Sorry for the loooong delay, but here's finally another chapter of Lady Claria's adventures.

Warning: This chapter contains erotic scenes! ;-)

Claria accompanies Palpatine visiting Byss in the Deep Core, Lumiya and Jix depart for Beheboth in the Outer Rim aboard the star destoyer Chimæra and on Arbra, things become serious between Han and Leia.

Chapter 12: In the Galaxy's heart

During the night, Claria once again made the same dream of being crowned Empress and then giving birth to a daughter. She began to think that it was indeed a premonition sent to her by the Force.

While she had breakfast served, she was mentally contacted by the Emperor. He asked her to join him at the Palace's spaceport as soon as she was ready. Once she had finished, she put on her cloak over her suit, took her lightsaber and went to join her master. She found him preparing to get into his personal shuttle accompanied by an escort of Imperial Guards.

"Greetings, master," she said, bowing, "are you going on a journey?"

"Yes, and I was planning to ask you to accompany me, Lady Claria, I have to show you some things. By the way, have you made any progress in locating the Rebel Alliance headquarters?"

"Yes master, Lady Lumiya could tell me that they were most likely on a forest planet in the Outer Rim they call Arbra, between the Garis and Sanbra sectors. We will try to infiltrate one of our agents by attracting the Millennium Falcon on Beheboth in the Sanbra sector. Lumiya and her agent Wrenga Jixton leave today for Beheboth aboard the Chimæra. I entrusted her with the command of this mission and can accompany you."

Claria went up with the Emperor and his suite on board the shuttle. The rear part of Palpatine's shuttle had been specially fitted for his use. There was an antechamber where the Imperial Guards were stationed and a small private apartment consisting of a living room, a bedroom and a refresher. There was also an emergency medical unit with a medical droid. Once they had taken off and had entered hyperspace, they isolated themselves in the living room.

"I am satisfied to see that you have reconciled with Lumiya, Lady Claria, do you trust her completely?"

"She has been a little unstable lately because of the hardships she went through, but I think we have every interest in trusting her, it can only strengthen her loyalty."

"Very well, I leave you to judge. And you, my dear, are you still resentful about these leaks in the press?"

"No master, I made clear to Ysanne Isard that I will no longer tolerate any challenge to my authority on her part and I think she understood the lesson."

"Now that you're a public person, you must prepare yourself for much worse than these few revelations, my child. See, just yesterday, we arrested a holofaker who had made a very daring fiction of which you were the heroine, Mara Jade! This told of your formation as Emperor's Hand in sadomasochistic mode with myself, Lord Vader, Ysanne Isard and Roganda Ismaren in the roles of your instructors. He called it Fifty Shades of the Dark Side, referring to the number of sketches in the work. Quite creative, isn't it?"

Claria's heart skipped a beat, and she immediately felt overwhelmed by anger and hatred.

"What? Me in a BDSM holoporn? Ah kriff, I hope you had this filthy individual immediately executed, master!"

"I left him in Ysanne Isard's good care, she has always found very refined execution embodiments for such criminals."

Claria understood that Sidious was manipulating her again. He wanted her to imagine the torments Ysanne Isard would inflict on this faker, and even to suggest herself how to make him suffer; in order to drag her further down the Dark Side path. But she had always been deeply revulsed by torture and torments, she wanted a clean and fast justice and therefore did not want to venture on that slippery slope. But it was true that these counterfeit holoporns featuring celebrities were a real nuisance. It was relatively easy to shoot a scene with sex workers or slaves and then edit the recording on a computer to substitute the appearance of another person. If the faker was good, the result was confusingly realistic.

When she had nothing to do between her missions, Mara would often go for a walk in the Coruscant Underground; this gave her opportunities to perfect her fighting techniques to the detriment of the local scum. Once, out of curiosity, she had taken a stroll in a sex shop that was selling illegal holoporns. She had learned that the holos starring Wynssa Starflare were the most popular, was it not said that a billion hearts had been broken by her marriage to Baron Fel? Poor Wynssa, it must not have been easy for her to know her image thus exploited by unscrupulous criminals. Then came those showing the lovemaking of Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Daala, a great success in the military since Tarkin had died, his disgraced widow lived in seclusion on Eriadu and Daala had gone off the grid. She had even been shown a holo telling how a vicious and devious sexual slave seduced Darth Vader on the first Death Star in order to gain her freedom. At least the scenario was original, even if she would not give a credit for its author's life. As this detour in her thoughts allowed her to calm her anger, she decided to change the subject.

"Yes, Director Isard will certainly find the right punishment. But you haven't yet told me the purpose of this trip, master!"

"Given that the second Death Star was destroyed, Lady Claria, I would like to show you some other projects of mass destruction weapons currently under development that could serve us in the future."

"So we are going to the Mount Tantiss secret base on Wayland, I suppose? Where you have already taken me once?"

"No, my dear, not this time, we are going to Byss, in the Deep Core. It's a planet bathed by the Dark Side where I continue my research on Sith sorcery and where I have new weapons developed. Due to the high stellar density in the Deep Core, it can only be reached by following the Byss Run, a secret hyperlane. I will give you a datacard with its coordinates on our return."

"All right, master."

"There's also another reason why I want you to know this run, Lady Claria. When you'll have located the rebel headquarters and launched your attack, I would like you to make sure to capture Princess Leia Organa – alive – and bring her to a complex that I had built on one of the moons of Byss. We will keep her captive and try to turn her to the Dark Side."

"I will do according to your will, my master. Now, if I may, I would like to retire to meditate before we arrive."

"You can use the bedroom, my young friend, I'll stay here for the trip."

"Thank you, master."

Claria left the lounge for the bedroom. She sat on the floor in a meditative position and began to gather her thoughts. So, we got there: her master wanted to capture Leia, Vader's daughter, and draw her towards the Dark Side. And she was beginning to realize this was likely to happen at her own expense: just as Sidious had been willing to sacrifice Vader to convert Luke, he was surely ready to sacrifice her, Claria, to convert Leia.

She called upon the Force and began by erecting a mental barrier in her mind so that the Emperor could not read her thoughts and then concentrated on trying to perceive the future. Should she accept this sacrifice? Would Leia make a better Sith Lady than her? Would she bring order and justice or, on the contrary, chaos and destruction? Images began to appear in her mind, images of horror: thousands of worlds destroyed in flames by gigantic vessels that completely sterilized the surface, missiles launched through hyperspace that exploded entire planets, countless armies of Sith warriors cloned in factories similar to the one she had seen on Wayland before, led by crazed dark Jedi, slaughters, more slaughters and survivors reduced to slavery. Above all this, the Imperial Throne, occupied by a woman wearing the hooded black dress of the Sith. She had long brown hair and she had difficulty recognizing her face, so much was it deformed by hatred: it was nevertheless Leia Organa's face, she was sure of it. She had Sith yellow eyes, but above all, a crazed gaze such as she had never seen before, a gaze of pure terror that chilled her blood and soul.

No, Vader's daughter was not to take her place at her master's side or the Galaxy would experience a cataclysm of apocalyptic proportions with the Clone Wars only a trivial event in comparison. She will have to prevent it at all costs.

Imperial Star Destroyer Chimæra, Coruscant orbit

In the middle of the day, Jix came to join Lumiya at the imperial palace and they both took a shuttle to board the Chimæra. Captain Gilad Pellaeon welcomed them in person on their arrival.

"Lady Lumiya, Mr. Jixton, welcome on board the Chimæra. I will take you to your quarters."

"Thank you Captain," Lumiya replied, "we follow you."

Pellaeon watched them carefully. Given the looks and body language exchanged between Lumiya and Jixton he quickly deduced they were lovers and recently moreover. Everything in their attitude betrayed the attraction and desire they felt for each other. Adding to the fact that Lady Lumiya had asked that adjoining and communicating quarters be allocated to them, no more doubt was allowed. Pellaeon was himself a great seducer and his numerous female conquests had hindered his advancement, which explained that he was still only a senior captain after more than thirty-five years of service in the fleet.

The relationship between Lumiya and Jixton puzzled him indeed. The Dark Lady always hid the bulk of her face behind a veil or a helmet but he had heard that she had been very seriously mutilated, that her face was covered with many scars and that her body was made up in half of cybernetic prostheses covered with synthskin. It seemed at least that her feminine attributes were still functional, but he wondered what this Jixton scumbag could see in her. Was the rumor that the Dark Side of the Force followers were particularly gifted for sex then true? But this rumor also said that the price to pay could be very high. Pellaeon was pulled from his thoughts when they finally reached their destination.

"Here we are, Lady Lumiya, I have given you the VIP suite and Mr. Jixton will be able to stay in the service apartment next door. Is that okay for you?"

"It will be perfect captain," answered Lumiya.

"By the way, I managed to get a Corellian freighter as Lady Claria had asked me, a YT-1760 that was recently seized from a smuggler. It's at your disposal in the main hangar bay."

"Thank you Captain, we will inspect it upon arrival in the Beheboth system. You can leave as soon as you're ready. We're going to settle in our quarters, let me know when we arrive."

"All right, my lady, I leave you here."

Lumiya and Jix entered their quarters. The Chimæra VIP suite was well-named, richly furnished, the living room was equipped with a state-of-the-art holographic projector and a large transparent window covering the entire back wall gave a stunning view of space. As for the room, there was a large bed with adjustable gravity field and white satin sheets. Lumiya pulled off her veil and headdress and then turned to Jix with a naughty smile.

"It will take us at least twelve hours to reach the Beheboth system. What would you say to try this bed in the meantime, darling? It looks very comfortable."

"No need to ask me twice, sweetheart," he answered.

An hour later, Jix was lying naked in the large bed of the room next to Lumiya. She turned her back to him, lying on her side, the sheet hanging just above her cybernetic girdle, her brown-red hair falling on her shoulders. She seemed deeply asleep. Jix was exhausted too, but especially worried about what had happened while they were making love.

While Lumiya was riding him and approaching orgasm, she had started, between two moans, to whisper words in a strange language he had never heard before, some kind of litany. Jix had at once felt chilly, as if the temperature had suddenly dropped by several degrees. When she had come, her eyes closed and body arched backwards, her hands clasping his shoulders sharply, he had seen blue lightning crackle on her skin, at least on the organic part of her body. He himself had then been swept away by a wave of warmth and passion and his own orgasm had reached such an intensity that he had never experienced before. He had joined her in a common ecstasy and had the impression that their two bodies were just one and that he also felt her pleasure. This magical moment had seemed to last for long minutes after which he had returned to reality. When Lumiya had opened her eyes in turn, they were shining with a yellow glow. Seeing his worried looks, she had kissed him, saying that everything was fine, separated from him and laid on the side, falling asleep almost immediately.

Jix was beginning to understand what had happened. Lumiya had invoked the Dark Side of the Force to bring them both to a pleasure of supernatural intensity. This girl was really incredible. But he too had been exposed to this dark energy and he knew it was not without risk, especially when you were Force blind. He had heard rumors about some Imperial concubines. For the moment he just felt an intense fatigue and had to struggle with all his strength not to fall asleep. He could nevertheless not resist for a long time and eventually sank off to sleep in his turn, hoping that he would not have aged ten years on his awakening.

Rebel Alliance Headquarters, Arbra

Leia was back from a training session with Luke. They had spent the afternoon running through the forest, stopping regularly for meditation or telekinesis sessions. Luke had explained to her that he had trained in this way with Master Yoda on Dagobah and that it was during one of these sessions that he had seen them – she, Han and Chewie – suffer at Vader's hands on Bespin. Leia had no vision during her meditation sessions but Luke praised her for her progress in telekinesis: she had succeeded in displacing stones of several kilograms with the Force. "Size matters not", Master Yoda had said to Luke, "to believe enough is." Leia had confidence in her abilities and had succeeded. Now she was tired and soaked in sweat; all she wanted was to take a good sanisteam in her quarters. She had dressed in a practical way for her training: trousers, military shoes and a sleeveless shirt that was now soaked and stuck to her skin; not really an outfit that suited a royal princess, even of adoption.

Luke had just left her to join his own quarters and when she reached her door, she was surprised to find Han who seemed to be waiting for her. It was the last person she wanted to come across at the moment with her attire that bordered on indecency. Of course, Han did not fail to notice her tight-fitting shirt and sent her a wry smile.

"Well, Your Highness," he said, "that's a very unusual outfit."

"I spent the afternoon training with Luke in the forest, Han," she replied. "For this, princess dresses are not really suitable. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to take a sanisteam and change."

"I know you were with Luke in the forest, Winter told me. Between your Jedi training sessions and your meetings with Mon Mothma and the other counselors, I can't see you anymore. Are you running away from me, Leia? Yet I had understood you loved me!"

"No Han, I'm not running away, it's... complicated. And you don't do anything to make things easy for me either. You know what's threatening us, I have to train with Luke, something tells me that our survival depends on it."

"Another one of your kriffin' Jedi intuitions, isn't it?"

"Oh Han, if you knew how it terrifies me, I need your support more than ever. Hold me in your arms!"

Leia embraced him and Han leaned down to kiss her neck. Her skin was so soft on his lips, moist and deliciously salty. The smell of her hair was captivating and gave rise to his desire.

Leia felt delicious shivers all over her body as Han kissed her neck. She felt her nipples harden and with her tight-fitting shirt, Han did not fail to notice.

"Well, Your Highness, it seems that this time I succeeded in exciting you!"

"Speak for yourself, you horny Devaronian! And how often have I told you to stop calling me so!"

"Countless times, Leia darling. But I never denied I was attracted to you!"

Somewhat annoyed, Leia unlocked the door of her quarters and entered. Han hastened to follow her before she could close it back.

"Han! What are you doing? Get out and let me refresh myself!"

"Look at me in the eyes Leia, say you don't want me and I'll leave you."

Leia hesitated a moment; part of her was tired and wanted to send this unbearable scoundrel to the Sith, the other part wanted more than anything to feel his hands and lips on her skin. This time, desire prevailed.

"I can't Han," she replied, "I want you!"

Leia locked the door again and kissed Han passionately. She then began to undo the buttons on his jacket as Han pulled her shirt away. They were soon both bare-chested. In a final gesture of modesty, Leia crossed her arms in front of her chest, but Han grabbed her wrists and gently spread her arms to admire her.

"How beautiful you are Leia, and so desirable! You know what I miss most about our latest adventures? To have been blind when you wore this bikini at Jabba's palace, Lando can't stop telling me how sexy you were!"

"Well, don't count on me to put it back. It was maybe sexy but terribly uncomfortable! I got rid of it, by the way."

"Anyway, you're even more beautiful without anything! Are you sure we won't be disturbed this time? Goldenrod or Plif aren't hanging around the corner looking for you?"

"They have no reason to look for me at the moment, they know I have to spend the afternoon training with Luke. And you, no risk to see Chewie or Lando dropping by?"

"I don't want to think about that! But I doubt that they would dare to pick me up in your quarters. Well, I only have to get rid of these unsightly military fatigues and your lightsaber and we can move on to serious things."

While saying this, Han gently stroked her breasts. Leia felt more and more excited.

"You can take off my boots and pants, but don't you touch my lightsaber, you corellian scoundrel! And then, I want you all to myself!"

Leia went to put her lightsaber on the bedside table next to her bed, then they helped each other to get rid of the rest of their clothes. Then, burning with desire, they entwined their naked bodies in the bed, exchanging countless caresses and kisses.

Palpatine's Imperial shuttle, approaching Byss

As the Imperial Shuttle was about to reach its destination, the Emperor invited Claria to join him in the cockpit to witness the final approach. She had just entered when the shuttle left hyperspace near a beautiful blue-green planet. Seen from space, there was no indication that Byss was a world deeply imbued with the Dark Side of the Force, there were oceans and continents, the main one almost entirely covered by a vast city. It was bathed in a blue light produced by a distant and yet dazzling sun, a hot star whose short existence should not have allowed the development of life on one of its planets. Indeed, life had not developed naturally on Byss; the planet had been terraformed almost fifty thousand years ago by the Infinite Empire of the Rakata using the Dark Side of the Force. When the Rakatan Empire collapsed twenty-five thousand years ago, Byss was forgotten for a long time and was only rediscovered fifty years ago. It was then chosen as the backup capital by Palpatine in the first months of the Empire. He built a large city there and the planet served as a center of research and secret training for followers of the Dark Side.

Orbiting the planet were five natural satellites and numerous combat stations and shipyards. Byss was also protected by a planetary shield and a whole fleet of cruisers was patrolling the system. Palpatine ordered the shuttle pilot to make a detour through the orbital shipyards to show Claria the new weapons that were being built to compensate for the loss of the second Death Star. They first saw a new model of Super Star Destroyer – Eclipse class – equipped as standard with a superlaser capable of instantly destroying any other vessel and destined to become the Emperor's own command ship. Then Palpatine showed her the World Devastators, gigantic vessels derived from the Leviathan factory ships, capable, as their name suggested, of devastating the surface of a planet with a powerful tractor beam and then recycling the collected materials by making new weapons. Claria had to suppress a shiver as she recognized the ships she had seen in her vision a few hours before.

Once they had finished flying around the orbital shipyards, the shuttle contacted the planetary control to request the deactivation of the shield and announce the arrival of the Emperor and Lady Claria to the Imperial Citadel. Confirmation arrived immediately and the shuttle headed for the planet. They flew over the main continent almost entirely covered by the vast imperial city and its high towers which – apart from the very cold light of the system's blue star – looked very much like Coruscant. They headed for a tower higher than all the others, in the shape of a black and red mushroom, the Imperial Citadel of Byss. The shuttle landed in a hangar bay at the top of the tower. Palpatine, Claria and their escort descended from the shuttle and were greeted by a reception committee made up of stormtroopers, imperial guards and two Dark Side warriors with a sinister face. One was a fairly young man with short black hair, the other was older with shoulder-length brown hair. Both had their eyes on Claria and as they approached, she heard what the brown one was telling to his companion about her.

"Kriff! Have a look at the chick who's coming Sedriss, she's damn well curvy. Holy Sith, I could really do her!"

Once again, Claria's heart skipped a beat, and this time she made no attempt to contain her rage and hatred. On the contrary, she let herself be invaded by the Dark Side, raised her right hand, clenching her fist, and lifted the brown-haired man with the Force, squeezing his neck.

"I'm not a chick, you slimy degenerate son of a Hutt," she barked. "I'm a Sith!"

The man put his hands around his neck and tried to speak but only muffled groans came out of his mouth. His gaze turned into an expression of panic while his black-haired companion remained impassive. Claria squeezed harder, the man's face became purplish, his eyes revolved in their sockets and his neck broke in a horrible crack. At the moment he died, Claria's vision shifted towards the red and she felt overwhelmed by intense pleasure. She did not need a mirror to know that her eyes were turning yellow again. She let go of the man who fell to the ground, his head leaning unnaturally and blood trickling out of his mouth. She felt that her master approved what she had just done, and that the other man, Sedriss, did not disapprove either. At first he spoke briefly to the corpse at his feet.

"You really shouldn't have said that, Stuxx!"

Then he kneeled before the Emperor and Claria.

"My congratulations, Your Majesty, you have well chosen your new apprentice, she's worthy to follow in Lord Vader's steps. Welcome to Byss, Darth Claria, I'm Sedriss QL, leader of the Dark Side Elite and guardian of Byss. I hope that the misplaced remarks of my foolish assistant will not have you durably offended."

"Don't worry," Claria replied, "I know how to control my anger and use it wisely. By the way, why do you call yourself Sedriss QL?"

"Qaga Lok was my old name when I was a lawless mercenary, my Lady. When His Majesty took me in his service, I took the name of Sedriss, retaining only the initials of my old name."

"And you have served me well since then Sedriss," intervened Palpatine. "Rise now, my friend. I would like to show the Imperial Citadel to Lady Claria."

"Of course, Your Majesty. If you will follow me, my Lady?"

Sedriss first led Palpatine and Claria into the vast throne hall of the citadel, which was as vast and majestic as that of the Imperial Palace on Coruscant. He presented to Claria other members of the Dark Side Elite: Kam Solusar, Vill Goir, Badon Fass and Krdys Mordi. Claria was particularly impressed by Kam Solusar, a tall young man with white hair and brown eyes who was the only one of the elite warriors not to be completely impregnated by the Dark Side. He was also the only one with Sedriss to respect her sincerely whereas she felt that Goir, Fass and Mordi did not approve of the Emperor having chosen a woman as a new apprentice; even if they dared not show it for fear of suffering the same fate as their former companion Stuxx Alvill. She felt that Solusar could turn out to be a potential ally in the future.

She was then introduced to Umak Leth, the engineer who had designed the molecular furnaces at the heart of the World Devastators. He was now working on the design of a new weapon, the Galactic Gun, which should send missiles through hyperspace capable of destroying any planet in the Galaxy. She repressed another shudder as she thought this was one of the weapons of mass destruction she had seen in her last vision.

They then went down into the lower levels of the Citadel, where there were research and Sith alchemy laboratories, a vast library specialized in Dark Side works, and a cloning center similar to that Claria had seen on Wayland, housing hundreds of Spaarti cylinders capable of producing an adult clone in a standard year. It reminded her once more of her vision where cloned Dark Side warriors sowed death and destruction across the Galaxy.

After the visit of the Citadel, Sedriss accompanied them to the Imperial shuttle. Before leaving, the Emperor inquired of one last thing.

"Tell me Sedriss, is the construction of the penitentiary complex on the far side of the second moon finished? We may soon have to welcome a distinguished prisoner."

"Yes, Your Majesty, everything is ready as you ordered."

"Very well, we will fly over it before heading back to Coruscant."

"Goodbye, Your Majesty, it was an honor to welcome you on Byss as well as Lady Claria."

Palpatine and Claria boarded their shuttle and left the Imperial Citadel. They headed for the second of Byss' five moons to fly over the far side and passed over the penitentiary complex which had been built in one of the many craters. Then the shuttle flew away and entered hyperspace for the return trip to Coruscant.

Notes: Holofakers come from Barbara Hambly's novel Planet of Twilight where a certain Liegeus Vorn made false holovids to hide Leia's kidnapping. I adapted the idea to a more scathing type of holovids, providing a way for Sidious to stir up hate in his young apprentice.

Byss, the super-weapons of mass destruction that are manufactured there and the Dark Side Elite are taken from the comics series Dark Empire.

The holovid featuring Vader and a sex slave on the first Death Star is a reference to Ivy Leigh's story Dark Angel Unleashed.