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Saga - OT A Matter of Time (AU, ESB) H/L, Luke, Vader, Lando

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    SETTING: During the last act of ESB
    GENRE: Family, Friendship, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
    SUMMARY: What if Luke had left Dagobah just one hour later? What would change?
    Repost/Rewrite from
    Rated PG-13, just in case.

    Part One

    The carbon freezing chamber was quiet. The steps glowed with an eerie orange light and an uncomfortably warm mist still hung in the air. It was nearly an hour since the chamber had been used to freeze a human being in a block of carbonite against his will...a use for which it was never intended. Now, that human was in the keeping of a notorious bounty hunter, well on his way to Tatooine to deliver his strange cargo to the crime lord Jabba the Hutt.

    The only one in the chamber stood so quietly in the shadows that he might not have been noticed, were it not for the glowing panel of lights on his chest box and the hiss of his mechanized breathing. Darth Vader was all but invisible.

    Skywalker was late. The towering Lord of the Sith had expected the young pilot to arrive quite some time ago. His trap had been well-set. As far as Vader knew, using Solo, the Wookiee, the droid, and the former Princess of Alderaan as bait had worked. Skywalker had sensed their pain through the Force and rushed to help them.

    Of course, things had not gone strictly according to plan. After Solo had been frozen in carbonite, Administrator Calrissian had gone back on their deal and betrayed the Dark Lord. The prisoners had been set free and escaped on the Millennium Falcon just before the star destroyer Executor had gotten a tractor beam lock on them. His bargaining chips were gone. Another Captain was due for a promotion and the incompetent Piett would soon be replaced.

    But Skywalker was coming. Vader could sense his harried, confused presence even as the boy made his way into the bowels of Cloud City, which was rapidly falling out of Imperial control.

    No matter. It had served its purpose.

    A less patient man would have given up and pursued the approaching X-wing. But that was not Vader's way. Skywalker would come, and Vader would test his strength. If he proved to be as strong as the Dark Lord suspected, then Vader would give Skywalker an offer. He was certain to refuse, especially with his friends gone, but with time and persuasion, surely the boy would give in.

    Vader shifted his weight from one armored boot to the other. The union between flesh and machine in his knees had grown stiff and sore. The attachment had been poor to start with, and as time went by Vader began feeling an age that he couldn't remember.

    That was a matter of perspective, of course. The former owner of this body- that weak, whiny child called Anakin -had been over twenty when he lost the battle to the Dark Side. That had been over twenty-three years ago.

    Anakin was still alive, however, trapped within a shell of armor and hatred. Sometimes he showed his face, but Vader fought him back and always won.

    A cramp worked its way from Vader's left knee to his hip. Though his face was hidden by a mask, Vader did not grimace or wince. He merely closed his eyes and meditated on dark thoughts...of how Obi-Wan had betrayed him and then cheated death...of how Padme' had been too naïve to embrace the power he offered...of how miserable this mechanical prison was...of how he wished to dismember that hideous, wrinkled abomination he called 'Master'...

    Thoughts of the Dark Side...they pushed back the ache...temporarily. Every kind of pain relief was temporary. The ache in his body would return later. The ache in his soul never went away.

    In touching the Force, Darth Vader touched something else...a presence, drawing very near...yes, that was Skywalker. The Dark Lord would never forget that unique Force signature first sensed in a trench of the Death Star three years before. To think that this was Anakin's son...his son...all that was left of Padme' was unthinkable. How had he survived when his mother had died?

    His mother...Padme...beautiful, sweet, gentle Padme, gone forever at his own hand-

    No. Vader pushed these thoughts away. Remorse was something he didn't need.

    But he still loved her. I lost Padme'. I am not going to lose my son.

    These thoughts made waiting easy. And so, Vader continued to stand where he was.

    * * * * *

    Luke felt his limbs tremble as he marched off the mini-lift into the dark room. He's here. A shudder ran through him, and the boy called on the Force for calm. Fear is of the Dark Side. Deep

    It wasn't easy. The room was dominated by a harsh chill that had nothing to do with its temperature. Then a light came on behind him, and he heard slow, ominous breathing.

    Luke flinched as the chill ran straight down his spine, making goosebumps rise on his arms. Slowly he looked over his shoulder.

    There stood Darth Vader, rising like a black monolith at the top of the orange steps.

    Fear faded, replaced by hatred. Here was the one who had killed Luke's father, killed his aunt and uncle, killed Ben, and tortured his friends. You're not going to leave this planet in one piece, thought Luke as he turned to face the imposing monster. The blaster in his hand was holstered. It would have been useless anyway.

    "The Force is with you, young Skywalker," said the deep voice. "But you are not a Jedi yet."

    I will be, thought Luke. Though his body fought against it, he turned to face the Dark Lord. "Where are they?" he asked in a voice that sounded much calmer than he felt. Steady, Luke. He can sense your feelings. He knows you're afraid of him. Luke took another deep, slow breath and felt the Force wash over him to take away his fear.

    Vader didn't answer. He just stood there, his loud breathing filling the chamber.

    Luke climbed the steps slowly. "I know they were here; Han and Leia and Chewbacca. Where are they?" he asked again as he mounted the stop step. "What have you done to them?"

    "You are too late to save your friends," growled Vader. It was true, of course. The Millennium Falcon was long gone and everyone aboard was safe...but Skywalker didn't need to know that. Vader needed him to stay and fight.

    No! The fear returned for a moment, and Luke beat it back. "No... you're lying." The waver in his voice betrayed his uncertainty, and he took another deep breath.

    Vader said nothing. He could sense Luke's doubt. Good. He will be easier to turn when he fears for them.

    "Where are they?" demanded Luke one more time. His brows knit in a scowl. If you're not going to tell me, I'll make you tell me. Luke drew his lightsaber and ignited it, getting into a ready stance.

    Slowly and methodically, Vader drew his own weapon and ignited the blood-red blade. The laser swords crossed, but Vader did not attack. He was counting on Skywalker to make the first move.

    And so he did; two quick swings at the head and neck, which Vader easily blocked. The next swing was at Vader's head again. Vader let Luke press in close, then shoved him back hard enough to knock him to the floor. It was the first test. Would the boy see how outclassed he was now or later?

    Luke was up with hardly a pause, pressing in again.

    Later, then. So be it.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh @Ridley Solo [face_dancing] How very plausible this is! =D= Love Vader's introspection, very much in character. :cool:
    Luke, he is so true to his character also at this time, trying to combat his impulsiveness and other emotions and feeling the tug of them nonetheless.

    On the brink of a literal and figurative contest of wills.

  3. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you, so glad you like it! [:D]

    Here's where the poodoo hits the fan and things change from the movie....


    "Noooooooo! Nooo!"

    It was a cry of pain...physical, mental, and emotional. It was a cry of denial...even while something kept telling him it was true. But it couldn't just couldn't!

    It was too much to process. Already weakened by the loss of his right hand and his other injuries, Luke Skywalker could barely cling to the antenna at the end of the gantry in the bowels of Cloud City. Tears rose in his eyes.

    Darth Vader was not his father...

    The Sith Lord in question stood at the far end of the catwalk, extending a gloved hand in invitation. In a way, he was just as desperate as his son.
    He hadn't meant to cut off Luke's hand. But Luke had struck first. Vader had struck back in blind anger.

    It's nothing, Vader told himself. He had endured far worse when he lost all four limbs and been burnt to a crisp at the edge of a volcano. Compared to that, a lost hand was like a broken arm; painful but soon treated and forgotten. He thought of Luke joining him, of getting Luke the best medical care in the galaxy and the most advanced prosthesis that credits could purchase, the two of them training in secret and finally overthrowing the Emperor...

    But the Anakin side was full of remorse. Why did you do that? He's your son, and you hurt him! Don't you see the way he's looking at you? Why would he join you now?

    He is my son. He will come to me. Vader pushed the voice aside. He decided to tell Luke his plans. Perhaps that would convince him. All beings wanted power. "Luke...we can destroy the Emperor," he said with his voice dripping with temptation. "He has foreseen this."

    Luke looked away, a dozen thoughts running through his head. Am I really that powerful? His pain-induced haze made it difficult to think.

    Vader put even more persuasion behind his voice. "It is your destiny." He sensed Luke's attention slipping. "Join me. And together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!"

    Luke's mind was on something else. father is dead, and so is everyone else I ever cared about. But where else can I go? His eyes strayed to the open expanse beneath him and a weird, desperate smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. I could jump.

    His sense of self-preservation didn't take kindly to that idea. No! You'll die! You don't know where it leads! But Luke's mind was already made up. Death was preferable to surrender.

    What is he up to? Vader leaned over the rail, reaching as far as he could. He has nowhere else to go. He must come to me. "Come with me. It is the only way."

    Luke took one last look at the impossibly long drop, steeled his nerves, gave Vader a look of total defiance...and let go. Down, down, down he fell, not knowing where he would end up.

    Vader's arm fell in disappointment and confusion. Fool! He'll never survive a fall like that.

    The Anakin side stirred. No! You can't let your son die. Where does that shaft lead? Vader reached out through the Force to find out.

    Luke was still falling, sliding, tumbling out of control from shaft, to exhaust tube, to-

    A sharp sense of pain made Vader flinch. He honed in on his son's Force signature, and soon he knew exactly where the boy was...hanging from an antenna, far below the city.

    So Luke didn't have a death wish. He was holding on for dear life.

    It was something of a relief to know. If Vader hurried, he could still have his son. The Sith wheeled about and marched out of the area, willing Luke to hold on. Surely saving his life would make up for the injury. Surely it would be enough to convince Luke to join him.

    It was a long walk out of the bottom of the city, but Vader didn't mind. No sooner had he reached the main hall than the dark lord gave orders for rescue personnel to meet him on the Western landing platform of Cloud City. The crew was confused, but followed Vader's orders.

    They didn't have any choice, of course. Those who disobeyed Darth Vader had a very short lifespan.

    The rescue personnel's confusion doubled when Vader gave them his orders; go to the underside of Cloud City, open the top docking hatch, and retrieve a wounded Rebel. Said Rebel was then to be taken directly to the infirmary of the Executor.

    It was possible, of course. There were safety harnesses aboard. What neither of them could figure out was why Vader wanted this Rebel and how he knew where to look. "Lord Vader?"

    "Are you refusing to cooperate?"

    "No...n-no, Lord Vader. Of course not," stuttered the medic. "But if we are capturing a Rebel, he's probably going to fight."

    "If he is combative, stun him," replied Vader, as if it was obvious. He pointed his finger in the man's face. "I want him alive. If he is not, then neither will you be."

    That was reason enough. "As you wish, Lord Vader." The officers both gulped and scurried away to the rescue transport.

    * * * * *

    Luke hung by his knees from the antenna, his arms shaking, his grip failing. So this is it, he thought. This is how I'm going to die...

    He had called out for help through the Force, first to Ben, and then to Leia for some reason. But she was not in the city. Or if she was, she wasn't alive. No one can hear one else can help.

    Desperation returned as Luke realized he wasn't ready to die. "H-help," he called out, amplifying his cry with the Force. "Help me...please! me..." Another wave of pain passed over his right arm, making him wince. From the end of his wrist to his shoulder, every nerve was afire. For one horrible moment he thought he was going to pass out.

    The sound of an engine filled his ears. Startled, Luke craned his neck to look. The design of the transport was unfamiliar, but it was coming right at him.

    Hope rose. Perhaps this was a civilian rescue vehicle. Maybe someone had seen him fall and called it in. If they agreed to hide him from the Empire, he'd take any help he could get.

    The transport slowly centered itself under Luke. A round hatch opened, and a uniformed person in white and gray rose beside him. Only his mouth was visible, as the rest was covered by a round white helmet with a black shade over the eyes. He reached for Luke. "Take my hand!" he shouted over the howling wind.

    Luke was too tired to argue. Hooking his right elbow around the vane, he let go of it with his left hand and reached for the man.

    Quickly the rescuer stepped forward and grasped Luke's arm, pulling him away from the vane. When the young man stumbled, the man wrapped both arms around Luke's waist and half-dragged, half-carried him back to the top hatch. "Hold on; we're going inside!" The two of them stood on the lift, which was lowered back into the transport. The hatch closed above them and shut out the wind.

    I'm alive. Luke's knees gave way in relief. He hardly noticed the rescue worker flash a thumbs-up to the pilot and lower him to the floor. The young Jedi simply closed his eyes and focused on catching his breath. Every muscle trembled violently and he didn't have the strength to protest as the rescuer- a medic, judging by the red cross on his uniform - took a look at him.

    None too gently did he give a rudimentary exam of Luke's cut, bruised face, swearing softly upon seeing the missing right hand.

    "I-I need help," Luke stuttered as the rescuer roughly pressed a couple of fingers to his jugular vein to take his pulse.

    "No kidding," mumbled the medic. "Lucky for you, our boss wants you alive." He glanced at the pilot. "Send a message to Lord Vader; Rebel in custody."

    Luke's eyes flew open in alarm. It can't be... Only then did he see the Imperial insignia on the medic's armband. Adrenaline rushed back into his system and he shrank back. "No... he moaned, trying to rise.

    The pilot groaned from the cockpit. "Oh, nice going, crater-mouth. Now it's both our necks."

    The medic clamped down on Luke's shoulder with an embarrassed frown. "Hey, hey, come on. Hold still."

    ", let me go..." Luke began resisting in earnest. "Let me go!"

    "Cool your jets, kid," the pilot warned. "It's only going to be worse if you fight."

    "For all of us," added the medic. He took hold of Luke's elbow. "Hold still! I can't treat you if you're-" His voice dissolved into a hoarse cry, and he doubled over.

    Luke had kicked him in the groin.

    The pilot swore and switched to autopilot before hurrying over to help his comrade. Luke's fist connected with the man's chin before he sprinted toward the cockpit. He didn't see the medic pick up a blaster, set it to stun, and fire. The bolt caught Luke square in the back, and he went limp, crumpling to a senseless heap on the floor.

    The pilot helped the medic to his feet. "Can you walk?"

    The medic nodded, though his movements were slow. "Stang, that kid's strong."

    "And fast," added the pilot. He spat blood into a wad of gauze before settling back into the cockpit.

    "I could swear I've seen his face before."

    "Yeah, what's left of it. Somebody got him good. Wonder why Tall-Dark-And-Deadly wants him alive?"

    "Questioning, I'll bet." The medic squirmed uncomfortably before dropping back to the floor to secure the auto-tourniquet to Luke's arm. "I don't know who to feel sorrier for; him, or whatever medic gets stuck with him when he wakes up." The senseless Jedi was then dragged over to an emergency cot and tied down with the included straps.

    "Doesn't matter," shrugged the pilot. "He's not gonna be alive much longer, anyway."
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oooh, definitely a twist there. [face_worried] Things will certainly develop now as Vader tries to persuade Luke again. [face_thinking]
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  5. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    Yeah, that pilot is wrong. Use your head, dude. Do you really think the boss would have made such a big deal about wanting Luke alive if he was just planning to kill him?

    I've noticed that you can't truly hate Vader, even when he's being a complete butt to everybody. I think the reason for that is that there's a part of him that's still Anakin Skywalker, that's still a good man. A part of him that hates what he's doing, what he's become. And I have a hunch that having Luke around will cause that part of him to assert itself much more strongly, perhaps even take over eventually.
  6. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha You know the Dark Lord well...then again, it's not too hard to figure out what Vader's going to do with Luke as his prisoner.

    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Well, nobody's used to Vader wanting someone alive...I imagine they think it's for questioning and then disposal.
    And you're absolutely right about not being able to hate Vader. Underneath all that armor is a broken man who's lost everything and thought he had nothing left to he has a son. And we all know Skywalkers and family...

    While the story of Luke's friends might not be as interesting psychologically (at least at this point), it's still important, so off we go. We'll get back to Luke in the next chapter.


    Part Three

    Many lightyears away from the Executor, a brief yet fierce ground battle had been fought to its conclusion.

    It was early morning on the Northern Hemisphere of Tatooine. A starship the color of corroded copper and shaped much like a snail sat empty and lifeless in the sand. Some fifty meters away sat the battered light freighter, Millennium Falcon, her crew scattered about within.

    The golden protocol droid See-Threepio, still lying half-assembled on the floor, had gone into hysterics and subsequently been shut down. He would be reactivated once he was on one piece since his constant declarations of doom were distracting. He and the unconscious, hog-tied bounty hunter Boba Fett were the only occupants of the main hold.

    It had taken quite a bit of self-discipline not to kill the helmeted man outright. Chewbacca had been ready to tear his arms off and beat him with them when Fett had been cornered upon his arrival on the desert planet. But Princess Leia had been adamant; no killing. There had been enough bloodshed already. Fett was stunned instead. He would be taken back to the Alliance and shut into the darkest cell they had until he could be prosecuted.

    Han Solo had already been thawed from his carbonite tomb and at the moment lay resting in one of the bunks in the crew quarters. Despite being 'frozen' for less than six hours, his body had not reacted well to it. The man was left blind, dizzy, disoriented, and shivering uncontrollably. Two of his three rescuers sat with him while he recovered. Chewbacca in particular would not let his friend out of his sight.

    Leia Organa sat slouched on a shipping crate to watch Han sleep. She had never felt so torn. On one hand she was relieved to have Han back. On the other, her heart ached for Luke.

    Luke had not yet arrived on Cloud City when Leia, Chewie, and Lando had made a mad dash for freedom. Leia had been left with a choice; stay and wait for Luke, risking recapture, or trust the young Jedi to hold his own until after Han had been found. The choice had been painful, but Leia went with the latter. All they could do was send his X-wing a desperate, hurried message: 'Avoid Bespin at all costs. City taken over by Imperials. Darth Vader set trap.'

    The message had never been acknowledged. They had no idea where Luke was now. Han was furious upon hearing that Luke had been left behind and railed at everyone for fifteen minutes before passing out from exhaustion.

    Leia closed her eyes, assaulted by guilt. I'm sorry, Luke...I'm so sorry!

    Han stirred beneath the thermal blanket, his sightless eyes squinting at the world. "Leia?" His left hand reached for her.

    Leia took his flailing fingers. "I'm here, Han."

    "You heard from Luke yet?"

    Leia winced and had to shake her head. "No. Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement."

    Han blinked hard, trying to clear his eyes. "We gotta go back for him. Kid's in trouble." He pushed himself up from the cot, shook his head, and shakily rose to his feet.

    Chewbacca yowled in concern and grabbed Han under his arms to steady him. The Wookiee 'woofed' when Han brushed him away.

    "I'm all right, pal. Set course for Bespin, will ya'?" The man began walking somewhat unsteadily out of the room. All the while he kept trying to clear his eyes.

    Both Leia and Lando rose to follow, exchanging worried glances. "Han, you're not planning on flying the Falcon, are you?"

    "Whaddya, think I’m stupid?" barked Han with a scowl. He bumped his head on the doorway and swore, rubbing the lump. “Chewie’ll fly her.”

    "Well all right, but you're still blind, buddy. How come you're headed forward?" Lando put in. “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but I can help-”

    "No. You're not touchin' my ship again." Han barked. "And if you think you're hoppin' a ride with us after what you did-"

    Lando scowled. "Hey, I've got a stake in this too, you know. That's my city that got taken over by the Empire. I'm not goin' anywhere else 'till I make sure everybody got away safe. You don't think I'm flying that green hunk of junk back, do you?"

    Leia took Han's arm. "Han, take it easy. He did save your life."

    Han continued to glower in Lando's general direction. "Yeah, and he left Luke to face Vader alone."

    Chewbacca stepped in with a loud series of grunts, reminding Han that, If not for Lando, both Princess and Wookiee would be trapped with Vader and he would still be frozen solid.

    Han's expression softened a little. Slowly he turned to Leia and fumbled in the air until he found her shoulder. "Yeah...can't argue with that." He turned back to where he thought Lando was. "All right. If it's safe, we'll drop you off after we find Luke."

    Lando nodded. "That's all I ask. I'll give you whatever help I can to find your friend."

    Han's eyes stung from more than just the blindness. "Thanks."

    The man shrugged uncomfortably. "Look...Han...I know there's no way to make up for what I did...but I want to try. The least I can do is help you find the kid."

    Han shook off the unaccustomed emotion and faced the corridor. "All right. Let's get off this dustball."
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    FANGIRL HAPPY WRIGGLE! You have their voices perfectly, particularly Han's. =D= [face_love]
  8. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    They're going to try to find Luke... Only good things can come from this, I'm sure.
  9. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    I'm glad they're going back to find Luke. I love this story! I always wondered the what-if of Vader getting Luke in ESB.
  10. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 10, 2005
    What a great way to twist what happened! One small change really can make a huge difference. I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses!

    One thing I specifically wanted to point out that I loved was this:
    I literally laughed out loud at that name. But I'd think wondering about Vader's intentions wouldn't be the best idea. I'm sure they are curious, it's not his M.O., but I don't know that I'd say them out loud. :p

    I can't wait to see how Han and company try to mount a rescue and what Vader has instore for Luke.

  11. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha It rates a happy wriggle? WHEE! [:D]
    @Togruta Well....[face_blush]
    @Sara_Kenobi What-ifs are my favorite kinds of FF to write. I love exploring the question of how much would change if only one tiny thing was different.
    @mavjade Glad you like the nickname, haha. And yes, you're right. It's like Bilbo said, "Never laugh at live dragons."

    This may be the most replies to a fic I've ever had in 24 hours! Thanks! [:D]

    And so we return to our hero....

    Part Four

    A strange smorgasbord of emotion surged through Darth Vader as he strode down the corridors of his flagship. There was relief that Luke had been rescued and was now in the hands of the most capable medics in the Imperial Navy. There was satisfaction that, in a roundabout way, his plan had been successful.

    But then there were the unwanted emotions that Vader had no use for, such as worry and guilt. He wished he had not harmed Luke. He worried about the injury and how long it would take his son to recover.

    Don’t be sentimental, Vader scolded himself. Worry was needless. Luke was strong and healthy. Recovery would be swift once he had a prosthetic. Then he would join his father, and everything would be as it should.

    Vader nearly smiled when he thought of the report that the medics had given. Luke had nearly commandeered the ship and given both officers a hard fight. Such spirit was useful...when pointed in the right direction.

    The infirmary of the Executor was in its usual busy state. The metropolis of a starship was home to thousands, and there were always injuries to be treated. Stormtroopers, officers, AT-AT operators, and TIE pilots all rested within its sterile walls. An oxygen recycling system set apart from the rest of the ship scrubbed the air clean of any contaminants, providing almost a clean-room atmosphere to promote fast healing.

    The main reception area held over 100 chairs and couches for waiting patients. Half of these were occupied, most of them by enlisted personnel such as mechanics and troopers. All of them rose to attention when Vader entered the room, some despite leg or foot injuries.

    Protocol was strict in the Imperial Navy.

    Vader ignored his underlings and walked past the bay of automated receptionists. He didn't bother asking anyone where Luke was. The boy's Force signature was as good as a homing beacon. He soon reached the small ward set aside for prisoners and directed a masked glare at the pair of guards on duty.

    Both flinched in Vader's presence. "Lord Vader."

    "Unlock the door," ordered the man in black. His tone offered no argument.

    "Y-yes, of course," stuttered one of the guards. Quickly he pressed his thumb to the bioscanner and stepped aside to let Vader enter. No one dared ask the Dark Lord his business.

    The prisoners' infirmary was small and cramped, as not many lived long enough to receive medical attention. Each of the ten cells were closed by a force field. Only one was occupied.

    Lieutenant Kem Hallen, the only human medic present, flinched upon seeing Vader and scrambled to his feet, dropping the datapad he had been holding. "Lord Vader, what an unexpected pleasure. To what do we owe the honor of this visit?"

    Vader scoffed. No one was ever happy to see him. Every last one of his officers held him in fear...and with good reason. The promotion rate aboard the Executor was alarmingly high. When he was in a bad mood, Vader went through an average of five officers a month. He waved his hand dismissively. "Dispense with your meaningless words of admiration, Lieutenant. I am here to see the Rebel captured on Bespin."

    Lt. Hallen, only a little miffed at Vader's dismissive nature, nodded quickly. "Of course, my Lord. Right this way." The nervous medical officer turned and led Vader down the rows of medical cells and stopped at the last bed on the left. Alone inside the cell lay Luke Skywalker.

    Vader looked over his son with stifled emotions, trying to observe with his stoic and methodical eye.

    Luke appeared no different. He was in the same filthy, torn fatigues, and the cuts and bruises on his face had been left untreated. Even his boots were still on. He lay on a simple medical cot with no blanket. All that indicated he was receiving treatment was the healing pressure bandage on his right forearm and the fact his sleeve had been removed. An IV went directly into the vein at the crook of his elbow, connected at the other end to a bag of pale pink fluid. Vader knew from experience it was a saline and bacta solution.

    The dark lord contained his anger at how carelessly his son had been treated and stood in a parade rest. "What is his condition?"

    Lt. Hallen cleared his throat and mimicked Vader's posture. "Stable. He is dehydrated and suffering from shock, but he'll live. Due to his condition he will take longer than usual to recover from the stun blast."

    Vader's gaze was sharp. "Why have the wounds on his face and shoulder been left untreated?" he growled.

    Lt. Hallen gulped. "My Lord, is he not a Rebel?"

    Vader glared from behind his mask. "This is no mere Rebel; this is Commander Luke Skywalker. You may have heard of him."

    The medic's eyes widened. Skywalker! The young pilot was legendary as having killed over two million Imperials when he destroyed the Death Star over Yavin 4. For this reason above all others, every member of the Imperial Navy despised Luke Skywalker. Kem was no different. He had gone to medical school with several of the medics who had been aboard the gargantuan battle station. "Skywalker..." Hallen allowed himself a grim smile of satisfaction. "May I congratulate you on having captured-"

    "You have not answered my question, Lieutenant," interrupted Vader with a dangerous rumble.

    Hallen blinked. "Ah...well, my Lord...the smaller wounds are superficial and shall heal on their own. They pose no danger to his overall health, so-"

    "And why does he remain in those filthy clothes?" Vader's arms tied into a knot.

    The medic was speechless for a moment at this sudden change of temperament. Vader had been obsessed with finding this boy for months. Why show such concern now? "He is a political prisoner, is he not? Surely such a notorious war criminal does not deserve-"

    "Your opinion on what he deserves is irrelevant!" Vader roared, his sonorous voice making the medical bay echo. "The Emperor does not want his prize damaged. As such you will administer whatever medical care I deem fit. Is that understood?"

    Lt. Hallen gulped and nodded quickly. "Of...course, Lord Vader. As you command." He involuntarily rubbed his tight throat.

    Vader lowered his hands back into a parade rest. "Find fresh clothing for Skywalker and see to it that every injury he has is treated. Do not leave a single scratch unattended."

    The medic nodded again. "Yes, my Lord."

    I must show my son that he is valuable. He will be much easier to convert if he is well treated. Vader took a step back. "Inform me when Skywalker awakens. I wish to question him myself."

    Lt. Hallen stood at attention. For once he did not feel sorry for one who was to be interrogated by Vader. The oath the medic had taken to bring life to the dying did not apply to Rebel scum. "Certainly, Lord Vader."

    Finally satisfied, Vader wheeled about to exit the facility.

    * * * * *

    Luke came out of unconsciousness at a snail's pace. He had never felt so awful in his life. His stomach lurched and growled, his head spun, and every inch of his body was plagued with an uncomfortable tingle.

    Where am I? He wondered. What happened? Luke wasn't sure he wanted to know. It was better to sleep and believe his nightmares had been just that; nightmares. Images of Vader, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca raced through his spinning head. Feelings of pain, despair, and betrayal came along with them.

    It was just a bad dream, Luke told himself. Maybe I never even went to Dagobah...maybe all of it was a dream and we never left Hoth.

    The distinctive sound of a medical droid was reassuring, as was the distant rumble of a starship engine. The sharp, clean smell of recycled air and bacta was also a comfort. I’m probably on the medical frigate.

    Luke finally allowed his eyes to open. He expected to see Leia anxiously awaiting his recovery and Han pacing in the hall.

    What he saw was the buzzing red glare of a force-field, the sterile walls of a medical bay, and a glimpse of white armor.

    No...Luke took in a sharp breath and lifted his head, willing his eyes not to see what he feared....

    He was in a very small cell, surrounded by a force field, with two stormtroopers standing guard outside.

    I've been captured, thought Luke grimly. Still he fought the return of memory and came up with other less painful alternatives than what his nightmares offered. Luke lowered his head and took a deep breath to find the Force. It, at least, was still with him. He shifted his eyes to take a better look around.

    He was out of his fatigues and lying in plain gray pajamas with a shallow v-neck and elastic waistband. Definitely not Rebel issue. A thin white blanket covered him from sternum to toes. A sting in the crook of his right arm told of an IV, and as for his aching hand-

    Wait. His hand ached? Half afraid to hope, Luke craned his neck to squint at his right arm. Both arms were bare from mid-humerus down. At about the middle of his forearm was a compact healing bandage that ended where his wrist should have been. Beyond that there was nothing.

    So it wasn't a dream. Vader had cut off his hand and then captured him. His friends were gone.

    Luke's eyes stung with tears and he sank back into the bed. Han, Leia, Chewbacca... he'd never see them again. But there were so many questions. Where are we going? Why am I in the infirmary instead of the detention block? Luke's brows knit in confusion. Why am I alive?

    Yes, he was alive...wounded and in the hands of the enemy, but alive. Where there was life, there was hope. Luke Skywalker would not give up without a fight.

    Gathering what courage he had, Luke slowly rose to a sitting position. Nausea and dizziness were shaken off quickly, and he swung his legs over the side to stand. He wobbled unsteadily on his feet and held the bed for support. Easy, Skywalker. Luke took a few more deep breaths before trying to assess the situation.

    He was in enemy territory, weak, wounded, and without any weapons. He also had no idea which vessel he was on or where they were headed. Luke cringed at the long odds. But then again, what were the odds a farmboy from Tatooine could blow up the Death Star without a targeting computer? The young Jedi visually scoured the cell for something he could use. Other than the deactivated medical droid in the corner and a handful of compact monitoring equipment, it was empty. Luke would have to disable the force field first and then take one of the stormtroopers' blasters. Maybe he could leave in disguise. He had done it once before, only...

    Luke frowned at his vacant wrist. A one-handed stormtrooper would raise too much attention. So much for that idea. His only choice was to use a mind trick. Hopefully this time it would work. Luke padded forward several paces, stopping just long enough to remove the IV. Then he reached for the mind of the trooper on the left. "You will open the force-field. The cell is empty."

    The trooper stirred and looked at the controls in confusion. He reached for them, and then hesitated.

    The other trooper turned to him. "What are you doing?"

    Luke frowned, leaving the first trooper's mind to work on the second. "The cell is empty," he whispered.

    The second trooper paused. "This cell is empty."

    "You have orders to report to the bridge."

    "I have orders to report to the bridge," echoed the trooper, standing at attention.

    "You’re wasting power. The force field should be deactivated," continued Luke.

    "We’re wasting power. The force field should be deactivated." And the trooper walked right up to the control panel and pushed the deactivation button.

    Luke sighed in relief and waited until the trooper was out of sight before taking a flying leap and tackling the other. The impact knocked the wind out of both of them and Luke struggled to overpower the taller, stronger man before snagging the blaster, setting it for 'stun', and firing.
    The armored infantry man collapsed to the floor with a muffled cry.

    Adrenaline wore off for a minute. Luke sagged in relief and nearly dropped the blaster. One down, four thousand to go. With a colossal effort, he gathered his feet underneath him. Now, where do I go? Luke was preparing to make a run for the door when it slid open, and in stepped a white-garbed medic.

    It was Lt. Kem Hallen, just returning from the refresher unit. The medic froze and stared at the deactivated force field, the senseless trooper, and the loose prisoner...armed. One injured man did that in a matter of minutes? Skywalker's fame was well-deserved. The medic slowly raised his hands.

    Luke pointed the blaster at him. “What is this place?"

    Kem pressed his lips together. "You, Skywalker, are in the infirmary aboard the Executor. And you had better put that blaster down."

    Luke grimaced at the news. The Executor was Vader's personal command ship. He should have known...the chill of his presence still lingered. "I don't want to hurt you." His blue eyes darted around in desperation. "You're a medic. Help me. Please. I just want to get out of here."

    Kem scoffed. "Correction; I am a medic in charge of political prisoners, which is what you are. Now, I must ask you to put down that blaster and return to your cell."

    Luke's brows knit in confusion. "If I'm a prisoner, then why am I in the infirmary?"

    Lt. Hallen scowled. "If it weren't for specific orders to keep you in good health, I would have killed you on sight."

    Luke took a step back, still unsteady on his feet. "Whose orders?"

    "Lord Vader's. He alone has ordered this level of treatment for you." Hallen lifted an eyebrow. "I personally see no reason for it. You are guilty of mass murder and deserve to die."

    What? Luke's head spun. "W-why does Vader want me alive?"

    "For questioning, I imagine." Kem glowered. "Were you anyone else, I would feel sorry for you. Lord Vader's methods are most...persuasive."

    Luke struggled to stand on his own two feet. A wave of fresh agony from his arm made him wince and blink away the spots in front of his eyes. He's going to torture me.

    Kem lowered his hands. "Come now, Skywalker. Let us stop this charade. Give me the blaster. You will never escape in your con-"

    Luke had fired and missed. Then he plowed into the medic and knocked him over.

    Kem was alarmed at Luke’s strength, even while injured. He activated the commlink on his vest. " to the Infirmary....North wing...prisoner escape. Repeat. Pris-" The comm was knocked out of his hand. But it was a lucky swing. Kem growled and rolled over to pin Luke to the floor. He twisted Luke's right arm behind the young warrior's back and gripped the injured wrist. The pain that resulted should incapacitate the Rebel pilot.
    "Consider yourself fortunate Lord Vader wants you alive."

    A scream of agony burst out of Luke as the pain in his stump flared to his collarbone. He nearly lost consciousness again. A clumsy punch connected with Hallen's jaw, but that only made the medic angry. Now both arms were pinned behind him.

    Four security officers rushed in, blasters drawn.

    "Get in here!" barked Kem. "Get this scum back to his cell."

    Two of the guards nodded, hauled Luke up by his armpits, and dragged him away.

    "Put him on the bed," Ordered the medic, ruefully working his jaw in a circle. "Get those restraints on him!"

    The guards did so quickly and efficiently, securing a myriad of straps around Luke's arms, torso, and ankles. The left wrist was also restrained, while the right was secured at the elbow. Luke fought even after he had been tied down, trying to work his way out of the restraints.

    "Are you all right, sir?" inquired one of the guards of Kem. The other looked over the stunned trooper.

    "Fine," grumbled Kem. He ignored Luke just long enough to attend to the stormtrooper. "Take him to the recovery wing. He should be all right, but let FX-38 have a look at him." After the trooper had been taken away, the lieutenant marched into Luke's cell, glowering. "If I was feeling merciful, I'd have you sedated. Your left hook changed my mind. Go ahead," he added to the struggling pilot. "Keep fighting. You're only going to wear yourself out...and you'll need all the strength you can get when Vader begins your interrogation." He glowered and shut the force field.

    "Should we bring in another set of troopers for the prisoner, sir?" inquired a guard.

    "Double them," Kem frowned, still rubbing his sore jaw. "This one's a handful. In the meantime, I'll inform Lord Vader that the prisoner is awake."

    Luke stopped fighting the restraints as exhaustion returned. He breathed heavily, turning his head to one side and blinking away the tears in his eyes. "Ben, why?"
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb Vader POV and realistic reactions from the medic -- deep-seated animosity towards Luke and understandable trepidation with Vader. =D= Luke's attempts to get loose were very much in character and accurate to his skill level at this time. [face_thinking]
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  13. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    This story leaves you feeling like you're watching a very good movie. Your characterizations are perfect! =D=
  14. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Those Force ghosts, never around when you need them.
  15. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha and @Sara_Kenobi Thank you both so much! And Sara, that is one of the best compliments someone could give. [:D]
    @Togruta Yeah. Annoying, isn't it? Dratted ghosts...

    Part Five

    Those who served aboard the Executor had quickly learned to decode the body language of Darth Vader. If he stood and stared out the main viewport of the bridge, hands in a parade rest, you probably didn’t have anything to worry about and could go about your business.

    If his gait was hurried and his arms were loose, it was a sure sign of agitation. If he was one step away from running and his fists were clenched, any officer would do well to just get out of the way and pray he wasn’t headed for them.

    Such was the case again as Vader made his way back to the Infirmary. He had begun the long walk the moment he sensed the awakening of his son. When the Force had informed him of Luke’s subsequent agony he redoubled his pace and felt his anger build.

    On one hand Vader couldn’t understand his own urgency. He put up with discomfort on a daily basis. He had suffered far worse and used it to fuel his connection to the Darkness. Pain was useful in that regard. Why should his son be any different?

    Anakin was to blame, then. It was he who felt bad for Luke and wanted to find some way to help, to make the pain and fear go away-

    Begone, ordered Vader. He told himself that it was practicality, not parental concern, that drove him back to Luke. There was also a sense of possession; it was his son, no one else’s, and he was the only one who had any say in what happened to him.

    But even Vader could not reconcile his feelings as he marched into the prisoner’s wing- never mind the guards at the entrance -and rounded the corner, all but mowing down the surprised Lt. Hallen.

    Word had only been sent fifteen minutes ago. How did he get here so fast? Wondered Kem. The Executor was massive and Vader’s quarters were on the other side of the ship. Perhaps the Dark Lord was just impatient and his early coming was a coincidence.

    Hallen had of course heard rumors about this Force that both Vader and Skywalker were supposedly skilled in, but had his doubts. Science couldn’t prove the existence of such a thing. Just the same, he snapped to attention. “Ah. Lord Vader. The young Rebel, Skywalker, has regained consciousness.”

    Vader ignored the medic and stared into Luke’s cell. His anger flared as he took in the restraints, the replaced IV, and the sweaty, harried state that his son was in. He also noted a fresh bruise on Luke’s forearm...evidence of a struggle.

    Someone had been abusing his son. Such treatment was counterproductive to Vader’s plans. As for how Anakin felt...“Why is he restrained?” growled Vader. “I gave no such orders.”

    “It was necessary, Lord Vader. Skywalker attempted escape and we were forced to subdue him,” explained Hallen.

    Admiration at Luke’s fighting spirit rose and fell quickly. He who has hurt my son shall answer to me. “Subdue?”

    Hallen blinked and decided to tread carefully. “He was violent, m’lord. He stunned one of our troopers and injured me, so-”

    Vader wheeled about to stare down the medic. “So you felt it necessary to injure him in return?”

    The medic flinched and took a step back. This was a first. Why should he care? “I...Lord Vader, he left me with no choice. Any wounds-”

    Vader gripped the medic’s tunic. “Your orders were to treat those that he had, not inflict more!” He shoved Kem backward in contempt. “Release his restraints.”

    Hallen’s eyes widened in astonishment. “But...Lord Vader, you cannot be serious. This is a dangerous man-”

    “Release them!” roared Vader. “One more instance of defiance and I will have you replaced.”

    Sputtering in disbelief, Hallen scrambled over to the controls for the force field.

    Vader quickly grew impatient and waved his hand to do so himself. He then looked his son up and down, inspecting him as one might inspect livestock.

    Luke’s appearance hadn’t changed much. He was cleaner, of course, and the cuts on his face were starting to heal, but the improvement ended there. His eyes were red and puffy, his clothing dotted with perspiration, his limbs trembling. The pain in his severed wrist was still strong, and he cradled his right arm in his left. Fatigue from the struggle after his attempted escape was evident. Fear radiated off the young man like an odor, but despite this he didn’t cower or shrink back from Vader’s gaze. All his did was avert his eyes and shudder.

    Vader was favorably impressed. My son is quite resilient. Good. His strength will serve him well. “What is his condition?”

    "Much the same, Lord Vader," said Hallen cautiously. "As you can see, the guard has been doubled after his escape attempt."

    Vader's mouth quirked into a slight smile of satisfaction behind the mask. Already my son is feared. It was good for Luke to establish his reputation early so those he would soon command would treat him with respect. Vader looked forward to the day when his son understood what true power was. He was confident that soon he could crave it as his father did. “Has he spoken?”

    Hallen shrugged dismissively. “Only to ask where he was...and whine to be turned loose. He shouldn’t give you any problems, milord.”

    Vader ignored the latter as he began a slow, thoughtful pace before the cell, all the while fighting the petty concerns of Anakin. My boy is exhausted, hungry, afraid, and in pain. I must help him, thought the long-repressed Jedi. Vader firmly resisted these feelings of concern. He shall not be coddled like an infant. If he is to recover he must do so on his own. “Conditions have improved, but are still inadequate,” he told Hallen, turning away. “Skywalker must have nourishment.”

    The lieutenant frowned. “Were you not going to question him, Milord?”

    Vader waved him off and turned away. “Skywalker’s constitution cannot yet handle interrogation. His emotions are fragile and may yield unreliable information.”

    Now Hallen couldn’t hide his confusion. “Prisoners in a disturbed state of mind are far more likely to-”

    “Are you attempting to defy my orders, Lieutenant Hallen?” demanded Vader, wheeling around to face the incompetent medic. He held thumb and index finger apart in a threatening manner.

    Hallen’s hands went to his closing windpipe and he choked, shaking his head with wide eyes.

    Immediately the Dark Lord released his hold and let his hand drop. “Good. Provide Skywalker with adequate nutrition for a man of his stature. When his condition has improved I shall return.” He marched for the door, pausing just long enough to stick his index finger in the medic’s face. “Don’t fail me again, Lieutenant.” He waited until Hallen had saluted and hurried to the nearest food-prep unit before turning one final gaze to Luke.

    There was something of a family resemblance. Luke had inherited Anakin’s eyes and nose while his chin and jawline was indicative of the Naberrie side. The cleft had to have come from Ruwee.

    Ruwee...Padmes’ father. Did he ever know about his grandson? Had he and the rest of the Naberries thought Padme’s child had died with her?

    Vader shook his head. Thinking of the past wouldn’t change anything. Only the present mattered. It was her fault for not joining me.

    It was yours for rejecting her love, Anakin argued. Now she’s gone, and my son hates you.

    It is not. My. FAULT! The Dark Lord viciously cast aside the remnants of his former self and turned away from Luke to leave the Infirmary.

    If that incompetent Lieutenant Hallen showed even the slightest sign of further disobedience, Vader resolved to choke the life out of him. He might do it regardless. Strangling someone deepened his connection with the Dark Side and helped silence Anakin...

  16. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    Rather as I expected after reading the last part. Loved the inner dialogue.
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh... @Ridley Solo. This is so WONDERFULLY VADER-ESQUE! =D= =D= Love the inner monologue as well and the way he set Hallen back on track. ;)
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  18. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    I really like the showing of conflict inside of Vader. You can really get a sense of his conflicting feelings.
  19. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Well, being predictable isn't the worst thing that could happen...
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha and @Sara_Kenobi Thank you! When I first wrote this fic four years ago I was trying to get inside Vader/Anakin's head. To do that, I watched and re-watched his scenes in ESB and ROTJ about 50 times. Apparently it worked! [face_dancing]

    But now we must return to Luke's friends....

    Part Six

    Cloud City was an unqualified disaster area. While the panic was over, citizens, workers, and families still sat in a state of shock. Nearly half had managed to leave the planet while the other half had stayed, either because they ran out of time or wanted to stay and fight. Cloud City Security had mopped up what they could, but without the baron-administrator, there was very little organization.

    This was the scene that Han, Leia, Chewie, and Lando returned to find. Immediately every security officer in the city was mobilized into one of six groups. Lando instructed them to sweep every inch of the place to root out the last of the stormtroopers. Luckily, Vader’s threat of leaving a Garrison had not been followed through and there were no more than twenty left in the while city.

    Once safety had returned, Lando called in the nearest medic to have a look at Han. Han protested this and wanted to start looking for Luke, but both Leia and Lando wouldn't take no for an answer. Finally, Lando put out the word to be on the lookout for any young men matching Luke's description.

    By early evening the city had fallen silent. Leia was pacing in her old quarters on Bespin, feeling a strange sense of deja vu, when there was a ring at her door. She hurried over to answer it. "Yes?"

    Chewbacca entered and gave a questioning yowl.

    Leia cringed. Even after all that time spent with the ‘walking carpet’, she had not picked up enough Shyriiwook to understand more than two phrases. "I'm sorry, Chewie. I can't-"

    "Said he's got a surprise," muttered Han. He stood in the doorway of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes.

    "You’re supposed to be resting," Leia scolded. Han’s vision would be back to normal in another day, but Lando’s medic had prescribed bed rest until the hibernation sickness had worn off. Small wonder Han hadn't listened...

    "I'll rest later." Han blinked hard several times and shuffled into the living area. "What, Chewie? Did they find Luke?"

    Chewbacca mournfully shook his head and motioned to the doorway. The next minute a fully-repaired See-Threepio waddled in. "Oh, Mistress Leia, it is so good to be mobile again. What a distressing few days this has been!"

    "Nice to see you in one piece, Goldenrod." said Han. He hadn't exactly missed the prissy protocol droid, but Leia refused to part with him and even Han had to admit he was useful...sometimes.

    "Why thank you, Captain Solo. I must say, it is a great relief to see you out of that carbonite. But how dreadful about Master Luke! Do you think he has been captured by the Empire?"

    Leia turned away. The more her heart protested the idea, the more her mind seemed to drift in that direction. Luke’s X-wing had been found on one of the landing platforms, untouched and empty. There was no word yet on R2-D2.

    Han scowled. "Luke's too smart to let Vader get him." A comforting arm was draped across Leia's shoulders.

    Leia leaned into his touch. She wished she could believe Han...but Vader and his minions had left hours ago. The Dark Lord was too single-minded to leave without his prize.

    Threepio shook his head. "I do hope so, Captain Solo. I simply couldn't bear it if anything were to happen to him."

    "Don't talk like that," barked Han. "He's fine, you hear me?"

    Silence hung over the room. There was nothing the Rebels wanted to believe more...but as time passed, Luke's chances diminished.

    A minute or so later, a musical chime announced the return of Lando. His expression wasn't promising.

    "Has there been any word?" asked Leia.

    Sadly Lando shook his head. "Nothing. Seems nobody in the whole city’s seen hide or hair of him. I tried to find the Ugnaughts who worked in the carbon freezing chamber, but they've been gone for hours."

    This announcement was greeted with silence. Each of Luke's friends turned away and stared quietly at the floor. Leia let her head drop to Han's shoulder, who in turn gave her shoulder a squeeze. Even Threepio didn't say a word.

    Lando spread his hands. "Look, I'm doing the best I can. Half the city's in a shambles, there's dead and wounded all over the place...but I swear I'll find him, even if I have to turn this whole place inside-out."

    Leia lifted her head and tried to give Lando an encouraging glance. "Thank you."

    Lando uncomfortably shifted his weight. "I...I've got a few more places to look. I'd better go..."

    Threepio lifted one of his golden arms and waddled up to the man. "Excuse me, Administrator Calrissian, but...have you seen anything of my counterpart?"

    The entrance chime rang again. Everyone turned to see a blue-garbed security officer stood at attention. "Administrator Calrissian?"

    "Yes, Hodge. What is it?" Lando wanted to know.

    "Hodge's face held a very peculiar expression. "We've found something I think you ought to see..." he looked over his shoulder with a frown. "Hey! I thought you were going to take that thing to the Automaton Pool!"

    Before anyone could say a word, a little round robot painted blue, white, and silver zipped into the doorway and let out a very desperate series of beeps and whistles.

    "Oh! Artoo-Detoo! Where in the universe have you been? You had me so worried I nearly short-circuited!" exclaimed Threepio, waddling up to the door. Artoo quickly responded with an indignant raspberry.

    "I'm sorry, Administrator," apologized the security officer. "We tried to put a restraining bolt on him, but he just wouldn't cooperate. We'll take him away-"

    "No, wait a minute." Lando held out his arm to block the way as the determined little droid awkwardly made his way down the steps. He looked at the assembled group as they all greeted the stubby astromech. "You know this droid?"

    "I beg your pardon!" cried Threepio. "This is my counterpart, Artoo-Detoo!"

    "He belongs to Luke," added Leia. "Artoo, what happened?"

    The droid responded with several hurried exclamations in binary. Threeepio waved his arms with impatience. "Artoo, slow down. I can't understand a word you're saying. Yes...yes, I see...what?!" The golden droid turned to regard the others. "I'm afraid Artoo is a little excited. It's difficult to get a clear word out of him, but...I believe he's saying that rather than going to the rendezvous point with the others, Master Luke went to some planet called Dagobah to meet a person called Yoda and continue to train as a Jedi, as per the instructions of Obi-Wan Kenobi." He turned to Artoo in annoyance. "Oh, don't be ridiculous! He died aboard the Death Star, you twit!"

    Han turned to Leia. "I swear I've heard that name before...Luke was mumblin' about him on Hoth...thought the kid was delusional or something."

    Leia shrugged helplessly. "There were thousands of Jedi at one point. More than one might have escaped. Besides, Artoo has seen him, and droids can't hallucinate."

    "I should say not!" cried Threepio indignantly. "Then what happened, Artoo?" The droid responded with a sadder, slower series of beeps. "Oh, dear. He says that Master Luke 'sensed' that we were all in danger and set off at once to help."

    Leia and Han exchanged sad looks. Luke had never gotten their warning.

    "Well, where is he?" barked Han impatiently.

    Artoo gave another series of beeps and whistles. They sounded more mournful than ever.

    "What do you mean, you don't know? Why didn't you look after him, you incompetent little-" Threepio pulled back in horror at the reply. "What? Oh, my! He says that Master Luke approached a manufacturing area of the city and they were separated by a blast door. Artoo tried everything to follow, but the door would not open. And...Master Luke never returned." That final note was as sad as a droid could make it.

    Leia closed her stinging eyes. She had no doubt Vader wanted to kill him as he'd killed all the other Jedi. Her heart cried out against it. She’d lost too many already. Losing such a close friend didn’t even bear thinking about.

    Han was shaking his head in denial. He felt about Luke the way one might feel about a little brother and refused to believe that the kid was gone. "C'mon. We still don't know where he is. Kid's smart. He could be hiding. Hey, Artoo, how'd you avoid those troopers?"

    Artoo whistled an eager reply. "He says once he realized that Master Luke was unable to return, he hid in a utility closet and disabled the door," translated Threepio.

    "That's where we found him, sir," confirmed Hodge the security officer.

    "Thanks, Hodge. You're dismissed," said Lando with a slight smile. He turned back to the sober crowd. "Well, I'm not giving up. He's gotta be here somewhere. I'm going to go check those security recordings. I'll get back to you when I can." Lando headed back to the door.

    Artoo wheeled around with an argent whistle. Threepio was quick to follow "I beg your pardon, Administrator, but Artoo says he can help you search the recordings for traces of Master Luke."

    Lando beckoned to the droid. "Come on, then." He glanced at Threepio. "Would you mind coming along to translate?"

    "Oh, yes. Thank you! I am most anxious about my master and do hope he is all right." Threepio eagerly waddled after the tall, dark-skinned man.

    Han rose. "I'm comin', too. The droid might miss something."

    Lando frowned at his friend. "You need rest. None of you have slept in hours."

    Han shook his head. "I don't think anybody’s gonna sleep 'till we know what happened to Luke." Leia and Chewbacca voiced their agreement.

    This Luke must be a very special young man to have such loyal friends. Lando let out a slow breath. "All right. Come on."

    And with that, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, See-Threepio, and Artoo-Detoo all trailed behind the baron-administrator to find out what had happened to their friend.
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  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Terrifically in character and of course R2 is resourceful and tenacious ;) =D=
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  21. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    Awe, I'm glad they found R2. Hopefully they will learn what became of Luke. :)
  22. Darth_Drachonus

    Darth_Drachonus Jedi Master star 3

    Oct 4, 2005
    I'm hooked. We need MOAR! MOAR!! :kylosaber::redsaber::greensaber::bluesaber: :D
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  23. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you as always for the kind review.
    @Sara_Kenobi They will...eventually...
    @Darth_Drachonus OK, more is coming!

    We return to Luke...

    Part Seven

    “Greetings, Lord Vader. You must be anxious to see to your prisoner.”

    Not again. Luke lay back in his cell and shuddered at both the mention of the name and the icy chill that shadowed Darth Vader on the tail of his cape. Why can’t he leave me alone?

    It had been nearly four days since Luke’s capture and imprisonment aboard the Executor, and they had been among the most confusing he had ever experienced.

    Luke had always imagined life as an Imperial prisoner to be short and painful. Every morning the young man was consistently shocked to still be alive and receiving treatment. As yet there had been no interrogations, no torture, not even a transfer to the detention block. Lieutenant Hallen- though only under threat from Vader -took whatever measures were necessary to preserve his patient's health.

    It was obvious to Luke that his medic had no use for him. Hallen’s bedside manner was nonexistent. Perpetually grouchy, he was as rough as possible when treating Luke’s arm or reinstalling an IV; the latter whether it was needed or not. No mention was ever made about painkillers or sedatives, and any apologies Luke had to offer for killing Hallen’s friends went unheeded. The only words Hallen ever spoke were of hatred, and of the satisfaction he would get from Luke’s inevitable execution.

    To be fair Luke hadn’t exactly been an easy patient. He had tried twice more to escape when the force field opened...and was subsequently stunned. From that point on a pair of troopers all but sat on him while Hallen administered treatment Rations, delivered twice daily, were slid in through a temporary gap in the force field. As yet Luke had not tasted them.

    Maybe it was the fear of truth serums being slipped into the mush. Maybe he was testing his captors. Maybe it was just spite. Whatever it was, Luke just had a feeling that he shouldn't accept food from the Imperials.

    Hallen was unaccountably annoyed and always snatched back the full bowl in disgust. He thought Luke was doing it to delay the interrogation, since Vader refused to carry it out until Luke’s strength had returned. By the third day of his patient’s fast, the medic figured this Rebel was suicidal and would rather die than divulge information. Hallen didn’t have a problem with that...except the fact that Vader wanted his prisoner alive. The medic’s hope was that Vader would lay blame on Skywalker.

    Luke wasn’t trying to shorten his life. In his mental state the young man didn’t trust himself to hold out against Vader’s questioning...nor did he trust Hallen any further than he could throw him. Unfortunate side effects included impaired thinking, fatigue, and the delayed healing of his arm. Luke spent most of his time in fitful bouts of sleep, fighting the memory of his amputation and the persuasive voice of Vader.

    That, Luke thought, was the worst of this imprisonment. Darth Vader came to the Infirmary for several hours every day to drip enticing words and promises in Luke’s ears after Hallen had been sent away. Such words had long since become a toneless buzz that Luke would have been able to ignore if not for the Dark Side influence. Though his connection to the Force was still strong, Luke feared his resistance was fading. The idea that Darth Vader had told the truth was becoming easier to believe...

    Despite his lethargic state, Luke knew Vader was agitated as he stomped into the Infirmary.

    "Why does he continue to deteriorate?" the Dark Lord demanded of the medic.

    Hallen raised his palms in surrender. "I am not to blame, m'lord. Commander Skywalker does not take any food." He took a step back when Vader growled. “I followed your orders! Portions adequate for sustenance are provided twice daily, but Skywalker refuses to eat. Check the security recordings," he added for good measure.

    Vader glowered inside his mask. Once again, his plan had gone awry. Anakin was worried. Is he trying to starve himself? "Where is the food you have been offering Skywalker?"

    Hallen pointed to the food-prep unit in the corner. "Standard prisoner rations, m'lord. It has all the nutrients necessary to sustain human life."

    Vader took another look at his son. The young man was slouched in bed, blonde hair mussed, blue eyes dull. Worry soon stifled anger. He cannot go on like this…. He waved to the medic. "Leave us."

    Hallen frowned. Three days in, and he keeps asking to be alone with this Rebel, but will not interrogate him. What’s going on? "My Lord?"

    "Leave us," repeated Vader. He addressed the troopers in the room as well. "All of you. I will deal with Skywalker myself."

    Kem couldn’t hide his suspicion, but obeyed. "As you wish." With that, the medic and the troopers left the room.

    Vader stood before the force field to stare at his son. He will not eat, will he? He will when I am through with him. "So, you have been refusing nourishment.”

    Luke didn’t even glance at the man before turning his back and pulling his knees to his chest, letting his chin rest there. I’m not going to talk to you. Leave me alone.

    Vader glared behind his helmet. Luke had pulled the same trick during every one of their conversations. "Look at me when I am speaking to you, young one." When Luke didn’t stir, the Sith Lord reached out with the Force and physically turned his son around. "Look at me.”

    Luke was startled. Up until that point Vader had done nothing but speak persuasively and encourage him to rest. Does this mean the ‘caring father’ act is over? Uneasy but curious, Luke watched his alleged ancestor.

    "You may wish to harm yourself, Luke, but I do not.” Vader walked to the food prep unit, picked up a bowl, and set it down beneath the dispenser. A portion of a thick, porridge-like substance oozed into the bowl. “I will not allow you to starve." Vader then picked up a spoon, deactivated the force field, and stepped inside Luke's cell.

    Luke cringed. He could never get used to this uninvited apparition sitting with him and scooted away until his back hit the wall.

    "You are a slow learner," said Vader quietly. "Had I wished you harm, would I have not dealt it quickly?"

    Luke stared at his wrist. You already did. A brief flashback to the duel made it throb, and he brought his arm close, hiding the stump.

    Vader glared behind his mask. “If you are attempting to divert my attention from the present, it will not work. You have eaten nothing in the last three days. Are you attempting to end your life?"

    Luke couldn’t help but shake his head.

    "Perhaps you are not as foolish as I thought," Vader picked up the bowl and offered it to Luke. “This ends now. Take it. Eat.” When Luke didn’t move, Vader pushed the bowl into his hand. "Eat!" he ordered.

    Luke’s hand closed around the bowl just long enough to keep the contents from spilling. Then he set it on the table and crossed his arms.

    Vader’s anger mounted. “Feed yourself, or you will be fed!”

    Luke’s eyes widened when he looked up to find a spoonful of mush pointed straight at his mouth. Oh, no. He’s not... It was too strange. The young man ducked and performed several elaborate maneuvers to avoid this humiliation, but found himself immobilized by the Force. The spoon made its way past his stubborn lips and teeth, but in his hurry to get away, he inhaled at the wrong moment and found himself choking.

    Vader’s arm dropped. Disgust was replaced with shock. He released his mental hold on the boy and wondered briefly about calling in the medics...but then Luke coughed and cleared his airway. Vader’s own relief surprised him, and he directed the resulting frustration back at Luke. “You see where your foolishness has led you?”

    Luke continued to cough, his energy draining in the process. By the time he had caught his breath he was exhausted and shrank away. “Why do you want me alive?”

    “You are my son, Luke. You shall not expire so long as you are with me,” answered Vader. That was the one point where he and Anakin agreed. You cannot let him die, thought Anakin. I won’t allow it. Annoyed at the emotions being stirred up by the situation, Vader rose to his feet. “As you insist on starving yourself, you shall receive nutrients elsewhere.” He left without another word.

    Luke waited until he was alone to fall back into his pillow and give in to the growing fatigue. Confusion overtook him before sleep did.

    What was going on? Why hadn’t Vader begun the interrogation process or moved him to a cell? Why was he so preoccupied with Luke’s health? Even the Imperial Medics couldn’t understand.

    For the first time, Luke considered the idea that Vader- impossible as it was- had been telling the truth...

    Is he really my father?
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Luke is as stubborn as Vader :p Of course he doesn't trust his motives but once he acknowledges the paternal connection, he has choices to make. [face_thinking] It's a race against time, him facing this challenge versus his friends getting to him in time.
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  25. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Sep 21, 2000
    I love the frustration of Vader and the banter between Vader and Luke. :p Hopefully he'll reconsider eating something soon.