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Saga Saga - PT Resonant (Pre-OT/ AU; young Luke, Vader, Inquisitors)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Starith, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Title: Resonant
    Author: Starith
    Timeframe: Takes place between RotS and ANH
    Genre: AU, drama, action, multi-chapter
    Characters: Luke, Vader, Inquisitors, OCs

    Summary: When Luke is discovered by the Inquisitors, he never could've imagined how much his life would change. He knows he must escape, but that is easier said than done, and the presence of a certain Sith Lord may just make things that much harder...

    Notes: This is an AU premise I've had for a while. Starting off with something of a prologue... Hopefully it's not too shabby.

    ______

    The grey-bearded man smiled as the boy eyed the metallic device with curiosity.

    "This was your father's lightsaber," he said, with a gaze that was both calm and attentive. "The weapon of a Jedi Knight. Now yours, Luke."

    He placed the silver cylinder in his hands. Luke looked at it. As if it was ingrained in him, his thumb floated over to press the square button on the handle.

    A trail of light shot out, making him flinch. It stilled to make a blade of pure plasma, and it hissed and hummed, softly, and so did his heart. Luke made some swirls in the air, staring at the intense brightness at its core, making "whoas" and "wows" under his breath.

    Lightsaber... Jedi Knight... He was so engrossed he didn't even question what these words meant.

    His father's weapon... and now it was his...

    Ben continued to observe him, his grey-blue eyes scanning the round, tanned face of the boy. His smile waned slightly to something more solemn.

    "Use it well," he told him.

    And Luke looked at him, beaming, and nodded. "I promise... I promise I will!"


    ______​


    The air of Lothal had a pale sky, empty and unclouded. In its mist sat a structure. It was jutting out from the blurred depths, its flat surface standing on an overlarge base far above the plains and grasslands below. The structure stood in the sky, elongated and narrow.

    Like a floating needle, Luke thought as he looked out from the viewscreen of his seat — he was drawing closer to it. Gradually he could make out more detail of the sky-abiding complex: its sheer size, the wide landing platforms docked with ships, freighters and other standard transports, much like the one Luke was on right now.

    The sun was setting, and soon the building was overshadowed. The shuttle was settling down on the landing platform. Everything stilled. Luke waited, along with all the other passengers, seated boys and girls who were chatting eagerly. Luke was quiet, as he usually tended to be, lost in his thoughts more than his reality.

    An officer came through the door. The room fell quiet.

    "We will depart now. Line up, single file," the stout man declared with a quick gesture.

    Luke, his heart taut in his chest, took his bag and shuffled along with the other kids, many of which towered over him, and after getting elbowed a bit he managed to find a place in the line. The officer nodded and turned with a wave of his hand. "Very good. Follow me."

    They followed him. Luke stayed silent, as did everyone else. The officer led them out of the confines of the ship and onto the platform.

    Luke lifted his gaze. The grey structure loomed overhead, stretching out with its steely walkways. The officer brought them to the front entrance where two patrol-droids stood. Glow panels trimmed the door frames and a large insignia was on the frontmost display, what looked loosely like a black gear.

    Two other officers stood at the entrance, a man and a woman. They nodded and then took reign of the group.

    "Welcome," the woman said with a smile, "to Pretor Flats Academy."

    Luke felt a wave of bundled excitement, like his insides were glowing. His mind raced as the two officers spoke in turns, but he only took in the barest grain of their words — "strive for excellence", "chosen few", "honor of attending one of the fine institutions of the Galactic Empire" — and he registered that the group was moving again. He went along with it. They entered the building, the patrol-droids inching aside to let them pass.

    Inside it was sleek and spacious. More gear-like Imperial insignias were embed on the walls. The man and woman showed them the general areas of the facility, the mess hall, the labs, the training rooms. Luke stared in wonder at the pristine state of everything, and his excitement soared when he got a small glimpse of the flight simulators. Chairs next to huge decked machines on pedestals, all aligned in a dimly-lit room.

    But soon they were moving again. One of the officers began to talk about requirements, space engineering and computer science, and giving them a quick rundown of conduct and rules. Luke tried to listen, but he ended up zoning out.

    When it was finally over, they were assigned to their personal quarters and dismissed. After a couple minutes of walking through the halls, and trying to look composed as faculty and much older-looking students passed him by, Luke found his quarters on the third level. He entered and started to unpack.

    Hours later, he lay in his cot. A holograph of TIE fighters glided over his head. He watched them, mesmerized.

    Everything was so... new-looking here. Not like home. A cooling unit circulated pleasant air into his room. The door was automatic. He miraculously had his own room, his own refresher, and provided gadgets like a data-planner, a holoprojector, a stationary chrono. White uniforms were set up in a dresser in his size.

    It felt odd. All these commodities, just for a simple living space. To think that this place was called ''the Bottomfeeder's Academy"... Was he just too oblivious to the wide galaxy outside of Tatooine that he couldn't see why? Most kids here would probably be used to all this, he guessed, and the thought made him slightly nervous. He hoped his unfamiliarity wouldn't show too much... or worse, that he'd prove too much of a rube even for this ''low-level'' school. Pretor Flats was the best Luke could've aimed for, being one of the few academic establishments in the Outer Rim.

    And when it came down to it, it still offered him what he wanted. He had gone through a lot to get here... it had to be worth it...

    Luke remembered his pre-training examinations, determining his education, his piloting, his technical skills... The importance of Imperial protocol —Respect. Obedience. Diligence.— repeated like a mantra on all the ads and pamphlets he'd studied beforehand. He had dreamed of attending a flight academy for years... and now he had succeeded. He'd get the experience he needed to win real battles with real starfighters... learn to defend himself, how to handle a blaster...

    And then I'll leave, Luke determined. Attending an Imperial school was one thing... nearly all militaristic schools were under Imperial regime... maybe he'd even go on to Skystrike Academy after this... but there was no way he would join the Empire. Even crop dusting would be better. And there were plenty of other jobs in the galaxy that needed a good pilot... Lots of people probably didn't go on to serve the Empire and went elsewhere with their careers...

    Luke let out a breath, his chest caving. Thinking about his future always made him uneasy. He looked around and noticed the time. I should probably get ready for bed...

    Suddenly locks triggered on his door. The sound made Luke jump. He chewed his lip. The locks were automatically set for the evening curfew, he realized, and he took in a deep breath, released it, and repeated. He sat cross-legged and close-eyed on the bed for a while; it was a practice that sometimes served to calm him. After a minute or so, he felt more relaxed and sleepiness began to dull his senses.

    Luke turned off the holographs, then the lamp, and he settled in. His head sunk into a soft pillow. Slowly but surely, his thoughts emptied and he drifted off.

    He didn't know how long it had been when he was awakened by a loud thudding sound: the sound of his door unlocking itself.

    Luke started. He sat upright in his bed and floundered in the encompassing dark, but he couldn't find the light switch. His fingers found only air.

    The door shifted open. A very faint light bled into the room, and in the threshold stood a dark, misshapen figure. Panic-stricken, his throat tightening, Luke could only stare as it made its way into his small quarters.

    "W-Wha..." he jittered out. "Who..."

    "Stay where you are," Luke heard. It was the bland, electronic voice of a droid.

    As it came closer Luke could make out the can-shaped head and two tiny glowing eyes, which were set on Luke. His mind raced momentarily, dreading, worrying, trying to rationalize. Was this a surprise drill? An emergency?

    "W-What's going on?" he spat, scrambling out of bed.

    "Quiet," came the the droid's buzzing monotone, and the plates on its arm folded away to reveal a blaster. The droid pointed it straight at Luke. "Make no sound. Make no resistance."

    Horrorstruck, Luke backed away until he hit the wall. "What?"

    Before he knew it, the droid lurched and Luke felt his arms being grabbed and yanked so hard he thought they'd be pulled from their sockets. He was dragged to his feet. Binders were being clasped around his wrists. Luke swayed violently, heaving. "What — what are you — let me go! I'm not — y-you can't—!"

    A metal hand covered his mouth, quieting him, and he felt the blaster being pressed against his neck. Luke froze completely. Then he felt himself being pulled toward the door. Too petrified to struggle, he was dragged out of the room.

    Then further out, down the quiet corridor. Past the main hall. Gradually Luke began to thaw from the fear. He squirmed, tried to scream, tried to kick the droid's non-existent shins, he used every ounce of strength in his scrawny body to wrestle free, but it only managed to slow the droid down. It continued hauling him along.

    Luke tried to cause a sound, a thump in the night loud enough to wake someone or attract a patrol-droid. He managed to kick a table that had a decorative statuette, which fell and shattered to the floor. It made a sharp, echoing crack, but was followed by dead silence. Nothing happened. Nobody came.

    They passed a few doors until eventually they came to the lower levels. They entered a dark hangar garage. It looked empty, save for one active vessel: an Imperial shuttle.

    Its ramp was lowered and Luke watched, nonplussed, as a large female Dowutin strode down it. She was covered in an armored bodysuit and wore two large visor lenses over her eyes. In her clawed hand she held a datapad, which she regarded. She spared a glance down at Luke, then looked back at the datapad.

    "Wow," she said, her tone devoid of enthusiasm. "Nice record here... Luke. Top performance results in the pre-testing selection. Inhuman reflexes, they said... Yeah, real special." She made a snide frown. "But faking your age to enter the academy? Tsk tsk... Still, not bad for a fourteen-year-old human."

    Luke felt the blood drain from his face. He weakly shook his head. He tried again to make a sound, wanting to question, to deny, to explain himself — but his voice was still muffled against the droid's metal hand, instead making a squealing semblance of Who are you?

    The Dowutin twisted her lips, then turned around. "Who, me? I'm Ninth Sister. Part of the Inquisitorius. And you don't know what that is or what this is all about, but don't worry. You're about to get a sneak peak." She headed up the ramp, gesturing with a lazy wave. "Bring him aboard."

    Again Luke tried to jerk out of the droid's grip. Again he failed, and Luke could do nothing but wriggle and groan as he was shoved onto the awaiting starship.

     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
  2. mavjade

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

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Wow, what a fascinating look at an AU for Luke! I've read a few Luke goes to the imperial academy stories in my time (I do love them so I'm always open to more!) but this is really unique.

    I really loved Luke in wonder about all of the things that were so new to him having grown up in a place that didn't have those resources. That others probably think nothing of those things because they are a part of life for most is really a fantastic point that can really be applied to a lot of things for us. I also really liked that he's planning on using the academy to learn and then get out, that he has a bad feeling about the Empire. That shows us some of that instinct from the Force we know he has in there and it's already serving him well.

    And one of the Inquisitors coming for him.... uh oh!

    =D=
     
  3. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Great start! Luke definitely has that sense of wonder and "head in the clouds," so to speak, that Yoda wasn't too happy with in another timeline. ;)

    I agree with mavjade - it was neat to see the basic academy room from the perspective of someone who'd never had access to those resources before. It was made even more realistic by Luke's concern about what the others would think if his unfamiliarity with these "everyday" items showed too much.

    Though now it looks like it might become a moot point with an Inquisitor taking him away. Blood tests and Skywalkers don't mix, apparently. :p

    Keep up the good work!
     
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  4. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Amazing start! Want to see how Luke wriggles out of this one. Also a nice look at the difference between the world he grew up on the the privileges that he's now encountering (or was encountering before it all got stuffed up).
     
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I was fascinated by Luke getting his father's lightsaber so early and then joining the Imperial/pilot academy. I can believe that he would not want to automatically join the Empire after completing the training but do something else with the pilot certification. I'm also not surprised he maxed out at the top of all the examinations.

    Yikes, the Inquisitorus!
    Things have taken a very ominous turn. =D=
     
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  6. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    An Inquisitor! Uh-oh. [face_nail_biting]I enjoyed Luke's fascination and awe of everything he was seeing. Very descriptive. Nice start. =D=
     
  7. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Glad there's interest for this fic. [face_coffee]

    Next part now...

    ______

    Luke woke up. Blurry-eyed, he blinked several times before things came into focus.

    He was surrounded by black air, empty and eerie, like he was in some kind of netherworld. Silvery light came down like a spotlight, cutting through the darkness. Half-dazed, he squinted up at it.

    Luke wobbled as he pushed himself to stand. He looked himself over. His head ached, he felt sluggish... but he didn't seem injured anywhere. He felt more or less the same, looked the same, still dressed in his simple light-colored sleeping clothes...

    This couldn't be a dream, but then what was it? Where was he?

    Luke drifted around, curious. He noticed the floor was metallic and the light was filtered from an illuminator installed on the ceiling. He made small, incremental steps, trying to see beyond the surrounding shadows.

    He rubbed his head, and grimaced at the pummeled feeling left there. Then he remembered it all: Pretor Flats, waking up in the middle of the night, seeing the droid... dragged out of bed, down the halls...

    That Dowutin... that odd name she'd called herself... Ninth Sister... That Imperial ship...

    Luke tensed. His memory rushed out more: forced up the ship's ramp, a voice telling him to stop struggling before a giant fist came down on his head like a rock...

    And now, this place.

    A soft whir came from behind. Luke spun in time to see a door slide open and two figures walk in. One was large and muscular, the very same Dowutin who had brought him into the Imperial shuttle. In front of her was a tall humanoid man, his ashen skin consisting of creased lines that trailed down his face and over his bald scalp. A Pau'an, Luke was sure they were called. Red markings were on his face, and like the Dowutin he wore dark-grey armor over a dark-grey uniform. Both their bulky shoulder plates bore the Imperial crest.

    The Pau'an strode before the boy. There was a prudent air about him, his posture was stiff, his expression grim. The Dowutin stayed to the side of him, her arms crossed and her wide mouth set in a scowl. They both stood at the edge of the spotlight and watched Luke with a strange, idle attentiveness.

    Feeling distinctly like an animal locked in a crosshair, Luke swallowed.

    "So this is the one," the Pau'an said, his voice carrying a clear Core accent. His head nudged toward his larger companion. "The Pretor Flats boy?"

    "That's him. Didn't take much. The droid did most of the work."

    The Pau'an man pulled out a datapad. He swiped at the screen, checking over the contents. Luke stared wide-eyed at him and the Dowutin. Questions roiled inside him, possibilities swept through his brain... The Dowutin had mentioned finding out about his age — how had that happened? And all this... He knew the Empire was horrible, had horrible rules, but surely something else had to be going on...

    And the thought of that terrified him even more.

    The man studied the datapad a moment longer. His hairless eyebrows lifted as he shifted his attention to the boy. "Well. Those were some foolish lengths to go to just to get into a second-rate academy... I'm interested in understanding... just why you did what you did."

    Panic sprung up in Luke. He didn't know what to do — what could he do? He just stood there silently. The man came further out of the shadows. The yellow irises of two black eyes bore down on Luke. Even for a Pau'an, his face was unnerving, like that of a corpse. Luke's mouth twitched until it finally worked. "Who... are you?"

    "I am the Grand Inquisitor. And I will be asking the questions here." The Pau'an lifted his chin. "Now, let's cut to the chase. We know you created an ID when you signed up for the Pretor Flats' evaluation..." Again he lifted the datapad. He pinpointed each thing as he read it. "Two weeks ago, Tythal City, Sector 12's eastern registration station. First name: Luke. No last name given. Homeworld: Lothal, in the Outer Rim. No address or residence. No relations. Born two standard years BE. We all know the latter isn't true, and having no past records is hardly surprising for a Lothalite. Dirt-poor farmers, derelicts, criminal gangs... that's the Outer Rim in a nutshell. Lawless obscurity. But more to the point... you created this fake ID... Just how fake is it?"

    The Pau'an leaned forward, his mouth clenched slightly, enough to reveal a row of long, splinter-like teeth, the incisors of which curved inward. Reflexively Luke shied away; he couldn't help it. Up close in the dark, that skeletal, war-painted face was like something from a nightmare. And it wasn't just his appearance; both he and the Dowutin gave off a cold, deadly air... and Luke perceived the calm-mannered Grand Inquisitor was the more threatening of the two.

    But the man's ashen face stayed an impassive mask. "We merely want the truth," he attested softly.

    Luke compressed his lips and looked away.

    "What was your motive for enrolling in that academy?" the Inquisitor pressed. "What is your real history?"

    Luke's mouth rippled. He remained silent.

    Ninth Sister sighed. "You want me to get it out of him? Save us all some time?"

    "I'll call for your assistance when I need it, Ninth Sister." The Grand Inquisitor's eyes narrowed at Luke. "A mere youngling after all... I can feel the fear rising in this one. He knows what trouble he's in."

    Luke frowned. "What... what do you mean you can... feel..." He trailed off when he saw the grin on the man's face. Luke's stomach turned. He felt cold lead in his throat. He gathered his voice again, meaning to sound calm, but he ended up stuttering. "N-No, I... I didn't... I never meant to..." He inhaled. "I did... I did lie to get in... I had to lie, but I never—"

    "Oh, we know. We saw what happened. You approaching the sign-up station, telling the man you were fourteen — and after he told you the age requirement was sixteen and dismissed you, you went back and claimed you were sixteen... and then he admitted you." The Pau'an's gaze was unblinking. "Almost as if he had changed his mind. Or his mind had been changed for him."

    Luke went white.

    The Grand Inquisitor's mouth curved. "Is it setting in now? Yes, boy. The surveillance cams caught everything."

    Stunned and mortified, Luke just stood there, his heart racing. His brain, his whole body, nothing seemed to work. Then he found himself breathing in and out in a certain rhythm... Be calm... Push the fear out, shed it, send it away with each passing breath... But the fear stayed clung to him. At a loss, Luke could only stare ahead, utterly vacant.

    The Grand Inquisitor stood motionless in the shadows, resigned and watchful. He took his time before he spoke again. "When we reviewed the footage... we decided to wait. Perhaps the man was simply foolish, simply soft-hearted, letting you slip by out of pity... after all you did do an awful lot of begging and pleading..." The lined Pau'an face scrunched, then loosened. "But you proved our suspicions correct with those results. Speedy reflexes, precise aim, along with all of this... very impressive for one so young. You'd make a good—"

    "Why are you doing this?" Luke shouted all of a sudden, and both the Grand Inquisitor and Ninth Sister made a start. Luke eyed them both in turn. He felt explosive, his fear was still gnawing at him, but his temper was too, something was pounding in his ears, blazing in his limbs. "Why — why did you take me away? Why let me into the academy just to take me away? Why? Why? I don't understand!"

    He screeched aloud. Then, blindly, Luke turned and flew at the airy blackness of the room, aiming to run, to get away. He ran straight into a wall, hitting his nose and biting his lip. Infuriated, he gave it a hard punch: clang. He beat his fists upon the wall again and again as if to beat it down. Clang clang clang clang clang.

    Ninth Sister made a grunt. But the Grand Inquisitor seemed bemused as he watched the boy, who only continued to flail himself against the hard durasteel.

    "Well, Ninth Sister?" he said, raising his voice to account for the continued noise. "Is he being truthful?"

    "Must be. Why else would he sign up to an Imperial school? Putting himself right under our radar... he'd have to be ignorant or an idiot. I don't sense he's putting on an act."

    "I just wanted to become a pilot!" Luke spat, landing another balled fist against the wall. "I didn't... I didn't do anything!..."

    The Inquisitor scoffed. "Haven't you been listening, boy? Your pre-testing results were abnormal. The Empire has these mandatory evaluations in place for finding cases such as yours. It's not just about education levels and fitness checks. We're rooting out a disease." He inclined his head and his tone suddenly deepened. "The disease of the Jedi."

    The fury in Luke wilted. His fists froze against the wall. He couldn't move. No muscle in his body so much as twitched.

    "So you do know of them," the Grand Inquisitor goaded quietly.

    Luke's fists trembled and slid down the wall, making awkward squeaks against the metal. It was a long moment of dead air. All Luke could see was the dark sheen of the steel against his sore knuckles, and all he could hear was his own uneven breathing. He found himself mumbling. "I don't... know..."

    Ninth Sister growled. "There's no use in lying."

    "I don't... know anything..."

    She lifted her head, the reddish lenses over her face glinting in the light. "Listen, kid, I read people. I can take in emotions like a nexu takes in the scent of blood on a battlefield. I know you're hiding something. Make this easy on yourself and fess up."

    "I don't... know... anything!"

    "Keep saying that, brat, and you'll find yourself being shut up in ways you don't want to think about—"

    "Enough!" the Grand Inquisitor exclaimed, stamping his foot down impatiently. He rounded on Luke. "Answer me now: How much do you know of the Jedi? Were you taught by one?"

    Tight-lipped and stone-faced, the boy met the Inquisitor's scrutinizing gaze. Silence prolonged. The Pau'an frowned and veered closer until he was inches away from Luke.

    "Who is your master?"

    Luke moved to shift away, but the Grand Inquisitor took a side-step and blocked him. A hand caught Luke by the shoulder.

    "Let go—" Luke hissed and tried to pull away. "Let go of me! I d-don't know anything about— about any Jedi—"

    "How unfortunate," drawled the Inquisitor. "Then I'm afraid I don't know how to not cause you considerable pain."

    Eyes wide, Luke tried again to pry himself out of the Pau'an's hold. The Inquisitor didn't let go. He twisted Luke's arm.

    "Stop!" Luke cried, thrashing and jerking to no avail, his nerves and joints trickling with pain. The Inquisitor looked down on him, his white face lax with indifference.

    Luke sent him a scathing look from under his bangs. "Sleemo."

    The Inquisitor's eyes lit. He barred his long, angular teeth and suddenly took hold of the boy's other shoulder. "Ignorant child, you think you should protect them? The Jedi are not worth fighting for, not worth lying for — they themselves are the lie! They are a disease! Perhaps you'd care to see what happens to those who let themselves become infected?"

    Before he could utter a word, Luke felt the very structure of his bones bending — buckling— then breaking.

    He cried out. He pushed and kicked wildly at the Inquisitor, his fists only smacking solid armor, he pulled away as hard as he could, desperate to wrench free. His arm throbbed with pain. His eyes were on fire with tears.

    Then he was let go. Luke swerved and plummeted to his knees, clutching his now dislocated arm, his mouth open in a soundless scream.

    "Confess," he heard the Inquisitor hiss over him. "Your teacher, your background. Everything."

    But only agonized groans escaped Luke.

    "Talk," barked the Inquisitor. "Articulate. Enunciate. Make words."

    Luke could force nothing out.

    There was an impatient growl. Then Luke found himself suddenly propelled away as if by a blast. The back of his skull hit hard against the wall, momentarily numbing him. Luke's face meshed against the floor. Luke sobbed, pressed his eyes shut, tried to hoist himself up. His arm... it was a gnarled, hot spasm of pain... he couldn't ignore it...

    He moved his head. In the distance floated the sallow, skeletal face of the Inquisitor. His form was now reduced to a melted shadow through Luke's watering eyes. He spoke again, but Luke couldn't make out a word. His head was swimming... He felt himself losing all trace of thought...

    The Grand Inquisitor let out a sigh. He glanced at Ninth Sister. "Read him, quickly, before he blacks out."

    She nodded and took a step forward. She rose a clawed hand.

    "Huh... well..." she said after a moment. Her orange face contorted. "I'm picking up... pain. Lots of it—"

    "Observant of you, Ninth Sister, but I already gathered that he's in pain. Perhaps you'll pick up on, say, who the Jedi is?"

    The Dowutin glowered. "It's a fine line between reading emotions and reading memories. But there is... someone. I'm getting an impression. It's..." She trailed off, steadfast in her concentration. Several seconds passed.

    Finally she spoke again. "Wait, I'm getting a name... Ben... Ben Kenobi."

    A moan escaped the boy.

    "Kenobi? As in Obi-Wan Kenobi?" The Grand Inquisitor's face lifted in surprise. "He is on the old target list, one of the few Purge survivors that was never found. But Ben Kenobi... could that be a relative?"

    "I definitely get the impression it's the same guy. It's foggy, but... a Jedi Master... a robed human guy with a beard... fits his description. Yeah, I think it's him."

    "Location?"

    "Give me a second, the kid's almost knocked out and his thoughts are a mess... Kenobi, he's... I'm getting... sand. A desert, I think... A sunset... with two suns..." She paused. "...Tatooine. That's the place. The kid's got a lot of resentment towards it."

    The Inquisitor stroked along his jaw. "The boy could be Kenobi's son. It's been fourteen years since the Purge, the boy provided no last name, it would all fit..."

    Ninth Sister gingerly prodded the boy's head with her foot. "Well, he's passed out now. Best to pick this up again later. Gotta say, I'm surprised I had to read him. I thought he'd be blabbing two minutes in. He was trying to mind-trick us, you know. And you saw him doing that meditative breathing technique when he was all frazzled?"

    "Of course I noticed. Padawan lesson number one," the Pau'an dryly remarked. "And that will do, Ninth Sister. You can stop trying to reaffirm the information you acquired with your extraordinary emotion-reading abilities."

    "Hey, pays to be thorough." She made a gruff, muddled sound under her breath. "Especially when failure could mean a visit from a certain Sith Lord we all know."

    The Grand Inquisitor paused. He slowly lowered his head. "True."

    Quiet filled the room.

    "Anyway... what about other testing? Should we get a blood sample from the kid?"

    "There's no point in midi-chlorian testing now. He's clearly Force-sensitive, clearly Jedi-taught. We have more than enough information to go on... and strong-willed or not, in time the boy will crack like the rest of them. We'll soon have another addition to Project Harvestar." He grinned. "Not to mention a new target for us to look forward to... It has been a rather dry spell for Jedi-hunting as of late... Yes, I think our work is done for the moment."

    With that he headed for the door, his hands clasped behind his back. The Dowutin followed him. The Grand Inquisitor pressed a few buttons on the control panel and the illuminator shut off. The room darkened. A tinge of light peeked from the doorway, emanating briefly on the fallen form of the boy before the door shut. The room was completely enshrouded in darkness.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
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  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Gripping confrontation, as Luke's efforts to get into the Academy to be a pilot are revealed to have been noticed all along, as well as his Force talents, which he may not be aware of altogether, i.e., they haven't been formally trained or refined, so :eek: [face_worried] the Inquisitors can twist them to their own uses. =D=
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
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  9. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Uh-oh. [face_nail_biting]I have a bad feeling about this. Great update. =D=
     
  10. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Thanks for the replies, everyone. Been a while, but here's the next part. This took... a lot of rewrites, and it probably still needs work... but here goes.




    Geonosis.

    Pointed spires and formations were spread across the dead world like a dry-mold cast. The wind pressed over the various crumbled debris of the landmasses, as well as the many insectoid bodies. In the center of what was once the Stalgasin Hives sat a large pitted area that ushered underground steam. A tri-winged Lambda-class shuttle landed there.

    The ship hovered, brushed up dust, and set. It powered down, the rail descended, and out walked Darth Vader.

    His black form moved out into the mist, his boots meeting dried rock ground. His black cape drifted from the upward pressure. The Dark Lord lifted a hand. The rock path folded away to reveal an entrance to what was once a Geonosian droid factory. It was camouflaged perfectly with its surroundings, built to resemble a rock formation but secretly embedded with alloys, the steam a makeshift geyser made of exhaust pipes.

    Vader lingered before the entrance for a moment, silent save for the neverending cycle of his respirator.

    Memories inevitably crept into his mind, reverberating as if from the core of the factory itself:

    Droids hanging from their heads. Giant mechanisms plowing down. Metal clashing and compressing.

    Lasers, sparks, droids. Rampaging beasts. Chases, danger, daring, dodging — and amidst it all...

    Vader lulled these thoughts; quieted them. Soon they dissipated like smoke, like the very vapor that filled the air, that he walked into and left behind.

    This visit would be a short one, he reminded himself. Soon he would return to matters worthy of his presence. So he wasted no more time and entered the former-factory.

    The spacious corridors stretched far, hollow and heavily quiet. There were signs of advancement in technology, automated doors and service panels, but the Imperial construction had not been absolute; some of the walls still had stone carvings or patches of that dark-scarlet organic matter so distinctly Geonosian — not to mention the smell. The place also had little in the way of lighting. It felt abandoned. Appropriately so. It had been over a decade since the cataclysmic sterilization of Geonosis.

    Vader strode through the main area, took a turbolift to the mid-levels. There he crossed the extended bridge that overlooked the factory's innards. Below he saw the once-processing plants, the large vats and power units, and an out-of-use crank system once used for processing Geonosian droids.

    He heard activity coming from below, slightly disrupting the surrounding quietness. Vader looked over the guard rails. Several figures walked in alignment through the shadows. It looked like a small battalion from a distance, the figures barely distinguishable, but he could make out their grey uniforms.

    Initiates. The so-called future Inquisitors, the reason of his coming here. Vader's cold gaze brushed over them with disinterest. He turned his attention away and proceeded into the next quarter's entry. The quicker he got through this, he thought, the better.

    Below the group continued to walk. They made their way through the many grey-slated open areas, led by their Inquisitor escort. The stern-faced Devaronian stopped only to open doors and the Initiates trailed after her in their clustered silence.

    They came to a large door tabbed with panels. The Devaronian accessed them. White lights powered on, revealing a room expansive enough to be a ship hangar.

    "Come on, come on," the Inquisitor said impatiently, her red face compressing. She waved to a faceless grey droid that appeared from the side. It hastily wheeled over, carrying a metal case. It opened it, revealing several stacked lightsabers.

    "You know the drill," the Inquisitor said, and she stalked off towards the sidelines.

    The Initiates all ambled to grab a handle. They were training sabers, not as strong as true lightsabers, but still capable of hacking off a limb with enough accurate strokes.

    They stood in the wide, half-lit chamber, waiting, gripping their weapons. They kept glancing to the side, to the droid, anxious for the countdown to begin. There were seven Initiates in the group, all of different species. Appearance-wise, they matched only in their attire, wearing uniforms and trousers in black and grey. They all stood separate from each other, none sharing eye contact, their attention set only on the droid. Meanwhile the droid was regarding a holographic datachart that contained info on all Initiates present.

    The floor rumbled. Hatches began to part and slide. Platforms powered up, and green panels lit up on their edges. One platform at the far side gleamed red. A glowing white line appeared along the walls. Many of the platforms began to rotate, looking like giant, slow-moving propellers.

    Some of the Initiates made audible noises of displeasure. No one liked the shifting platforms exercise.

    "Get ready," briefed the training droid, wheeling in the center as it put away the datachart. "The rules are simple: get to the red platform. Levitation is prohibited above the glowing line. Engage in combat if you must, but please, try not to damage the equipment. Your performance will count toward your ranking."

    "Yeah, yeah. But what level of intensity?" came the raspy voice of a Zabrak girl. "Can we damage each other?"

    "Points will be awarded for injuring or otherwise besting an opponent," the droid answered her. "If you work in tandem with another Initiate, you are disqualified. If you fall below the line, you are disqualified. Get ready now, please. Countdown will begin."

    All the Initiates stepped forward and took their chosen stances. The room dimmed.

    "Three... two... one."

    A forest of red blades bloomed. There was leaping, running, stumbling as they all reacted in turn to the shifting environment and sudden darkness. The shadowy arena was soon buzzing with scarlet swordstrokes and the green blurs of moving platforms. Remote droids joined in the fray, zipping by and sending out lasers for their heat-seeking sensors to hit. The Initiates jumped from one site to another, some managing to deflect the beams, others missing. The platforms dragged across, up, down, flipped. There was a yelp as a Nautolan took a direct blast to the gut and hugged her stomach.

    From behind a one-way transparisteel window of an upper observatory, the Grand Inquisitor stood watching, having a grand view of the obstacles and the Initiates engaging in them. A Clawdite was in the lead, but suddenly stopped in his tracks and lunged at a Phindian who came up the side. They swatted their sabers at each other as the platform under them vibrated. The Clawdite spun around, tripped the smaller Phindian, and pushed him off.

    "Initiate Two is down."

    A yellow Trandoshan then came up to the Clawdite. Unlike the others, he didn't wield a lightsaber. The Clawdite backed away, intimidated, but offered a warding swipe with his blade. The Trandoshan stepped aside. The platform then began to pull away back into the wall. The Clawdite lost his balance and his opponent delivered a sharp-clawed uppercut to his chin. The Clawdite fell.

    "Initiate Six is down," announced the droid.

    "Ridiculous," murmured the Inquisitor, his pale reflection scowling back at him on the windscreen. "Two down, in the first minute..."

    "That is most disconcerting."

    At the sound of the deep, mechanized voice, the Grand Inquisitor made a slight frown.

    "Lord Vader," he greeted quietly. "You were... not expected so soon."

    Coarse breath ushered into the small observatory as the Dark Lord entered, his presence a swathing miasma that filled the room. Vader stopped when he reached the windscreen, his reflection mirrored next to the Inquisitor's.

    "You wished to process the Initiates before my arrival," he said. His black mask titled slightly. "You seem unprepared for my visit, Grand Inquisitor."

    "Not at all," insisted the Pau'an. He gestured out toward the combat arena. "This is well-timed, actually. This demonstration should show you that the Inquisitorius training program is going well."

    "Initiate Five is down," came the droid's voice again, just after the Nautolan was hit by a stream of lasers.

    "Clearly," remarked Vader.

    The Inquisitor pursed his lips and turned to the black-clad cyborg, trying his earnest to appear unruffled. "We take our training program very seriously, Lord Vader, as I'm sure you know. After all, we can only pass on your teachings."

    The Sith frowned behind the mask. He knew what the Pau'an man was inferring. It had been some fifteen years since the Emperor had given the Inquisitors to Vader, to train, to utilize, and this was not the first time the Grand Inquisitor had implied any failure that came from them was the Dark Lord's doing. He was the only one who dared to imply it.

    "Do no shirk responsibility onto me, Inquisitor," Vader said, as a blue-skinned boy struggled to balance himself while the platform beneath him split into smaller sections. "The training of Initiates falls upon the Inquisitors. Seeing them in action is evident enough of this. There is nothing in these youths that you could not find in a Jedi Padawan. They rely on the most basic instinct. They are slow. Unrefined. Lacking technique."

    "I ask that you give them a chance before passing judgement, Lord Vader. The session has only just begun. Continue observing and I think you'll find that these students are quite well-rounded. Certainly not so lowly as Jedi Padawans—"

    "You wish to lecture a Lord of the Sith in the ways of combat." Vader's tone drew out, quiet and edged with intent.

    The Pau'an hunched, considering his response for a moment. "No, my Lord. I'm sure you are... correct. These Initiates... have room for growth. But what more do you ask for? We have trained them to the best of our ability..." He paused. "Perhaps things would be more in line with your standards if they had the guidance of a Sith Lord such as yourself..."

    Vader's frown deepened. Again the Grand Inquisitor with his less-than-subtle badgering. Not without truth: Vader only made these yearly visits out of obligation, and in truth the Grand Inquisitor was the one who handled the program. Vader, however, was still technically in charge and thus expected to supervise, to check on it every so often. And so he did, sitting through these demonstrations, watching teenage trainees fling lightsabers at one another in this old Geonosian factory now turned into a training center. It was grating to think such a thing was his responsibility.

    "Perhaps I should indeed step in," Vader remarked, his tone laced with sarcasm. "Perhaps it was too much too expect from the so-named Grand Inquisitor, that you could handle training future Inquisitors, least of all children. A truly flawed assumption."

    The other man dipped his chin. "Lord Vader... I only propose that, naturally, these Initiates would be better equipped to serve our Emperor if they were prepared by those who serve him best. Do you deny that you serve our Emperor best?"

    Vader stared squarely, silently, at the other man. Arrogance. It was nothing new. In his time, Vader had dealt with the Grand Inquisitor, and several pompous officers and Moffs, enough to know these petty attempts at reverse psychology. And after years of being apprenticed to Darth Sidious, there was no other contest of wills that could rattle him, so he ignored the Grand Inquisitor. It wasn't worth a reply.

    Outside, two Initiates were locked in lightsaber combat, close to the red-lit platform, the end point. A human boy dislodged and aimed his blade at the Zabrak. She dodged and suddenly swiped at the neck of the boy, her red blade making contact. The human wrenched and dropped, the platform beneath him caving in as if sensing his defeat.

    "Initiate Four is down."

    The Pau'an made the slightest smirk. "A fine sling-away and break from the Zabrak."

    Vader crossed his arms. "It was by chance. A last-resort offense."

    "She took the risk in leaving herself open, but she still succeeded. Certainly there is some level of—"

    "That you continue to applaud these children only further confirms the flaws in this program. And in the Inquisitorius itself. You realize this."

    The Inquisitor stiffened. "You speak of flaws... but we still remain. You do not think we are of use. You have always thought so. But results do not lie, Lord Vader. We are still tracking down threats, even now. It was only months ago that I myself eliminated the meddlesome Master-Padawan duo of the Phoenix Cell. And did we not find and eliminate that Togruta in league with them? And did we not dispatch of the light side worshippers on Jedha? Was it not the Inquisitors that dealt with the situations on Bracca, Raxar VI...?"

    Silence. Vader was unresponsive. Two of the few remaining Initiates were wrestling with each other, both having lost their lightsabers. He kept his dark gaze steadily forward, viewing the continuing combat as if transfixed, or perhaps more as if he were looking beyond it, elsewhere.

    "And the siege of Mon Cala," the Inquisitor pointed out after several passes of the Sith Lord's breath. "We have helped you dominate entire worlds, Lord Vader."

    "Feats that have been done by the likes of clones and stormtroopers," Vader growled. "Do not flaunt your credentials as though they are unparalleled."

    "Unparalleled, no, but we have served you faithfully." The Pau'an pressed a gloved hand to his chestplate. "And whether or not you agree, the Emperor does see a future for us. That is all that matters in the end. These Initiates are products of your own leadership, and they were handpicked from Project Harvestar to become the next Inquisitors, in a program that is under your supervision... So with respect, Lord Vader... I suggest that you come to terms with whatever... qualms you have regarding them. They will be hunting Jedi with you soon enough."

    "Judging by this display, Grand Inquisitor, they will not manage to exit the training room, let alone execute any Jedi." The dark-red lenses regarded the Inquisitor briefly. Indignity rose on the pale face, a frozen scowl caught in restraint, but the Pau'an made no retort and only bowed his head. Vader turned away and headed out of the small room. The starkness of his artificial breath quieted until he was gone.

    Out in the arena, the Zabrak was Force-pushed into a wall by another Initiate. Her lightsaber slipped and spun out in the air like a scarlet wheel, slicing into the metal base of another platform. Sparks flew and the Zabrak rolled away, down into the darkness.

    "Initiate Three is down," the training droid declared diligently.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent battle of words between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor. Your voice for Vader continues superb! You can sense his disdain for the Inquisitor program, feeling it serves no valuable function. [face_thinking]
     
    Starith likes this.
  12. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Thanks, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. Hopefully it's an OK Grand Inquisitor too. I haven't watched a whole lot of Rebels, I kind of know the character more from the Vader comics.
     
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  13. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Here we go, next part, continuing with the Vader POV...



    Hours later, after conferences and reports by both Inquisitors and officers via hologram, Vader had stalked the dim halls of the building, in a foul mood and wishing for refuge. He found it in an empty room that was home to a small repair station. Some of the remote droids from the training demonstration were being worked on there, heating tools from the installed devices working to mend them with spare parts.

    As they worked, Vader stood by a small viewport that offered a glimpse of the barren land outside. The day was drifting into evening. At last it was quiet and still around him, save for the mild noise of the mechanisms working in the corner of the room, which he did not mind.

    What he did mind was staying still where he was, much as he appreciated the solitude. Staying here, in this place, on this planet. Seeing the Geonosis sunlight ebb, a whole day wasted after attending to the Inquisitors' trivial matters... as if he were a subordinate, as if he had nothing better to do...

    It tried his patience. It settled and gathered in him like residue. Steep, silent resentment. He couldn't meditate on it, draw on the anger like he normally would. He didn't want to enact some violent urge, he wanted only to distance himself. To leave this place. All its history. All its pointless waste.

    But, of course, there were his obligations. The Emperor was still set on his two grandiose projects, Stardust and Harvestar. One entrusted to Vader, the other which had initially been entrusted to Krennic, a self-important weapons' specialist that had died years ago. It had been no loss to the Empire; Krennic had been leading the project at a disastrously slow pace for almost a decade. It seemed only fitting that the man had been assassinated in a squabble over elluxomite and kyber resources on Arhim, resources Krennic had so foolishly tried to snatch away with ease — and with an underestimated amount of military support.

    The project had thereafter been given to Tarkin. Also arrogant, but admittedly a more well-suited individual for the position. His approach could not have been more of a contrast to Krennic's; rather than keeping the project's crew limited to a few select factions and scientists, Tarkin had vastly expanded the workforce across several divisions. Production had sped up considerably under his management.

    Until finally this year, when the project had reached its turning point. The secret weapon was complete. The Empire had its Death Star.

    Vader was not taken to the idea of the weapon, much less the contemptible hubris surrounding it, but he couldn't deny the impact. It had inflamed the galaxy with fear. Surviving Jedi and their hopefuls had reared their heads in light of it, and Vader and the Inquisitors had been more than willing to do some beheading in accord. Part of the "brilliance" of the Death Star, Tarkin often said, was merely the idea of it, how it would inspire terror and desperation that would only draw out their worst enemies.

    And it had worked. Purge survivors that had tried to spearhead a movement or make some heroic last stand had only made themselves easier targets for Vader and the Inquisitors. Most that were found were hardly capable of putting up a fight; just out-of-practice former-Jedi and their woeful disciples, all aimless without an Order. Indeed, it had been a short-lived resurgence. Now the Jedi were more scarce than ever, reduced to the barest murmur in the living Force.

    Rebel groups had risen, trying to fight, to sabotage, to secure intel, but the scattered activity only left dents on the exterior of the Empire. The Empire had already won. Now it was only securing its victory.

    Vader felt both part of and apart from it all, this new age of the Empire. And he wanted to be. To stand among all this glory and accomplishment, yet also at the side, to not be at its core, almost a bystander... It was unprecedented, this strange new age without regard for the all-encompassing power of the Force. Like the Jedi, it was just a memory that few remembered. This was the age of the Death Star. Technological triumphs, mechanical marvels.

    But we still remain.

    The Grand Inquisitor had been right about one thing: there were still threats of the Jedi, however small. Tarkin had his goals, his own field of expertise, and Vader had his.

    And so long as one Jedi lived... just one...

    To think who that one could be...

    The digits of his metal fingers dug into his palms, screeching with the leather. He loathed the thought of that Jedi still living. Loathed and yet relished, for it meant he could face him again. Him, now empowered, older and wiser; it meant he could see and feel his suffering as he melted the old Jedi's chest with his Sith blade. He could watch the life drain out of those timeworn eyes until the man was but a limp corpse...

    Vader had not found anything concrete to Kenobi's whereabouts. There had been past rumors, rumblings... He knew that he still lived; yes, that he could be sure of, he could feel it. Vader knew he wouldn't be content until that death, until that one kill by his own hand.

    All the more reason Vader saw no need for the Inquisitors. He wanted no interferences. Having to tolerate them during the early years of the Purge had been one thing — Vader had detested receiving help, but having other lightsaber-wielding Force-users to help eradicate the Jedi had at least made practical sense. Now...

    He knew the implications for why they remained, the suspicions that stormed his mind. The real reason why his master had begun the Inquisitorius in the first place. Having several other dark warriors available to do his bidding... ones who would be more than willing to become a Sith apprentice should Vader ever fall... And what better way to keep that option on the table than to have another back-up line of candidates, another, younger generation... Treachery was the way of the Sith, and Sidious was only showcasing it.

    Vader's train of thought was interrupted — there were sounds bristling in the distance. In the halls... footsteps, he realized. Light but loud enough to be distracting. The steps were quick, of someone running. And there was other noise. Soft buzzing. A distant, loud voice. Bothered but stirred by the commotion, Vader stepped away from the viewport, waved a hand, and the doors of the room slid open.

    He strode down the corridor, following the noise. Echoes carried and bounced along the tunnel-like passages. He entered an open hallway section, hints of light spilling from the ceiling. The footsteps were nearer, thumping upon the duracrete behind the sturdy walls. Vader stopped and stood readily. He waited. He turned his head and looked at the automatic doors to the left of him.

    The doors shifted apart. A boy trampled in.

    He came to a sharp halt, waving his spindly arms to balance himself as he noticed the Dark Lord standing in the darkness. The boy, clothed in grey, bounded back in alarm, his blond hair flinging.

    There was a flash of red.

    The boy, still short of breath from running, froze in place as Vader pointed his crimson lightsaber towards him. Vader peered at him, taking in the boy's dread as it permeated through the Force. The light colored the young Initiate's face, sweat shining down his temple, his large eyes filled with fear.

    "It seems that you have made a wrong turn," the Dark Lord said, the words soft and deadening. He took a step forward. He inched the blade toward the boy's throat.

    To his surprise, this did the opposite of intimidating the boy further. The boy winced, eyed the red blade before him, and screwed his face. But then he froze again. He seemed at odds with himself, struggling with his own nerves in these fleeting seconds. His slender form trembled, his legs twitched, wanting to move. He looked up at the Dark Lord and clenched his fists.

    Under the mask, Vader narrowed his eyes. He almost, almost, felt provoked. But the boy was just that, a boy. A blip of activity taking up his time. So Vader kept his patience and silently held him in place, trapping him in this state of uncertainty, waiting for his reaction, daring him to move.

    The doors behind the boy opened. A pair of drones floated in. At the sight of them, the boy turned and bolted for the other doorway. Vader stood aside and let him, wanting for the drones to act accordingly. He watched as they zoomed after the boy and sent their stun-blasts, resulting in a high-pitched yelp. The boy dropped to the ground unconscious. The encounter was over as quickly as it had begun.

    "Finally! Stupid droids, how hard is it to catch—" An Inquisitor appeared from the threshold, a broad, strong-built humanoid. He paused in surprise as he noticed Vader, who stood nearly camouflaged in the darkness. Vader pointed his saber at him.

    "Fifth Brother. Explain."

    The Inquisitor frowned, straightened, and tried to grasp for words. "Yes... yes, my Lord. It's... well, it's just one of the Initiates. He got loose during transfer to his cell. But the situation is—"

    "The situation is under control."

    Vader did not bother to look behind where he knew the Grand Inquisitor was. Feeling a tinge of annoyance, Vader lowered his blade.

    "Fifth Brother, collect the Initiate," the Grand Inquisitor ordered promptly. "See that he's put in the Silent Cell."

    Fifth Brother nodded. He made a stiff head bow to Vader, then picked up the boy. He disappeared into the corridor, carrying him over his shoulder. The drones hovered after him.

    The Pau'an stayed his distance, and Vader didn't move either. He faced the corridor where Fifth Brother had gone, his back turned to the Grand Inquisitor. After a moment's silence there was a faint murmur by the Pau'an. "My apologies, Lord Vader. I... suppose... you will be adding this to our list of failures—"

    "The training demonstration." Vader deactivated his saber and clipped the weapon to his belt. "He was not present for it."

    There was a pause before the Inquisitor quietly answered, "No."

    "Yet he is an Initiate. He is physically capable and in the same age range."

    "Yes, but... as you just witnessed, he has... behavioral issues. An exemption was necessary, but all the others were present. I fail to see how this is problematic."

    "Your definition of problematic is an irony, Grand Inquisitor, one that is becoming more evident by the hour." Half-exasperated, Vader turned, his black cape swaying. "He was attempting to escape. And only by chance was he prevented from doing so."

    The Pau'an pressed in his lips. "He is not the first Initiate to try to escape, I admit this. But none ever have, and none ever will. The boy has only been in our training program a couple months since his service in Project Harvestar. He wasn't brought up at an early age or born on an Imperial world — he was even Jedi-taught at one point. Considering those disadvantages, such behavior is to be expected." The Inquisitor waved a hand. "It's nothing we haven't dealt with before, Lord Vader."

    Vader studied the Inquisitor for a long moment, a muted rage in his blood. All words were a thin disarray, his mind glossing over them. Only one word rang in his head, an endless, echoing taunt:

    Jedi.

    "The boy," he said, "must be terminated."

    The Inquisitor blinked. "Lord Vader... I realize how this must all look... I realize your disappointments... but this is all part of the process. Training, conditioning, disciplining, sifting through the weaker Force-sensitives to find the strongest among them. And we only have a handful of candidates. To throw one away over something so—"

    "I see your inadequacy is still in full effect," the Dark Lord said, the words burning like plasma through the vocoder.

    A wave coursed down the Pau'an's throat, barely hidden behind the long black collar around his neck. He made a slow nod.

    "Very well. It shall be done," he conceded. He then paused. Something crossed his white face, a tick, as if something bitter had resurfaced itself from his memory. "Perhaps it is for the best... The boy has been consistently resistant to training. He wasn't taught by any amateur Jedi either, it was one of the actual Purge survivors in our database, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You may have heard of him. Actually, the boy's death could make for a fine demonstration to the others, an example of what Jedi influence can lead t—"

    He was cut short; a sharp coldness swept over him, and in an instant his boots left the ground. His whole body was slammed against the wall. The Inquisitor grunted, the coldness holding him there with a honed weight, capsulizing him, putting pressure on every limb and muscle. Bewildered, the Pau'an could do nothing but gape incomprehensibly as Vader stood still in the shadows, his leather hand outstretched in a clear Force-hold.

    "No," the Dark Lord said. The baritone voice suddenly shifted to a diffused, seething calm. "No. I will entrust nothing to you. I will deal with this boy myself."

    With that, the cold energy unpinned itself from the Inquisitor. His heels touched down on the ground again and the Pau'an wavered, slanting and shivering as the Dark Lord hastily retreated.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fantastic confrontation and a fascinating end-point. Eager to see what happens next.
     
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  15. Sadie Erso

    Sadie Erso Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2020
    I love Luke fanfics!! Wonderful, amazing, astounding, awesome!!!! Not enough words to even explain this story!
     
  16. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    ^Thanks very much, Sadie Erso (that's one glowing review).

    And thanks again, WarmNyota. Always appreciate your comments.

    Now for the next update... Here we get more into Luke's story...





    Owen held out his lantern, a pinpoint of light in the cold night air, to get a better look at the other man, whose face was nearly lost under the heavy hood.

    "Are you waiting for a 'thank you'?" the farmer growled. "We've got nothing to discuss here, Kenobi. Whatever you're gonna say, I'm not hearing it. Now get off my property. You've done enough."

    "I've done all I could," came the calm reply. He lifted the hood over his head, revealing the grey-bearded face. He stayed in place where he stood, not moving an inch. "Those men were part of Jabba's horde. 'Water tax collectors' they call themselves. They would have stolen your supply and killed you both, or sold you off as slaves..."

    The farmer promptly, heatedly stepped forward, opening his mouth in anger, but then he suddenly stopped in his tracks. He balked, hesitant. He seemed to be fighting the muscles on his tanned, grizzled face.

    "Look, Kenobi... you saved us," he worked out. "For that I'm... grateful... but when — when I come out looking for him, only to see him standing there trying to fight those thugs, swinging around that thing, that light-sword — is that your idea of ''protecting'' him? By giving him a weapon that could slice him in half?"

    The once-Jedi shifted, his long sleeves swaying as he moved. From them he softly lifted a silver cylinder in his hand, its surface reflecting the lantern's yellowish light. "I fixed it at a low setting before he took it home. The most he could've done was cause a minor second-degree burn... But this lightsaber belongs to him, Lars. And with some training—"

    "Are you out of your blasted mind?" spat the farmer. "You've got some gall. He just met you, just one day, Kenobi, and look what's happened! Already thinking he's damn invincible!"

    Obi-Wan furrowed his brow. "All the more reason he needs training. Luke is old enough to choose this path. And he is capable of more than you want to think. He wants to become a Jedi... like his father... He wants to learn. Let him."

    The farmer rubbed a hand over his messy patch of hair. He grunted. "Madness, all of it... I swear I'm the only one with any real sense when it comes to this boy... Let him go, eh, Kenobi? Let him go and live a soaring life of adventure, not the dull, thankless life of a moisture farmer like me? Let him be like his father?" He scoffed and shook his head. "You sound like Beru... She used to... to talk to Luke about his so-called 'father' when he was little... before she... got ill."

    His voice fell.

    Obi-Wan blinked. Understanding slowly eased into him. He knew Luke's aunt had been gone for many years, for most of Luke's life, but he hadn't known the reason until now. He inclined his head and uttered to Owen, "I'm sorry."

    Owen made another grunt, and his posture slackened. He looked into the faraway blackness of the barren lands in the distance, dazed for a moment.

    "She wanted to give him his last name, when he was old enough," he said quietly. "To honor him, and Shmi... And maybe I would've gone along with it back then, Kenobi... maybe I would've. Beru always could talk me into just about anything... but now?" He shook his head, his eyes boring into Obi-Wan. "Far as I'm concerned that man was a no-name fool who flew off and died, and that's it. The boy's nearly killed himself just knowing he was a pilot, flying around in that damn skyhopper..."

    "A no-name who..." Obi-Wan suddenly glowered. "He... does not even know his father's name?"

    "You want the Empire coming after him, Kenobi?" barked the farmer. "You want to bring him into that galactic bloodbath? The shooting, the executions? I've lost enough people, Kenobi, enough family..."

    A pitch came up in his throat and the farmer forced out a cough to hide it. He looked away. Obi-Wan stared at him, lost for words. He was so used to this man's contempt, his blaming and shunning, but strangely he found himself now relating to Owen Lars perhaps more than anyone else alive. Luke meant so much to so many on a grand scale, but the boy wasn't just a vague hope for the future or a carrier of untapped potential, not to Owen and himself. He was part of their purpose, he was knitted to their hearts. He was the only family the farmer had left, and in a way, Obi-Wan realized, a living reminder of his own family too...

    Yet he knew he couldn't just let things be as they were. Their grief was nothing compared to what was at stake, and it was powerless against what was at work.

    "I would die to protect that boy," he told Owen, and Owen turned to him, almost baffled. "Tonight should prove that to you. And we both know I can protect him in ways you cannot."

    The farmer shook his head, but said nothing.

    "Let me train him," Obi-Wan persisted. "He needs guidance. Do you want something like this to happen again?"

    The farmer cursed under his breath. He glanced back at the homestead sitting in the darkness. Silence stretched on for a long while.

    "Did you tell him anything?" he asked lowly.

    Obi-Wan sighed. "We didn't have much time to talk, you'll be glad to know... He was lost, nearly dehydrated... I took him to my home to rest... I mentioned his father was a Jedi, gave him the saber... I would've told him more, but it was getting dark. He had to head back home."

    Owen crinkled his whiskered mouth and stepped away. He started to pace. He looked at Obi-Wan again, struggled to form words, his eyes darting. He swallowed with the strain of someone trying to swallow gravel. "Kenobi... blazing suns, I can't believe I'm saying this... but this... training... if I let him..."

    Obi-Wan's eyes widened. Were his ears deceiving him? He drew closer, listened, waiting for the other man to continue.

    Owen's stern eyes fixed on his. "If I let him... try this... training... you have to promise me... that you won't take him away. You'll teach him to fight, to defend himself... and you won't tell him about his father. No, nothing, Kenobi," he added, seeing Obi-Wan was about to protest. "Not his name, no glorified war stories, no high-flying adventures or stunts he pulled, nothing. You saw him once from afar, wielding that light-sword, and some time after he left, you... you found it in the desert. I never knew his father or his mother, and neither did you. Understand?"

    Obi-Wan gawked in disbelief. He wanted to refuse these conditions, these bold-faced lies...

    But for this chance... to finally get to do what he'd meant to since he brought the boy to this world... hoping for the day he'd get to teach him about his own gifts... He was amazed Owen was even considering letting him...

    This could be his only chance. Luke's only chance. A whole galaxy weighed against a few fallacies.

    "I promise," he whispered at last. Perhaps Owen was right in this case, he thought. Knowing a Jedi's identity was dangerous in these times, and he couldn't argue that Luke wasn't a reckless and impressionable boy. Certainly not after tonight.

    "And the Empire?" pressed the anxious farmer. "How're you going to keep it all under wraps? Him being the... son of a Jedi... training as one..." His face scrunched, as if he were now second-guessing his decision.

    "I've been living discretely on this world for thirteen years, Lars. We're in the middle of nowhere in the Outer Rim. Trust me, he's well-hidden here," Obi-Wan assured him. His gaze was adamant. "I won't let the Empire take him. You have my word."


    _____​


    Luke opened his eyes. Inches in front of him he saw his arms sprawled out and bunched together. His wrists were bound.

    He lay in a small room. With some effort he squirmed his upper body until he could get to a sitting position and look around. The walls were sheathed in steel with mechanisms fitted along the ceiling. Suddenly they gleamed. A sizzling heat was creeping through the plates on the wall, making them hum.

    Luke felt a drop in his heart. At once he knew what he was in store for: the Silent Cell. A den for punishment. Charged pulses came from the walls and responded to sound. Even a whisper could trigger an electric shock that penetrated right through you; the louder you were, the more intense the pulse. Luke remembered when he had first undergone the treatment, and had unwittingly screamed...

    Luke went completely still.

    After a couple minutes, he flinched, his muscles feeling tense. A spitting heat tore into his side, having responded to the light scrape of his boot as he'd adjusted it ever so slightly. Luke groaned and hissed — another charge split through his legs.

    He bared his teeth to hold in a pained groan. They had really upped the sensitivity this time... Now breathing is punishable, he thought. He regretted that he hadn't yet learned, like many of the other Initiates, how to make himself numb to pain.

    It had been two years years since that night he was taken from Pretor Flats, and only a couple months since he was put in this place: a factory once used for processing battle droids, they said. Now, Luke mused, it was used for processing future Inquisitors.

    Project Harvestar... that had been bad enough... but he hadn't known, he couldn't have known, how much worse it would get. Now these Imperials had the nerve to pretend his imprisonment was an honor, that he was fortunate to have been picked to become an Inquisitor, to go through the excruciating exercises, the painful lessons day after day, remote droids shooting at you, rooms with burning floors, cells with thinned air, the Inquisitors "discipline" that involved maiming or throwing the Initiates around like ragdolls...

    It was different from his life in Project Harvestar, but not in any real way that Luke cared about. Yes, it was a more conditioned environment, but he was still trapped, still being forced to obey. Darkness, exhaustion, and painstaking effort that led to nothing... It was different, yet exactly the same...

    Luke wasn't the same. That clueless fourteen-year-old who was snatched away from piloting academy and his star-faring dreams... He wished he could go back in time and shout at that past-Luke to not sign up to that school, to not think he would be safe from the Empire just because he was a kid. That version of him seemed so reprehensible now. Like another life; which it was.

    Luke clenched his teeth, tightening up as he kept in his hunched position, his legs tucked in. He wished he'd just stayed lying down, but now the sensors were activated and it was best to maintain complete stillness.

    At least there aren't any holovids, he thought, as he looked grimly at the duracrete floor. That was what he had undergone before this, before today. Spending days in near-darkness with nothing but the glow of a holovid in a cramped cell, the gear-like Imperial emblem on display and messages replaying in that grating artificial voice, repeating the Inquisitors' teachings, spouting out lines about serving the Empire, about glory and unity and freedom. To Luke's disappointment he'd found that spitting on the holographic device hadn't caused it to short out.

    When Luke had finally been brought out of that mind-numbing experience, the last thing he had wanted to do was obey. So he had taken the risk: when he was brought out, he tripped the security droid and rammed its head into a nearby grid, then ran for it. Blindly, with only a murky idea as to where he was going.

    Ten minutes, he had counted in his head, he had managed to avoid them for that long. He had made a few other escape attempts before, but this time... he could've done it. The droid had been taken out, unable to contact anyone, he had been on the lower levels of the factory, easier to find an exit, and Fifth Brother, one of the slower Inquisitors, had been on patrol at the time... He could've escaped. The setup had been so ideal...

    And then... that. That pillar of black, headed with an inhumanly molded mask that peered through the shadows like some nightmarish insect. And out of it a burning, dragonlike voice...

    It seems that you have made a wrong turn...

    Luke shivered. Had he really seen that dark specter in the hall? His gut turned to ice as he pictured that blood-red sword nearing his throat, heating the hairs on his face. All the Inquisitors emitted darkness, but Luke had never felt a being so... drenched in it before. And something about the man... creature... whatever it was, suggested something more than another Inquisitor. He couldn't say what.

    Luke glided his teeth across his bottom lip and frowned. Unnerved as he was, he couldn't help feeling spiteful too. If it hadn't been for that thing, he could've made his way out. But like always, he hadn't.

    And I never will.

    The thought cropped up in his head and Luke closed his eyes, chastising it, trying to stomp it back down into the soil of his mind, never to be unearthed.

    The minutes dragged on into hours. A few more doses of electricity shot at him — were they timed now? — and within hours Luke felt lightheaded. His body weighed down: another shock pierced him as his hunched form fell. He cried out involuntarily. Another shock. His innards felt ablaze, his legs could've been melting...

    Soon exhaustion overcame him. He filled his thoughts with nothing, nothing but the will to stay still and be quiet. He kept his eyes shut and reality was swept away.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb flashback!! Losing Beru devastated Owen and at the same time made him more persuadable but of course with conditions to Luke being trained. Only to be followed by :eek: [face_worried]
    Luke is in a tight corner.

    =D=
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
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  18. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    *De-lurks* I know, I know, I should be commenting more. But this story is so intense I have no words, except....

    ....Please don't leave me hanging on these Evil Cliffies for too long? *puppy dog eyes*
     
  19. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha: "A tight corner"...That's one way to put it. Thanks again!

    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701: Thanks very much! I'm confident the next update will be much sooner than the last.

    And for any other lurkers who may be out there, thanks for reading. Lurk on. [face_coffee]
     
  20. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Aaaaand, it's update time...




    Hours later, the cell was lit up. Luke unfurled and lifted his head, now jolted awake.

    There was a slight humming noise, and automatically he cringed, but nothing happened. After waiting a couple seconds, he decided to carefully, testily, try to move. He looked around. He heard the faint buzzes of energy in the walls. They were dimming. The pulse devices were powering off.

    He saw his cell door was open. One of the security droids was standing in the threshold. It was large and thick-plated, its head a shapeless slab containing one eye-like sensor.

    "Do you require medical aid?" it questioned, looking down on him.

    Luke stared, then he sighed. Could he even stand? He tried. He propped up his knee but it wobbled, delayed by a heavy, stretched feeling. His legs felt like lead.

    "I don't... think... I can walk," he mumbled.

    "Understood," said the droid, and it approached Luke. It methodically picked him up, seizing from under his arms and lifting him up. Before he knew it Luke was being carried in its bulky metal arms, the doors swished shut, and he was out of the cell.

    They passed into the quiet halls. Luke frowned at the large, faceless robot. The déjà vu wasn't lost on him, being woken up and carried away by an Imperial droid; but he couldn't say he didn't welcome it. Basic medical treatment was perhaps the only humane thing the Inquisitors provided them, even if it was only done out of necessity. After all, why bother training future Inquisitors if they were just going to keel over and drop off like flies?

    Luke shifted his shoulder, unyieldy in his uncomfortable position. He glanced at the faded marks on his arm, reminded of his first trip to the medbay. Bone-fusion surgery, from when the Grand Inquisitor had broken his arm two years ago. He was now used to the slightly stiff feeling there.

    Soon they arrived at the medbay, a small low-beam room that reeked of bacta. Monitors and other equipment was set up and being utilized by various med-droids. Luke lifted his head as the droid carried him in, noticing the fold-out beds stacked across the room, with a few other Initiates lying on them.

    He didn't get to see the other Initiates that often, not outside of training and lessons. He was still confined to a single cell, and making friends was hardly encouraged by the Inquisitors. He remembered when he first saw them all, so militarily lined up in the training room: his fellow Initiates, his fellow abductees... None of them had seemed talkative or interested in each other, much less in him. Luke could only liken his attempts to interact with them to trying to pull teeth from a rancor.

    But he couldn't keep himself from trying; he was too social a creature. Some of them continued to distance themselves, but a few had gotten used to him and would actually hold conversations. Luke was glad of that.

    A 2-1B approached. The security droid held out Luke as if he were a mangy lothdog in need of a bath. "Request analysis for treatment."

    "Granted. Set it down," came the reply from the filter-mouthed droid. It turned to fetch something.

    Luke was set on a table. The droid removed his binders and Luke immediately stretched out his arms. He fidgeted, his calves still feeling bloated and weighed down. His left arm felt slightly numb, and a spot on his neck tingled sharply — that lightsaber really had been close — but he was too distracted at seeing the other Initiates to dwell on himself. The nearest was a Phindian boy, who hissed as his burnt hand was getting coated with ointment by a nurse-droid. His bulbous eyes widened slightly when he caught sight of Luke.

    "Hey, the new kid," he said, turning to him and revealing a few red scars on the left side of his face. "You sure missed a lot of fun yesterday."

    Luke slumped and made a half-grin. "Yeah?... Guess I just never get invited to anything, do I?"

    A Nautolan in another bed turned to the Phindian. "What? What are... oh." She stopped, noticing Luke. "You're here too, Seven? I thought you were in isolation."

    Seven: it was his assigned name given by the Inquisitors — randomly chosen, as far as he could figure — and like the Inquisitors, Initiates were all known by numerical titles only. The use of birth names was strictly forbidden.

    "I was, but..." Luke stopped, apprehensive as the 2-1B hovered back to him. It aimed a few shots of bacta spray at the stinging areas of his arm and neck. In its other lever-like hand it carried a flat tubed device Luke had never seen before. With it, it began scanning over Luke's leg, radiating a harmless light. Luke relaxed. "But... well... things changed," he finished.

    "They changed your punishment?" inquired the Nautolan, looking curious. "Which one? The Red Pit? The Throat-stingers?"

    "Silent Cell."

    "Oh. That's not so bad."

    "Yeah," said Luke. He shifted as the droid continued scanning his unfeeling legs.

    He looked at the others, taking in the sight of them. Oozing black bruises, skin-peeling burns, bloodstains seeping through tunics and ripped sleeves. Luke suddenly felt out of place, being here for something so minor as numbness and a few minor pains.

    "So... what about all of you?" he asked quietly. "What happened?"

    The Phindian shifted. "Well... it seemed just like any other training session. The difficulty level was amped up more than usual, but nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. Surprise: turns out the Grand Inquisitor was watching us the whole time. And he didn't like what he saw." The Phindian's pale green face hardened. "And he let us know loud and clear. Ordered us to do it all over again. And again. It wasn't pretty."

    "Yeah, you would know, Two. You were the first to go down almost every time," came another voice from across the room, that of a Zabrak girl. Known as Three, she was slouching against the wall, a med-droid applying a bacta-patch to her arm. "Once again, Ten and I are the only ones worth a kriff in this group."

    Two looked like he was about to say something back, but then seemed to think better of it. He glowered and looked at the burnt wound on his hand.

    After a moment's silence, Luke tentatively asked, "So... Trando-Ten won again, huh?"

    "And again and again," sighed Two. "Of course he won, of course he was first in all rounds. Blasted lizard." The Phindian touched the side of his face, the tips of his nubbed fingers running over the scars. Luke had the feeling he knew exactly where they came from.

    "At least you got to stretch your muscles," Luke said brightly, looking at his legs and just managing to wiggle his toes.

    The Nautolan made a snort. "I don't see what you're acting smug about. You know you're just making things worse and worse for yourself, refusing to cooperate." She shook her head, her bunched head-tails shuffling over her shoulder. "When's the last time you even participated in combat training?"

    Luke shrugged. "Uh... probably..."

    "I can tell you: never," jeered the Zabrak. "Little Seven would rather curl up in a ball then swing a lightsaber at anybody."

    "He's... still new," Two murmured. "He's not even that bad at training..."

    "When he's actually there," the Nautolan agreed. "It just takes some Initiates... longer to adjust than others. Especially after Harvestar." She glanced at the Zabrak girl. "Not everyone was raised in this place."

    Three raised an eyebrow. "Oh, and what's your excuse, Five? You were pathetic in that session too. A laser magnet like always."

    Five's face turned a darker shade of turquoise.

    "I've seen her fight," Luke interjected. "And Two, and they're both great—"

    Two shot him a discouraging look, and Luke got the message: Don't push it. He clamped his mouth shut. No one wanted to provoke Three, she was one of the most dangerous of Initiates, second only to Ten. Even Luke knew it was often best to steer clear of her and her Trandoshan cohort.

    Three snickered at their hesitancy. "You weaklings crack me up. Look at you, trying to act friendly and stick up for each other now that the battle's over. I'm sure that'll make you into great Inquisitors one day." She cocked her head. "Personally, I think you're more cut out to be target practice for the rest of us. You'd deserve it more than the droids do." Her jutted out her lip and her brownish face became simpering. "You bunch will be putting them out of a job soon, you should be ashamed."

    Five glanced away and pretended to not have heard her, while Two droned out a dismissive grunt.

    "Unless you think you're actually not worthless?" Three prodded. "How about proving me wrong? Huh? Any of you?" Three's black eyes peered at them as they all remained silent. The corner of her mouth stretched with a glean of satisfaction.

    Luke wanted to say something, do something, but he didn't know what. So he tried to blend in with the disquiet that fell, wanting to downplay Three's words. It wasn't worth it, he tried to tell himself.

    He looked at the 2-1B, wanting to take his mind off of Three. It was almost done with the scan. The stings on his skin were gone and a sense of warmth was flowing back into his legs. Luke tried to bend one of his knees; he could just about manage it.

    The scan continued. The minutes passed on in silence.

    To his and the others' relief, Three didn't stay for long. Appearing to be done with her treatment, she straightened, pushed aside the beeping nurse-droid, and turned. She brandished one last brazen look at them, then marched out of the medbay. Air seemed to flow back into the room. Some of the Initiates began muttering to each other.

    Two looked around idly, until his big orange eyes rest again on Luke. He rose a blunted eyebrow. "You know... you have been here for a couple months now. Don't you think you should drop the whole... silent protest thing, or whatever it is? It's not gonna do you any favors, you know that."

    "Blows my mind he's survived this long," chimed another Initiate from a few beds down, a boy with a shaven head who was called Four, the only other human Initiate besides Luke. "That first day wasn't enough for you?"

    They all stared at him, and Luke had the impression this was a question that had been wheeling in all their heads for a while. Luke didn't know what to say, but he almost wanted to laugh. Four was right, it was by some mad miracle that he was still alive. To say nothing of that very first training exercise of his first day...

    As fate would have it, Ninth Sister had been the instructor. Remote droids had aimed laser after laser at him, and seeing his pitiful struggling and attempts to run, she had thrown various revilements his way, drawing from the whole mishap at Pretor Flats ("Fake ID Flunkee"), to more general insults ("The Crippled Ugnaught"), to telling him he was going to be laser meat if he didn't pick up that saber and fight, fight, fight.

    This was only cemented by the fact that he hadn't grabbed a lightsaber or gotten up. He'd stayed on the ground, huddled and paralyzed, taking each agonizing shot until the exercise was over.

    Inevitably, his reputation for avoiding combat had stuck. Mortifying as it was, he couldn't deny he didn't deserve it; Luke even found he liked it some times. It made him feel less... less like he belonged here. Less like an Initiate. Even if he was looked down on, and even if he had gotten hurt and humiliated while earning the ire of a Dowutin she-demon. It meant not playing into the Inquisitors' games, and that was something.

    "Maybe we should all be more like Seven," joked Four, gesturing at Luke with mock deference. "He's in better shape than we are after that training session, look at him."

    "Yeah, let's all become pacifist Inquisitors," lauded Two as he leaned his head back. The other Initiates made chortling hisses across the room. An Initiate from another bed chuckled, his reptilian features wrinkling. Luke made a loose shrug and forced a small smile, wanting to take their jibes in good humor.

    "Treatment is complete," declared the 2-1B. It lifted the tubed scanning device from Luke and put it away, then addressed the bulky security droid that had been standing a few feet away, waiting. "You may remove the specimen and escort it out."

    The large droid stepped forth to do so, and Luke maneuvered his legs. He leapt off the table.

    "Well... see you all in class then," he said to the others. He managed a feeble wave before the droid clamped the binders back around his wrists. They all shrugged, sighed, or mumbled indistinct things back.

    He turned to leave. He followed the droid to the door. As Luke set foot back into the gloomy hall, he heard one of the Initiates call out: "Keep it up and you're gonna stay numb forever, Seven. It's called being dead!"

    Grim laughter followed Luke as he left the medbay.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
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  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating exchange. =D= I am continually amazed at how much time has passed :eek:

    I am sure Kenobi has attempted some sort of search. [face_thinking]
     
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  22. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Hmm. Interesting.
     
  23. Sadie Erso

    Sadie Erso Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2020
    Oh my. Poor Luke!!
    *Googles synonyms for amazing* Hmmm....
    I loved it! It was amazing, awesome, wonderful, thrilling, and wonderfully well-written!!
     
  24. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    Thanks again, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. Time has indeed passed; Luke is around sixteen now. As for Obi-Wan... [face_shhh]

    And thanks, @Cowgirl Jedi 1701. Glad you think it's interesting.

    And thanks for yet another outpour of positive adverbs, @Sadie Erso. Glad you're liking the fic so far.

    Also, I thought I'd point out that I have made some changes to this fic. Nothing super important, it's mostly details and consistency issues. Stuff like, for example, changing Luke's Initiate name to Seven ("Zero'' was just rather lame and singled him out too much). These kinds of retcons don't really need a re-reading to follow the story, but they're there, so I wanted to make note of it.

    Hopefully there'll be a new update some time this week. Thanks again for reading, and until then... [face_coffee]
     
  25. Starith

    Starith Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2020
    OK, so it's the week after. Oops.

    But I got an update, and a lot done for the next one after this, so there's that!

    Now here we go. Back to Vader...




    Vader stood before the main computer, its whitish glow the only source of light in the dark room. The night was growing and the halls outside were dead silent, free of anyone or anything save the positioned sentry droids, as the training center and all its inhabitants settled for the evening. But the Dark Lord was too preoccupied to do the same. He was busy. He was searching.

    The leather-clad fingers worked quickly at the keypad. He input a keyword search. The datascreen flashed, words lit up and he skimmed them. A documented report appeared consisting of several entries. He easily pinpointed the passages where the name Kenobi was highlighted. He read:

    Subject has admitted to being taught by Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Provided possible location. Will pursue with further questioning.

    And there it was. So the Grand Inquisitor had been right; Obi-Wan had indeed taken another apprentice. And amazingly, that apprentice had ended up here, among the Inquisitorius, practically right under Vader's nose. He had probably been easily reachable for years.

    Yet by some small chance the two students of Obi-Wan Kenobi had now crossed paths... In fact, Vader realized the boy was the only Initiate he had ever interacted with, prone as he was to avoid dealing with the trainees as much as possible. The ways of the Force were astounding indeed, as was the hidden intricacy in which it put its will into motion.

    Naturally he felt an inherited hatred for this boy... and a bitter curiosity as well. He recalled the Grand Inquisitor's description of him: Jedi-taught, brought into the training program later in life, not born on an Imperial world... Behavioral issues...

    Vader looked back at the screen. The next entry came at a later date: After further interrogations, subject has reiterated information on Kenobi. Subject has also admitted to having a Jedi father. Claims he is deceased and identity is unknown. This father is suspected to be Kenobi.

    Vader felt a pit in his stomach. Obi-Wan: a father. Obi-Wan: having a family. He was not ready to process it. The prospect rumbled inside him strangely, disorderly, putting him off balance. The more he let himself think of it the more it gnawed at the most susceptible places in his soul, tearing at old wounds he thought had been long callused.

    He didn't know what to do with these feelings, but he knew the last thing he needed was to let them sink into him further. He tried to draw on the dark side, wanting to let it eat away at them like acid. Gradually the feelings thinned down, but to his disappointment they did not drain completely.

    Glumly he returned his attention to the report. He kept reading.

    Subject admitted to meeting Kenobi on Tatooine, the subject's homeworld. Underwent training with Kenobi for approximately 3 months. Further readings show that, to the best of the subject's knowledge, his father was not in fact Kenobi, but an unknown Jedi who died before he was born.

    Of course, Vader thought, grimly bemused. Of course Kenobi wouldn't. Even in hiding with no Jedi Order left to instill the rule of non-attachment, the exemplary Jedi that was Obi-Wan Kenobi would not dare defy its hallowed conventions by actually forming a family. No, he would be unbound by such things. He would be alone.

    As he should be.

    But the information brought Vader other misgivings. Suddenly there was this boy, this second apprentice of Kenobi, an unwelcome commodity thrown in his pursuit of vengeance.

    And from Tatooine...

    For a second Vader was tempted to look up the boy's profile from the data archive, to read up on him, see an image of him. He didn't. He could imagine the boy well enough from their encounter hours ago. His mind rolled back to the sight of him: the baffled, uniformed teenager coming through the doors, standing in the hallway...

    It was as if the Force had nonchalantly dropped this boy before Vader, placed him in his path...

    Obi-Wan's second apprentice... What had he thought it would achieve, taking another young fool under his wing, trying once again to play the role of master? No doubt to make a weapon for himself, for the Jedi. To redeem himself from his past failure. He had certainly taken his time to do it, waiting seventeen years after the Purge...

    Yes, it was all intriguing, but it irritated the Dark Lord more than anything. Obi-Wan must have been desperate in seeking a student; nothing about the boy had suggested anything out of the ordinary. He was full of fear and seemed just as unpolished as any of the trainees. Just another child, just another pointless Initiate.

    Just another young, impoverished boy from Tatooine.

    Another such boy gifted with the Force. Scrawny, blond-haired, witless and resistant, trying to escape. Trying to be free.

    Vader's metal-leather fingers grazed into the edge of the keypad. No. It wasn't the Force that had plotted this, he decided. It felt too uncanny, too targeted at him — it seemed more as if Obi-Wan himself had planned it, his hand was dangling this discovery before him like bait, waiting to see if he would bite...

    He loosened his grip on the keypad. He took in a breath, again drawing on the dark side, wanting to drop these futile thoughts. They were nonsensical suspicions, violent longings that wanted an outlet but would only waste his energy. He needed to ground himself. To move on, go elsewhere.

    But he didn't. His gaze lingered on the remaining marks where the name Kenobi stood out on the screen. Begrudgingly, he read more.

    Information again deemed to the best of subject's knowledge, but unconfirmed; Kenobi not found on Tatooine.

    No further information retracted. Subject will be recruited into Project Harvestar.

    And Vader saw no more regarding his old master. He reread bits of the information. Everything fit with what he already knew. He had indeed heard about this case two years ago. The Grand Inquisitor had sent his own team to Tatooine to investigate before informing him of it, much to Vader's frustration at the time.

    Vader had dropped everything when he learned of it. After over a decade, he had gone back to Tatooine. Of all cowardly, cunningly-chosen places for the man to hide... But the irony was that if anything could get Vader to set foot on that miserable rock again, it was finding Obi-Wan.

    He had searched the Dune Sea for a week; the reports had listed it as Kenobi's suspected location, but there were no detailed coordinates. He had swept through the surrounding regions as well, cutting his way through several leads from several settlements, information dealers and other such scum, only to learn the most from a spread of folktales; that of the "desert wizard" Ben Kenobi, a hooded figure who appeared to lost travelers like a giant Jawa in the Jundland Wastes.

    Nothing had been found in those jagged, sweltering wastelands. But southwest of the canyons there had been a dwelling, long wrecked by scavengers. Vader could feel Obi-Wan had lived there, the Force told him as much — and he was gone. He had long since fled.

    Vader continued to scroll through more of the information on the screen, fueled by his dark loathing, his unbearable defeat, but the report held nothing else of interest. Vader simmered for a moment. A wish was winding him, a wish to do something. This boy was a living link to Kenobi and he was right within his grasp, ready to be used. He felt the urge to bring him forth, to question him...

    But no. That would yield nothing. As little as he thought of the Inquisitors, he found it too hard to believe they couldn't get the truth out of a barely-trained boy over multiple interrogations. And the child had already given them crucial information that could spell the end of his former-master. There was nothing left to uncover.

    Still, Vader felt himself coil up inside. He wanted to explore this, dig up everything he could. And at the same time he wanted nothing more to do with it. Better to save himself the frustration and disappointment. It would lead to nothing new, nothing helpful. No revelations.

    Someday he would meet Kenobi again... and by tomorrow he would be off Geonosis and away from this training center, and he wouldn't have to think of the boy or Kenobi until that time. He could put his effort and attention on something else, somewhere else. He would have to be content with that.

    The Dark Lord lifted a hand to shut the device off, but then — bleep. His communicator sounded. Vader checked it. It was a priority call — from the Emperor himself. He then remembered he was supposed to have called him some time ago. Without another thought he waved a hand and the computer shut off. He went to the center of the room where a communications' station was held and transferred the call to the holotransmitter, his master's preferred form of contact.

    Sidious's blue-tinted form materialized. Vader was already bent on knee, his helmeted head lowered in a customary bow. "Master."

    The Emperor frowned and leaned back in his chair. "Lord Vader."

    Vader lifted his head, trying to qualm the sliver of abashment at being late on his scheduled report. He began, "The Inquisitorius training program is proceeding as expected."

    Sidious tilted his head to the side. His bored expression mellowed slightly. "Informative as that summary is, apprentice, I must bother you for further details. What of the Inquisitors? How goes the training regime? How do the selected Initiates fare in skill, in prowess? I trust you have seen them in action."

    "I have," Vader replied. "They can fight. They can wield the lightsaber, and they can harness the Force. To a degree." He paused. Then, knowing better than to try to hide his honest opinion from his master, Vader added, "They are subpar. They are not ready to engage with Jedi, let alone eliminate them. In skill, I find these candidates are the equivalent of Jedi Padawans."

    "I see," commented the Emperor. His lumped eyebrows rose over his wrinkle-layered eyes. "Subpar, you say... curious. So many successful missions credited to the Inquisitorius — the battles fought, the Force-sensitives found, the glorious deaths of so many Jedi... Padawans... former-Jedi and the like. So many."

    His voice was soft and lilting, nearly melodic. Vader felt a nudge of annoyance at the tone; he chose to ignore it.

    "The Grand Inquisitor claims his candidates are strong and promising," the Emperor continued effortlessly. "Yet you claim they are sorely lacking. Very curious."

    "The Grand Inquisitor is blind by ambition," said Vader. "I witnessed these ''promising'' Initiates perform in a training course mere hours ago. Nearly all failed to reach the end, half were eliminated within the first five minutes. They lack technique and a true adeptness to touch into the dark side. Their saber work is basic, childish; they do not even train with full-powered lightsabers. And the Grand Inquisitor fails to see these problems. Instead he lavishes praise onto them. He and the others have only passed down their flaws."

    "And this is true of all the Inquisitors?"

    "Yes. All are inefficient."

    "Ah." The Emperor lifted his head, the yellow eyes glinting under the black hood. He sighed. "My friend, I fear you expect too much from these servants of ours. You cannot abide them for being weaker than you, but you cannot expect them to be as strong as the Sith. This training program itself aims to keep it that way. They cannot be taught more of the dark side, they cannot be strengthened beyond their purpose. The scale of power must be kept... in balance. They must be taught just enough to be of use. Mediocre in the eyes of masters such as ourselves, perhaps, but it is necessary."

    "That does not negate their insufficiency," Vader all but blurted out. "If they cannot handle a mere training exercise, what chance do they have of facing Jedi, or being of use in any real mission? You have sent me to assess this program, Master, and so I do. And I do not see a reason for their existence in the Empire."

    The Emperor raised his hooded head and, surprisingly, made a slow, mindful nod. "As I had foreseen. And I do trust your verily impartial judgment, Lord Vader... which brings me to this conclusion." He laced his white fingers together. "I have thought on the matter, and it does appear that reassessment of this program is in order. I have decided to reconsider the role of the Inquisitorius in the Empire."

    Vader stared, taken aback. "Reconsider?" he prodded accordingly.

    "Naturally. Much has changed in these past years since the Death Star's completion — and the results of its first target. Whatever rebel cells are left are now crumbling. Whatever war they hoped to win is won, by us. Systems are changing their allegiances, criminal syndicates are rethinking their positions... Any remnants of the Jedi are uttering their last breaths. This is the first truly golden age of our Empire, my apprentice. With such prosperity, there must come change."

    Vader felt his interest pique. He saw where this was going, and it enthralled him. "You wish to end the Inquisitorius."

    The lidded eyes blinked, heavy and impassive. "As the Jedi decreased over the years, I have had to find other ways to utilize them. But the fact of the matter is that the Empire is now independent of the Inquisitors. There are others who can find Force-strong children, others who can take care of any Jedi stragglers left in the galaxy. It would seem there is nothing left for the Inquisitors to do..."

    Vader's mind stirred. The old man stared back at him, peering and expectant, and Vader felt a dark charge in himself, imagining the end of the Inquisitorius: slaying the Grand Inquisitor, slaying all of them — but he did not want to merely assume Sidious' intent, so he asked outright, "What are you proposing, master?"

    "I propose that you, Lord Vader, take the initiative at last." Sidious folded out his long-sleeved hand in an inviting gesture. "If the Inquisitors are unfit to teach, then it is you, Lord Vader, who must make things right. You must become the teacher."

    "What?" Vader's armored body made a jolt; he couldn't fight the surprise and disdain in his voice. His glint of anticipation was doused, the bloody vision of Inquisitor slaughter snuffed out.

    Sidious's wizened face was wry with amusement, drinking in his fellow Sith's reaction. "Consider this an experiment of mine, apprentice. Yes, the Inquisitors serve no larger purpose as a group, but to toss the entirety aside could be quite... wasteful. And with you at the lead, it can only flourish. What better way to empower these Initiates than with the iron hand of a Sith Lord to guide them? The Grand Inquisitor himself has been requesting more involvement from you throughout the years. I am sure he'll be thrilled that you're taking over. And you have shown to have such a keen eye for spotting the flaws in this program. If anyone can salvage something from it, it is you."

    "But I... am... I have no desire... to..." Vader seethed, despising the fumbling, all-but-pleading words. But his rage was soaring. What kind of nonsense... What form of insult, of belittlement was this?... Him, teaching Initiates? He bit back the heated objections he wanted to release, knowing the danger of expressing them. He had to use reason, he had to compose himself.

    "You are wise in your deduction, Master," he said soberly. "But I have other duties. Other roles to fill. My time would be split and my involvement limited. And this role would less... suitable, to my skill set. I have no regard, nor the time, to lend to the training of these Initiates."

    Sidious's brow furrowed, but his smile became an engraved line on his face. "Unfortunately, such things are not dictated by you, Lord Vader. In case you could not surmise it, this is not a request; it is an order. You will train these Initiates. You will see which is the strongest among them. Use whatever methods you see fit. Perhaps a few will still stand when it's over, or perhaps none will, but whatever happens it will be your responsibility. And it starts now. Effective immediately."

    Vader scowled behind the mask, teeth clenched, his indignation roaring silently through the Force; no doubt it was what made that daggering smile on the Emperor's face stretch with such savoring. Furious but incontestably foiled, Vader merely muttered, "As you wish."

    "Good," droned Sidious, the word dragged out for several seconds. He made a deep, drowsy nod. "I will be sending a transport for the Inquisitors; they will be sent elsewhere. You alone will be in charge of this training program. You are the Grand Inquisitor now, Lord Vader. Let us hope a better one than the last." The daggering smile loosened to a pout. "And really, Vader, this task is tailor-made for you. After all, you do have such a way with children."

    With that, the Emperor's likeness flickered away, the blue light swallowed up into the pedestal, leaving Vader in the dark.


     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021