Disclaimer: The characters and situations of 'Star Wars' depicted in this story are legal property of George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Timothy Zahn, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

NC-17 rated for explicit scenes between consenting m/f; first time, Angst, romance

Comments are welcome at Una

Denial is not a river on yavin

by Una


Pawns of Palpatine

"Marai, my sweet, come here!" the woman's voice carried wide and far over the green pastures of the small farm that was situated on the Northern hemisphere of the small rimworld planet of Ord Mantell.
The little girl rose her head and squinted her eyes against the summer sun. She waved at her mother and stood up. Her small hands were full of the first summer flowers she had been picking for half of the morning.

"Marai, hurry up, dinner is ready," the woman with the dark hair and piercing green eyes called again and the girl picked up speed. Aeryn Jadeen watched her daughter and smiled. Marai had been a blessing for her and her husband Jon. Before she had become pregnant, Aeryn had given up on ever having children of her own and about four standard years ago, when her precious little girl was born it was both the most joyous and the most saddest day in her life.
Jon Jadeen had been killed by Stormtroopers on one of the main space stations he had worked on when the Imperials had searched it for Rebel spies. Her husband had died never knowing that he had a daughter.

Well that is not true, Aeryn told herself silently as she watched her daughter approaching. He now knows. With a smile she greeted her daughter and both mother and child walked into the small farm house that captured the green riches and soft hues of the landscape outside. The walls of their little dwelling were mirroring the soft warm glow of the autumn sun of the Bright Jewel system and the soft browns, blues and greens of the cushions thrown over the sofa were reminiscent of the forests and oceans of Ord Mantell.
Mother and child entered the kitchen, the room filled with the rich aroma of vegetables and stew.

"Go on, wash up and then we can eat," Aeryn told her daughter and watched as the small girl hurriedly washed her face and hands in the sink in the kitchen.
The woman was proud of her only child, especially as the Force was already strong within her. So much so that she already had difficulty shielding her efficiently. But Marai was a sensible child, wise beyond her age of four years, and she had already learnt the rudimentary skills to shield herself.

Thank the Force for that, Aeryn thought and had to smile when she remembered the first time Jon had appeared before his daughter. Marai had taken it in stride and despite the fact that it was only a Force presence, the small girl had bonded with her father quickly. Aeryn was aware that in this day and age, it was dangerous to allow a child this young to be trained as a Jedi, but she had no choice. Even from the few and far between reports she got from off-worlders, Aeryn knew that the Emperor was purging the Jedi one by one in the galaxy with no other help than that of Anakin Skywalker, now known as Darth Vader. For a moment the woman squeezed her eyes shut, trying to suppress the memories, but try as she might, she could not. Images of a past long forgotten pressed to the surface, faces, voices and scents that she had long thought gone were pummelling her system. In her mind's eye she could see herself, a young careless girl of not more than thirteen years, waiting with baited breath as the Queen and her handmaidens arrived on the day of victory. She was clothed in the ceremonial gowns of the rich Nubian, her father among those who accompanied the Queen. Little had she known then that her father would be the very one who would destroy not only the Queen but herself as well. Pressing a hand to her stomach, Aeryn tried to swallow the bilge that rose in her throat. With effort, she suppressed the panic that still welled up every time she thought about her father and what he had become.

"Mama, is something wrong?" Marai asked softly when she felt her mother going silent and with a sad smile on her lips, Aeryn looked up into the green eyes of her daughter.

"Just silly thoughts of the past, my sweetling," Aeryn said and brushed some errant curls away from her daughter's small face, a face that reminded her of another man. A man who had been her saviour and lover for four short standard years. "Let's get something to eat and you can tell me what you have been up to all this morning."

The Emperor stared out onto the darkened streets of Coruscant through the round transparisteel window of his throne room. Today had been a great day, almost two hundred Jedi had been purged from the face of the galaxy and the alacrity he felt was invigorating him to no end.
But he could still feel the light side that wavered and was interwoven with the dark powers of the Force. There were still powerful Forcewielders around and he had to get his hands on them. He also knew that any Jedi children had to be apprehended as well, his Imperial guards and spies having found traces of powerful children on some backwater planets in the outer rim.
Soon, he thought. Soon they will be mine. The Emperor turned when he heard the soft hiss of the entrance door and the trademark breathing of his most faithful servant entered.

"Have you found her?" Palpatine asked without a greeting.

The dark Sith lord advanced towards the throne and kneeled in front of his master. "We have found traces of her. She is on Ord Mantell, where she has lived with another Jedi. We will apprehend her soon."

Palpatine chuckled. "Soon? And here I thought you were already on the way to Ord Mantell to capture the traitor, Lord Vader."

"I thought it best to inform you first, Master," Vader replied through his mask, as he tried to suppress the surge of annoyance that welled up inside of him.

"Yes, Vader, I know ..." The Emperor said and yellow eyes seemed to bore into the protective cover of Vader's face mask and helmet. "Bring her back and I will see to it personally that she will be punished for her digression."

"Yes, Master," Vader replied and stood up. After he had turned he heard the rustle of the Emperor's robe behind him but he had learnt early, when he had still been an apprentice, not to look back. He knew that the Emperor was standing at the window envisioning every form of punishment for his transgressed daughter.

Ord Mantel was a second rate planet of an even lower rated outer rim sector and Lord Vader was in no mood to resume his stay on the planet longer than necessary. Despite the lushness of the landscape the planet reminded him too much of the desert planet of his childhood, a planet he had so desperately wanted to leave. With a slight hitch in his breathing he banned the images that welled up from his subconscious. These days were long passed and he had made his choice. The small unit of Stormtroopers he had with him were also not helping his mood as they plundered through the small village on their quest to please their Master's servant.
Ha! Vader thought and for a moment he was tempted to just squeeze their throats with a twist of the Force and be done with them. "I told you to be more covert, TKG32! I don't think running into a village and pillaging is called covert!"

"Sir, I'm sorry, Sir, the person you want to obtain is not here."

"That I can see for myself," Vader snapped and his cape billowed menacingly behind him when he turned. Reaching out with the Force, he knew that the person in question was on planet. It should be an easy thing to find Palpatine's daughter.

"Take your men to the far South side of the village," Vader said to the Stormtrooper in charge and he saw with satisfaction that the Trooper flinched at the tone of his voice. "And make sure to keep your men in line, otherwise I and the Emperor will not be amused!"

"Yes sir," the Stormtrooper replied and hurried away.

Palpatine swayed on the balls of his feet and an amused chuckle escaped his parched lips. Even though Darth Vader was his most trusted hand, he still kept a close Force bond to the Jedi turned Sith. Even after almost eight years since a young man just out of adolescence had turned away from the light side of the Force, Palpatine felt a certain unease with his Sith Lord. Not that he doubted Vader's unfailing loyalty. The moment he had seen the boy, he knew the man the boy would become would ultimately turn to the dark side. It had been as certain as the rise of Senator Palpatine to Imperial greatness.

With what almost sounded like a sigh, the Emperor turned away from the window and walked over to his throne. Even though his former life did not interest him in any way, he felt regret and with it anger welling up inside of him. Regret that his daughter had been foolish enough to give herself to a Jedi Knight and angry that she had managed to elude him for such a long time. At a certain stage in his life as the newly appointed Emperor, he had thought his daughter could come in handy in the scheming of the Imperial day to day dealings. She was strong in the Force, so much so that it sometimes baffled him when she had still been a child. With him becoming Emperor, he had schemed plans, had tried all but shove her into the direction of Darth Vader but she had all but foiled his plans. Jon Jadeen, Palpatine thought and a ripple of anger surged through him. A young Jedi Knight, cocky as they came at that time and a friend of Obi Wan Kenobi. Well, I have shown them, the Jedi brood was all but purged from Imperial space. Only small pockets of resistance surviving just barely. For a moment a premonition blurred his vision and the Emperor had to grasp a hold onto his throne. The image of a young man, not more than a boy, blonde and dressed in black wavered into view. Image upon image, red deserts, purple skies and green eyes interlaced each other, leaving Palpatine dizzy.

*There are three*, a voice seemed to whisper. *Three Jedi children, strong enough to be deeply rooted in the light side of the Force*. With a shudder, the Emperor snarled at the visionary voice and with swirling robes, he paced towards the window. I will destroy them all, or force them into submission, he swore solemnly.

Marai woke up in the middle of the night, the night candle that her mother always lighted when she went to bed having burned low. The young girl did not know what had awakened her but her heart was racing and the feeling of unease increased. Drawing the Force around herself, she could feel a dark cold spot not far away from the farmhouse, in fact she could sense another smaller spot, but just as powerful right inside the house, in the kitchen to be precise.
With shaking hands, the small child moved the bed linens out of her way and swung her legs over the edge of her bed. Slowly, and carefully she made her way to the door. Voices could be heard and that piqued Marai's curiosity.
Slowly, she crept further and what she saw before her, chilled her to the bone. Her mother was choking by what seemed an invisible force while a dark cloaked figure towered menacingly above her. The whole scene was so surreal, that Marai first thought she had one of her rare nightmares, but the awful sounds her mother was making as the air was squeezed out of her lungs, yanked her back into reality.

"Leave her be," Marai yelled and threw herself against the dark cloaked figure, almost choking when she felt the cold chill of the dark force encompassing her.

"Ma ..rai," Aeryn managed to croak when she saw her small daughter attacking the Sith Lord with her small fists, but to no avail. Her daughter was shrieking and yelling and crying all at the same time, while her small fists attacked the legs of the dark man.

"Leave my mama alone!" Marai cried again, gasping and shivering from both exertion as well as the almost nauseating dark forces that swelled around her as she attacked the man. "Go away!"

Darth Vader looked down at the red-headed child, and beneath the mask something like amusement could have been visible. With the flick of his hand, he disengaged the child from his leg and watched uninterested as the girl crashed head first into the table. The choke from the woman in front of him brought his gaze back to Aeryn Palpatine Jadeen. Slowly he loosened the Force grip and yanked the woman up to her feet.

"You brute!" The moment Aeryn was free, she hauled herself against the Sith Lord only to be shoved back by the Force.

"You had a choice, Aeryn," Vader said. "You choose wrong."

Crouching beside her unconscious daughter, Aeryn tried to gauge the girl's condition through the Force, she was unharmed as far as she could feel and with a sigh, some of the panic at seeing her daughter crashing into the heavy table, subsided.

"You choose wrong, Anakin," Aeryn managed to squeeze out of her abused throat. "You had a choice too and we wouldn't be on opposing sites if you had not listened to the promises my father had made to you." She looked Vader up and down, then suppressed a shudder. "Look at you, Anakin, what has become of you?"

"Nothing for you to be concerned about. What has become of me is detrimental to your well being and that of your daughter. Another Sith Lord would not be as compassionate," Vader replied, his respirator making his voice sound even more ominous.

"Compassionate?" Aeryn questioned and dabbed the small ripple of blood from her daughter's forehead and temple. "A compassionate man would have never joined sides with Darth Sidious, a compassionate, truthful man would have never turned from the light side of the Force, a compassionate man would have not left the woman he loved and his friends behind ..."

"Enough!" With a flick of his hand, he increased the invisible chokehold on Aeryn's neck. "You had your say, woman. Now come with me and meet your father. He will be eager to hear that he has a granddaughter..."

"No!" Aeryn gathered all her physical and mental strength and threw everything she was against Vader through the Force. For a moment the Sith Lord staggered, losing the hold on the woman's neck and Aeryn managed to command her sabre into her hands. The customary snap hiss of the lightsabre made Vader grin beneath his mask.

"Do you really believe, you can best me in a match?" He asked, bemusement lacing his voice. "Aeryn, I always knew you as a sensible, practical woman. Do you believe you stand one chance against me?"

"I have to, or I die trying," Aeryn whispered and readied herself. She never saw it coming, one minute she took her stance and the next, the red blade of Vader's lightsabre ripped through her stomach, cutting through flesh, tissue and bones as if the body of the woman was nothing more than a piece of paper.

Undetached, Darth Vader looked upon the dead body of the woman he had once considered a friend. The broken stare out of her green eyes left him untouched as he picked up the little girl and gestured his men to follow him to the speeder.

A hyperjump away, in another star system, a young boy of six tossed and turned in his sleep. The twin suns of the planet had long set but the small boy could not find any rest. Distorted images of a small girl crying and a brave woman dying in a puddle of blood haunted his fitful sleep.

*Go away,* his lips seemed to whisper but as much as he tried, he could not ignore the small sobs of the girl. In his dream he saw her huddled in a darkened cell and although he was afraid of the dark, he crept further until he crouched in front of the child.

*Who are you?* His lips never moved as he questioned the child who looked up at him with huge pools of green eyes.

*I don't know,* the girl hiccuped and wiped the tears away. * Who ... who are you? I want my mama.*

The small boy shook his head, not eager to tell the girl what he had seen and felt. Awkwardly he petted the small child's shoulder, feeling the shiver coursing through the almost frail body. *Are you lost then?*

The girl looked up at him and with a shake of her head both in affirmation and denial, she started to cry softly again. *Where am I?*

*You are ... on Tatooine, I think,* the small boy replied softly, feeling the first stirrings of protectiveness towards the child. *I'm with my aunt Beru and uncle Owen, we live near Anchorhead.*

Outside of the dark room where the two children sat huddled together, voice and footsteps could be heard and with a united gasp the children turned when the door was thrown open and silhouetted against the light a dark cloaked figure appeared in the door way.

With a terrified cry, the small boy woke up, thrashing his legs against the confines of his light duvet cover, his heart racing wildly. As if from afar he could still hear the small voice of the girl.

*My name is ... Marai ... don't forget me ....*

"NO!" the boy yelled and panting heavily he buried his face in his hands as he pulled his knees up. He shivered for several standard minutes, taking big gasps of cool night air into his starved lungs as he tried to banish the image of the dark cloaked figure in his mind.

"Luke?" the soft voice of his aunt yanked him out of his fright and with huge blue eyes the small boy looked up. "Oh sweeting, did you have a bad dream?"

Only able to nod, Luke buried his face in Beru Lars' bosom. The soothing noises she made calmed him somewhat, but he could not forget the small girl ... could not forget the shock of red curls or the devastation in her green eyes.

"Marai," he whispered as he fell asleep.