The In-Between

By Rhiannon Ryder

Fantasy / Action

Chapter 1

The first thing you should know about the Empire is that it is entirely made up of people, just like the Rebellion. People who were power hungry and selfish, but people none the less. Most of them were from the Core Worlds and blinded by the heavy Empire propaganda they saw, and their only real fault was ignorance. Others were only even there because they had no other choice; either join the Empire or die, from starvation or invasion. The only person I ever believed was truly evil was the Emperor. Darth Vader was stiff, mean, and he allowed no room for error, but I never thought he crossed the line into truly evil. The Emperor was the one that was obsessed with power and control, and he made me join his cause and become Darth Vader’s apprentice, but that’s another story.

Padawan. Vaders voice suddenly cut through my thoughts. I froze and closed my eyes.

Yes, master.

Go to the detention level. He ordered. I want you to oversee the interrogation of the prisoner. But make sure she is left relatively unharmed and not permanently damaged. Meaning that I wasn’t allowed to use the Force to find information, because if I messed up then she could be mentally impaired and no longer physically able to tell us anything.

Yes, master. I replied, and his presence left my mind. I swept out of the control room dramatically and made my way down to the detention level.

Even after ten years of being his apprentice, Vader still didn’t like me walking around without him, but I had somehow convinced him that I didn’t need to be in his shadow at all times anymore because I ranked higher than everyone else besides him and the Emperor. I liked to think that he didn’t want me by myself around all those unsavory characters that thought they could do anything to me without my master around, but he probably just didn’t want me to even think I could be self-reliant. Earlier, we had picked up a few new prisoners from a Rebellion ship, but I hadn’t been able to interact with them or even be there when we had boarded them. Apparently, one of the representatives from the imperial senate was there, and now she was being held in the detention level because she supposedly knew where the rebel base was. She was the princess from Alderaan, but that was all that I knew about her.

I brought up my mental shields tighter as I stepped into the lift and let one of the black mouse droids join me. It greeted me in binary, which I didn't return. It continued beeping away, telling me the latest gossip from the higher-ups. I let it continue, not really absorbing the information. Mouse droids could talk for hours if you let them; they were mostly used for deliveries and small repairs, but no one cared that much about a droid overhearing anything, therefore they knew things sometimes before I did. I was able to gain a reputation among the higher-ups as one of those people who just knew things, even the things I couldn't possibly know. They probably thought I was using the Force, but I found the whole situation too funny to explain that it was just the mouse droids. We parted ways when the lift came to a stop a floor too early and it darted out, and I continued on to the detention level.

A few officers in dark gray uniforms and a floating black torture droid were waiting outside detention cell 2187 for me. I nodded and they opened the door. I walked down the steps first, followed by two of the officers. Inside, a young girl who was only a couple years older than me was lounging on the bed like it was a plush couch at her estate rather than a prison cell. She had brown hair pulled up into two buns on either side of her head, and she was wearing a long white dress and white boots.

“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” She said with a thin smile when she saw me. Her voice was laced with sarcasm and cool contempt. I only blinked and stared at her with a blank expression.

“Where is the rebel base?” I asked. She sat up.

“Right to the point then?” She folded her arms. I waited a couple seconds, but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to speak. I sighed, almost regretfully. The droid drifted into the room, with a needle filled with clear liquid.

“Where is the rebel base?” I repeated softly. She was at least afraid, now, but she still didn’t say anything. I motioned the droid forward.

It had only been five minutes, but I could already tell the hallucinogenic wasn’t going to work. The princess was hallucinating all right, but she somehow seemed to know she was hallucinating, and she was fighting it. I frowned.

“Leave us.” I muttered to the officers. They didn’t argue or ask any questions. The droid followed them out, and I sat down in the middle of the floor and closed my eyes, so I almost looked like I was meditating. I reached out to her mentally and nearly recoiled with how strong she was with the Force. She was completely untrained, and already a great deal of potential was lost because of it, but she was still undoubtedly strong.

When I recovered, I helped her focus on the present and get rid of the effects of the drug. This is a hallucination. I said to her. It’s not real. Focus on my voice, and clear your head of anything else. I wasn’t sure how long I sat there in silence, but eventually she came around.

“What?” She whispered to herself. I didn’t move or open my eyes. “Did you just…?”

“I helped you overcome the effects of the drug.” I said. “It’s still in your system, so you might feel a little woozy, but you’ll be fine.”

“Is this a trick?” She asked, her voice back to its tone of sarcasm and I’m-better-than-you. “A way to befriend me and get me to tell you where the rebel base is?”

“No, no.” I shook my head. “Nothing like that. It’s just, I’ve seen people like you, princess. And despite what Vader or the emperor would say, they don’t break.” And maybe some of it has to do with the fact that I’ve had those hallucinogenics used on me before, and I know what they’re like. But I didn’t say that part out loud.

“Aren’t you Vaders little pet?” She asked, becoming completely condescending. “The one he commands to go around and do his dirty work? Didn’t you join him to gain more power?”

I was five years old. I was standing in a cold, metallic hallway and shaking in fear. I didn’t know where my parents were, or where I was, but it was dark and cold. The man standing in front of me was easily four times my height, dressed completely in black, and he breathed so loudly it was a threat in itself.

“They will not come back for you. Your family is gone.” He said darkly. “You could be a powerful ally, in time. Join me, and gain more power and freedom than you can imagine, or…” He flicked his wrist, and a beam of red light appeared in his hand. I knew that if it touched me, it would hurt.

Later, I would realize how drastically I had underestimated how much pain it could cause.

I shook my head and opened my eyes. “No.” I murmured. Her eyebrows shot up. “I joined Vader so I wouldn’t die.” I shook my head again. I shouldn’t be telling her anything; but there was something about her and her presence that made me open up. It wasn't even a lot of information, but it was more than I had ever told anyone.

“Who are you?” She asked slowly. I didn’t answer her; partially to be dramatic, partially out of fear that I would tell her more than I meant to again. Instead, I just smirked and walked out of the detention cell. Just outside of it, I bowed my head and clasped my hands in front of me.

Master. I called out in the Force.

Padawan. Vader responded. I take it the prisoner didn’t reveal the location of the rebel base.

No. She is stronger than I expected.

No matter. Report to the viewing port immediately. With that, I felt his presence retract from mine, and the conversation ended. I knew why Vader wanted me to go to the viewing port, and it nearly made me scared. But I couldn’t afford to feel such an emotion in front of so many officers and stormtroopers, and especially not with my master close enough to feel it.

When I made it a few minutes later, I strode out to the port and straight up to my master and Grand Moff Tarkin.

“Apprentice.” Vader greeted in the same even, robotic tone he always used.

“Master.” I said, bowing my head.

“I want you to witness the full power of this Death Star.” He said and pointed towards the back wall. “Stand over there and watch, but do not interfere.” I did as he told without asking questions. I had just reached the wall when Vader left the room, and I assumed it was to escort the princess to the viewing port. It took only about five minutes, but eventually I could sense them approaching. The princess was full of anger and a hint of fear, and my master was a cold void that caused a sense of terror if focused on too much. Just as the doors opened, I realized there was a planet being focused on through the windows, and I quickly recognized Alderaan. I frowned inwardly, because as far as I knew, there were only speculations that it had any ties to the Rebellion, and it didn’t have any weapons. General Motti went up and said something to Tarkin just as the princess reached him.

“Governor Tarkin,” She greeted coolly. He bowed slightly, although I could tell he didn’t mean it. “I should have expected to find you holding Vaders leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.” I had to keep my surprise and amusement tightly behind my mental walls, although they were tempered by the sadness that came with knowing what was about to happen. I’ve never heard someone so openly sass Tarkin so directly, and I was unfortunately beginning to like her. Tarkin, however, only smiled.

“Charming, to the last. You don’t know how hard I found it signing the order to terminate your life.” He said, reaching up and gripping her chin. She pulled her head away firmly.

“I’m surprised you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself.” She fired back.

“Princess Leia.” Tarkin began, ignoring her comment. “Before your execution, I would like you to be my guest at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.”

“The more you tighten your grip Tarkin,” The princess said. “The more star systems will slip through your fingers.” I smirked inwardly. She was brave, I had to give her that. She didn’t outwardly show a single once of fear, even as a prisoner sentenced to death and with Vader breathing menacingly right behind her.

“Not after we demonstrate the power of this station.” Tarkin, however, was beginning to get a little angry. “In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that will be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the rebel base, I have chosen to test this stations destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan.” At that, Leia gasped and lunged forward.

“No!” She gasped. “Alderaan is peaceful, we have no weapons, you can’t possibly-”

“You will name another target, a military target, then name the system!” Tarkin interrupted. Leia opened her mouth, then closed it silently. Tarkin walked forward, making her stumble back against Vader. “I grow tired of asking this, so this is going to be the last time. Where is the rebel base?” Leia stared at Alderaan over his shoulder, and I could feel her fear and indecisiveness even though I couldn’t see her face.

“Dantooine.” She said, caving, looking down. “They’re on Dantooine.”

“There, you see Lord Vader? She can be reasonable.” He turned back to General Motti. “Continue with the operation, you may fire when ready.” Motti nodded and went back to the controls.

“What?” Leia shouted.

“You’re far too trusting.” Tarkin was so old so he couldn’t move his face too much, but if he could smirk he would have been. “Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration, but don’t worry, we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough.”

“No-” Leia lunged forward again, but Vader caught her shoulder and pulled her back. I looked back to Alderaan. It had such a strong force signature, with all those vibrant lives and I could practically feel the planet itself humming. This is wrong I thought as the people at the controls flipped their switches. The buttons flashed a few times, the core hummed, and suddenly three green laser beams shot forward to collect in the middle, but I focused on Alderaan. I had been there a couple times before, and it was a beautiful planet with kind, peaceful people. Suddenly, it wasn’t there anymore. I closed my eyes and turned my head slightly. What the Emperor, Vader, Tarkin, and everyone in command were doing was wrong, and I knew it, but I also knew that of all the times in my life, I would have to stay quiet now. Since the Death Star was operational, it wouldn’t be just me that suffered if I spoke up.

Afterwards, I had been dismissed and I found myself in my quarters. The living room was large and perfectly square, with two couches facing each other in the middle, and a low table in between. The door to the ‘fresher was on the wall to my left when I walked in, and the door to my bedroom was directly in front of me. As soon as the door to my chambers closed behind me, I stumbled and fell to the floor. Everything felt so wrong, like someone had taken my insides and turned them upside down. The destruction of Alderaan had thrown the Force wildly out of balance, and that was saying something since it hadn’t exactly been balanced in the first place.

Something was on my face. I reached up and wiped away tears that I hadn’t even known where falling. I was crying, over a bunch of strangers and a planet that didn’t mean anything to me. No. Shook my head. I was crying over a billion beautiful, bright lives that had been taken away because some man had to prove something.

“Lady Evony.” My communicator startled me out of my thoughts, and I silently berated myself for being surprised and rubbed my face. “Lady Evony!”

“What.” I growled darkly into the communicator.

“Your presence has been requested by Lord Vader in the detention level.” I frowned. Why didn’t he just talk to me himself?

“Alright. I’ll be there.” I said and shut off the comm.

I made it halfway to the detention level before I ran into my master. Vader was walking down a hallway, breathing ominously. He turned to me and I bowed my head.

“Master.” I greeted quietly.

“I want you go to the prisoner and make sure she was telling the truth about the rebel base. This time, do whatever you see fit.” He ordered. Now that she had given us the information, all I had to do was double check it, and I had less of a chance of slipping up.

Yes, master.” I replied. This was, of course, a basic practice that I had been doing for years. Many things were possible with the Force, and being a walking lie detector was one of them. Both of us already knew that the princess had told the truth, but he was sending me down to 'make sure' as a way of demeaning me and reminding me of my place.

This time, no one was waiting for me outside the cell. Inside, the senator was lounging on the bed again, and she still looked calm and collected, but there were small lines forming at the corner of her eyes and mouth.

“You told us that the rebel base was on Dantooine. Are you telling the truth?” I asked. She didn't even more or look at me. She still wasn’t going to tell me anything, obviously. I restrained myself from rolling my eyes.

“Were you telling the truth?” I repeated softly. “You know what I can do to you if you do not co-operate.” She just lifted her chin.

“I think it’s already been established that I’m not telling you.” She retorted, still not looking at me. I mentally sighed and reached out with the Force. She drew in a hiss of breath when I touched her mind, which quickly became a gasp of pain as I went further.

I felt mostly despair, over the loss of her home world, and anger that was just beginning to surface. The strength of her emotions surprised me, because she looked so calm on the outside, but I moved on. Not even she was immune to basic psychology, so by asking her about the base, she was thinking about the base, and its location. She hadn't been telling the truth. There were rebels stationed on Dantooine, but the main rebel base was on Yavin IV. I pulled back, but before I opened my eyes again I sensed another presence from the other side of the ship. It was different than my master’s, or the emperor’s, or any of the other Imperials, who had the Force sensitivity of a rock. It was strong and warm, which was something I had never felt in a Force presence; my master and the emperor were cold and daunting in the Force. I had always just assumed that’s what presences felt like. But this one was so warm I felt like I was physically standing next to an open fire. Before I knew what I was doing, I was reaching out to that presence, and it was reaching out to me. We touched, for a moment, and it was like my limbs were thawing after being out in a snow storm. Who ever belonged to that presence was old and powerful, but in a different way than the emperor. There was a vast knowledge and wisdom that the emperor didn’t have, but there was also a throbbing sadness that suggested a tragedy had occurred. Just when I caught myself wondering what that tragedy had been, I realized what I was doing. I snapped back to myself in horror. If my master found out, he would not be pleased.

I opened my eyes to find the princess staring at me apprehensively. I didn’t offer an explanation, and she didn’t ask for one. The room felt a little colder than I remembered, and when I stood up it felt a little smaller. I hid a shudder.

“Thank you, princess, for the information.” I said cooly, and her eyebrows shot up. Before she could say anything, I turned and left. I didn’t have time to stand and collect myself properly, so I had to clasp my hands behind me and hide my emotions behind a mask of calm intimidation. But I didn’t even have to try, because I only made it to the hallway entrance when one of the elevators opened and revealed two stormtroopers and a Wookie. I froze. At first glance it seemed like a normal occurrence, but I knew immediately that they were no normal stormtroopers. One of them had a Force presence that was nearly blinding. Like the princess, he was wildly untrained, but there was a certain vague direction and awareness that meant that someone had begun his training.

They were talking to someone stationed at the desk by the time I snapped out of it. They were probably here to rescue the princess, and if they succeed they would bring her to the rebel base, and they would be able to relocate or at least prepare to fight back. I didn't know how they could fight against the Death Star, but they would try. And they would probably be able to get most of the leaders off planet and to safety, which would make going there pointless.

Without fully understanding my own actions, I took quick, calculated steps to the elevator. It appeared after a few seconds, and just as it closed the ‘stormtroopers’ pulled their blasters.

I’ll never be sure what caused me to ignore the obvious events that I knew what the pretend-stormtroopers were about to do. I knew the consequences of those actions, but I walked away. Maybe it was because I knew that the rebels needed every chance they got against the Empire, and maybe I didn’t really didn’t want to see the Empire rule the entire galaxy.

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