A long time ago, in a galaxy that never was, an Empire of millenia reaches the peak of its powers. It is a time of peace and prosperity for the obedient serfs of the Empire; and for the not-so-obedient, it is a time that always ends quickly.

Against this backdrop of peace, prosperity and order, Darth Vader - Dark Lord of the Sith, Apprentice and Heir to the Emperor - hunts down the one thing that a Sith should never, ever claim.


kaleidoscope.
ka·lei·do·scope
n.

A tube-shaped optical instrument that is rotated to produce a succession of symmetrical designs by means of mirrors reflecting the constantly changing patterns made by bits of colored glass at one end of the tube.
A constantly changing set of colors.
A series of changing phases or events: a kaleidoscope of illusions.

Greek kalos, beautiful + eidos, form.


1, Waking Dreams

The bounty hunter arrived almost an hour after the appointed time for the rendezvous.

Vader watched the Mandalorian descend from his ship and breathed.

Jango Fett did not bother to apologize. "I have your bounty."

The hot rush of anticipation soon to be sated, was more than enough to counter the long, cold, furious hour.

The exchange was quick. Vader gave the suspicious mercenary his coins, almost smiling at the thought that Fett was trying to 'secure' himself from him, Vader. If Vader had the mind too, he would have destroyed the bounty hunter with, literally, his mind alone.

Then --- his prize was brought forward. Fett carried her over his shoulder, and brought her to Vader. As she was placed in his arms, he could feel the rush of blood behind his ears, could feel the soft breath from her body, his every senses had come alive, magnified.

"What did you do to her?" he asked suspiciously, feeling the unnaturalness of her slumber acutely.

"I fed her." Vader's eyes all but drilled holes into Fett's helmet; quickly, the bounty hunter elaborated: "Harmless sedative. She'll be awake in an hour or less."

The Sith turned his eyes from the bounty hunter to his prize. He looked into her face and felt his soul shatter with realization.

Mine.

The bounty hunter's ship lifted from the ground, disappeared into the air above.

Vader hardly noticed. He had fallen to his knees, carefully placing her body so that her head rested against the crook of his arm, and his free hand could touch her.

Could touch her. He hesitated, his mind shouting the words at him – "Unworthy! Monster!" – and his fingers shook where they hovered inches from her cheeks. He could feel her breath against his fingertips.

"You're mine," he whispered, still not touching her. The words sounded hollow in his head and he felt anger and fear grip him. His hand left its undecided position above her face, and skimmed over the line of her cloak, running along the cloth until he found her wrist. With swift determination – knowing that if he hesitated, he would lose his nerve – he gripped it hard, feeling the fine bones in her hand, binding her to him.

"You're mine!" He shouted furiously, bending so low over her that his hair scraped against the pale skin of her forehead. Tears filled his throat and he swallowed hard. "You belong to me!"

She stirred in his arms, murmuring something, but she did not wake.

The little murmur was his undoing. Her voice, so soft, so sweet, so pure.

You monster. You vile, murderous, damned –

He closed his mind to his own counsel and he captured all that soft, sweet, purity with his mouth.

''

She fell out of sleep, shaking violently.

"Padmé? Padmé, are you alright?"

The hand reached for her, and wildly, she struck at it, feeling the claustrophobia of a caged animal.

There was the rustle of clothes as more people came to her.

Strong arms went round her, holding her against a broad chest until she had stilled.

"Shhh… Shhh…"

Slowly, consciousness came to her. A familiar room, high walls, wide, open windows. Not a landing platform high above Coruscant where a thief had claimed her.

"Wake up. It was only a bad dream."

She nodded bleakly, tears filling her eyes.

Soft hair brushing against her forehead.

She pulled away from the restraining hold and her hands flew to her head, brushing away the sensation like clinging cobwebs on her skin. She looked at her hands and froze. Slowly, she lowered them to her lap.

Her friends, her charges flocked around her on the bed.

"…safe here…"

"…back to sleep…"

Their voices rose and fell around her, like the beating wings on the humanoid creatures on Iego but Padmé paid them no heed. All her focus was on her own hands, now spread open, pink against her white gown.

Like flowers, the bruises were blossoming on her wrist.

tbc