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Saga - OT Palimpsest (Mod's Time Challenge - 48 hrs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by divapilot, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Title: Palimpsest
    Author: divapilot
    Era: Saga OT
    Characters: Palo Jemabie , Vader, implied Padmé, OC
    Genre: drama
    Summary: A political prisoner in a forgotten labor camp unexpectedly gets an opportunity to recreate the happiest days of his life.

    Written for the Mods' Time Trials challenge . My requirements are under the spoiler below.

    I was given 48 hours to create a story that contains all of these elements:
    TV Trope = “Show within a Show”
    Weather forecast: Sunny
    Random word: Verklempt - def: completely overcome with emotion
    Required line of dialogue: “That’s all the time we have.”

    “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary."
    George Orwell (1984)


    Maks Norgan, commandant of the Cherridan Imperial Labor Camp, stared at the man who stood before him. “I understand you used to be an artist of some type. Is this true?” the officer asked.

    The man nodded, not raising his head to make eye contact.

    “Good. There are paints on the sledge droid. I want the visitors from Coruscant to be impressed with the rehabilitation we’re accomplishing here. Make something nice for them.”

    The man slowly lifted his head, his curly hair falling onto his forehead. He squinted in the bright sunlight. The wall, about two meters high, marked the edge of the inner part of the labor camp, where the administrative offices were. A hot, stale breeze blew in, and the man noted idly that the dust would make achieving a true color from the paint difficult.

    “Well, get to it!” the commandant barked. “There’s not much time. They’ll be here soon.” The officer turned sharply and walked away, leaving the man behind.

    After a moment, the man shuffled over to the wall and knelt beside the cans of paint. Some used brushes had been tossed on the canvas. The man picked one up and pulled the bristles back, testing their strength. He smiled thinly. It felt good to hold a paintbrush again.

    In the before times, when the galaxy had been kinder and Naboo had been a place of grace and culture, Palo Jemabie had indeed been an artist. He sighed quietly. But that was before he had gotten involved with the rebellion against the empire and had been arrested with the rest of his rebel cell. That life was before. This is now. What was once thought to be true and immutable has been rewritten; erased and replaced with this reality. He was once an artist. He is now a prisoner.

    The visitors from Coruscant must be important, Palo thought. Why they wanted to come here was beyond his reasoning, and frankly he didn’t care. Cherridan was where political prisoners were warehoused until they were either released (unlikely), executed (more likely), or simply forgotten (most probably). He had little hope that he would ever see Naboo again.

    Palo stood back and surveyed the wall. It was big enough for a good sized mural. He went to a nearby trash receptacle and took out a piece of wood, the end blackened with soot. It wasn’t a typical instrument, but it would do. With a few quick lines, he sketched a rudimentary landscape, a basis on which to build the actual painting. Once that was done, he examined the rest of the supplies he had been given to work with. They had given him bright, cheerful colors. Palo raised his hand to his chin and frowned in thought as his mind drifted back to a field on his homeworld, a summer field filled with bright flowers, a gurgling brook nearby, waterfalls in the distance. And her.

    He dipped the paintbrush into a container of brown and brought it up to the surface of his wall, stretching a line horizontally.

    He decided to paint a location where he had visited once, in the lake country. As the vision grew in his mind, more details emerged: it would be a summer scene, with a young woman standing in a field, a herd of shaak grazing in the background. On an impulse, he placed a gualara in the back also, the equine sharing the grassland with the other livestock. Only someone with knowledge of Naboo would recognize the significance of the gualara, graceful beasts used only by Naboo royalty. Palo thought of her again. This would be her gualara, he decided. The queen’s steed.

    Palo allowed his mind to drift back to the before time. He had known her back then, when she was on the cusp of her teenaged years. She had a crush on him. He smiled and added dapples of bright yellow to the dreary wall. They had even shared an awkward kiss once. But then she was gone, off to make her mark in politics, and he had followed his dream to be an artist. Palo stepped back and studied his work, wiping the sweat from his face with the back of his hand.

    Palo worked the yellow and white paint quickly, creating a flowing gown for the figure in the field, a garment a woman of wealth might wear on a country outing. They had lost touch, Palo and the politician, although he had followed her career through the holonews. She had been a very competent queen at fifteen, then she had become a respected senator, a role she held for many years.

    Until her death.

    He wiped his brushes, then mixed black and brown together to create a sable shade. He added a shadow behind the woman.

    He had painted a portrait of her once. He remembered the golden afternoon light that came in through the windows of the palace at Theed, the way the folds of the blue robe she wore over her shimmersilk ecru gown rippled like water, the glitter of her intelligent dark eyes. Painting a portrait gave the artist intimacy with the subject, and as a result, he knew her features better than most. Palo switched his brush for a finer one. He carefully drew the round features of her face, her dark eyes, the cascading dark hair. He mixed red and white to create a soft pink and lay a base for her complexion, then painted another layer of light tan to create her skin tone. Always a layer upon another layer. That’s how art was created -- layering one shade upon another. The now, built up upon the before.

    He had been adding details to the river’s edge in his painting when Commandant Norgen approached him. “Our guests are here. That’s all the time we have. Finish what you’re doing right now.” Norgen assessed the artist’s work. “Huh. A country scene to calm down the animals that live in this place. That might work.”

    The artist stepped back and bowed his head. No words were needed from him, and none were requested.

    Norgen gestured toward the paints. “Clean this up, then get in line with the rest of your cell block.” He smiled, pleased with himself. “I’ve written a welcome program for our guests. They should be here any minute.”

    Palo sealed the paint containers and gathered up the paintbrushes. He folded the canvas and placed the items on a sledge droid, which took the supplies away. He took one more look at his mural. Suddenly he was verklempt, so awash with emotion for a memory so far repressed, for a home so long forgotten, that he struggled to maintain his composure. He had created an image of his own past, his own beloved Naboo, his own lost friend, but it may as well have been someone else’s lifetime. Once Palo had lived for his art, but even that was meaningless now. As Commandant Norgen had reminded him, now he was just someone who used to be some type of an artist. Even this painting would be temporary: within days, this mural itself would be covered over with the drifting dust, the paint would crack and peel under the heat and intense sunlight.

    A sharp whistle brought him back to reality. It was time to take his place with his cell block. He walked slowly over to where the other prisoners were assembling in the afternoon heat. They faced a prefabricated platform in the center of the square, a structure used primarily for the distribution of work orders and also for the occasional public execution.

    After a short wait, a speeder approached. Dust swirled and roiled in its wake. A group of imperial dignitaries exited the vehicle, and Commandant Norgen strode over to greet them. He invited them to sit under a canopy that had been erected in front of the platform.

    Commandant Norgen ascended a set of stairs to stand in the center of the platform. He spoke into a voice amplifier attached to his collar. “Welcome, honored guests,” he said. “Before we go in for refreshments, the residents of the Cherridan Imperial Labor Camp will present a program for you. Please enjoy.”

    He stepped down from the platform and three prisoners quickly strode over. They climbed the stairs and stood at attention, facing the guests and the rest of the labor camp. Sweat trickled down their faces under the merciless sun. At a gesture from the commandant, the actors began their skit.

    The first man was a Rodian that Palo knew as Kisby. “It is our great pleasure to welcome you to our facility!” he shouted.

    The second prisoner, a light-skinned human woman who Palo didn’t know, made a wide arc with her arm. “Our home is open to you all. Please enjoy yourselves while you are here,” she said loudly.

    A third prisoner stepped forward. Palo recognized him as Loram, a Twi’lek who was incarcerated on charges of forgery and theft. “Say, friends,” he began loudly, addressing the two actors on the platform. “Is it not generous of the Emperor to grant us this opportunity for re-education?” Loram’s wide grin revealed pointed teeth. He kept smiling unnaturally as the other two turned to face him.

    The human woman copied his artificial smile. “Yes, friend! I was once a common smuggler. Now, thanks to the wisdom of our great Emperor, I see how I have erred. I hope to be rehabilitated so that I can promote the glory of the Emperor for all to see!” She swept her hand in an exaggerated motion.

    Kisby leaned toward the other two. “Thank the gods for our benevolent Emperor. Under his wise counsel, we have flourished here on this planet.”

    The three turned toward their audience and spoke in unison. “Long live Emperor Palpatine! Glory to the Empire!” They raised their arms in salute; then, their performance over, they bowed.

    Commandant Norgen rose to his feet and began to applaud loudly. The other prisoners gathered in the square applauded with equal volume, if not enthusiasm. Palo snuck a glance at the imperial officers and noted that they seemed less impressed with the performance.

    The three actors quickly moved back down the platform stairs and resumed their places in the ranks of the prisoners. Commandant Norgen rose from his seat, and the imperial guests did the same. They walked slowly as a group toward the administration offices, toward their promised refreshments and cooled air. On a signal from the guards, the prisoners turned and shuffled towards their cell blocks. Palo did not look back.


    The labor camp was quiet, and the other representatives of the Emperor had retired to the commandant’s office to drink his liquor and consume his food, a prelude to the moment where they would inform Commandant Norgen that he was under arrest for embezzling funds. Vader found himself pacing in front of the platform where he had witnessed the welcoming ceremony a few hours earlier. The Sith lord hated these trivial, minor assignments. Men like Norgen were beneath him, and he would have preferred to simply crush the life out of the useless man rather than waste time with a trial. But this was his master’s bidding.

    Vader could not understand why Sidious had insisted he personally went to Cherridan. There was a reason, he was sure of it. Yet there was no need for a Sith lord here. An underling could have conducted this operation. It was, admittedly, amusing to see Norgen so desperate to appease his “guests” that he created this ridiculous welcoming pageant and attempted to clean the area up from the cesspool it so obviously was in its normal state. How futile it was to try to cover up the authentic original with a hastily slapped-together overlay of loyalty and imperial enthusiasm.

    He decided he was tired of this charade and that it was time to get the job done. Vader strode around the corner of the wall that led to the administrative offices. As soon as he turned the corner, however, he stopped in his tracks.

    A mural (freshly painted, by the odors detected by his olfactory mechanisms) faced him. Had Vader’s breath not been regulated by his respiratory devices, he would have been choking with rage. Vader raised his black-gloved hand and touched the image. He knew this place in the painting. He had been there years ago, in this very place, a meadow in the lake country near the waterfalls. And he knew her.

    Someone had painted her.

    The memories surged back like torrents through a shattered dam. Her face, so real, so delicate; the way her gown floated like gossamer, her dark wavy hair held in place by a golden band, her graceful small hands. The way she felt in his arms, the sweet smell of her perfume, her gentle laughter. It assailed him and he staggered under the blow. His unbreakable heart, so long ago turned to stone, opened again and bled anew like a ruptured wound. Pain he had forgotten, hidden under the layers of the routine of attending to his master’s bidding, resurfaced; a fresh, first print of agony.

    And now he understood why his master had sent him.

    Palimpsest: in manuscripts, text that has been erased or scraped off to allow new text to be written in its place. In art, a shadow image created by an earlier sketch under the paint.

    Naboo's Lake Country
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  2. brodiew

    brodiew Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Oct 11, 2005
    Nicely done, divapilot! It is sad to see Palo in a prison camp and ever more so pressed into service to paint something bright in a time of such darkness, his situation so hopeless. But, memories of better times and places are the stuff of hope.

    The post script with Vader was brief, but served it's purpose. A reminder of what he had done; of the beauty he had destroyed and life he would never have. Does Vader seek out Palo or seethe under his master's yolk?
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb challenge entry!!!
    I was immediately in the stark scene of the labor camp. Palo is an exquisitely talented artist. I felt like I was actually in the beautiful scene, with all the marvelous colors and it was almost as if Padme could or would "walk out" of it LOL
    Apparently, Vader thought so too. =D= It awoke all kinds of unwelcome memories.
  4. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh my goodness, but this was just lovely. Just as Palo was able to create such a masterpiece in so short a time, I'm amazed that you were able to create a story with so many layers - a true palimpsest - underneath such a time constraint. I'm truly impressed! :eek: [face_love] =D=

    Oh Palo! :( I was excited when I first saw his name in your heading, and admittedly curious as to how you were - very fittingly - going to use the artist from the picture prompt with one of our few named artists in the SW 'verse. Already, he's embodying the theme of being scraped over and rewritten just as literally as the work of art - and the larger social order beyond them - he's about to create. Palo has suffered for his beliefs and his tenacity in standing up to tyranny. Here, even though he's serving the will of his Imperial overseers, it's still an act of rebellion and inspiration all its own to give Padmé's likeness a place to shine even long after her death.

    I appreciated how you also used the sunny weather prompt in more ways than one. There's the hot, merciless sun beaming down over the prison camp, but there's also the happiness of the colours in a figurative sense. There's the sunshine over the meadow in the Lake Country in Naboo in his memories. There's his happy memories of before, in of themselves, that count as 'sunny', too. You did a fantastic job weaving the prompt throughout your story! I honestly would have been hard pressed to guess which was yours and which was the prompts you received. =D=

    Ack, more wonderful imagery! =((

    I really can't say enough about the imagery and symbolism you used to tell your story, again. It was incredibly poignant. Honestly, I had to stop myself from going quote-happy. But this was one of my favourite passages in keeping with the larger theme. =D=

    Eugh. What a way to include the Show Within a Show trope! [face_phbbbbt] I was uncomfortably reminded of the Red Cross visiting Thresienstadt during WWII, and reporting back on the 'beautified' surroundings and the 'cultural programs' and 'comfortable' living conditions. [face_plain] Sheev Palpatine is just that sort of scum, and this hit home on more than one front.

    Oh!! Having Vader stumble across Palo's memorial - and what a sort of skeevy Sheev thing to do, too, all to keep his monster on leashed by his own pain and self-loathing :mad: - was just the cherry on top of this angst-sundae. As much as the verklempt applied to Palo when he stepped back to observe his masterpiece, the same more than goes for Vader here in a wonderful coda to that original scene. What a heavy hitting moment!

    But art is made to have just such an impact on its audience, and I wonder how close this is to the events of the OT. If Padmé's image is fresh on Vader's mind when he fights against - and then for - their children and eventually forsakes the Dark Side. It's something to wonder. [face_thinking]

    In short: bravo, truly! I can't applaud this story enough. It was a stellar answer to the challenge, and I thank you for sharing! Well done! =D=
  5. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    What a wonderful answer to the challenge! A lot of smart clever people also gave their feedback on your fanfic. This leaves me only to say that, as a hobby artist, I am smitten by the plot.
  6. Briannakin

    Briannakin Former Manager star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 25, 2010
    This is so amazing! Your descriptions are so vivid, which matches so perfectly with the theme of the story. I had to look up Palo to remember who he was (and what I knew was only from the ep. II deleted scene) and I thought you created such a dynamic, telling character, simply by his actions and feelings.

    In an economy of words, you have managed to well up feelings so relatable! I love it.

    I love the idea of a Rebel sympathizer painting - if he knew it or not - the 'mother' of the rebellion. He was just painting a young woman he once knew.

    And, of course Palpy would orchestrate Vader seeing them painting, knowing full well the emotions that would be drudged up.

    Great job!
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  7. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    This was such a haunting story, and your quote from 1984 fit the setting of the prison camp perfectly. I'll definitely be thinking about this piece for awhile after reading this. Very impressive job here!
    Kahara, Findswoman and divapilot like this.
  8. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh, oh, oh... breathtakingly beautiful, just breathtaking. @};- First of all: PALO! Palo of the Naboo-artist-who-once-dated-Padmé variety! :eek: What an amazing, perfect choice of character here—and alas, his ending up in an Imperial camp is completely believable at this period. There's just so much here that is supremely heart-tugging and poignant: the juxtaposition of Palo being forced to paint, but then throwing all his heart and memory and emotion into painting a beautiful countryside—and a beautiful person—that he knew long ago, and all the emotion it stirs up in him. The probability that that lovely painting will fade and peel away to nothing in a matter of days. The guard's interpretation of the scene as "country scene to calm down the animals" (though it's lucky perhaps for Palo that he doesn't realize what it really shows). The three inmates forced to put on that buffoonish, Potemkin-like show for the visiting poobahs (but what a perfect way to get the "show within a show" trope into a setting like this). But then, finally, no less than Darth Vader himself sees the painting, and becomes even more verklempt as Palo did—precisely because he, unlike that guard, knows exactly who and what the painting shows. =((

    Gorgeously, beautifully written all around, and way to hit those prompts far out of the proverbial park! Another true-blue divapilot triumph. =D=
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  9. Oddly_Salacious

    Oddly_Salacious Jedi Grand Master star 1

    Dec 5, 2005
    I got lost in the opening, from the sooty sketch to the layering on of colors, in a good and postitve way. Your descriptions flowed into my imagination where I concocted the show-within-the-show. Skip to the last (if I may borrow that expression) and my imagination was again lit as I wanted to take Vader and have him assail the mural in rage and yet remain squeezed by his very verklempt position.
    Jolly good, this.
    Kahara, Findswoman and divapilot like this.
  10. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Thank you! An artist always has a unique vision to the world. Creative people like you and like Palo will always show their heart in their work. I'm glad that as an artist, you enjoyed this!

    Thank you! I'm glad you liked this. Paolo is a really, really minor character who isn't even seen in the prequel. However, he is really interesting to me. As an artist, he records the events of his time, but he adds his emotions to the work. It's fitting that here in the prison camp, where hope is lost and oppression is the rule of the day, he would paint an image of a wondrous world of his memory and the image of the girl he once loved, grown to adulthood. Both are lost to him now. You're right in that he probably had no idea that Padmé was the "mother of the rebellion." She was someone who became, to him, a symbol of lost potential. Both of them were in the leadership program, with so much ahead of them, and now she died far too young, and his future has been stolen by the war.
    Thank you, and thank you for responding! That line from 1984 has always stuck with me, and it fit here so beautifully on both a literal and symbolic level that I couldn't help pulling it in. Palo is in an Orwellian nightmare himself, and both his life and his physical art are palimpsest, rewritten and painted over again and again. Ironically, the image that he paints is a resurfacing of the deepest palimpsest of his own life - a memory of happy times on Naboo.
    Thanks again for your kind words!

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply! I love hearing from you. Palo was in the youth leadership program with Padmé, and he became a prominent artist with Rebellion ties, so it was almost inevitable that he would do something to attract the ire of the empire. It's no wonder he is in this camp. And this particular camp (based on the Wobani camp shown in Rogue One) would be hell for someone like Palo - a dull, colorless, gray world where nothing ever happens but misery. Like you imply, he still carries all that passion and heart and memory inside him-- and it erupts in this mural, which he paints despite knowing from the very onset that it cannot last, that the wind and the sun will inevitably erode it away. But he does it anyway. It's his act of rebellion, his assertion that he was here, as profound as the handprints on the neolithic cave walls. Of course, the camp officer fails to recognize it because he lacks imagination. But Vader has nothing but imagination and is staggered by what he sees. He sees, of course, the image of the woman he loved and lost, but he also sees that she meant something to someone else, too.
    Thank you so much for your response to this.

    Thank you! Glad you liked it. I wanted Vader to be hit hard by the image, which would be the last thing he would expect to see in this miserable world. He already feels agitated by having to attend a function (the arrest of the prison camp commandant) that is so very clearly below his station. But the real reason Palpy sent him was to see this, to be reminded of his dead wife in the last place he would expect it. Vader reacts with rage and hatred, which is exactly what Palpatine wants him to do: to keep the fire of anger and hate alive in him. [face_skull]
    I get the feeling that the commandant isn't going to make it to the trial...:vader::redsaber:

    Thank you! Palo, according to the Wook, actually does wind up a political prisoner. It would be the worst possible punishment for him to be denied access to his art, and that's what this horrible place has done to him. He does get to create some rare beauty in this place, but he knows it's transitory and in a matter of a few days the paint will weather away and the dust will cover it up. But for just this day, he is an artist again.
    I would think for Vader it's not Palo who he would be angry with. He wouldn't necessarily care who make the painting of Padme, but rather that he was reminded of her. And he knows, based on Palpatine's insistence that he come to this camp, that this was rigged by Palpatine. So Vader is dealing with both the rage of being reminded of his loss and the frustration of not being able to do anything about it. Palpatine wins again.

    Thank you! I wanted to make the description as vivid as the painting so I'm glad you liked it. For Palo, the mural awakened bittersweet memories of a wonderful time in his life, but for Vader, it awakened guilt, rage and frustration.

    Thank you for this very thoughtful reply, Mira! I really appreciate the time you took here.
    What you said gets right to it. Everything is palimpsest - like the epigram says. Palo's painting is going to be covered over with dust. His life was rewritten when he was arrested. And the social order is in the process of being rewritten, as the Empire usurped the Republic, then the rebellion overthrows the Empire. Palo paints what is in his heart and mind. The fact that the commandant is too dull to understand the significance of what he is creating works in Palo's favor. He can express a lost life, a lost hope, and the actual meaning goes over their heads (except for Vader, of course).

    Thanks! I'm glad you picked up on that. Usually "sunny" is associated with happiness, but here I wanted it to be oppressive. The sun is merciless, it's part of the misery of this place. And the sunniness of the picture is the brightness of a home that Palo can't go back to. There is pain in this sunshine.

    That's what I was going for. The frantic, "don't kill me I'm dancing as fast as I can" kind of performance of the artists and actors who have no choice in their acts. The commandant is so intent on presenting a positive impression to his "guests" that he fails to realize the desperation that oozes from their performances.

    It's at this point where you see that the whole thing is orchestrated by Palpatine to remind Vader of his place, and of his rage and guilt. Palo, in effect, becomes an unwitting tool of Palpy's in this scenario, but I don't think Palo cares much about that power struggle. There are multiple layers going on here.
    As for how close to the actual events of ROTJ this scene is, I hadn’t really given it much thought. The Empire is very well established so it might be only years or even months away. It’s an intriguing idea that the image of her is fresh in Vader’s mind.

    Thank YOU for such a kind response!

    Thank you to everyone who stopped in to read or reply. It is sincerely appreciated!
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019