Without further adodo, may I present...
Floor six thousand;
skeletons on fire,
their arms singing.
And a key,
a very large key,
that opens something--
some useful door--
-"Riding An Elevator Into the Sky", by Anne Sexton
A Key To Something, Somehwere 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
I was purchased by Lord Vader in the summer of my fifteenth year, to act as handmaiden to his wife. I remember I was fifteen, 'cause that was year I had myself a birthday party. A real birthday party, I'm tellin' you, after five years of being a slave. I'd spent all five of those years work'n for an absolutely awful old natty called Dowager Fon, and by that summer I had actual friends amongst the household staff, and even a few in the yard. It wasn't anything real special-- the girls put together some of the coins they got for sellin' piecework, and we had honey-wheat cake, jyo berries and one mighty fine bottle of Corellian firewater. We didn't get drunk or anything, o'course; that stuff is powerful expensive, and with six or seven of us, we could really only get a sip or two in each. But I was kinda happy that summer, despite bein' a slave, despite not know'n if Mama or Sissy or Pitr were alive or dead. It wasn't the kinda happiness I felt grow'n up on Naboo, no, but when you've felt the slaver's lash, known the feeling of those terrible _eyes_ looking at you up on the auctioneer's pedestal-- well, you learn to take what you can and hold onto it. You get your teeth into it, and you never let it go. So life was better'n it had been for a long while, and then that Sith-be-damned Dowager had to go an throw herself her own kinda party.
The kind with all the shiny, carnival colored pills and liquids your stomach can stand. The kind you don' wake up from.
I guess I dunno why she did it-- I always thought she was the meanest old sired-of-a-Dug to ever swath herself in jewels and lace, but--
You listen here, boy of mine, I don' care if you're the sodd'n Son of The Five Queens, let alone some high-n-mighty Officer of the New Republic, I'm gonna tell this story in my own time. You think that after workin' for _him_ I'd be scared of you? Ha! I'm get'n to Vader, and I'll get there in my own sweet time. And--
Who's this new fellow now? You listen to him, now, Mr. Officer of The New Republic, and let me say my peace.
General Solo, you say? You don' look like a General, none. You ought to tuck your shirt in, you know. An' get your feet off that fine cedar desk! I don't care if you _did_ take this planet from the stormtroopers, an' I don't care if you come in the name of a new democracy, you'll have some respect for the hours I spent polishing that damned thing.
_Thank_ you. Now, General Solo and-- what'd you say your name was, boy?-- oh, Braddon, right. I'm gonna tell you two a story, and you're gonna listen up, and later you'll take away from it whatever you please an' maybe hang me for bein' a collaborator.
You don't hang innocent people? Well, that's nice. With the Emperor, as you well know, didn't matter if you were innocent, guilty, rich or poor. If he wanted to snuff you out like an oily candle, he just did. That's the kind of thing you're fight'n against is it, General Solo? I'm kinda surprised at you-- you're handsome, yes, but your eyes look like your dreams've been used hard'n put away wet, as they say. But you still got some faith left in you, eh? That's nice. I'm glad.
Now where was I?
Right, Dowager Fon. Well, the old painted-up toad put herself down with about fifteen cartons of Death Sticks, near a whole vineyard's worth of wine, and Force alone knows how many pills. She was the meanest old thing that ever lived, I tell you...
Oh, you do make me laugh, young Braddon. Vader was evil, no two ways about that, but he wasn't _mean_. Dark, intense, angry, scary as hell, yeah-- but not mean. Dowager Fon was a real prize; always after us girls with the 'lectic lash, for this or that. The only people who get it worse where her own daughters-in-law, and she had five of 'em. For all the money they had, those girls were just miserable. I could see it, and I was still fifteen. Five years bein' a slave isn't very long in terms of memory (oh, but it's long in terms of pride!); you still remember your old life, and you long for it. You turn over on your narrow bedroll and expect for it to all be nightmare, like those times when you're so tired that you can't wake up no matter how hard you try. I was still very much wrapped up in my own grief, mournin' the girl that I'd been, but even I could see that Dowager Fon treated her son's wives worse'n she treated anyone else. She was mean, like I said, and she _liked_ it.
First, I was feeling a bit of guilty happiness about her death-- I don't think there was a soul in her compound who didn't. But then, of course, all her possessions were liquidated by the Emperor's Office of Finance, an' things got bad again. The girls and I were split up, sent back to the slave pens. They chained us up tight when they took us back, you better believe it. Don't blame them one bit; all I wanted to do was throw myself off that transport and dash my skull like fine china on the canyon rocks. The pens were bad-- in fact, we called them The Bad Place, amongst ourselves-- with wailing children, the shouts of the slavers, and that _sound_, the one the whip makes, comin' through the air. One of the worst sounds in the universe, that one is, 'long with the cry of a lonely child and the sound of Lord Vader Himself. The cages were terrible, too-- the heat from the furnaces... just everything. The despair got thick in your mouth until it took away any thought of screaming. I was born and raised on Naboo, daughter of the House of Bibble-- no relation to Siol Bibble, mind-- and I was taught that every sentient soul was born to be free. It wasn't just a right, it was the _point_. Why we're all here is so we can be free to make our own mistakes, balance our debts, then come back 'round and do it again.
My family was captured by raiders on our way to visit relatives on the Moons. There was a lot of pirating, right after the Emperor took control, as I guess you know. 'Least ways you look old enough to remember, General Solo. The raiders killed my Pa straight off, then they sold everything on the ship, lock, stock and droid battery. Including us. They split us up-- my Ma, Sissy, Pitr and I-- an' sent me to Omonde, where Dowager Fon purchased me. Ma told me, that last day that-- as the eldest-- it was my job to try and find Sissy and Pitr someday, bring us all back together. For a long time, that was my hope, but-- an' I'm real sorry, Ma-- once I was in Lord Vader's employ, there wasn't much hope of that happening. After you've been a slave for a while, you kinda split. Something in you _gives_, an' you hide your real self away down deep. What stays on the outside is what's acceptable to your Master, but the real you is always down there, whisper'n, holding conversations with the dead. I don't know how it is for those born into bondage, but I know that's how it is when you've had at least a few years before hand of being free.
So they sent me back to the pens, they did. The Bad Place, where all hope goes for a kick in the ribs. I was moved off Omonde to some other planet-- don't think I ever knew the name-- where it snow'd near all the time, and they made us stand out on the sidewalks in thin little slippers, with the wind whippin' at our sheer silver slips. They were beautiful, of course, silk like the glisten'n wings of a Nubian Flutterpillar, but they didn't help the cold one bit. The slaver whose cadre I was in only sold girls, and mostly you-_know_-what-for. The slips were embroidered with a darker gray over certain areas, for "decency", they said, but it still showed off just about everything a girl had. Combine with that the silver-chain belts and collars-- well, it was extremely uncomfortable. But we had to smile bright just the same, standing with our chins straight and our eyes respectfully down. The slaver made us sing, too, little songs about how good quality we were, what hard workers. I hated that the most, I think, even more than the cold or the feelin' that everyone was looking at my shape. In fact, thinking back on it now, I know I did.
There we were, some thirty-odd girls on a cold, blustery day, standing there singing about good work for an honest price, trying so very hard not to shiver. The marketplace was busy, and I was on the far end of the risers we'd been lined up on, so I didn't see him at first. All I knew was that the girls on the other end had suddenly stopped singing, like some magician waved his hand and stole their voices away. The silence traveled down the line, 'til it caught me too-- it caught me when I saw the shadow that had come to life.
It was Lord Vader, of course-- tall like your worst nightmare when you're a little girl in bed, blacker than a night with no stars or moon. We could hear him, too. That _sound_, that terrible sound. It came before him and pushed everything out of the way, it did. It crawled into your ears and froze your spine. We all of us sort of moved just a little bit closer together, and I think the same thing was on our minds. We wanted him to pass us by. Come to the stall and keep on walk'n. Didn't happen that way-- never happens the way you want it to, lemme tell you-- and as he got closer, we all got afraid to breathe. It was like he was taking all the air with that whir-hish noise of his, that snake-on-marble sound, leaving none for us. The slaver, a tall Twilek, stepped up real fast and started fuss'n, bow'n and scrape'n. That scared me more, 'cause Vader's looks? All that black, devil's machinery? It said loud out that he didn't suffer fools. There were stormtroopers behind him, whiter than the building stone, looking like a bunch of game-pieces from Saint's Trial, or Capture-The-Queen. My Pa had a real nice traditional board with pieces like that-- all white marble, no holo for him-- and that's what they put me in mind of. And Vader was the Devil's Mage, the piece that could turn the game.
He looked at us, Lord Vader did. He didn't look us over, not like the patrons we were used to getting, he just..._looked_. Like a droid taking a still-holo, like a serpent appraises the world outside his rock. Cool, unconcerned... not really human. He turned to the slaver and said something in that thundercloud voice of his, but I didn't hear what he said. Just the sound of it. The slaver nodded, and turned to us, pointing one overlong nail at me.
"You," says he, "the Nubian. Up here on the stool." Oh, I wanted to die on the spot; I didn't want to go anywhere near Lord Vader, 'specially after my mind stared workin' enough that I put together his looks with who he was, and remembered all the _whispers_. But I did what I was told. I walked, trying for calm-as-you-please and fall'n real short, and I climbed to the pedestal. First I knelt, graceful like they taught us, and then I stood poker-straight, chin out and eyes down. Lord Vader seemed to study me with his machine-serpent's gaze-- not my body, on display as it was, just my face. To this day, I don' know what he was looking for, or what he saw there, but I guess I passed snuff.
"You name," he said. Like echoes in the mountain. It wasn't a question, or a request, or even a command-- it was a statement that drew the answer out of me, whether I liked it or not.
"Tansie," I says, look'n down at his huge boots on the frozen street cobble.
"Of Naboo." Again, not a question.
"Yes, my Lord," I said, real soft. I could just see the slaver's pointy teeth in that dirty grin of his. Nubians have always been rare on the slave market, and I think he forgot for a second about who he was dealing with, instead thinking only of the credit that could be weigh'n in his purse.
"Cut off the collar," he told the slaver, so firm that the Twilek was moving even before he really thought about it. "Find her something to wear." If it had been anyone else, I would have melted with relief, but-- though my mind was working a little better-- my body wasn't near done being afraid yet. Then he told the slaver that he would pay five thousand credits for me, no more. And you know, I watched that dumb, greedy old sot open his mouth to actually protest-- he opened it, and then he shut it real quick, and proved that he was more worried about his skin than money. He sent one of the other girls off to get a tunic for me, and then came to cut the collar off me himself. My neck burned where he cut a little too close, but there was a lot of satisfaction in me when I felt it fall away. A secret satisfaction, like ground water on a dry planet, and I guarded it carefully.
"You will not run," Lord Vader told me, and I nodded, swift as you please. He didn't have to say 'or you'll be sorry' or 'if you know what's good for you'. He was just able to... command like that. Inspire real fear. On the pedestal, I was high enough that he only had to tilt his head down a little to hold my gaze with his wide, unblinking, molten-coal eyes. On the ground, I was a ways shorter than his shoulder; I thought his shadow could eat me alive, and he wouldn't even notice.
Well, they gave me the tunic, which I just shrugged on over the slip, an' the stormtroopers herded me after Lord Vader. They didn't have'ta, I followed him easily, 'cause he told me to, and 'cause I was afraid. Eventually, some of the troopers took me to wait in his shuttle, and all be the first to admit that the trip there was mostly a blur. There was another girl sitting in the hold, though, just about my age. She had the roundest, whitest face-- like cream porcelain-- and big dark eyes to match her rain-straight, ebony hair. Her name was Devyn, and she was, like me, a Nubian. And, like me, she said, she had been purchased to as a handmaid for Lady Padme, the wife of Lord Va--
Oh, what now? I thought I ask'd you not to interrupt! General Solo, you even tole Braddon over there to shut his gob, and now _you're_ after me with questions. Well, of course I knew Lady Padme-- what, did you like Lord Vader bought me just to polish the desks? Nossir, he had droids enough for that. Honestly, you men-- what _else_ would I be here for, 'cept to look after The Lady? They haven't hurt her, have they-- your troops, I mean?
Hmm? Well, she's been like that for a little while now-- poor sweetheart-- since right before we found out you'd beat the Emperor for real. She was sitting on the verandah one evening, and then all the sudden her body just locked up. I never seen anyone look like they were in so much pain, and these quiet tears were comin' down from her pretty eyes. Then she sort of... it's hard to explain... whisper-screamed a name and collapsed like a china doll. She's been unconscious ever since-- me and the girls were tend'n to her, 'til you all came along and started up with the shoot'n. You're not gonna let her die just 'cause she was married to him, are you? 'Cause, lemme tell you, that'd be horrible of you-- she wasn't his wife, so much as she was his prisoner.
` Medidroids looking after her? Well, that's good. Mind you, I think there's alot more to be said about human care, but I'm not one of those types who don't hold with 'their kind'.
Stay here? Why, General Solo, where in the seven hells am I gonna go? You wanna go get someone, that's just fine. I'll be right here when you get back. Yeah, alright, I won't say no more of the story 'til you come, cross my beating heart.
My, what do you thinks gotten into him, Braddon? It's like someone lit a fire under 'im, or sommat.
See, General? Here I am, still sitt'n pretty-- or as pretty as I can be, anyway. Who's this young man here? Aren't you a handsome one. Luke, is it? 'Sa nice name, that. And such nice manners, too! What're you doin, hanging around with this general who won't even tuck his shirt in? My Ma always said--
Well, I'll be damned! It's like lookin' at a ghost, not that Lady Padme is dead-- thank the Force and will it to remain. It's just uncanny, 'swhat it is. Who're you, young miss?
Leia Organa? I'm Tansie Flin, Lady Organa. If you don't mind my sayin' so, your name seems awful familiar. Look at me with this old brain, stuff rattling around like some Jawa's junkpile. Wait a second, now, it'll come to me... aren't you that Senator? The one they said was the youngest ever, then one from...
You _are_? I'm doubly honored to meet you then, Lady Organa. Or should that be Senator? 'Just Leia'? Oh, no Ma'am, I couldn't, but you're very kind to offer. Lady Organa it is. Lady Padme did admire you so! I remember, when He was away, she'd watch you on the holo-- we don't get many transmissions out 'round these parts, but we do get the Imperial beam-- and talk to us about you. She was so impressed, you being so young and all, stick'n with your principles. She'd talk about the importance of maintaining small liberties even under the Emperor's iron fist, and...
Oh, sweetie, don't _cry_! One of you boys give her a hankie or sommat, her eyes are getting all shiny. I didn't mean to upset you, young Lady, please understand. You just get up and give her your seat, Braddon-- the Lady looks awful pale. There, now.
Hmm? Well, I suppose I knew Lady Padme well enough, Master Luke, hav'n been her handmaiden for nigh on twenty years. I'll talk to you, o'course-- I'm guessing, General, that these are the people you wanted me to wait for? Alright. If you'll just get a little sip of water for this old girl here, we'll move right along.
Thank you. You leav'n, Mr. Braddon? Well, you have a nice day, then. Evening, is it? No wonder I'm so tired! Sleep sweet then, I guess.
Whew. If you don't mind my say'n so, Lady Organa, I'm kinda glad you sent 'im away. He's so young, you know-- kinda eager to judge, too, it seemed. All puffed up with his victories an' all.
Right then. I already tole the General hear 'bout Lord Vader purchasing me from Twilek slaver. From there, me and Devyn-- another slave girl he bought-- were put in the hold of his cruiser, an' taken up one of those big Star Destroyers. At the time, I'd never seen one before-- not a lot of people had, as the Emperor was still shift'n things around to his liking-- and I think it was gettin' about that white monster that made me realize how much my life was changing, and how fast. It sort of crowded down around my shoulders, that realization, as Devyn and I stepped off into the landing bay. My, but Lord Vader did run a tight ship. It was kinda funny, actually, to think of all those white game-piece stormtroopers and pimply officers being as scairt of him as we were. They were all spun up tight, that's for sure-- I bet the whole lot of them had digestive problems, just from worry'n about what Lord Vader was gonna do next. Ha!
So, there Devyn and I are, with me in my sheer slip and brown tunic that don't even barely reach my knees, and Devyn practically in rags. She was the one getting all the sidelong looks, though, from the officers. Always so much prettier than I, was Devyn-- not beautiful like Lady Padme, but kind of exotic looking. Unusual, I guess you'd say. Lord Vader hands us over to a couple of silver droids, tells 'em to clean us up, and report to him when we're finished. These were Imperial droids, acourse, so once Lord Vader was gone, Devyn and I knew we'd be pretty alright to talk. Imperials mind-wipe their droids over the littlest things. Makes 'em kinda slow, I've noticed, and not to canny on human behavior. So, I asked Devyn how it was she knew what it was we were here, and she tole me all about the conversation she overhead from two of the petty officers. Mind you, none of us ever asked Lady Padme how she came to be... be... Well, I don't really know the word. 'Kept' sounds kind dirty, like 'kept woman', but that's sort of what it was. Lord Vader _kept_ her-- kept her safe, cared for, looked after. Like she was some fire-gem he had hidden away, only so much more important. He was guard'n her, like a Kayat Dragon with its eggs, and lemme tell you, if I had to pick between Lord Vader and the Dragon, I'd take the dragon any day!
Lady Padme was so sad, you see-- none of us wanted to hurt her with questions, even and especially after we'd all been together long enough to be something of friends. She hurt allathe time, she did, like a heart slowly pumping out the last of its blood. He was kill'n her, real slow like-- he knew it, too, I think, but he also didn't know how to stop, 'cause it was clear from square one that he wasn't _capable_ of letting her go. So, as far as how Lady Padme came to be his prison'r and... treasure... this is all I know:
Devyn said that one of the 'boys in olive drab'-- always made me smile, the way she said that-- was talk'n about how the Lady had been caught on Malistare, working for the Rebellion. It wasn't anywhere near organized, back in those days, but there were pockets, little cells, operatin' in the dark and lookin to get together if they could find one another. She'd really been found out hide'n on Alderaan, but she slipped away to Malistare, and it was a while longer before they caught her. It was one of the so-called Regional Governors-- I know a land-lord when I see one-- that caught her, and he was gonna do to her what they'd do to any Rebel. Execution by laser, right where everyone could see it. Well, when Lord Vader got word of that.. you can just imagine. Devyn said the officers wouldn't even _talk_ about it, about how it was aboard the Star Destroyer when He found out. They just sort of _looked_ at each other, like men who've seen the same nightmares. Veterans. And when Lord Vader got ahold of the Governor? They said his _brain_ just exploded out the back of his neck, like someone had put a thermal detonator in there, while Lord Vader stood there with his black fist curled in the air. Bits of hair and skin and blood and brains all over the place, they said. Then Lord Vader just turns and stalks off, order'n that Lady Padme be brought to him. Not even a _thought_ for the mess on the floor.
Devyn and I kept talkin' while the droids washed us off and gave us combs to fix our hair. Devyn's had to be cut a little, it was so tangled-- she said that when Lord Vader saw how her seller was treat'n the slaves, he put the sorry son-of-a-dug out of business. We didn't know what to make of him, really. All we knew was that he scared us, and we were gonna mind ourselves real well to keep under his radar. Yeah. The droids gave us clothes; long, thick maroon dresses with black smocks and covers for our hair. Oh, but it was nice to be all covered up again! I'm not a prude-- least I don't think so-- but I don't show it off to just anyone, either. Part of it was just havin' a little bit of pride back, not have'n everyone gawping at you in your all-together. We looked real clean and professional, we did, kinda like the holos of Queen's handmaidens I remember seeing in my history texts. It was a while before Lord Vader came for us, but we were kinda glad. It was good to be out of his presence, good to be able to _breathe_.
When he did come, he took us real swift up to the best part of the ship, to the captain's suite, I guess you'd say, and motioned for us to go inside. It's an awful feeling, having a man like that at your back, listening to that 'whir-hiss', but, you know? I almost sorta forgot about it, when I got my first look at Lady Padme.
She was so beautiful.
I'm not talkin' about her face, or the rest of her looks, though she does put the stars to shame in that area, too. I'm talking about the _feel_ of her, her presence. She was like the statues of the Five Queens, or the Warrior Goddess back on Naboo-- just the set of her shoulders was strong, and she radiated calm, even through her misery. That was plain on her face, too. She was sitting on this big plush chair, hands folded in her lap, like you'd set a fine doll down oh-so-carefully. She was wearing a robe that came just to her shoulders, starting out white like the finest snow, and endin' the color of dark blood. It was plain-- not the least like the clothes she wore when he had his way-- and she was barefoot. There's a story on Naboo, called 'The Barefoot Princess'; Sissy and I used to go see a play of it every Winter Festival, and that's what she put me in mind of. She was someone special, alright-- you could just tell. She had that air about her, like Lady Organa here does, or like that one another Senator.. something Mothma.
Mon Mothma, that's it! Thank you. The closer I looked at her, the more I realized something else; I'd seen Lady Padme before. She'd cut her hair real sort, so that it curled around her face like the styles in the Silk Theater. You know, the girl actors who play young boys. Yeah, like that. Still, her face was so familiar, and I was think'n on it even as Vader crossed to stand behind her. He put his big, black hand on her shoulder and she bore it, not even flinching, just sort of going on like she had something worth out-lasting him for. Endurance. Lord Vader told us that we'd been purchased to act as Lady Padme's handmaidens, and he motioned us forward.
"From now on, you are in her service, and her welfare is your sole concern. You will swear Fealty to her."
I took a step forward first, though the Force only knows why. If you'da asked me, I'd have told you I couldn'ta moved for the world. I came before Lady Padme, and I got down on one knee like I'd seen in the holos. I told her my name, an' I kissed her hand.
"I do swear Fealty to you, as your loyal and humble handmaid, to honor you in my service in my life and in my death." The words just sort of came to me, and I guess they were alright. I didn't see her face, 'cause I'd bent down and very gently touched my forehead to her bare toes, just like they used to do in when Naboo really was a monarchy. When I looked up, she was gazing down at me with her brown doe's eyes, which were also kinda amethyst and maybe even a little silver. I watched her mouth something at me, though my brain wouldn't tell me what it was, right away. I backed up kinda clumsily, and gave Devyn room for her turn. It was only once I was standin', of course, that I realized just where it was I'd seen her face before, and I wished I was kneeling again, just soes my legs wouldn't go out from under me.
Right before I turned ten, I came home from studies one day to find the whole downstairs empty. My Ma was on a member of the Archaeological Oversight Committee-- a scientist who made sure the other scientists were operating with sound methodology and ethical procedure. We'd followed her up to a small mountain settlement, and Pa got a job there with the office of the city's prince. Anyway, such a small place didn't really have any formal school, just a group of tutors brought in by the company. I was in the 5th tier that year, and then there were the raiders so, of course, that was pretty much were my education ended. The pirates were about two months off at that time, though, and I didn't really have a care in the world. I looked all over for my Ma when I came home that day, gettin' kinda worried, when I finally found her in her bedroom. She was crying, with her face in her hands and her short hair hanging down, and there was something playing on the holoproj. I crawled up on the bed and asked her what was the matter-- she sniffled for a few minutes, then turned me to look at the proj. One of Naboo's finest leaders had died, she said, one of the strongest voices for liberty in the Senate. Today, all the beams on Naboo were showing her funeral, but it wasn't just a black day for our planet. It was a black day for the Senate, for anyone holding out hope that the Republic might still survive a little under the Emperor's hand. I sat on my Ma's lap that day, watching the holo and trying to comfort her as best I could. I understood what was going on, yeah, but I was still a mite young to grasp the enormity of it all. But that, _that_ was where I'd seen Lady Padme's face before; in the silver cradle of the coffin, with white flowers in her hair.
Standing there while Devyn knelt before Lady Padme and Lord Vader, I guess I coulda been knocked over the a gundark wing, I was so surprised. This cold kinda prickled along my skin, and that was when my brain finally decided to register just what it was she'd mouthed to me. It's a wonder I didn't start shaking all over.
'I'm sorry,' she'd said to me, silently. I just stood there, looking at her, at how sad she was, almost beaten. Later on, I'd figure out that she was still fighting, deep down under those still waters, but I couldn't imagine how she felt, with Lord Vader's hand on her shoulder, being his wife...
Oh, no, Lady Organa, I don't know t'all how she came to be married to him, or how it was she knew him. No one knows anything 'bout the Lord Vader, not before he conducted that siege on Ithor in the Emperor's name. Maybe she was given to him as a prize by the Emperor... I dunno, 'cause I'm _pretty_ sure she wasn't married when she was a senator. An' I think alot of people would have noticed, specially if it was to him! I guess it might seem funny to other people that, in twenty years, I never once learned anything about how she came to be in such dire straights, but she was like that. She talked to us, was so kind to us, considered us her friends, but when she had a secret... Death himself couldn't have pried it from her lips. Lord Vader knew that, especially.
No, I don't suppose I'll ever forget the look on her face that day. I saw alot of looks come over her in twenty years of service, but there've been a couple that have stuck in my mind. One, acourse, is the look she got when she collapsed, just afore we got word of the Rebellion's final victory. One was.. well, I'll get to that later. Seeing her that first time, though, I didn't know what to make of it, or even how to find a word for what it seemed like she was feelin'. Really, she's one of the most expressive people I ever did meet. There's a word in Nubian, 'ayakao'-- it means the sort of people who're pretentious, and _believe_ their pretenses. Lady Padme was no ayakao, no sir. We all show the world somethin' of a lie at times, some more'n others, but even when she kind closed her face off behind a mask, you knew she didn't believe the show she was put'n on. She was just making a play of indifference for people stupid enough to believe it, an' that would include just about all the Imperial Officers that looked after us. Lord Vader didn't ever buy it, acourse, but I think he chose not to call her on it, more often than not. 'Cause, you know, most of the time she could re