Saga Masquerade [ROTJ AU] [Vader, Luke, Leia] Updated April 7, 2015!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Harpalyce, Jul 1, 2010.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Title: Masquerade
    Timeframe: An AU that 'veers off' before the end of ROTJ
    Characters: Anakin/Vader, Luke, Leia, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan
    Genre: Drama, angst
    Summary: After being forcibly released from the Empire's grasp, Vader attempts to redeem himself - and save Luke, who has fallen into the Emperor's grasp.

    --

    A couple notes...

    I've been debating back and forth for quite awhile about whether or not to post this. It may appear as somewhat bowdlerized as compared to the version on Fanfiction.net. If anyone with a better sense of what is and is not acceptable here would like to beta, I would welcome that with open arms. While I don't intend to break the rules, I do admit this story largely takes place in Vader/Anakin's head, and that's not a place of sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn farts. Treat it as you would watching RotS - e.g., probably not a good thing for a five year old before bedtime.

    I tend to write with music so, where I can find it, I'll make chapter titles links to the song I associate with that chapter. (Occasionally I can't readily find the song, and then I'll put title and artist.) This is definitely my 'pet fanfiction' of the moment, so it pops up pretty regularly in my fanart, etc.

    Happy reading, and I hope you enjoy!

    ======

    PM LIST
    (Look ma, it's like I know what I'm doing or something!)

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    Last edited by Harpalyce, Apr 7, 2015
  2. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Making A Note Here


    Leia Organa knew the symbol - the ebony palm-print that was on the woman's pin. It was oddly unfamiliar and tiresomely familiar at the same time, and she was still unsure of what the organization exactly did, but they had declared themselves trustworthy enough to warrant a visit. Their guide seemed innocent enough, a schoolteacher who was not quite unwilling to expound upon why she was caught up in such a thing.

    "...Although it's true much of Prince Xizor's fortune was donated to the Black Hand, to say that we are an extension of the Black Sun is untrue," she explained patiently in a way that was simultaneously completely unhelpful and helpful at the same time. "We have worked towards a singular goal since our creation, one in perfect accordance with the Rebel Alliance's. Whatever friction is unfortunate but expected..."

    Leia said nothing, but she glanced over as one of the bodyguards leaned over to whisper to another. "What she means is, this Black Whatever is the thing that's been stealing all the money out from under us." His grumbling was cut off as she glared at him, but she couldn't help the small sigh escaping from her nose.

    It had been a hellish few months, and really, the Rebel Alliance's regular benefactors pulling their money out to divert it to the Black Hand was very nearly the last straw. What was supposed to be a glorious victory and Endor turned into a nightmare. Luke had been agitated the night before, mumbling something about not being able to find someone, distracted in a way that unnerved her; truthfully Leia had pushed his last words out of her mind, as there were too many other things to panic about than her parentage. The battle was still a technical victory, as they had destroyed the half-built Death Star, even if the Emperor was able to get away safely on the Executor as they scrambled to salvage the situation. That was recoverable. Luke being dragged out in front of the next Imperial rally was not.

    She had to tell himself that the smile on Luke's face was forced, and the rumors about him being coerced into such a situation were true. But it was such bad news that the odd lack of a usual player on the cosmic stage was hardly realized, even though it had been months, up until this point.

    Leia shook her head a little, her intricate braids hitting the back of her neck as she looked back to the Togruta leading them on. The tall woman was still talking, as if the entire group were listening devotedly, and it made Leia sympathize a little with the children in her classroom. "It was a very complex arrangement, but fortunately a few weapons dealers groups were sympathetic - the ones that design for you - so as you can see, here is the ion cannon I was telling you about..." Leia rolled her eyes slightly as they stepped into a large hangar bay. It was one that was familiar, one she knew; outside the trees of Yavin were still thick and seedlings had started to sprout on where they had cleared. The dust was new, though, as was the massive tractor beam mount and the ion cannon that seemed terribly out of place - the scorch marks on the wall from the cannon blast, however, seemed to make sense... and she couldn't quite make it out - there was an outline...

    "As you can see, we are sorry for the inconvenience that came with clogging the channels with rumors of Skywalker coming back here, but it worked well enough. The tractor beam is industrial grade, and was used to drag his fighter in here after it was disabled by the ion cannon blast, then another made capturing him possible. The ion cannon is salvaged from the one installed on Hoth. I am sure the Rebel Alliance does not mind the Black Hand borrowing it, as it were, and we will be happy to return it." the schoolteacher said, continuing to talk. Leia listened quietly, eyebrows furrowing.

    Clearing her throat a little, she looked back over to the tall, serene-looking Togruta woman. "Excuse me. Miss... what was your name, again?"

    She smiled gently. "Tano. Miss Tano."

    "Right/>
  3. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Staircase Wit


    And then the shadows all slipped away like chalk drawings on a sidewalk, and the first thing that greeted him was the smell of the sewer he had been left lying in. He grimaced, blinking dizzily - not a smell he was used to, when he had been spoiled with clean filtered air... It was not as painfully light, and his head was filled with a rush of information, more alive - it took him a long slow moment to realize that it was the Force, speaking to him again, unmuffled by a ysalamiri over his head.

    This realization did not halt the dizzying nausea as he tried to get up. At the movement, a small holovid player turned itself on. As the room spun, it chimed a cheerful company themesong at him before a professional-looking Twi'lek woman smiled at him, her image flickering. "Congratulations on your purchase of a Ziencorp prosthesis! After larger installations you may experience some side effects such as disorientation, dizziness, nausea -"

    He didn't hear the rest, already gagging in dry heaves into the corner as his brain struggled to rectify the sensations from his new legs with reality. But the recording chattered on, and when he flopped back down with a defeated groan, he could hear it again. "...rash, and occasionally severe allergic reaction. If you should experience any of these symptoms for more than three days, please contact a health professional immediately." There was a little click as the holovid forwarded itself to another chapter, and the Twi'lek smiled brightly. "With your Ziencorp prosthesis, you'll get to experience greater mobility, freedom, and enjoyment of life -"

    It was then that he managed to get control of himself long enough to do what any sane and rational person would do: pick up the holovid player and throw it away from him as hard as he could. The voice squeaked and skipped before the electronics finally died, and he let himself flop back down onto the bitterly cold steel plates of the floor. He felt like hell, that much he was sure of, and it took a long while of fighting that nausea before he stood.

    It stank, and it was too loud and too light, and he ached all over. He was not used to seeing in so many colors or without an information overlay, and it was deeply disorienting, but he somehow managed to pull himself to his feet. Even though his eyes were watering, he managed to catch his own reflection, and was startled by it.

    He was not expecting to see it - blue eyes peering back at him, the messy hair falling into his face, the facial hair that had grown over several months. As if he were a child finding a mirror, he reached out to brush his hands on the chrome, not understanding, thinking it was some sort of trick until he noticed that the flesh underneath was still worn and scarred and the thick rope of scar tissue still sat by his eye. It was impossible, it was a miracle, it was not the black mask he had been staring at for so long.

    When he gave a surprised laugh he startled himself, the sound was so very foreign to him. There was the absence of sound, too, he noticed - no steady wheeze, and to his amazement, if he tried he could hold his breath and listen to the blood rushing in his ears and the drumbeat of his heart. He laughed again almost instinctively at the joys he had been deprived of that all others took for granted, at suddenly being freed from an iron prison, and in unthinking joy he turned to run for the sake and joy of running -

    It was a few seconds after he found himself flat on the ground again that he considered perhaps patience was a virtue. So he stood up shakily, walking in a patient circle as his vision continued to clear and the details of the world around him stopped being so incredibly overwhelming. The pack left by him became clear, and with a newfound sense of balance he rummaged through it. A second holovid player was obvious, a small disc that he pulled out and held in a hand.

    A click - the track was only audio, but he recognized the voice, the wisened alien that he had never seen in the shadow. "If you're hearing this, you're probably awake. />
  4. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Along the Watchtower


    The Coruscant WeatherNet had apparently decided, to make the weather a bit more interesting in early spring, to introduce a set of morning showers. He remembered the memo when, while he followed the crowds, they all pressed themselves against the awnings of the buildings, cowering from the light drizzle as if it would all melt them. He couldn't force himself to be as afraid of it as they were, even if he perhaps had more reason to be, and instead of pulling up the coat over his head he simply continued walking on the same path that he had been.

    He was aware of how clouded his mind still was, a paradoxical sort of situation, but somehow freeing as well. It was hard to keep his thoughts directed towards anything loftier when animal needs kept dragging him back. The heavy, greasy scents of the street food make his mouth water; the light still seemed to be too bright, making him squint. It was too easy to be sluggish and sleepy, to not fight it any more than he had to. Being locked away from the little mundanities made them seem like some sort of delicacy to finally enjoy them, and so he let himself smile as he shivered at the rain running down from his hair. The water snuck underneath his collar, tracing along his spine ? just like Padmé's fingers had done, to tease him, to tell him with a half-a-second gesture that he was being too serious.

    And that was enough to clear some of the haze from his mind, even as his mind scrambled to drift back into the reality of the present. Waiting for the regulation eighteen minute rainshower to be over, he found a patch of wall, dry and hidden by a cantina's awning. It was distractingly novel to again feel the touch of his fingers ? or a prosthesis accurate enough to fool himself into thinking of it as his fingers ? pressed against his face.

    Pull yourself together, he chastized himself before pausing, obviously talking to himself but unsure of what name to use.

    He grimaced. That was the crux of the matter, wasn't it? Anakin, or thinking of himself as Anakin, anyway, died on Mustafar. But Vader was as much the armor as it was him ? or had he been the armor? It made his head ache. Either way, that fascinating glimpse of his own reflection sealed it: Vader did not have clear blue eyes, just a mask. And Skywalker ? Skywalker had become synonymous with Luke -

    He drew in a sharp breath. It was a name that stung almost as much as Padmé's. Hiding his eyes from the light, he took in another deep breath, momentarily distracted by being able to control his own breathing, before letting his hand drop.

    The rainshower was letting up; he stepped out with the crowd. Sun-dogs, scattered fragments of rainbow, shone and multiplied themselves in the reflective skyscrapers towering above them before finally disappearing. The haze still hung closely to his mind even as he tried to shake it off, and apathy guided his footsteps before he fully realized what he was doing. The crowd, at least, seemed to be going somewhere. Damp and shivering, he followed.

    The courtyard broke open the oppressive space of the lower city so dramatically it made his eyes water. To say there was a crowd was an understatement; it was an oppressive crush of people. But the Imperial pennants had been unfurled from the holoscreen towering overhead, and the echoing anthem was blaring loudly from the speakers. It wasn't an unusual sight, he had long since gotten used to the idea that the Emperor subscribed to the bread-and-circuses method of governing. A Moff ? which one, he couldn't remember ? appeared on screen. The haze kept him from remembering the man's name, but he still grimaced: the Imperial officer was shrew-faced, eyes small and beady. A detail drifted up, unbidden: he knew the man mostly from a clandestine peek at his internal intelligence file, which was primarily centered around his continuing obsession with prepubescent girls. Just the thought brought a grimace to his face. Whatever this was about, it had to be important eno/>
  5. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Kismet


    And suddenly there were dozens of eyes on him, staring him down.

    Oh, kriff.

    Normal, loyal citizens of the Empire did not interrupt while their Emperor was speaking. Nor did they scream out the personal, first name of the Emperor's new right hand. And they certainly didn't do it in such an anguished tone.

    As much as he winced at the wave of self-loathing that hit him, he also recognized the gesture of someone in the crowd ? lifting his arm up to speak into the comlink hidden underneath his long sleeve. Their eyes locked, and he realized, even as he backed slowly away, stumbling into the crowd, that he had been spotted. There was going to be no such thing as an easy escape, now. Bone-white lines shoved their way through the crowd, converging on him, the stormtroopers already holding their blasters close at the ready.

    For a tense moment they simply stared, the undercover officer waiting patiently. But he still leapt away, making the first move, and the officer's roar ripped through the crowd: "HALT!" A woman gave a shriek as he shoved her out of the way, and another more solid scream as the bolt from the officer's pistol hit the shoulder of another bystander. The stormtroopers moved from a calm walk to a jogging march, using the butts of their rifles to shove people out of the way, cutting a path through the crowd as swiftly as a torrent of rain gouges out riverways in soft mud.

    Fantastic, Anakin! Wonderful! Not even awake for two hours and already you have half the Empire after you. He quirked his eyebrows at himself even as he ran, wondering if the half-instinctive mental chiding decided it. Or perhaps it was simply that Anakin was the one to make atrociously stupid mistakes, not Vader. The irritation at not really solving anything in the problem of what to call himself made him almost miss the wonderful, sheer joy of being able to run again.

    The stormtroopers burst through the crowd at last, and the occasional shot from the officer was suddenly joined by a torrent of blaster fire. Gritting his teeth, he leaped into a nearby alleyway; there was only so long that he could dodge each blast. It at least gave him enough time to sling off the backpack and dig around in it before, still disoriented and reeling, he remembered shoving his lightsaber into his pocket. It seemed far too clumsy and large, now. But it was there, solid in his hands, flickering on and painting the alley with a bloody light.

    "You two, go in first. We'll follow. We want this man apprehended, do you understand? Preferably alive but it's not too much to trouble about -" The officer's voice, clear and commanding, echoed its way up, and he dropped into a ready fighting stance.

    A sharp pain was still clawing at his temples and his mind was clouded in disarray ? but his body remembered.

    Up, across, down; sweeping away the blaster bolts. Every one struck back true, the stormtroopers gagging and gasping as they were hit with the bolts from their own guns. It was a suicidal gambit, pouring into the alleyway. They didn't expect to come face to face with a Jedi ? a Sith? - a lightsaber and a man wielding it.

    The officer filed in last, but held his fire. Instead, eyes wide, he raised his arm to scream into his comlink. He never got the words out. The brilliant crimson blade arced out, tumbling through the air, to strike, before returning to its owner's hand.

    The silence was palpable as he sunk back, eyes wide, listening to himself pant. Having to stop and catch his breath was novel, if a bit more inconvenient than he remembered. Except for the officer's body, it looked simply like the stormtroopers had been outgunned ? but the self-cauterizing wounds would give him away, he knew, and there was little time... Fortunately, the alleyway ended in an obvious garbage chute, or rather, a chute surrounded by bagged piles of trash that people had been too lazy to actually dispose of properly. It took a moment for him to recognize his own voice ? a gruff, low, but unadulterated tone ? as almost reflexively, he stated to the officer/>
  6. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Gate Within a Gate - Andreas Vollenweider, "Gate Within the Gate"


    Either someone was playing at being eccentric, or the WeatherNet relay was broken, because for the rest of the day, every three hours, there was another eighteen minute long rainshower. When the second one came, he had huddled under another awning after purchasing a lunch from a street cart ? purposefully choosing the one that seemed to violate as many health and safety decrees from the Empire as possible. He wasn't quite sure if it was rebellion, or his idea of living dangerously. Either way, mystery meat wrapped in cheap pan-fried bread had never tasted so delicious.

    Even as he let the crowds push him along, he was awake ? sobered, perhaps ? and thinking. As much as his stomach twisted itself into knots, he knew that there were priorities. He could not save Luke if he was dead of starvation somewhere in the lower city, and he certainly couldn't storm the Imperial palace now ? it would simply be suicide.

    Trying to figure out where to start was overwhelming.

    He understood, now, why the voice in the message left to him delighted so much in the fact that he was now scum. The word made him recoil, mostly because he knew it was applicable. For most of his life he had been used to being special ? a Jedi, then a Sith Lord. He had commanded those beneath him, but most of all, he had been confident that he would at least have something to eat and somewhere to rest. Even as a child, his mother had taken care of that. But the worry about such basic things was startling to him, anxiousness bitter in his mouth as he gritted his teeth and thought.

    There was no possibility of trying to get any higher than the lower city slums. He needed to be invisible, wholly and completely, not friendly with whatever private security force the apartment block had paid for. It was dark and oppressive, the rank underbelly of the city fragrant and smothering. As he pulled his jacket closer to himself, he reflected how much he missed his cloak: at least that he could properly wrap around himself.

    He was so lost in his own thoughts that he nearly walked by, but the Force, agent of Fate, has a strange way of making sure what should be noticed is, indeed, noticed. Sparks sizzled through the air and he jumped aside, though the arc of electricity ended as quickly as it came. A run-down, patched and tired looking house seemed to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the dismal row, but this one had a frustrated looking woman staring down a malfunctioning piece of equipment. It spluttered another few sparks, and she pawed at her grey hair. The house also had a sign advertising rooms for rent.

    "Blasted thing!" Her voice was shrill, and as he drew closer, he examined her a little more closely. She seemed about as innocuous as a person could be. More importantly, the machine in front of her ? a water recycler ? was a more interesting problem. The bit of machinery groaned, and he perked up, mind already leaping to figure out the tangle of electronics.

    "You look as if you could use some help." His own voice still made him uncomfortable, unused to how it sounded. Of course, it was also more difficult than he remembered to be friendly, much less nonchalant about it.

    But it was good enough for the old woman to give a relieved smile. "Oh, yes, very much so. I don't suppose you know anything about water recyclers?"

    "A thing or two. I used to live on Tatooine." He forced himself to keep smiling even as inwardly, he winced. Don't come down with a terminal case of honesty, he chided himself as he stepped forward.

    "Tatooine?"

    "A desert planet, out in the outer rim. You wouldn't know it." He pasted on his best smile as she ooh-ed and nodded her head politely. Already his mind was trying to tackle both problems at once. At least the mechanical one was obvious: a simple short circuit. Power would just have to be rerouted.

    But spinning a good story was a completely different task. To his chagrin, Obi-Wan's voice floated up in his thoughts: A Jedi always tells the truth ? just, perh/>
  7. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Begin


    "You know, Naberrie," she drawled, "there's something distinctly uncanny about you."

    For a long moment he paused, mostly in confusion instead of fear before picking up another wrench. It was just his luck that the town gossip had talked to his new landlady and just so happened to need something fixed as well. He knew that this job, if he did it well ? and it was a simple repair to the climate-control system in her apartment ? would mean that he would have plenty of business, which was good, because little annoying human necessities were increasingly encroaching on his life. And, he admitted, he was no good to anyone if he died of starvation on the street. Luke still needed him.

    "How so?"

    "Oh, I don't know, just something uncanny," the woman said, waving a hand. He had already put up with an hour and a half of attempting to make small talk, which was, quite frankly, a special sort of hell, since he no longer had the luxury to either appear socially inept or order her to simply stop. At least the repair was nearly done, he told himself, gritting his teeth.

    She paused to adjust her silken, red dress, as if that would help her spill out of it less; she wasn't exactly subtle about her profession, but he supposed that it could have always been worse. "You know, when you're a courtesan, you get to read people real well. More this day and age, though." She sighed, shifting a little to keep her weight mostly on the other foot, always self-conscious about keeping her posture just akimbo enough to be appealing. "You said your boy was in the Imperial Navy?"

    He nodded, mouth full with the wrench, holding it while he pried the cover off of the last part of the unit needing repair.

    "That's good. The decent ones usually go off to fight, they keep the low-lifes around here, within arm's reach, you know? I always have to be extra careful, these days. - You don't mind if I smoke, do you?" The cigarra and lighter were already in her hands.

    "No, go ahead." He tried to content himself by singing out the thoughts in his head, trying to be cheerful in his aggravation: Why yes I kriffing do mind, I think my lungs have seen quite enough smoke, thank you.

    The lighter gave a little click and the heavy, spiced smell of the cigarra perfumed the air; it wasn't especially unpleasant. Apparently it was another little luxury the woman was loathe to give up despite her circumstances, just like her rich dresses, even if they were a decade out of date and her girth was overflowing from them. "You know, Naberrie, you probably didn't see much of it, being on Tatooine and all, but sometimes I miss the old days, before the Empire, you know. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm no traitor -" She gesticulated with the cigarra, drawing a line of smoke in the air. "But things were so different back then."

    "And we were all younger." It was a passive-aggressive comment, he knew, but fortunately the woman laughed.

    "Exactly! Exactly. Used to have a little flat by the Jedi Temple, back in those days. Those were the best customers, the Jedi, I'll swear on a stack of any holy text you please. Always so polite, even if they came in and went out looking like they were just about to die of shame. Good tippers, too." She exhaled in a sigh; the cigarra smoke drifted around the room once more, and she laughed. "I bet I must be making you uncomfortable, huh, all this talk?"

    Making, no. Made, yes, about two hours ago, he thought wryly, but instead shook his head. At least the repair was nearly done.

    Her tone dipped into the friendly, gossipy voluptuousness it seemed to be inclined to, and he could tell she was grinning. "Don't worry, Naberrie, I'm not about to try and change your payment around. It's still the credits and the datapad, same as usual." As he put the last cover back on, thankful it had gone more quickly than expected, her tone became more serious. "Besides, I'd never try to pull that on a man like you. That's the uncanniness about you."

    For a moment he felt himself tense. It was hard to rationalize the quick, abrupt fear away. She was />
  8. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    (My apologies again for the many posts in a row while I get the story as it stands now caught up to where I have written.)

    -

    Vessel Shimenawa


    "...injury, mental or physical trauma, sterility, fundamental DNA mutations, and/or liquidization into base atoms. Sign and date here, please."

    He took a moment to ruminate on what he had just been told. "That," he said carefully, aware of the understatement, "is quite a disclaimer."

    "Standard operating procedure," the bothan said sullenly. "Sign and date. Please." He didn't really blame her for being sullen; she was stuck in a menial job in the Works of Coruscant, where it wasn't yet noon but the air was already hazy with smog. She had slathered on makeup, shaved the fur from her face, and even had an elaborate hairpiece woven into her headfur all for the sake of appearing more human, as was the xenophobic pressure these days. After he scribbled something unrecognizable for his signature, she snatched the datapad from him and let out a heavy sigh. "Right. Fine. ...Let me see your pass. ...All finds with an estimated value over a thousand credits must be reported to the front gate on exit, not sure if I mentioned that." She had, three times over. "Not responsible for injury, and... right. You should be good to go, happy scavenging," the bothan sighed out.

    He put the new scarf back over his face as the gate clatteringly rose to let him through. It was later in the day than he would have liked, the acrid smoke ubiquitous to the Works stinging in his eyes, but at least the emergency job that had delayed him gave him the few credits to buy the cheap scarf. Any barrier to keep any of this from getting in his lungs was a good one.

    The landscape, pinned in by tall factory buildings as it was, consisted of piles and piles of softly shining grey, and an ethereal scent of ozone still drifted up from the scrap fresh in from Bespin. It was machinery of one sort or another, mostly gas mining equipment that had fallen to meet a bad end, and was on its way to meet a worse one, sorted and melted down to be reborn into parts for the new Empire's ships. Knowing that it was all destined to be part of some TIE fighter, he didn't feel guilty in the least as he sloughed through the dunes of broken metal. All he needed was a relay for the Holonet access box already outfitted in his room so that he stood some chance of sending information to the Alliance...

    ...And to find whatever was tingling on the edge of his senses as important, in the distance.

    He sighed, scrubbing the soot off of a spindly tower of machinery that swayed as the wind picked up. Buffing it to a shine was enough to let him figure out that it would do, and like the rest of the other figures shuffling along the metal hills, he quickly disassembled enough to stuff what he needed into his pockets.

    It reminded him far too much of Tatooine ? the heat, the soot and grit in the air, the hunched figures following the crest of every hill. But it was at least profitable, every broken machine full of yet another possibility. He hesitated to call it such, but there was a hope in it. Usefulness from uselessness. If nothing else all the gears and connectors and wires were familiar to him ? a world that he understood. A world that was nonjudgemental. There was no light or dark, there was just working or not. He could blame the people, certainly, but electricity coursing in pre-designed channels was true neutral.

    He was so caught up in raptures that he only paused when something snapped underneath his foot, and the Force seemed to hit him between the eyes as good as a blaster bolt. He winced and shook his head before stepping back and crouching.

    A hand ? or at least, what used to be a hand ? was there, fingers now crushed. It was no longer meaty and full but shriveled, freeze-dried by falling through all the gases of Bespin. The skin had pulled away from the fingernails, taut and sallow in a bloodless sort of way. The crunch it had given seemed more like a branch in />
  9. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Wraith


    For ten minutes at noon, the sun stood overhead where he could see it ? and that was only if he stood in one corner. The rest of the scavengers did not seem to be as mesmerized by the slim beam of unfiltered light, but it was a rarity in the Works and even more of a treat to the lower city neighborhood he was forced to call home.

    The dust in the air thickened at the same rate more and more newcomers, off from dead-end marginal jobs, swarmed the pile of scrap. He also noticed that those with the means were carrying old, rented DC-15s, carbines and rifles alike. But the air was so acrid that he had to put his hand up to try and block out some of the dust, eyes burning fiercely. He had forgotten what a real coughing fit felt like, to feel the muscles in his back straining. The hours of searching for scrap didn't help the burning aches, either.

    The scheduled rainstorm made the air slightly more tolerable, but it robbed them of light, and by what he assumed was only afternoon the landscape had slid into diffused shadows again.

    It was a soft and subtle change but the hour started with people uncomfortably close and it ended with him nearly alone. The machinery stood in disarray, picked over and cleaned so that the shells just stood there gleaming softly like white-bleached bones in desert sands. The landscape was oddly familiar, comforting even, at least until there was a shudder and grinding noise as an ancient PA system wailed to life. The actual message was lost in a fuzzy mutter (though he did recognize the lilt as the bothan woman's), but the keening siren made things much more clear.

    Truthfully, he waited a little too long to actually run. The threat wasn't visible yet, but the two other figures in the quadrant of the scrapfield bolted immediately. Another echoing, grinding noise ? the gate had locked, isolating them ? holding something in, he knew immediately, instead of out. One of the two others, a twi'lek girl, wailed and shook the chainlink, and even as he jogged up to the gate he kept his distance. It was simple metal ? it would be easy enough to slice through with his lightsaber. Given two minutes to adjust the tiny dials, on camera it might just appear as a compact blowtorch. And the fence wasn't too high to climb, really, though he'd have to be careful of the barbed wire at the top -

    "Give it here, give it here!" The twi'lek girl was already shaking out of fear, but her partner ? a boy who looked worn out like a threadbare dishrag, even if he couldn't have been more than fifteen ? fumbled to hand her the rented DC-15 rifle. "Oh kriff, they're here, they're already here..."

    Her terror was almost tangible in the air, and he ran his tongue over his teeth as if trying to sweep the bitter taste of it away. The wail of the sirens dipped in pitch as if the old machinery was catching a breath before it wheezed out another note so steady it seemed to shake. And then he saw them climbing over the far dune of scrap metal, bodies slick and sickly white ? a pack of cthon, the rakghouls of Coruscant.

    He had been expecting to see them, eventually, so low in the city. His hand confidently wrapped around his lightsaber ? his lightsaber, not Luke's, the other remaining safely tucked in his belt. There was likely no need for a battle, even, he would just vault over the high fence and let the angered, feral beasts soothe their rabid curiosities and then retreat, but -

    Her blue hands were shaking and she sobbed. "It's not working," she stated hysterically, trying to aim it even as the boy clutched at her shoulders. "We're going to kriffing die, we're going to die -"

    He put the lightsaber back in his belt.

    "Give it here." He was surprised at how calm and quiet his voice was, gentle even. He had forgotten that it could be such a way, after so many years of projecting through the mask and snarling, even if his voice seemed to naturally be so soft.

    The twi'lek hesitated, staring at him warily. But one of the pack of cthon clawed down an empty metal />
  10. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    This Rain, It Will Continue


    The WeatherNet connection must have been thoroughly broken, he thought, because the rainshowers continued to the point where he invested in a waterproof poncho. It was a good investment: the hood covered his face and the rain was an excuse to wear it.

    The streets were crowded enough that he was able to duck into one of the old abandoned factories and use a half-broken Holonet connection that told him all he needed to know.

    And the next day he went to the local bar, same as he had been doing for the past two weeks. He knew it was important to be seen as a regular, and besides, that was where most of the odd jobs he was collecting now came from ? people who had heard he was handy enough with machinery to hire. And the food, he supposed, wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. It was just the sort of food one would expect in such a bar. It was not a bar where people went to celebrate wildly, but it was not an entirely morose place either. It was simply full of people who had that synthale to survive a hard, menial job, so they could go home to their small shacks to work another day same as the one they had already lived. It was the sort of bar where the bartender posted a 40% interest rate on all bar tabs because it was the only way to stay in business.

    So people saw him there and assumed the old widower was trying to soothe himself and find his wife in the bottom of a glass of cheap ale, and he wondered if they weren't at least a little bit right.

    But as he sat at the corner table and picked at the last of his dinner (some sort of starch and some sort of meat, he wasn't sure he could really identify which of each), he stared out at the room with purpose. He had been watching the man for days, and now he was absolutely sure, especially since he was content to let the rest of the people at the bar think that, whenever he lowered his head and closed his eyes to probe the thoughts in the room with the Force, he was getting misty-eyed over some memory. After days of listening it was clear, the man's assertive thoughts standing out like a banner in the room, a bight crimson pennant unfurling on unseen currents. He was the Rebel Alliance's man. Not that there was much for him to do: the people living there were already so thoroughly beaten they did not really remember how to fight, but the promise of unions and slightly less damnably grueling workdays was enough for them to offer tacit support.

    As such nobody much cared when he got up and slid into the other man's booth offering a bright smile he had to be very careful to maintain. The other man peered at him suspiciously. "I don't think we've been introduced. ...Anakin Naberrie, right?"

    "Exactly." He reached out, took the other man's handshake. Though the other man took the data cards, it was a seamless palming, smoothly transferred from one to the other.

    "Selian Vadis." He smirked. "My aunt's your landlady."

    "You've already heard an earful, then."

    "Only good things, I promise," Selian said, grinning. He wasn't so sure this was true, but it was true enough for him to keep the smile on. The data chips flashed in Selian's hand. "But you're here for business."

    "Of course." It was a pleasantly mild answer. He didn't say more but instead knitted his hands on the table.

    Selian flipped the data cards in-between his fingers. "I don't know," he said slowly and calmly, "what you're trying to get at, but if you think I'm just going to plug these into my datapad like I'm some fool wanting to get tracked down by the Empire..."

    "I expect you to do no such thing," he said pleasantly.

    Selian stared a moment. And he smiled. He was starting to appreciate the power of an eerily calm smile over a mask. It unnerved people deeply, and he was appreciating the long moments of the other person trying to figure out why a smile was so unnerving.

    "Fine," Selian said, guard up, abrasive out of self-defense. "What do you expect me to do, then?"

    "Think carefully, make a decision, and ac/>
  11. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Terms and Conditions Apply


    The little receiver relay was at least loud enough for him to muffle the buzz of the lightsabers as he practiced; by the time he truly felt comfortable in Jar'kai again, he was sure that the top forty of the week had been thoroughly seared in his brain. He only hoped that he would not automatically pull himself into a battle stance at hearing the first few bars of the latest sugary-sweet pop number and the whining, nasal singing of their twi'lek frontman.

    And he slept, and he worked.

    Work, of course, filled all the hours of the day other than the few he spared for sleep (usually slumped over whatever he was working on last that day). There was so much to tell the Alliance: that was work. There were so many requests from those in the neighborhood, too, and he recognized the value of continuing to eat, so: that was work. Even the nightly drink in the bar was work, because it was keeping up appearances he couldn't afford to lose.

    That explained why when he snorted awake to the sound of someone banging on his door, he shook himself off in a distinctly ursine manner before admiring the long line of gibberish he had managed to type out on the datapad thanks to an entire night of drooling into it. But the knock persisted, almost hysterical, and so he dragged himself up, running a hand through his hair and putting on his best cheerful face for whoever was at the door even while he already had his lightsaber in his hand.

    He was not expecting the boy ? maybe eight, at the oldest, though it was hard to tell, even with his friend by his side ? to cut him off before he could even get out a hello. Instead the boy was nearly bawling. "Mr. Naberrie, Mr. Naberrie, please you gotta help me!"

    "I, uh -"

    The child thrust a box into his hands, wide air holes showing a dull pink rag underneath. There was no time to object, even though he recoiled. Truthfully, he didn't hate children; he was terrified of them, so unfamiliar, so foreign. If there had been another way, he would have slammed the door shut and tried to forget that the children had ever seen him as approachable. At least he hadn't ever had problems with this before, he mused bitterly; even in the failed stunt of Bring Your Offspring to Duty Day all of the Imperial Navy knew that you did not introduce your spawn to Darth Vader.

    And the child kept talking as he found himself scrambling to support the box. "You gotta help us, Yannie is real sick and, and me and Jadt -" The small zabrak boy nodded in fierce, open-mouth agreement - "don't have enough money and neither does Jadt's mom or my mom, so we can't take Yannie to a real animal doctor, but you fix things real good -"

    "I don't -!"

    " - and Yannie's real sick and we gotta go to Academy and we were gonna take Yannie with us but the teacher says no, and we don't want Yannie to be sick in one of our lockers all sad and alone, we'll pay you all the money we've been saving up we promise -"

    "But -!"

    "Please please please, Mr. Naberrie, please -"

    And the box was in his hands, and the boy's snapped back to catch him in a hug. Apparently holding the weight of the box alone was enough for the boy, and his zabraki friend burst into smiles. "Thank you so much Mr. Naberrie, thank you lots! We'll be back as soon as we're outta school -"

    "We're already late," lamented the zabrak.

    "And, and ? yeah! Thank you Mr. Naberrie!"

    They sprinted away so quickly that he was left holding the box and gaping a little. Whatever objections he had been holding in left him in a long, frustrated sigh. For a long moment he was tempted to quietly put the box out on the street and close the door, but the weight of it became a tangible reminder of the responsibility he had been given. So, gritting his teeth, he stepped back into the apartment, opening the top of the cheap box to peer at what was inside.

    "I'm not sure exactly what just happened," he confessed to its contents.

    It was a slinket. He knew only because Ahsoka had been obsesse/>
  12. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Abort, Retry, Fail?


    The zabraki woman insisted on trying to give him a few credits and on the fifth offer, he finally felt obligated to accept so he could be on his way without seeming ungrateful.

    And he hurried back to the apartment to close the door behind him, slide down to sit on the floor, and wonder why he had hurried.

    There was no shadowy darkness or dramatic thunderstorms; the eighteen-minute rainshower was downright pleasant, just as WeatherNet had scheduled it to be. The physical world was not cooperating with the numb despair that had settled over him. It made it that much easier to retreat into himself, to block out the noise of the machinery rattling outside his window or the ever-present chatter of the residents of the slums.

    He hadn't noticed.

    It wasn't a dramatic at all; it was a slow creeping finally coming to fruition, floorboards of an ancient house finally rotting through to buckle and break. It was a natural mental entropy, and so when he realized what had happened, it was already too late to fight it.

    He hadn't noticed.

    That was his blind spot, it had always been his blind spot. He didn't need the small voice in the back of his head to busily remind him. The creature had just been a pet, but it was so bright in the Force, too stupid to do anything but be loving. Too stupid, too beautiful, too virtuous? He couldn't tell anymore: all he knew is that he was blind to it.

    And of course, every time he berated himself for being so foolish as to find something of Padmé in a child's pet, he just knew more solidly that it was the same sort of blindness that had prevented him from seeing her desperate, foolish, unending love, and how it flickered and died with her.

    The shadows ambled a little further on the floor before becoming diffused and soft again, and his thoughts turned to Luke again. It was too dangerous to shout into the Force, to scream for Luke to answer; he knew that Palpatine would be quite happy to step in. Some of his neighbors would likely be killed in the shootout and he was certain that he'd be the talk of the gossips for quite awhile; he was also just as certain that he wouldn't leave Coruscant alive. But he was desperate for some small sign that Luke was still alive. It would have been just like his son, he thought ? perhaps being exceedingly stupid as a young man was an inherited trait ? to use the light side of the Force to purify confusion and anger into simple, foolish, unconditional love...

    Perhaps he just hadn't noticed yet, if that light had been snuffed out as well.

    And truly (the voice whispered, but not from the darkness; the room was still well-lit, without many shadows ? it came from himself, terrifyingly so)... And truly, what was the point even in trying? It would be months ? years, perhaps, more likely ? before he could truly be in any position to save his son. There would be battles, the slow encroaching fungus of reconquering territories, the murky intelligence he would have to wade through... and that assumed that the Emperor made a critical error and left Luke where he could be saved. He reminded himself that he knew him far too well, now; the Emperor would clutch his new prize closely and fight to keep it. It was impossible.

    A soft glow caught the corner of his eye, but the numbness kept him from turning his head. "Anakin," an unfortunately familiar voice whispered. "Anakin."

    He paused to unstick his mouth, half drawling his answer. "I think you've got the wrong apartment, old man."

    "Anakin." A paternal, damning disappointment rang in the voice, alongside exasperated amusement. "It is not impossible." The ghostly figure crouched before him, trying to catch his eye, and he quickly glanced away, fixating on a pile of spare parts in the corner.

    "I'm not sure what I've done to be honored with this lecture." Sarcasm was an easy, cheap defense, all fluff and no substance. It just made him feel more vulnerable, and he knew that his old master saw straight through it.

    But it sti/>
  13. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Comedic Timing


    The office chair wheezed around in circles as it spun slowly, finally coming to a stop. She extended a foot to plant it against the side of the steel security desk before kicking off, like a swimmer at the side of a pool, and the office chair spun back around the opposite way. The beige grey ceiling's pattern turning into circular streaks was only marginally more interesting than what she was supposed to be looking at.

    Mara Jade was bored.

    That was, she thought, a massive understatement. She had been bored for months, and on Coruscant there was not even the option of doing something to harass an underling and cause an incident of interest.

    With a long sigh, she sat up to stare dully at the screen. Luke Skywalker was, as usual, slumped in the corner of his cell, eyes dazed and unfocused. The increased dose of the serum was starting to make him drool, but anything less and the Emperor decided he had too much autonomy. And, of course, to say Mara was bitter about this was like saying Tatooine had a wee bit of sand.

    Not that she was one to celebrate prematurely, she reminded herself. Of course when the news came that Vader had been ambushed while in his personal fighter was delicious, and she had smiled, but she had refrained from letting herself gloat until his name was officially moved to the Missing In Action, Presumed Dead list. She had waited patiently, so patiently, for the Emperor to finally give her the promotion that she felt had been hers for years. And she waited. Whatever hope she had that being Skywalker's babysitter was a temporary trial had long since faded. It was drudgery. Watching paint dry would have been more interesting. Even playing sabacc against the computer had completely lost any appeal, she'd done it so much. Oh, at first, it had been all right to stare at him. He looked as she remembered him from Tatooine, when he had been a pleasantly interesting prey, charmingly competent (but not good) with his lightsaber or the Force. As he sat drugged out of his mind, when she was initially so bored, he was even still handsome enough for her to consider toying with him simply because it'd be something to do.

    But now his cheeks were sunken, his skin pale and greying, and dark circles hung underneath his eyes (never mind that pathetic, slackjawed expression). Whatever charm the farmboy once had was now neatly eradicated. She was disgusted. And very bored.

    She had spent fifteen minutes trying to get her hair into the most complicated braid she could think of, using only the Force (because in her desperation it had seemed like something barely approaching fun), when a small sound made her jump. Frowning, she peered at the screen, and the output of the many cameras in Skywalker's cell. The sound came again from the tinny speaker. It was, perhaps, a laugh ? a very small, gurgling sort of one. And he was... smiling?

    Laughter, and smiling? That was certainly all wrong. With over-eager excitement, she shook out her hair, bounding up to nearly skip down the hall in excitement. Something was actually happening! Even if it was a minor incident, at least it broke up the monotony.

    The cell doors opened with a hiss and she crossed her arms, gleeful to finally have the chance to look her most impressively furious. "What is going on in here?"

    It took Luke Skywalker a few seconds to actually look at her, his gaze not quite as dull and distant as she remembered. The smile slid off of his face. But she couldn't see the other figure standing in the room. She especially could not see how Obi-Wan grinned, and she was not aware of how the Force ghost whispered a joke only Luke could hear. It was, of course, a joke at her expense. But it was what Luke needed to hear, just as how the last hour had been spent with Obi-Wan bringing the boy hope and a small bit of entertainment through old war-stories and wisdom.

    The joke hit true and after a few seconds for his sluggish, drugged brain to process it, Luke burst into wheezing laughter.

    "What is it?" Her eyebrows knit in frustration, and her nostrils flared/>
  14. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    Eminence Front


    Truthfully, Leia didn't mind the late night shift. It wasn't as if she was going to get any sleep anyway, though she did occasionally try. By the time she heard the small beeping of the comlink, she had focused on taking deep and slow breaths for so long that it was almost as good as taking a nap. She was certainly still yawning when she made her way down the dimly-lit corridors, darkened in a false sense of night-time onboard the massive spaceship.

    "It's four-thirty in the morning, Gael, this had better be interesting if nothing else."

    The bothan looked up at her with wide eyes and nodded frantically. "Senator Organa! I didn't know a senior staff would respond so quickly ? but it is interesting, very interesting."

    "Enough to not wait until the morning?" She stifled another yawn and made her way to an empty chair. The intelligence room was usually busy with the full staff working at all the terminals, but now most of the screens were dim, save for the one the bothan was busy tapping away at. Gael looked more flustered than she remembered him, Leia had to admit: while he thought she wasn't looking, he licked at his fingertips and tried to pat down some of his fur where it had frizzled in excitement or fear.

    "Yes, definitely. - I'll have a full report on Mon Mothma's desk in the morning, but..." He reached up to paw at his mane again, looking overwhelmed. "It's important ? important enough that I need to make sure you're seeing what I'm seeing."

    She frowned, eyebrows knitting, but politely said nothing. Instead, a gentle sweep of her hand indicated that she wished for him to continue.

    "I'm not sure how much General Cracken has told you. But there's an agent in Coruscant we've been watching ? blind approach, don't know for sure if he's toxic ? ah, an Imperial agent, I mean." The bothan fumbled with a data disc, taking two tries to pick it up before inserting it into the holovid player. "But it's good intel. Excellent intel. If he's toxic, he's stupid, it's the Empire handing us victories on silver platters. We've worked at having this confirmed but it was information crucial in landing us the latest few victories..."

    His claw clicked against the keyboard as he called up the data disc's information, and Leia's eyes widened. Images flickered by quickly, one after the other at a frantic pace, and scrolling text became a blur. Her mouth dropped open slightly in amazement. Now, certainly, Leia was awake. "All of that so far? That is... quite impressive."

    "That was only last week's transmission," the bothan said almost giddily. "This is all the intel he's handed over to us so far."

    The holoscreens around the room blazed with light. Diagrams and text became a steady stream of information, overwhelming, before finally coming to a pause. Leia gaped more than politely, turning in her chair to see it all. Fortunately, the bothan continued talking while she was left speechless.

    "Quite a lot of it has been pulled with Imperial access codes; either he's a damn good slicer or - "

    "Or he's a traitor," Leia interrupted, tone distant and nearly dreamy.

    "Yes, exactly. The agent on Coruscant has only been able to provide us a little information; he's too smart to hand over a corneal scan. But we received this with the last batch..."

    The screens dimmed again to allow the main holoprojector to light up with a complex diagram that shone like a jewel in an ornate setting. By now the bothan's fur had fluffed again in excitement, but he didn't seem to realize it, or care, as pleased to be flaunting what he knew to a superior as he was to be reveling in the fact that the Alliance was gaining a crucial edge. "This diagram is of the Executor, and ? this is what's simply amazing, well, the first bit anyway ? it's hand-drawn. The author's switched to his non-dominant hand, here -" He gestured at where part of the diagram had been captioned - "so handwriting analysis is harder but not inconclusive. It matches none of the Moffs we have on record." />
    Falcon likes this.
  15. Valiowk Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2000
    star 6
    No reviews yet?! :eek:

    I'd been meaning to read Masquerade for some time since I found your profile on FanFiction.Net, but didn't have the time to do so before my trip to China. I figured that since you posted it up on the JC forums, this would be a good time to start. :) It's a very well-written drama, and strangely enough, what appeals to me most about it - considering that I'm usually a bit wary of Anakin-redemption fics - is precisely Anakin's introspection: his reflections on his misdeeds and his attempts to make up for them in whatever way he can.

    I've always wondered about what exactly constitutes "redemption": Is Anakin saving Luke at the end of RotJ really enough to redeem him after all his misdeeds in the past twenty years? It's always seemed to me that part of Anakin's redemption comes about simply because he is the Chosen One; that if it were anybody else at fault, they would have to work much harder for it. But this problem doesn't arise in your story: your Anakin is really starting from scratch to survive and earn people's trust - quite like a common criminal would have to, in my opinion - and I have no doubt that at the end of this story I will feel that he really did earn his redemption. His repentance really shows, and I can't help but feel sorry for him - which means that you've done a great job! (Think forgiving Raskolnikov for killing Alyona Ivanovna the pawnbroker in "Crime and Punishment"!)

    Looking forward to seeing where you go with this! =D=
  16. Jedi_Master_Cazz Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2005
    star 4
    I'm so glad to see this here! =D= I've been following this on fanfiction.net since about chapter 4 and I must say it's in my top three favorite fics I'm following right now, I always enjoy seeing a new update!

    The great thing about this is that Anakin point blank doesn't know what to do with his life now, he has a goal of course, to free Luke from the Emperor, but he doesn't really know how to get there. I love seeing him re-connect with the basic necessities of life and society, I also love how he feels so out of his element, all he knows is that he can help the Alliance, and to keep his head down. And now with Leia soon on the scene, I can see more confusing and lose threads in Anakin's life. I love to see the whole Anakin redemption story go through it's alternative channels with its rocky and unconventional themes, especially with Anakin's eclectic view of his own self. Usually the three of them, Anakin, Luke and Leia have their connections between them, most usually between Anakin and Luke, and then Luke and Leia, by splitting all three of them up as you have, it's created a new paradox that I haven't ever seen before, and when it comes to Anakin redemption fics, I think I've seen them all. 8-} I'm addicted to them, and AS/DV in general. I love a well written Anakin, and you've got his subtleties down here.:)

    I'd be more than happy to be on the pm list!
  17. Sara_Kenobi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 21, 2000
    star 7
    This is simply wonderful. I can't believe I didn't peak in here before. I wonder if they'll learn who their helper is.
  18. Blazestarre Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Oh, very interesting! This has to be one of the most intriguing Anakin redemption fics I've ever read. The fact that Luke is not there to help him and see the good in him, as is common in these stories, brings an interesting twist, as does the drug.

    I'll definitely be keeping up with this.
  19. Jedi_Master_Cazz Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2005
    star 4
    Please tell me this isn't a lost cause. :(
  20. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    The story isn't a goner, but its author nearly was - LOL -
    IRL problems suddenly hit me all at once. I'm slowly trying to catch up here but I've been posting things more quickly on Fanfiction.net.

    Dead computer, walking pneumonia, helping with a move across three states, job hunting - my excuses have a little bit of everything, folks, take your pick...

    ----

    Down Like Rhinestones From The Sky

    ----

    Leia was already looking forward to dyeing her hair back to its regular shade when she finally stepped out onto Coruscant. The red shade was a little obvious, despite carefully making sure her eyebrows and eyelashes matched, but it was enough to give any Imperial pause. The prosthetic nose helped too, or at least she hoped. It was good enough, for right now, for where she was going.

    There were fewer and fewer cameras as she took stairs down, away from 500 Republica looming on the skyline. It was dizzying and disorienting ? she only knew a little of Coruscant, only in the spires where the Senatorial elite lived comfortably. But the lower city called to her. It was safer, anyhow, in a way. There was at least a chance that a swoop gang or drug lord could be sympathetic if she was recognized.

    As she stepped into the elevator, shoulder to shoulder with a crowd heading home from work, the collective exhaustion around her made her shoulders slump. But she looked up, tucking her hands in the pockets of the ratty old coat she had borrowed to complete her costume, and sighed. Han would be furious with her when she got back. Mon Mothma would be furious, too, as much as Leia suspected the serene older woman ever became angry ? well, perhaps not furious. It would be worse if they weren't angry, but instead just smothered her with worry so that she was crushed under the weight of her own guilt.

    Don't think about that, she reminded herself. This was more important than anyone could ever understand. Perhaps Luke, someday, but ?

    The open-air elevator groaned before dropping in almost a free fall, her hair pulled up around her face by the wind. 500 Republica gleamed, catching the light, before finally disappearing along with most of the sky, swallowed by dirty-looking buildings with garish neon displays. And the elevator continued to go down?

    -

    "Thought you should know someone's been looking for you, old man."

    He glanced up over the mug of ale, trying to keep his face impassive. "Is that so, Vadis?"

    "Yeah," the boy drawled, flopping in across from him and giving a wide, toothy grin. "I don't normally disclose such information but, you know, I'd rather not see my aunt get caught in a shootout, so if this is some bounty hunter after you, try not to get shot around her, eh?"

    A very slight smile played over his face. "Your concern is touching."

    "Sure thing, Naberrie. I'll point her out to you, even. Have another ale and stick around, she was eager to meet you." Selian grinned even as he got up, going back to his usual perch in the dingy bar.

    He wasn't stupid enough to order another ale. But he did watch quietly as Vadis waved a confused-looking redhead over to him. She was too clean and held herself too upright, walking with a self-assured confidence even as she was obviously uncomfortable with the surroundings. Something was familiar ? very much so ? but he couldn't place it, not yet. It was dangerous to reach out with the Force so, but he was at least reasonably sure she wasn't Mara Jade? after all, the red hair color was too garish and obvious.

    He closed his eyes, taking the last sip of his ale, reaching out with the Force. Almost immediately, as something recognizable rang true, his eyes snapped open. Surely it wasn't ? surely she wouldn't be that foolish, it couldn't be ?

    No, she was sitting straight in her seat, just the way a Senator would. A Princess to the last despite all that remained of her people was space debris and rubble. A shining gem even in the dirt-covered setting, still gleaming ? still attracting undue attention.

    By the time Selian Vadis finally turned in his seat to try and point out the widower Naberrie to h
  21. Valiowk Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2000
    star 6
    As usual, I love the Vader/Anakin in your story. (I'm never sure whether to call him Vader or Anakin after he's been redeemed, and considering that that process is still going on, that makes it all the harder to decide. ;) ) I love the way he tries to "help" Leia, but in that gruff manner that he's become so used to - it will take him quite some time to soften.

    I wonder if Leia will be able to get anything out of Vader, or whether she'll have to be content with just meeting him after he tells her to be more careful about her actions? And that hovering droid - that definitely doesn't sound like good news!

    Looking forward to seeing the next chapter! :)
  22. Jedi_Master_Cazz Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2005
    star 4
    Yay, it's back! I am glad! And yes, I agree, I love your Anakin/Vader too, it's a fresh and welcome change. Where is everyone?
  23. Harpalyce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2010
    star 3
    A very short chapter, and I apologize for the delay. I'm hoping to get some writing done over Thanksgiving break.

    ---
    Eyes Like Factories Far Away
    ---

    And his hand was at her wrist, vice-like, dragging her along. Leia gave a huff as she tried unsuccessfully to wriggle out of his grip before finally giving up and marching along behind him. ?You can at least tell me where we?re going!?

    ?Somewhere you?ll be safe.?

    ?That?s not what I mean, and you know it,? she spat back. With a frustrated grunt, she finally dug her heels into the ground so that he had to drag her along by inches. ?I?m not going anywhere until you answer a few questions.?

    A long sigh rolled out of him, but he didn?t turn around to face her. ?Fine,? he finally bit out.

    ?And not just a few, but all I can think to ask. And I expect truthful answers.?

    ?Fine. Fine. Of course. We need to keep moving, Princess.?

    She couldn?t help but smile, enjoying the minor victory, before falling back in line to walk beside him instead of behind him. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of his profile, although he tried to keep the hood pulled up tightly. He was almost handsome, a thought that disgusted her more than she would have liked to admit. There was still a disconnect in her mind between her father and Vader, and it would be a long time before she could reconcile it. Besides, she told herself, she obviously took after her mother. ?whoever her mother even was.

    ?What?s your name? Your real name,? she said after a long moment of thought, as much a demand as a question.

    He didn?t answer, instead continuing to drag her along, ducking quickly into a narrow alleyway.

    ?I asked you a question.? Her eyebrows knit in frustration. ?I thought we had an understanding ??

    ?Yes, I?ll answer any question you like.? She opened her mouth to argue before he cut her off. ?But I also assumed, like a reasonable adult, you would like this little interrogation to occur when we are in some place of relative safety.?

    ?That is not what I meant ??

    ?That is what is going to happen, Princess,? he said flatly, dragging her down another twisting corridor. The steam rising up from the city was rank and she wrinkled her nose as he seemed to lead her into the heart of it, the shanty-towns obscuring many years of building and rebuilding.

    ?You could at least tell me where we?re going.?

    ?The Works. It?s the closest you can get to a hiding place on Coruscant, and I presume that your ship is somewhere within it ? or if you seem to want to prove to me that you have no common sense ??

    ?What did you just ??

    ?- and your ship is elsewhere, it is at least a place where you can sufficiently disappear so that you can leave Coruscant as soon as possible.? He let go of her wrist to move aside a piece of metal that looked like it used to be a sign, exposing the relatively fresh metal underneath. It was a door with a complex looking security system ? and she could see the old Republic symbol, underneath the patina of grime.

    The computer?s voice chirped out something garbled beyond understanding, but he seemed to know what it was asking, quickly punching in a code onto the keypad. After a few moments of thought, the voice rang out again, slightly less incoherent than before. ?Override? -ceppt- ? Pl - ?forwa- ?corneal sc?? The rest was lost to static, but he leaned in almost obediently to let the scanner focus on his retina, unflinchingly staring into the light.

    She noticed that his eyes were blue, and for some reason this deeply unnerved her.

    ?Welc? An? Skywal-? The rest of the mangled announcement was lost as he brought a hand down to slam against the keypad of electronics. A few stray sparks jumped from the broken machinery, and Leia flinched, glaring at him, though not demanding an explanation ? not yet, anyway. The doorway connected to the panel had only opened halfway, and he struggled to get it open just enough to where they could slip through. ?Ladies first,? he finally said slyly, glancing at her.

    ?No thank you,? she said quickly, though just as bitterly, leavi
  24. Ashamaphone Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2001
    star 4
    This is a really enjoyable story. I'm really looking forward to more. :)
  25. Darth_Malevolent7 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2007
    star 1
    I liked the father/daughter meeting. Is Leia out of her mind visiting? Now the security cam recorded her image with proof of her visit. The old security for the senate is still in place. I would have thought that the Empire would have changed all of those protocols. This means Vader/Anakin could have access to all sorts of places.

    Looking forward to more.
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