her finest, Atlanta held the taper to her mouth, a hand carefully
shielding the flame from spluttering, a thin wisp of smoke rising
as a sharp breath extinguished the small light. A delicate hand
carefully placed the implement down.
The room itself
was not particularly special or unique; there had to be a hundred,
or even a thousand, identical to it within all of Imperial Palace,
but at present, it was unique and beautiful because of it.
When she had
first seen it, she had thought it the most beautiful thing she
had ever seen.
of delicate candlelight illuminated an otherwise dark room, pushing
back the darkness and making the walls glow a wine-red. The tiled
floor was cool beneath her pointed shoes. There was something
ethereal about the place, and that had been part of its beauty.
It was a place where no one could touch them, where rank and circumstance
meant as little as the smoke rising and dissipating.
was almost as it had been that last night, except for one small
but crucial detail. And it was the loss of that detail that she
mourned, alone in what had become a chapel, a mausoleum to what
had once been, and what once could have been.
But that past
was as devastated as Alderaan, and as stone cold as the space
where the Death Star had been slain. She had had nightmares for
weeks about his cold, broken body, floating alone above Yavin,
dead expression somehow blaming her, accusing her of being a lying
whore and manipulative hag who had never truly felt anything.
It was ironic,
really, that she could ever feel love. That she now hurt as much
as those she had lied to and betrayed had. She was often considered
a whore; but the truth was, she was much worse.
As a Geisha,
her loyalty was to the Emperor directly. It had not mattered when
she had discovered the extent of the threat the Death Star faced;
she had not been allowed to interfere.
Even for love.
It had started
off as any other assignment should have; the Geisha at the head
of the House of Dolls summoned Atlanta before her, and set the
mission out, naming three men and telling her to choose one, and
find out all she could about 'DeathStar'.
A mere code-name,
and already Roganda was extending all her feelers, playing her
trump card too early in their little game at court. The Geisha
operated under a strict code of gathering information, of the
seeking of truth for the glorification of their House, whilst
always presenting an amicable face to the rest of Court.
It was comparable
to the Imperial Intelligence Agency, as run by Ysanne Isard, but
in reality, was a way for Palpatine to spy upon his own Court.
The dead calm cruelty of Imperial Intelligence was replaced by
elegance, grace and talents that agents of Iceheart often lacked.
obeyed Roganda's request hesitantly; the three men who had been
named as potential targets for 'DeathStar' enquiries were all
strait-laced, from families that knew far better than to mix with
Geisha any more than was necessary.
her first assessment needed more deliberation. They were aristocratic,
but they were still men. Tarkin himself had a fiery redhead hidden
away someplace, or so it was rumoured. Tagge, it seemed, was carefully
watched by his family.
left Admiral Motti wide open to her.
trying to remember when her 'mission' had turned painfully over
into an emotional trauma, the distance she usually kept between
herself and her clients vanishing when sincerity had replaced
New Year's Eve party had been an event that always drew a lot
of attention from the media, as the rich, famous and aristocratic
all descended to celebrate another glorious year of Imperial control.
And yet, they had not gone. She had been officially invited, and
had been fitted for her gown, but they had not gone to the party.
had bought her here, a candlelit chapel to a romance that could
not be. He knew she had discovered what 'DeathStar' was, and had
not had her silenced. Few words had been spoken that night, and
yet that had seemed to be the silencer on their whole affair,
because the unspeakable had occurred.
were denied Geisha, but love was one of them. Manipulation became
too easy then, and with affections lacking sentiment and usually
for personal gain, it also became pointless. A free gift, as it
were, supposedly the greatest of all emotions cheapened by circumstance.
had all been bluster, for the most part, a façade bred
into him. Perhaps that had been why she had been kept a dirty
secret, a secret he'd taken to with him to eternity when the DeathStar
And that was
also why she had to be silenced. How could his family let her
live? A harlot and an admiral; it was an impossible story, worthy
of a HoloDrama and a couple of million credits' worth of merchandise,
as pathetic and transparent as it was painful.
It was only
a matter of who would be sent to do the deed.
She was surprised
she was not afraid to die; after all, nothing could hurt worse
than the pain of never being able to be honest with the world,
or the brutality of the death of a lover.
eyes, she whispered a small prayer; for love and truth, and waited,
the candles spluttering and aging, waiting for the darkness and
the death that would come with the sunrise.