Edge of the Darkness
It is not a place. It is a state of being. Light and dark are meaningless there. It is a state of abeyance. It is a state of suspension. To be exiled to oblivion is to be lost to all, to be forgotten.
This is the power of the dark.
For the dark is generous, but more importantly…the dark is patient.
Light exists as long as fuel feeds it...
Even stars burn out.
And when they do…in the midst of oblivion…at the edge of the darkness...
At the insubstantial edges of the Outer Rim, in areas uncharted and unvisited by the common traveler, an otherwise insignificant point in space twisted and churned briefly before exploding in a shower of light and spewing forth a small vessel.
It was a small ship, having only enough room for a small command crew and one or two passengers and their cargo. As the ship maneuvered away from its hyperspace arrival point, its lower two stabilizers folded upwards and met neatly at the top to join a third dorsal fin. The occupants of the vessel were hidden behind an opaque rectangular viewport that seemed to swallow what little ambient light was available in this relatively lightless part of the galaxy.
As the ship drew closer to its destination, an invisible beam grasped hold of it and guided it to the designated hangar bay at the equator of the massive metal orb that hung like an ominous moon in the blackness of space.
A moment later, the tiny vessel vanished, consumed by the immense metal sphere.
She stared briefly at her reflection in the gleaming metal ramp before raising her cowl to cover her face. Time had been kind to her, she mused. Her hips had remained as slender as they had been when she escaped that hellish planet. Thin lines had formed along the corners of her eyes and crevices had grown into her high cheekbones. Despite these minor imperfections, her lithe form was just as firm and toned as it had always been. Altogether satisfactory. Smiling to herself, she turned ever so slightly to the copilot and nodded curtly.
The lowering of the ramp was interminable. She had never been one to be patient in anything, and waiting for the largely ceremonial unveiling of the hangar bay served only to grate on her nerves. Remembering her recent teachings, she drew on that irritation and turned it into rage. The fiery power charged into her and she had to force herself to suppress the glee that it brought from showing on her face.
Show no emotion.
Nodding inwardly, she wrapped the soothing frozen blanket of control around the fire and smothered it for now.
She stepped onto the now fully lowered ramp in even, measured steps, ignoring the rows of gleaming black-armored troops standing at attention in some vain attempt to impress her. The spotless obsidian floors on which they stood made it seem as if the soldiers grew from the deck itself. Like the rest of the vast ship, they were inconsequential. All that held her attention was the tall, elegant man who waited patiently at the bottom of the gangway.
"My Lord," the Admiral said with the perfect clipped Coruscanti accent she so despised. His bow was slight but respectful. "Welcome. The quarters you requested are right this way."
She nodded. "Very good, Tarkin," she replied, noting with some surprise how raspy her voice sounded from several months of self-imposed disuse. He pursed his lips briefly and tilted his head and then turned to exit the bay. She chose to say nothing more as she followed alongside Tarkin, noting with pleasure his apparent effort to make it seem that it was she doing the leading.
They rode the turbolift in silence, the Admiral only periodically chancing a sidelong glance at her through narrowed eye-lids during the short journey. When the doors slid apart to the spacious room, Tarkin took a long stride into the room. As she crossed the threshold, she braced herself and ignored the screaming warning in her head.
Her cheek exploded.
She twisted her head away from the blow, then yanked the cowl from her bald skull and glared at her attacker.
Wilhuf Tarkin's face was completely unreadable. His hands were clasped neatly behind his back, his uniform immaculate on his lithe frame. The only indication that he had just struck her was the high arch of his right eyebrow.
"Why did you do that?" she snarled.
"It would be best in the future, my dear, that you refer to me by my proper rank in front of my men," he replied conversationally.
"They are nothing more than mindless clones! What does it matter? Besides, to them, you're my [isubordinate[/i! I can call you what I want!" His lips thinned. She winced inwardly as his face paled. When she felt no new warning, she stepped toward him. Tentatively, she used the backs of her fingers to caress his cheek. "Let's not fight," she whispered as huskily as she could manage.
"Perhaps later, Asajj," Tarkin snapped, grabbing her wrist and pulling it away from his face. He walked to the transparisteel port and looked out into the black nebula. "Are your preparations complete?"
"I would not be here otherwise." She moved to stand beside him, excited by the prospect of what his question might mean. "The station is ready?" She could barely contain the elation in her voice.
He placed a hand on his semitransparent reflection. It was as tender a gesture she had ever seen him make. "Yes," he replied. "Had I not been forced to funnel my funding through so many secret programs over the last two decades we would have been complete long ago." He sighed and turned away from her. "You are certain of him?"
"He is no Palpatine, but he will do."
"No one can compare to the Chancellor."
She snaked her arms around him from behind and leaned her head against his back. "There is no past. We must focus on the future. Our plans are in place. He will do."
"He only need play his role."
"I told you that he will!" Asajj snapped and pulled away. "What of your clones? Do you have them under control?"
Tarkin turned and looked at her sternly before replying. "The ones that remain from the war continue to believe that they are assisting in the development of the ultimate deterrent weapon." He smiled. "Of course, that is true to a point. The ones we are breeding here on the station have been modified to be loyal to us, first and foremost. Our Kaminoan guests assure me that we will have exceeded our troop strength requirements within months."
"Everything really is in place, then," she whispered.
"You sound surprised, my dear."
"I have waited far too long to exact my revenge on the Jedi." Her lips curled into a snarl.
Tarkin shook his head. "There are larger concerns, Asajj, than your personal and irrational vendetta against the Jedi Order. If I didn't know better, I would think that there is more to this than just the loss of Palpatine."
Asajj held her breath.
Show no emotion.
"The Chancellor was my mentor and my friend," she said at length. "You know this or you would never have sought me out."
"I confess, when he provided me your information, I had never thought it would be relevant." Tarkin looked back out the window into the blackness. "He had always seemed so…invincible."
"We are hand-selected, you and I," Asajj whispered. She slid next to him and stared at the side of his face. He did not turn to look at her. "We are personally chosen to see his vision complete. Part of his vision was the elimination of the Jedi. The fact that this will please me greatly is only a personal bonus."
"Indeed," Tarkin replied, keeping his attention focused beyond the boundaries of the battle station. "Well you shall have your vengeance, Asajj Ventress, of that you can be assured."