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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. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Ok, I had to laugh at the idea of Luke being force-fed. [face_laugh] Love the internal struggle taking place between Vader and Anakin. =D=
     
  2. mavjade

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

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Catching up... I love how protective Han is being and is doing his best to get Luke back despite his own issues. And Vader with how he's confusing the medic and others and I'm sure they are quite confused. That medic may not make it long if he doesn't pick it up, though I don't blame him for not understanding what is going on.

    The tension between Luke and Vader in that last chapter was great, the mental image of Vader trying to feed Luke made me chuckle even though I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for Luke.

    =D=
     
  3. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Like father, like son? ;) Well with both Anakin and Padme as parents, is it any wonder that Luke is stubborn?

    @Sara_Kenobi Kind of like an argument between family members, right? Don't worry. Vader won't let his son go hungry.

    @JediMaster_Jen I didn't really mean it to be humorous, but I guess the mental image of Luke dodging a spoonful of cereal like a pouty toddler is kind of funny. :p In Vader's defense, though, he's never been a parent before. Mentally Anakin was preparing himself to care for an infant, but his experience is limited to teenagers (i.e, Ahsoka). So he's not really sure how to handle this...his plans have been messed up now. Thank you for the compliments!

    @mavjade Han is kind of a knothead sometimes, but we all know his heart is in the right place. [face_love]
    Yes, one who typically strangles his officers for even a minor slip-up, treating a notorious Rebel with such care, MUST be a real head-scratcher! [face_dunno]
    Another fan of the Force-Feeding. Just think of how you would feel in the same position....your mortal enemy trying to spoon-feed you like a baby. Weird, huh?

    Well, time to get back to the story!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part Eight


    Vader was a man of his word. Luke awoke the following morning to find a feeding tube in his stomach, pumping him full of liquefied nutrients. The sight was depressing, and he regretted his fast.

    By then it was clear to the young Jedi that he couldn't escape this prison on his own. His only hope was to convince Vader that he had given up so the security would relax, then sneak away somehow and steal a ship with hyperdrive. From there he could rejoin the Rebel fleet.

    Vader returned to Luke’s cell the day after to find him awake, alert, and without fear. “I see your condition has improved. Do you see now your error in thinking you could starve yourself?”

    Luke shrugged. “I should have eaten when I had the chance,” he admitted, throwing a rueful glance to the stomach tube.

    Vader nodded once in smug satisfaction. I knew he would see reason sooner or later. He is not stupid. “So, young Skywalker, you have decided to speak?”

    "Only to you...alone." The idea made Luke’s survival instincts protest, but he told himself that Vader had no intention of killing him. He was more valuable as an apprentice.

    "Very well." Vader turned to Lt. Hallen. "Leave us."

    "As you wish." Lt. Hallen glanced backward on his way out and smirked. Now, finally, since Skywalker’s constitution had improved and he seemed willing to talk, the interrogation would begin. He had to admit the unorthodox strategy had merit. The boy will crack like an egg.

    Vader deactivated the force field and stepped into Luke's cell without preamble. He was curious about the change in attitude. "I sense that your fear is controlled, yet you still expect harm at my hand. Why is that?”

    Does he really have to ask? Luke once more brought his right arm protectively under the other. “You have to ask?”

    Despite himself Vader gave a guilty start. You hurt him. Of course he’s not going to trust you, thought Anakin. “The loss of your hand was...an unfortunate mistake.” He stared at the wall for a moment, annoyed at his own admission. “When you have healed, you will be provided with a prosthetic replacement.”

    Luke knit his brows, trying to sense Vader’s intentions. He was startled to find concern and regret. Both quickly pushed aside, but-

    “You are in pain,” rumbled Vader thoughtfully. “You hide it well, but do not discard your feelings. Use them. Pain can be a powerful asset when used properly.”

    “You’re wasting your time. I’m not joining you,” Luke insisted.

    “You will. In time, you will embrace your destiny.”

    “Can I ask any questions, or are you going to keep trying to convert me?”

    Vader put his hands behind his back and slowly approached Luke's bedside from the left. While it would be easy to feel anger at Luke’s disrespect, that would only impede his progress. "Very well. Speak.”

    Luke took a deep, shuddering breath. "Why did you capture me?" He moistened his lips. "If you were going to question me, you’d have done it by now.”

    Vader gave a grim smile behind his mask. Smart boy. "Indeed. You are too strong with the Force to give in to any sort of interrogation or torture. Questioning you would be useless." Vader shook his head. "Search your feelings, my son. You know the reason.”

    Luke grimaced. You’re not my father. “I told you it’s useless. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side.”

    Slowly Vader nodded. “Yes, you will.”

    “What makes you so sure?” Luke blurted.

    “You cannot hide your feelings from me, son.” Vader walked a few steps to the left, and then to the right. “I sense it...your need for belonging...for a family...for the father you never knew.”

    Get out of my head. Luke recoiled. “Just because you’re my father doesn’t mean-” He froze in horror even as the words left his mouth. Why did I say that?

    Vader turned to his son in triumph. “You are wise to accept the truth. Even you could not deny it forever.”

    Luke’s shoulders fell. Painfully he had to admit that Vader was right...he had been telling the truth about who he was. The Force had made it clear even as he had screamed his denial...and the Force didn't lie.

    Obi-Wan had. Ben had sat there and told Luke that Anakin Skywalker had been killed by a monster rather than becoming the monster himself. That hurt almost as much as the fact that the truth had come from Vader. Luke shut his eyes against the tears that wanted to flow and waited until the sting had passed before speaking again. “No...but just because...we share DNA...doesn’t mean I have to follow the same path,” he stumbled, finally lifting his eyes in defiance. Admitting the truth wasn’t admitting defeat.

    Still, there were so many questions, such as how a man encased in machinery could even father a child. Luke quickly pushed that aside in favor of another...one he had wanted to know the answer to for years. “Why did you turn?”

    Vader had not expected this. ”What?”

    “Why did you turn to the Dark Side? Ben told me you used to be a Jedi,” said Luke carefully.

    “The Jedi were weak. Obi-Wan was weak. That is why they were exterminated,” said Vader, as if by rote.

    “That’s not what I asked,” argued Luke. “You fought for the Republic in the Clone Wars...saved lives...and for me to exist, you must have had a family. What could make you throw all that away?”

    He’s right. Losing your family was your choice, reminded Anakin. Vader recoiled violently from the reminder. Leave me! “I did not,” he growled. “They were stolen by the Jedi.”

    Luke shook his head, though uncertainty was clouding his thoughts. “That’s not true. You-”

    “SILENCE!” roared Vader, wheeling about with rage. “You are the only family I have, as I am to you. Is that not enough?”

    “No.” The mention of family made another memory return...an image Luke could not erase from his mind. “You killed what was left of my family.”

    Again the Dark Lord was caught off guard. Who had raised Luke? Up until now he had assumed it to be Obi-Wan, but Luke’s training was far too limited to denote the traditional starting age. Someone must have adopted him. “Who were they?” he could not help asking. “And how am I responsible for their deaths?”

    Now Luke rose to look Vader in the eye. “Owen and Beru Lars. When the plans to the Death Star went missing, you destroyed their farm.”

    Vader was glad to have his face was hidden by a mask. He had not even thought about his stepbrother in years. The idea that Obi-Wan would have sent the infant boy to his only family made some sense. Tatooine had been avoided because of all the bad memories, and yet Luke had been there the whole time. Knowledge that his stepbrother was dead- one he hardly knew, yet one who his mother had loved like son -made Anakin cry in dismay.

    I've failed her again. The stab of pain Vader felt was brief, but sharp. He had passed the death sentence on what was left of his own family. Vader turned away, unaccountably affected. "I...did not know who they were. I was told only that a pair of moisture farmers had come into possession of the droids. Their names were never given. Had I known..." Enough of this sentiment! You're distracted! “Is there anything further?”

    Sensing Vader’s remorse was confusing, but Luke refocused. “Han...and Leia, and Chewbacca. Why did you hurt them when all you wanted was me?”

    “Do not let pride blind you. Princess Leia is a traitor to the Empire, as are all with the Rebellion. Your feelings for them are strong. I knew you would sense their discomfort and come to save them."

    Luke’s mood soured further. He had been manipulated, falling right into a trap. Yoda was right...it wouldn’t have made any difference for Han and Leia if he had stayed on Dagobah. Now they were gone…. Luke’s remaining hand trembled with anger. He wished he had his lightsaber so he could strike at the Dark Lord-

    No! What am I thinking? I tried that before, and look where it got me. Calm, Luke. Calm! Luke pressed his palm to his forehead, trying desperately to fight off the call of the Dark Side.

    "Yes," purred Vader. "Your anger grows. Give in to it. You will have more power than you could imagine, if only you embrace the Dark Side."

    While the battle was raging within him, Luke managed to lift his head and look his enemy in the eye. "Never."

    Vader growled in frustration. "What must I do to convince you? This is your destiny, Luke. By my side, you would have everything you want...power, influence, credits...your own fleet, if you so wish! Together we could destroy the Emperor and rule together, ending this pointless destruction. Why do you resist?"

    His words were tempting. Luke was so tired...tired of fighting, tired of killing, tired of everything. He only wanted to see his friends again. Slowly the young man shook his head. "There's nothing you can offer that I want. All I cared about is gone."

    Vader sighed. I might as well tell him. There's no point in holding back now. "No, Luke. Your friends are alive. They escaped Cloud City not long before your arrival."

    What? Luke straighten his spine, unable to stop the hope rising within him. "They did? How?"

    "A miserable traitor, Calrissian. Even after stating my intention not to harm either the princess or the Wookiee, he went back on our deal and aided in their escape."

    Luke knew the truth behind these words because of the disappointment with which Vader spoke. He sighed in immense relief. They’re all right...they escaped. But something was wrong. He only promised not to hurt Leia or Chewie. "What about Han?"

    "I had no use for him, but intended to make your capture less...painful. Thus I was going to freeze you in carbonite, but was unaware if it could be survived. Therefore I tested the process on Solo. He is alive," added Vader when Luke opened his mouth in protest. "But see the precautions I took to preserve your life, Luke? I had no wish to harm you, nor do I have any such wish now."

    “Where is he? Let me see him-”

    “As I said, I had no use for that smuggler. He was taken by a bounty hunter.”

    Luke sagged with regret. He’d heard about the various bounties on Han’s head. Poor Han...if only I’d gotten there sooner! The Jedi shook his head. It wouldn’t have made any difference. But at least Leia and Chewie are all right. He could think of only one more thing to say. "If you expect me to join you, then why am I in a cell?”

    Vader was quick to answer. "You are injured. Keeping you confined seemed the best way to preserve your life. However, If you cooperate, you will be moved to more comfortable accommodations." Vader sensed the throb of Luke's arm and scowled. "You have been mistreated while under the care of this Lieutenant Hallen, have you not?"

    Luke couldn’t hide his disgust at the name. Yes, Hallen had abused him. The medic was the worst he’d ever met, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to say a word.

    Vader didn’t need an answer. Luke’s feelings were confirmation enough. "I see that you have." He pulled out a comlink and mashed on the pickup. "Lieutenant Hallen, return to the Infirmary immediately."

    The sneering medic returned to the prisoners' wing expecting to see the young Rebel in need of treatment after Vader's interrogation. Instead, Skywalker was sitting up in bed looking remarkably well...and Vader looked remarkably angry for someone whose face went unseen. Hallen flinched. "You...sent for me, Lord Vader?"

    "I am unsatisfied with the level of care that Commander Skywalker has received." Vader crossed his arms. "Tell me, lieutenant. Has Skywalker been mistreated?"

    The medic frowned in confusion. "Excuse me?"

    Vader stared his down. "You are aware of what I speak! Unnecessary abuse. And you call yourself a medic?"

    Hallen scoffed. "Rebels are not treated the same as Imperials. I’m surprised at you. The favoritism you have shown this prisoner is inexcusable. I should report you to the Emperor for sympathiz-" He choked as Vader’s gloved hand closed about his trachea.

    "You are a disgrace to the profession of healing, Lieutenant," growled Vader. "I have no further use for you."

    Luke's eyes darted from Vader to Hallen in alarm. Leia often recalled with a shudder how fond Vader was of choking people. Luke couldn't stand to see someone killed in that way, even on his behalf. "Wait…"

    Hallen clawed at his throat. "Lord...Vader, please…"

    Vader slowly tightened his grip. "You will never harm my son again."

    The medic's eyes bugged out even as he choked. He glanced at Luke and tried to protest, but all that came out was a squawk.

    Luke rose in protest. "No...wait, don't-"

    Crunch! Vader crushed Hallen's windpipe in one sharp squeeze. The medic went limp. Vader tossed the dead body to the floor in disgust before turning to Luke. "You need be in fear of him no longer."

    Luke looked at the dead man with a twisting stomach. He didn’t know how to feel. "Why did you kill him?"

    "He caused you pain, did he not? He disregarded my orders to treat you with more respect. He deserved death," said Vader.

    "That's no reason to kill an unarmed man in cold blood," insisted Luke.

    "Spare me your misguided self-righteousness. You yourself have taken lives."

    "Only in defense."

    "And what was this but defense of you?" Vader wanted to know. "You have no weapons; you are missing a hand; you are weak and tired. You cannot defend yourself."

    Luke frowned deeply. “Maybe...” He turned away from the dead body with a shudder. "What are you going to do with me?" he asked his father.

    Vader straightened his spine. "I will show you to your quarters and see to it that you are provided for. Our conversation will continue later."

    Luke hesitated. While he had no desire to remain a prisoner, it would be even more difficult to escape while under the care of Vader. "If I refuse?"

    Vader crossed his arms. "Then you remain where you are."

    Luke glanced at the dead medic. With his reputation, he doubted treatment under someone else would be any better. His wrist was all but healed and it was pointless to stay in the Infirmary. He sighed when, once again, Vader extended his hand in invitation. “No other options?”

    “Your treatment would be far worse in the brig.”

    Luke cautiously climbed down from the bed, stopping when he realized he was still hooked up to the IV and the other equipment.

    “I will have a medical droid remove them upon your word that you will not flee,” said Vader.

    Luke slouched. I can’t promise that. He bit his lip. This is your only chance...would he know if I lied? There was only one way to find out. “I promise,” he said after a long hesitation.

    "Once you are unhooked from your equipment, you will come with me." Vader called in a medical droid to do just that before turning to his son in satisfaction.

    Luke had taken the first step. If he could find a way to win the boy’s trust, then he was as good as turned.
     
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow! What a confrontation with Luke asking hard questions and seeming to become cooperative. Hope he isn't actually. He may think or tell himself he's going along until he can escape. I hope so! [face_thinking]
     
  5. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Somehow I just don't think it'll be that easy. [face_thinking] Good job. Loved the conversation between them, especially when Luke asked why he turned.
     
  6. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    Luke finally gets to move about. He should tread carefully though. Great update! =D=
     
  7. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    RL had so much for me in stock that I almost forgot about this story.

    It really shows us why Sith are miserable parents. They think in absolutes, have weird concepts of education & nurture and everything is about their own needs. And they either blame themselves for shortcomings, but mostly others around them.

    Thanks for taking us all on this journey into the heart & soul of Darth Vader! And showing us a Luke that stays true to himself & his inner goddess despite all that his father throws at him.
     
  8. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Now it will be a contest to see which Skywalker is more stubborn. I think it might be Luke.
     
  9. Togruta

    Togruta Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    RIP Hallen, the medic with a death wish who wouldn't shut up... That would actually make a fitting tombstone.
     
  10. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Wow...this is getting difficult to keep up with... :eek:

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Don't give up on him yet...Luke, as he has said, is full of surprises...
    @JediMaster_Jen Good instincts! Glad you enjoyed Luke's questions. :)
    @Sara_Kenobi Thanks!
    @AzureAngel2 You're very welcome, and I'm glad you're enjoying it! [:D] I wanted to do a serious character study of Vader while exploring this 'what-if' question.
    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 ;)
    @Togruta [face_laugh] Hmm, I'll have to sketch that...

    Thanks all for the great comments! [:D]I hope the rest of this story lives up to your expectations!
    And now, back to Luke's intrepid friends...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part Nine

    'Invalid search parameters', flashed the computer screen for what seemed like the hundredth time. 'Please try again.'

    Lando, sitting at the security console in the Northern wing of Cloud City, let out a loud groan of frustration. "Ugh! Come on! I know he was here!"

    'Invalid search parameters', the computer insisted without pity. As far as it was concerned, no one named Luke Skywalker- or anyone matching his description -had ever so much as gained landing clearance on Bespin, let alone walked the halls.

    Leia grimaced as Lando angrily punched out another inquiry on the keyboard. For the past five days, she, Han, Lando, Chewbacca, and the droids had practically lived in the security headquarters. Neither Artoo's electronic communications nor Lando's furious typing had turned up any trace of Luke. Access to the security recordings had been encoded, and Lando's best computer technician was working with Artoo to try and slice it so they could find him there. A full-scale search of the city could take weeks or even months.

    Leia knew in her heart that Luke was no longer on the planet. She didn't know how...she just knew. Her feelings for Luke were too strong. They weren’t romantic like her feelings for Han. The closeness she felt to Luke was a different kind of love. It was almost as if he was family.

    Presently Leia closed her eyes. Oh Luke, why? Why couldn't you just stay on Dagobah? This never would have happened if you hadn't come here! Often her thoughts drifted in that direction. The worst of it was, whenever she caught a few precious minutes of sleep, her dreams were tormented with images of Luke, injured and trapped somewhere in the darkness, crying out to her for help.

    Once again the computer spat out the same reply. The search for 'X-wing fighter approach' had turned up nothing. Lando's shoulders fell and he rubbed his face hard with his hands, falling back against his chair. When his hands fell away, his expression was one of apology and despair. Slowly the man shook his head. "I'm out of ideas. I don't know what else to do. I thought for sure there'd be something here, but it's like all traces of him were just...erased."

    Leia nodded slowly. Vader would have wanted to cover his tracks if he knew that his hostages had escaped.

    Han, leaning against the back wall, glowered at the screens. "Yeah, that sounds like Vader, all right. So he does have Luke." He swore explosively and slammed his fist against the wall before describing in detail what he would do to the Dark Lord if ever he saw him again. It had something to do with taking him apart, piece by piece. “We don’t even know where!”

    Lando couldn't bear to look at his friend. "Looks like it. I'm sorry, Han...Leia." He sighed. "What did Vader want him for, anyway?"

    Han's face twitched from holding in painful emotions. "Luke blew up the Death Star. Every Imperial wants a piece of him. 'Sides, you know the stories. Vader wiped out the Jedi, and Luke's-" His voice broke and he shook his head. He clenched his fists, every muscle in his arms trembling as hazel eyes squeezed themselves shut. Don’t you DARE think like that, He ordered himself. Luke is NOT dead...

    The mood in the room somber. Chewbacca moaned softly and Threepio, for once, was quiet. Lando looked as if he would like nothing better than to reverse time and take back his actions.

    The door suddenly slid open, making everyone flinch. A blue-garbed security officer stood at attention, red-eyed from lack of sleep. Artoo whistled excitedly next to him.

    Lando rose to his feet, working knots out of his neck. "Oh! Damon, come in."

    Damon entered with a nod. "Excuse me, Administrator. I wanted to let you know that with the help of this astromech unit, I've managed to get back into the security recordings. I think we found something."

    Lando lifted his brows with interest. “Really...well, let’s take a look.” He only had to glance at the others to encourage them to follow. They entered another room similar to the first, the right wall covered with various security screens. "What is it?"

    Damon sat down at his console and began to type. "I remembered you asking about a blonde young man around the carbon freezing chamber, and I think I've found him." An image of a spotless hallway appeared on the monitor. A button was pressed for playback.

    Walking slowly and cautiously with his blaster drawn, a very familiar figure edged his way along the hall, tailed by Artoo-Detoo. He poked his head into a doorway, looked around, and stepped inside. The door shut, leaving the droid behind. The recording then ended.

    Artoo, in the present, rocked wildly back and forth, squealing like a mad thing.

    "Calm down, Artoo!" berated Threepio. "We can see that's Master Luke."

    "Yes, Damon. That's the man we're looking for," sighed Lando. His shoulders fell as the image was replayed. He's so young...just a kid, really. What made him think he could take on a Sith Lord?

    "Where does that door lead?" asked Leia. She felt a need to retrace his steps...to know what had happened to him.

    "That's the side entrance to the maintenance pit under the freezing chamber," said Lando. "If Luke never came back out the same door, he had to go through the chamber. Damon, can you pull up the freezing chamber about...two minutes from this point?"

    Damon nodded and let his fingers fly over the keyboard. Another image appeared on the screen, this time of the carbon freezing chamber. It differed from the other in that the light entering the camera had artificially been enhanced due to the darkness. Either way, in a matter of seconds Luke entered the frame, where Darth Vader was waiting. They exchanged words and began to duel. After Luke had fallen into the freezing chamber, jumped out, and knocked Vader over the edge of the freezing chamber platform, he jumped down after him.

    Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the droids all watched the scene, transfixed. Threepio interjected exclamations of dismay before covering his photoreceptors. Han muttered curses under his breath even while amazed by Luke's lightsaber skills and control. He swore loudly when Luke went after Vader. “Dammit, kid! Get outta there!”

    As for Leia, she gripped the edge of the console with white-knuckled hands. Luke, why did you have to confront him? Couldn't you see it was a trap? "Where did they go from there?"

    Damon looked from Leia to Lando. When Lando nodded his permission, Damon blinked hard and typed further commands into the console. "Uh...the next point I saw him is an observation room for the processing vane..."
    The next image of Luke appeared, holding his ignited lightsaber. When the recording was played back, Vader appeared. Then various objects began flying at Luke, pummeling him from all sides and eventually breaking a large window, kicking up violent winds. When Luke was sucked out of the broken window and out of sight, everyone let out a simultaneous cry of dismay.

    Leia trembled as she fought the emotions that threatened to choke her. It’s not over yet. He’s survived worse. “Is there any more? Lando, where does that lead?”

    Lando's heart sank. It was difficult to speak his next words. “That...that window overlooks the exhaust shaft...which leads straight down...to the middle of the planet.” He turned away from the screen and knocked his fist on the counter.

    Leia was still shaking her head, as much in denial of what she’d seen as stubbornly refusing to give up. “No, there has to be more.”

    Lando carefully took her arm. “Your highness, I’m sorry, but nobody could survive that fall.”

    “Then is there anything he could have landed on? A platform, or...something!”

    Lando frowned, glancing at Damon. “Well, sure. There’s a maintenance catwalk leading the processing vane...but that’s a five-meter drop, and the chances of him-”

    Leia narrowed her eyes. “If anyone could make it, Luke could. Damon, are there any cameras on that catwalk?”

    Damon’s eyes widened at Leia’s direct questioning but had learned not to cross the feisty princess. Without a word he nodded and brought up the next image, speeding it up to find the correct timepoint. “Um...all security for the catwalk was down for maintenance when the Empire arrived...these are the nearest working cameras.” He pulled up an image of a dark hallway, a catwalk extending out behind it. “If he somehow managed to land, to get back into the city proper, he had to come through here. The catwalk on the other side is a dead end.”

    Leia stared at the screen, willing it to show- “Wait! There! It’s Luke!” she cried as the battered young man entered the frame. Everyone lifted their heads to see.

    In seconds Luke was once more dodging Vader’s swings, fending him off and ducking outside and out of sight. Three agonizingly long minutes passed before someone else reentered the frame.

    But it wasn’t Luke. It was Darth Vader, marching with purpose toward the exit.

    Leia’s heart sank as the shock of what that meant set in. Automatically she shook her head.

    Han wheeled away, hands on his hips, face contorting with the pain of loss. He felt responsible for Luke. The kid was somebody to tease, joke with, give pointers about life. Meanwhile I just stood there and let myself get frozen! Han growled and shut his eyes, determined not to let anyone see him cry. Behind him Chewbacca raised his head to the ceiling and let out a heartbroken howl, giving voice to his friend’s grief.

    "Poor Master Luke," lamented Threepio, turning away and resting his hand on Artoo's dome. The little droid cooed sadly.

    Tears stung Leia’s eyes as she kept shaking her head. It didn’t feel right...but the facts were then in front of her, plain as day. If Vader has wanted to capture Luke, they both would have left. He wasn’t the type to just let anyone go, least of all the man he had been obsessed with capturing for the past three years. So the only conclusion was that Luke was dead. “No,” she moaned, stumbling backward against the wall. Vaguely she felt Han’s arms around her, supporting her as she slid to the floor. She bowed her head for a moment to grieve...but pushed the feelings aside just as quickly. There’s no time...there’s too much to do...I can’t let this crush me…the need to get up and do something to distract from the pain was overwhelming.

    And so, after a brief kiss for Han, she lifted her head and rose. “There’s nothing more to do here. It’s time I got back to the Rebellion.” She turned to Han, taking his arms. “Han, I’ll understand if you need some time, but I’m going to need a ride to the rendezvous point. You don’t have to stay-”

    “No.” Han sniffed and cleared his throat, looking Leia in the eye. “We’re goin’. Chewie and I’ll get you back, all right. And I’m stayin’ with the Rebels...for good, this time.”

    “Han…?” Leia was torn between satisfaction that Han was finally making a commitment and worry that is was for the wrong reasons. “Are you sure?”

    “You bet I’m sure. I’m not lettin’ that blasted Empire hurt anybody else. Soon’s we get back, sign me up. Y’know how long Luke’s been-” Han’s voice cut off, and he pushed grief aside in favor of anger. “By the time we’re through with blowin’ the Empire to kingdom come, that ole’ Emperor’s gonna wish he never heard of us!”

    Leia squeezed his arm with encouragement and gave him another kiss.

    And so, after thanking Lando for his hospitality and with a newfound sense of purpose, the Rebels made their way out of the city of sorrow.
     
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful and persistent sleuthing and resolve at the end =D= Your Han is pitch perfect as always [face_love] -- as is Leia. @};-
     
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  12. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    Han, Leia and everyone will be in for a surprise about Luke. Great characterizations!
     
  13. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I get the feeling that Vader is about to find out that there are few people as dangerous as someone who is so P.O.'d that they legit have no kriffs left to give. Especially when said individual is accompanied by a Wookie.
     
  14. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Great work!:)

    Already feeling that sibling bond! Loved that. =D= She just has to not give up on him.

    Felt bad for Lando. :( He's trying so hard to make up for his bad choices.
     
  15. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you! [:D]
    @Sara_Kenobi Yes, they will...but who can tell when? ;)
    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 I LOL'd at your comment...too true! Do NOT get Han Solo mad!!! [face_laugh]
    @JediMaster_Jen Since when does Leia *ever* give up? Persistence is her middle name. And yes, poor Lando...

    Thanks for all the nice comments. You deserve another chapter for being such nice readers! [:D]
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part Ten

    The journey through the Executor's corridors was long and circuitous. Luke did not miss the amount of stares directed their way by everyone from officers to stormtroopers. He almost suspected Darth Vader was parading him around as a prize. But then, he was in too much of a hurry for that to be so. Luke was hard-pressed to match his long stride, especially with as tired as he was. Several times the young Jedi asked himself what he was doing with the enemy.

    What choice do I have? thought Luke grimly. But I'm not joining the Empire. I'm...an undocumented spy. He would learn as much as he could about this vessel and then find a way to get word to the Rebels so they could come and destroy it...hopefully after he had escaped.

    Luke’s follow-up to remove the stomach tube and subsequent release from the Infirmary had raised quite a few eyebrows. Questions had come fast and furious...until Vader told the medics that Luke had defected to the Empire and was now an Imperial citizen. That didn’t sit well with Luke, but what was he going to do? Any protest would probably land him in the brig. For the time being he decided he was better off just keeping his mouth shut until he and Vader were away from prying eyes and open ears.

    Questions still flowed at a steady rate, begging to have a voice. What wasn’t Vader telling him about his turn to the Dark Side? Why had he waited until now to reveal himself to his son? And why did the Dark Lord himself want to betray the Emperor?

    The young man lost track of the number of hallways, lifts, and corners there had been before Vader finally came to a stop in front of a set of double doors, guarded on either side by stormtroopers. Vader stepped inside and urged Luke to follow.

    Luke was hesitant. Once inside he froze, confused and very uneasy. This room reeked of the Dark Side. “Where are we?” he asked.

    “These are my personal quarters,” answered Vader as he continued forward.

    Blast. Luke’s eyes widened. “Why did you bring me here?” He took an involuntary step backward as the doors closed.

    “As you are my son, you shall remain with me.”

    “You said I was getting my own quarters.”

    “Yours are nearby,” said Vader with impatience. He beckoned with a single hand. “Come.”

    Luke took a deep breath to calm his racing heart and took two small steps forward. Easy, Skywalker...panic isn't going to get you anywhere...breathe.... His eyes roved slowly about, taking it in.

    The room was large- at least ten meters square- and surprisingly empty. There were none of the usual accommodations one found in a person's quarters such as a refresher unit or even a bed. There was only a sleek black desk on the far left with a messy pile of datapads, a large round Holo-Net transceiver, and a semi-spherical device that lay open like the maw of a monstrous beast. Luke could only take a single glance inside before Vader shut it and beckoned him over to a previously unseen door next to the wall-sized viewport at the back.

    “That is my personal meditation chamber. It is none of your concern," he added when Luke opened his mouth to ask another question. Vader punched in a code on the keypad next to the door, which slid open. "These quarters are now yours."

    The thought of being so close to Vader made the hair on the back of Luke's neck stand on end. It would be twice as difficult to plan an escape from there. His father could sense his every move. Equally disturbing was the thought that this room was not a recent addition. It had been built when the ship was. Had Vader been planning this all along?

    “You have no need to fear,” insisted Vader. “I have given you the privacy of your own room. Will you not see?”

    There's no turning back. If I run now, I’m not going to get very far. Luke moistened his lips and swallowed as he all but tiptoed inside.

    While making full use of space as was standard in any ship, the similarities ended there. The room was surprisingly large. What it lacked in personality it more than made up for in accommodations. The bed was three times as large as a standard military cot with thick blankets to insulate against the chill of space. A small chest of drawers sat beside the bed and a closet lay open against the far wall; again, three times the size of the clothing locker Luke was used to. There were even a couple of uniforms already hanging up. Beyond the closet lay a small refresher unit with toilet, shower, and sink.

    Most impressive of all was the room-sized viewport which took up almost the entire left wall. Through it one could see the blue-white glow of hyperspace racing by.

    Luke was speechless. This room was three times larger than his quarters with the Rebellion, and like most pilots, he’d had to share a bunk with one of his comrades.

    Thinking of Dak, his gunner and former bunkmate, made Luke’s heart ache. He missed everyone...Han, Leia, Chewbacca, his friends in Rogue Squadron...even the droids. He wondered what had happened to Artoo-Detoo and felt sadness upon thinking the Imperials may have dismantled the little robot for information.

    “Something yet troubles you," observed Vader after a long silence. "Are these quarters not adequate?"

    Luke frowned and entered the room at a slow walk. “If anything, they’re too big.” He poked at the bed and was surprised to find a mattress. Not just any mattress, either, but a type of memory foam/air bed combination; incredibly comfortable and expensive. A brief temptation to take a nap right then and there was ignored. He couldn’t let his guard down with Vader around.

    “You are an officer in the Imperial Navy...my second in command, if you cooperate,” explained Vader. His tone changed as he turned to Luke. “Most importantly, you are my son. You deserve comfort.” That was more Anakin talking than Vader, and Vader was annoyed at letting himself slip again.

    “If you want me to be comfortable, then let me go,” frowned Luke.

    “Your stubbornness will have to redirected,” growled Vader, pacing a few steps to the left before whirling around. Anakin made him stop and turn back to Luke. “Yet...you are fatigued...you have had a long five days.” You show weakness again! He glared at Anakin’s persistence. Though, it will not do to have him faint in the middle of training. “I will send for a medical droid to see to you. You are to spend the interim resting and regaining your strength. Is there anything else you require?"

    Luke squirmed. He doubted he’d ever get used to Darth Vader trying to make him comfortable. “Privacy. I’d like to get cleaned up,” he cringed, looking at his sweat-stained pajamas. He was anxious to get out of them.

    “Very well. There are several jumpsuits in the locker. Soon more suitable clothing will be provided. And if it is privacy you wish for, then be at ease knowing there are neither cameras nor microphones in this room. I will return shortly with the medical droid." With that, Vader turned about and left, shutting the door behind him.

    Luke sank into the bed with a shudder. Boy, Skywalker, you’ve really gotten yourself in it this time, he thought, knitting his brows. He didn’t bother trying the door. There weren’t even controls on his side. That was discouraging, but not surprising. Despite Vader’s pretense at putting Luke at ease, he was still a prisoner.

    I don’t want to get any closer to him than I have to. Luke slid off the bed and peered into the closet. Inside were three gray flightsuits, a belt, a pair of black boots, and a black cap. On a hunch he also checked the chest of drawers and- to his relief -found several pairs of socks and underwear. While uncomfortable with the idea that Vader somehow knew his clothing size, the need to be clean overrode his unease. Perhaps his 'ripeness' had contributed to the odd looks of Vader’s crew.

    Luke was surprised again when, after stripping and hopping into the shower, there was actual hot water coming out of the tap. On Tatooine he’d used a sonic shower. In the Rebellion it was the same story. It felt almost wasteful to use water for bathing.

    For once in his life, Luke didn't care. He ran the water as long as he could, even after it had gone cold, scrubbing away the sweat and soothing the tender scar on his wrist. He even washed his hair twice.

    It took Luke a little longer than usual to dry and dress on account of his injury. It surprised and annoyed him that such a simple thing was so difficult with one hand. The zippers and snaps were tricky, and he ended up holding his collar together with his teeth. The boots were stiff, but he managed to wrestle both feet into them without too much trouble.

    The belt was another story. Most of that type demanded two hands to put on. Luke was still struggling with it when he sensed Vader’s presence drawing near.

    Without further warning the door slid open. In walked Darth Vader, tailed by a medical droid. The Dark Lord didn’t say a word as he stood looking his son up and down. A simple shower and change of clothes had done wonders to improve the boy's appearance...though that unruly blond mop could use a trim and a comb. The dark circles under his eyes would improve with sleep. Luke clumsiness with the belt annoyed him and he considered taking over.

    It’s your fault, reminded Anakin. You’re the one who took off his hand.

    Vader ignored the voice and waved a dismissive hand. “You may dispense with the belt until you have received a prosthetic. Now allow the medical droid to assess your condition."

    Luke grimaced. While he no longer felt as if he had been trampled by a herd of banthas, he was still sore and sleep-deprived. He looked over the droid and noted that it was similar to Too-One-Be in build.

    "Greetings, Commander Skywalker," said the droid in a voice somewhat deeper than Too-One-Be's. "I am Oh-Too-Be, lead medical droid aboard the Executor. Lie down, please."

    Luke, after a brief hesitation, obeyed the droid's direction and lay on the bed. He noticed that Vader remained in the doorway, arms crossed. Ignore him. Luke closed his eyes and tried to do just that while the droid examined him.

    O-2B wasn't particularly talkative. His only words to Luke were ones of instruction. The medical droid worked quickly and efficiently, with a gentle touch similar to that of his Rebel predecessor. He did not apologize if he accidentally caused Luke pain in the examination of his wrist stump, but merely reprimanded the young man to hold still. "The examination is concluded. You may rise, Commander Skywalker."

    "Thanks," Luke said, eyeing the droid with uncertainty. He watched as the droid rolled back to Darth Vader.

    "What is his condition?" Vader asked.

    "Fair. Commander Skywalker's injuries are nearly healed, but his constitution is weakened by stress and fatigue. He is a prime candidate for a bionic prosthetic, which is strongly recommended."

    Luke had already considered the idea. While it was inconvenient to be without a hand, the idea of becoming a cyborg, even to such a small extent, made him shudder. At that point Luke would rather go without than follow in his father's footsteps. “I don’t want it,” he blurted. When Vader whipped around to stare at him in disbelief, he flinched. “I don’t need it. I can adapt.”

    He is foolish for rejecting strength. “How soon can you perform the procedure?” Vader asked the droid. Luke’s look of protest was ignored.

    "That is dependent upon the type of prosthetic.”

    “The most advanced you can offer.”

    The droid peered at Luke’s wrist. “That would take more time. A scan would have to be taken of his left hand for accuracy, and then a full assessment to locate tendons and nerves. The bionic appendage would then be manufactured and surgically attached. The entire process, not counting recovery, would take no less than three standard days. My personal opinion as a physician is to begin the process immediately, before scar tissue impedes progress."

    Vader nodded in satisfaction. He wanted to give orders to start the process in the next minute. Something kept him from uttering the words. Something compelled him to turn to Luke and see the utter defiance in his son’s eyes. He’s going to fight if you push him too hard, said Anakin, even to the point of hurting himself.

    Then I will have him restrained. This is for his own good, insisted Vader. Anakin still won out. “Is there any other recommended treatment?”

    The droid answered quickly. "It is to consist mainly of nourishment and rest. Light activity for the next 48 hours.” 0-2B tilted his head to one side. “Shall I begin procedures for a prosthetic?”

    “Not at this time,” Vader found himself saying. "Better for Skywalker to recover first. Leave us."

    "Very well, though I must insist that the more time passes before his surgery, the more difficult it will be." And 0-2B left the room, the door closing behind him.

    An awkward silence passed between father and son. Luke eyed Vader uncertainly. “Do you think you’ll change my mind?”

    “You are a fool for rejecting a prosthetic, Luke. One must use whatever means necessary to gain strength. Yours is depleted. It must be restored,” said Vader. Then you’d better make sure he eats something, reminded Anakin. "In order to regain your strength, you must eat. It is nearing time for the officers to have their evening meal."

    Luke's brow wrinkled at the mental image. That would be interesting...a one-handed Rebel in a baggy jumpsuit joining the officers at dinner? "I don't think they'd like my company."

    Vader shook his head. "I shall not subject my son to unnecessary criticism. You shall dine here with me.”

    Eat with Vader? Luke’s stomach rumbled hollow in protest, but this...this was too much. I'll choke. “No.”

    Vader frowned behind his mask. I thought he had learned his lesson... "Either you eat as a man, or you shall have the feeding tube reinstalled permanently," he warned, looming near.

    Luke shrank back despite himself and cringed. Not that again. "Can’t I eat alone?"

    Vader scoffed. "How else am I to be certain you do not resume your fast?”

    Point taken. Luke’s shoulders fell and he sighed. “Looks like I don’t have a choice.”

    "I shall inform the galley. Is there a particular dish you would want?”

    Luke couldn't believe his ears. Darth Vader is asking me what I want for dinner? "Ah...what?"

    Vader grunted with impatience. "Your hearing is not impaired. Had I been allowed to raise you myself as I should have, this conversation would not be taking place. As it is, I do not know what your food preferences are," said Vader. “Answer the question.”

    Luke suppressed a shudder at the idea of being raised by Vader. "I’ll eat just about anything,” he admitted.

    That was an understatement. Luke had a high metabolism for a man his size and was known for never turning down a meal, whether he was particularly fond of it or not. With the Rebellion's limited supplies, Luke took to 'grazing' throughout the day to avoid being ravenous when mealtimes rolled around. Wes Janson, the youngster of Rogue Squadron at 17, teased Luke about this by calling him 'Mr. Ration Bar'. Luke always seemed to have one or more of the things in his flightsuit pocket. As yet, only Yoda's cooking had tested Luke's patient palate.

    Vader turned and left the room to get on the comm. He returned in minutes. "The evening meal will arrive shortly."

    Luke couldn’t help but reflect on how ludicrous the situation was. His mortal enemy was ordering dinner for him. No one's going to believe this, Luke thought. His amusement faded quickly. If I ever get back...and what about Han?

    "Was there something else you wished to discuss?" Vader wanted to know.

    Before Luke had a chance to answer an enormous yawn nearly split his face in two. Adrenaline had finally worn off and the stress of the last week was finally catching up to him. All he wanted now was a full night of sleep. But I can’t, he thought. Not with Vader here…

    “Questions can wait. Rest,” said Vader, still confused at his tone. It wasn’t as harsh as before. That must have been Anakin. “You must regain your strength if you are to continue your training."

    Luke frowned at the Dark Lord. He sensed conflict, but wasn’t sure why. One part of Vader honestly seemed to care about his welfare, while the other was only concerned with how useful he could be. It was very confusing. Luke sat heavily on his bed and rubbed his temples. I can’t think when I’m this tired. That, and his arm was aching again.

    "You are in pain…” Again that bothersome Anakin felt empathy and wanted to help. Again Vader pushed him back. “I will leave you to rest.” And he left, shutting the door both to his son’s quarters and the emotions that were rapidly slipping out of his control.
     
  16. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Everything! Good question though. Hopefully Luke will be able to get that story from dear old dad. :)

    Yay! Here comes Anakin!:p

    Great update. =D=
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    The medical droid is much more "sympathetic" than the live medic was! :p Love the inner monologues as much as the verbal back and forth.
     
  18. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I love the conflict between Vader and Anakin. :p It's great to see some growing acceptance of where he is for Luke. =D=
     
  19. Darth_Drachonus

    Darth_Drachonus Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2005
    The deeper I get, the more I enjoy this! I can't wait to see where this goes! :redsaber::bluesaber:
     
  20. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @JediMaster_Jen Of course! You can't expect him to just sit around when his son is present, can you?
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Well, droids don't hold grudges....
    @Sara_Kenobi :D
    @Darth_Drachonus Yay! So glad to have a new reader! [face_dancing]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part Eleven


    Sleep had caught Luke off guard. The young Jedi tossed and turned in his oversize bed, his dreams plagued by images of the past week.

    First he was back on Dagobah, still feeling the urgency to leave...

    If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.”

    Patience!”

    He shook his head and mumbled, trying to change the outcome...trying to warn himself to listen...but the images continued to come until Vader once more took his hand and revealed the horrible truth...

    “No...I am your father.”

    No...no...that’s not true...that’s impossible!”

    Luke moaned in his sleep. Vader's words had been terrible, but true.

    Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”

    Noooo! No…..”

    Despite Vader’s offer of power, Luke rejected him. Once again he was falling...falling...

    Luke woke with a start. He was shaking, sweating, and breathing heavily. His wrist ached with phantom pain. For a moment he wondered where he was.

    Confirmation returned as he saw his arm and felt the emptiness of his missing hand. So it was real...it wasn’t a dream. Luke shuddered and ran his remaining hand through his hair, wishing he hadn’t fallen asleep. He tucked the aching arm close to his chest and wondered when the nightmares would stop. When the entrance to his quarters slid open, the young Jedi flinched and reached instinctively for the weapons he was no longer in possession of. He fought back the chill that the dark presence brought.

    A serving droid with pewter finish rolled into the room and set a large tray on the table before rolling off. The darkness hadn’t touched him. He was just a machine.

    Darth Vader knew without asking that Luke was having nightmares. The shaking, the sweating, the look of fear and disorientation in Luke’s eyes were all too familiar. Anakin felt badly for his son. I know what he’s going through...I should tell him-

    Vader was angry that he couldn’t seem to fight back this ghost of a former self. I shall not show weakness by speaking words of comfort. They would mean nothing coming from me. “The evening meal has arrived.”

    Luke ran an arm across his damp face and forehead before sliding out of bed. A wonderful smell wafted out from under the lid of the tray, making his stomach growl. He took deep breaths to ward off the memories and sniffed with interest. I know that smell..

    Vader tucked his thumbs into his belt. "You are familiar with this dish, are you not?"

    "Maybe." Luke approached the table as if it was a wild animal. Is he going to eat with me, or just watch?

    Vader’s eyes fixed on Luke’s arm. "Your pain is worse. It should have improved with rest."

    Luke quickly let the arm drop. "I, uh...slept on it." He didn't even think about mentioning the bad dreams. It would just be another means Vader could use for manipulation.

    Something palm-sized and impossible to identify materialized in Vader’s hand and he reached for Luke’s shoulder. When Luke pulled away, he growled. “Hold still, young one.”

    “What is that?” demanded Luke, taking another step back.

    “It is nothing more than a painkiller," Vader griped. “You were not offered any in the Infirmary. Do you think I could go to all this trouble only to drug you?”

    He has a point. Luke eyed his father. “I thought you told me to use my pain, not fight it.”

    Vader’s annoyance made the leap to anger. “Yes, which you continue to reject. Your pain is a distraction for you, which I shall remedy.”

    Luke reached for the hypospray. “I can do it myself...ow!” Vader had taken advantage of his nearness and grabbed Luke's arm, administering a dose before he could blink. Too late, he ducked and backed away. In seconds the pain began to fade. “I don’t need your help.”

    Vader scoffed. “Need I remind you who gave the order to pluck you from the bowels of Cloud City, or who disposed of that deplorable medic for you?” He pulled out both chairs with the Force.

    “I didn't ask for either,” Luke pointed out as he repositioned his chair and sat down. The smell from the tray grew more tantalizing with each moment.

    "You would prefer death, then? Mistreatment?" When Luke didn't answer, Vader took a seat and lifted the lid. "I thought not." Beneath the cloud of rising steam sat a large plate with healthy portions of food, an insulated pitcher, and a smaller side plate with some sort of pastry. Also included were silverware, drinking glass, and napkin.

    Luke couldn't hide his surprise. It was a traditional Tatooine meal of roast bantha with sides of steamed root vegetables, boffa bread, and pallies. There was blue milk in the pitcher and a sticky dessert called dweezel on the smaller plate. Dweezel was the favorite of youngsters across the Outer Rim, and many mothers (or aunts) had their own favorite recipe.

    How...? The sight and smell of the food was bittersweet. Immediately a hundred memories of his aunt and uncle assaulted Luke. He could remember Aunt Beru's kindness, Uncle Owen's gruff concern, the heat of the twin suns, and the smell of the evening dust. Luke's eyes stung. Is this a different form of torture?

    "Eat," insisted Vader. Anakin’s whispers of sympathy were ignored, as was the never-ending ache for his mother.

    Luke put the napkin in his lap before picking up the fork and spearing one of the root vegetables. It was a pale purple Shangi root; unpalatable raw but delicious cooked. After a cautious sniff the vegetable went into his mouth.

    It was good...not as good as Aunt Beru's cooking, of course, but more than acceptable. Luke's hunger was whetted by the taste, and soon he was eating at a steady pace. He couldn’t ignore the presence at the other end of the table, but made himself stop caring.

    Vader sat quietly, pleased with his strategy. Good. He is enjoying it. Perhaps this will convince him of my sincerity...

    Luke was halfway through his meal before he realized that Vader was simply watching him without making any effort to eat. Indeed, there was only one plate and one set of flatware. "You have an interesting concept of sharing a meal.”

    It will do no good to keep the secret from him. He will find out eventually. "To share a meal would be impossible. I do not eat in the traditional manner, but receive liquid nourishment from a pouch," answered Vader.

    Luke cringed in spite of himself. "Why?"

    "I cannot remove my helmet outside a pressurized room, or I will die."

    It was such a nonchalant, matter-of-fact answer that Luke was caught completely off guard and froze midchew. He sensed no deception in Vader's tone. Besides, why would a powerful man like Darth Vader make up a story that made him seem weaker? So the rumors are true, thought Luke. He does need the suit to survive. Luke took another bite and chewed thoughtfully, wondering how such a thing came about.

    In a minute the young man saw that only the roast bantha was left. It was a notoriously tough meat. Belatedly Luke realized he did not have a knife with which to cut the meat, nor could he do so with one hand. Finally Luke shrugged and speared the entire slice with his fork, gnawing off portions small enough to chew and swallow. So much for manners.

    "Pity that you insist on rejecting a prosthetic," said Vader regretfully. “For the time being.”

    Luke froze with a mouthful of meat. He threw an uneasy glance to his right arm before swallowed. "What makes you think I’ll change my mind?"

    Vader scoffed. "Surely you do not wish to be disabled for the rest of your life. None will respect a commander with one hand."

    Luke frowned. “Maybe not in the Empire...but those in the Rebellion would. They don’t care when you look like.”

    Vader crossed his arms. “You think not? Those whom you defend are lowlifes and traitors. They would reject you as unable to fight and scoff at your refusal to compensate for your injury.”

    “You're wrong.” But Vader’s words stung. Luke knew that, when he got back to his friends, they wouldn’t understand his decision. They might not even let him fly...stop it. He’s manipulating you again! Luke shut his mouth and returned his attention to the plate. The remainder of his meal was quiet. By the time Luke was licking the glaze off his fingers from the dweezel, his stomach was full and he felt much better...physically, if not emotionally. He wiped his damp hand on the napkin before folding it.

    "The meal was to your liking?” asked Vader.

    "When you're hungry, anything tastes good," Luke shrugged.

    “I sense you have further questions. Speak.”

    "No. Not tonight. I’m...I’m still tired."

    "Very well, but I will not allow such silence to continue forever. Tonight you will rest. Tomorrow we will speak again." It was not a request. After a moment's hesitation Vader set the hypospray of painkiller on the table before heading out the door.

    Once again, Luke was left alone...and unsure of what to do. He paced the room several times before sinking down to the floor into a cross-legged position. Maybe this time he could manage to avoid sleeping. Luke closed his eyes and took in a deep, slow breath, holding it for several seconds before letting it out.

    Peace...calm...thoughts of the light side of the Force. Luke relaxed into them. Abruptly his thoughts were invaded by a dark, cold presence.

    Join me, Luke...join the Dark Side...together we shall rule the galaxy…

    Luke recoiled so quickly from that cold touch that he lost his concentration. For a moment he simply breathed, trying to slow his racing heart. In time he was ready to try again. Do, or do not. There is no try. He could almost hear Yoda's raspy voice in his head. Once again, Luke sank into the Force. This time he willed it to surround his thoughts like a protective wall. The Dark Lord would not invade again…

    * * * * *

    Vader, sitting cross-legged within his hyperbaric meditation chamber, opened his eyes with a frown. The boy was still resisting him. He is indeed strong, thought Vader as he relented his mental push.

    The confines of his meditation chamber were blurry, as they always were when his helmet was off. Sight, like all his other senses, had never been the same after Mustafar. He could distinguish light from dark and identify people and things with detail, as long as they were no more than one meter away. His color perception, however, was almost nonexistent, and his tear ducts were damaged beyond repair. A saline solution was squirted into his eyes to compensate. Vader almost preferred it that way.

    Tears were a sign of weakness. Sith lords did not cry.

    The Sith in question grimaced at how dry his mouth and throat were. His chamber was good in that he could feel air on his face and head and be free of that horribly uncomfortable mask, but bad in that the flow of the pressurized gas mix left him constantly thirsty.

    Vader growled softly as he reached for a hydration pouch. The water was medicated, as everything else was, and had a strange aftertaste. He ignored it for the moment and drank as quickly as his muscles could manage, sucking the pouch dry. He sighed and tossed the empty pouch into the waste receptacle before closing his eyes. Once again he reached for the Force...and the mind of his son.

    Anakin’s pleas to leave the boy alone went unheeded.
     
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! I am not surprised about the nightmares [face_thinking] They would certainly be present and intense. A very delicious meal and moments of candor from Vader -- those could lead to a connection and influencing although maybe not in the way Vader expects. :D Anakin's voice is definitely persistent.
    =D=
     
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  22. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    I'm sure this won't be the case for too much longer. Right?[face_praying] Hopefully Luke's nightmares will dissipate soon. Good work!=D=
     
  23. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I like the descriptions of what Vader deals with while inside the hyperbaric meditation chamber. It really shows his personal struggles. I also like that Luke is getting to be a little warmer to Vader.
     
  24. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I feel like the main think in Luke's head right now is something along the line of, "I promised I wouldn't try to run away anymore. I never claimed any intention to defect, and I sure as all nine Correllian Hells never said anything about kriffing bonding with you. You think I'm stubborn? You just wait and see how stubborn I am."

    Meanwhile, Vader is grumbling to himself about how stubborn Luke is, and the Anakin corner of his mind is like, "Gee, I wonder where he got that from?"
     
  25. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Hey, a traumatic amputation, plus that kind of familiar revelation is enough to give anybody nightmares. :( And yes, Anakin is still around and forever pushing to make his voice heard...whether Vader wants to listen or not! :p
    @JediMaster_Jen Hang in there! [:D] I'm not giving anything away, but...just hold on. You can't expect Luke to connect the dots overnight, nor can you expect someone who spent twenty years being suppressed to suddenly take over again. These things take time...
    @Sara_Kenobi I'm trying to keep Vader human, someone in a constant struggle both physically and mentally. Showing things from his point of view (with interjections by Anakin) seemed the best way to do this.
    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 LOL I love your blunt way of putting things! [face_laugh] Only Luke's not quite at the point where he'd be sticking out his tongue when Vader's back is turned...

    Back to the Rebellion!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Part Twelve


    "Oh! Princess, I am so sorry. I didn't see you there," said Wedge Antilles, taking a step back from where he had literally bumped into Leia. The two of them were walking the corridors in the Liberty, a Mon Calamari transport that was currently crammed full of Hoth refugees.

    Leia's face flushed. "It's all right, Wedge. It was my fault. I'm afraid I'm a little...distracted." She was more than distracted. She was caught in an uncomfortable stage between grief and steadfast denial.

    It had been no more than twelve hours since she and the others had returned to the Rebel fleet and informed them of all that had happened. Emotions ran high when they heard about Luke. In three years Luke had gained a reputation as a reckless but skilled pilot with an easygoing manner, bright smile, and fierce loyalty. He was well-liked and would be missed terribly, especially by Rogue Squadron.

    Wedge nodded, his green eyes lowering a little. "Same here, Your Highness." He shook his head slowly, as if he couldn't believe it.

    "I know." Leia's voice wavered. She struggled to keep her regal bearing. Her mind told her that Luke was dead, but her heart denied it. No...I'd know if he was gone. It doesn't feel right. It went against all logic, but- "How are the pilots doing?"

    "They’ll be all right." answered Wedge quietly. He reached behind his shoulder to work out a knot in his neck. "Some are taking it harder than others...especially Rogue Squadron. Hobbie, Terin, Janson...Janson's devastated. He's the youngest and...well, this is first time he's known someone that's..." Wedge shook his head, as if he couldn't say the word.

    "How about you?" Leia wanted to know. Wedge had known Luke since the Battle of Yavin and had grown to be one of Luke's best friends.

    "I'll...I’ll be okay." Wedge pressed his lips together. "It's war. You lose good people all the time. It's just harder when-" Wedge's voice wavered and he looked away, clearing his throat and blinking at some kind of moisture in his eyes. "What about you, Princess?"

    Leia turned away for a moment. "You're right, Wedge...it's war...and it is harder when it's someone you know...someone you're close to..." She closed her eyes and shook her head. But he's not gone... "Take care of yourself." She moved past him, first at a walk, and then a slow jog.

    She was headed for the hangar. It was supposedly lights-out, but Leia knew she'd never be able to sleep. She wandered through the cavernous room until she came upon a familiar junk heap of a starship.

    What am I doing here? wondered Leia as she shuffled up the loading ramp of the Millennium Falcon. She had always thought of herself as a strong woman. She'd never wanted to depend on anyone, least of all a scoundrel from Corellia. Romance was too much of a complication to bother with. Why would she need a man to lean on?

    I don't need him...but I love him. Leia shook her head and prepared to knock on the closed door. She was surprised when it opened before her and there was no one on the other side. A pair of feet shuffled away, and then someone sat down heavily in the main hold. It didn't take much imagination to guess who it was.

    Leia rounded the corner and found her hypothesis was correct. There sat Han, barefoot, at the dejarik table nursing a glass of amber brown liquid. A bottle of the same liquid, missing its label and half full, sat at his elbow. Vest, boots, and holster had all been discarded in various places. Chewbacca sat nearby keeping watch over his buddy.

    Leia frowned. So much for finding direction. Is he drunk? "How did you know it was me?"

    Han shrugged, tracing the edge of the glass with his index finger. "Call it a hunch." His tone was quiet and controlled as he swirled the drink. "So...what brings a pretty girl like you to a rotten corner of space like this?"

    Leia's shoulders fell. "I came to see how you're doing...I guess this answers my question."

    Han shrugged. "Is this stuff allowed in this Rebellion?" His tone was almost defensive.

    Leia nodded slowly. "It is as far as I'm concerned."

    "Good. Wouldn't want a court-martial on my first day." Han motioned to the spot next to him. "Care to join us?"

    Leia shrugged and slid next to him at the table. When Han offered her a drink, she politely declined. Alcohol was a depressant. She was already depressed enough and wanted to keep a clear head. "So you did sign up?"

    Han frowned. "Didn't think I was serious?"

    "Han, that's not what I-"

    "Well, I am." He reached over to pick up his vest and show her the rank insignia for Captain. "There. Now it's official." He tossed the vest on the table and lifted his glass. "To Luke Skywalker...best guy the galaxy's ever known." When Chewie rumbled his agreement, Han tossed back the shot, grimacing at the burn. He coughed once, checked the label, and pushed the bottle away. "Any...anybody said anything about...y'know...something official for him...?" Han pressed his lips together to hold back the emotion.

    "A memorial service?" Leia winced. "Admiral Ackbar said something about it...full honors..." Her voice faded away, and she shook her head. She couldn’t even think about saying goodbye to Luke. It was too soon...and the feeling that it was unneeded wouldn’t go away. Why couldn't she tell Han her belief that Luke had somehow survived...that he was still out there, waiting for them?

    "Good. He deserves it," rasped Han. After a moment he shook his hand and slammed his fist down on the table and jumped to his feet. "What am I sayin? Luke didn't deserve this. He was just a kid!"

    "I know, Han. I know." Leia reached out to take his shoulder. She could see the pain in Han's eyes, momentarily hidden with anger.

    Han paced, hands on hips. "Full honors...damn right, Luke's gettin' full honors! Then we're gonna track that kriffin' Vader down and make him pay for this!" His shouts echoed in the tight cabin. After a moment the anger began to fade. Grief was steadily overtaking it. "Dammit, Luke. Why'd you have to go after him by yourself?" His voice choked and he sat down hard on the bench. "Why, huh?" Tears filled his eyes. When one streak down his cheek, he swiped it away. Then there was another, and another...and too many to keep up with.

    Oh, Han... Leia knew his pain all too well. That same ache had been with her since the loss of her homeworld. Many times it had been buried, pushed aside in favor of action. Other losses were treated the same way, pushed aside until she could grieve in private. Without a word she crept up from behind and pulled Han into a tight embrace. She closed her eyes against her own tears and stroked the back of Han's head, pressing her cheek to his shoulder. Her heart broke completely when she felt him crying.

    They sat like this for a long while, taking strength from each other, gaining comfort from their closeness. Chewbacca sat near enough for moral support, to be there if they needed him. After a while he laid a hairy paw on Han's shoulder and grunted.

    Han pulled away, nodding and wiping his eyes. "You're right, buddy. We gotta keep goin'. Luke'd want it that way."

    Chewie rumbled his agreement before gathering both Han and Leia in a huge, hairy hug. Both had to crack a smile at his loyalty.

    "Thanks, pal," managed Han with a slight smile. He sighed and turned sideways, one arm still draped over Leia's shoulders. Time ticked by, with the hour growing ever later. He was surprised when Leia didn't check her chronometer and leave. Her brown eyes held a kind of distance, some deep thought that wouldn't let her go. "Hey. Y'okay? I mean...as okay as ya can be?"

    Leia quietly shook her head. "No..." Tell him, her inner voice urged. Tell Han that Luke isn't gone! She sighed. "I just...I guess I can't believe it."

    Han nodded. "Me, neither. Kid kinda seemed like he'd always be around." He let his arms fall. "Look...I know you two were...close. If you ever need time alone...I'll understand."

    Bless him for that. Leia gave a ghost of a smile and shook her head. "That's all right. I love him, but...not that way. Kind of like you mentioned. Like he's family..." The word tasted strange on her tongue, as if there was more to it. Luke felt more like family than anyone ever had. Maybe that was why she couldn't let him go.

    Han was still cautious. "Gettin' late. Want me to walk you back?"

    "No..." I don't want to leave you. It was somewhat frustrating to Leia that she couldn't bring herself to get up and go to her own quarters. She felt lost without Luke. Having Han there was a comfort. "Not yet."

    "'Kay." He kissed her forehead. "Stay as long as you need."

    Leia pecked his cheek in return and buried her face in his shoulder, all the while wondering why she couldn't speak what was on her heart...that steadfast irrational belief that Luke was alive.

    He’d never believe me, thought Leia, biting her lip. I don’t even know if I do. Oh, Luke. Where are you?