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Mutually Beneficial
by MadamGrandAdmiral

Dressed in 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.

Tiny pinpricks 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.

Everything 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.

Atlanta had 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.

But perhaps 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.

Which had left Admiral Motti wide open to her.

She sighed, 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 calm ritual.

The annual 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.

Instead he 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.

Few liberties 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.

His arrogance 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 had blown.

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.

Closing her 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.

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