By Terri Ruwe and Lady Viper

Melora woke, opened her eyes to mere slits and saw that she was in yet a
different place. She raised her head slightly and looked around. Yep.
Different place. She plopped back to her pillow. Great. Where am I
now? Scorch three coming up?

"I see that you are awake now," said a soft voice.

Melora looked around, saw Lady Panthiera sitting on a chair next to her
hospital bed. "I will call the Princess," she said.

Wonderful. Just wonderful, Melora thought in resignation. Bring in the
tag team.

The lady-in-waiting rose and disappeared through the door.

As she left, Melora pulled the pillow over her head. It hurt, but she
didn't care. I'm dead. I'm soooo dead.

Footsteps sounded in corridor. More than one pair; at least three. Oh
good, Melora thought, here come the reinforcements.

"Melora." The voice of Anelis Palpatine was soft but firm.

Melora peaked out from the pillow, thinking, I'm so dead. My master is

Anelis skimmed the injured woman's thoughts and firmly pulled the
pillow away. "You are injured. You have need of Jasan's services."
She gestured for the woman standing behind her to come forward.

Just what I need, more pain, was Melora's only coherent thought.

Lady Jasan reached out and took Melora's hands and said, "No need to
fear me, Colonel Lexor, I am a healer."

If I am to be punished, why should I be healed? Melora wondered.

"Because you were punished by my father," Anelis said. "But you are not
in his custody now." Jasan said nothing, but sent waves of healing
energy to the injured woman.

After several minutes, a slight smile quirked Melora's face. She was
feeling a LOT better. "Now what?" she asked.

"What did you do to incur my father's wrath?" Anelis asked.

"Ummm, I killed Nik-Vie?" Melora offered.

"You what?"

"I killed Nik-Vie. I let him die." Melora repeated, running through
the entire session with the Emperor in her mind.

Anelis frowned, reading Melora's confused train of thought.

"How did you kill Nik-Vie?" Anelis asked.

"I took internal samples. I let him bleed to death," Melora answered

"Why, knowing that the Emperor would want him?" Anelis was truly

"I don't know," Melora replied, her thoughts running into a muddy
confusion. Why did I let him die? What about my medical oath? I'm a
doctor, I shouldn't have let that happen. How could I do something so
unlike me? Round and round and round, through all the questioning,
through all the answers, through all the pain.

Anelis threw up a hasty block. "So if you killed him, what did you do
with his body?"

"My assistants cremated the body and scattered the ashes in space,"
Melora replied.

Anelis gestured to Panthiera, who stepped forward. "I want to talk to
Colonel Lexor's lab assistants."
Panthiera nodded and disappeared on her errand.

Anelis glanced at Jasan. "You too are dismissed."

Jasan gave her a half-bow and also left.

Melora sank back into her pillows, mind still racing with confusion.
Anelis softly touched the outer thoughts of the woman's mind, not enough
to trigger a defensive action. She tried to sort through the
bewilderment, to piece together the scattered, fractured thought
processes. It did not feel like nerve damage from the Emperor's
lightning, more like simple honest confusion and panic. From Melora's
viewpoint, she saw the interview with the Emperor, Raven and Darana.
She felt Melora's panic and self-preservation instinct when they invaded
her mind, looking for something that was not there: she did not know why
she killed Nik-Vie. Even if he was her ancestor. Especially since he
was her ancestor? Why should that matter? And one subtle, resentful
thought pattern underlying everything: why did she have to give up her
necklace, which she had all her life, and wasn't hurting anyone; why was
she required to give up sentiment and emotion when the Emperor did not
abide by those precepts? *He* had sentiment; he was married, he pursued
the woman he had made his wife. What harm was a little necklace that
she wore every day of her life, hidden under her uniform? So what if it
had been passed down from Nik-Vie, that meant nothing to her; only that
it was a family heirloom.

Anelis gently withdrew. No need to spook the woman more. "I see you
are not happy with the Emperor's actions."

Melora said nothing, which was just fine with Anelis.

"You being up very good questions, my apprentice." She mused. "Why
should the Emperor be acting in opposition to the rules he has set down
for the Sith? He says there is no room for the softer emotions: for
sentiment, for love. and yet. and yet. Here he is with a wife. that he
*insisted* on marrying, despite good common sense, and her own wishes.

Melora said nothing. *I'm not saying anything about this one way or
another. I'm not a slow learner.*

Anelis smiled slightly. "You rest, Melora. We will speak of this

Several hours later, Panthiera entered Anelis' office. "You highness,
we cannot locate Colonel Lexor's lab assistants. They seem to have
disappeared without a trace."

Anelis raised an eyebrow. "Really? How interesting."

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