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  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Saga - OT Shot in the Dark (AU ROTJ: H/L, Luke, Anakin, OCs) 2/3

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Jun 21, 2018.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb and heart-wrenching as everyone scrambles and :eek: finds not even a blip. [face_worried] That left leg injury is too worrying and needs immediate attention.
    =D=
     
  2. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010


    Leia has more in common with her father than she wants to admit. And yes, dead on about the analogy of leaving the door wide open to the Dark Side...



    Aww! [:D] I know, seeing Luke hurt is heartbreaking...sadly he seems prone to it. But yay, I can make readers feel things! :p[face_devil]



    Agreed. Luke needs help, and fast...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER NINETEEN


    A violent shudder wrenched Luke from a painful and restless sleep...one of countless such rude awakenings he had experienced throughout the night. It had taken him a long while to claw his way back to to rest.

    This time was worse. The bright yellow of Endor- the gas giant -was glaring on him, along with the system’s star rising slowly in the East. Morning had returned.

    Luke blinked at its brightness and turned his head away. At least morning would bring warmth. The penetrating chill in his his dew-dampened limbs had to leave before he could do anything...not that there was much he could do.

    The previous night had been one of the most miserable in Luke’s life. Hoth and his first evening aboard the Executor had been worse, but only by a little. After destroying his jacket with material clutched in the crook of his right elbow and teeth, he found a pair of large, heavy branches that would suffice as splints. Actually splinting the badly broken limb was another story.

    Using a nearly useless left hand and the stump of his right, he had slowly tried straighten out his leg. The smallest movement brought terrible pain and more screams. At least twice he came close to blacking out. Force-enhanced encouragement from his father kept him going, and in time the leg was at least straight enough to stabilize with the splints and ripped jacket. One piece he had to use as a bandage when his shin started bleeding again. By the time that was finished, it was nearly dark, and Luke could feel dehydration creeping up on him. After a very brief rest, his next agenda was to try and find his downed speeder.

    It was exercise in agony. Lift, drag, drop, stretch. Lift, drag, drop, stretch. The awkward side crawl brought further stabs of pain, and he had to rest every four ‘strides’ or so to keep from passing out. For hours, Luke had dragged himself along the rough forest floor, his only direction determined by hazy memory. Finally his arm found the mangled metal of his swoop, and he began to look for the survival pack. It lay a meter away, battered but somehow intact.

    Its contents had been very disappointing. After several days without replenishment, all it contained was a box of ration bars, a pitifully empty medic kit with two bandages and half a bottle of antiseptic, and a single water bulb.

    Luke drank half the water and devoured a ration bar in haste- he hadn’t eaten all day – before doing what he could with the meager medical supplies. His rude bandage had already fallen off so, moving completely by feel, he dumped what was left of the antiseptic on his leg. The sting made him whimper, but he forced himself to try and bind it with one of the bandages. That was all he could do. As for the other bandage, he looped it and shrugged it over his head and shoulder to use with his left arm. Then, exhausted, he collapsed into a collection of ferns to sleep, his father’s worried voice fading away into the corners of his mind.

    What followed could hardly be called sleep. If anything Luke had even less energy upon waking this final time, and he hurt more. His leg felt as if it was on fire, and he had to grit his teeth and focus on breathing to even see straight. The rest of his body was terribly stiff from a night on rough ground, and his arm and head were already throbbing.

    Thirst plagued him, and he fished the water bulb out of the supply sack to down the rest of it. Maybe this was foolish, but he knew he couldn’t conserve water forever. Besides, the forest was damp enough in the mornings he could probably drink the dew out of the moss. His stomach rumbled with emptiness, and with reluctance he nibbled another ration bar. He knew he’d need energy to fight off whatever infection was stalking his leg. Hopefully his stomach had enough liquid to digest.

    So they didn’t find me yet, thought Luke grimly as he edged up and leaned against his wrecked bike. I must have come awfully far. Doubts that anyone would come at all were fleeting. Anakin had already informed the Rebellion that his son was injured and needed help, and of course Leia had seen him leave. Between Anakin’s attempt at communication and her own senses, she must have known by then that Luke was in trouble. Even if the rest of the Alliance gave up, the young Jedi knew his twin wouldn’t rest until she found him.

    Son? Came Anakin’s tentative touch. Son, can you hear me?

    Luke closed his eyes to sink back into the Force. Yes, Father. I can hear you. He could sense the relief that followed and tried to smile. How difficult it was to believe that once he had resisted his father’s voice. Now he clung to it. Is anyone coming?

    Anakin projected a wave of frustration. No one has told me much, but from what I can gather, the search continued for half the night and was to have picked up again at dawn. They tell me they can find nothing, though they’ve already covered more than three thousand kilometers.

    Luke’s head spun from more than the concussion. I did come far...but they should be getting close…. He sensed this brought little comfort to his father. They’ll find me. I know they will.

    Yes, Luke. I know...but I’m deeply worried about your injuries and lack of supplies, confessed Anakin. That seemed to be an understatement. His emotions were roiling.

    A quick spike of anger made Luke flinch. Father…?

    It faded into shame. I’m sorry, son. I know if they’d let me join the search, I could find you that much sooner!

    Luke winced. His father’s worry grew with every passing moment. Not being able to help was torture. I’ll be all right. He wished he could mask his pain from his father, but the Force didn’t lie.

    Luke, I feel your pain as keenly as my own, Anakin reminded. You’re my son! Knowing you lie alone, suffering, while I’m trapped up here… Anger threatened to rise again, but Anakin swallowed it.

    Please don’t, warned Luke, biting his lip. If you try to break out, you’ll destroy any trust you’ve built with the Rebellion.

    You need help. Your leg will become infected, if it isn’t already. In your state, that could kill you.

    Luke sighed heavily and rubbed his temples. Don’t think like that. I’ll be all right. I promise.

    Anakin’s anger once again faded, and he seemed to sag. I’m sorry, son. I just want to help you...more than anything.

    Luke’s heart just about broke, feeling his father’s love. But you are. You’ve helped keep me going.

    Anakin seemed to sigh. Your pain is worse. Did Master Yoda teach you anything about pain-suppression?

    Luke almost laughed with irony. A little. I keep trying to remember… As if to mock him, another lance of agony shot through his leg when he shifted his weight, and he yelped.

    Luke, be still. Anakin paused, as if hesitating. I don’t know if this will work...I’ve never done it across this distance…

    Luke knit his brows in confusion. Are you going to teach me? He inquired hopefully.

    After you’ve rested a bit more, I can try...but in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can relieve some of your pain myself.

    Luke was stunned. You can do that?

    The Jedi healers used to do it in the Temple Infirmary. I’ve only done it on someone else once...and only when they were right next to me. Anakin paused again, cautious. It’s been a long time. I don’t know if it will work...but I’m going to try.

    Luke settled in, biting his lip with curiosity. Is there anything you want me to do?

    Nothing yet. Just try to relax...this may take a while.

    And so, Luke lay still, keeping his breathing even and not projecting any thoughts so his father could concentrate. In minutes the ache in his leg began to ease. He sighed with relief. It’s working. Thank you.

    Anakin’s next words were full of regret. I only wish I could do more…

    * * * * *

    As lead medic in the brig about the Liberty, Lt. Sal had gotten used to seeing a lot of unpleasant things from his patients. He endured everything other medics had, but worse. Injuries had been faked to try and gain sympathy and break out. In the two short years since his commission, he had been hit, kicked, spit on, screamed at, and had every insult known to sentience thrown at him, even as he was trying to tie a bandage or set a broken limb. His only reward came in knowing he only had to see each one two or three times. They’d heal and he could move on.

    Anakin was the exception to the rule, and not because his conditions were chronic. The man had never been anything but pleasant, and had earned the nickname “The Easy One” from the other medics.

    Of course this didn’t mean Anakin was free of quirks. He could be stubborn and over-talkative, especially when it came to his son. In the last day and a half he’d refused food and simply would not shut up about Captain Skywalker; he was in danger, he was injured, he needed help immediately. Eerily, almost every prediction made via this Force had turned out to be true. The younger Skywalker had been listed as Missing as of this morning, and the search effort was picked up. Sal wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he came in injured.

    As he entered Anakin’s cell with the tray of food and meds, Sal was prepared for another onslaught of questions and begging to speak with higher-ups about finding Luke. Instead he was greeted with the sight of his patient lying facedown on the floor. His position suggested a fall rather than a nap.

    Sal frowned and set the tray down on the table. “Skywalker?” No response. His approach was cautious.

    Automatically the guards drew their stun sticks. Experience had taught him to take nothing at face value.

    Sal showed them his palm as he crouched next to his patient. Something told him Anakin wasn’t faking. A quick check told him Anakin’s heartbeat was somewhat irregular and his skin somewhat cool. Low blood sugar? Sal sifted through his kit to find a testing lancet and rolled up Anakin’s sleeve to make sure. The readings confirmed his suspicion, and Sal groaned. I told him to eat. Normally a person wouldn’t pass out from missing one meal, but Anakin took in few enough calories anyway. The worry over Luke couldn’t be helping. Well, you can chew him out when he wakes up, he told himself, finding hypos with glucose and adrenaline. Carefully he rolled the man over.

    The feel of the first hypo roused Anakin with a start. “Luke-” When his bleary eyes focused on the medic, he frowned. “Lieutenant?”

    Sal blew out a short breath- half relief and half aggravation. “Welcome back.” He prepared the next hypo.

    Anakin’s eyes darted around in disorientation. “What happened?”

    “Your blood sugar bottomed out,” frowned Sal, shaking his head. “Looks like you fainted.”

    Anakin blinked. Me? Faint? It was almost unthinkable. The only other time he could remember fainting was out of pain and shock after losing his left arm to Dooku. But then the combination of long-distance, Force-enhanced pain suppression and taking in so little food couldn’t have done him any favors. The former Jedi frowned at his uncooperative body. Just when Luke needed me...wait- “Luke!” He tried rising.

    Sal held him still. “Hey, now. Give those hypos a second to kick in. To answer your inevitable question, ah-” He cringed. “Last I heard, he’s still listed as missing. Sorry,” he added when Anakin’s grim mood returned.

    Anakin closed his eyes. “He’s in pain...terrible pain...I just wanted to help him...I tried, but-”

    Sal’s brows knit in confusion, but he shrugged it off. He didn’t put much stock in this Force stuff himself but knew better than to tell a concerned father as much. “Well...don’t worry too much. They’ve added a few more bodies to the search party. I’m sure they’ll find him soon.” He checked Anakin’s blood sugar again and nodded at the results. “OK, let’s see if we can get some food in you. Can you stand?”

    Anakin heaved back to his feet with a grunt. “I need to talk to my son first...”

    Sal pursed his lips in annoyance. “If he’s as injured as you say, then he probably needs rest as much as you need calories. You can talk to him later.”

    “He’ll be worried if the contact broke suddenly...”

    “He can wait. You need to eat something.”

    Anakin eyed the tray of cereal and fruit. He had no appetite. All he could think of was Luke. “It’ll only take a minute-” And he wavered unexpectedly on his feet, bracing himself against the table. "Oh..."

    Sal caught him with a groan. “There, see? You can hardly stand. You’re not doing anyone any favors if you pass out again...unless you want the stomach tube back in.”

    Not again. The idea brought Anakin up short and he cringed. He’s right. You can’t help Luke if you can’t stay conscious. Sighing heavily, he sat at the table and picked up his spoon. The food was, as usual, tasteless...but it helped. After a few bites he spoke again. “Once I’m finished, I need to contact General Madine again. I have something else to tell him.”

    Sal, sitting nearby, sighed with impatience. “You can try, but unless you have something else to offer the search party-”

    “I do,” said Anakin. He found Sal’s eyes. “I know where Captain Skywalker is.”

    “You know they need coordinates.”

    “No, they don’t. I can show them.”

    “On a map?”

    “By going down to Endor and joining the search party myself.”

    I knew it. Sal knit his arms. “You know they’ll never let you go.”

    Anakin’s shoulders fell. “Captain Skywalker must be found!”

    Sal nodded. “Obviously! The guy’s the best pilot in the Rebellion, and no one is going to rest until he comes back.”

    Anakin slammed his spoon on the table. “It’s not enough! If I’d been allowed, I’d have found him by now!” Suddenly aware of the chill that was spreading out from his heart, the former Jedi recoiled, shuddered, and let his head drop into his bionic hands. No. Not that way. Don’t you dare go back to that. “I’m sorry.”

    Sal, who had brief visions of this man using his spoon as a weapon, breathed deeply. “Just...take it easy. They’ll find him, all right?”

    Anakin’s throat ached with emotion as he met Sal’s eyes in desperation. “He’s injured...he’s in pain...I must help him.”

    Sal’s shoulders fell. Anakin’s desperation was heartbreaking. “You know why they can’t let you out of here.”

    Anakin blinked. “Do you have children, Lieutenant?”

    Sal flinched. His mind wandered to the girlfriend back home on Kalador...the one he’d lost because of his association with the Rebellion...the one who’d encouraged him to keep pursuing his career as a medic. They’d talked about having children someday, after the war was over...and never got the chance. “No...but I know what it’s like to...to not know if s-someone you care for is going to make it,” he faltered, then cleared his throat.

    Anakin nodded slowly. He could see in the medic’s eyes he did understand. There was no need to explain any further, nor was there any need to ask to contact the leaders of the Rebellion again. He knew they’d never let him out to look for Luke himself. That left just one other option...and even that was in doubt.

    While she’d already refused to talk to Anakin, maybe Leia could talk to Luke and find him that way...it was worth a shot, anyway.

    Of course this idea was dependent upon Luke being strong enough to call to his twin...
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Loved the interaction/conversation between father & son. Sal continues to be sympathetic and firmly insistent that Anakin take care of himself. Hopefully the searchers will luck out soon. [face_worried] =D=
     
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  4. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha [:D] Thanks as always.

    Gah, I need to stop falling behind on this...but between job hunting and new pets, writing has fallen to the back burner. :oops:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER TWENTY

    Leia...Leia...” Luke shivered in the darkness, teeth chattering, brow dotted with sweat though the evening temperature continued to drop. “Le….AGH!” Yet another sharp spasm sliced through his leg, forcing him to withdraw. Tears of frustration and pain brimmed in his eyes. Why doesn’t she answer? Why can’t she hear me?

    Hours had passed since Anakin’s suggestion of calling to Leia. Since mid-morning Luke had spent all of his energy on trying to find his sister though the Force. He called to her, at times begging for help.

    But his cries went unheeded and unanswered. He felt no connection at all. Leia must have been too far away to hear him. Surely if she had, she would have found a way to answer.

    The tears fell, and Luke didn’t bother stopping them. He was chilled, hungry, thirsty, and utterly exhausted. Every bit of his strength had been spent in what seemed like a pointless exercise. When not calling to Leia, he’d tried to ease the pain in his leg with the Force. He was too tired for it to do much good, but with Anakin’s help, he could at least have some relief. Now even that was gone. He felt completely alone.

    Anakin’s presence, as if on cue, brushed his mind. Luke?

    Luke clung to it like a lifeline. Father, help me!

    Anakin seemed to grimace through the Force. Son, I’m doing all I can for you. Hold on.

    Leia’s not answering...I can’t find her.

    Yes, you can. There was desperation in Anakin’s words. You must! You have the strength within you.

    Luke shuddered from the chill. He didn’t feel very strong. I’m tired...so tired...it hurts…

    Anakin’s concern was high. I know, Luke. A pause. Rest. Lie still now.

    Luke nodded, though of course his father couldn’t see him. Slowly that familiar, druglike pain suppression returned to his mangled leg, and he sighed in relief...though he was concerned about the effect it would have on his father. He’d heard about Anakin's fainting spell. Just a little. Don’t hurt yourself.

    Sleep, son. Just sleep. You need rest.

    Luke found his eyes drifting shut. He curled up in an abbreviated fetal position, shuddered, and let sleep take him.

    * * * * *

    “Rogue Three, this is General Solo. Come in.” Han’s stomach twisted as he called for Wedge over the comm. He kept his finger on the pickup and his eyes on Leia. She stood behind him with the thumbnail of her right hand pressed against her lips, fingers curled, eyes closed as if in prayer. This calm demeanor hid her growing sense of desperation...a feeling that Han and everyone else who was close to Luke shared.

    Han, Leia, and the Rogues had risen early that morning to pick up the search for the missing Jedi. For hours they’d flown in a series of expanding zigzag patterns, extending their range another 4,000 kilometers. The Falcon and four members of Rogue Squadron had now covered an area of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, essentially traveling halfway around the moon. Even the Ewoks had picked up the search and spread out, searching all their known hiding places where a wounded human might be able to take refuge. In the twelve hours of daylight that followed, nobody had reported a single trace of Luke. They did find a few more dead Scout troopers and a wrecked speeder, but that was it. They spoke as if Golden-Hair-With-Magic - their special nickname for Luke - had simply vanished off the face of the moon.

    The sun had dropped an hour ago, and the Falcon was headed back toward the village from a different direction. They were low on fuel and would have to head back to the Liberty for supplies before making another run. That, and her crew were all but dead on their feet.

    Rogue Squadron was the last to check in. Terin and Hobbie had already gone back to Home One for food and a few hours’ bunk time while Wedge and Janson were once again the last to call it a night. They had gone on a wider sweep to the South in case Luke had veered off course or lost his sense of direction.

    Han gnawed on his lip as he waited for their reply. “Rogue Three, d'you copy? Wedge?”

    At last the comm crackled. Distance and the curve of the moon was affecting the signal. “Copy, General Solo.” Judging by his tone, it wasn’t good news. “Nothing new to report. Still no sign of Luke. Fuel’s starting to get low.”

    Han swore under his breath before pressing the pickup once again. “A’right. You two head in. Get some sleep.”

    Wedge and Janson obeyed with low voices...no doubt their spirits were even lower.

    Another glance at Leia revealed a woman barely able to hold in her frustration. Han assumed it was because they couldn’t find Luke.

    He was only half right…

    * * * * *

    As the Millennium Falcon continued its’ low skim over the canopy of Endor, Leia chewed aggressively at her lip. Anger, fear, and worry knotted her stomach. Most of it was over Luke.

    But the rest was over the constant stream of voices persistently tapping at her head at random intervals throughout the day. Sometimes they were strong and steady. Other times they were a bare whisper, insistent yet desperate. Furious at this unwanted intrusion, Leia had focused at least half her attention on keeping the doors of her mind firmly shut. She forced herself to ignore every nudge. I told him to leave me alone. He’s not. How can Luke trust him?

    At the moment worry was even stronger than anger. By this time she was convinced that her brother was hurt...badly. Now he would be spending another lonely night in the forest. How much longer could he last? Had he been able to find food or water...or shelter against Endor’s damp nights? What about the predators? How much medical care did he need?

    “Leia….hey,” murmured Han, taking her hand gently in his.

    Leia flinched at his touch, then sighed, turning to him. No need to chew him out. He had been running himself and his ship ragged in the search effort. “Han, I’m sorry. I know you’re tired. Thank you for trying.”

    Han frowned. “Hey. We’re not givin’ up yet. ‘Sides, y’know Luke. Kid’s tough.” He tried to smile and failed miserably. “He’ll be OK.”

    Leia closed her eyes and nodded, fighting every doubt. I have to believe that. “How’s our fuel?”

    Han turned to Chewie, who growled with disappointment. “We’re runnin’ on fumes, sweetheart. We don’t head back up now, we’ll be grounded.”

    Though it pained her to do so, Leia closed her eyes and nodded. “Do it. The sooner we fill up, the sooner we can keep looking.” Despite her best efforts, her voice wavered. When the Falcon began to climb, she sat down heavily and rubbed her temples. Fighting off her biological father’s voice had given her a bad headache. The thought of Luke, alone and injured for another night, made tears spring to her eyes. When Han stooped to wrap her in his arms, Leia buried her face in his shoulder and let several fall.

    Command was already starting to lose hope. Predators were thick on Endor, and such a long period without any contact did not bode well for Luke’s survival...and they couldn’t wait for him forever. Red Squadron’s latest reconnaissance flight had shown increasing Imperial activity in the next sector over. They seemed to be regrouping. If the Alliance was to survive, Luke might have to be left behind.

    * * * * *

    Morning came too soon for the man at the center of all this attention. Luke had hardly slept at all, and his leg felt worse...far worse. It throbbed with every beat of his heart, and he had to grit his teeth to keep from whimpering. After blinking the grit from his eyes, Luke forced himself up to peer at the bandage. It didn’t look good.

    The swelling over his shin had nearly doubled. Brushing his wrist near the wound found the area far too warm. Accumulated blood in the bandage had been joined by the pale yellow of pus.

    Luke grimaced and shifted to lean against the speeder. Apparently that antiseptic hadn’t done much good. His leg was definitely infected. In such unsanitary conditions, it would spread quickly. The need for help was now more pressing than ever.

    Of course there was another more pressing need to take care of, and Luke performed his awkward side crawl to the shallow hole he’d been using as a latrine. Once that was taken care of he found himself painfully thirsty. He crawled to the other side of his ‘camp’ to suck the morning dew from several relatively clean wads of moss. It amounted to no more than a cup or so, but it was all he had.

    Luke, called Anakin. He must have sensed his son's movement to call so quickly.

    The young Jedi settled back into the Force. I hear you, Father.

    Anakin’s worry seemed to deepen by the minute. There’s no improvement, is there? Your leg still pains you a great deal.

    It doesn’t feel good, allowed Luke. He knew his father had been losing sleep and didn’t want to add to the problem.

    It’s worse this morning. It was a statement, not a question. Anakin could read his son like a datapad. Far worse.

    Luke winced. Lying at this point was useless. It’s infected. But don’t worry too much, he added. Maybe they’ll find me today.

    Maybe isn’t good enough, insisted Anakin. Luke, I know your leg feels terrible, but you must find a way to push past it. Find your sister. Call to her. She’ll come for you.

    I tried, insisted Luke tiredly. Leia can’t hear me. She must be too far.

    She’s closer than before, but….headed in the wrong direction! Anakin’s frustration mounted. Why doesn’t she turn around?

    Tell her, suggested Luke.

    Son, I’ve already told you that Leia won’t listen to me.

    Try again...I can’t find her. Luke felt a wave of dizziness threaten to overtake him, and he lay back down. Too tired…

    Luke?

    But Luke’s attention was fading as his head continued to spin. At last a final spurt of pain washed over the young Jedi, and he didn’t bother trying to fight it. He gave in and let sleep reclaim him.

    * * * * *

    Luke? Luke…? Anakin’s heart sank as his son fell unconscious. Desperate, he reached for his daughter. Leia, turn around! You’re going the wrong way and Luke needs help! Now! But his mind came once more up against a solid wall. Leia wasn’t letting him in.

    Anakin heaved to his feet and growled in frustration. Luke couldn’t last much longer in his condition. Without precise coordinates, the Rebellion was just going to continue circling aimlessly. And Leia was bound and determined to shut him out.

    There was only one thing left to do, then. Anakin was going to have to track down his son on his own and ask forgiveness later. So long as he didn’t harm anyone in the process, he wasn’t anticipating coming to much harm himself. The higher ups had so much as ordered he be kept alive and in relatively good health.

    And so the former Jedi turned to the door and let the Force flow through him, filling him from knees to arms to crown. He reached out to see how many people were in his way.

    In addition to the usual four guards, Lt. Sal was just down the hall. He’d be at the cell in moments.

    Perfect. Now he wouldn’t have to try and undo all those wires in the door controls. Anakin stood in a parade rest even as his muscles tensed

    Predictably Sal entered with his usual tray of food and meds. “All right, Skywalker. Good news. You finally get to chew something today.”

    Anakin didn’t even care about the sight and smell of the boiled grain. He didn’t move beyond knitting his brows. “How can I eat knowing that my son is down on the sanctuary moon, suffering?”

    Sal set down the tray with a frown. “You’ve done everything you can. Not eating won’t change anything. I don’t think you want to pass out again.”

    Anakin kept his eyes on the door, biting his lip. Steady….. “No...but unless the Alliance has changed their mind about my joining the search-” He sighed when Sal shook his head. “Then...I’m sorry. You’ve been very good to me, Lieutenant...far better than I deserve.”

    Sal frowned and the guards tensed. They knew he was up to something. “Skywalker…?” He didn't like Anakin's tone.

    Anakin answered by gathering the Force around him and extending his hand. Stun sticks and blasters were ripped away from the guards and tossed into opposite corners. Before they could react, Anakin held a blaster, stunned them both, and deactivated the door and force field. Then, closing them before Sal could follow, he made a break for it.

    Sal gaped at the man, eyes wide. “Skywalker, wait! Stop!”

    “I’ve no choice,” called Anakin, hurrying for the next door. “I must help my son.”

    “You’ll never make it out! The whole ship’s going to be after you!” hollered Sal through the force field.

    Anakin ignored his medic and sprinted down the long hall. While the medic was probably right, he was done waiting on the Alliance. Luke needed help immediately. Hold on, son. I’m coming.

    Everything began happening at once. Klaxon alarms blared. Groups of guards began converging on the brig, armed and ready. An announcement of ‘non-lethal force only’ was followed by a blast and shower of sparks from behind. A pair of soft-soled shoes sprinted up from behind, and Anakin knew who it was. Sal’s speed was a surprise...as was the group of not two but six guards waiting for him in the lift. the Force enabled him to dodge them once...twice...thrice.

    He wasn't so lucky the fourth time and the butt of a blaster was brought to his temple with a crack.

    Stars danced before Anakin’s eyes as he heard Sal cry out in dismay. Dizziness overtook him, and he crumpled to the deck. The guards were on him in seconds with several pairs of stun cuffs and leg irons. While he wasn’t surprised at the quick response, disappointment nearly crushed him. “Luke...no,” he mumbled as Sal leaned over him.

    “What were you thinking?” hissed Sal, already treating the head wound. “Look, I know you’re worried...but this isn’t helping anyone.”

    “Please...Sal...he needs help,” pleaded Anakin. “I can...find him...”

    “Not this way.” Sal waved the guards off and gazed at his heartbroken patient with sympathy. “I’m sorry, Anakin.” He then pressed a hypo to Anakin’s neck.

    The sedative worked quickly. Anakin’s last desperate thoughts were directed toward his daughter.

    Leia….turn around. Luke is the other way. You must find him….you’re his only hope.
     
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, the edge of seatness is permanent! Anakin was SO, SO CLOSE! [face_nail_biting] The word "eager" for more doesn't even come close [face_laugh] :*
     
  6. ThisIsMe1138

    ThisIsMe1138 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 26, 2018
    Mgghhhggmmmmgff I need more [face_laugh] [face_nail_biting]

    Edit: ^^this is the actual sound I made my sister can confirm
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  7. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    Haha true. :D We're on our way to Chicago for SWCC, and I've been reading this for a while, pretty much everyone is asleep haha. :p Love the story sm, [face_love] I usually don't like AU's but this one is surprisingly awesome. [face_laugh] ^:)^
     
  8. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010


    Hang in there, more is coming! [:D]



    LOL! Patience you must have, yes! :yoda:



    Glad you're enjoying it! [:D] Hope you had fun at Celebration!

    Fear not, my dear readers. More is coming right....now!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

    Leia wandered alone in the forest, hearing Luke call out to her for help. But she was lost. She had no idea where the sound was coming from and didn’t know where to go. She kept turning in circles. Then suddenly she was moving- not running, not riding a speeder, just traveling -at a blinding pace through the trees. Something told her she was getting closer to her brother….then she entered a small, cramped clearing. What she saw made her heart stop.

    Luke lay in a crooked heap, covered in blood, face frozen in despair, his half-open eyes filmed with death-

    “NO!” A half strangled scream tore its way out of Leia’s throat as she jolted awake. The firm but gentle touch on her arm made her flinch again, and she turned to see Han crouched next to her.

    “Hey, hey, easy, there, sweetheart. You’re OK,” he said with a gentle squeeze. “Nother bad dream, huh?”

    Leia shuddered and let her face fall into her palm. “To say the least.” She rubbed her eyes. “Why did you let me fall asleep?”

    Han grimaced. “Just tryin’ to help.” His tone softened. “Ya been awake almost all night. Figured ya needed it.”

    Leia frowned, but couldn’t argue. None of them had had much sleep since Luke had gone missing. She doubted she’d slept more than eight of the last ninety-six hours. “Sleep, yes. Nightmares...” The woman suppressed another shudder and tried clearing the awful image from her head. “I can do without those.”

    Han rubbed her shoulder. “I know you’re worried. Everybody is. But I swear I’m not leavin’ this place without him, no matter what the rest of the Rebellion does.”

    Leia chewed her lip. “I know. I just hope it’s in time-”

    “Shh. Don’t talk like that. He’ll be fine, ya hear me?”

    Leia pressed her lips together. You don’t know how much I wish I could believe that. Nightmares that bad were hard to shake. She worked a knot out of her neck and pushed to her feet as a different kind of discomfort made itself known. “Excuse me...I need to use the refresher.”

    Han rose and backed away. “Yeah, sure. Go ahead. We’ll keep an eye out.”

    After taking care of her needs, Leia squirted cold water into her hands and splashed it over her face. That awful image of Luke lying dead kept coming back to her no matter how she fought it.

    Leia!

    The woman flinched, grasping the edge of the sink in alarm. It was practically a shout in her mind.

    I know I’m the last person you want to hear from, but you must listen!

    Leia glared with rising anger. Sleep had made her mental shields dissolve. Would he never leave her in peace? “Leave. Me. Alone!” she growled.

    Not until you hear me out. Luke is badly injured and must be found soon-

    I know that! We’re looking!”

    But in the wrong place! Leia, please, if you are to find and help your brother, you must turn around!

    Understanding made her blink...and her anger rose. “You know where he is?”

    Without a point of reference, I can’t give coordinates...but you’re headed in the wrong direction.

    Where is he?” she demanded, slamming her fist on the counter.

    In the exact opposite direction!

    That’s not enough!”

    You can find him if you use the Force-

    No. I can’t. Just tell me!”

    Which direction are you headed?

    Leia hesitated. She didn’t trust Vader any farther than she could throw him, but...desperation made her sigh. “South by southeast.”

    Head due North...and hurry! He’s running out of time.

    Leia’s heart clenched. Vader was the second most powerful Force user in the galaxy, and he and Luke had some sort of connection. It was as good a lead as any. With a deep breath she headed forward to tell Han-

    Leia….

    The woman frowned and stopped in her tracks. Now, what?

    Leia….hear me…

    Leia knit her brows. This wasn’t Vader. The voice was different...warmer...”Luke…?”

    Intense relief filled the connection. Leia? Oh, Leia...I thought you’d never answer.

    Luke! What happened? Where are you? And what do you mean?”

    I’ve been calling for hours…

    Truth hit the woman like a load of duracrete, and her legs almost gave way. That persistent knocking at her mind hadn’t been Vader, after all. It had been Luke. All this time, she’d been shutting out her brother when he needed her most! “Oh, Luke….I’m so sorry! I didn’t know….” Tears were blinked away. “Are you hurt?”

    Broken leg...I wanted to call, but my comm’s out.

    Leia winced. That explained why the sensors weren't picking up his signal. Endor was so thick with life it was difficult to distinguish a single human in the mix. “Stay where you are. We’re coming.” And then, so torn between hope and desperation she could hardly think, the former princess sprinted back to the cockpit. “Han, bring her about! I know where Luke is.”

    * * * * *

    Luke fell back against the speeder, flooded with such relief he nearly cried. At last, his sister had heard him...better still, she’d used her talents to answer!

    The young man finally felt the tension in his muscles begin to ease. Leia was coming for him. The Alliance wasn’t going to leave him behind.

    Everything was going to be all right.

    * * * * *

    Han had never brought the Falcon around faster in his life. It had taken some convincing, but at last they were headed North to find Luke. Upon hearing his leg was broken Han had wanted to head back for better medical supplies, but according to Leia, time was of the essence. She and her vague senses laid out a hazy map to follow as she honed in on her brother.

    “How much farther?” Han asked after a while.

    Leia eyes were squeezed shut, brows knit, her lower lip clamped between her teeth. Whatever she was doing must have taken a lot of concentration and effort. “Closer….closer...wait- there!”

    Han was frowning and about to protest when Chewie let out a yowl. The former smuggler’s eyes widened as he listened to the news. “What? Ya got him?” He hit the air brakes and leaned over to check the sensors himself. “I don’t believe it. Human life sign, four kliks South.”

    Leia seemed almost as shocked as Han was at the accuracy of her senses. Quickly she shook it off to zero in on Luke. Her heart ached as the amount of pain he was in washed over her. “Han, you need to set her down right now. Luke’s not doing well.”

    Han grimaced as he checked the terrain scans. “Hang on, sweetheart. Not here. Canopy’s too thick. Gotta find a clearing.” His hazel eyes fell on her. “You just...keep...talkin’ or whatever. Don’t worry,” he added with determination. “We’ll get him outta there.”

    * * * * *

    Luke kept his eyes trained on the sky, caught between joy and urgency. While thrilled that Leia had used the Force and was now flying right overhead, he was impatient to leave. The Jedi could practically feel his fever rising with every throb of his leg. But he didn’t want to push or nag. Leia was doing her best, and they couldn’t very well set the Falcon down in the canopy. All he could do was stay rooted in the Force. Submerging himself in the energy field was the best way to help his sister. The stronger his connection, the easier he would be to find.

    Even with this knowledge, it was difficult not to be worried as Leia’s presence drew farther and farther away as Han looked for a place to land…

    * * * * *

    Air splint, antiseptic, painkiller, bandages…

    Leia grit her teeth as she sifted through every bit of medical gear aboard the Falcon. While flying with the Rebellion had taught him to stay better stocked, Han’s inventory seemed painfully low. Knowing he was just as worried as she kept her from griping at him. Besides, he was busy grabbing water and whatever else they could carry, and the rest of her mind was occupied keeping in contact with her brother.

    Out of necessity the Falcon had set down much further South than anyone was comfortable with. But there was no help for it, and even this had been pushing it. Only Han was crazy enough to set down in such tight quarters. There was maybe two meters’ clearance fore and aft, and not much more port and starboard. Getting back out was going to be an exercise in caution.

    “Are you sure there’s nothing we can use for a litter?” Leia chewed her lip as she finished packing the medic kit.

    Han popped into the doorway with a grimace. “Nah, not even a set of spare pipes. All I could find was a couple blankets.”

    Leia pursed her lips. “So, how are we going to get him out of there? As weak as he is, he’d never be able to limp eight and a half kilometers.”

    “Ah, well...Chewie offered to carry him.” Han nodded toward the waiting Wookiee, who yowled in affirmation.

    Leia’s heart warmed for a moment, though she still chewed her lips. That’s going to jostle him too much, but… “I don’t know what choice we have. Thank you, Chewie. Just be gentle, all right?”

    The kind-hearted creature purred his assurance and patted Leia’s shoulder.

    Leia managed something of a smile in return. “All right. Let’s go.”

    * * * * *

    An hour later, led only by senses she wasn’t sure of, sometimes turning the wrong way in the brush, Leia stopped short and looked around in distress. Doubts that had been pushed aside began creeping in. Even now she wondered if worry and stress was playing with her mind. Directions from something as nebulous as the Force weren’t something she could fully trust. She preferred using the five senses she’d been born with. This was nothing more than a shot in the dark.

    What makes you think you can do this? She told herself. You’re a diplomat, not a Jedi. You have no business trying to use this power. And another, smaller voice whispered something even worse… Using the Force means you truly are the daughter of Darth Vader.

    It didn’t help that Luke was fading by the minute. Every call he made seemed a little weaker than the last.

    Han came up behind her, frowning. “Whassa matter? You lose him?”

    Leia gnawed her lip as fear crept into her heart. “No...maybe...I...I don’t know...” She shut her eyes again. “Luke…?”

    Leia, don’t give up now. You can do this.

    I don’t know what I’m doing,” she confessed.

    You’re doing fine. Don’t be afraid. A pause as Luke experienced another flash of pain. I can sense you. You’re so close….

    Leia’s heart rose into her throat at the truth of her brother’s words. “Where are you?” she whispered urgently. “Give me a direction.” Luke was tired...so tired, and in so much pain. Leia hated to ask. But he answered anyway.

    What followed was an almost pitifully pained and raspy voice, so faint the words couldn’t be distinguished.

    Chewie gave an excited exclamation and began sniffing at the air.

    Even Han lifted his head. “Yeah, I heard it. Luke!” He called at the top of his lungs. “Luke!”

    “Luke?” Leia’s voice wavered as her brother’s voice returned to her mind. The confirmation made her throat close. “He hears us!”

    “Which way?” barked Han.

    While Leia hesitated, Chewie’s sharp ears made him turn left and plunge into the brush. She followed without hesitation. “Chewie’s got him. Come on!”

    The party ran. They ran with reckless abandon, heedless of the branches slapping them in the face or the uneven ground threatening to trip them up.

    And then, suddenly, there he was. Luke leaned on a tree trunk next to a wrecked speeder, trying to stand and waving his free arm. He was filthy, pale, and bloodied...but alive.
     
  9. ThisIsMe1138

    ThisIsMe1138 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 26, 2018
    :_|[face_love][:D] Oh Luke....

    This made me so happy - Chewie is loyal to his family till the end :D

    Oh thank the Force [face_love][face_relieved]So so glad they've found each other.... Luke had better be okay! [face_nail_biting]

    Lol also I got this alert while i was in a friend's car and my first thought was "Oh, please don't make me scream too loud..." Thankfully nothing of the sort happened... This time [face_laugh]
     
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D= =D= [face_relieved] !!!!!! Whew! That was wonderful. A nick of time rescue if ever there was one.
     
  11. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    Awww yessssss! :_|[face_love] So glad Leia is finally starting to accept The Force, :) and they got there just in time! [face_relieved]Amazing update! :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  12. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Now relief floods in! Luke is save. Finally. Yeah! [face_party]
     
  13. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @ThisIsMe1138 Aww! But see, you can relax now. Lukie is going to be fine. [:D]
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Hey, nick-of-time rescues are our friends' specialty.
    @teamhansolo Don't hold your breath about Leia, now...:(
    @AzureAngel2 :D


    Apologies to everyone on this taking so much longer than anticipated. Darth Real Life is a bear right now...[face_hypnotized]
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

    “You did it.” Luke welcomed Leia’s relieved embrace. “You found me.”

    Leia nodded, blinking back tears. “We're here. It’s all right...” Concern ate away at her just looking at her brother. He was trembling, feverish, and could hardly hold himself up. Stop crying. He needs help, not sympathy. She cleared her throat and swung around to support his bad side. “You shouldn’t be standing. Sit down...”

    Luke didn’t protest. His one good leg buckled. Somehow Leia still supported him. “S-sorry,” he mumbled, all but crumpling to the ground.

    “I hope so. With a stunt like this you’ll be lucky if they don’t demote you.” Leia’s eyes darted to Luke’s leg, and she winced. Even without taking off the bandage, it looked bad. Once again she blessed what little aid training she’d had. She was going to need all of it to take care of her brother. “Easy...Han?”

    “Right here, sweetheart. Luke-” Han grimaced as he dropped next to the twins. Chewie was hard on his heels and offered a yowl of sympathy.

    “Hey, Han...Chewie...good to see you,” grunted Luke.

    “Yeah. Same here.” Han tossed the blanket to Leia, who shook it out and draped it over the young man. “Damn, kid. What happened?”

    “Speeder...engines went out,” gasped Luke. “Messed up the throttle...I climbed, then...it just died...I....hit a tree...and then the ground.” He whimpered and closed his eyes as Leia began taking off the makeshift bandage.

    “Ouch,” said Han with feeling. He made a face at seeing how bad the infection was. “Boy, do you need a medic. Leia...” He lowered his voice. ”You, uh...you gonna be able to take care of that?”

    Leia cringed as she fumbled for hyposprays. “Any training I have is basic. From the looks of things, he’s going to need surgery. All I can do is try to get him stable.”

    Han nodded, noting that Luke seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness. “Yeah. ‘Kay, how can I help?”

    Leia pressed a pair of hyposprays into his hand. “He’s dehydrated. Give him some water and a dose each of the painkiller and antibiotic. Then I’m going to need your help with his leg.”

    Han did as he was told, trying to smile as Luke’s eyes opened. “Heya, buddy. Got some water for ya.”

    Luke quickly lifted his head and drank down as much as Han would let him. Then he sighed in relief. “Thank you.” He tried smiling. “You’ve got a...strange habit of coming to my rescue.”

    Han snorted. “Wouldn’t have to keep comin’ if you’d learn to slow down, Junior. How come you keep gettin’ yourself hurt, huh?”

    Luke shrugged. “Wish I knew. How...how many do I owe you now?”

    Han grimaced and patted Luke’s good shoulder. “Let’s just call it even.”

    “S-sounds good.” He agreed to another sip of the water Han kept pushing at him. After catching his breath he craned his neck to see what Leia was doing. Her concern could be sensed across the forest. “Pretty bad, huh?”

    Leia’s face had gone several shades paler as she worked on cleaning the worst of the jagged wound. A brief terror that Luke was going to lose part of his leg rose, and she swallowed it. “You’re going to be fine. Just lie down.” After making a brief call in to the Alliance about Luke’s condition, she turned back to her work. “Han, did you give him those meds, yet?”

    Han did so quickly, then scooted over to help hold Luke’s leg steady while it was rebandaged. “Is that gonna set his leg?” Han asked, nodding at the auto-splint.

    Leia bit her lip and shook her head. “There are too many breaks...and all of them are displaced. This is just going to keep his leg stable enough so we can move him. Luke?” She found her brother’s eyes and gave an apologetic look. “We’re going to splint your leg now. Hold on.”

    Luke nodded and let his eyes drift shut. He was incredibly tired, but reached for the Force. Maybe it could give him some relief…

    Son? Son, are you there? I sense your sister is near….

    Luke sighed, the corners of his mouth twitching. She’s here, Father. She found me.

    Oh, thank the Force! I’m very proud of you both. Are you going to be all right?

    A distant jolt of pain shook Luke from his near trance, and he yelped. That must have been the splint.

    Luke? Came Anakin’s plaintive call. Of course he’d sensed that.

    She splinted my leg… Luke had to release his hold on his father to slow his breathing and push the worse of the pain aside. When relief came he wasn’t sure if it was from him or his father.

    All right. Rest, Luke. We can speak later.

    Luke didn’t have to be told twice. When he opened his eyes he found Leia biting her lip in anxiety. “Thank you,” he grunted.

    Leia brushed him off and wiped something from her eyes. Without a word she took a look at his left arm and put it in a sling. “All right. That’s the best I can do. Let’s get him out of here. No,” she said firmly, taking Luke’s shoulder when he tried to get up. “Don’t move. Chewie?”

    The massive furball grunted in response and crouched to pick up his young friend. Any admonitions to be gentle were unneeded. Chewbacca was as gentle with Luke as he would be with a toddling Wookiee cub.

    “All right. Let’s get outta here,” remarked Han. “Sooner we get back to the Falcon, the sooner we can get him to those medics.” After gathering their supplies, the quartet began the long trek back to their ship.

    Luke was only a little embarrassed at being carried around. There was no safer place he could be. The painkillers had kicked in, and his injured leg was going deliciously numb. Sensing anxiety from his sister, he turned to look at her. “Leia...Leia?”

    Leia was startled. “Hmm? Is Chewie going too fast?”

    Right on cue Chewbacca stopped and gave an inquisitive growl.

    “No...Chewie, go ahead.” Luke shifted in the hairy Wookiee’s grasp to find his sister’s gaze. “Leia, thank you.”

    “Don’t thank me yet,” Leia warned with a frown. “Your injuries aren’t getting you out of all your trouble. As soon as you’re up to it, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re facing an inquiry.”

    “That’s….only fair, I suppose. But...I still want to thank you.”

    “For what? I couldn’t do much.”

    “No. You did...what I told you you could do. You used the Force. You found me.” He lifted his brows.

    Leia pressed her lips together and avoided her brother’s eyes. “I didn't have a choice.”

    Luke knit his brows. Still, she was resisting. “But you did it. Don’t you see? You can use the Force.”

    Not again. Not now. “Luke...”

    But Luke wouldn’t be so easily shaken off. “I know you’re afraid...but...don’t be. You’re not alone.”

    Leia found Han glancing back at the siblings and waved him off. The last thing she needed was the two of them ganging up on her about this. Thankfully Han seemed willing to drop it. “Can’t we talk about this later? You need to rest.” And she began digging around in her medical kit for something else. “Chewie, hold up for a minute.”

    “Leia, you can’t keep avoiding this-”

    “Shh,” she hissed, pulling out an oxygen mask and securing it over Luke’s face. Strictly speaking he didn’t need it, but maybe the mask would muffle his arguments. “You rest. That’s an order.”

    “This is important-”

    “Not as important as you following orders, for once,” Leia broke in, frowning deeply. She smoothed his hair for a minute before pulling back. “Whatever it is, it can wait until you’re feeling better. Now settle down.”

    Luke sighed, but had to nod. He really was too tired to argue. Maybe Leia was right. He just hated seeing her further delay the inevitable. I know what she did for me. Why won’t she admit it?

    * * * * *

    While Luke was happy to be found, one thing he was not looking forward to was treatment and selfishly hoped he would fall unconscious before arriving at the medical frigate.

    No such luck. With as much water as his friends were filling him with, Luke was left with a full bladder and rapidly fading painkillers. Han apologized as they wore off; they were somewhat past their ‘use by’ date and, while providing quick relief, didn’t last long. Upon arrival at the Redemption, the attending medic ordered Luke to be put on a stimulant so he could answer the standard questions about his injuries.

    The exam alone was nothing short of torture. In his state of weakness they didn’t want to dose him with anything too strong until his constitution had improved. The milder painkillers did little, and when they set about treating his leg, his pain tripled.

    Thankfully Luke only had to scream once before the droid ordered his sedation.

    Luke woke with his nose pinched, suspended in a vat of warm, pale pink liquid. Bacta, he realized, making a face around the oxygen regulator. Sluggishly he turned his head to squint at his injuries.

    The healing microorganisms were already working their magic. The deep purple bruises over his collarbone and elbow were already fading. As for his leg...he craned his neck to look.

    His left leg was immobilized, knee to ankle, in what looked like a sort of metal framework, a series of rods and screws going right into the bones. Any pain that resulted was vague.

    External traction. Luke suppressed a shudder. Medics didn’t use that much anymore. Those breaks must have been worse than he thought. The infection was fading, to his relief, but the wound was still raw and red and not at all pretty. That’s what I get for being reckless, he thought, making a face.

    A light touch on his senses made Luke look up to see who was waiting for him. He wasn’t surprised to see Leia, leaning against the doorway with a look somewhere between agitation and sympathy. His father was nowhere to be seen.

    Luke sighed, a fine mist of bubbles slowly rising in the thick liquid. His common sense berated him. You didn’t really expect them to let him out just to see you soak, did you? Especially after that escape attempt? Sensing Leia’s worry, he decided to try and make her feel a little better. So he lifted his empty wrist to wave.

    Leia’s mood seemed to lift- just a little -and she managed a slight smile and wave in return. Then the comm seemed to call her away, and she left.

    After Luke was lifted free of the bacta and dried off, Too-OneBe gently berated him as a spray-on splint was applied around the rods and screws and drainage tubes were fixed near the wound. Then a flexible brace was wrapped around his elbow and his arm was put back into a sling. Then -finally -they took him to a room and let him rest.

    Leia wasn’t far behind. “Hey,” she greeted quietly. “How you feeling?”

    “Better,” sighed Luke. “At least it doesn’t hurt so much now.” His mouth and eyes were still sticky. A sickly sweet odor hung in his nose, and he made a face. “Ugh. I hate that stuff.”

    Leia lifted her brows. “Be thankful we have it. Without bacta, there’s no telling how long you’d be out of commission.” Her gaze was disturbed.

    Luke grimaced, remembering Too-OneBe’s assessment. “I know. Five breaks, three in one bone and two in the other. Plus a broken collarbone, dislocated elbow, and a nice little concussion.”

    Leia nodded, wincing. “And a nasty infection. Did they tell you how long it’s going to take to heal?”

    Luke frowned, suddenly suspicious. Most broken bones took about two weeks to heal with bacta treatments, but... “Not specifically. I know they have to keep it open to treat the infection, and there’s at least a couple of surgeries ahead...but I suppose I deserve it for running off like that.” He paused, still feeling Leia’s worry. “What? Is there something they’re not telling me?”

    Leia shrugged. “I’m sure they don’t mean to keep it from you, but...I overheard the medics in the hallway.” She cringed with sympathy.

    “So...how long am I going to be stuck here?”

    Leia hesitated for a long while. Luke was not going to be happy about this at all. “Two months. Maybe longer.”

    Luke’s head spun. Two months? That’s impossible. I can’t be out of commission for two months. There’s too much to do… He shook his head. “Great...”

    Leia took her brothers’ shoulder. “Luke, I know it’s disappointing.”

    Luke found his sisters’ eyes. “It’s not that. I can’t wait that long to return to Yoda. And neither can you. Don’t you see? The only way you were able to find me was with the Force. You’ve proven it flows in you just as it does in me. Why do you keep closing your mind to it?”

    Not this again. “Luke...we’ve already discussed this. Even if I wanted to meet Yoda- and someday I might -I just don’t have the time. We’re right on the edge of overthrowing the Empire once and for all. I can’t abandon the Rebellion now. You know that,” scolded Leia.

    Luke shook his head. “You wouldn’t be abandoning them any more than I would. In the long run, it would only help them. And it wouldn’t be long. Just for a little while, just to see-”

    “I’ve already told you no.” Leia glared a little and took a step back. “And you’re assuming the Council would even let you go...especially with the stunt that landed you in here.”

    “I know. It was stupid. I’m sorry. But….” Luke sighed, his shoulders falling and hurt rising in his eyes. “You told me, all those months ago, that if I had a promise to keep, then I should keep it, no matter what.”

    “I...” Why does he have to put it that way? Leia hung her head, closed her eyes, and parked one hand on her hip. “You’re right. I did. And if you’re bound and determined to go, I’m not going to stop you. Just-” She found her brother’s eyes. “Please, stop asking me to come with you. I’ve made up my mind...and I just want to drop this whole thing.”

    Luke felt what little hope that had risen for his sister fizzle out, like a spark that had been drowned in cold water. He closed his eyes and let out a slow, disappointed breath. That’s it, then. She’s not coming. I’m on my own now. Slowly he nodded. “I understand. I won’t bring it up again.”

    Oh, why does he have to look at me like that? Leia pursed her lips at her brother, then shook her head. “Hey.” Carefully she took his chin and made him look at her. “Enough with the sad Pooka face. You know I’m still behind you as far as your following the path of the Jedi is concerned. Right?”

    Slowly Luke nodded. “I know. And I’m thankful.”

    Leia let her hand drop. “Good. As soon as you’re healed up, just let me know when you need to leave. I’ll make it happen for you.”

    Luke’s mouth twitched into something of a cautious smile. She doesn’t understand...but at least she’s not keeping me from going. “Thank you.” Wanting to move on to another subject, he lifted his head as Too-OnBe rolled in with the needed surgical equipment. “Hey, Too-OneBe.”

    “Good afternoon, sir. Your vitals indicate you are well enough for your first scheduled operation,” the droid announced.

    Leia sidestepped for the door, biting her lip. “Oh. Should I go?”

    Luke shook his head. “No, that’s all right. Did they tell you yet?”

    “Tell me what?”

    “Well...after a lot of consideration, I decided I’m going to get a prosthetic hand after all.”

    “Oh!” Leia paused and lifted her brows. After all the noise he made about not needing one? ”What changed your mind?”

    “I don’t know. I’ve been going back and forth about it for months. But the speeder crash pretty much made up my mind for me. I can manage with one hand, but...this time it feels...right.” Luke shrugged.

    Leia broke into a smile and rested her hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Luke, you know you’ll always have the respect of the Alliance as a pilot- hand or no hand -but I can see the peace on your face this time, and I’m happy for you.”

    Luke’s mouth twitched in return, and he lay back against the cushions. He needn’t bother telling her the conversation he’d already had with their father. Anakin had left the decision completely up to his son, and Luke felt that if his father could remain in the light with bionics, then so could he. Leia wouldn’t want to hear about that, and she didn’t have to. The fact she was supportive was enough.
     
  14. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    :( I guess Leia has a right to her own decision, but I was hoping she would at least do some force-training. Nice update though, leaves me wondering what the next conflict is gonna be. ;)
     
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb talk and very much in character, Luke's optimism and Leia's declining ... very understandable. They've come to terms with the roles they want to fulfill. Their affection for one another is stronger than ever, but their paths are diverging, looks like.

    Luke's prognosis is better than it might have been! [face_relieved]

    =D=
     
    AzureAngel2 and Ridley Solo like this.
  16. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I wish reason would strike down Leia like a thunderbolt and wisdom would rain down her head. With her closed mind-set she only can reach stagnation to take place. :oops:
     
  17. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    After all she's seen and heard about the Force, can you really blame her? She still hasn't really come to terms with who her biological father is...Vader did torture her.



    Thank you, as always, for your kind comments! [:D]


    I know, I know...her stubbornness is frustrating, but she came by it honestly. [face_dunno]


    It's going slow, but it is coming to an end...at this point, only 3 chapters to go after this one!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

    Admiral Ackbar’s features were taut and serious as he stared down at the best pilot in the Rebellion. The debate over what to do about his behavior had been short. “Therefore, Luke Skywalker, for not once but twice disobeying a direct order, and for the abandonment of your flight during battle- however brief -it is the decision of the Alliance that you be demoted to the rank of Commander.”

    Leia, sitting at the opposite end of judgment desk aboard Home One, suppressed a wince on behalf of her brother. She’d delayed this tribunal as long as she could on account of his slow recovery, but now it could wait not longer.

    Endor had been left behind two weeks ago. Despite many small battles spreading his forces ever thinner, intelligence pointed to the Emperor staging a regroup somewhere in the Mid-Rim. At least the Ewoks were safe. Leia had been concerned that the Empire would decimate the place out of spite, but apparently without the second Death Star or the Rebellion, they didn’t have any reason to return.

    Meanwhile Luke had put on as brave a face as he could. While the Rogues had been divided between Red and Gold Squadrons, he was stuck in his room on flight and command restriction. His days were comprised of treatment and rest. He only complained once but Leia knew this inactivity was wearing on him.

    He stood at attention now- though he wasn’t supposed to be on his feet yet -and didn’t flinch as judgment was passed. “Understood,” he nodded.

    The Alliance council squirmed, uncomfortable with the fact that the leader of Rogue Squadron was leaning on the counter in front of them, his leg still in traction. General Madine cleared his throat. “However, in light of your injuries and the fact we’re short-handed, no further disciplinary action will be taken. As soon as you’re cleared by Medical, you’re to reassemble and retake command of Rogue Squadron. Understood?”

    Again, Luke nodded, unable to hide his relief. “Yes, sir.” He wavered a little on his foot.

    “I hope you’ll show more prudence in the future, Skywalker,” said Mon Mothma gravely.

    “Yes, Ma’am.” said Luke.

    “Good.” General Reeikan set down his datapad. “Skywalker, I know you’re scheduled for another surgery this afternoon, so we won’t keep you. Thank you for your cooperation. You’re dismissed.”

    “Yes, sir. Thank you.” Luke saluted and eased back down into the hoverchair he had been given.

    “Council adjourned.” A gavel was tapped, and the Alliance members began to scatter. Leia headed straight down for Luke, who had already joined Artoo in the hall. “Luke?”

    Luke paused just long enough to look up at her. “Hmm?”

    Leia rested her hand on Luke’s shoulder. “I’m sorry we had to do that.”

    Luke shrugged. “It’s only fair. I understand.”

    Leia pressed her lips together. Luke had never been very good at hiding his emotions. For the past two weeks he had been appropriately penitent in public and moping in private. He hated being on restriction when the rest of his flight was out doing their duty, but there was no help for it. His leg was still mending, and would be for a long while. She knew that Luke hated every minute of being laid up. “I’m glad you do. How’s your leg?”

    Luke threw the uncooperative limb a dirty look. “All right, I guess. It doesn’t hurt much, it’s just...taking too long.”

    Leia nodded. “I know. But you have to take it easy, all right? Pushing will only make it worse.”

    Luke hunched his shoulders and made a face. It was a familiar refrain that every droid and medic had been repeating almost nonstop for the last ten days. “I know, I know.” he sighed. “Are Han and Chewie back yet?”

    Here the Princess had to cringe. For as much as Luke was forced to be inactive, Han had been running himself and the Falcon all over the galaxy. He was always the first to volunteer for any reconnaissance mission and one of the last to come back, and never for more than a day at a time. This last mission had Han and Chewbacca gone for almost a full week, and both Luke and Leia missed them terribly. “No,” said Leia, her shoulders falling. “But the mission went well. They should be back tomorrow.”

    The thought seemed to make Luke slouch even as he forced a smile. “Good. I know you’ll be happy to see Han again.” His blue eyes sparkled with humor. “I probably shouldn’t expect to see him- or you -until the next day.”

    Leia blushed at the insinuation. “Luke!” She shook her head. At times she missed the innocent farmboy that had burst wide-eyed into her cell on the Death Star. “Maybe it’s a good thing Han’s been away. I think he’s a bad influence on you.”

    “Well, he did tell me that as your brother, it’s my job to tease you.” Luke made a face. “Or...sorry, maybe that was Janson.”

    “Oh. Well, he’s definitely a bad influence.” Her eyes darted to his leg. It was healing, but still looked painful. “When is your surgery?”

    “In about an hour,” answered Luke with a fading smile. “I need to get back over to the Redemption.”

    “Do you want me to go with you?” offered Leia.

    Luke frowned. “Don’t you have another meeting?”

    Leia checked her chronometer and groaned. Luke was right. Apparently his sense of time was better than hers. Another meeting with the Alliance leaders about how to plan the next attack was scheduled in exactly one hour. “Yes. Luke, I’m sorry-”

    Luke showed his palm. “Don’t. I don’t need you to hold my hand. If you really want to, you can visit later. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” Here he made a face.

    Leia sighed. “All right. I know you’re tired of hearing this, but you have to take it easy.” When Luke frowned, she took his shoulder. “Hey. The more cooperative you are, the sooner you’ll be back on your feet.”

    Luke nodded without a word. An uneasy silence passed between them. “I better go. Pre-op’s in a few minutes,” he said after a while.

    “Is there anything I can do?” Leia wanted to know. She knew her brother was feeling down, and something told her it wasn’t just the injury.

    Luke turned to her and opened his mouth, as if to say something...then he reconsidered and shook his head. “Thanks, but…no. I don’t need anything.”

    Leia pursed her lips. He’s keeping something from me...probably because he’s afraid of my reaction. “Luke-”

    The musical tone of Leia’s comm broke into her thoughts with an insistent beep. Great timing. Leia grunted in annoyance and thumbed it on. “Yes?”

    “Princess, your presence is requested on the bridge,” said General Madine.

    Leia closed her eyes, sighed, and threw an apologetic look to her brother.

    Luke tilted his head up the hall. “Go on.”

    Making a face, Leia flicked her comm back on. “I’m on my way.” She gave Luke’s shoulder a parting squeeze. “I’ll see you later, all right?”

    Luke nodded in answer. His eyes lingered on his busy sister before Artoo’s quiet hoot broke into his thoughts. “I’m fine. Come on. Let’s go.” And he angled the hoverchair for the nearest lift. “Hey, Artoo...could you record and deliver another message for me?”

    The little droid gave an enthusiastic whistle in response.

    * * * * *

    “I’m sorry to bother you. I guess-”

    The third-meter-high hologram of Luke flickered and looked over his shoulder at an apparent interruption. Then he sagged with disappointment. “I’ve got to go in for pre-op now. I’ll talk to you later. May the Force be with you. OK, Artoo. Cut it off.” The hologram fizzled out.

    Anakin’s heart ached, and he closed his eyes. While thankful that those in command had allowed these holo-messages between father and son, it wasn’t enough. Luke’s loneliness and discouragement seemed to deepen each day. This hologram had him sagging as if beneath an enormous wieght. More than ever Anakin wished he could visit, if even to just lay a hand on his son’s shoulder. But ever since his breakout attempt, security had been tighter than ever. Leaving his cell at all was out of the question. Now Luke was paying the price for his father’s impatience.

    Anakin wanted to apologize. He had no words of wisdom to give him either on Leia’s refusal to acknowledge her accomplishments or what to do during his isolation, other than reach for the Force and find patience.

    As Anakin reached out to do just that, her found his son was already under the effects of anesthesia. Best wait until he was awake and feeling better.

    Artoo hooted a question. He seemed concerned.

    Anakin forced a smile. “I’m just a bit worried, that’s all. Thank you for the message, Artoo. No,” he added to one of the droid's beeps, “no return message right now. Let him sleep.”

    * * * * *

    He should have been sleeping. Droids, medics, and even Leia had practically ordered him to, and Luke had done his best to oblige. Surgery and treatment always left him tired. But as the night wore on, Luke’s mind refused to settle, and sleep continued to elude him.

    There was any number of reasons Luke could blame for his insomnia. He could have blamed his leg. It had been taken out of traction hours before and finally fixed with a bacta cast, but to his disappointment Too-OneBe’s prognosis remained the same; two more weeks in the cast and one until Luke was cleared to use crutches. The droid was taking things slow owing to the stubborn infection that had taken hold in the marrow; that had to be eradicated before the bones were even allowed to knit. It would be a full month before Luke could even start putting any weight on his leg, let alone return to duty. By comparison his elbow, collarbone, and concussion were all healed.

    Luke could have blamed his loneliness. With Rogue Squadron split up, Han flying his own missions, and Leia running here and there, the only people he could talk to were the medics and his father...and the latter, only at a distance. There were so many things Luke wanted to discuss with him...things that could only be explained in person. Lessons on how to control the constant pain had helped, but...it wasn’t the same as actually being in the same room.

    Luke could have even blamed Leia for his sleeplessness. Her reluctance to even acknowledge the Force was very frustrating. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold off on asking her one more time to put aside her doubts and reach for it. But his promise to drop the subject held him back. The last thing he wanted was to make Leia angry and compound the problem.

    But these reasons, while equally valid, were not what kept Luke from sleep that night, and he knew it. Something was stirring nearby...someone was coming...but who?

    After questioning his senses for a good half hour, the young pilot sighed and decided to actively seek this person or creature out. He’d never be able to sleep until he did. So Luke closed his eyes and settled back into the Force.

    A warm and comforting presence greeted him...it was someone he knew….someone strong with the Force….but it was neither Leia nor Anakin.

    Luke was puzzled. Was there someone else in the Fleet he could connect with?

    “Reach out with your feelings, Luke. You know me.” The voice was soft and quiet, yet strong and holding authority. It was spoken half into Luke’s head and half into his ears.

    Luke stifled a gasp and sat up a little straighter in bed. He knew that presence...all too well, in fact. “Ben…?”

    A hazy, bluish figure faded into existence near the door. The spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi was unchanged from his last visit, still wearing his tattered Jedi robes. His expression was difficult to read, but it seemed to hold both gentle reprimand and sympathy.

    A myriad of thoughts and feelings rushed in. While Luke was relieved to know his master hadn't abandoned him, there was still a sense of hurt and betrayal at the lies he had been told. Questions would be asked, and hopefully this time Luke would find some answers...

    * * * * *

    Anakin lay awake in his cell, troubled. The hour was late and he was very tired. Why couldn’t he sleep?

    Sleeping normally was still something of a challenge after all those years of relying on meditation, but in the past few months Anakin had thought that problem was solved. This evening he had already tried everything he could think of- checking the oxygen mix on his breath pump, changing position, even adding another blanket to his cot...but nothing helped.

    What disturbed him most was not the insomnia, but the fact that the Force was active within. It seemed to be trying to tell him something...that someone was coming, or something was going to happen. He sensed no danger, but-

    Anakin frowned, pushing up from his cot and peering into the darkness. An old, familiar presence had entered his cell. His stomach twisted with a vague sense of fear, though he didn’t know why. After scanning the room for a good minute, he gave up and lay back down. Old man, you are going mad….

    A hazy, bluish being in human form materialized on the other side of the room. “You never were a heavy sleeper.”

    Anakin lurched up and pressed himself against the wall, staring with wide eyes at the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    Too many emotions to process assaulted the former Jedi as he looked on his old master. He remembered everything...the lifted brow when he first met an eager little boy...the reluctance to train one so old and unstable...the parental exasperation...the closeness...the hurt and betrayal...and finally the defiant act of self-sacrifice to save Anakin’s son.

    For one short moment, Anakin was angry. Why was this spirit coming to haunt him now? Was he going to rub in every one of Anakin’s shortcomings, as he had when Anakin was a teenager? Could spirits hold grudges?

    But no, there was no look of bitterness or anything else unpleasant in Obi-Wan’s eyes. If anything, there was pride...and a deep sense of apology and regret.

    The last too emotions crowded out the others, and Anakin nearly crouched under the weight of them. “Obi-Wan...I...I’m so sorry...I failed-”

    Obi-Wan showed Anakin his palm. “No need to speak of the past, Anakin. What’s done is done, and all that matters now is you’ve come back. You’re no longer on the side of darkness, but firmly rooted back in the light.”

    Relief too great to express filled the broken man, and he shuddered. “I couldn’t keep hurting my son. If not for his love and forgiveness, I never would have come back. He’s the real hero.”

    Obi-Wan nodded once. “I’ve already gone to Luke and told him what I’m about to tell you. Anakin...I’m afraid that I’m at least partly to blame for your fall. I was as blind as the rest of the Jedi were...I wasn’t there when you needed me, and I gave up on you too soon. For that, I can only ask your forgiveness.”

    Anakin’s eyes ached, and his hid his face. Here his friend was, not berating him but asking forgiveness! Wanting to cry but stuck with uncooperative tear ducts, he took several deep, halting breaths before looking up. “Obi-Wan, there’s nothing to forgive. It was my choice...my mistake.” After a short while he pressed his lips together. “Thank you for looking after my son.”

    Obi-Wan seemed to wince. “I could not protect him from all hurts, though I wished to. But it was these experiences- however difficult -that have shaped him into the man he is now. You should be very proud of him.”

    Anakin tried to smile. “I am...I’m exceedingly proud of my children. They’ve done so much good for the galaxy. That even one of them wants anything to do with me is...unbelievable.”

    Obi-Wan smiled back, but it was brief. “It’s not only for your sake that I’ve returned, old friend, but for your son...and daughter. They carry the hopes of the galaxy. Only they can destroy the Emperor now, but they must work together toward that goal. Luke’s training is incomplete, and Leia hasn’t even begun hers.”

    Anakin’s shoulders fell. “I know. But what can I do? Luke hasn’t even been able to get through to her, and...she wants nothing to do with me...not that I blame her.”

    Obi-Wan folded his arms inside his sleeves. “Luke must be the one to convince her to train, but if he cannot...then he must continue alone.”

    Alone...the word seemed to ring in Anakin’s head. “He needs help. Why haven’t you come back to him until now? Why won’t you finish what you started?”

    Obi-Wan shrugged. “There’s nothing more Luke can learn from me. Even Yoda is running out of time. In time the only other teacher Luke will have is you.”

    A deep sense of inadequacy threatened to overtake Anakin. He shook his head. “No...Obi-Wan, I can’t. I failed as a Jedi, a teacher, a husband...and a father. I’m the last person Luke should learn from.”

    Quietly the specter approached Anakin and laid a ghostly hand on his arm. “You may not have much choice. Don’t doubt now. Where there’s life, there’s hope...and the galaxy needs that more than ever.”

    The ache returned to Anakin’s eyes. He couldn’t look up at Obi-Wan. “I’ll do what I can.”

    “I know you will.” Here Obi-Wan offered an encouraging smile. “It’s good to see you, old friend. Until we meet again, then. May the Force be with you.” And the spectral image began to fade.

    “Wait-” Anakin reached out as if to grab the spirit out of thin air. But Obi-Wan had already left him. That sense of abandonment returned like a blade to his heart...followed by Yoda’s last piece of advice. Let go of everything you fear to lose. So Anakin nodded and let his head fall to his chest. The sadness was still sharp. This was the second time he’d had to say goodbye to his friend...his brother. It would likely be the last.

    Overwhelmed at the thought, Anakin covered his face and wept, painful tears squeezing out of his damaged eyes and sliding down his cheeks.
     
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I can so believe Luke is antsy with the inactivity, although it's necessary due to the discipline factor but moreso the healing that's required. Lovely and poignant scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan. @};-
     
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  19. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    It is wonderful that there is forgiveness & acceptance on both sides. Obi-Wan's & Anakin's.

    And even though Luke got demoted, he is doing okayish.

    But I still worry for Leia & her character development...
     
  20. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Thank you! [:D]


    I know. But Leia is being motivated by fear. That's a hard thing to let go of once it gets its claws in you. :(


    A bit early with this update, but I'm getting anxious to finish this and move on...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

    Darkness. He steeped himself in it, surrounded himself with it, reveled in it. It was as a part of who he was as the heavy black cloak hanging off his shoulders. It was the only thing in the galaxy he truly loved, because it was persistent. Secrets could be kept there. Truth could be hidden. And most of all, Darkness would never die. It was the true nature of the Force.

    But there was a disturbance in that Force. It had sprung up four years ago and only grown worse in the time since. The Light was growing. It threatened to shine on the darkness and expose all the secrets that had been hidden from the galaxy...his secrets.

    Emperor Palpatine sat with his back uncomfortably hunched in his private chambers, anger and bitterness festering within. The universe itself seemed to be turning against him. With his second Death Star gone and his forces worn thinner than ever, control over the galaxy and his own forces was slipping. That cursed Rebellion was gaining ground. In a matter of months they would reach Coruscant, and then the war would be over. He had foreseen it. Already he was making plans to retreat further into the shadows to regain strength.

    But faith in his ability to know what was coming had been shaken to its core with the betrayal of Darth Vader. He had known for some time that Vader was weak. That unfortunate event on Mustafar had only begun to burn away his ferocity. But the discovery of young Skywalker and his bloodline...that was truly the beginning of the end.

    Vader’s mission to find his son had long ago grown beyond passion and crossed the line into obsession. Every bit of energy he had was devoted to it, every spare moment his corner of the Fleet could spare...and some they couldn’t.

    Granted, Vader had been given the assignment of finding young Skywalker by the Emperor himself, but it was a choice that Palpatine regretted. Mistakes had been made. But it wasn’t so much Vader’s betrayal that surprised him. Treachery was the way of the Sith.

    The real shock was Young Skywalker. Such a green youth masquerading as a Jedi should have been easy to turn. Palpatine’s plan was to convert him, and then kill Vader. The last thing he had expected was the boy’s unwavering resistance...and the reawakening of Vader’s compassion. Even then, Palpatine had never imagined both father and son would run away to the Alliance. On the surface it was such a weak, cowardly move to turn oneself in. But that was the path they had chosen, and now Palpatine was paying for it with the loss of his troops.

    The Emperor growled. He should have seen this coming. Anakin Skywalker’s biggest weakness had always been his family. Apparently that weakling still lived, and had somehow defeated Darth Vader. The shift in the Force had been evident. It would have been better to let him die on Mustafar and carry out the extinction of the Jedi himself, finding a new apprentice from among the lost padawans. Maybe without his father to save, the junior Skywalker could have been more easily seduced.

    There wasn’t much hope left that Luke would still turn. With his father there to teach and guide him, what reason was there to join the Dark Side? Not even the weakness of family could be exploited. Luke Skywalker had no other family.

    Palpatine frowned, thoughtful. Or, did he? A new presence had been rising in the Force. Slowly and reluctantly, but it was there just the same, and reeked strongly of the Light.

    Reason told him this was ridiculous. The Jedi were long extinct. No individual presence could be this strong without training. Even the young pilot had only shown up on Palpatine’s radar after he had destroyed the first Death Star with the aid of the Force. And why should this new presence be so strong so quickly? The Skywalkers were the only ones-

    The Emperor froze as the realization hit him. The Skywalkers…yes, that must have been it. There was no other explanation. Somewhere in the galaxy, another Skywalker had risen. How? When? Why? Those questions could be answered later.

    The only answer Palpatine cared about was who. Once he had a name, he could seek this other Skywalker out...turn them...have a new a much better apprentice, one that could help him rise up and defeat that cursed Rebellion.

    He sank deeper into the Force, reaching out for this new presence, looking for any clues.

    The presence was far away. Its gender was indeterminate. It seemed so familiar somehow...could this be someone Palpatine had met? If so, why had he not sensed the Force within them until now?

    Ignorance. That was the only solution. One couldn’t use the Force until they knew about it. And this person’s emotions were in turmoil. Conflict was evident, even from so far away. They feared their powers, and felt deep anger and resentment. So….who had he met, in his long years of living, that had indeterminate parentage, a strong and stubborn spirit, feared the Force, and felt deep hatred?

    The Princess of Alderaan. Dawn rose slowly on the Emperor as this became clear. Of course it had to be the leader of the Rebellion. That was how she’d been able to resist interrogation aboard the Death Star. That was why she, from all accounts, was so close to the young Skywalker...and hated the elder so much. They were twins, of course. Somehow they had survived the death of their mother and been separated soon after to keep them safe. It was only prudent. Two children so strong in the Force would have brought Palatine right to them. Apart, they could go unnoticed...but now that they had met, and both learned of their power….

    Palpatine’s lips peeled back in a feral smile. Anger at his blindness was temporary. A plan was already coming together in his mind.

    It would be simple, really. Princess Leia already had the seeds of fear and anger in her heart. All he had to do was find her and use both her care for young Skywalker and hatred of her biological father against her. Then he could once again have a Skywalker at his side, their power used for his purpose.

    The Emperor’s gross smile widened into a grin. There was another factor, too. Luke Skywalker’s faith in and care for his friends was well-known. So much more would it be for his sister. Surely, if he sensed his newfound sibling in danger he would rush to her rescue. Upon finding her sided with his mortal enemy, his own anger would surely rise. Both could be turned.

    A sickening cackle rose in Palpatine’s throat at the idea. Two Skywalkers for the price of one? It was too perfect.

    He must begin planning immediately.

    * * * * *

    There it was again...that laugh.

    Though it had been heard many times before, it never failed to make members of the Royal Guard internally cringe.

    The foolish would think they had no reason to complain about a little laughter. They were paid well enough, and their training was the best in the galaxy. Every other Imperial officer was below them in every way. But the trouble with being a Royal Guard was that, at any moment, your boss could dispense of you for no reason. And since one gave up their identity upon joining that elite group, none would mourn you. None would miss you. Another identical guard would simply step up to take your place.

    Lots of Imperials around the Palace had been disappearing lately. The Emperor had been furious since the betrayal of Darth Vader and so would up killing many hapless troopers. Royal Guards were typically a bit safer, but then, like troopers, few would notice if one or two died. The Emperor typically wasn’t as wasteful of his inner circle as Vader was, but with his temper...

    The left guard glanced at the man on his right before standing up a little straighter. He’d only been on this job for a few months. So, the Emperor was laughing. So, what? Wasn’t that a good thing, if their lord was happy?

    Something told the guard that wasn’t the case at all…something in that cackle made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end and his stomach churn.

    And now for some reason, though the heavy robes were warm and the chamber was carefully climate controlled, an icy chill crept along the guard’s spine.

    Trouble was coming....but hopefully, not for him. Hopefully this meant the Dark Lord had at last figured out how to destroy the Rebel Scum once and for all.
     
    teamhansolo and AzureAngel2 like this.
  21. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Oh, dear! The predator is awake and the prey unaware! :eek:

    I feared as much.

    Anyway, brilliantly written once more.
     
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    It would be simple, really. Princess Leia already had the seeds of fear and anger in her heart. All he had to do was find her and use both her care for young Skywalker and hatred of her biological father against her. Then he could once again have a Skywalker at his side, their power used for his purpose.

    [face_nail_biting] [face_worried] Oh my. The Emperor has gone from 2+2 to 4, and trouble is indeed looming!
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
  23. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Kriff. I sense a huge shavit storm about to hit the fan.
     
  24. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Good. Everyone is worried. Just like I planned! [face_devil] ;)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

    “Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen.” The medic watched with widening eyes as a pair of muscular legs worked with strong, steady rhythm, pushing at the weights over and over again with no sign of stopping. “Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.” A glance at her patient’s face revealed the same deep concentration...and no signs of pain. How? She wondered. How can a farmboy from Tatooine with a leg broken in five places heal so damn fast?

    Unlike most pilots, Luke Skywalker wasn’t a very difficult patient. His pain tolerance was fairly high and he never made passes at the medics. He still hated the infirmary, and some of the medics had expressed concern when he had fallen into depression for the first couple of weeks after his injuries.

    Then something had changed. Almost overnight he went from mopey to motivated, doing everything he could to speed his healing. When the bacta cast came off his leg, he attacked physical therapy like a beast, doing more reps than anyone asked him to. It was as if getting back to 100% was his only priority.

    Despite the warnings of the surgeon, Luke’s leg had defied logic with the speed at which it had healed. Bones seemed to knit closer by the day and the pain seemed to dissolve.

    Now, after a week of nagging, Too-OneBe had finally agreed to let Luke take his physical fitness assessment...a full three weeks ahead of schedule. The man was now defying the odds by doing everything that was asked without a single problem. In the first few minutes he had knocked out leg lifts, squats, and a ten-minute jog like it was nothing. Now he was absolutely crushing the weights. Neela Machron, the attending medic, gaped in disbelief, looking from Luke to her datapad. What was this man, a machine?

    “Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-two…?” Neela knit her brows and glanced at General Reeikan, the only C.O. available to watch. He, too, looked incredulous...and a little worried. “Twenty-five. Twenty-six. Twenty...OK...OK, that’s enough. You’ve got it.” She tapped Luke’s foot to make him stop. “Relax.”

    Luke, dripping sweat in his tank top with his hair plastered to his forehead, nodded and blew out a short breath. “How’d I do?” he panted.

    Neela’s mouth flapped in astonishment as she studied the results on her datapad. “You did an average of five to ten more reps than the requirements with every single exercise. And even after that, your vitals don’t show any indications of pain or stress.” She checked the results again, and then again. With a shake of her head, she removed the pulse and oxygen monitors from Luke’s chest. “All right. Let’s check on that leg. Lie down.”

    Luke did as he was told and watched as the young medic did a thorough exam, scanning, knitting her brows, and scanning again. He closed his eyes when she manually checked for swelling. Pain rose unexpectedly and he inhaled sharply through his nose, fighting it back with the Force.

    Neela paused and probed at Luke’s shin again. “Does that hurt?”

    Luke blew out a slow breath before answering. “Just the muscles. They’re a little sore.”

    Neela pursed her lips. “Hmmm...just a little bit of swelling, too. You’re sure? Just the muscles?”

    Luke nodded, letting his eyes open. “I’m sure.”

    Neela checked and double checked the scanner before shaking her head and releasing Luke’s leg. “If there wasn’t some kind of Jedi code against lying, I’d be suspicious,” she admitted. “But...the scans don’t show any problems. Don’t get too excited,” she added, frowning. “We still have to show the General. Until then, take a breather.”

    Luke waited until she had turned away before sitting up. So far, so good. The ache in his leg threatened to rise, and he called on the Force. Don’t even think about it. You’re so close...

    After conferring with Neela, General Reeikan approached Luke at a slow and cautious walk. “Skywalker. It seems you destroyed the medic’s expectations of how fast your recovery would be. How are you feeling?”

    Luke shrugged modestly as he got to his feet. “Pretty good, sir. Just want to get back in the cockpit.”

    Reeikan lifted an eyebrow. “I’m just going to ask you once, and I mean no disrespect to the Jedi, but...did the Force happen to have anything to do with this?”

    Luke’s mouth twitched with amusement. “Well...I’m not about to claim it healed me, but...there are stories of Jedi recovering a little faster than usual.”

    “Well, then,” Reeikan lifted his brows. “Unless there’s a medical objection, I don’t see any reason not to put you back on the duty roster.”

    “Thank you, General.” Relief swept over Luke and a wide smile spread across his face. “Thank you so much.”

    “But light duty only,” added Reeikan with a frown. “Rogue Squadron’s staying in the air because that’s where we need them. And if I hear of any more one-man speeder missions, any more disobeying orders, and you’re grounded. Is that clear?”

    “Yes, sir.” Luke nodded solemnly. “Understood.”

    “Good. Frankly, we’re short-handed enough as it is, and we don’t need anyone taking unnecessary risks.” At last Reeikan untied the knot in his arms and extended a hand to Luke. “Welcome back, Skywalker.”

    “Thank you, General. It’s good to be back,” smiled Luke as he shook Reeikan’s hand. “Your orders, sir?”

    “Rest. You just put half the Fleet to shame with your fitness level after a broken leg...me included.” Reeikan grinned and gave Luke’s shoulder an encouraging slap. “Go get cleaned up. As soon as they’ve returned, you’re free to reassemble Rogue Squadron.”

    “Yes, sir.” Luke grinned in return and made his way out of the fitness center. He was so happy he couldn’t keep the smile off his face nor the spring out of his step as he headed back to his quarters.

    No sooner had he come in the door than his left leg went completely nerveless and crumpled beneath him. He pitched forward and caught himself just in time to avoid skinning his nose on the floor. Thankfully the door had closed before anyone saw.

    Luke was cautious as he rolled over and sat up. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all...

    Obi-Wan’s apology and subsequent warning about the need to resume his Jedi training had been the catalyst for kicking Luke into high gear. He pushed himself to the limit and beyond, even if he wasn’t technically ready for it. Pain suppression was taken to extremes until he was ready to stop acknowledging it. When the medics told him to slow down, a desperate Luke had mentally planted light suggestions in their heads to convince them he was fine. He’d even done some minor tweaks to the bone scanners. It was cheating, of course. Luke knew that. His bones were knitting, but not as fast as he claimed.

    There was guilt associated with this deception. Too-OneBe performed multiple scans per visit because he didn’t trust his equipment. Leia was suspicious about his seemingly miraculous recovery and cautioned him to slow down. As for Anakin, he saw right through his son’s charade. Warnings about his health came on a daily basis and his level of worry was high.

    But Obi-Wan’s words still rang in Luke’s ears. Training couldn’t wait any longer. The sense of urgency grew by the day until Luke was more concerned about the galaxy as a whole than what might happen with his leg.

    Luke could tell himself that he was fine, that it was just sore muscles, that nothing was going to happen...but even the Force disagreed. In the last week while preparing for this assessment Luke’s leg had developed a habit of going nerveless at random intervals. Thus far all but one episode had taken place while he was alone. The other had happened at the end of a physical therapy session with Leia present.

    The young Jedi cringed as he thought of it. That was Leia’s first indication that something was off, and she had kept an extra close eye on her brother ever since. She might have even tapped into the Force without realizing it, because her suspicion seemed to rise by the day.

    I don’t have a choice, thought Luke as he waited for feeling to return to his leg. Obi-Wan said we’re running out of time….

    Luke. There was Anakin’s voice again, and he was not happy. What happened?

    Luke cringed, even as he rubbed his leg. Nothing.

    It’s your leg. This wasn’t a question. It’s troubling you again.

    Luke hunched his shoulders, cheeks burning though Anakin was on the other end of the ship. Just a little. It went numb for a second. That’s all.

    Anakin seemed to sigh. Luke, you’re pushing yourself far too hard. Unless you rest, your injuries will only worsen.

    Luke closed his eyes. I don’t have a choice. I must return to Master Yoda, and there’s no other way the Rebellion would let me fly. Obi-Wan said there’s not much time.

    Anakin paused before he answered. Yes. But you’ll do the galaxy no good if you break your leg again. Another pause, followed by another wave of worry. Just be careful. Another pause. When are you leaving?

    As soon as I can manage it. Since most of the Rogues are going to be gone for at least a week or two, I’m going to take some personal time. I’ve got it coming; Leia promised to help.

    Has she changed her mind about coming with you?

    Luke’s shoulders sagged. No. But I’m going to ask again before I leave.

    Good. I hope she sees sense. Is your leg any better? Anakin wanted to know.

    Luke cautiously rose to his feet, relieved when his leg held. Much better. Don’t worry, he added. I’ll be all right.

    Anakin’s next words were filled with caution. Just be careful. Please.

    Luke soaked up the paternal warmth like a sponge. I will, Father. I promise.

    * * * * *

    Leia gnawed her lower lip aggressively, wishing yet again that the Millennium Falcon had a holo-transmitter. Hearing Han’s voice was far better than nothing, but with as much as he’d been away lately, she longed to at least see his face. “How much longer will you be gone?”

    “Couple days. No more’n that. Trust me, I hate bein’ away as much as you do.” Han paused, as if hearing her distress in her voice. “Ya okay, sweetheart?”

    “Yes, of course. I’m fine.” That was a lie. Normally Leia preferred the truth over anything else, but these were rather difficult circumstances.

    Since Endor Han had racked up a whopping ten missions, meaning he was gone more often than not. This one, flying backup for the Bothan Spynet, had seen him away from the fleet for one and a half weeks. Leia missed him badly and almost felt ready to lose her mind. Two more days was going to be torture.

    She could have gone with him, of course. She had the authority and Han would have welcomed the company. But worry about her brother- and a dozen other excuses -had kept her with the fleet.

    If Leia was being honest with herself, it was all because of Luke. His dejected attitude had been worrisome enough. But this sudden gusto and need to get out of the infirmary had been even more so. He had been cleared to return to active duty just yesterday and already he was asking when he could go back to Dagobah. It’s too soon, Leia thought with a deepening frown. His ‘miraculous’ recovery was highly suspect, especially after that collapse a few days ago. She’d already made up her mind to go and speak to him about it after she was through with Han.

    “Leia?” Han seemed concerned. “Hey. Ya there?”

    “Hmm?” Leia berated herself for not paying attention. “I’m sorry. What was that, Han?”

    “I asked how Luke was doin,” said Han with a frown in his voice.

    “Oh…” Leia bit her lip before answering. “He’s back on active duty.”

    “Already?” Han was incredulous.

    Leia grunted. “He was cleared by the medics and General Reeikan.”

    The former smuggler heard something in her voice. “Ya don’t sound too happy about that,” he pointed out.

    At last Leia let out an exasperated groan. “No, I’m not. But what can I do? We’re painfully shorthanded. Every pilot we have has been running around like a wild womprat, and too many commanders are willing to just take the medics’ word for it. Apparently, Luke’s fine.”

    Han waited a second before answering. “So...if the medics say he’s fine, whassa matter?”

    Leia grimaced and lowered her voice. “I’m worried. I’m worried that Luke isn’t being honest about his injury, either with me or the medics…that he’s pushing himself too hard and be hurt again...maybe worse than before.”

    “Hmm.” Han seemed thoughtful. “Think he found a way to fake gettin’ better?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m going to ask him about it tonight.”

    “Good. Last thing he needs is to break that leg again and be out even longer. We need all the help we can get.”

    Luke needs all the help he can get, thought Leia with a frown. Whether he wants it or not.

    * * * * *

    As it turned out, Luke asked for Leia the minute she’d planned on calling for him. He wanted to get back to Yoda as soon as he could.

    But, as if the universe itself was throwing cold water on his plans, the young Jedi found his door buzzing a mere five seconds after another episode of numbness with his leg.

    Luke closed his eyes and groaned. Great timing. “Who is it?” he called, trying to push back to his feet.

    “Leia.” She already sounded suspicious. “I thought you wanted to talk.”

    “Give me a minute-” But the door had already slid open. Luke was caught bracing his elbows against the bed, his right leg bent and his left leg dragging limply on the floor. He cringed when his sister saw him. Busted.
     
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, Ridley! This is a very IC turn of events. Luke, driven by necessity, flubs the recovery and :oops: probably will wind up more injured than before, and of course Leia senses things on several levels and comes in at the most inconvenient time for Luke that is. In the long run, it's the best thing though; he can't shrug it off as nothing. =D=