This is my first time writing in English so if you happen to spot any mistakes do not hesitate to point them out, I want to learn from them.
Any suggestion or remark leading to improvement (regarding any aspect of my writing and/or the story) is of course welcome. (Edit: I re-read the whole fic and I'm high-key ashamed of it. Oh well.)
(Needless to say, I do not, sadly, own the Star Wars universe nor any of its characters.)
"Doctor Aphra, I have need of you."
Without a second-thought, she caught the hand extended to her and breathed a sigh of relief as he quickly pulled her up. So she got to live another day, uh? Well, she'd drink to that later. For the time being, she needed to ascertain that she hadn't gotten herself into another mess. A bigger, deadlier mess. She finally spoke up :
"How can I be of assistance, ... your... uh... lordship, I guess?"
"Take me to your ship" he instructed coldly. Despite the rumours of his daunting reputation, she was still taken aback by his abrupt manner. But no one in their right mind would even dream of crossing Darth Vader, so she complied without another word.
He stowed his ship to the hull of the Ark Angel and she walked him in.
"Welcome aboard the Ark Angel, Sir Darth Vader. Big fan. Huge." Good Force, this was Darth Vader. On her ship. What now? " How can I help?"
"This is private business. I recently destroyed some of your reactivated droids. They impressed me."
Had she heard it right? Was Darth Vader praising her work? This was too good to believe.
"Thank you Mr Lord Vader."
Seeing as he remained silent, she did all the talking, all the while proceeding to unlock the personality matrix she had just recovered. She was going to need a few hours for that and there was no way she was starting another mission before it was done.
However a few hours were more than Vader's patience could withstand, so he took matters into his own hands and started tampering with the keyboard on her desk. Although she did have the nerve to protest, she was completely dumbfounded too see that he had actually managed to unlock the chip in just a few seconds.
"You... are even more interesting that I could have hoped, Sir Vader."
"Lord Vader", he corrected. Her impropriety was aggravating. Still, was that a compliment? He hadn't gotten many these past few years... "Continue."
She inserted the chip into the head of a silver protocol droid, which - quite disturbingly - was almost a carbon copy of C3PO. He merely watched as the newly awakened droid greeted them and introduced himself as Triple-Zero, making no effort to conceal his murderous thoughts. Aphra asked him to wake up a small droid she kept amidst a jumbled pile of boxes and spare parts.
That someone would go through all this trouble just to reactivate an astromech was beyond Vader, and he had no qualms about voicing his incredulity:
"All this effort for a simple astromech?"
"Not exactly," the doctor answered. "This is BT-1, a blastomech prototype". The droid, she explained, was an assassin in disguise, but its core identity could only comprehend an ancient language that she didn't speak, hence her need for Triple-Zero.
The protocol droid complied and woke Beetee. As soon as it was done, weapons of all sorts came out of the blastomech's stocky frame. Vader ignited his lightsaber, ready to strike, but Triple-Zero had the situation under control. Feeling that the danger had passed, Vader quickly hooked his saber back onto his belt.
Aphra, however, was having trouble keeping collected and simply fell down against the wall.
"Well, that's another activation survived." Come to think of it it, she felt quite ridiculous for complaining like this. "But who am I talking to? This must be a quiet day for you. Fitting in a meeting with me before getting back to your busy schedule of applying a jackboot to the throat of the rebels, eh?"
"You are... overly fond of speaking", he remarked. Well, yes, she was. She knew it already and she wasn't going to change.
"I'm nervous. I make my living reactivating weapons like this pair... and you make me nervous. There's something about tall, dark and able to kill me guys that makes a girl nervous". Hell, that sounded like a terrible pickup line. She innerly sneered at the realization. Seriously, who was suicidal enough to try that with Vader? But then who was suicidal enough to work that job? Rules didn't apply to her. Better step carefully, though.
"What do you want from me?"
"There was a time I had armies at my beck and call. That time has passed." right, so he was the dramatic type. Well, she could deal with that. "I need resources of my own. Private resources".
She was supposed to deliver the two droids to the droid Gotra, but it was obvious now she couldn't go through with that mission. It was boring, anyway. She wanted more out of life. More excitement and more danger. And there it was, facing her. He was her next mission. It got out of her mouth before she could think twice (which she actually never did).
"You're what I've been looking for all my life." She got up from the floor and looked up at him, wishing she could see the reaction hidden behind that inscrutable mask. "Whoa, that just gave me shivers", she whispered to herself. It only took a few seconds for her to regain her composure and ask for further details about the mission at hand. As it turned out, it wasn't just a blastomech and a protocol droid that he wanted; it was his own private army. There was only one place to find all those droids...
"How do you feel about a secret mission to Geonosis Lord Vader?"
"I have no feeling regarding Geonosis", he simply answered.
Liar, he berated himself. For after all those years, how could he forget? The mad race through the foundry, the shame of being caught and tied to that wretched pillar - to rescue Kenobi of all people, the butchery that had ensued, the duel with Dooku and that acute, searing pain he had hoped to never feel again. But more than anything, there was her. Her gentle, loving voice, bewitching brown eyes and soft lips. It was almost laughable that the day he'd lost his right arm was in fact one of the happiest he'd ever had.
His gaze fell back on the doctor, who was busy setting coordinates into the navigation computer. This felt familiar. Somehow, she felt familiar. She did, after all, bear a resemblance to his late wife, albeit a very slight one. However it was not this tiny detail that stirred his curiosity. Oddly enough, and despite the fact that he would never openly admit it, Aphra was radiating the same kind of confident and - dare he say it? - almost welcoming aura. Not confident, reckless, he corrected himself. Padme too was reckless, though, wasn't she? Yet it was utter nonsense to dwell on it. She was gone, gone because of him, and she would never come back. A swell of anger came over him, but was swiftly replaced by a crushing wave of despair and self-loathing. This mental torture was leading nowhere. Quite unlike his usual self, he slumped in the co-pilot seat.
She shot him a glance and opened her mouth as if to speak, but finally decided against it and went back to the task at hand. Good, he was in no mood for teasing, mindless chatter or even misplaced sympathy. But just as he thought she'd do him the favor of remaining silent she cast him another look.
"Everything allright, Mylord ?"
"I won't gratify that with an answer."
Wow, he definitely was a total grump. Didn't seem familiar with the concept of social skills. Without even thinking, she let out a loud sigh, which didn't fail to elicit an irritated wheeze from him. Well, she couldn't really tell if he was irritated or not, but that was how it sounded to her.
"What is it now?" he rumbled. Hell, she had to think of an excuse before he... wait, what would he do anyway? He'd said he had need of her, hadn't he? Might as well relax and stop trying to hold her tongue for now.
"Well, I'm a loud person, boss. Can I call you boss?"
"That is m..."
She cut him off before he had a chance to answer.
"So yeah, in case you wonder, you won't need to use any mumbo-jumbo-Force-stuff on my mind to know if I'm upset or whatever. You'll just know. Convenient, right?"
"I did n..."
"I mean I do tend to voice it all out, but that's really just words and noises and stuff. Other than that I'm pretty harmless. To people. And droids. Alright, not droids. I mean sometimes I do break stuff, but that's pretty much unintended. Or part of the job. Or collateral damage. Oh, and I broke a few buildings too, yeah, I did that..."
Force, she wasn't going to stop, was she? He clenched his fists waiting for her word-fever to stop, but apparently, she didn't need a conversation partner to keep babbling. This was going to be a looooooong trip. And she still kept talking. And talking. And talking.
"So, you know, that's how I found out about HK assassination units, except I didn't expect all those messed-up circuits to..." He could have sworn she was going to rant about how she had almost ruined another one of her missions as the incredibly rash person that she was, but he didn't get to verify the truth of his assumption, seeing as her unceasing prattle had finally lulled him into peaceful slumber.