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Saga - OT Vader's Shadow (Luke, Vader; AU of the "Darth Vader" comics)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Togruta, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I was so upset when he died in the comics and you brought him back. Yeah! This is wonderful news!
     
  2. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Glad you think so! Yeah, Thanoth was such a great addition to the Vader comics. He's like the Sherlock Holmes of the Empire. Really fun to write.

    And thought I'd mention this now that posts are all caught up, this fic is also on FanFiction.net here.

    Now for the update. Getting back to Vader and his antics...


    Above Shu-Torun, the Devastator lingered. From the vast Star Destroyer's hatch a shuttle departed, and it began making its way down to the molten world below.

    The atmosphere of the planet enveloped the ship, surrounding it in a consuming crimson with black, scorch-like marks on its surface. Within minutes, the shuttle was already flying past the capitol's metropolis of clustered buildings, with their pristine steel-blue turrets, columns, and silver spires reaching outward, their ornamental design suitable for the reputation of Shu-Torun's mining culture.

    The shuttle flew toward the Shu-Torun palace, and was immediately allowed access by flight security. Passing several projecting towers, the ship finally reached the platform of the palace hangar. It slowly landed, its flanking wings gracefully folded upon descent.

    The ramp slowly dropped, and Vader strode down it, his broad form standing out like a dark pillar on the lucent platform. Following him was an assemblage of stormtroopers.

    Another ship arrived afterward, if one could call it a ship. It was nothing like the elegant, durasteel design of the Imperial craft; it was that of a fleshy, aquatic-looking creature that was embedded with patches of machinery and metal plating. It didn't land, instead it hovered and its jaws opened, revealing a well-lit walkway. Doctor Cylo and his fellow cyborgs emerged from it.

    Rather than view them, Vader looked ahead, where awaiting them was the newly-appointed monarch of Shu-Torun, Trios. She stood with a pair of golden-armored guards, and was clad in similar armor herself. Her young eyes expelled nervousness despite her otherwise outward calm.

    Vader was the first to address her as he came to a halt, his troopers following suit, their bustled steps snapping loudly as they came to a stop.

    "Queen Trios," he said slowly in his mechanical gravel. "It seems your people are in a hurry to ensure their own demise."

    The young woman breathed in, and seemed determined to not avert his gaze. Her voice was clear, but quiet.

    "Lord Vader. We are... sorry to require the Empire's assistance yet again," she said. "I have tried, but the ore-dukes refuse to listen. I believe -"

    "Simply lead us to the ore-duke's delving-citadel," growled the Dark Lord, his intoned voice cutting her off. "The walker military units will soon deploy from the Devastator. I will assume complete command, as your leadership is clearly not rectifying the situation. Let us go."

    "Of… course, Lord Vader." She moved as if to turn, but paused, as her eyes caught the sight of the other man who was now approaching them. Cylo stood to the opposite side of the Dark Lord, hands held behind his back, and he regarded her.

    "Greetings, highness. I am Doctor Cylo," he said promptly. "See to it that we are supplied proper surveillance equipment in the nearest station. I will also require a holomap of the area."

    Trios looked from the Sith Lord to the doctor, and seemed inquisitive for a fleeting moment. But she bowed her head in obedience and turned, her blue cloak swaying.

    "This way," she said to them.

    Vader and Cylo followed her, an array of Imperial troopers and cybernetic human beings following in their wake.

    Slightly bothered at having the rogue scientist walking alongside him as though they were equals, Vader focused on the view ahead. He studied the nearby palace, with its metallic structure against the dark red sky. In the distance volcanoes spurred, trailing down paths of lightning-shaped lava, reminding him of another such planet flowing with oceans of fire...

    Vader was aware that Cylo was watching him, unsurprisingly. Impatient to be acknowledged, waiting to be provoked. Vader decided to oblige.

    "I can see you will be proving your worth in this war, Cylo... by hiding from it behind a map."

    At his remark, Cylo made an impassive frown.

    "I am a scientist, Lord Vader," he said casually. "I think. I plan. I calculate." He blinked with his one human eye, while his replacement Rodian eye remained open, a dark orb as still and empty as an eye-patch. With his greying hair and goatee, Cylo otherwise appeared as a middle-aged man, but was actually one of several bodies that the original had prepared, programmed with an "immortal" system that carried his memory and likeness. This one had activated when the last body had died – the body Vader had found when he first uncovered Cylo's identity.

    Cylo held up his chin with an air of assurance. "I will be where I can be most useful, Lord Vader. And so will you... out in the battlefield, with all the other dispensable lifeforms."

    Vader's angular mask faced forward, his stride as unhurried as ever. He was in no mood to waste time on Cylo's pomp. He was eager to get to the root of this planet's conflict, to strike against the insurrectionists, dominate Shu-Torun and secure its mineral resources. Then he would hold his victory before the Emperor and be free of this absurd "rivalry" with these abominations, or at the very least, be closer to being rid of it.

    "My life is not the one in question," he responded. "Unlike you, I do not need to make copies of myself due to a tendency to die."

    Cylo made a modest smirk. "A tendency that doesn't matter when you control the solution. Unlike you, I have the brilliance to invent machines that can grant me immortality."

    "For a scientist, you seem far swept in dreams, Cylo."

    "And you seem to forget that the Emperor himself has assigned us here. Darth Vader: mighty warrior, Imperial enforcer... He can wield light-swords and perform dark sorcery... And yet, here we are with him."

    Vader continued his walk, appearing unaffected though secretly irritated. Evidently the scientist was going to be straight-faced and arrogant per usual, with all his shallow attempts to be seen as formidable. Vader could tell his patience would be tried while working with him on this mission.

    "Yes, I am the Empire's enforcer," he said, his heavy voice concise as it filtered through the transmitter. "I have been so for decades. I have led many battalions and won many worlds over to the Empire, and this planet shall be no different. Its people will either comply or face the Empire's wrath."

    Ahead of them, the young queen made a half glance behind her shoulder.

    "It will be different because I will be the one who wins this war," snapped the scientist. "My creations, my mind, will be the key to lasting victory in the Empire. The galaxy has no use for pious Force-worshipping. You'll discover that soon enough."

    Behind him, a woman nodded in agreement as she was followed by floating drones. Referred to as Voidgazer, she was also a scientist, and was fitted with headgear and blue, telescope-like contraptions that had replaced her eyes. The protruding caps beamed like minuscule moons.

    "Only science can create progress," she declared in her monotone, high-pitched voice. "The Empire needs genius minds more than brute force. The Emperor knows this. He knows those of us who have vision, those of us who will insure the future of –"

    "And those who are stuck in the past," added another voice among Cylo's group, that of a round-faced young man, Morit, who walked alongside his sister, Aiolin. Like all of Cylo's creations, their bodies were implemented with cybernetics, though they appeared as normal humans. Additionally, to Vader's annoyance, they looked very Jedi-like, always wearing brown cloaks, and they had been trained in lightsaber combat.

    "We will see... who lives to see such a future," Vader said darkly.

    Trios had led them across the threshold of the mountainous structure where her palace sat. Sentries stood in place at the edges of the pathway.

    "The guards will show you to into the palace. You can use one of the Abyssal Hall chambers for your work," Trios told Cylo, holding out her arm. Vader felt a grim satisfaction as he noted her decorative prosthetic; a result of the hand she'd lost on his previous visit, when she'd tried to pull a blaster on him.

    Cylo nodded to the queen, but stayed for a moment.

    "I will leave Voidgazer with you, Lord Vader," he insisted, lifting a finger to beckon her. "I'm sure her drones will be most useful to your assessments"

    Vader made no response. Voidgazer gave a curt nod and stepped away, standing to the side of Vader's fleet like she was a soldier herself. With that, Cylo left with the guards.

    Vader simply said, "To the citadel. Now."

    After having traveled through the winding tunnels of the underside, they came to a large cavernous opening, a blue surface cooled and eroded by time. Not far from them in a hollow gap there was a gigantic structure, a Shu-Torun mining refinery. It was copper-colored and composed of several bulky levels, and most notably equipped with giant cranks headed with saw-like devices, likely used for excavating the precious Shu-Torun ore.

    "Attack" Vader commanded the fleet. "Surround the citadel."

    The stormtroopers did so, advancing swiftly as they began blasting at the structure.

    Vader was contacting the commanding operatives of the Imperial walkers when a huge blast of energy suddenly struck nearby, hitting the cliff not far from them. The citadel was armed with laser cannons. This was followed by a series of blaster lasers, aimed by distant soldiers that were now flanking from the factory's tiers.

    "Voidgazer," he commanded as he pressed the ignition button of his lightsaber. "Send your droids out to monitor the structure from overhead."

    She did so, motioning like a maestro as the spherical droids moved according to her will.

    Trios, meanwhile, had brought out a blaster pistol and was shooting steadily along with the troopers.

    Vader deflected the shots that came her way, harboring a trace of respect at seeing her involving herself in the battle, despite how useless her contribution was. It had obviously been the correct choice, making her the ruler. She had seen firsthand what happened to those who tried to resist the Empire: the sight of the treasonous king, her siblings, their loyal servants, all lying dead in the shadows of the throne room... She was intimidated by Vader, she was the Empire's pawn, yet she had a strong sense of duty that Vader had found admirable for one so young. He had said as much when he'd been led to that trap set by her father, shut in the vast tunnel as lava had spilled through the ceiling.

    Your father must be proud… Your father should be proud... You show an admirable willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

    He was unyielding and cautious on giving compliments of any kind, and they had served no purpose then, not even to influence the princess. His actions had accomplished that. He had been surprised by his own words... And now as he continued his instinctive defense of the incoming attacks, he realized the princess was not the only youth he'd thought of when he spoke them.

    Memories flew through his subconscious: a young man clumsily charging at him with a blue blade. X-Wings turned to stardust over Vrogas Vas, one of them targeting his TIE fighter, crashing into it. Vader amazed and taken aback, more absorbed in the young presence than the impact from the collision, that fiery determination he sensed from the boy to end the Dark Lord…

    Another memory accompanied this one: a young painted face, a figure adorned in scarlet attire. Swiftly, Vader banished that image, sent it into the tomb of his mind.

    Another blast hit, and a piece of the rock shelter crumbled to the ground, almost falling on Trios and a few troopers. Vader inwardly berated himself for his brief distraction and focused himself back on the ongoing battle. He reached out to the Force to aid him, his lightsaber a red blur as he blocked more of the approaching blasterfire. Resolved to tell the young queen to remove herself from the battle, he held back the order as another cannon delivered another heavy blow ahead, killing several stormtroopers that were swept in an explosive cloud.

    Vader grasped his armorweave cape, holding it out to shield the young queen as his saber warded off the beams of light that continued to fire.

     
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent action although the cyborg contingent is a bit creepy :p Enjoyed the sharp exchange between Vader & Cylo and also the jumble of memories vader was having of significant encounters =D=
     
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  4. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    OOH...excellent, as always! =D= Once again your brilliant writing has me 'hearing' themes and dialogue in my head, both making the scene sufficiently chilling. The cyborgs sound like every other over-zealous scientist, dismissing religion with a wave of their hand and claiming superiority...little do they know how real the Force is! ;)

    The best part is easily Vader's wandering thoughts to his encounter with Luke...and then being reminded of Padme. :( He's carefully buried his emotions so he won't be tormented by them. He keeps busy to distract from grief that I'm sure is still there.

    Great characterizations! I can't wait to see what happens next!
     
  5. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    A very well written and detailed update. I love your descriptions about what was happening. :)
     
  6. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Took a while, but here's another update. Back to Luke and Thanoth...



    "Is that the last of them?"

    Aboard the bulk freighter, a large crate was being carried in by four stormtroopers, who lifted it from the boarding hatch. They set it down in the cargo area with all the other crates, all lit brightly and fit compact between the steel-grey walls.

    The blue inventory droid monitored them, then turned to check a small screen. It entered some input and then turned to the ship's captain who stood near by, arms folded and wearing a tired, taxing look on his pasty face.

    "Yes, sir," the droid said. "Seventy-four containers. Forty scout droids. Forty troopers. All accounted for and documented into the records, sir."

    "Very good." The captain's brow, which had been wrinkled, slightly relaxed. "This should be our last trip. Looks like we'll finally be leaving this dust-heap. You–" He looked at one of the white-clad stormtroopers, who paused at being addressed, then took a step forward to him. "Inform the engineers to prepare for our departure. The rest of you, to your stations."

    He turned on his heels to exit, the droid following him, and the door parted and closed after them with a swish. The stormtroopers and crew all scattered away, the lighting turned dim in the storage room as they left. It was quiet and dark.

    Then one of the doors re-opened. The stormtrooper who had been singled out by the captain now stepped back inside, and he looked around several times, as if doubtful that anyone was really gone. The trooper then slowly made his way over to the collection of crates, his steps clumsy as if he was in a whole different environment than the same room he'd been in barely a minute ago. Finally the trooper stopped in front of one crate in particular, and again looked around his surroundings. Content that the area was clear, he lightly drummed his knuckles on top of the crate.

    From inside, there came a dull knock in return.

    The trooper detached the clasps of the seal lid and it came off easily. From inside, there rose a bald, liver-spotted head.

    "Well, you… uhf... certainly took your time with that." A human hand reached up, and took the other, black-gloved hand that was offered to it.

    Unsteadily, Thanoth hoisted himself up from his hunched position in the box. His face wrenched.

    "Oh blasted blazing bolts..."

    "It was only a couple of hours," came the young voice as it filtered through the mask, and the trooper shrugged. "It's not like –"

    "'Only a couple of hours' he says." Thanoth struggled to lift his leg over the edge of the container, huffing through his moist mustache. "Just ignorance, so many ignorant children in this galaxy... No regard for the old..."

    He finally managed to pull himself out, and the trooper proceeded to help him, holding on to him as he balanced himself. The older man scowled, muttering about aching joints.

    "You're welcome. And people say I complain a lot..."

    "I am simply not built for this stowaway nonsense," the older man said, now patting down his wrinkled uniform. "But, I suppose we should be relieved… Admittedly, your plan does seem to have worked. You were able to knock out the trooper that came to my call, and make your way to the transport in his armor. No one seems to suspect a thing..." He stretched his arm, holding what looked like a handle, and as he pressed a button his cane snapped out, extending from it. "Still... we could've both just as easily walked on board, as I suggested we should before. Putting an old man through this while you simply don a disguise isn't what I call fair. In fact, it was completely unnecessary."

    The gaunt face of the stormtrooper helmet stared back at him, unmoved, looking like a forever-frowning ghost in the weak light. Then the trooper pulled the helmet off over his head, revealing the tan-skinned face underneath.

    "That was the deal," Luke said to him, catching his breath as he was freed from the stifled mask. "Artoo carries your vault; you still have your blackmail on me. You stay close to him and away from any comms or Imperials you could tip off. Besides..." He looked at the open crate and made a smirk. "He does make for an excellent traveling companion. Don't you, Artoo?"

    A low beep came from inside the crate, and Thanoth frowned as he regarded it, rubbing his knee. Luke made a strong push at the container, continuing until it fell over. Its weight created a loud thud, and Artoo's dome dropped to the ground along with it. He let out a sharp whistle.

    "Quiet," hissed Thanoth. "We mustn't draw attention to ourselves!"

    "Right, I'm sure that's not what you want, Thanoth," Luke murmured, heaving the little droid up, and giving the older man a sideways glance. "What was that the droid was saying about the records system, by the way? You didn't mention any of that... And you weren't accounted for. Weren't you one of the passengers?"

    "No, I came to Vrogas Vas on another freighter. I chose to stay behind when it left. I wasn't finished with my inspections, and it was scheduled to return the next day. Multiple container transports make trips to battle sites such as this, and Vrogas Vas was quite a battle. It's quite standard procedure for – "

    "All right," Luke interrupted. Stars, this oldtimer could be worse than Threepio at times. "So we're aboard now. What next?"

    "Well… " Thanoth made a sigh. "It's not as if I can show myself to the crew here. They'll know I'm not one of their party, and that'll draw suspicion. No, it seems that, funnily enough, the Imperial in this situation must stay hidden, while the Rebel gets to walk around freely." Thanoth eyed Artoo, whose lights blinked as he spun his dome, making his way over to Luke. "Your droid on the other hand… There'll be sentries and surveillance to take care of. They don't open up the cargo until they reach an Imperial facility, however... I hate to say it, but the crates do seem like the best places to hide. And the astromech, as you say, will have to stay with me. Out of sight."

    The little droid let out a hum like a broken horn, and twisted his round head left-to-right aggressively. Luke put a hand on him in reassurance.

    "It's only for a little while, Artoo. Just until we reach the spaceport. Then we can hopefully start to get to the bottom of... all this." He looked expectantly at Thanoth. "Isn't that right, inspector?"

    Thanoth was observing the rest of the cargo, all the identical metallic boxes sitting in the shadows. He didn't answer. As Luke watched the older man, he noticed there were faint noises coming from outside the room, the echoing bustles of steps, the whizzing of hurried droids. He grasped the plastoid helmet in his hands.

    "They're readying for takeoff," said Thanoth, turning to him. "Well then, trooper, you'd best get to the engine room. Don't want to disobey a direct order. It should be down the east corridor, third quadrant. From there, pass the control room, up the lift, and get to the stormtrooper's stations. Level 4, I think."

    "Oh, you think? You mean you don't know?" Luke said sarcastically. He worked the white helmet back on, fitting it uneasily over his head. With it, his vision was almost completely gone. As Thanoth defensively went on about all he knew of class-four container transports, Luke fiddled with the outer controls of his helmet. He hoped there was something to help him see better in this thing...

    As he gradually went through different settings, he finally settled on one that brightened the view and offered a less narrow vision, and registered that Thanoth was still speaking.

    "… I could be wrong, of course, but that should be the case. And since all stormtroopers are accounted for every two hours, you'll just have to make due, do your best to pass as a stormtrooper among stormtroopers. That could prove more problematic – "

    "Don't worry. It... shouldn't be too hard for me." Luke let himself smile under the mask, remembering the first adventure he'd had with Han and Leia on the Death Star. If they could see what he was up to now…

    Thanoth set a curious gaze on him. "It shouldn't? Are you saying you have military training?"

    Luke made a weak chuckle, but didn't answer. More echoes came from outside the door.

    "I'll try to meet you two back here in... three hours. Okay?" Luke said dismissively, and he shuffled away towards the door. Before he pressed the button to open it, his attention was drawn back to the diminutive droid, who made a pleading bleep at him.

    "Yes, you have to stay, Artoo... Someone has to keep an eye on him." He motioned to Thanoth, who made an obliging smile at him. "Don't let him out of your sight. I'm counting on you, Artoo."

    With that, he opened the door and left them in the semi-darkness.

    Thanoth stood there, both arms leaning on his cane. He frowned and looked at the droid, who was buzzing in discontent. A long, silent moment passed.

    Then the droid suddenly made his way towards the inspector. He positioned himself right next to him, his three legs stopped, and his blue-and-silver dome sharply spun in his direction. The receptor locked in on Thanoth.

    "Hm." Thanoth gazed at the machine in boredom. "Your master has an awfully lot of faith in your capabilities... Trusting an R2-unit to keep me here. No lock. Nothing to keep me from leaving and simply informing an officer of my plight… He's trusting to a fault, isn't he?" He shook his head wearily. "Ridiculous."

    Artoo whistled something back. Thanoth made a half-smile at the little droid.

    "Well then. Do try to keep me in line, won't you?"

    Artoo rolled forward with a sudden force, and bumped into Thanoth. The aged man started, but leaned on his cane, preventing himself from falling. He glowered at the droid, and merely shrugged.

    "No awards for feistiness, I'm afraid. And remember, you carry my self-destruct vault. I can have your master's lightsaber obliterated on my command, and likely you along with it. Do not forget that."

    There was a grazing sound. No sooner had Thanoth finished speaking then Artoo had brought out a small chainsaw from one of his plated compartments. It drilled towards Thanoth steadily.

    Thanoth took a careful step backward, his eyes widening, but Artoo stayed close to him, keeping the chainsaw's rotating teeth inches away from his leg. The blade then made a sudden jab forward.

    The inspector found himself nearly tumble as the blade cut into his cane, splitting it in half.

    Thanoth blinked, and raised the handle, seeing the few inches left of it, the other half on the floor. He looked at the droid and raised his chin as if he were about to scoff. Then he stopped himself, and made a slight nod.

    "... A decent enough answer, I suppose," he said in a quiet, measured voice. "Fear always does get the point across, now doesn't it?"

     
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
    Ridley Solo and AzureAngel2 like this.
  7. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Nice little reminder that R2-D2 can be a badass.
     
  8. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    The Vader & Cylo chemistry is amazing more ... itching between them was even better than the verbal the case battles Krennic & Tarkin had in "Rouge One".

    I also like the fact that Vader here is protecting the queen instead of frightening her out of her wits. Plus he is not rejecting his memories of Padmé as harshly as he did in the comics. There is space for hope, some light left on in the dark night of his soul.

    As for Luke and a certain elderly gentleman: good match as well.
     
    Togruta likes this.
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb -- the dynamic here is one of wary conditional trust towards Thanoth -- which I share. [face_thinking]
     
    Togruta likes this.
  10. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Ooh, this just keeps getting better.....so Luke's in disguise again...be careful! [face_nail_biting]

    Nice little sequence with Artoo! That little guy can be pretty...persuasive when he wants to be! ;)
     
  11. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Thanks once again for all your comments, guys. [face_coffee] Glad you liked Artoo's bit and the "chemistry" of team-ups on both Luke and Vader's side.

    Anyway, here's the next part, with a little more action this time. Hope you like.



    The vented floor made a tin-like sound as Luke stepped on it with his synth-leather boots, and he stopped and looked behind him, wondering where he was. He had been wandering around for almost an hour. Following Thanoth's directions, he had informed the engineers to ready the sublight engines and the ship was now traveling in hyperspace – but now he was utterly lost. So much of the ship looked the same, and there was no sign of a lift like Thanoth had said. More than once he had come across members of the maintenance crew in the halls, earning a few curious looks, but none spoke to him, and asking for directions was definitely out of the question...

    He had now entered a narrow hallway, one with several doors on opposite sides. Various lights on control panels emitted on the walls. Again there was no lift as he'd hoped... If only he could get a map of this blasted place…

    He looked around more, and on the reflective surface of a small hatch's viewport he could make out the glassy image of a stormtrooper – or rather, of himself. His insides curled a bit at the sight of the plastic soldier staring back.

    In disguise as a stormtrooper... again, he thought. Was the repetition funny or disturbing? It was only two months ago that he'd been in this same scenario aboard the Death Star; and he had a feeling his plan now was even more dangerous than that had been.

    Han was right, I am crazy, he suddenly thought to himself, looking away from the faint stormtrooper visage to the empty hallway. Sneaking on board an Imperial transport, planning to sneak onto Vader's Star DestroyerYou're as crazy as they come, Skywalker.

    It was dead silent, so much that he was tempted to remove the bloated helmet just for a moment; the stormtrooper getup was as bothersome as he'd remembered and he was feeling more and more smothered by it. He tried to see if it had any built-in cooling system, but messing more with the helmet mechanisms only disappointed: he turned on a weather scan from his helmet, which he hastily turned off, then turned on some kind of holocam, which he also shut off.

    He looked to the utility belt on his waist. In the packets, he found an extra comlink, some kind of white cylinder – a detonator maybe? And also –

    "Great," Luke said dully through the vocoder, now unfolding two entangled wrist binders. "Always need a spare pair of cuffs on hand while oppressing the galaxy..." He tucked them back onto his belt, and decided to give up.

    He surveyed the lighted hall and all the identical doors. The panels indicated they were all locked. Luke passed them to proceed to the next room, trying to recall exactly what Thanoth had said.

    "Pass the control room... Level 4..." He wracked his memory to recall more, but nothing came.

    He frowned, frustrated, and stopped in his tracks. Truthfully, it was probably best that he hide out somewhere instead of continuing like this. He would likely just get caught wandering around aimlessly, and Thanoth had said it wouldn't be long before they reached the spaceport...

    And now Luke's memory did bequeath something: Leia's orders, when she told him to return to the Rebel spaceport before he'd left.

    He wondered about his friends in the Alliance. Were they already off somewhere new, endangering themselves on their own impossible missions, ones that were far more significant than his? Were they succeeding? Did they need him?

    If he needed them and called for help… would they really not come? And if they didn't, could he blame them?

    At this moment, standing in the cold light in the Imperial armor, Luke felt nothing like the Rebel hero that so many hailed him to be. He'd left Artoo alone with Vader's helper. He'd disobeyed Leia and ignored her and Han's objections to go to Vrogas Vas, and for what? To get back what was rightfully his, but his want for his father's lightsaber had only been used against him. Now here he was, wrapped up in this wild bantha chase led by a shady inspector with a string of eerie information.

    And again, for his father's sake. Again, for a man who he'd never known... but for the chance that he could. A possibility that the hope of a stupid farmboy wouldn't be in vain, even if he didn't live long enough to see it become reality.

    Suddenly Ben's warning rolled back into his mind: You were not ready before. And you are not ready now.

    Luke swallowed and exhaled, the warm breath adding even more uncomfortable heat on his face. For some reason his hand involuntarily neared the rifle at his hip.

    But what am I not ready for, Ben?

    "State your business in this sector," came a sharp voice.

    He turned around in alarm – which was difficult because the leg plates prevented him from moving too fast – and he saw a rather intimidating looking droid, built with broad shoulders and red-lit eyes that now set on Luke's every move. Where had it come from?... Confusion shot through his nerves, but was short-lived as now saw that there were corners leading to compact areas near the entrance which, thanks to his less-than-reliable helmet-vision, he hadn't noticed before.

    He felt his breath quicken, but he snapped out of his bewilderment. He decided to straighten his posture, to mimic the uniform posture of an Imperial soldier. He had passed as one of them before, he had to stay calm.

    "Nothing to worry about," he said as casually as he could. "I thought I picked up something strange and came in here to check the area. It must've been a… glitch in my audio sensors."

    "Error. Troopers are not stationed at this sector. Troopers are not stationed anywhere near this sector."

    "Of course not," Luke said quickly. "I was sent here to check a malfunction. Looks like it was nothing. I'll just... get out of your way and – "

    The droid strode to him, its mouthpiece like a collection of melted needles. ""Error, incorrect statement. Sentry droids are contacted of all reported malfunctions on vessel. All stormtroopers are currently in the navigation decks to secure operations."

    Luke froze, his heart pounding and his teeth clenching. Thanks for the help, Thanoth...

    "Yes. Okay," he said slowly. "This has all been a mistake then. So… I'd better get back to my – "

    Then he heard the sharp clicking of metal, and before he could move an inch further the sentry droid had pulled out a blaster from its arm. It pointed it at him, the weapon's red-orange ray activating.

    "Halt," it said in his crisp voice. "You are under arrest. Move and I will fire. I am informing an officer of this error."

    "No, no! That's, uh… not necessary, I mean..." Luke held up a hand, panicking, his other hand gripping the rifle. "You… you don't want to inform an officer about this," he said in desperation, lamely waving his hand and ignoring his own common sense that told him a weak mind wasn't the same as death-dealing programming.

    "Officer, there is a problem in this sector," the droid said into the speaker on its arm. "Send assistance for – "

    Luke ducked and then dodged out of range of the droid's weapon. He brought out his own blaster and aimed at the droid's voice-receptor, damaging it, and the vents were set with a blazing ring. The droid let out incomprehensible electric noise as it attempted to speak. Luke aimed again and in a matter of seconds the arm that wielded both the gun and communicator was dangling from its robotic torso, scorching and releasing white sparks.

    The droid didn't take long to react. It brought out another gun from its other arm and unleashed a rush of blasterfire at Luke, the red streaks so blinding that he could do nothing but draw back in response. He headed towards the door, the plastic armor restraining his legs from stretching far enough to run efficiently, while his ears rung with the sound of lasers hitting durasteel.

    He whirled around to shoot back, missing and hitting the panel of the opposite entry door instead, inadvertently locking it. After this a red beam hit him on the chest, the armor absorbing the would-be fatal hit, but the impact sent him backwards. Luke stumbled, taking another shot, the droid wasting no time to take advantage of his distracted state. This one hit closer to the unprotected side of his neck, burning through the black material he wore underneath. He grunted from the hot sting of pain.

    Recoiling, he let loose a few random shots, hitting the valve of a canister that jettisoned a leak of steam. Another shot, and he hit an air filter that was installed on the ceiling. The heavy metal frame broke off immediately and crashed on top of the droid's square head, blocking its glinting eyes. Luke took this moment to slip away, dash to the other door, and smash his palm over the access button. Hunching, he dove through the door as it opened, stray red bolts still pursuing him. After crossing through successfully, he turned and shot at the door's activation panel. In another instant, the barrier had closed down and locked itself automatically, shielding him from further harm.

    Luke scrambled away as he heard the continuing blasts and electronic chaos coming from behind the door. It dawned on him that the droid was trapped inside now, with all means of communication destroyed... As he inwardly thanked the Force, he let the flush of satisfaction and relief rise in his chest, and grinned.

    Still, someone was sure to come to the droid's call eventually... He had to flee. If he met up with the other troopers, maybe he could blend in long enough for them to reach their destination before anyone found out what happened.

    As Luke came to his feet and hurried away, one hand on the raw burn on his neck and the other clutching the gun in his hand, he considered that maybe feeling like a Rebel in this situation wasn't so impossible after all.

     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb action & nerve-wracking. You can't reason or persuade a droid after all. :eek: =D=

    Love Luke's momentary questioning: What am I doing here? :p
     
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  13. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Posted this in the cover art thread, and it seemed appropriate to have it here too. I just might do more covers like this in the future.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Love the art as much as the plot in so far. @};-
     
  15. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
  16. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Thanks all. I appreciate the feedback/ likes on the the cover art, and previous update.[face_coffee]

    So, again it's been a little while, but here we go. A bit of Vader POV, from a scene in the comic...



    The evening was fading to a burning glow that spread over the palace of Shu-Torun. The rosy light complimented the architecture; the pilaster columns molded from rich ore, the archways carved with ornamented patterns as thin as lace, the sculptures and statuettes of romanticized kings and queens. There was artistic intent at every corner of the palace, poetry in the very air.

    This frivolity was not to the liking of Lord Vader, who now stood near the edge of a balcony, motionless and overlooking the royal coliseum. A spot for the leisure-class of Shu-Torun to divulge in theatrical diversions, it had many constructed tiers for large audiences. A shadowy crowd was forming, watching the brother and sister who sparred on the vast stage area below.

    With idle curiosity, Vader watched them. The twins called Morit and Aiolin Astarte were circling each other. Their lightsabers swung in a spat of blazing color.

    Morit raised his blade above his head and struck at his sister, hitting the ground when she dodged. She proceeded to strike his shoulder from the side, but her brother made a back-kick at her and she stumbled. He made another attempt but she blocked with her green blade. She didn't hold for long however, and was pushed back while Morit pressed his advantage. Then Aiolin shot from the ground and soared in the air, having activated the jet-repulsors from her heels. Morit did the same and swung his orange blade again. Their lightsabers locked.

    Vader tracked their movements, discerning them, judging them. While waiting on both Trios and Cylo to get ready for the next planned attack, he had come to this balcony to meditate on the recent developments – which included these siblings, who had appeared on the arena minutes ago, likely practicing to prepare for the next battle. The sight of them now did little to alleviate his discontent.

    He had just returned from a mission with the Astartes in which they had aided him in destroying a vessel of Rubix, the leader of this planet's resistance. The vessel had fired at an ancestral "sacred site" according to Trios, and with this sign of open warfare, Vader had ordered the twins to join him in boarding the ship to deliver a counterstrike. Following his lead, they'd killed the crew and disabled the ship, leaving it to sink into the magma depths. He had left the twins to find a way out themselves, hoping they would die in the attempt. Instead they'd reached Trios' escape cruiser before he had, Vader making it several seconds after, the hems of his cape marred by flames.

    He had underestimated them, and that was troubling. As was his faltering focus at the delving-citadel battle. However brief, letting his mind wander had cost the lives of several troopers, almost the queen's, and distractions had no place in the heat of battle. True, he had accomplished much in the war movement so far; their threat to the ore-barons' revolt was made clear. But this war was not merely about securing resources for the Empire. This they all knew.

    And he had a feeling he couldn't quite confirm about Cylo. The scientist had been making his involvement more scarce in the war's progression, and Tagge's communications had been almost entirely unresponsive...

    For a moment, Vader considered contacting his adjutant for assistance in this matter. The inspector, for all his over-inquisitiveness, was a competent aide – though his presence had proved cumbersome in nearly exposing Vader's secret plans. Thanoth, too, would have to be dealt with at some point. Yet another problem to contend with.

    In the lower levels of the arena, people stood clapping, in awe at the twins' demonstration. These two fighters with their cybernetic gimmicks, flying about and showing off their swordplay... Annoyance continued to gnaw at the Dark Lord upon regarding them. They should not have escaped that ship. They performed at a skill level that matched that of a Jedi Padawan – and they had no right to even be that. The Force was not with them. It was utterly weak with them...

    "Lord Vader!"

    His thoughts were interrupted by a voice almost identical to any protocol droid's, though somewhat off, as if running on an unstable source of power. There in the entrance stood 0-0-0, or "Triple-Zero", a protocol droid that had accompanied him to Shu-Torun, and next to him was the "blastomech" known as BT-1. Along with their typical functions, both droids were efficient in assassination and torture, and had proven useful to the Dark Lord in his recent endeavors, despite their tendencies to jest in his presence.

    Triple-Zero approached, his circular eyes glowing like blood-red targets. "Excellent news. Beebox the bounty hunter has found Mistress Aphra and returned her!"

    At this, Vader felt a small sense of ease. Aphra had assisted him in many of his secret activities as of late, including uncovering information about Luke Skywalker. She was now on the run after escaping capture from the Rebels... meaning the Emperor could find out the identity of the boy through her.

    "I've arranged a private audience," continued Triple-Zero. "They await your pleasure."

    "We will question them both now," he declared, ready for the droid to lead the way. But Triple-Zero made no move.

    "That is fascinating, Lord Vader… I had no idea your powers extended to communing with the dead."

    Vader paused for a moment. "Take me to her. Immediately."

    The droid inched away in obedience, Vader about to follow him.

    "Lord Vader..."

    He made a sharp turn. Crouching on the baluster was Aiolin Astarte, her lightsaber ignited in her hand. She watched him intently, the green light outlining her oval face. Frowning, Vader imagined she must have thought this posture looked intimidating.

    "When we fight," she said quietly, "who will win?"

    He stared at her, his eyes boring into her behind the mask. His gloved hand twitched underneath his cape, compelled to perform some violent act. The suspended annoyance he'd felt at the twins now resurfaced, joined with the impatience now stirring in him at being delayed.

    "Your gaudy mechanical trickery is nothing compared with the power of the Force," he said, his deep voice burning, almost crackling through the voice-processor with the emphasis of nothing.

    She shook her head and turned off her weapon, and secured it to her belt as she set her boots onto the polished floor. She gazed up at him with what could only be interpreted as a look of reverence.

    "You misunderstand... I wasn't talking about you," she said, and she lifted her palm, revealing the circuitry Cylo had embedded in her. The lines lit up beneath her skin like a set of schematic veins. "My brother and I... There can be only one."

    Vader regarded her, his anger unfazed as he processed her words. What game did this girl think she was playing at? Indeed there could be only one – the victor in this web of rivalry created by the Emperor – and it would not be one who crossed a Lord of the Sith. Their deluded ambitions would cost them, all of them... He suddenly remembered something his adjutant had once said: We live in a universe brimming full of children.

    As of late, Vader mused, it indeed seemed so.

    "You have been sold a fantasy, child," he told her with the utmost of bluntness. "There is no future for either of you."

    If not for the Emperor's command that they all work together and not slay each other outright, he could destroy them all and be done with it. The twins had twenty years of training, and their skills proved... adequate, for what they were... but it wouldn't save them from sharing the same fate as Karbin. This girl and her brother represented Cylo's ludicrous vision of a future without the Force, and rivalry or not, Vader would see that they paid for that heresy with their lives.

    But the girl didn't waver at his reproach. She remained passive, and spoke again.

    "Then help me," she said. She inclined her blond head towards him, and pressed her fists together in a pleading gesture. "Train me. Spar. I want to be as good as I can. I was a child when the Jedi disappeared... You are a living artifact. If those times can never live again, let us honor that martial memory as best we can."

    The Dark Lord stood silently, long enough to let his mechanical breath rasp in and out. He recalled his first meeting with this girl, when she'd claimed to be an "admirer" of his kind rather than agreeing with her brother's blatant disregard for the Force. He sensed some sincerity in her words, but she was a fool to think he would be swayed by them. And there was the detestable irony of it all, a personal insult delivered to him by fate: a lightsaber-wielding youth who was asking to learn from him, but had no ability in the Force whatsoever…

    Again he was tempted to call on the dark side to bare his anger, but resisted. Now was not the time.

    "The lessons I have to teach would be of no use to you," he said simply, looking away with indifference, and he turned his back to the girl. He picked up feelings of disappointment radiating from her, and he heard her murmur, trying to form words to throw back at him, to stop him.

    "I will do nothing for you," he said, bringing finality to the conversation.

    He strode away, carrying his contempt with him. It was useless to dwell on such things, but the outrage welled and wished to manifest itself. That this girl, this creature who followed Cylo, would dare to ask him for help, would dare try to squelch pity from him...

    "This way, Master Vader," beckoned Triple-Zero, who waved in indication, and the smaller droid beside him spun his dome. Both droids were waiting in the corridor, their forms reflecting the red-hazed darkness. Vader followed them, clearing away his thoughts of anger and opening himself to the pressing business at hand... He was anxious to see this alleged finding of his former accomplice. Deceased or not, her knowledge couldn't be spread...

    And Shu-Torun had to be secured, secured by him. These abominations had to be picked off one by one. Tagge had to be stripped of his command. Thanoth had to be removed as his adjutant. His son had to be turned and trained. The Emperor had to be destroyed...

    "Master Vader, wait!"

    Unable to keep up with the Dark Lord as he swept the halls, Triple-Zero raised his metal arms avidly, pacing in his mild gait.

    "Don't start without us!" he called haplessly. "Viewing war and destruction from the sidelines is all fine and good, but Bee-Tee and I have had such little involvement, and nothing like a little corpse disposal duty to lighten one's mood, I always say!"

    The smaller droid wheeled along with him, making a baritone bleep in accord.

     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating droid personalities in BT-1 and especially Triple 0. Aiolin has a great deal of admiration and technical skills in combat but Vader has no use for non-Force adepts. [face_thinking] Love the enumeration of all his schemes involving Tagge, Thanoth, Luke, and the Emperor. =D=
     
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  18. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Whoa! So these two kids don't have any affinity for the Force, yet they're learning with lightsabers? :eek: No wonder Vader doesn't like them. I don't see him as the type to allow himself to be followed around by a fangirl, either...:p And those droids...yikes. Talk about sick and twisted! [face_hypnotized]

    I have the weird wish to see this printed up as an actual book. It would hold a place of honor on my shelf, dog-eared and spine-cracked. This is SO GOOD!!! =D=
     
  19. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Your story has more Force philosophy and thriller elements than the original. Well done!
     
  20. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha: Thanks again. Yeah, Vader definitely has a lot on his plate.
    @Ridley Solo: Wow, a wish to have this story in abused book-form. lol Much appreciated.
    @AzureAngel2: Thanks again! Glad you're liking those elements.

    So, the AU-ness so far has been mostly on Luke's end, but with this part it's getting more apparent on Vader's. Hope you enjoy!



    The meeting did not take long. Vader had commissioned the task of finding Aphra anonymously, transmitting it as a voice message to a number of bounty hunters. The one who had come to claim the bounty brought a corpse that had been reduced to powdery skeletal remains, saying he had to use a disintegrator. Upon seeing it, and easily sensing the apprehension coming from the small armored man, Vader could tell that the body was a fake. After crushing the bounty hunter's throat with the Force, he left the droids to dispose of the bodies, telling them to pass on the message to the others.

    Infuriated but unsurprised by the hoax, he left to again view the coliseum, this time from another balcony. The arena below was empty, the twins and the crowd now absent. Content with the stillness and quiet, he decided to spend the time meditating, absorbing himself in the Force. He let his temper roll from him and his energy stew in a black cloud of coldness. His thoughts were spilled into the dark side, sinking, surfacing, traveling in waves to feed his focus.

    Despite welcoming the solitude, he was relived when his meditation was interrupted; he was informed by an attendant that the Shu-Torun loyalist and Imperial forces were ready. It had also been reported that opposing forces were forming around Rubix's delving-citadel, just now readying to defend and engage. The combat-drills were all set to board.

    Finally, an opportunity to progress. They could move forward and strike against the ore-barons. Hopefully, this war would all be over by the day's end.

    Vader met Trios in one of palace chambers while Cylo appeared by hologram, both listening to the Dark Lord as he finalized their battle plans. The twins weren't present; Cylo informed him that they were readying for combat, meaning they must have joined the military units. This wasn't quite to his liking, but at least they would be close enough to him without having a significant role in the battle. Despite his irritation at having to work with them, the Force told him to keep an eye on his rivals. He had managed to keep them all fairly separated in turns in this conflict, sensing the secrecy massing between them. They were plotting – of course they had always been plotting – and it was prudent to keep Cylo's followers close. It was the best means he had of controlling the situation.

    "We must hurry before Rubix's forces can mobilize. I will lead the forefront fleet in the primary combat-drill," he said to Cylo and the queen, pointing to a diagram that mapped out the area. "We will approach the mid-mantle to strike Rubix's delving-citadel head on, while the walker units approach from ground level."

    "I must be present in the fleet. I am the war-minister of Shu-Torun as well as its queen," Trios said, raising her head and placing a hand on her chest. "I would accompany the effort in my palatial-drill."

    "Very well," Vader said, after a brief pause. "You will observe in the second wave, but do not engage unless commanded to do so. Cylo – " He turned to the glowing blue image of the scientist's head. "– You are to remain on stand-by to provide navigational correspondence from the upper-eastern tunnels of the region. If I contact you, you will respond to me without delay." His mechanical tone suddenly deepened. "You will not hide yourself in this war as you have thus far. Is that understood?"

    Cylo's layered face was set with an unresisting frown. He answered, "Of course, Lord Vader."

    "We will need to be careful while doing this," said Trios, turning to the map and pinpointing certain spots with her prosthetic hand. "There are lithoporoite seams in the mid-mantle. They most certainly won't support a combat-drill. If something should pass..."

    "It should be no problem as long as we remain on route," Vader replied without concern. "Cylo, you will send Voidgazer here to board my vessel. The twins will not be the only abominations to assist the fleet here."

    "The twins?" Cylo replied, appearing to be at a loss. "They are not among the fleet, Vader. They are aboard my ship with Voidgazer and myself… Did you not sense that?" Cylo blinked with a derisive look of boredom.

    Vader raised his head, feeling a hollow pull of alarm and incredulity despite himself. "And why is this? You thought to pull them back from my command without consulting me?"

    "I was not aware that I needed permission to call my own team," snapped Cylo, folding his arms. "There's no guarantee that the battle won't reach here, and we have no soldiers here, so yes, I thought it wise for us to prepare for the battle. Voidgazer and I will need the twins to provide cover while we work. Unlike you, we do not have an enormous army consisting of soldiers and mass weaponry... so you'll pardon me for not being concerned."

    "We have no time to waste on your inane boasting." Vader pointed a finger at the hologram. "Do not mistake who is in command here. You will send all three of them here at once. Is that clear, Cylo?"

    A trace of defiance surfaced on the scientist's face, and he peered at the Dark Lord. "You expect me to send all my crew to you? You think I'll leave myself open in the middle of a war, while you have all the most powerful forces at your disposal? No, Vader. I won't allow it."

    Vader leaned towards the holo-image of Cylo, his black form almost hunching over it. Trios' pale face remained blank while her young eyes contained a wary uncertainty.

    "You will send them to me," the Dark Lord growled. "Now."

    "If you're trying to use a mind trick on me, it won't work. And that's predictable, even for you."

    Vader exhaled stiffly. "I warn you, Cylo..."

    "I require protection as well as technical assistance," Cylo went on, his image flickering as his expression remained calm. "You do not, Vader."

    "I am the Empire's enforcer, I am in command. You will send your abominations here or I will deal with you as I deal with any sign of insubordination." He raised a hand and clenched his fist, the leather compressing loudly as he tightened it.

    Trios opened her mouth, but swiftly closed it. She drew her blue cape around herself and glanced away.

    Cylo raised an eyebrow. He rested his chin on his knuckles. "So... you require the assistance of my creations, then."

    Vader stared at him. He held the scientist's gaze.

    Then he heard Trios speak, her young voice clear. "Lord Vader… is this necessary? As you said, there is no time to lose. We must hurry before Rubix's forces surmount the attack. They are gathering as we speak."

    The black helmet turned ever so slightly to acknowledge her. Seconds passed, with nothing heard but the Dark Lord's breath and the soft buzz of the hologram.

    "...The queen is correct," he said at last, lowering his hand without loosening it. "We must move. The time it would take for your abominations to get here would be time wasted."

    "We are in agreement then," replied Cylo, and he ended the transmission with a bow, his likeness vanishing.

    Vader deactivated the map with the twist of his hand, and then turned to the young queen.

    "Let us go," he bellowed, and marched away.

    Within the hour, he and the queen joined the soldiers and crewmen as they were boarding their vessels. The giant torpedo-shaped drills loomed like horizontal towers, silvery and armed with an arsenal of cannons and feeler-like spikes, used for traversing the perilous underground. All around were the noises of hurried footsteps, enormous engines rumbling, and Imperial walkers striding over the molten ground.

    Aboard the control room, Vader sat in the captain's seat, looking to the holo-screen and its data. Officers and troopers were at their corners readying, adjusting, processing. All in a hurry preparing for battle.

    Confirming he was ready for departure with both Trios and Cylo over the comlink, Vader discarded the holographic screens he'd been studying and fully regarded them.

    "We must be careful on the approach to Baron Rubix's delving-citadel," Cylo's voice broke through. "There are entire seams of dangerous Shu-Torun ores."

    "The queen's palatial-drill will remain in the second wave," said another voice, that of the queen's chamberlain, who was now accompanying her in her drill. "She will observe the final triumph."

    "This is the last battle," Vader said. "There will be much to observe... The Rubix stronghold will be taken by direct, overwhelming force. Our timing must be perfect. Failure is unacceptable." He turned to the operatives. "Strike only on my command."

    Not far to the side of Vader's platform, Triple-Zero stood with his smaller, trunk-shaped companion, both droids looking through the back viewport. Outside, rock and smoke curled through the air as the enormous array of other crafts followed them.

    "What a shame that we're only here to communicate with the droid army," said Triple-Zero, almost sighing as he looked at the view. "Look, Bee-Tee, all that machinery… The Shu-Torunian drills, the AT-AT walker units, all together, ready for warfare. It is fairly impressive, isn't it? All those instruments of raw destruction…"

    Bee-Tee made a depleted bleep, the only sound he ever made, and swiveled his top restlessly.

    "Yes, I know," said Triple-Zero in a rueful voice. "It is a shame they're all controlled by organics... But, hopefully we can get our fair share of action; surely there must be something for us to do. Oh, I do hope it comes to face-to-face confrontation, physical violence. I still have that idea about a blood-powered engine swimming about in my circuits, and what better opportunity to use it than in the middle of a civil war? I'm sure Master Vader would be the type to appreciate such a thing. He is very open-minded, for a non-droid."

    The little droid's orange-lit receptor turned to look at the seated Dark Lord, then turned back to the other droid. He made a series of heavy bleeps.

    "Well yes, one can't be sure that he's a non-droid... I admit, I also have my theories regarding that..." Triple-Zero then paused, watching as a helmeted officer reported to the Dark Lord. "But best not to ask him about it, I think."

    "My Lord," the officer was saying. "The mantle is now in sight. Three klicks ahead."

    "Good. Proceed slowly, and stay on the path as coordinated to avoid the seams," said Vader. He settled his gloved hands on the arms of the chair. "Once we break through the crust, the delving-citadel will not be far. Today, the ore-barons die, and their cause with them. Shu-Torun will be ours."

    The drill had reached the mantle's layer and the mechanical whirring continued as it trudged on, along with the busy tapping of buttons and the beaming of scanners in the background. Vader solidly faced forward and glared ahead, concentrating on the forces at work, the body of the drill and its shearing movements as it drove forth into the earth.

    Suddenly, there was a shattering rumble, and the drill slowed down momentarily. Then after a struggling sway, it seemed to make a turn in one collapsing motion. Vader paused, feeling a jolt of new foresight brace inside him: the Force was telling him something was wrong, something deeper than a miscalculation or technical error...

    "Lord Vader!" exclaimed one of the commanders. "The controls have failed. We're listing off route."

    Frowning under the mask, Vader activated the comlink. "Cylo, we have lost control and are steering off course. What has happened?"

    There was no response. He tried to contact Trios. Again, there was no response.

    There was a great piercing thud, and everything came crashing to a stop. Vader pressed his boots down to the floor to prevent himself from slipping. The crew slanted in their stationary areas, leaning as they were drawn forward. Meanwhile Bee-Tee was trying with effort to not roll into a wall and Triple-Zero tip-toed himself to regain balance.

    After the vehicle had stopped shaking and the deck had settled, a stormtrooper reported, looking over the current readings. "We've hit solid rock. Gyroscopes have leveled the floors. We're stable, but propulsion is gone. We can't go anywhere..."

    The Dark Lord stood up. "Activate siege defenses. Now."

    Wasting no time, he grasped the lightsaber from his belt and headed to the exit, unleashing the blazing streak of red. He could sense it: the mass of soldiers that were now surrounding them, closing in and waiting to open fire. Soldiers that had been expecting them.

    They had been led to a trap.

     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb and riveting cliffhanger.
     
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  22. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Wonderful update, especially how you approach Vader as a character.

    But I am afraid that I will be seldom online the next weeks, perhaps even months. My husband survived his operation on Thursday & I need to focus on his well-being because his health is very fragile still. His new "cyperman" status does not change that, but the way we live our lives.

    Plus I have a very demanding job.

    Please do not be crossed, if I cannot be a constant follower! I might lurk, but comment seldom.
     
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  23. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
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  24. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    OK, been a while again, sorry, but here's some more. Back to stormtrooper-Luke...



    Luke had stayed out of sight of anyone since his run-in with the sentry droid, confessing to Thanoth of the encounter when he met up with him and Artoo in the cargo room. The inspector was less than pleased.

    "Uncouth," he said with a bitter shake of his head. "Utter uncouthness."

    "It's not my fault," Luke objected, holding his helmet at his side and jabbing his finger at the old man. "You're the one who gave me the wrong directions."

    Thanoth pinched the midline of his nose and sighed. "But I did not tell you to start shooting at sentry droids. Perhaps you've forgotten that we are stowaways? That we are supposed to be on a covert mission?" The lines around his mouth stretched behind his mustache. "I know you Rebels are a trigger-happy lot, but you realize you've jeopardized everything just so you could play Rebel hero in a little action scene, don't you?"

    "What?" Luke shot him a wide-eyed look. He numbly began shaking his head. "You can't... That thing was going to arrest me! I had to do something! If I hadn't –"

    "Your reactions were understandable, Luke, but this is a retrieval transport, not a warship. Those sentry machines make false reports quite often, and if you complied with the arrest and identified yourself, the officer likely would've just dismissed the whole thing and let you off. Your chance of avoiding suspicion would've been considerably better."

    "How in the name of nebulas was I supposed to know that?" Exasperated, Luke waved out an arm. "The droid pulled a gun on me! What was I supposed to do? And how should I have known about how stormtroopers identify –"

    "Perhaps if you allowed me a comlink, I could have advised you." Thanoth leaned himself against a crate and set his gaze on him. He held his eye-piece between his fingers and twisted it. "And it just so happens... there is an ID chip in your armor, hidden to the naked eye, but I can pick it up with my monocle. Your are... Trooper SV89-T74. And... ah..." He pulled out a small datapad from his belt pouch and typed into it. He handed it to Luke. "...There, no reason to blame me this time, it's all right there. You'll need to memorize that ID and this code number, it's how they check the stormtroopers for their scheduled identifications, which you should be due for soon... But perhaps you'd have already known all this if you called me for help. Then you wouldn't have gotten into trouble at all."

    "It was your so-called 'help' that got me lost in the first place," Luke snapped at him. At his side, Artoo let out an affirmative ring, his blue lights blinking. "And you're insane if you think I'm giving you a comlink."

    Thanoth shrugged. He turned away and faced a power grid installed on the wall. He opened a compartment of it, revealing a set of circuits. "Not taking the advice of an Imperial who's on your side? You're the one who decided to bring me with you on this expedition, need I remind you."

    "Believe me, Thanoth, if I didn't need you to get into the Devastator, I wouldn't have." Luke grimaced as he ran a gloved hand through his hair, which was damp from sweat; he still hadn't figured out how to turn on the helmet's cooling system. "Soon as we get to the spaceport, we find an Imperial craft that can get us into that Star Destroyer. If you're really Vader's adjutant, you should be able to get us aboard his flagship no problem... right?"

    "I should, yes. But in the meantime, I think it would be unwise to not have open communications between us. Especially now. Thanks to the commotion you caused, the whole ship will be put on high alert and there will likely be a sweep of the hull, as well as an interrogation of the troopers." He tipped up his head as he peered at some entwined wires. "We've heard nothing yet, but it may only be a matter of time..."

    Luke was about to protest, but huffed in and merely glanced away. Here the inspector had found fault with his actions, and he'd thought he handled that particularly deadly situation rather well. Now Thanoth's logic was starting to sink in, and he was left feeling disconcerted by what he'd done, mortified even. If what Thanoth said was true, if there was a search and they were caught and everything fell apart now, before their mission had barely begun... he would be the one responsible.

    While Thanoth was still examining the grid, Luke reluctantly reached into one of his belt packets. He brought out his spare comlink and pressed the sync buttons on it and his helmet, then placed the small device on the container top. He put his helmet back on and left without a word.

    Thankfully, Thanoth seemed to be wrong about the upped security. Luke found that all the hull quarters remained quiet, almost vacant as he passed through them. He tried to turn on the built-in comm in his helmet to get it to work, but stopped when he heard a sound.

    There were a few stormtroopers walking together. He hid behind a wall and turned the dials on the outside of his mask, trying to strengthen his audio pick-up.

    "... Engineers complaining about being overworked, like always," he heard one of them say. "But the higher-ups won't stand for any more delays. They know that."

    "Have they uncovered anything significant about the base, you think?" asked another. "It was just a small refueling base, so I don't get all the expense."

    "Not a major operation, but it was still a site for Rebel activity. And Lord Vader was involved, heard he slaughtered a ton of Rebels there. Even survived an X-Wing suicide collision with his TIE."

    One of the troopers made a muffled laugh under his mask. "I don't know how those Rebels can stand it. How useless they are."

    Luke felt his blood boil and hunched his shoulders in resentment. Again he remembered the battle on Vrogas Vas: all the pilots getting shot down, his own squadron about to engage in that pointless pursuit... They hadn't understood – it was Vader who was controlling that TIE. He, Luke, had felt that unmistakable presence, a vaporous darkness in the Force, anchoring down the air around him. And he'd felt compelled to put an end to that evil the only way he thought was possible...

    But Vader had survived. At the Death Star, on Cymoon 1, over Vrogas Vas... with every encounter he had with the dark, mechanized man, he survived...

    "At least this trip's almost over," he heard a stormtrooper say in a hollow voice. "We should be dropping out of lightspeed in two hours. Least, that's what the captain says."

    At this welcome bit of news, Luke set his anger aside. As the stormtroopers walked away and their forms blended into the colorless floor, he recalled what Thanoth had told him about the mandatory identification. The group continued on its way, and he carefully began edging closer to them. As they turned a corner, he managed to approach them seamlessly from behind, and was soon trailing after them as if he'd always been there. He waited to hear any other specifics about their destination, but none of them spoke again.

    When they arrived at what he assumed were the navigation decks, each of them were stopped by a small droid at the entrance. He recited the numbers of his ID and security code that he'd memorized, and the droid let him pass.

    The troopers who had been standing guard before retreated, and Luke, following the example of the others, merely stood at a designation in one's place. He realized he was an extra of the four troopers who had entered, but fortunately the droid left without a pause and the navigation crew was all preoccupied, practically glued to their monitors. Again none of the other stormtroopers spoke or glanced his way.

    It had been an uneventful but incredibly tense couple of hours, being surrounded by so many Imperials for so long, worrying if any would somehow see past his disguise or if an alarm would go off at any second. To his disappointment, he couldn't view or understand much of what the Imperials were doing. The decks were dark and spacious, and the uniformed men were constantly murmuring to each other, their lit screens containing colored star charts and abstract figures he had no idea how to read.

    Finally the doors opened and the next group of stormtroopers came in, meaning his "shift" was over. He left with the same group and walked with them until they reached a long corridor, where he managed to slip away. He jogged into an empty hallway.

    "SV89-T74, do you read me?" Thanoth's husky voice fizzed through Luke's ears and he started, hitting his jaw on his vocoder mic.

    After an irritable exchange in which the inspector pressed him about his current location and Luke resisted answering, the young man finally confessed that he was once again lost. The inspector readily gave him directions and Luke navigated through the ship fairly easily, Thanoth also mentioning that he'd managed to make their comm signal undetected, a detail Luke hadn't even thought about. Luke listened as Thanoth rambled on about ship landing protocol, his gripes with distracting noises, and something about his cane being broken. Luke had almost begun to tune out his voice before the ship's comm system interrupted.

    "Attention: we are now out of hyperspace. We will be landing in fifteen standard minutes."

    Luke made his way back to the passage that led to the storage room, where, according to Thanoth, the stormtroopers were expected to arrive to carry out the cargo.

    Thanoth's voice surfaced in his ear. "Have you reached the door?"

    Standing behind a shaft with his eyes peeled on the entrance, Luke responded, touching the comm button on the side on his helmet. "Yeah. No sign of anyone else yet... And you're sure this signal can't be traced?"

    "Positive," came Thanoth's reply. "With what you've told me of this ship's interior, its systems aren't equipped to detect re-set signatures, and I've applied the secure signal to your helmet's integrated comm. How fortunate for us that a few tweaks can work wonders, eh?"

    Luke merely made a hum in response. Begrudgingly, he felt a wave of gratitude; the inspector had expertise and foresight that he lacked, and as much as he wanted to find something to criticize, he knew he wouldn't be here without his help. He felt indebted to Thanoth... though he wasn't about to let him know that.

    A faint chirp was heard though the call, followed by a grunt.

    "Yes, yes, droid. You did provide most of the technical work, and thus deserve some credit... both for that and for destroying an old man's walking stick. Bravo, droid."

    Gibberish bleeping came through the comm.

    "No, blast you and your maker, you outdated, cacophonous little – "

    Luke pressed his lips in a smile, imagining Artoo and the inspector, cramped in the cargo room and bickering in the dark.

    "Okay, Thanoth... if what you said is true, the inventory droid should get here to lead the troopers out to the hangar," he said, now trying to work the smile off and focus. "Guess we'll see if you're right about that or not..."

    "Once we've landed, just follow the others as they carry out the cargo," Thanoth prompted. "They will stack it onto an automated hauling unit that should go into the port's depository. Stormtroopers don't process the cargo, so you'll have to sneak your way there to retrieve us."

    "Great," Luke murmured. "Should be a breeze." He then fell silent; there were shadows in the distance approaching.

    "I think they're coming," he said quietly. "You two just stay hidden and stay silent, got it? Wait for my next call."

    "Understood. And... do try to hurry, Luke. Sealed crates do not normally come equipped with oxygen tanks."

    There was a solid silence before a blue-plated droid scuttled into view, several stormtroopers following it from behind. Luke recognized the droid as the one that had accounted for all the crew and cargo before takeoff. It stepped tidily forward to the door.

    "We have landed," the announcement voice said through the ship system. "All troopers report to the storeroom to begin unloading cargo. All other personnel, report to the bridge."

    Finally, Luke thought with relief. Now to just blend in long enough, then slip away once I get the chance...

    Luke trailed the stormtroopers and the droid into the cargo room. The room lit up, and he went immediately to the crate he knew Thanoth and Artoo were hiding in. The inventory droid activated the opening rail and it descended, ushering faint light into the room when it fell. A few other troopers helped him with the crate and they all began carrying their loads to the outside.

    As Luke carefully stepped off the rail, he took in his surroundings: the ship was settled on the grey platform of an orbital spaceport, and ahead was a large building that extended a long way to the distance. There were many ships docked and numerous people, droids, and goods being traversed to and from the shipyard. The unmistakable emblem of the Empire was on the fronts of all the gates and towers.

    "What are you doing?" said a stormtrooper, who was making extra effort to lift his corner of the crate while Luke, in his distraction, had eased up on his side. He immediately took hold and pressed on with the task.

    A pair of flat hovering vehicles had approached, ready for hauling the cargo. They all lifted the crates onto it, and Luke kept his attention on continuing the gruntwork along with the others, carrying and packing the crates as the blue droid entered its data and observed them. When they were done, the captain appeared. He stood firmly and called for them to file up to be identified again. Luke clumsily ran into another trooper and inwardly cursed himself, and then stood as straight as he could beside the others.

    Again he recited his number when the droid asked him, speaking clear and facing forward. The droid's beaming eye-lights passed over him and its body turned as if it was about to pass him, but then it paused.

    "Trooper SV89-T74. Your body glove is damaged," it said in its bland buzzing voice. It lifted a mechanical hand and touched the air-tight black collar around Luke's neck. "I detect orthofabric deterioration from a plasmic source."

    Luke froze up; he remembered the small burn injury on his neck, and wondered how in the galaxy this droid had spotted it past the bulky sides of his helmet. He tried to stay composed, to think of some explanation...

    "It's nothing," he said. "Just a misfire while we were patrolling on Vrogas Vas."

    The droid retracted its arm and made a nod, then stepped to the next trooper in line. Swallowing as if he'd just inhaled dust, Luke stayed in place and faced forward like all the others.

     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Super action and [face_relieved] looks like things ran smoother than they might have. Close call at the end there ... I don't like to admit it, :p but Thanoth's critiques and suggestions were well-founded. Definitely will help Luke "blend in" and "think ahead" in later missions.
     
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