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"The Smart One" fic for volandum - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
"The Smart One" fic for volandum
And still more challenge fic. :)

"The Smart One" is a Star Wars story in which Vader, in the hopes of finding artistic representations of Padmé, calls for her old friend Palo, the artist, who she mentioned to him in the field scene. Palo goes to Vader's home and admires his art collection, but only has one piece of artwork which is related to Padmé, a clay mask. Vader buys his entire collection just to get it, and when Palo leaves, Vader is simply staring up at the mask. Palo, who has been having trouble painting ever since Naboo was decimated by Palpatine, goes home and does a light painting showing Vader, young Ani, and Padmé, but without understanding what exactly he's painted, he understands that there is a truth he can't tell, and where there are truths that he can't tell, he can't be an artist anymore. He destroys the light painting.

volandum wanted to know about how he came to write the work I used a paragraph of as an epigraph. Here's the paragraph:

When I was a child, I challenged my teacher to tell me why the graceful spires built by the gamuna birds on Naboo were not art. "Art," he told me, "is never accidental, never a byproduct of more useful projects. Art is created by the intention to create it. There may be beauty in the products of the beasts, but it is not intended. Without sentience, there can be no art." I accepted this as I grew up, and living in the pragmatic and utilitarian galaxy we've been given, I have discovered an even more disturbing truth: Sentience is not inevitable, nor is it permanent. Sentience is a matter of meaning to create. There may be intelligence in our current designs, and there may be some minor truth, but it is meaningless. Without art, there can be no sentience.
- Palo Torezi
From Eulogy for the Arts

I have a vague idea for this. Let's see how it works out.

Start 11:53

Palo Torezi wandered aimlessly through the lower levels of Coruscant.

He was sometimes mistaken for a beggar--he was wearing his painting clothes, which were ragged and stained--and he took the abuse hurled at him without any complaint. Others mistook him for a thief, grabbing their handbags tightly against themselves and scurrying for the nearest crowded club. This didn't bother him, either. The real thieves and beggars let him be, assuming that he had nothing of interest to them.

It was time to leave. Everything back at the studio was packed, and Ganfré would be waiting. And it wasn't that he wasn't anxious to leave. The Deep Gods knew he hated Coruscant. Miserable, filthy, ugly waste of what might once have been a living world.

But there was something here, some truth he was trying to understand, something that wanted to be said.

A filthy boy on a hoverscoot blew past him and hurled a Huttese curse in his general direction for daring to be in the way, and two of his friends deliberately went out of their way just to knock Palo's shoulders as they passed, and laugh raucously as they zoomed away into the shadows. Palo rubbed the spots they'd hit and shook his head.

When he'd been a boy, there'd been some respect for elders.

Of course, he'd been a boy on graceful Naboo, and he'd been studying political history and theory with the elite minds of the planet, in the paradisical setting of the Lake Country. Somewhat different.

Not anymore. Now, it's just more of the same.

He stopped and sighed, his hands on his knees.

That was it, of course. There was no grand truth on Coruscant that he was looking for before he left. He was just dreading going home, dreading the sight of the fields and rivers he'd once loved paved over with ugly Imperial-design factories.

Still, it had been his own idea. He'd even dared himself to go back to Vader to make the request.

Vader had frightened him badly in the midst of his art collection, had seemed nearly mad with grief or desire. But in his Imperial offices, he'd been cold, distant, efficient. If Palo had not seen the man underneath, he'd have thought Vader to be the machine he looked like. But leave had been given. He'd received the appointment as surveyor on Naboo.

Done. Check. Career, back on track.

Maybe he would be able to paint there.

And maybe he would set foot on the world and little flowers would grow out from where his toes touched, and the air would clean itself at the wave of Ganfré's hand.

He shook his head to clear the murky thoughts, and caught an air taxi back up to the level of his studio. Ganfré was waiting out front, her arms crossed, fingers tapping on opposite elbows. "I thought we would miss our transport," she said, thrusting his valise at him and picking up her own. "I sent the luggage ahead."

"I apologize for all my shortcomings, my love."

"Hmph. Apologize en route."

She manhandled him back into the air taxi, not letting him bid farewell to the now anonymous blank room that had been his studio for nearly ten years. Looking back, Palo realized that without his paintings in the window, he wasn't entirely sure which one had been his.

"I'm sorry," Ganfré said. "I'm nervous. I never imagined you back in the public sphere."

"I didn't, either."

"Still, it was generous of Lord Vader..."


They shuttled onto the long range transport and lost track of the conversation getting checked aboard. After they were stowed away in a passenger cabin, Palo stretched out on a cot and tried to sketch something. Anything.

He managed a fairly decent replica of the non-descript room itself, and ran the ionozer over his sketchpad, erasing all the pixels.

Ganfré shook her head. "It's not that you can't draw, Palo. It's that you won't."

He breathed deeply and lay back on the cot. "I'm afraid, Ganfré. I'm a coward. Art is not for cowards."

"Afraid of what? A room?"

"Of seeing. Seeing things I was never meant to see. Things that aren't mine to see."

Ganfré, whose good sense had kept them financially afloat during Palo's various flights of fancy, just rolled her eyes. "You'll see what you see, my love. There's no sense being afraid of seeing."

"In the Empire?"

She conceded this with a weary nod. "I just don't like seeing you so unhappy. I wish there were somethign I could do."

Palo grinned at her. "Well, I can think of a few things..."


The transport arrived not at Theed station, but at the very heart of Lake Country, and Palo braced himself before disembarking. It was worse than he'd imagined. The plains had been paved over for what seemed like miles, and tall steel structures belched black smoke into the sky. The waterfall had been rigged to a generator.

None of it was necessary. As far as Palo knew, the only thing the Naboo factories produced, other than smoke and ugliness, was a cheap plasteel used in knick-knacks, the kind that were pressed in molds, and on which you could see the seams. It could have been placed anywhere in the galaxy. All the materials were imported anyway.

This monstrosity had been put of for one reason and one reason alone: Palpatine had decided to completely destroy his homeworld. Palo didn't know why or what might have led to it, but there was no other explanation.

He looked over. Ganfré was biting her lip, trying not to cry. He squeezed her hand.

A brusque young ensign whisked them to a speeder, in which their luggage had already been stowed, and drove them--without commentary--across the base. Their new quarters were built in a seemingling random location at the top of a bluff, overlooking a series of steel buildings just like it.

Ganfré sat down on an anonymous-looking armchair and wept.

Palo put his arm across her shoulders and kissed her head, rocking her softly until the tears passed.

"We should have stayed," she said. "Coruscant was bad, but it wasn't home. What have they done? What have they done to Naboo, Palo?"

"They did what they do," he said. He started to scan the quarters for bugs--it was frightening how easily he'd learned to do this after the rise of the Empire--and found none. "It's pure destruction."

"I don't understand. Why do they make it ugly?"

"Because I'm not the only one who's afraid to see," he said, thinking of Vader in his sterile offices, not allowing any of the man he was to intrude on his life. "And because..." He sighed. "Because people who are surrounded by ugliness may be surly, but they don't get a lot of fancy ideas that might upset people in power."

"For someone who's working for the Empire, that sounds a bit, er... Rebellious."

"The Rebel aesthetic sense doesn't excite me, either." He went to the window and looked out across the forest of steel girders. "This will be the last thing they think about, you know. They'll worry about the stormtroopers, and the horrible things the military does. But who will worry about a ruined patch of land on Palpatine's home planet?"

"Well, I doubt they'd have much of a chance..."

"Oh, they'll win."

Ganfré looked around in a panic, but relaxed when she didn't see anyone rushing up to arrest them. "Palo, you can't know that."

"Of course I can know it. I spent my entire childhood studying political history, Ganfré. The Empire has a short life to look forward to. If the Rebels don't win, there's still the question of Palpatine's mortality. He'll die, then there will be a vacuum, and there will be squabbling among the higher-ups. Either the Rebellion will move in then, or one of them will win. Vader, possibly, but he's not cut out for it. He seems to be more the right-hand man type. So maybe he'd appoint someone of his own choosing, which will divide the Empire into even more fighting factions.

"Either way, the Empire will probably die before we do. It can't last. People won't stand for it."

"You're standing for it."

"I'm a middle-aged man with training in art and politics. What skills would I offer to an armed rebellion?" He shrugged. "No... I'm more worried about the people who'll be left over. The children raised in all this ugliness, who've never known anything else. What kind of galaxy will they build, if they've never known beauty?"

"If they're afraid to see?" Ganfré asked pointedly.

Palo smiled. "I'm a coward. I can believe these things, but what can I do? I'm just a little man."

"What do you see that frightens you so?"

"I see..." He let his eyes drift over the landscape, pick out the droids and the people working on the base. "I see facelessness. Despair. Loneliness. I see people feeling the smallness of things instead of the greatness. I see..." He shook his head again. "I see that, Ganfré," he said, sweeping his arm over the vista. "And it terrifies me."

"Then that is where we start," she said, giving him a smile. "I have seeds, you have paint. And we're home. This is our world. Let's make it Naboo again.

"But it might be wise to wait for sunset."

Palo returned her smile.

It was all well and good, but two people planting flowers and painting on steel did not equal a Rebellion against ugliness. "I think," he said, "that in the meantime, I will take the trouble to frighten a few more people."

"You do that. Carefully."

He nodded, and slipped into the workroom, pulling out a piece of flimsiplast to scribble a draft onto. He'd need to find his way to the underground press if it was going to get out, and he certainly wouldn't work on the house computer.

But he was home.

And he knew that he could start at the beginning now.

When I was a child, he wrote, I challenged my teacher to tell me why the graceful spires built by the gamuna birds on Naboo were not art. "Art," he told me, "is never accidental, never a byproduct of more useful projects..."

End 12:56


3 comments or Leave a comment
volandum From: volandum Date: April 18th, 2004 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the response. Could you please delete the previous thing? I honestly didn't mean to post it and now I can't find the delete...

It's convincing. He can't go that long without creating something, displaying sentience, so this book follows quite shortly after.
angel_gidget From: angel_gidget Date: April 18th, 2004 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice extention, I especially enjoyed it when Palo mentioned that his childhood education in politics gave him insights into how long the Empire would last.
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: April 18th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gotta love fan fiction...where else can you take a brief mention in a movie and expand the heck out of it?
3 comments or Leave a comment