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TITLE: Hidden in the Dark
AUTHOR: Agent J (agentj0@yahoo.com)
CATEGORY: Vignette
CHARACTERS: Darth Vader, Tarkin (minor), Leia Organa (minor)

SUMMARY: "I felt a great disturbance in the Force...as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I read a couple of fics depicting this moment from Leia's point of view. What about Vader's?

DISCLAIMER: I willingly and willfully use characters and situations copyrighted by Twentieth Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd. without permission, and without monetary gain. Additional characters and situations are copyright 2005 Lisa D. Jenkins.

This is how it feels to be Anakin Skywalker.


—Matthew Stover


I take perverse pleasure in Tarkin's inability to break the Princess' spirit. The blinking displays of consoles and buttons at your command do not impress her, Tarkin. My Master may have made you a Grand Moff, but you hold no power here.

No, true power comes only from the Force. Princess Organa has an unusually strong connection to it. Were she born during the Old Republic, Leia Organa would no doubt find her days filled with endless sabre drills, lessons on various subjects, learning the finer arts of meditation and philosophy. Now there is no Temple for Jedi to call home. Now there are no more Jedi to return home to it.

Tarkin has lost his patience.

He raises his voice, "You would prefer another target? A military target?"

His eyes flash as he meets her defiant gaze. Break her, if you can, Tarkin, but it will take more than threats, real or imagined, to break Her Highness' soul. That, I promise you.

He takes a step toward her, driving her petite form against me. A gasp escapes her breath as her head accidentally bumps against my external breather controls. She glances briefly over her shoulder, not in fear, but to be sure if I am all right!

What a strange sensation.

She checks herself, realising it is only I, and not really a man at all. Yes, Your Highness, I am just a shadow, a ghost, a thing to be feared and despised.

She finds her inner strength again as she glances longingly at the only planet she has ever known as her home.

Tarkin sighs. He knows she had time to look over those plans herself before tossing them to the winds of Tatooine. He knows she knows of what this battle station is capable. He can't understand her resolve as I do.

"I grow tired of asking this. So it'll be the last time. Where is the Rebel base?"

No matter what the Princess gives as an answer, I know the fate of the beloved jewel before us is sealed.

Her Highness hangs her head in defeat.

"Dantooine. They're on Dantooine."

Her voice shakes as if she has pronounced the death sentence to the Rebel Alliance. A good performance, Your Highness. But I know better. I can feel her determination under the veneer.

I say nothing.

Tarkin looks smug with himself as he glances toward me.

"There. You see, Lord Vader? She can be reasonable." Turning to the men who will pull the switches, Tarkin commands, "Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready."

"What?!" Princess Organa pulls forward, disbelieving what she has just heard.

Tarkin smiles slyly down at her.

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

My hand grips the Princess' shoulder, not to keep her at bay, oh no. She is too weak, too feeble to be capable of inflicting harm on the Grand Moff...though I would have liked to see her try....

No. I need something to hold on to. Ever since Palpatine took me under his wing and showed me the plans to this monstrosity, I knew this day would come.

I dreaded it.

My Master would speak of it with glee, a gleam of light shining in his hideously coloured eyes. My eyesight was forever simulated for me, so although I did not see it, I sensed my Master's salivation at the thought of it—the death of a planet. Not just the individual energies of life like pin-pricks of candles pinched out with a minor snuff in the Force, not just a pocket of life like a starfreighter's spectacular light as the hyperdrive engine imploded, but an entire planet. Not only a civilisation, but a whole ecosystem. Not only the humans, but the subspecies. Every tree, every flower, every blade of grass.

My Master told me their deaths would be magnificent.

I was afraid.

Princess Leia's voice trembled, real fear paralysing her from continuing her earlier tirade. "No!"

I pull the Princess closer to my chest as she struggles against me. No, Your Highness. Don't go. Don't leave me.

I feel the surge in the Force before the energy bolt stretches its cold hand to its target. My metallic hand squeezes tighter as I anticipate the coming of what is about to happen next—

Silently, I scream with the voices of the millions of others in my head. My breath torn from me as the atmosphere burns away. My skin alight with fire both from the heat of the core as it bursts forth from the planet as well as the icy coldness of space as they are thrust into it. My body tears apart into a million pieces as Alderaan scatters like space dust.

There is silence.

It is unbearable.

I grit my teeth, willing myself to keep silent. I realise I am still clutching the Princess' shoulder, nearly crushing her small frame. I release her, and she takes a step forward but does not fall. I have no idea what power in the galaxy could possibly keep her standing upright.

Through the haze of pain that whips past me, I hear Her Highness' meagre voice. "...And you call yourselves human."

Tarkin waves his hand to dismiss us. "Take her away."

I grab Princess Leia's upper arm and impatiently drag her out of the Command Centre. I don't want to deal with this.

I spy a minor officer and thrust her toward him. "Lieutenant. Escort Her Highness back to her detention cell."

"My Lord?" the minor officer asks after me as I stride away.

I can't find the strength to answer. I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other until I find myself back in my quarters. A fist slams against the control panel, and my hyperbaric chamber opens. Desperately, I duck inside before the clamshell can fully open to allow me entry. I slump to my knees and hit the button to close the shell again.

I cannot wait.

My hands fly to my helmet and pry it off. I rip the mask from my face, despite the fact that there could be dangerous bacteria in the unpressurised air around me. Flinging the mask across the chamber, I lean forward and wretch.

My Master promised me death would make me stronger. He promised.

"I am strong, I am strong, I'm strong," I mutter in a mantra as I rock my body against my heels.

The bile leaves a metallic taste in my mouth, and I spit it out. Slowing my breathing, I regain my senses.

My droids, my only friends, made by my own hand, take up the task to clean up the mess I have created. I pick up my mask and press it against my face; the diodes and needles that convey the outside world to me pierce my cold, clammy skin. Replacing my helmet, I press the button to open the chamber.

I am strong.

Once I feared death.

Now I embrace it.

I exit the chamber and make my way to Tarkin. Surely by now he will have discovered Her Highness has lied.

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