“I understand clearly what it is you are saying, and frankly sir I wish you would do the same with me. Yes, I did get the files you sent over,” James’s patience on the private communicator was being tested, evidenced by his strained speech and pacing in his home office, “Look sir, facts are facts and…” he was cut off as his daughter who was playing in his office reached for an antique bound book on the shelf and ended up pulling it and about five others on the floor.
“Please hold on, I need to take care of my daughter.”
“Very well,” came a gruff and impatient voice from the communicator.
James knelt down beside his daughter. “Honey, daddy is doing some business right now. He needs you to be quiet ok?”
Arissa turned to face her father with teary violet eyes, a quivering lower lip, and a bleeding cut on her forehead where one of the old tomes from ages past had hit her. Smiling, he wiped the blood from her cut and kissed it before more welled up to take its place. “Are you alright, Arissa?”
The little girl nodded her head, trying to be strong and not cry.
“Why don’t you go see mommy? It is about your bedtime anyway and she can clean you up before tucking you in for the night. Will you do that for daddy, please?” James’s reply from his six year old was a kiss on the cheek and scampering feet. He watched her hobble out of the office with as much dignity as an injured child can muster and smiled warmly.
“Mr. Nassani. Mr. Nassani, are you there?” The communicator inquired to the preoccupied father. Immediately switching roles, James Nassani went from the daddy of a six year old daughter to the president of a multi-planetary import/export corporation.
“I’m sorry Mr. Barriden. Where were we again? Ah yes,” he remembered, “your offer is generous, but look at the facts. The Empire already holds several major groups like mine. Yet here I still equal your conglomerate’s business in most fields and even surpassing you in others. Have you thought that perhaps instead of us having an inside edge on things, it is what is on the outside of your containers that puts people off?”
“I’d be careful what you say, I am an Imperial official just as I am a businessman, James.”
“No disrespect towards the Empire intended, Mr. Barriden,” James said maintaining his tact, “You know that we operate completely within Imperial Law. We allow our vessels to be boarded and inspected as standard protocol. Our clients know this too and choose us because they don’t want any kind of trouble with the government.”
“Then I see no reason why you are hesitant to sell to us.”
“We serve our clients first and our clients have expressed to us that they enjoy their supply of economic lifeblood to remain free of direct Imperial control. They know exactly what they can ship and that it will be handled with care in a prompt manner despite the inspections. If you’ll notice with the I/E groups you currently have, there are many complaints. Shipments are more often late or broken upon receipt…if received at all. Also, my clients know their cargo has priority and won’t end up floating in a garbage dump in the Outer Rim after a Rebel attack or be diverted to help the war effort or line a local politician’s pockets. We neither support nor attack either faction in this insurgency and only ship legal goods under Imperial law. Aligning to do business purely with the Empire will not only put our (or your in this scenario Mr. Barriden) ships at risk, we will also lose a large number of customers who wish to remain neutral in the conflict and continue on with their everyday lives and businesses without bringing war and politics to their front door with each delivery.”
“I see then, Mr. Nassani,” said a disappointed voice on the other end of the channel, “very well. This is disappointing news. You are sure that despite these more-than-fair sums we will pay you, you will not sell?”
“Then we have no further business. Good night, Mr. Nassani.”
“Good night, Mr. Barriden. May the Force be with you.” While not capable of using the Force himself, James believed in its power. In fact some of the same (and illegal under Imperial Law) books his daughter collapsed detailed the generalities and nuances of this unified power as it was viewed hundreds of years ago. His faith carried over into his family and business practices and was a part of his success, but privately felt it best not to include the Empire’s ardent secular nature as another reason not to want to sell out to it.
* * * * *
After Arissa left the office…
* * * * *
“Yes honey,” Sara’s eyes lifted from her datapad she was reading in bed to her daughter standing in the doorway.
“I have a laceration on my forehead.”
Thrown for a loop, Arissa’s mother repeated, “Laceration?” She thought for a second over the word her six year old just used. “Ohhh you have a cut? Come to the bathroom, let’s see your ‘laceration’,” Sara joked at her daughter. Sara followed Arissa to the bathroom and turned on the light. “My my, been playing a little too hard now haven’t we?”
Arissa’s black ponytail bobbed with a nod of her head. “I caused an avalanse of books in daddy’s office.”
“Hmmm, let’s see what we can do for you then, Miss Avalanche,” Sara corrected her daughter’s second big word of the night. She tickled her daughter then turned to search through the cabinet for a medspray to close the wound, marveling at her gifted daughter. “Ah, here we are then. Close your eyes, dear, this will sting a bit.”
The brave girl closed her eyes and bit her lip. After a few seconds of a burning feeling she heard her mom say, “And there we are! Good as new! Almost. Just don’t go causing any more literary catastrophes, ok?”
“There’s a good girl. Now, little lady, it is time for you to go to bed. Run ahead and change and I’ll be there to tuck you in a minute.”
Arissa tottered off to her room. Sara smiled and shook her head, “Laceration? Avalanche? I’ve heard of growing up quickly but, the Force be with me, I am amazed!” She put the medspray back and looked in the mirror. Sara could already see Arissa’s resemblance in both her and her father. “So quickly…”
* * * * *
After Mr. Nasanni’s refusal…
* * * * *
“Red Rose, are you there?” A feminine but strong blue hand moved to the ear of the hidden twi’lek.
“What is it, Gardener,” she whispered into the communicator.
“There are weeds in the garden. Make it beautiful again.”
“Shall I blossom tonight?”
“That would be lovely.”
“Understood.” Red Rose pulled her crimson, nearly-velvet robes up and proceeded toward the garden.
Mr. Barriden sat back in his chair, and smiled. “Haha, ‘May the Force be with you’ indeed, James. Tonight you will need as much of it as you can get.”
* * * * *
* * * * *
“Is she in bed,” James asked Sara.
“I put her to bed just a few minutes ago. James,” she trailed.
“Arissa is growing up so quickly. Tonight she told me she had a laceration and that she caused an avalanche.” She stopped when her husband began chuckling. “I’m serious, James! She is developing so quickly. I can see it physically, too. I can see it in her face and her eyes and her nose…” she went on, “But I’m concerned.”
“Why dear? She has everything she wants, even if some things are unconventional for a six year old girl. She will never have to worry about money, she has parents that love her and each other. That’s more than either of us could say for ourselves at that age.”
“I know, dear, but I’m more concerned with what she needs over what she wants. Because of her gift she doesn’t quite fit in. Even at the private school she tells me sometimes that people call her a freak.”
“Kids say that to other kids, especially when they don’t understand.”
“She needs friends, James. We don’t count nor do the employees at the business. She sleeps with the lights on and she still wets the bed from time to time. For as mentally advanced as she is, it is at the cost of her social life. James, she needs playmates, not philosophy. Arissa needs friends, not facts. She seems to have more interest in reading than socializing. It’s probably because that stuff can’t hurt her.”
James chuckled, “Tonight it did.”
“Hun, I’m serious here!”
“Sara, what would you like me to d-,” James was cut off as the power to the house gave out. “What in the…you stay here, Sara, I’ll go see what’s going on.”
From the darkness came a third voice. “You won’t be going anywhere.”
“Who is that? Who’s there!” James yelled, moving close to Sara.
Arissa woke up with a start to the shouting. She was all but encompassed in blackness. She wanted to scream, but tried to be a big girl about it. All she could do was shake in bed.
“What do you want from us? Money? Jewelry? Please, take what you want and leave us be!”
Arissa decided to brave the darkness to find out what was going on in the living room downstairs. She crawled out of bed, trembling the whole way. Slowly she made her way to the hallway and finally to the banister of the overlook upstairs. She saw a woman in deep red robes step forward into a beam of moonlight. Arissa recognized her as a twi’lek, but knew nothing else of them. Her father’s questions kept ringing inside her head as she lay in the oppressive darkness, watching a drama unfold before her.
“Let me think, what do I want? Ah yes,” said Red Rose, producing a metallic cylinder in her hand, “What I want are…your lives!” With that a red blade as long as Arissa’s leg shot from the handle with a shriek. Her mother screamed, clinging to her husband’s arm out of terror.
“Silence, woman!” With a fluid motion, the lightsaber was thrust through Sara’s throat. The red glow cast upon Arissa’s face was dimmed as part of the blade lay inside her mother’s neck.
Sara collapsed with a neat tunnel cauterized through her neck. She made not a sound nor spilled a drop of blood in her death. Intense red buzzed between James and Red Rose. Keeping his emotions in check and trying to be the business negotiator he always had been, James retorted, “Who are you? Who do you work for?”
Arissa lay on the floor by the banister with her mouth agape. Her mind was racing with the events taking place downstairs. How could her father remain so calm in the face of such a…monster?
“I work on behalf of an interested party, that’s all you have to know, Mr. Nassani.”
“You work for Ba-,” James’s accusation was cut off as the red light pierced him as well.
Seeing her father fall, Arissa stood up and ran to her room and locked the metallic sliding door behind her. Never before in her life was she happy to not have light. She hated it. She hated what it did. She wanted to be in the dark, to hide. To not be seen or heard. She wanted all this to go away and to be left alone! She ran to her bed and pulled the covers over herself to try and block even the city lights trickling in through her window.
Red Rose heard the girl run and smiled. “One more little bud to nip.” With a silent grace, she jumped supernaturally from the floor of the living room to the end of the landing where Arissa formerly lay in audience to the murder of her parents. The little girl heard the presence upstairs. She heard that horrid humming from the killer’s weapon. She closed her eyes and covered her ears. She wanted it all to go away.
The humming lay outside her door. Arissa thought if she was really quiet, perhaps the blue woman would go away?
“I can sense you in there. I can taste your fear. Your fear makes me stronger, more powerful.” Red Rose smiled, enjoying the pure terror her dramatics were causing the child.
A red spot appeared on her metal door. It grew until a length of light projected into her room and began cutting out a section. The sound was horrific. Arissa was terrified but couldn’t close her eyes or cover her ears any longer. She peeked from the blanket fortress as the door collapsed.
Before her, dressed in dark red robes and swathed in a softly fearsome red light, stood what appeared to Arissa to be an honest to goodness monster straight out of the stories she was read. The ambient darkness, the twi’lek’s blue skin, and the weapon’s red light made the monster’s skin appear to be black. Black skin with two red eyes, eyes reflecting evil and malevolence. Red eyes filled with bloodlust and murderous intent.
The girl sat upright in bed and screamed as loudly as she could. Red Rose smiled at the delicious fear. The next moment, there was no noise whatsoever. Shocked, Red Rose looked around. Confusion crept on her face as she sensed a very strong presence of the Force in the six year old daughter of the Nassanis. She next she felt a chill on her skin, even through her robes. Frost formed on the window. Confused at the situation and becoming fearful herself, Red Rose advanced into the girl’s room. The lightsaber flickered wildly and finally went black, as did all the light in the room. Red Rose was trapped in complete darkness and cold. A silent world she didn’t understand. Her mind grew wildly out of control as she tried to think what to do.
The twi’lek assassin racked her brain and extended her Force feelings to sense the little girl, she felt locked in to a swirling black abyss. All her thoughts, memories, and experiences were being pulled from her head into the vortex. Her mind was completely drained, and the entire process catalyzed by the little girl ended as abruptly as it had begun. There was a moment of silence.
Red Rose collapsed dead on the floor. Arissa lay unconscious in her bed. A second later her eyes shot open. Her body exploded with energy. Jags of lighting shot from her body. Invisible fists dented the reinforced walls. Her body shook so fast it seemed to have a double. A nova of light expanded throughout the entire house.
After that blazing moment, for Arissa, came eleven years of darkness.