Characters: Darth Vader, Leia, Bail Organa
Summary: During an Alderanni celebration of the dead, Vader sees a ghost of his past.
The usual disclaimers apply. George Lucas owns it all; I am not making any money on this.
The Shifting Veil
Across the gold and black tiled floor of the Grand Imperial Ballroom, once the crown jewel of decadence and greed of the Republic, moved hundreds of elegantly, but plain dressed Alderaani, who had found themselves far from their home world on the last night of the Souhayn.
Were they on Alderaan, the last night of the seven day remembrance of the dead would have ended in glorious costumed balls. But on Coruscant, under the ever-watchful eye of the Emperor's agents, the celebration was stifled.
The adults watched and spoke silently among themselves, networking and finding moments of laughter between sharp stares from uniformed officers. They pretended, briefly, that they are not aware of the white armored figures toting blasters about the corridors.
Even the sacred was crushed under the Imperial thumb.
While most preferred laying offerings at small family shrines and near the burial sites of long lost loved ones, an act that even the fearsome Stormtroopers could not interfere with. Most Alderaani preferred the more gregarious festivities.
Though the adults chose to be subdued, their children were less inclined, racing among their parents and fellow homeworlders in expensive costumes imitating the dead.
Passing among the celebrants was a young girl, dressed as the great holofilm actress Tiata Murr. She spun about in her flowing white dress and blowing kisses at many of the wealthy young Alderaani lords. They laughed at the girl's silly performance before returning to their Chimbak wine and conversation.
All too human faces danced about behind masks of the familiar and the grotesque as children paraded boldly about as their heroes.
At least, until the party, with its metallic confetti, prizes and social gossip, dwindled and faded in the late hours when the curtain between the living and dead shifted once more separating the worlds for another year.
"Saluta!" voices cheered from the grand balcony overlooking the Alléan District, home to the most powerful citizens of Imperial society.
"My Lords," a warm voice rose. "Come, it is time for the Shifting Hour, when the dead walk among us."
"That is only a tale to frighten the children," a gentleman laughed as the group left the balcony, returning to the ballroom.
If they only knew the truth.
Standing motionless on a lesser balcony was a figure dressed in black staring out at the city below, but he did not see the life that flowed through the streets like blood through veins. All he saw was emptiness.
Darth Vader stared out, through an emotionless mask into the bright Coruscant night. He watched speeders zip passed, forever in a rush to get somewhere else. From the safety of distance, little had changed, at least not on the surface.
The elite still held sway, and beings still sought whatever pleasures they could afford. It was almost enough to drown out the pall that clung to the city world.
The Emperor's New Order had done little but polish the façade making it look bright and orderly, painted under a coat of military efficiency, but the corruption—the ugliness—that had plagued the Republic remained.
If he still controlled his breath, he would have sighed. With an internal growl, he brushed the burgeoning weakness off; such reflections were dangerous.
Palpatine had brought order to a dying Republic. He had wrested control from the greedy politicians and businessmen. That is what great men do…
He withdrew a step, retreating to the shadows of the darkened lounge.
Such idealism, he internally laughed. He had forgotten what it was to be young and naïve…to possess hope and joy and fulfillment.
On this night, when the memory of the dead, floated freely, he thought of the emptiness that permeated everything.
Even in the Force.
On one of the tall tables that lined the wall, he spied in the amber glow from the city that never truly knew darkness, a vase filled with a spray of tiny white flowers and a beautiful Naboo Aristois. The delicate red petals of the bloom belied its barbed stem.
He studied it from a distance, as if he had no right to stand so close to something so lovely.
It had been so long…he had forgotten what they smelled like. Not that he would ever know it again in this life.
The last word caught him.
Was this life?
The hollowness that consumed him where once there was warmth and joy, flesh, blood and…Padmé.
"No!" he roared. Invisible fingers reached out, sending the crystal vase and flower flying. Glass exploded as it smashed into the wall across the large room with such great force. Pedals, the deepest shades of red in the shadows, floated down like rain.
Vader clenched his fist, studying the destruction.
She does not walk among the living, not this night and not any other. The only spirits that haunted him were the memory of the dead and of those who should be dead
where she still lingers.
"Lord Vader," a voice said evenly. Though it did little to hide the fear that radiated out.
The dark lord turned to face a bright and upcoming officer in the Imperial Navy. "Yes, Major Jafries," he said.
The man's gaze shifted uncertainly. "Senator Organa's shuttle has arrived."