10

The Heart of Lord Vader

Prologue

An unexpected spark graced Palpatine's yellow eyes, the corner of his mouth twitched upward for a second, reveling an emotion long forgotten by the self-appointed Monarch of the Galaxy. Excitement crept over him like a plague of locust. He exhaled slowly, rubbing the leathery skin of his left hand and looking past the kneeling figure bathed in blue light. The officer was forgotten, his report irrelevant, even useless at the moment. Palpatine turned off the Holo without acknowledging the report, forgetting about it completely and turning his attention to The Boy.

It was not the first time he had visions about The Boy. Today was the third time but the most vivid yet; it strengthened his believe in the revelation. The Boy was strong in the Force, innocent and pure with an open heart. A clean slate, uncorrupted by greed and lust, unbound by the doctrinal teachings of the Jedi Order, he was free to be molded into the perfect apprentice.

"A diamond in the rough, indeed…a diamond in the rough." Palpatine smiled unreserved this time, he walked to the large window in his office and looked outside onto the large city-planet underneath him. The smooth flow of traffic and the hypnotizing effect of the neon lights always calmed his mind, he had to be patient. The Sith Lord smiled again, if he had learned anything in his long life, it was that one must always practice patience. Untamed emotions and passionate outbursts had no room in his world. Palpatine was calm and collected, above all had all the time in the world and therefore could sit still and watch the events unfold through the will of the Force.

The Boy would come to him one day that was certain, when and how Palpatine did not know.

"The Son of Vader!" a pleasant shiver slithered down his scrawny spine.

Chapter One.

Naimah Jamari Vaninadh

I

Drawing on the Force around her and closing herself within that bubble, Naimah Jamari stood on the stage of the Imperial Opera House. Face painted in her native colors of gold and blue, and with arms delicately crossed over her head she waited for the audience to recognize the shift in the Force. The music played softly in the background first, getting louder by each passing moment, drawing the audience into her world. At the precise moment when they were ready, Naimah opened her mouth and let out the first sound bursting her bubble, flooding the audience with raw emotion. Simultaneously they all gasped for air, she brought them to the brink of tears, overwhelming them with the sense raw exuberant joy, pain, fear and love. Naimah sang, letting herself dissolve into the living Force, drawing power from her music and letting her energy flow outward.

Fascinated by the display, Emperor Palpatine watched the young woman from his private balcony. His eyes were fixated on the girl, "Extraordinary, the Force is strong with her. Who is she?"

"Naimah Jamari Vaninadh, your Excellency. She is an artist from the moon of Fathomer. This is her first visit to Imperial Center" the Moff smiled in Palpatine's direction, knowing the Emperor rarely took interest in individuals unless there was a highly interesting reason behind his curiosity.

"I wish to speak with her after the performance," Palpatine stood up and motioned his red guards to follow behind. "Bring her to my private chambers."

"As you wish, your Excellency." Moff Saffett El, stayed behind enjoying the performance, a sense of tranquility lay over him whilst Naimah finished her act.

II

He could feel her sense in the Force as soon as she stepped into the room; she was guarded and did not let him probe her easily. Followed by a clumsy young man, uncomfortable in his own skin and terrified of the Emperor, Naimah walked to the throne the same way she would walk onto a stage. Palpatine paused. There was something unusual about the girl's aura, like she could see through darkness, like she was once part of a distilled cloud.

"I enjoyed your performance. You should be rewarded; it has been a long time since I heard such sounds." He took on his grandfatherly voice and leaned forward in his chair, "You have a gift," he purred.

"It was my honor, your Majesty," she said simply, taking her bow for the Monarch.

"Come closer," he baited, "let me take a look at you."

She stepped into the light reviling her face, blue eyes valiantly meeting his yellow stare. If he hadn't been the Master of Deception that he was, Darth Sidious would have gasped at the sight before him. She had the face of a ghost; it was not possible.

"Ah…most interesting," he sneered taking her face between his bony fingers. Abruptly he let go of her turning his attention for the first time to the young man standing behind her.

"And who is this at your side?" he directed his raised brow at the squirming young man.

"This is my husband, Lee Vaninadh." Naimah smiled protectively in her husband's direction. "He manages my affairs."

"Husband?" Palpatine's brain feverishly thought ahead, no longer taken back by the girl's appearance. "Yes of course. I'm requesting a private performance at my palace tomorrow evening. My guards will inform you of the details."

"It is my honor, Majesty" she took a deep bow of respect, subconsciously subduing her feelings. Not wanting Palpatine to read her like a Holo file, she calmed herself and surrendered to the protective flow of the living Force.

"You are dismissed," leaning back in his chair, the Sith Lord disappeared in darkness.

"A true honor. Thank you. Thank you." Lee bowed excitedly several times before he was escorted out, followed by the calm steps of his wife.

III

Emperor Palpatine was not disturbed by this new revelation; his brain worked vehemently trying to make sense of what was happening. The more he thought about the girl, the more he was convinced that she was the solution he was looking for. She had to be the one, the one to bear the child of Vader. He was convinced; the Force had brought her to him.

'Remarkable,' he thought, 'the resemblance is truly remarkable.' The Sith flipped a switch making his guard appear in blue light.

"Call Lord Vader! I'm inviting him to the performance tomorrow."

IV

Dressed in elaborate performance attire and heavy face paint, Naimah sang before the Emperor and his guests, including Darth Vader. Her song was more subdued than the evening before, the effect more soothing on the listeners. She led them on a journey of tranquility and calm, letting the Force wash over their strained thoughts, making them relax.

Under the protection of his cloak Palpatine was observing the reactions, particularly tuning his senses to the dark figure that was standing menacingly beside him. Darth Vader followed his Master's suit, watching the reactions of the men in the room. He was disgusted by what he saw; decorated generals and respectable politicians subdued by the power of a song.

"What are you sensing, Lord Vader?" Palpatine asked, never taking his eyes of Naimah.

"The Force is strong with her, my Master" Vader's mechanical voice breathed. "But I sense no fear, no anger. She is useless to us," he concluded.

"Ah, but she can be turned. Anyone can, the power of the Dark Side is strong," he turned his head to address Vader, "as you know, my Apprentice."

"She could be dangerous," the Dark Lord chose to ignore his Master's baiting. "We must kill her if she refuses to join our side."

The Emperor refocused his attention back on Naimah; she was finishing her song. Not that he wasn't disappointed by his men's weak minds but it was completely irrelevant at the time. Palpatine was prioritizing, The Boy was more important. He would have to set things into motion, one way or another.

"Patience, she will serve us."

"Yes, my Master," obediently Vader replied, bowing before his Master.

Naimah bowed and stood waiting for her orders; her performance had finished. A nervous Lee stood in the back, shuffling his feet and looking very nervous.

"Excellent," the Emperor applauded. "You and your husband are invited to dinner, be ready in one hour."

V

At dinner, Naimah wore a simple gray gown; a shimmery veil covered her face, as it was the fashion of the moment. Her icy blue eyes shone cautiously over the veil at the men around her. Palpatine sat at the head of a long table; Vader was on his left side and Naimah as the guest of honor was at his right.

"You have a gift my dear. Tell me about your career," the Emperor inquired.

"I've been an artist all my life," she began. "I express my feelings through music, dance, actually any form of art."

"Don't be modest."

"The audience seems to pick up on my emotions, I'm fortunate in that sense," she replied piercing a piece of meat on her fork and taking a bite. The food at Palpatine's table was excellent, but nobody seemed to notice much. Lee was quiet, avoiding eye contact with anybody but his wife who smiled at him lovingly. The few guests talked amongst each other, but had their ears and eyes constantly on the Emperor. Only Vader was stoically silent, a granite wall void of thought itself.

"You are using the Force to convey your emotions to others; it is very effective," he continued. "You are good. Is he not, Lord Vader?"

"Yes, my Master."

The Emperor leaned back in joyful anticipation of the next moment. The words that followed were drawn out; he relished the moment reading both Naimah and Vader's feelings.

"I never understood women's fashion. Take of your veil; let us look at your face." He did not bother disguising his obvious pleasure at uttering the word 'face', she had no choice but oblige not knowing the importance of the moment, but feeling the Force heavy on her shoulders making her hesitate for a second.

Slowly she unhooked the clasps and let the thin fabric fall into her hands. At last she looked up, not at the Emperor but the Dark Lord sitting by his side.

"Ah…much better. Don't you thing so, too Lord Vader?"

Everything around him stopped, time stood still for a moment and he forgot where he was. The Emperor was gone, forgotten; his contemptuous words meant nothing. Darth Vader almost lost his composure.

'Padme. Padme. Padme!' he screamed inside. But all his mechanical voice could muster was, "Yes…my…Master."