Dita Naberrie was slowly pacing back and forth. She was a wealthy and well born young woman from the planet Naboo. She also had the distinct honor of being a distant cousin of the former Queen and Galactic Senator Padmé Amidala. Though Dita took great pride in telling people that she and the great Padmé Amidala were kin she had not really known her very well growing up. Except for state functions she's barely seen or spoken to her over the last eight years of her life.
When she had attended Padmé's funeral she had grieved, but it had been as much for Naboo's hero as for a family member.
Padmé had been one of those rare souls who'd truly wanted to change things for the better and who'd had the courage to fight for those beliefs. That heroic spirit had helped save Naboo from enslavement and had tried to save the republic during the civil war. Dita was also certain that it had led to her tragic death at far too young an age.
Dita truly admired the courage her cousin had possessed; while at the same time having absolutely no wish to emulate it. All she wanted was to live a nice quiet life. Her homeworld had been lucky. Following the short unpleasant occupation by the Trade Federation all the battles of the Clone Wars had taken place far from here. Naboo had been left completely untouched.
Even the fall of the republic had gone largely unnoticed.
Oh they heard stories about terrible things happening in other systems, but they were just stories. Naboo was not garrisoned and all of her old liberties and laws were still in place. There was a publicly elected Queen on the throne and life and business went on as usual. The economy was booming and everything was peaceful.
All the hard times were in the past and a bright future seemed to lie ahead.
Then, out of nowhere, she had been summoned here to the capitol. She had no idea why. She hadn't done anything and could not imagine what a member of the empire could want with her. As she paced she couldn't help but think about some of those stories. There were tales of whole villages and cities being razed. Of families being tortured for information on a suspected rebel. Of peaceful protesters butchered in the streets. Of stormtroopers turning blasters on whoever they pleased without consequence.
Such wild stories couldn't possibly be true.
The Emperor was a just and decent man. He had led the republic through never ending crisis as Supreme Chancellor and had been a model of decency and civility. He had only created the Galactic Empire to prevent the entire galaxy from falling into anarchy. He had publicly promised the Senate that once order was fully restored he would step down and hand over political power back to them.
If there were still disorders it was because the Emperor hadn't had the chance to fix them yet.
Somehow the thought did little to settle her nerves.
When at last the door to the reception area opened Dita stopped and turned about to face whoever it was who had summoned her here. She froze and her eyes widened as an imposing figure in masked helmet and flowing cape strode towards her. She was so taken aback she almost failed to notice the young boy who followed a few steps behind.
"L… Lord Vader!" She swiftly bowed low to him. As a noblewoman she was only expected to show this sort or reverence to the Queen. She thought it wise to show him the same level of respect given he had more tangible power than even the Queen of Naboo did. "I… I am honored. How may I serve you?"
"Rise Lady Dita Naberrie." Lord Vader spoke in his resonant authoritative voice.
She did so. Her eyes darted from the Sith Lord to the handsome child standing behind him. The boy was smiling at her without a hint of fear or concern. It was a bizarre sight, a child standing beside the dark lord.
Vader noted her reaction and gave a slight nod. "Allow me to introduce you to my ward. This is Prince Hamilcar Amadala. Hamilcar, this is the Lady Dita Naberrie of Naboo."
"I am very pleased to meet you Lady Dita." The boy bowed to her and Dita thought it the sweetest thing she had ever seen.
"I am very happy to meet you as well young Prince." She sent a very cautious look to Lord Vader. "His name is Amadala?" That was not a true family name. Rather it had been an honorific Padmé had received upon being elected queen.
"It is." Vader answered. "The records will show that he is an orphan with unknown parentage whom Senator Amadala adopted shortly before her death." Strangely Vader's voice seemed to tighten. "She always held a tender place in her heart for orphans."
Dita was sure she had to be imaging it. A Sith Lord could not possibly sound as though his heart was aching. "I see my lord; it's true that Padmé was always very kind. Though I had no idea she had adopted a child."
While Dita had not been close to her cousin she was almost certain that this was all a lie. Padmé had been one of the leaders of the Galactic Senate and a very important public figure. Her pregnancy while unmarried had been common knowledge and would have been a major scandal if she had been a less heroic figure or if the times had been less critical. Dita couldn't imagine her adopting a child and keeping it hidden.
There was about as much chance of her being married in secret.
Of course she was not about to question what Lord Vader had just told her.
"The late Senator was a woman of conviction and of honor and a person who I respected and admired. For this reason I have chosen to personally intervene and take charge of her son Hamilcar."
"I see," Dita replied softly. She didn't really. Lord Vader had already established a reputation for ruthlessness and cold blooded murder. Such an act of compassion seemed completely at odds with what people said of him. "How… how may I be of service?"
"I intend to look after young Hamilcar and even provide him with training. However my responsibilities to the Empire and Emperor make it impossible for me to care for him properly. I have selected you to be his caretaker."
"What? Me? My Lord I am flattered but I am hardly the sort who…"
Vader lifted a single finger and she cut off instantly.
"Tell me, who was it that granted Naboo an exemption not only from the Imperial tariffs but even from the new tax increases recently imposed?"
"Well… the Emperor of course. He is from Naboo so of course…"
"No." Vader said sharply cutting her off. "The Emperor cares nothing for this world. I am the one responsible. I have extended my protection to this planet out of respect for Padmé's memory."
Dita stared at him. Vader had been the one protecting Naboo? Everyone had naturally assumed it was the Emperor shielding his homeworld.
"Padmé loved this place and I wish to protect it. I can think of no better home for her adopted son. He will grow up being shown the honor and respect due him. He will be treated as a Prince and will be loved and adored as he deserves."
He speaks of her as though he knew her. Dita thought. No one knew who Darth Vader truly was or his past. He had simply appeared at his master's side as the republic fell and the empire was born. "My lord," she spoke cautiously. "Your generosity is truly admirable and I do not doubt that Padmé would thank you for it if she could. However I am not qualified to see to the care of her son. Surely there are others far more competent for such an important task."
"I have chosen you." Vader spoke with finality. "You are a member of the local nobility and related by blood to her. The people will accept him much more easily if you are seen welcoming him into your household. Your family will prosper. I will see lands and monies transferred to you. So long as you take excellent care of Hamilcar you and those around you have nothing to fear."
Does that mean if anything happens to him we do have things to fear? The unspoken threat hung there between them.
"I… I understand my lord." She again bowed low to him. "I swear to care for him as I would my own son."
"Good." Vader sounded satisfied.
He turned to Hamilcar and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. "I must leave now. I will return to begin your training as soon as I can and I will see you as often as circumstances allow. Remember the things I have told you. Be strong, be brave, and never forget who you are."
"I won't my lord." The boy said with a warm smile.
Dita was startled when Vader placed a hand on the boy's head and mussed his hair. It was such a simple familiar act and was completely out of place coming from someone like him.
Vader then departed leaving the two of them alone.
The boy looked at her with that warm smile of his.
"Don't be afraid Lady Dita," he said in his child's voice. "Everything will be fine so long as you do as you are told."