Summary: About 10 years before ANH, so about 10 years after Anakin's turn to the dark side, Vader suit and all. Vader is commanded by the Emperor to personally oversee the massacre of the Nubians. But what happens when a painfully familiar family, the Naberrie's (with no Padmé) appear suddenly, throwing Vader back into his haunting past? What will Vader do?
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A Warm Breeze in the Snow Storm
The Command of the Emperor
His knees ached from kneeling for so long on the holo-transmission platform of the Executor. Even cybernetic limbs couldn't last comfortably in this position of servitude for a long period of time. Yet he ignored the pain in his mechanical extensions as his eyes widened in surprise behind his dark mask.
"Yes," the Emperor replied, staring hard at his apprentice over the live video link. "I want you to oversee it… personally." He sneered, "I don't want you to hide in your ship in the planet's atmosphere."
Darth Vader clenched his gloves firsts, hatred and anger cursing through what was left of his veins. "Master, I assure you, I have no reason to hide from any planet anywhere."
"This wipeout of a planet that held such an emotional meaning to you will be a fitting way to punish you for your failure on Alderaan."
Vader's rage intensified tenfold. He knew that it wasn't his fault that the recent inspections on Alderaan had not been as in-depth as his master and he had wanted. That trickster Bail Organa had used loop holes in the law that even Vader hadn't known about to restrict the Empire's avid interest in the planet. Both of the Dark Lords were sure that there was some involvement of the rebel alliance with Alderaan, but even they could not go to the large scale drastic measures that they wanted to use without Senatorial permission. They were left to use undercover spies and small scale, off the record assaults to achieve what little information they had gathered. It was no matter, though. Lord Sidious had informed his apprentice of his plans to rid the galaxy of the Senate once and for all. It would just take time. Too much time for Vader's liking, but he had learned the hard way to not argue with his master. Besides, he still hated politics—he always had, and always would.
"There is no such emotional meaning to me, Master. Naboo is simply a planet that did not heed the power and warning of the Empire, and so must be dealt with."
"Oh, I'm quite sure it will be enough to destroy whatever traces of Skywalker have lingered in you over the past ten years."
"There are no traces left of him to destroy."
The twist grin on Sidious's face disappeared, leaving behind only a look of malevolence. "You will stop arguing with me now, Lord Vader. It would be wise, my friend."
"I am under your command, My Master."
The dark smile returned to the elder being's pale, wrinkled face. "I know." He slumped back in his black throne, the one which he had issued such terrifyingly powerful orders from, with an air for his apprentice to carry on with business.
"Very well," Vader replied, forcing himself to sound calm. "I will oversee the capture and storage of the Nubians personally." The words came out monotonous, a large contrast to what he was truly feeling. "Where would you prefer me to start, My Lord?" He had a pretty good idea of where.
The emperor had the twisted humor to pretend to think for a few moments before replying.
Vader managed to swallow. He had some how been able to forget the name of the beautiful capital city of Naboo. Just hearing the appellation of the city, even from the lips of a man so wicked, flooded a well of memories he did not like remembering. They came to the surface in an icy, drenching wave. However, Lord Vader had spent a considerable amount of time over the past ten years learning how to hide his emotions from his master. He evoked that skill now.
"Yes, My Master."
The emperor seemed to shrug his shoulders under all the dark robes he wore. What could be seen of his face from under his hood appeared to look thoughtful, a rare look for the small, menacing man.
"The Nubians," he mused, "such kind people. Such kind people who helped bring me to ultimate power, if you remember." He smiled threateningly as he watched Vader tense. Darth Vader did not like to remember, obviously. Emperor Palpatine drove the knife in a little harder. "Noooo, noooo. That was you, wasn't it, Lord Vader? You brought me to power."
"I followed my master's instructions," Darth Vader replied briskly, not liking where this conversation was suddenly going.
"Oh, now what master might that have been?" The man on the screen did not bother to hide his wicked smile.
Lord Vader stood tall-- well, as much as he could while kneeling-- refusing to let the Emperor affect him. "The only master Darth Vader has ever had."
The emperor sunk back more into his grand, black chair, the Coruscant skyline behind him. "Very good answer, Vader. Good boy."
Vader clenched his fists tighter than ever. He was being treated like a dog. The Sith Lord didn't like it.
"The capture of Nubians, My Lord?" Even he heard the obviously forced calmness in his voice this time.
But Emperor Palpatine continued as if he hadn't heard him. "But… if it wasn't you who brought me to power… and if it wasn't the Nubians… then, now let me think back much farther in time… it must have been a certain young woman."
"The capture, My Lord!"
He seemed not to listen and sat up a little. "Let me see now… a young, naïve queen… let me place her name…"
"The capture on Naboo, My Lord!"
The Emperor, who had been looking off into space, turned and stared directly at Lord Vader.
"Perhaps you know the name of the last senator of the Republic from Naboo." He was taunting him, seeing how much anger and frustration he could create in his dark apprentice.
It was a game his master had played before, but never, never on this subject, or anything close to it. The round-a-bout mentions of… his former Jedi master had occurred more than once, but never about… her.
Needing to escape from those dangerous thoughts, Vader looked right back at his master, letting the anger and fury fuel his rage, erasing the thoughts from his mind that he did not want his master to read.
"No, My Lord, I cannot. All I know on the subject is that you needed to be in power, and you were brought into it. The galaxy needed you to bring peace when the Republic was being ripped apart, and you fulfilled the duty. The New Order has thrived under your leadership."
The Emperor seemed satisfied with his answer, and reclined in his chair once more. He even smiled… if you could call that a smile.
After a moment, his face returned to the usual dull, talking-about-business-now look. "Take care of the most important citizens first. Work your way down. I want everyone sorted into camps—even the lowest peasants." His snickered returned with a faint 'smile'. "Such kind people, the Nubians…. such kind people…" His lightface slowly turned to stone. His yellow eyes were hard and piercing. "Slaughter them."
"Yes, I changed my mind. I don't want the important ones in camp. No—" hepaused again, "put all the politically important ones in camps… for now. I'll deal with them later." His eyes, if possible, appeared even more dangerous. He continued, "Anyone outside the political circle," he waved his hand carelessly, "kill them."
"Perhaps it would be better if we limited our annihilations of the people of the planet." It was Darth Vader talking, no one else. "My Lord, once the rest of the galaxy hears that Your Highness wiped out almost the entire population of a peaceful, rich planet, the number of fools within the Rebellion may increase," he finished.
"You mean, once the galaxy hears who you wiped out, Lord Vader."
"SILENCE!" The Emperor had a frustrated, angry look on his face. Even through all the billons miles of space in between them, he could feel that his apprentice was also speaking with only business in mind. "The Rebellion is nothing more than a nuisance! They will be crushed!" To add to his heated short speech he slammed his clenched fist on his armchair. Then he paused, breathing heavily. "But… I don't need this nuisance to grow by even one number, no matter if this idiotic resistance will be destroyed within the very near future. Lord Vader," he cleared his throat, a disgusting sound, "you will only put half of the non-politically involved population to death. Split all major cities in two. Half will life, half will die. Those involved in the political circle are to be put into camps. Those living in the isolated country areas may... live." He finished his words gruffly, almost reluctantly, his low voice trembling.
"As you wish, My Lord." Vader bowed deeply to his master on the video screen. "Is there anything more, My Master?"
The Emperor's yellow eyes seemed to dart briefly, as he thought if there was anything else he could command of his servant. Eventually, his eyes narrowed on the view screen into dangerous slits.
"Do not fail me again, Lord Vader."
Vader bowed again, and the connection was broken.