In the holy Imperium, the Sith are the sun all life orbits around. Every schoolchild is taught that we are the purest incarnation of mankind; the only ones to retain the divine spark that elevated the overman before humanity succumbed to the original sin of miscegenation. We are the heirs of the Great Vader. His divine mandate gives us the right and the duty to over all life. We alone can protect mankind from the xenos hordes. Because we are so pure and wise, we are also just. Any pure human man or woman can approach us to seek redress from injustice. For any injustice the common man may suffer in the Imperium is obviously not our fault.

Thus, at regular intervals, a Sith will receive petitioners. Even more so if they are in government. Lord Thrul is a powerful Moff, but he is burdened by manifold duties. He has to spend as much time as possible at the Leader's side to whisper in his ear. In his wisdom he has mastered the principle of delegation. My dear husband is…otherwise occupied. Rest assured, House Skleros is dedicated to…justice. So I sit in a grotesquely large, throne-like chair in an opulent audience chamber. Elaborate tapestries decorate the walls. A massive statue of the Vader stares down upon us. A large crowd awaits my word, seeking succour. They are, of course, all human, and all vetted. This has been going for several hours, and I'm fatigued.

But I retain my poise as a petitioner is called forward, studying him. A bearded man wearing the grey uniform of a soldier of the Imperial Army. He walks with a limp and face sports several scars, and his right eye is covered by an eyepatch. A ribbon with the Imperial Cross hangs from his neck. The cross glows in the light. He bows his head. "Sergeant Michail Stamakos, at your service, my lord. 209th Infantry Regiment."
"Tell me a bit about yourself, soldier. What brings you here?"
"My lord, I've been a soldier since I was old enough to answer the call. I fought against the Light Sith traitors, the Swamp Guard bandits, the pretender Supreme Leaders. I lost an eye at Skywalker City," he removes his eyepatch, letting me see the gruesome wound. "I got the Imperial Cross, Second Class."
"You must've fought bravely to merit such an award," I comment.
"I did my duty, my lord. For the fatherland. But now I've been demobilised. My injury is too serious for me to serve, but not serious enough for a pension!"
"Have you presented your case to the War Ministry?"
"Aye, my lord. My platoon sergeant and my lieutenant can vouch for me. But high command won't give me a hearing. They won't even help me get a cybernetic. I shed my blood for the fatherland. I'd do it all again…but this isn't fair. My family's poor. We don't have savings to fall back on. They depend on me and it's hard for me to find a job."
"How did you lose your eye?"
"Shrapnel from a grenade, my lord. We were clearing a building of the traitors. One of the bastards left me something to remember him just when I took him down with my pistol."
"You're aware that I'll make enquiries to verify your claim?"
"Yes, my lord. I've got nothing to hide…and you can't lie to a Sith, can you? I came to you because you're blessed by the holy Vader." Briefly his gaze falls on the lightsabre attached to my belt. "You see His will more than those who don't." There are murmurs among the crowd when he finishes.

No doubt he has done horrible things or witnessed or heard about them and ignored them. They all have, all 'noble Imperial heroes'. But he didn't go on an unhinged rant about xenos.
"Skywalker City was…a brutal fight. Even more so because soldiers like you had to take up arms not against xenos, but fellow humans," I say calmly. "But if it hadn't been for the sacrifice of men like you, I would still be a victim for the pretender to torment. I owe any soldier who risked life and limb to end his madness a debt of gratitude. I shall speak with the War Ministry, and ensure you get what you deserve."
For a moment his eyes look a bit watery. "My lord, thank you," he snaps to attention and salutes me.

The next petitioner is a woman with her little boy. She bows deeply and makes the child do the same. "Speak," I command.
"My l-lord," she starts, stammering slightly. "I'm Ifigenia Gianiades, wife of Giorgos Gianiades. This my son Markos. Markos, greet her lordship."
"Uh, hello…my lord," the boy says shyly. "Mother…she really has a lightsabre."
"Hush, little one, I'm sorry, my lord."
"It's quite fine." I retrieve the lightsabre from my belt. There are gasps among some of the petitioners when I ignite it with a snap-hiss. Awed looks gaze upon the crimson beam. "What do you know about lightsabres, child?"
"The…the Vader had one. He used it to destroy the evil xenos Jedi, my lord. The purest Sith get one from him."
"That is correct – mostly. I would not call myself the purest." I deactivate the weapon. "For I am weak in body and burdened by impure origins…but I have the spirit of the Sith, and it is my mission to dedicate myself to helping the good people of this realm. So please, state your case."
"Yes, my lord. Truly, I'm at my wits' end. My husband, Dark Father rest his soul, was a foreman in a steel mill. He died in an explosion," she looks distraught. "The damn xenos sabotaged the machines. I always knew they weren't being disciplined enough." You mean whipped with lashes. "Now it's just me and my boy. My lord, no employer will give a widow with child the time of the day. I know a woman's realm is home and hearth, but how can I raise my child when I can't earn enough money to put bread on the table?"
"You're still young, surely you have suitors."
She looks genuinely disgusted. "Giorgos…he was my true love. We've known each other since school. My lord, I can't just give my heart away when it's still bleeding. I'll take any work that lets me take care of my boy. He's all I've got of my husband."
I raise my hand. "You need not explain any further." I make a show of fishing through some papers. "You are willing to travel and study?" She nods. "Good. As you may have heard in the news, the Zephyros Grand Intercontinental Aerodome and Hub is expected to open momentarily. It will create thousands of new jobs in this sector. They're in dire need of…air traffic controllers."
She frowns. "Air traffic controller, my lord? Pardon me…but that's way out of field. I'd have to go through a lot of training."
"Quite so…but the jobs is secure, pays well and you'd be doing crucial work for the fatherland. I recognise it will be challenging…but we're not xenos savages, we're humans. We can accomplish anything we put our minds to, correct?"
Her upper lip trembles, she's sweating. I can feel the fear rising inside her. Oh, yes, but she can't refuse the gift. "Yes, yes, my lord. I thank you for this…opportunity!" If my sources are correct, like many of our megaprojects, the airport will be delayed or cancelled outright. Mrs Gianiades will go through intense training…and then in a year be out of a job. "Markos, thank her lordship."
"Thank you, my lord!"

The third petitioner is grey with age and fat. He wears golden robes embroidered with swords of crimson silk, their pommels studded with rubies. His vestments mark him as a prelate of the Church of the Dark Father. He wears a crystal in a thong about his neck. "My lord, Patriarch Apollonas Barallis, I am honoured to be in your presence."
"The Faith is one of the pillars of the Imperium. Tell me, what would you ask of me?"
"My lord, I humbly beg your assistance in a matter that will elevate you and House Skleros above all as defenders of the true faith," he declares. "Within this governorate lies holy ground – the Spires of the Ascending Lord Father."
"It is a small mesa amidst flat lands. The Vader walked here as a mortal ere he ascended. Even before he unlocked his true potential, he could fly. Long was the truth disputed, but the Great Council of Mantzakert proved it beyond any doubt. My brothers and I communed at this sacred site, communing with the Great Masters through day and night, starving our bodies and testing our spirits." He sure replenished those lost kilos.
"I remember reading about this Council. It heartens me that the truth was recognised," I remark. "So what is the issue?"
"By the laws of gods and men, this land is under the stewardship of the faith. But the legal debate remained…unresolved when so many of our brethren vanished into the Nether, and heretics and slaves rose up against the natural order. The Church was too busy shielding the innocent from the ravages of chaos. When we were finally able to venture to the holy site, it had been seized by Astyges."
I raise an eyebrow. Astyges is one of the biggest landowners in the Imperium…and an ally of the creep who's my father-in-law. "Lord Astyges is a dedicated servant of the Imperium. Have you made any effort to reach a compromise?"
"We have, my lord, but he has refused any attempts to reach a settlement. He has grown haughty, and no longer recognises that he owes all he is to the Dark Father and his Vicar the Supreme Leader. When some of our brothers wanted to visit the Spire to pray, they were chased away by armed thugs and beaten viciously. Lord Astyges has enclosed the land. He doesn't respect the faith; he sees the land as his personal hunting ground…when he cares to visit it. But he has ordered his men to decapitate anyone who comes there to hunt, even the poorest citizens."
"And what would the Church use this land for?"
He rubs his hands. There is a glint in his eye. "I…we would erect a great spire and a statue the spot of the Dark Father's ascent. We would invite pilgrims from all across the Imperium, and provide them with shelter and instruction. And," he smiles, "in our prayers to the Father Above we shall invoke the name of the blessed lady who humbled the false witnesses in the name of the faith."
I give him a stern look. "I don't seek worldly glory or fame. My only desire is to spread the word of our Lord Father."
I'll give him credit, the scumbag has a good Pazaak face. "I know, my lord. And that is why I've come to you. Your piety elevates you above all who take our Father's name in vain. The people must and will know who will give them justice."

This merits thought. Astyges is a friend of House Skleros. Aiding the pompous prelate will antagonise him. Thrul may be angered…but he's all about Vader worship. If this can anger Astyges towards the family…it could be well worth it. "You speak truth. I believe your cause is just. We can't do the Vader's will if we don't honour his history," I pause, eyes darting across the crowd before settling on him once more. "The ever-present threat from the xenos Jedi and their Swamp Guard lackeys forces us to invest considerable sums in our military. All very vital. My beloved husband can attest to that. But it's forced us to scale back certain social programmes. If the Church gets its due, could it use more of its resources to develop the land and aid some of the deserving poor?"

His smile is unpleasant. "An inspired idea, my lord. Worthy of St. Padme. It has long been my wish to create a hospice on this sacred ground and make it our base of operations for charitable work in this sector. Of course, we'd have to test anyone who asks for aid."
I nod. "Naturally. It's not our way to reward sloth. But there are sinners who are irredeemable, and sinners who act out of ignorance and just need…discipline. I'll do what I can to reclaim this holy site for the faith."
His eyes light up. "My Lord is as wise as she is pious. I understand that my Lord has a relic received from the spirits of the divine Vader. I may be asking for your lordship's indulgence too much, but might I see and kiss the holy relic? A connection to the Dark Father is so hard to find!"
I feel so completely disgusted. "You may. Why He bestowed this gift upon me, unworthy soul that I am, I don't know. But I strive to be worthy of it." So I get up and hold out the sabre. I can barely keep my composure as he slobbers over the hilt. I just wish he'd kiss the end of it so I can activate it through his head.

Then the heavy doors suddenly burst open. A powerfully built man in fancy military uniform stands in the doorway. Oh, my dear husband. Good timing…or bad. Pyrros locks eyes with me, sees the sabre and the cleric kissing my sabre's hilt. "What's going on here?" he demands.
Immediately the Patriarch Barallis stops slobbering and bows. "My lord, I didn't expect you. Otherwise I would've naturally…" Petitioners bow, but many look uneasy. I sense feelings of awe, but also great fear among the throng of people.
"Is that what you use the lightsabre for? Letting old men slobber over it like dogs? Is it even still holy with germs all over it? Then again, it's not like you'd ever be able to beat someone who's not an old man with it."
"The Patriarch wished to pay his respects to our Lord's blessing, husband," I say calmly. "These good people have travelled here all this way to seek redress for wrongs done to them. I'm sorry for not informing you, but I understood you to be occupied drilling our forces. Would you care to review some with me?"
He gestures dismissively. "They must be basic enough for a mind as simple as yours to grasp. The audience is over. Leave. I have business with my wife."
"But, my lord, many haven't had the chance to state their case yet. Several of them are soldiers who shed their blood for the fatherland; widows with children; good people struck by calamity.
"And we already have beggars in the streets," he snaps icily. "There are no more pennies here, be gone." Quickly the petitioners file out of the hall. Some shoot scared glances at Pyrros. Most avert their eyes. The little boy looks back at me, before being pulled away by her mother. The one-eyed veteran gives me a curt nod. And then it's just me and my lord husband.

I lean back in the throne-like chair. The chair he should be administering 'justice' from. Or what the Vaderites call justice. Which usually amounts to despicable atrocities against racial undesirables. I study his features. Many a maiden would no doubt be head over heels for him. Lord Pyrros Skleros. Hero of the Imperium, vanquisher of xenos Jedi, knight without fear or blemish, Sith Chevalier, scion of an illustrious bloodline. One ridiculous magazine gushed about how he was 'muscled like a maiden's fantasy', with features so chiselled he might as well be the statue of a war god come to life.

I suppose he is heavily muscled. He's not my fantasy though. He doesn't…do anything for me. I just feel revulsion. The door slams shut. "Will you help in a soup kitchen next, dear wife? Get some dirt in your dress," he says mockingly. Peons. All they want are handouts."
"The salt of the earth, lord husband. The very men and women who are the bedrock of our glorious Humanist Party," I remind him gently.

In truth, I share his contempt, though for different reasons. The 'ordinary, innocent Imperial citizens' are what keeps the machinery of death, slavery and genocide running. It's so easy to look away when xenos and 'useless eaters' are being dragged from their beds to be shot in a dark pit, worked to death or gassed. Or to lend a hand in the process and profit from it. They're as guilty as the Sith. But, for now, I need them. So I make them love me.

"Are you cross with me for hearing their petitions in your stead? I understood you to be very busy. I can reschedule the next session if it's more convenient for you."
He makes a dismissive gesture. "I have my soldiers' loyalty and the Force, I'm not wasting time on the rabble. A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinion of the sheep."
"Then it's good I'm not a lion and am talking with the sheep so you don't have to."
"While you were off 'running your business' and placating sheep, Stratonike was doing her duty. My brother told me she's with child again."
I raise an eyebrow. "I shall have to congratulate her and Antiochus then. But isn't a bit soon? It's been what…six months since she gave birth?"
"So what? A woman's battlefield is the birthing bed."
"Battles leave scars. With pregnancies spaced so closely, the baby may be born prematurely."
"Says the woman who was born in a tank. What do you know about childbirth? You're not even a real human; you're a fleshbot."
"The artificial nature of my conception doesn't change biology, husband," I explain as patiently and calmly as I can.
"You just want to distract from your inability to do your duty. Have you been taking father's elixir?"
A sigh and a shudder. Ah, yes, the miracle elixir that will allow me to fight my battles in the birthing bed. I let Sibylla analyse a sample. She never swears, but I'll never forget the spew of expletives when she denounced it as pseudo-scientific excrement. "You know I have. It makes me feel sick."
"Every battle leaves scars, as you said. If I have to lie with an ice block for a wife, you can endure the discomfort. Actually, an ice block would be more pleasant. At least it would melt."
I'd like to see you endure it. But I know how to school my features. "Of course, husband. I find it curious that for someone so eager to become a father…you take no interest in your bastards."
He shrugs dismissively. "They're mundanes. Not worth my time.
"Ah, yes. I was thinking about calling their mothers and checking up on them…but I fear they'd think it's a plot to murder them or some rot like that."
"They'd teach you to be less of a coldfish. You better give me a son strong in the Force…before one of my lovers does."
"Yes, husband. Was there any other matter you wanted my opinion on?"
"I'll be sure to ask your opinion you when I need someone to sew things for me or beg cry about slaves. My business is with your unearned relic." I tense at his words. He makes a gesture with his hand, and I feel him tug at the lightsabre I wear on my belt.

He raises an eyebrow expectantly, as he wraps his will around the weapon almost lazily. I could fight his Force pull, test my own willpower against his. He is daring me to. And I know I'd lose the contest. So I yield, and the lightsabre rises upward and soars through the air into his grasp. He grabs the hilt, and presses the activation stud and…nothing happens. The blade does not spring to life with a snap-hiss, manifesting a brilliant crimson beam.

He presses it again, and nothing happens. Why is this a cause of such irritation for him? Tephrike has Jedi and Sith in abundance…but we lack the crystals for lightsabres. Most of use enchanted blades. But with some theatrics and some help from a certain Shadow, I was able to procure one. When the brave soldiers of the Imperium and I were being overwhelmed by a horde of malicious demons, when all hope seemed lost, it suddenly appeared in the midst of a dark cloud so I could slay the archdemon. Truly inspiring.

I am clearly blessed by the Dark Father. Of course, it was stage-managed…and the evil demons were mostly the spirits of the victims of Vaderite massacres, fighting back against their tormentors who butchered their people and stole their land. "It won't activate for you, husband," I inform him calmly. He glares at me angrily. "It is mine by right. It should've been part of your dowry."
"And yet it wasn't. Why the Vader would bless me in such a manner is something I cannot say. He works in mysterious ways we mortals cannot judge. I can only strive to be worthy," I say piously.
Third time is not the charm. "Spare me the clap trap. My library has the greatest collection of occult knowledge of all of Tephrike. I will unlock the secrets of this weapon, and it will submit to the command of a true master."
"Your library or your father's?"
His eyes blaze with fury. "Know your place, woman. It's probably just a parlour toy anyway. The Vader would never bless one such as you…a clone, a sickly female. You didn't really kill the archdemon. It was Koskoulis."
"I wonder how he could have, considering he was nowhere near. I do remember his screams of agony," I smile slightly. He deserved it when the ghosts of his victims tore him apart.

Suddenly he throws the unignited weapon at my feet. "If you think yourself truly blessed, prove it. Show me what you can do. Ignite it." I stiffen, looking down at the lightsabre, then up at him. Is this some sort of test? "Ignite it!" he shouts, loud enough for the glass of water on the table to tremble.
His voice rolls like thunder. Cautiously, I get up from my seat, call the sabre into my hand and ignite it. A beam of scarlet springs to life, the shimmering blow illuminating my pale features. I hold on tightly to the weapon, assuming what is probably a rather clumsy guard stance.

As it is, trying to brace myself is pointless. For no sooner have I drawn my weapon than forking arcs of electricity blaze from Pyrros' hand. The dazzling storm of energy hits me full-on. Searing pain surges through my weak body, blistering and burning. As the lightning crawls over me, I cry out in anguish and the sabre falls from my grasp, dropping on the floor and switching itself off.

I stumble, and am sent sprawling like a ragdoll. It is small comfort that my fall is cushioned by the expensive carpet – made of Wookiee fur, incidentally. My body spasms and the fingers of my primitive cybernetic hand twitch badly. I heave for breath amidst the intense pain. "Is that all you can do?" Pyrros taunts me. "If only your deluded followers and cultists could see you now…in your proper place in the hierarchy." I try to get up, only to be struck by a hard kick to the stomach ere he grabs me by the throat.

He raises me up as if I were a twig. "I bet Eisen spun you a yarn about how he'd show up with a hundred knights if you didn't get special treatment? Lies, my dear lady wife. You're just a tool, forced on me by my lord father." He tightens his grip as I struggle meekly, making me choke. "Your purpose is to produce an heir…if your sick body is even capable of that. Where's your blessing now?" My eyes bulge, as my muscles scream for air and my limbs feel like lead.

In a desperate effort, I gather the Force inside my mind…but not to break his chokehold though my lungs cry out for release. No, I focus on something very different. "H-here." Abruptly the lightsabre rises into the air and ignites…behind him. Right behind his head. "J-just a-an inch more…h-husband," I manage to get out through gritted teeth.
"You don't have what it takes, girl," he snarls.
"Y-you s-sure?" With all my willpower, I drive the tip of the blade just a bit forward to singe his hair. Roaring in anger, he drops me to floor. I let out a wheezing cry and my knees feel wobbly, but despite the pain I call the blade towards me and arise, pointing it at him. "I will do my wifely duties…as the laws of gods and men dictate. I'll be an advocate for your interests when I dine at the Supreme Leader's table. But the next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands," I shout, pouring strength in my voice that my body doesn't have. "Then I'll cut off everything else that sticks out."

His face is contorted into an expression of venomous hatred. "You don't stand a chance against me. You're nothing." I feel like the temperature has dropped dramatically. For a moment, I am gripped with fear. If he retaliates…I cannot beat him in a straight-up fight. Not in this arena. But I don't allow myself to waver or avert my eyes from his countenance. Never let a vicious predator know you're afraid. "What will people say if they see their dear princess with a bruised face?"
"I'm well in my rights to chastise you!"
"Do you want the other Sith to think you don't have your house in order?" His jaw is set. "I'm your connection to the Leader," I state. "Your only one."

"Ashla take you. Keep your toy," he growls, "for all the good it does you. Soon I will be lord. Cross me, and I'll send you to a nunnery, far away from your beggars and xenos friends." He turns away. "I'm going to see the woman who knows her place and shows me proper respect." Oh, my sweet, my Theodora doesn't respect you one bit. She tells you what you want to hear because she has to. "I expect you in my chambers tonight. Make sure you've taken father's elixir."

I remain in my guard stance until he's gone. I don't dare to relax until the sound of his boots against the cold hard floor has receded into the background. Then I deactivate my sabre and slump. I rub my sore throat and cough painfully. There will be an angry, purple bruise no doubt. I'll have to cover it up in public…but make sure to let it peek just a bit here and there. Enough for the whispering to start.

My breathing is laboured, and I feel a sharp pain inside my chest. It takes me several moments to calm down. I wipe away the sweat dripping down my brow. Oh, my dear husband, what a foolish man-child you are. A flick of my will switches off the recording device embedded in the chair. I 'forgot' to turn it off after the petitioners had left. Such an unfortunate oversight. Quickly, I retrieve and pocket the device, muscles aching as I move.