Hi, all. Thank you very much for the kind words. Comments are greatly appreciated you know how we all like feedback. Here is another chapter for you, short but sweet. I hope you enjoy.

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Chapter Three

A Shell of a Man

I

Once Lee and Naimah were alone, Lee lost his control. He was pacing up and down the large bedroom with his hands on his head. Once in a while he would stop and look at his wife, sake his head, than continue cursing under his breath. All the while he was picturing her doing the unmentionable, standing over the body of her dead mother. Lee's world was crashing down on him; his lovely wife whom he adored could not have done something so vile. He pictured her in her wedding gown, beautiful and happy standing by his side and repeating the sacred vows. To love and to hold, the cleric had said while she looked lovingly into his eyes, smiling and squeezing his hand. He looked at her now; her hands were folded neatly in her lap, stranger's hands that he did not recognize.

Naimah was calm, which was her nature. Without interfering, she sat on her end of the bed and let him vent. She did not try to calm him with the Force, he knew she could do it, but she did not try.

"I don't understand," he began. "I just don't understand. How long have we been married?" without stopping to give her time to respond he went on wildly, shouting, not at her but shouting to let himself comprehend. "I'll tell you how long. Four years! And all this time, all this time you couldn't find time to tell me YOU KILLED YOUR MOTHER?!" He spat the words in her direction, making her now the target of his rage. Never before had he yelled at his wife, but Palpatine's revelation had sent him over the edge. He was afraid, not of her, but of loosing her. The thought of her being taken away, paralyzed him with apprehension.

"I'm sorry," she simply replied to his outburst. "It was a family secret; I didn't want to revisit the past. I'm a different person now. I have repented; I have put it behind me," trying to explain she put her head into his lap, covering her head with his hands, in an attempt to close the gap between them. "Please, try to understand."

"How?" he replied, pushing her away. "How can I understand, you didn't explain it to me? You never mentioned it!"

"Please," she pleaded. "It is in the past. "I want to leave it there. It took me so long to recover, and then to forgive myself, I can't go back there, ever."

"Is this what all the meditations are for?" he asked looking directly at her. "You are trying to calm yourself, trying not to have a relapse? Am I in any danger?"

"No, you are safe. I would never hurt you. My meditations are to bring me inner peace," she reasoned. "When I'm calm, I can see and control the Force. I've been practicing all my life, but there are so many things I don't know. The more I learn, the more I find out how little I actually know."

Slowly, Lee calmed down and let himself be comforted by her arms. He did not want to think of her in that horrible way ever again. "What about the Emperor?" he asked. "Why didn't you tell me about his offer?"

Her softness from before was replaced with an austerity he did not like. She moved away from him slightly, still holding onto the sleeves of his jacket. "The Emperor is dangerous. I don't want to work for him. I think it would be good for us to stay low for a while. Maybe we should cancel the tour."

"I don't know. All I know is; you don't refuse the Emperor."

"I will never work for him," she said after a pause. He pulled her closer, holding her for a long time. Each of them contemplated the situation in their own way, comforting one another silently.

II

It was one of the rare evenings when it rained on the City Planet of Coruscant, now renamed; Imperial Center. The rain was visible through the large windows in Palpatine's Palace. Naimah attuned her senses to the sound of the windswept water beating against the plexi-glass. Dressed in a simple turquoise gown, adorned by a large golden belt, she gave an intimate dance performance for the Emperor and his guests; among them was Darth Vader. As she danced, Naimah used the Force to command the instruments to play a despondent melody of a lost love.

She moved slow and graceful, almost floating, her feet touching the ground only for a fraction of a second most of the time. When she was done, she felt her audience, everybody was moved, all the generals and politicians inundated in tranquility. Everyone was touched, everyone except the Emperor and the dark menacing figure by his side. Palpatine radiated cold dark space, no hatred, no love, no fear. Nothing.

Vader was a granite wall. It seemed like nothing penetrated his armor. Naimah lifted her veil and tried to probe him, looking beyond the mask. Nothing. She probed deeper, and deeper. Inside the Dark Lord, at the bottom of an empty pit, she felt something long lost. Rage? No, it was pain, tremendous anguish buried beneath layers of emptiness.

Her head was hurting, she tried to go deeper, there was something there, something, but she did not know what.

"Well done," Palpatine's voice rang unreal in her ears. "You may leave us now. Lord Vader, escort Miss Jamari and her husband back to their hotel, Imperial Center is dangerous this time of night."

"Yes, my Master." The Dark Lord replied ushering Naimah and Lee out at once. He did not speak; he did not even look in the couple's direction. Naimah tried to probe deeper into this dark shell of a man, but she could not make a connection. There was a disturbance in the Force, she sensed a trap but she could not say where the danger was coming from.

"Lord Vader, why do you think the Emperor sent you to escort us?" she asked after a long uncomfortable silence.

"Perhaps he thinks I will be able to persuade you to serve the Empire," he hissed a little more harshly than he had intended. Softening his voice he added, "He thinks you are valuable."

"What about you, do you think I'm valuable?"

To this Darth Vader smiled viciously underneath his mask, the act caused the skin around his mouth to tighten painfully. "The Emperor always thinks three steps ahead; I do not know his plan. However, I can tell you, refusing him is not an option."

"I already did. What will he due to us?"

"There are many options," he began, stretching every word to emphasize the meaning. "None of which I will discuss on record."

Finding courage at the thought his wife would end up in the clutches of a monster like Darth Vader, Lee stepped forward ignoring the menacing figure in front of him to address his wife. "We must accept! Naimah, you cannot anger the Emperor."

"I will do what I must," she calmly stated. "Lord Vader, you can tell the Emperor I will be glad to serve him as an artist any time he wishes, but that is all I am."

"I am very curious why the Emperor is so interested in you," Vader told her truthfully. "The Force is strong with you, but you are untrained, no match to me or even his royal guards. Tell me, what powers to you possess?"

Unafraid she looked directly at him, unwilling to divert her gaze from his masked face. "I would be happy to perform for you, Lord Vader."

Impressed by her boldness and courage, Darth Vader took her up on her offer. "Come to my Palace tomorrow. Alone."