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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. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    YIPE! That was close! Luke's impulsiveness is proving to be a problem right now, but thanks to the (annoying) Thanoth, they're all still alive. I'm chewing my nails at the tension...cannot WAIT to find out what happens next! [face_nail_biting]
  2. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Once again, and it's probably getting old, but thanks everyone. [face_coffee]

    Now back to stormtrooper-Luke...

    When the stormtroopers began to return to the ship, Luke dragged at the end of the line. He eyed the droid; it was distracted by the datapad in its hand and wasn't looking his way. Slowly he backed up. He eyed the hauling unit that was starting to retreat. He eyed the droid, which was still facing away. He made a leap onto the hauling unit. His boots settled on the steely surface and he ducked behind the pyramid of crates.

    This will never work, Luke thought to himself, huddling awkwardly in his inflexible armor, the plates pressing into his legs and midsection. The hauling unit hovered on automatically, with him blind to where it was taking him. Then he heard voices; servicemen and droids that were listing names and numbers. They were checking the imports – of course, he had to pass through security...

    He gripped his blaster rifle, tried to mentally prepare himself to fight once he was caught. Beads of sweat ran down his brow, into his eyes.

    "Ninth line of shipments from Vrogas Vas. Retrieval mission. Class-four container transport." The voice of a man stopped for a brief moment. "Very well. Proceed."

    With that, the automated unit shifted underneath him and he was moving again.

    A charge of relief ran through him, almost numbed by an equally intense feeling of confusion. In a matter of minutes, he had hitched a ride on this hauler and passed through an Imperial security center without a single problem... Had his armor somehow shielded him? Had Thanoth done something? Was it a fault of the scanning equipment?... Whatever it was, he was slipping by into the depths of an Imperial spaceport.

    And they think Rebels are the ones who are useless, he thought. Perhaps his mission to infiltrate a Super Star Destroyer wasn't as ludicrous as he thought.

    Staying crouched in his position, he overheard the rush of crowds and machinery. The rattling of motors, the vibrations of racks, the traffic of working conveyors. It filled the air around him until it slowly but surely faded away, the haul continuing through a number of doorways. Then it reached an area that was quiet and seemed large enough to carry far-reaching echoes. The unit came to a stop, settling on the ground, and shut itself off.

    After listening and waiting a moment, Luke loosened himself from his cramped position and carefully brought himself up to stand. He peeked from behind the containers, and saw he was at a dark aisle that had several stock levels and storage areas that led up to the ceiling. The lighting was reduced to the glowing of some fusion furnaces set in the corners. He stepped onto the duracrete floor and looked around. There was no sign of anyone else, but it was too dark to know for sure.

    Luke pressed the buttons on his helmet. "Come on, come on," he muttered, until finally a headlight came on. He searched the area over with the scope of light. There was nothing but more aisles filled with more racks.

    "Inspector, do you hear me?" he whispered to his comm, not pausing to wait for a response. "We're inside the facility. I don't know where exactly, some kind of storeroom. Your crate's at the bottom of the pile, I'm going to have to get these others off first... It might take a while."

    "Proceed, Luke. But do so quietly."

    Luke was already pushing at one of the stacked containers, which nudged only slightly; it was no wonder it took four stormtroopers to lug them at a time. He checked the doors every so often as he continued, struggling to move the crates and trying to not make any loud sound while doing so.

    Finally, he'd shifted the last one off and slowly rolled it aside. Breathing feverishly from the exhaustion and the helmet's suffocating heat, he grabbed at the helmet and yanked it off. He inhaled the air, wiping the sweat from his face. Luke slanted on the crate for a brief moment before he stood up straight, then reached out to unlock the clasps.

    There came a sound in the distance – the soft hiss of doors opening and closing.

    He turned with a start, heart pounding in his ears, and he shone his headlight toward the entryways. He saw nothing. He looked at the walls, the massive shelves of organized stock, the farthest angles of the room. The darkness yielded nothing.

    Before his brain had comprehended it, he became aware of another presence, one that was close by. He reached for his blaster.

    "Freeze," he heard from behind, followed by the push of something against his neck.

    Luke stood completely still. Then he heard the faint but unmistakable sound of someone chuckling.

    "Idiot," the voice said. "You thought you could actually get away with this."

    The voice was a man's, vehement and vaguely familiar, not only because it carried the usual Coruscanti accent of an Imperial. It was angry, but somehow strangely droning.

    "...Captain," Luke confirmed quietly. "You... what are you..."

    "Yes, Rebel, the captain." Luke then felt fingers against his collar that quickly snapped away, as if picking something off. "I had that droid put a tracer on you... Did you really, truly think no one would see past that sorry disguise? That pitiful demeanor?"

    Luke breathed in as dread seized him. He began to slowly move his hand to his rifle, but the point of the blaster pressed harder to his neck.

    "I suspected something was off about you... but when I received word from Vrogas Vas that an X-Wing was found abandoned, that a stormtrooper had been reported missing... That, coupled with the ship's surveillance footage... Well, you were practically shouting it for all the universe to hear, weren't you?"

    Luke scrunched up his eyes as if they stung. He stood there, heart racing, tense and tight-lipped.

    The other man continued, his words seething. "I let you think you had us fooled. I got you through port security and arranged to have you placed here. I got you here, alone. I wanted this opportunity. No capturing, no questioning, no torture. I wanted to kill you myself."

    There was a long stretch of silence.

    "Rebel scum." His voice was now almost shrill with anger. "You dare to put on that armor? The armor of a soldier, a protector who fights for the Empire and the good of the galaxy? You Rebels, all you do is try to break the peace we bring, you try with all your might. The Death Star wasn't enough for you, was it? You come back for another target, and another, and another..."

    Against his neck, Luke felt the blaster shaking in the man's hands.

    "My brother – he was a stormtrooper, a real stormtrooper. He was defending his outpost, Rebels invaded. He was blasted three times before the Rebels set off a self-destruct. Most of the troops didn't survive, but my brother did. Now he's sitting in a repulsor-chair somewhere, inarticulate and suffering from brain damage, thanks to you Rebels!"

    Staggered and at a loss for words, Luke lowered his head. He was struck by the man's story and he wanted to say something, though knew there was nothing he could say. He remained silent, coldly stuck to the spot.

    "Thank you for sneaking aboard my ship," the captain said hoarsely. "A lowly transport captain like me wouldn't get a chance like this everyday... I think a few good shots to the head should do it. A dead Rebel for a debilitated Imperial. That's what I call justice."

    Luke compressed his lips, his chest crammed with panic, his muscles shot.

    "Die, Rebel."

    Luke jutted out his elbow. He hit the man in the chest, and grabbed at the blaster, trying to wrestle it out of the man's hands. The captain groaned as he struggled to keep hold and fight him off, and in the dark Luke could see he was still trying to aim at him. He shot several times, hitting things on the shelves, metal releasing bits of light on impact. Unknown items clanked and fell.

    Luke finally let go when his shoulder plate took a hit and he stumbled. Another dart of blasterfire missed his ear by an inch. Luke blindly dodged the shots as one of the higher racks was hit and damaged, the suspension broken. The bulk of the shelves started to cave in.

    "Stay still!" the man yelled desperately. "Stay still and die, you – "

    Luke took the barrel of his own rifle and drove it across the man's face. He was knocked to the ground, and Luke hesitated at seeing him on his stomach, scrambling and reaching out. Then he realized he was trying to grab his gun again.

    Luke hurried and tried to kick it away, but the other man had already snatched it. He slid on his side and aimed the blaster straight up at Luke's face.

    The narrow light of the helmet now cast on the man. Brown bangs clung to his face. He looked at Luke, livid, unblinking, and slowly his bloody lips formed a smile. He pressed at the trigger.

    A red laser struck him in the neck before he could fire. He dropped, face first, to the floor.

    The crate unlocked.

    Thanoth rose out from his confinement with difficulty. Artoo, upon seeing Luke, lit up and whistled a greeting. It was followed by a series of questioning bleeps and hums, which Luke made no response to. He helped the droid and Thanoth out wordlessly.

    "Quite an ordeal," Thanoth said as he stood, shoving off pieces of cracked duracrete from his shoes. He observed the damage and debris on the scorch-marked floor, then looked at the lifeless man lying by the hauling unit. His lidded eyes blinked at the sight and he stepped over the body.

    "Well, we'd best leave this place, Luke. Find a ship in the hangar. Shan't be too difficult, I think. Any light freighter will do." When Luke remained as silent as a mute, Thanoth added, "Quickly, Luke."

    Luke nodded, but stayed where he was, as if grounded there. He felt withdrawn, things drifting inside him so fast that he was left in a daze. He saw the stormtrooper helmet still shining its light over the floor, over the form of the fallen captain.

    Luke leaned down and took the white helmet in his hands. His looked at the plastoid facet for a moment. It glared back at him.

    "Let's get out of here," he muttered, and adjusted the helmet back over his head.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb action! You show the "other side" very sharply: the Imperials also have those they care about that are devastatingly injured or killed in the "line of duty." [face_thinking] =D= And instead of their family/friends concluding that whew, this Empire thing isn't worth it, they go to the extreme of: a martyr for the government that brings "stability" etc.
    AzureAngel2 and Togruta like this.
  4. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    :eek: WOW. More edge-of-your-seat action and tension than you can shake a stick at!

    Both sides have a story. Everyone has someone they've lost to the other side. When you lose a family member, the hatred drives deeper, the fight becomes personal. Luke- bless him for his compassion -has now seen a little of both sides of the story. He lost his family to the Empire...others have lost family to the Rebellion. Just a reminder that there's people in those stark white suits of armor. =D=

    SO GOOD! ^:)^ If this fic isn't up for some kind of award next year (Best drama? Best action?), there's something wrong with the world.
  5. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Thanks again, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha and @Ridley Solo. For this story to be seen as award-worthy is especially super-appreciated. [face_coffee]

    Sorry the updates have been less frequent, it's probably going to be once or twice a month. But here's the next part. Hope you like!

    "Okay, okay, we got lightspeed. We've lost them." Luke let out a breath, the warmth spreading over his masked face. "We're clear..."

    From the cockpit, Luke lifted his hands off the control sticks, feeling drained. He slightly turned his head and called, "How's everything back there? Any damage?"

    Through the open door that led to the ship's rear compartment, Artoo made an indefinite bleep. The droid was near a large square device fitted onto the engine's center, two of his mechanical hands simultaneously tackling it. Meanwhile Thanoth was hunched uncomfortably into a corner handling some kind of panel switch.

    "Minor exterior damage," he said stiffly. "But the propulsion system is faulty and overheating at a fast rate. I admit I don't know an awful lot about TIE Defenders, but the droid here says it has a bad motivator, and claims it can fix it. I have my doubts." The older man made a frown as he turned a dial on the contraption, his elbow hitting the edge of Artoo's dome as he did so. "Blast, a tight fit like this after being stuffed in a crate with that astromech... Still, what with the increased speed, deflector shields, and hyperdrive, we really ought to be thankful we could find a specialized starfighter like this."

    Artoo made a twist with his rounded head, and let out some chortling bleeps. Thanoth sighed.

    "Yes, find and steal... I think you're a bit overenthusiastic about that particular detail, droid."

    "It's thanks to him that we were able to override the defenses," Luke remarked on impulse. "He was the one getting us into the ship while you were lagging behind like a lump."

    Thanoth raised his white eyebrows, still focused on the device, and he prominently lifted a finger and pressed a button. "This lump has just disabled the anti-theft homing beacon so that we shan't be pursued." He lifted his head and regarded the young man. "But please do bare with me, Luke. I'm sure someday I will do something right."

    Luke grimly turned back to the controls, mouth compressed beneath his mask. Now that he had the chance to study the cockpit, he eyed the overall pod-like design of the TIE, the many bulky levers and tools. It was certainly no X-Wing, the controls were more sensitive than he was used to, but the interface didn't look too complicated. At least he had managed to fly them out of the port and escape the Imperial patrol ships without much damage...

    Suddenly he noticed a flashing indicator: the hyperdrive was indeed overheating and was on a high-danger level. He released it, sighing at the inconvenience.

    "Dropping back into realspace," he declared, setting the ship into auto-pilot. "We'll just have to drift until Artoo can get the motivator working."

    "We need more than that," he heard Thanoth say. The inspector stepped into the dark cramped area, making Luke flinch as he began flicking and touching buttons. Luke was about to tell him off before the older man moved to the side consoles. He found a computer and turned it on.

    "Having lightspeed won't do us any good if we can't get to our destination," he said. "I'll have to get into the Imperial Network, find the coordinates... I know Vader and the Devastator are supposed to be at Shu-Torun, but where are we right now?"

    Luke accessed the navigation program and read the stats: "Unknown Regions. Nearest location is the Setera system."

    It was quiet for several minutes, save for Thanoth's fingers drumming away on the keypad. Luke looked at the computer screen and saw the data was processing very slowly, likely a sign of the poor signal quality, and it showed a flickering map of systems. Another window had a list of planets with Shu-Torun highlighted.

    "All the way to the Mid Rim," supplied the inspector, pointing at it on the map. "Travel time will be a while, but..." He grimaced as he input some numbers. "It will be about an hour for the coordinates to fully transfer."

    Luke made a nod. In the backroom, he heard the clanks of Artoo still at work, and was tempted to offer his help. But with the tight space, he was sure he would just make things more difficult for Artoo, who was the superior technician. Still, he didn't want to just sit here waiting, doing nothing...

    A rumbling sound suddenly distracted him, and his stomach wrenched. He realized he hadn't eaten since before leaving for Vrogas Vas.

    Thanoth seemed to take notice, and began to walk around as if x-raying everything in sight, until his attention fell on the flooring just below the control pedestal. He knelt down with some difficulty, his hand pressed down on his back.

    "Hm... Ah, here we are." He brought out a box and opened it. Inside was an assortment of sealed lumps, packets, and a water canteen with disposable cups. "Backup rations. Looks like the owner of this particular vessel has added his own edibles." He picked up a small carton, and his eyes lit up. "Splendid."

    He passed the box to Luke and then looked around the area yet again. Luke watched him curiously, removing his helmet and unwrapping a bean-muffin. In no time at all Thanoth had in his hand what looked like a micro generator. He set it down on the flat surface by the dashboard along with the metallic lid of the ration's box.

    "Now what are you doing?" Luke asked suspiciously as he chewed his food.

    The inspector picked up the canteen. He set it down on the metal lid and proceeded to connect the generator to it. Luke understood now that he was trying to heat the water in it. Thanoth lightly weighed the carton in his palm.

    "Gingerbell tea. Not the best tea there is... but still very pleasant." He took out a teabag and dropped it into one of the cups. "A shame we only have these rubbish snacks to go with it. Crumpets would suit this so."

    When the water was boiling hot, Thanoth turned off the generator and got out a handkerchief. He folded it and used it to carefully touch the hot metal as he poured the golden-colored tea into his cup. When he indicated if Luke wanted some, Luke paused, swallowing his mouthful before making a loose shrug. Thanoth poured another cup and handed him his drink, a thread of steam trailing from it.

    Luke looked at the fluid and sniffed, but found there was no smell to it. Frowning, he merely blew on it. He brought it down to hold on top of the stormtrooper helmet in his lap.

    With the tea steaming under his nose, Thanoth took in the smell with savor. He exhaled. "Still distrustful of me, I see."

    Luke looked at him, and the older man took a long sip.

    "Good," Thanoth said heedlessly. "No, I mean it. I'm actually impressed by how careful you are... trying to be, young Luke.""

    Trying to be? Luke thought. He narrowed his eyes and shifted in his seat, irritated. Then he looked at the older man and lifted an eyebrow.

    "Impressed enough to unlock your vault and give me back my lightsaber?"

    Thanoth made a good-natured chuckle, and took another sip. He leaned restfully back against the wall.

    Sighing, Luke set his tea aside and turned to view the computer screen. He watched as the coordinates' loading bar steadily went from sixteen to seventeen percent. He stared at the screen for several minutes, lost in thought.

    It reached twenty-three. The wisp of steam over the tea was gone.

    "Thanoth," Luke said lowly, breaking the lengthy silence. "Tell me something... Why do you serve the Empire?"

    The older man made a wooden smile, the screen's brightness reaching his aged face, making his monocle a circle of white.

    "You are thinking about that transport captain you killed."

    Luke hunched his shoulders. He looked down at the helmet in his lap. In its reflective surface he could almost make out the man's pale face. His voice seemed to echo in the air around him, the bitterness as he spoke, his frantic screams. The sound of the firm thump on the ground as he fell.

    "Come now, Luke," Thanoth said, interrupting his thoughts, his tone urgent, almost impatient. "Surely you don't regret it. The man was clearly deranged. You acted in self-defense."

    "I know," Luke muttered, a stiffness in his throat. "But it's not something I'm happy about."

    "I can see that. But he would have killed you, that is if he wasn't so bloody incompetent." Thanoth's forehead furrowed in repugnance. "Nothing is more intolerable than an incompetent. It all worked in our favor of course, but sneaking a Rebel into an Imperial facility like that, just for his pathetic shot at revenge... He was a disgrace to the Empire. That kind of hot-blooded behavior may be the norm in the Rebellion, but not – "

    Luke gaped at him, incredulous. "What's that supposed to mean? I'm with the Rebellion!"

    "Exactly, and you know how ineffective your ragtag group often is. I mean no offense to you personally, Luke, but it's only to be expected. A military group with no proper structure or leadership, and such infantile aims..."

    Luke blinked, taken aback. He had expected the subject of the differences between the Alliance and Empire to come up at some point, but he didn't feel ready to hear this belittlement from the inspector.

    "Well, my ragtag group blew up the Death Star with a few snub fighters," he protested, compelled to defend his side.

    The inspector took another sip of tea. "Your snub fighter, Luke. Which took the lives of hundreds if not thousands of Imperials, if I recall."

    "And billions of people died on Alderaan!" Luke blurted out. "There was never going to be a time when the Death Star didn't have people on it. But it had to be destroyed! And somehow I doubt there were many innocent people aboard it, being the Empire's superweapon –"

    "Then there is no reason to bemoan the loss of a single Imperial, is there? Much less one that was a homicidal madman."

    "I'm not bemoaning anything!" Luke clenched his fists. "I know what it means to fight the Empire! And anyway, what about you, Thanoth? You said you don't want Vader to remain as second-in-command; you want us to get rid of him for you, right? You're here helping me, the pilot who blew up the Death Star, you want to help my father, a Jedi... What makes that captain a disgrace to the Empire, but not you?"

    The older man peered at him and frowned, but said nothing.

    Luke said, "Right now, you're looking like a traitor to me. And as for "incompetence"... it was that captain and Artoo that got us this far, not you."

    Thanoth looked as if he'd just received an electric shock. His eyes flashed.

    "Why you... you..." His voice shook; he looked so uncharacteristically angry Luke was certain that he'd have taken a swing at him with his cane if he still had it. But the moment was short-lived, and the fury seemed to fade. Thanoth huffed out and closed his eyes.

    "Young man," he rumbled slowly. "If you weren't your father's son..."

    Adamant, Luke met his gaze. "If you weren't my father's friend..."

    Lines crinkled around the inspector's mouth, and he sighed. "Ungratefulness aside... my duty is to the Empire, that is true. That does not mean I think it's perfect. The Empire needs change... and I believe that can only happen from the inside."

    The young man blew out and folded his arms. "If you believe that'll happen, you're as deranged as that captain was."

    The inspector stared at him a moment, as if restraining a reply. He then shrugged and looked into his now-empty cup.

    "We will see... I may have my unorthodox ways of helping the Empire, I may even be "aiding the enemy" now in the most ludicrous mission ever devised – a mission I was forced to partake in, if you remember – but I never let a petty grudge get in the way of my duty. I never have, and never will... Even when it just so happens that the Empire is why I can never get the best tea in the galaxy ever again." He made a rigid smile, and his brown eyes blinked steadily at Luke. "My homeworld was famous for its tea, you know."

    Baffled at this strange sentiment, Luke opened his mouth to question it, but then clamped it shut. Realization dawned on him.

    "You..." He looked at the old man, scanning him over, and squinted. "...You're from Alderaan?"

    Thanoth made a single nod.

    Stunned, Luke stared at him, his mouth hung open. "You're from Alderaan... and you're with the Empire?! How... Why in the name of – "

    Suddenly Luke jerked in his seat, and Thanoth nearly fell. There was a loud noise, and everything around them shook. The ration box crashed and the tea spilled on the floor. Artoo made an electronic whooping cry.

    "What is this?" exclaimed Thanoth, as he grasped the edge of the doorway, trying to hoist himself up. "What is happen – "

    Luke leaned over to the navigation display and searched the scanners, but stopped as a large shadow cast over the cockpit, covering them in darkness for a moment. Through the viewport Luke saw the reason: what was unmistakably a giant worm-like creature, squirming and drifting past them through space. It curved farther away to reveal its enlarged body, sallow and slinking back to them. Its mouth opened and closed, revealing a set of tower-sized teeth.

    "That," Thanoth said pointedly, barely moving his lips, "would be an exogorth."

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Fantastic and intense conversation with widely diverging opinions that have no middle ground. What a shocker about Thanoth's origins! I am glad he doesn't think the Empire is perfect and has an idea to change it from the inside. Certain things have to happen first before that's likely. :p
    Whew, an exogorth is an intriguing creature!
    AzureAngel2 and Togruta like this.
  7. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Sorry for not having been around officially, but lurking in my lunch breaks when there were no documentations to write or fellow kindergarten teachers to talk to.

    I love the unique relationship that the old war veteran & Luke have in this story.

    This I wanted to get rid of before vanishing on holidays for a good while.
  8. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Here we go, more Luke, more Thanoth... and stuff happens. (Best summary ever.)

    Hope you enjoy!

    "A what?"

    "A space slug."

    Luke instinctively clutched the hyperdrive, but his hand froze as he caught sight of the indicator again, still flashing in the danger zone. Luke held his teeth together as he saw the slug coming closer. He turned off the auto-pilot.

    "Hold on to something," he told Thanoth, gripping the sticks. He steered the ship and they dove downward, flying out of the creature's path. But it wasn't long before the slug's limbless body came back into view. It swerved strangely, like it was flying through rings, and Luke could see it was redirecting itself. The head appeared again and its gaping mouth opened, awaiting them.

    Chest pounding, Luke turned up the speed, hearing the wail of the ion engines as he turned the ship. They just missed the slug's mouth and were traveling several feet down the whitish skin before he pulled up, splitting away. He heard Thanoth groaning, no doubt struggling and bumping into things.

    The view was clear. The slug had disappeared as they headed speedily into black nothingness... but Luke sensed the creature was right behind them.

    "...This thing's faster than it looks," he said breathlessly, his insides teeming with panic despite himself. He accessed the missile launch commands, ready to shoot.

    "Fast and resilient," Thanoth said with difficulty, trying to keep himself from slanting and leaning with the motion of the ship. "I doubt this TIE's weaponry – uhf – will do much to it. Exogorth's have extremely thick mantles and – argh – protective tissue –"

    "It's a slug. There's no way it can be faster than a TIE Defender! This thing's supposed to have advanced speed; if I could just figure out –"

    He was cut off by a violent crash, and both he and Thanoth were thrown sideways.

    "Artoo! Get the motivator working!" Luke shouted, fidgeting back into his seat and grabbing the sticks. He curved his arms and made a narrow turn as Artoo's sounds frantically called back.

    "It's trying to devour us," Thanoth voiced, holding on to the back of Luke's chair.

    "I can see that, Thanoth!" Luke barked back at him, red-faced.

    Thanoth continued. "Exogorths are usually dormant, but they have highly evolved senses, and they don't relent once they've targeted prey in the midst of space. It must be migrating to another asteroid field. This one is only half the size of a full grown –"

    "Shut up!" Luke steered hard to the left as the enormous tail hovered over them. He narrowly dodged it. He took a chance and launched a missile at one of the slug's beady eyes. It resulted in a fiery explosion that gave the ship a beating since they were so close, but did not slow the beast down in the slightest. He fired the laser canons at its head: it roared and flinched, but still didn't back off. Its movements became more erratic and its body zigzagged. Luke tried to aim the proton torpedo at it, but the shot didn't land. Again the head was nearing them, the maw opening wide.

    As he continued, diving, rolling, somersaulting in space, Luke's mind fizzed with a cauldron of questions that had no answers. The slug could keep up with them, the thruster boost was on low-power and wouldn't last long enough to create enough spatial advantage; the weapons and shields were useless, they didn't have lightspeed ... What could he do?

    "Blast it all, Luke! What are you –"

    They came to a hurtling stop and an ear-splitting screech resounded throughout the ship. Everything trembled as shadows bounced across the cockpit, then everything went dark. With a cringe and a jolt in his heart, Luke realized they had been caught in the creature's jaws.

    Thanoth was making rough hyperventilating breaths, while Luke desperately tried to make out the many glowing commands before him, his hands sweeping over them, trying to find something that could help, something that told him it could get them out of this...

    The crunching sound of bent titanium came through the ceiling.

    Luke wracked his brain for a solution. Maybe this was an opportunity, a chance to shoot the monster in the mouth where it was vulnerable. He took the laser cannons, ready to fire.

    "Don't!" protested Thanoth. "We're right here with it, Luke! Any heavy fire and we'll only blow ourselves up!"

    Scowling, Luke yanked the controls, pressed the thruster power, and tilted the triple wings, folding and unfolding them over and over to try to annoy the slug. The wings grazed its brown gums and the creature let out a deep groan. Its jaws unclenched slightly. The ship began to wrench loose.

    "Come on..." Luke ignored the blinking screens and auditors going off, tried to crank up the thruster more, but it was spent. In seconds the teeth were grinding back down.

    "No, no... Come on!" He tried to perform the same wing trick again, but they hardly seemed to budge. The more he tried to get free, the more the slug seemed to hold on. Above them, the tips of the giant teeth starting to dent through the ceiling. Saliva was now dripping down the viewport.

    Luke pounded the control panel furiously, horrified, dismayed, at a loss. "There's nothing we can do!"

    He shut his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the teeth to finally pierce through, for them to be swallowed, while all the bellowing noise of the ship, the creature, Artoo's squeals and Thanoth's wheezes surrounded him. He was too paralyzed to move.

    Then he felt a tug at his shoulder.

    "The Force," he heard Thanoth say to him. "Use the Force, Luke."

    Opening his eyes, Luke turned to him, awestruck, but Thanoth's face was shadowed.

    "What..." Luke heaved, then winced as a guttural growl sounded through his ears, vibrating the ship. "What d'you mean –"

    "Concentrate. Feel the Force. Use it on the beast."

    Cracks appeared on the transparisteel from the outside. Luke swallowed, his muscles bracing, his brain benumbed. Yet under it all the fire of his instincts was burning, kicking in. His will to survive.

    Suddenly Luke stood up, and he looked upward. He lifted a shaken hand. He tried to focus, tried to find the power within him, that special energy that could connect him to the slug, to influence it...

    "You... don't... want to," he whispered, eyes shut. "You don't want to... eat this ship. You don't want to."

    A mild grunt came in reply. The side of the TIE was met with a hard thump of the tongue.

    "It's – it's poison!" Luke went on, jumping slightly from the impact. "You'll die if you eat it. You don't want it... You want to let it go."

    Seconds passed with no change. Luke tightened his fist, inhaling and exhaling, trying to draw on his instincts, to find that gateway that led to the Force and all its possibilities. Immaterial echoes came to him: he felt the meaning of Ben's teachings, he felt Thanoth's presence... and he felt the slug. The Force was answering him, it was opening to him, outreaching. And with it, things became clearer...

    He felt the slug, its mind transparent. It thrived on its own instincts, its own need to survive; consuming them was a necessity. Luke could feel its dire situation, somehow understood that it was starving and adrift in space after centuries of hiding, its home destroyed. He felt the pang of its suffering, as if his own body carried that same hunger.

    Suddenly another beeping sound came through, and Luke paused, momentarily brought back to the danger he had been tuning out. The dark cockpit, the sound of the slug's thick breath, its engulfed mouth caving in...

    He closed his eyes and tried again. His will burned, but the creature's will burned also, and pushed at him, its thoughts repeating its need to feed. Luke tried to redirect it, change its motive. His attempt seemed to falter, and he could feel the slug trying to break away from his contact.

    "No..." Luke's voice was flat and sharp. "You want to let go."

    He called on the Force more, tried to reconnect. The power returned to him, and he latched onto the creature's consciousness.

    "Let go..." he commanded it. His fingers curled as he felt the power course through him, flowing like a wellspring. "Let go now!"

    It was quiet for a moment, save for one continuing alert on the controls panel. Then there was a sonorous sound, like a moan of pain or confusion. The scrape of shifting metal was heard and the shroud over the ship began to abate. The giant mouth was opening. The jaws were slackening.

    With a sudden movement, the slug let go and they were tossed into space. They spiraled out.

    Luke was sent back and fell into his chair. His eyes shot open, and he came back to the present, almost paralyzed as the rush of it all hit him. Snapping out of it, he reached for the stabilizer and pulled the lever, and the TIE came to a balanced stop. Checking the flight datascreen to see the state of the wings' – and finding they were miraculously still attached – he began veering aimlessly into the void.

    Dry-mouthed and quivering, he let out a long sigh. Relief filled him, for even as he felt himself lose touch of the Force, he could still feel it around him, like light from a setting sun. And he still felt the creature out there, and knew it was withdrawing.

    "Well, that... that wasn't so bad," he found himself saying, and he hastily blew his bangs from his forehead. He thought to see if Thanoth was all right, but felt oddly resisting it, not wanting to face the inspector. "Uh... Artoo? Are you all right back there?"

    The droid made a ring, and sent back a couple of befuddled bleeps.

    "I know, Artoo. The ship's worse now," Luke replied back. "At least it's not... too bad. I think."

    He looked over the system's maintenance alerts still going. The TIE engines howled with depleted buzzes, and he saw the topmost wing was unresponsive; the wings controlled erratically now thanks to it, faltering and going a different way every minute or so. He had to keep re-adjusting them to fly normally. The life support was also beeping loudly, and he turned it off. The communicator signal was still going, he wasn't even sure how that had been triggered.

    He looked at the side computer. The coordinates transfer was still going on, only halfway done.

    Suddenly Luke heard Thanoth clearing his throat. He froze for a second, then made a reluctant side glance at him. He met his gaze. The older man looked worse for wear, his uniform ruffled, his temple bruised, and his monocle absent. His expression was solemn and discerning.

    Then he slowly cracked a smile. It grew until his cheeks swelled, and his old eyes gleamed. For a moment Luke couldn't help but think he looked rather grandfatherly.

    "I knew you could do it," the inspector said.

    Luke didn't knowing what to say. He could barely believe what had happened had happened. It was strange enough that a giant slug had attacked them out of nowhere, but that he had successfully used the Force on it... and that Thanoth had been the one to think of it. Had encouraged him to use it. It was rare that he could tap into the Force that well, and he felt pride glowing in himself knowing what he'd accomplished; that he had saved them, that he'd managed to do the same mind trick Ben had once done...

    Because of Thanoth. His warring arguments with the inspector seemed so negligible now. Luke couldn't feel anything but appreciation towards him.

    "Thanks... Thanoth," he said to him.

    The inspector made a nod, sniffed, then nonchalantly picked at his side pouch. He brought out the monocle, still intact, and began wiping it delicately with the trim of his tunic.

    "Might you want to take a look at that?" He pointed to one still-bleeping alert below, a button that flashed white.

    Luke pressed the button, opening the prompts to turn it off, but he stopped. A small chart presented a visualization of circular radio-like signals. Luke now saw the programming hadn't had a randomly triggered mechanism like he'd guessed. The communication's transceiver itself was active.

    "Thanoth... take a look at this," he said.

    Thanoth held out the eyepiece to survey it before placing it back at his left eye. He looked at the display.

    "... Distress signal," he said slowly. He frowned disconcertingly behind his mustache. "All the way out here? In the Unknown Regions?"

    "Well, we're all the way out here," Luke said. "Do you see anything out there? Another ship? I'm looking at the scopes... They aren't picking up anything..."

    "I can't see a ship. Of course, there is a film of slime still obscuring the view so – no, don't press that!" He swatted Luke's fingers away from the communicator. "We don't know who or what is out there! We're in no condition to attract unwanted attention, and if you accept the call, they could easily track our signal! By stars, am I the only one who thinks of preventative measures for being traced?"

    Luke opened his mouth to object, but held it back, knowing Thanoth had a point. He looked at the signal again, and still it continued. An uneasy feeling came over him.

    "Someone could be in trouble," he said, sighing. "More trouble than us." He pressed the answer button before Thanoth could stop him.

    Another chart appeared, linear and showing spikes darting up and down, reacting to the voice that came through. That of a man's:

    "Danger... Don't let..." Static broke through the call. "I'm not worth... Shouldn't have sent that... message. If you hear me... Thanoth, if you hear me, do not let anyone... endanger themselves. Do not try to rescue me... I'll be dead soon... Vader is too strong."
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Intense edge of seatness! Luke got them out of a jam for sure, but the distress call...? =D=
    Togruta likes this.