Part Three, Rescue and Revelations

By Season Irwin, Rachel Schmutter, ?


Date: Thursday, December 13, 2001 8:58 PM

Part Three

"Student, bah," the Emperor scoffed. Rachel stiffened, 
rage flaring within her. She was very proud of the progress she 
had made as a Sith. "Who she *really* is seems a mystery, to 
be frank,” Palpatine continued. “But she is nothing but trouble 
to me - and, most likely, to Darana herself." Dani came out from 
behind Vader a little, listening with interest.
     With exquisite self-control, Rachel merely raised an eyebrow. 
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand, Your Majesty," she said with 
deceptive mildness. "But," she added, her tone a trifle sharper, "I 
should have thought that you knew the Lady Darana well enough 
to realize that she does _not_ suffer fools lightly. Nor would she 
take on as a Sith trainee anyone who she thought was unworthy."
     "There are many fools in the galaxy. I intend to discover whether 
you are one of them."
     Rachel's emerald eyes flash with suppressed anger. "Very 
well, then,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “Suppose 
you tell me just what this is all about, and why you have schemed 
so for me to be here today? Why didn’t you simply request 
my presence? I am a loyal member of an Imperial household!"
     "Is that so, Rachel Summers? It appears you are part of an 
Imperial household, but you are not always acting upon the interest 
of my Empire. And there are other matters that puzzle me, such as
....your role with Arcturus. What is your game, my dear?"
     Rachel just stared at him, bewildered. "Arcturus is dead," she 
stated flatly. "He was judged guilty of treason by Lady Darana and 
executed back in June."
     "I'm quite aware of that. Darana herself told me. What I want 
*you* to tell me is what part you had in *why* he was executed." 
The Emperor gave her an evil grin. He had waited a long time to 
ask her this question.
     With a slight start, Dani heard the method and reason behind 
Arcturus's death. Before she could think it over, she repeated the 
Emperor's question, "Yes, why??" She was staring at Rachel.  
What could Rachel have had to do with Arcturus's death?
     Rachel had made sure her mind-shields were at their strongest 
well before she’d entered the room. Still, this was the last thing 
she'd expected to hear! The shock of the Emperor’s accusation-
which was *far* too close to certain *very* necessary secrets-
was nearly enough to break her concentration. But the deadly 
danger involved gave her the strength she needed to hold firm, 
so that her disturbance was scarcely noticeable. She drew upon 
all of the fury banked inside her with which she'd reacted to the 
Zeltrons' imprisonment and allowed its power to work for her, as 
Darana had taught her. *Anger is your ally, * she thought to herself. 
*The Dark Force flows from it. *
     “Dani, why are you so concerned for Arcturus?” Vader asked 
her.
     "I...was...once extremely fond of him," she answered quietly.
     Rachel's eyes flickered to Dani. "I'm sorry, Dani," she said 
softly. "I forgot you didn't know." She looked away.
     "So then, the Zeltron tart has this ‘thing’ for Sith Lords...first 
Arcturus, then Vader? My, my!"
     Dani returned her gaze to Rachel. She could think of nothing 
to say. And she did not even grace the Emperor with a glance. She 
knew now that he was trying to work them all against one another.
     “Dani, I’m sorry for your loss,” Darth Vader told her. 
     Dani met his gaze mutely and nodded. Then she whispered to 
him, "Thank you, darling."  To the Emperor she finally stated,
“Zeltrons are very friendly, if that’s what you mean.”
     "Friendly is good. I can see you've really made an impression 
on Skywalker...as well as his *father*." Palpatine looked at Vader 
with an amused grin.
     "Weak fools,” the Emperor snorted. “Well, let us all *not* 
stand around acting like a bunch of lovesick Jedi."  
    Rachel privately shared the Emperor's amusement; but she 
didn't want to hurt her friend's feelings. However, while she 
welcomed the diversion, she knew she had to satisfy the Emperor’s 
curiosity about her somehow, or it would follow her forever. 
Turning back to the Emperor, Rachel faced him with composure.  
     "As I said, Arcturus was found guilty of treason against the 
Empire," Rachel said, her chin high. "I had nothing to do with it." 
There was a hint of fire in her eyes as she spoke.
    She paused. Then, gathering her courage around her like a 
cloak, she finished: “...I did, however, carry out the sentence, 
as Darana ordered.” She looked at the Emperor steadily, trying 
to steel herself for whatever he might do.
    Dani could only stare at the cold stone floor in disbelief. Rachel 
focused on her memory of surprise and scorn at Arcturus' behavior, 
and how not a single member of the eminently loyal Household could 
trust him before it was over. Rachel's eyes flickered to Dani. "I'm 
sorry, Dani," she said softly. "I forgot you didn't know." She looked 
away.
    Palpatine suddenly turned toward Dani. "As promised, Rachel is 
here. You have truly completed your mission." The old man turned 
around, then paused. He looked back at Dani with a hateful 
stare. “Take your Zeltron friends and leave. Vader will stay!" 
Vader could sense the anger that was building in his Dark Master.
     Dani hesitated only a moment, long enough to look up into 
the faceplate of Vader and put her black gloved hand on his 
armored chest wordlessly.   Then she turned back to the Emperor 
and said quickly, "Thank you, Your Majesty!" She quickly exited 
the throne room. She wanted to retrieve her friends before Palpatine 
changed his mind again. Her thoughts were with Vader as well as 
with her crewmen. And she knew that Vader was the better of the 
two to survive the anger of the Emperor.
     When the Emperor's attention was fully on Vader, Rachel 
reached out and established a light telepathic link with Dani. 
     The doors closed as Rachel stepped back to leave. "You and 
I are not through yet, dear," the Emperor hissed, emphasizing the 
last word sarcastically.
     ("I'm going to keep watch until I know you and the boys are 
safe,") Rachel whispered telepathically to Dani. ("We'll meet up 
later.")  Outwardly, she turned back to the Emperor, looking 
composed. "Yes?" There was an edge to her manner that was 
difficult to put a finger on.
     "How touching...aren't we the guardian angel, Regina! Or 
Rachel? Or is it Katherine? Which are you today, my dear?" 
the Emperor sneered.
     Rachel sighed to herself, realizing that her message to Dani 
had been overheard. At Palpatine's last words, though, she gave 
him a strange look.
     "No, no...you are dealing with *me* now. And you know 
my powers exceed your own, he said, having read her mind link 
message to Dani.  So, tell me: Who are you?" 
     Rachel bowed her head in ironic acknowledgment; but she 
was still perplexed. "Why in the stars would I call myself Katherine 
at this point?”
     "Yes, why *would* you? Answer that, if you can."
     "I wouldn't," she answered, shrugging. "Katherine Winter was 
a good disguise and cover identity for me to use when I first 
arrived in this galaxy.  I didn’t know enough about the place. I 
knew if I was to be of any use here whatsoever, I'd have to 
know a lot more about where I was and how things worked. 
After meeting Sonya, I figured being a neutral merc would give 
me the best possible view of all sides involved. And it did." She 
sighed a little. "It was a very useful disguise, while it lasted. But I 
knew it couldn't last forever.” She actually smiled a bit. “Really, 
I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did."  
     Abruptly, her manner shifted, becoming both more formal and 
wholly respectful. "I am Rachel Summers, Your Imperial 
Majesty,” she said, standing straight and tall before the 
Emperor. “That is who I was born, and that is who I 
continue to be. You ask who I am. That is the answer." 
     "You speak the truth," Palpatine said, with a hint of 
a smile on his lips. "So...now I know about Katherine. 
And I already know of Regina. You, Rachel Summers, are 
the focus here. Whom do you serve?"

                       -TO BE CONTINUED -


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