arrogance was appalling. "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

"Not after we demonstrate the power of this station," he said, then added in a conversational tone, "In a way you have determined the choice of the planet that will be destroyed first."

Leia's breath caught in her throat. Planet to be destroyed first? Planet killer. Death Star. The rumours were true. But, surely he couldn't be implying...not even the Emperor would...

Leia felt a sense of unreality descend over her. No, this can't be happening.

"Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base," Tarkin continued, and to Leia's ears he might have been discussing a choice of dessert, "I have chosen to test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan."

"No!" That's impossible... "Alderaan is peaceful." All those people... Innocents..."We have no weapons." My home..! "You can't possibly-"

"You would prefer another target?" Tarkin turned on her. "A military target?"

Leia could hear her own heart beating as he loomed over her, forcing her to back away.

"Then name the system!"

But she could not take her eyes off the planet hanging in front of her. Could they see the Death Star? How close to Alderaan was it? What sort of gravitational chaos would it be causing? A satellite this big would have to --

I have to tell them...

"I grow tired of asking this," Tarkin hissed, and Leia found herself backing up against Vader, his nightmarish respirator beside her ear. "So it'll be the last time." The Grand Moff was so close she could smell his breath, his cologne. "Where is the Rebel base?"

Leia was trembling. The vision of Alderaan was all she could see. I have to tell them, Daddy. I have to tell them...

Something...

Anything! I'll give them an old base, and by the time they realise, maybe Alderaan will have had time to prepare or sto ---

An intercom voice announced that the Death Star was within firing range of the planet and seemed to break the princess far more efficiently and effectively than two days of torture could.

"Dantooine," she murmured, hanging her head in shame and defeat. "They're on Dantooine."

"There. You see, Lord Vader," Tarkin purred smugly. "She can be reasonable." He turned to the admiral beside him. "Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready."

It took a moment for Tarkin's words to penetrate, then Leia's head jerked up and she shrieked, "What?!"

"You're far too trusting," Tarkin admonished her. "Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration. But don't worry. We will deal with your Rebel friends soon enough."

"No!" Leia tried to launch herself at him, fully intending to kill him, but Vader's iron grip clamped around her upper arms ignighting the fire of the LV poison in her veins. But the pain was inconsequential. As far as Leia was concerned, she had nothing to lose. She continued to struggle as the primary ignition was announced, but the Sith Lord held her fast. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...

She froze as a green spear of light lanced the blackness of space and stabbed into the heart of her home planet. Her eyes widened with horror and morbid fascination as the atmosphere ignighted and the surface boiled in a spreading wave that rapidly encompassed the entire globe. The blue-green jewel turned black, then red, then abruptly blew apart.

Then everyone in the room went back to their tasks like it was business as usual.
 
 

Vader felt himself being caught in one of those timeless Jedi moments that rarely happened any more. The sort in which time would seem to literally slow down and allow one to experience a moment to its fullest potential. A device the Jedi had tended to reserve, understandably, for their 'happiest' moments. Moments that were no longer a part of his experience and, since embracing the Dark Side, an annoyance.

But the 'time expansions' still struck him from time to time, like an unwanted erection. Arousing his...memories? His humanity? Reminding him of what he had renounced...and what he had become.

Watching the destruction of Alderaan, Vader felt the rupture in the Force that was the death of so many sentients, the death of a living planet, and for the first time in his Dark career, suspected he was being manipulated.

For years now he had done the Emperor's bidding without question. Palpatine had been his saviour; not only in body, but also in soul. Saved him from the impotent servitude that was the Jedi knighthood, as the Jedi themselves had saved him from slavery. In Vader's mind, his current freedom had been everything to which he had ever aspired, and had only been attained upon his embracing of the Dark Side of the Force.

But this changed everything.

The time dilation faded finally and Vader found himself struck by a new wave. A wave so profound it could only be likened to his first acceptance of the Dark Side. It was...glorious! So much power! Enough to encompass the Galaxy.

Darth Vader felt almost luminous as a Darkness greater than any he had ever experienced surrounded and penetrated him, and for the first time truly comprehended his Master's vision and his own place in it.

Then it passed, leaving him empty, with nothing but anger to fill the void. He lashed out with the Force and, without moving a muscle, killed the officer who was standing nearby.

Tarkin gave him an icy glare and ordered him to take the princess back to her cell. Vader would have liked nothing better than to strangle Tarkin on the spot, and it was only the Emperor's anticipated displeasure that stopped him.

He stalked from the room and, with prompting from two officers, the princess followed him.
 
 

Leia couldn't cry. She wanted to. Ached to. But it was an incomprehensible grief and she suspected she was in deep shock. She had followed the Dark Lord back to her cell without a word spoken by either of them and, when the door had shut, had sat on the hard bench and waited for the tears to come. But they wouldn't.

Finally, she lay down, totally numb.

As far as she was concerned, they couldn't kill her quickly enough.

THE END.
 

 

Illustration by Kate.

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