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Saga - OT Twin Suns at the Door of Night

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Cynda, Dec 11, 2020.

  1. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Title: Twin Suns at the Door of Night
    Author(s): Cynda
    Timeframe: Between ESB and RotJ, Alternate Universe
    Characters: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, R2-D2, The Emperor, Ochi of Bestoon
    Genre: Drama
    Summary: In the ruins of Polis Massa Medical Facility Vader finds the memory bank of a midwife droid, and within…multiple revelations. Luke Skywalker has a vision of Vader in an unimaginable state, engulfed in flames, hunted…and vulnerable. An alternate universe story, beginning from Darth Vader 2020 #5
    Notes: Spoilers for Marvel's Darth Vader 2020 Crossposted on Archive of our Own Lucasfilm and Disney own all things Star Wars

    At Polis Massa


    Where you hid her.

    Where you hid my son.

    Where I will make an end to this all.

    Lord Vader’s Imperial shuttle landed softly on the planetoid’s surface. He disembarked with a trail of silent Death Troopers and a rather enthusiastic forensics droid, ZED-6-7. Like so many of the places Vader had visited thus far concerning his son, the Lars homestead, Padmé's Coruscant apartment, Padmé's tomb, Polis Massa was silent and lifeless.

    No one was left. No one to punish.

    Only ghosts. Ghosts that persisted, but had long been silent. They spoke now to Vader, loud and clear.

    “A former rebel base.” ZED-6-7 observed the exteriors of abandoned and bombed out structures and the desolate landscape of the airless world. “Discovered years ago and bombarded by imperial troops. I detect no surviving organic life-forms. Where should we—”

    Vader strode up towards what appeared to be the closest entranceway.

    “Ah, the starport control. Of course.” Once inside, ZED-6-7 ignored the rebel corpses and set to work on what appeared to be a traffic controller’s panel. “Damaged, but not destroyed! Let’s see what’s what…”

    vooOP! The first sound of life from the base rang out.

    “That’s a good sound! Searching for data on arrivals and departures during the time period of…”

    A hologram of a familiar ship appeared out of the panels.

    ZED-6-7 took pure joy at providing every detail, even the ones Vader did not bother to tell the droid he already knew. “There it is. A Naboo J-Type star skiff, transporting Padmé Amidala and two droids and flown by the notorious Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi."

    “She was injured. He apparently brought her here to try to save her life…”

    “Kenobi…” Vader murmured.

    The last time his old master had been with his wife…


    “Come back! I love you.”

    He wasn’t listening to her. He wasn’t looking at her. Instead, his gaze burned over her shoulder. Instead, he saw him. With her.

    All the whispers of Palpatine bore fruit and love vanished, replaced by a furnace erupting in flames.

    His lips peeled back. “LIAR!”



    ZED-6-7 continued. “I can’t access the medical logs. If that database still exists, we’ll have to tap into it directly from the medical facility across the way. Although at this point…” Both Vader and the droid noticed movement against the stars and saw several small vessels descending towards the base.

    “…that may be easier said than done.”

    Vader looked up and almost sighed. “The Amidalans…”

    “I’m afraid so my lord.”

    Vader ignited his blade. “I am not.”

    The starfighters at the front of the lines opened fire. Vader swung his blade to intercept. The collision of green and red light forced him back. But not by much.

    Huddling behind Vader, ZED-6-7 piped, “Lord Vader, perhaps it’s not necessary to make yourself such an easy target unless…”

    A barrage of laser fire erupted along the right side of the Amidalan’s line. Vader’s death troopers manned turbolaser stations they had assembled since arriving at Polis Massa.

    “Oh, I see.” ZED-6-7, exclaimed, unable even in the heat of battle to cease expounding on every detail. “Flanking them from the side!”

    Ships began to break apart and crash. “Beautiful, really!” ZED-6-7 marveled at the destruction Vader wrought.

    Fighters from the rear of the line continued to push forward. A few managed to land. Score of beings from many different species charged forward, guns blazing.

    Some screamed. Others shouted.

    “For Padmé!”

    "For Anakin!"

    The starfighter’s fire increased in intensity, too much even for a lightsaber. Vader reached out with the Force. The closest two fighters swayed from their trajectory.

    “GRRRAAA!” Pouring his anger into the Force, Vader pulled both craft straight down onto the Amidalans.

    They scattered, screamed, and died.

    He hated these Amidalans, who fought so hard for dead people and lost dreams. He hated seeing them and how they reminded him of her and the man she said she loved. The man they called a hero.


    “You’re with him! You brought him here to kill me!”

    You remember the black hatred of seizing her throat to silence her lying mouth-

    You remember lying upon scorching hot black glass sand beside a lake of fire while flames chew upon your flesh. Limb-less and defeated.

    So weak.

    “You were my brother Anakin! I loved you!”

    You killed her.



    The Amidalans kept coming, prepared to die to avenge a good woman. As they should. Vader struck each one of them down.

    The last fell and Vader immediately turned away from his carnage.

    ZED-6-7 was also as eager to proceed, although for different reasons. “All right, this way then.” It gestured towards the medical facility. Vader followed.

    The droid did not stop until it entered one of the few intact patient rooms. Vader slowly looked around. A medical bed still levitated just above the floor.

    “This place…” He spoke as low as his vocabulator would allow.

    “A maternity ward.” ZED-6-7 stated as the droid sauntered over to a dark control panel encasing several abandoned computer cores.

    “What…do the records say?” Unvoiced went How does this end?

    The droid said nothing in reply for several long moments while it worked. When ZED-6-7 turned back to him Vader could already tell he was not going to like what it had to say.

    “The data core’s been destroyed.”

    Vader slammed his fist against the frame of the bed. Bits of debris and the droid went flying.

    “Aah!” The droid stumbled back to its feet. “I am sorry, Lord Vader. There’s nothing here to recover…” Vader, disregarding those words, moved over to a small pile of droid parts and a shattered bacta tank, heaped in a corner.

    “Eh?” ZED-6-7 peered closer to dark optical receptors bulging out of metal face. “A Chroon-tan B-Machine Midwifery droid!” It exclaimed as Vader popped open the inert droid’s chest chassis.

    ZED-6-7 inserted tools projected from the ends of its fingers and set to work. “She’s damaged. But some of her memory bank appears to be… There!”

    A small hologram of a woman lying in the medical bed appeared before Vader.

    “Padmé …”

    A droid’s modulated voice spoke from offscreen.

    ZZzztt losing her. This systemic failur-zzztt! cannot be explained.”

    Then what-

    The woman shuddered in pain and Vader realized he was witnessing not only his wife’s last living moments, but the birth of his son as well.

    Offscreen, the midwife droid made soothing sounds, then announced softly, “It’s a boy.”

    The hologram image then flickered, and the volume reduced to static, before returning to its former state.

    “… and a girl.”

    What?

    Another voice, not heard since that wretched man’s death, echoed from offscreen. “Padmé, you have twins,” Obi-Wan said desperately. “They need you-please hang on…”

    Twins?

    “Now this is interesting!” ZED-6-7 chimed in. “According to the mortician’s report I have on record, the senator was still pregnant after her death. The mortician in question, Commodex Tahn, stated that when he prepared her body for burial, he left the single fetus’s remains undisturbed in the womb, to be interred with the mother. Yet, this droid’s memory bank directly contradicts this, not only the birth, but the number of offspring!”

    Through all its chatter ZED-6-7 remained unconcerned by the greater and greater disturbances rocking the room.

    “I wonder what happened to the infants…”

    “GRRRAAAAA!” Vader ignited his lightsaber and savagely bisected the droid.

    Walls and floor quaked. The voice of the dying woman paused the destruction.

    “Obi-Wan…There’s good in him. I know…there is…still…”

    Good in him?

    After bringing Obi-Wan with her, after what he had done to her, why would she say such a thing?

    What would she say if she could see him now? She would…


    Together you and I can rule the galaxy…

    …as father and son. Come with me.



    …fall away, just as his son fell away from his grasp. As Anakin fell.

    And lost everything. Everything that was his, everything he…


    Her smile was as radiant as Tatooine’s primary.

    “He keeps kicking.” She placed his hand to the soft fullness of her belly.

    A man, long dead, felt a sudden pulse against his palm and laughed. “With a kick that hard? Definitely a girl.”



    Vader made a tight fist. His surroundings began to shake again.

    There had been a girl also… I have a son and a daughter.

    At the end of this effort and journey, he could piece together events after the start of his duel with Kenobi. His old Jedi master had brought his wife here, where she had given birth and died. Then, Kenobi returned her body to Naboo and taken the boy to the Lars homestead, where both had remained for nineteen years.

    But not all events. What of the girl?

    Where was she? Who was she? What did she look like? The Lars only had the one child. Then there was Vader’s own insight into how the Jedi worked and he knew with certainty that the twins had been separated.

    He knew…nothing.

    Vader howled in anger and anguish. Walls crumbled into debris. Both his children had been stolen from him. His son had rejected him. He was no closer to finding the daughter he never knew he had then he had been three years ago or twenty-three years ago. He had a new purpose, but the trail had gone cold. There was nothing left for him to do now, but finally rejoin his master.


    Coruscant


    It was night at the Imperial Palace. Vader knelt on bended knee, as he knew the Emperor expected, even if it was not what Vader wanted. This man called him friend, yet lied to him. Three years ago, Vader had learned the shadow only valued power and would toss away loyalty and years of service if it only meant possibly gaining more. Yet, the power that master and apprentice shared was what Vader had to work with.

    Until Vader had what belonged to him, his son and his daughter.

    “Lord Vader. Have you…settled your business?”

    “Yes Master.”

    “Really?” The Emperor smiled. “The Sith know that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to strength. But you, my friend, have just wallowed in grief. You need to start all over again.”

    With fear.”
     
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb start =D=
     
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  3. Kit'

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

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Amazing start! I loved the ending part about Sidious seeing that he was pushed by grief not by anger...although a little less excited about him deciding that Vader should start again through fear...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  4. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Rebel Fleet. Fourth and Seventh Divisions

    This is Leia Organa:

    Princess of a shattered world and a scattered people. Symbol of resistance against oppression and destructive rebellion.

    Friend. Comrade. Lover of scoundrels.

    As heir to the Royal House of Alderaan, she was taught by royal tutors everything from martial arts to linguistics to electrical engineering. As a child, she preferred the former, action over talking. A part of her still does.

    Most of all, she was taught to think of others, always. A difficult thing to teach anyone. Her parents did so not by keeping their daughter in the palace, but by labor and charity with and for people. More importantly, Leia’s parents lived by what they taught.

    In her short life she is the youngest-ever elected senator of her planet in the now dissolved Imperial Senate and a daring and natural leader in both politics and military matters. Her parents never anticipated it, but she has an innate ability to keep cool under fire. In battle, a staff officer could tell her the Empire had just turned their right flank and she would give orders with cool composure.

    She has also endured more than most can fathom. She has seen brave soldiers mowed down by the thousands. Endured physical and mental torture at the hands of the Empire’s nightmare enforcer. Lived through dozens of narrow, heart pounding escapes.

    The first thing anyone who knows anything about Leia Organa mentions is her thirst for justice and fairness. For the oppressed to be free. What few say next is that her pursuit of justice has not burned away a tender heart.

    She is kind. Gentle with animals. Generous in spirit.

    Years of war and millions dead have tested this. She has bent, but she has not yet broken.

    She also cares deeply about her friends.

    Mon Mothma. Evaan. Amilyn. Luke.

    She is also an orphan. Just three years previous, she looked on helplessly as the Empire murdered her mother, her father, her home. Billions of lives, gone in an instance.

    Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about her parents. Some days, when she is by herself or only with friends, she breaks down and cries.

    That is not the only personal tragedy in her short life. Someone else she deeply loves is also gone; she hopes not forever.

    She has never broken down in public. Not because she thinks others will consider her weak, she knows they won’t. Not because she thinks others will not understand, she knows they will. She refuses because this Rebellion is not about her, it is about everyone.

    She is a powerful symbol and an important leader in the Alliance to Restore the Republic. But the Alliance only lives on with everyone.

    No situation exemplifies this more than the one they find themselves in now. In the aftermath of the battle of Hoth and her escape from Cloud City the fleet is scattered. Somehow, the Empire has cracked the rebel fleet’s encryption codes, meaning that the remaining elements of the Alliance cannot regroup.

    Morale is as low as she’s ever seen. One more smashing defeat, one more tragedy, and their remaining forces will certainly desert in mass, never to reform into anything she can call an army. She knows they need a solution and fast and it’s not one she alone can provide.

    “Princess?”

    Leia looked up at the fourth division’s chief technical officer.

    “Here colonel.” She handed back the datapad he had given her the day before. “Signed and approved.”

    He accepted it from her and spoke tentatively. “I know it’s a tall order, Ma’am.”

    “If tech says we need a different translator droid to perform the encryption, then that’s what we need to make happen.”

    “Yes, Ma’am. We’ll get started and have our final proposal in by 0800 hours. Although, since they’ve finally managed to join us, I’ll pass this on to the seventh division’s technical group for review also. What’s left of them anyway. Maybe they’ll see something we don’t.”

    Leia nodded. “I do have one recommendation. Let the droid C-3P0 join the task force. He’s not the droid you’re looking for, but I know he’s got the best language library of any protocol droid we do have. Perhaps he has some insights.”

    “Yes, Ma’am.” The technical officer gave her a polite nod and left.

    Alone, Leia sighed and rubbed some of the sleep out of her eyes. She stood and strolled along the length of the escort frigate to stretch her legs and clear her thoughts. Out the viewports, rebel ships congregated in groups of far too few numbers, small and large, and going nowhere.

    All was calm. No attack yet. But another would come; the Empire was hunting them and it was only a matter of time.

    As she reached the long spar that connected the two hull sections of the frigate she noticed someone, the same man she had seen there an hour previously, standing before the wide viewport and gazing out at the stars. Drawing closer, this time she recognized him.

    Luke, she realized and smiled. He had been gone for some time, just returned, with a new lightsaber. The trip had been good for him; when she last saw him, arriving back at the command center, Leia had reflected on how he appeared more like his old self, if a bit older and wiser. In the days after Cloud City, Luke’s eyes had appeared grim, his entire demeanor lost and uncertain, though he tried to hide it. Leia knew Luke had confronted Vader and lost his right hand and his father’s lightsaber, but he had not spoken of the fight to her or anyone. She sensed there was something more he was keeping to himself.

    Now though…

    She was just about to greet Luke when, upon seeing the expression on his face, she cut herself off. She stayed silent until she took a place beside him before the viewport.

    “Luke, what’s troubling you?”

    Luke did not answer right away. He gave her a familiar smile that lasted only for a split second and then vanished as though it had never been there.

    “I had a…vision, Leia.”

    Visions, premonitions…Luke had them. Part of being a Jedi, Leia figured, and she did not pretend to know more. A vision led Luke to the new lightsaber now hanging from his belt. Luke always had a sense of wonder about him when he tapped into the Force, although his feelings of people or events unseen always seemed to carry a tenor of fear mingled with awe. She had never seen him look so distressed though.

    “Tell me.”

    “It was about Vader.”

    Leia went still.

    “Do you know when he’s going to attack, Luke?”

    “No, it’s…not that. He is… he is in pain.”

    She wondered but waited patiently for him to tell her more when he was ready.

    “Vader is in terrible pain. Or…will be.”

    “Is or will be?”

    “I don’t know.” Luke sighed. “In the Force, it’s all a matter of perspective.”

    Vader in pain could only be a good thing for the Alliance, Leia thought. But appearances, even in a vision, could be deceptive. She thought back to a previous time she had thought Vader vulnerable when he had been stranded on the desolate world of Vrogas Vos. Vader had been anything but trapped and vulnerable then; entire rebel squadrons and infantry battalions dead were testaments to that. Both she and Luke had been briefly captured by the Empire, herself by Vader. Only internal fighting among the enemy forces had saved her and her friends from complete disaster. She wanted Vader dead as much then as now, but never again would she sent wave after wave of troops after Vader.

    “In my vision, Vader was hunted. I couldn’t tell what. He seemed…he seems weak, vulnerable.”

    Leia raised an eyebrow. Weak? Vulnerable? Those were not words she would ever use to describe Vader. What could possibly reduce a monster like Vader to such a state? Could this be different from Vrogas Vos?

    Luke continued. “I didn’t see who hunted Vader, but I could see some images. There was…a world on fire. I saw…running lava and black sulfurous clouds. The heat…was intense. I felt it.”

    “Mustafar,” Leia said, grimly.

    “Mustafar?”

    Leia nodded. “It’s the closest thing our spies have figured Vader has for a homeworld.”

    Leia gave the matter of pursuing Vader more consideration. Luke’s visions and feelings had never been completely wrong. In fact, following through on his most recent vision had restored much of the clarity and resolve he had previously lost after Cloud City.

    Vader must in a bad state or about to. The Rebellion and the galaxy would be a far better place without the Emperor’s favorite toy. But even a wounded predator could be dangerous, sometimes even more dangerous when injured. The Rebellion in its current state was just about in the worst position to launch an attack, they were barely staying ahead of Imperial pursuit as it was. Even if Leia could send Rebel forces up against an injured Vader, she was not sure she would do so again, not after Vrogas Vos, not until she had more information than a vision.

    And then there was Luke. It was clear to her he had grown stronger in his powers; he was amazing to behold at times. Yet, he had just come back from a terrible encounter with Vader where he barely escaped with his life. She couldn’t ask him to face Vader again so soon.

    In the end it was his vision. “What do you want to do, Luke?”

    The distress on Luke’s face grew deeper. Leia wished he would tell her more and was about to order him to disregard the whole thing when the lines marring his face melted away and only conviction remained.

    “There must be some reason for this vision, even if I don’t know why. I don’t know how, but Vader is or will be hurt badly and be weaker for it. The Rebellion could really benefit from having Vader no longer on our tail. Maybe I can even find out what was strong enough to take him down.”

    Leia slowly nodded and smiled to herself. Regardless of the situation, she was happy to see him confident again.

    He continued. “I’ll go to Mustafar with Artoo. Only to check things out first. If there’s something I’m not ready for I’ll back out right away.”

    Leia sensed he was not just saying this to reassure her, he really intended to be extra cautious. It was still Vader though. Her last memories of Han came roaring back and her heart ached all over again. More than anything right now at this moment, she did not want to see another person she cared about so deeply get hurt.

    “I’m coming with you.”

    Luke protested. “Leia, I can’t take you away from your responsibilities here! Especially not now. And with the fleet’s encryption codes compromised we may not be able to come back to the Alliance until who knows when?”

    She wrapped her hands reassuringly around his shoulders. “Luke, what the Alliance needs right now is a new code talker. What you need right now is help and a friend.”


    Mustafar


    The planet, always changing and yet unchanged, burned with lava streaming from volcanos of glittering obsidian. The entire planet’s surface roiled with destructive energy that teetered on the brink of fracturing the entire planet apart. Long ago, Vader had chosen this world among all others to own entirely, a place to hone his skills and rage. The Emperor had not understood why Vader chose the place of his greatest defeat. Vader told his master all he needed to know, that he wished to harness the powers of the dark side locus on the planet. But there was also the desire to conquer and subdue the world of his defeat, and in doing so, reclaim victory.

    And he had done so. He had ground down the troublesome native species beneath his boot. His fortress that lava and sulfurous gas should have melted down to the foundation by now stood tall as on the first day. He had survived all Mustafar had to throw at him, all while harnessing the world’s energy for his own purposes.

    Now, Vader could do nothing except groan as a pair of death troopers dragged him across heat-blasted rock and threw him onto a bank of volcanic sand. He lay prone on his back and helpless beside a river of fire.

    Again.

    He was limb-less and defeated. Weak and vulnerable.

    Again.

    A shadow fell over him.

    “The last time you were broken, I found you and I rebuilt you.”

    Alarms he could do nothing about delivered warnings about rising temperatures exceeding heat tolerance and inoperable cooling systems. The remaining parts of his body lying closest to the lava river, the stumps of his legs, began to glow orange. Small fires erupted along his chest armor, already damaged by the shadow’s unforgiving lightning.

    Vader screamed.

    “This time you must rebuild yourself. Using nothing but your own strength. Your strength. Not mine.

    The Emperor tossed Vader’s lightsaber onto the sand, out of reach. Vader slowly reached out with the Force and the blade turned towards his one remaining outstretched mechanical hand.

    “Oh, no.” The Emperor put his foot down on the hilt.

    “Not like that, old friend. If you try to tap into the Force, I will know and this whole exercise will come to an end.”

    Vader watched the shadow turn and walk away, leaving behind only footsteps in the black sand. Moments later, the Imperial shuttle lifted off. Another master left him there to lay and burn.

    Once he thought the shadow, even if it did not understand him, even if it cared not at all for him, at least valued his power.

    Or so he had thought.

    You must find yourself again, old friend. You must relearn the primacy of power above all else.

    Or you must die.


    Now he understood precisely. Those words about power were more lies. While the Emperor would gladly take and use people, the more skilled the better, he never shared power. The only thing he valued in others was unwavering servitude. He wanted Vader powerful to serve him.

    Vader’s fury rose above the immense pain. He dug his fingers deep into the sand and pulled.

    Heaving his torso up the embankment, with only the strength of one arm, pushed his already tortured body to the limit. However, now, unlike before, he was intimate with intense pain. And while he could not pour his anger into the Force, fury would sustain his will.

    There was much to fuel his rage. Memories of his previous time here. Twenty-three years of service to the Empire that his master disregarded in one day. The punishment he endured now. He had killed Kenobi for less. He would do the same to Sidious.

    His lightsaber finally in reach, Vader grasped it tightly but did not rest.

    Because, most of all, his anger raged because this was a waste of time.

    Somewhere, out in the galaxy, was the daughter whom he had just discovered, knew nothing about, and did not know how to find.

    Yet, he could be doing something, anything to find her. Instead, he was cut off from the Force, inching his prone body across drifts of black sand, and their separation in time grew ever longer.

    He finally reached the lip of the cliff embankment. By now, the sound of his respirator, coming fast and hard, reverberated with a distinctive whine. He wrapped his one prosthetic hand around the edge of the obsidian outcropping before of him. Sharp edges cut into the glove’s scorched leather. The electrodrivers in the prosthetic and his last remaining arm muscles protested, the former with shrill metal-on-metal, the latter with another layer added onto countless layers of pain.

    The shadow whispered his path to power.

    Forget Padmé.

    Forget the boy.

    Forget everything, but your emperor.


    How could he?

    With one giant motion, Vader heaved his body over the top and collapsed in a heap on the eroded, yet level ground leading to the ruins of the former Techo Union Installation.

    He allowed himself a brief moment to gather his strength. While doing so, a brief, purely sentimental thought came to him.

    Does Luke know?

    Nothing Vader had gathered from the boy so far indicated any awareness of a sibling. Yet Luke was growing stronger in his skill with the Force.

    When Vader finished this pointless ordeal he would find his son again too.
     
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Exquisitely insightful into Leia's character, her feelings about the Rebellion, those she cares about, and her choice to go with Luke. I also like the way you characterize Luke's candor about the vision, talking it out, and assuring Leia he will be cautious.
     
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  6. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    The Mustafar system


    “Artoo says that long-range scanners are not picking any up craft within Mustafar’s sphere of influence,” Leia reported. “If there were any vessels larger than a light cruiser, we should have spotted them by now. Unless they’re cloaked.” The way she finished that last part indicated she considered that unlikely.

    Luke nodded from the copilot seat as he looked up from old rebel reports on the Mustafar system. None were more recent than five years ago, and few contained any observations from the surface. During hyperspace transit, he had read through them in such a short time that he pulled up academic papers on Mustafar’s scant flora and fauna and the planet’s native sentient species before reviewing the rebel reports a second time.

    “Keep the scanners going, Artoo,” she said. “I’m still taking us in nice and slow for now.”

    They were both keeping one ear on the comms, waiting for a burst of static and then a typical harsh Imperial voice. To preserve the few precious stolen Imperial craft in Alliance possession, they traveled in a shuttle model typically used for transporting miners between worlds. The craft was well used and did not pack much of a punch, weapons or velocity-wise, but its thick outer bulkheads could take a few hits, and more importantly, the craft’s industrial makeup would buy them time if Imperials did make contact and start asking questions.

    Mustafar, Luke thought. The planet was just larger than the size of his thumb, a red and black marble through the forward window. Upon laying eyes on the world, he knew Leia was right; this was the place from his vision. Closer now on their approach was a gas giant planet, a great ball of swirling gray and orange storms.

    “Still nothing,” Leia mused in surprise after Artoo chirped at her a second time. Luke also thought the lack of Imperial craft odd. The rebel reports were low on detail, but all mentioned some level of Imperial presence in the planet’s orbit, sometimes multiple Star Destroyers.

    He took in a deep breath in, then out, and closed his eyes.



    You must feel the Force around you.


    In a way, though not by traditional sight, Luke could see the Force swirl around the ship, leaving eddies as though the shuttle traveled through some ether. Beside him, Leia was a bright white flame in the Force. But the goal of his focus lay ahead, on a world that, even by eye, appeared a wound in the Force. Luke stretched out with his feelings towards Mustafar.

    He felt a sharp cold chill and almost immediately recoiled. It was as he suspected and dreaded; Mustafar had a taint of the Dark Side. Luke fought to keep his emotions under control; the Dark Side was not what he sought, although he aimed for one who wielded it. He searched and searched for that all too familiar and awful presence while also tamping down the growing fear that once he sensed Vader, there was a good chance that Vader could sense him.

    Odd, he thought again. First, the lack of an Imperial presence on an Imperial world and now this. For all his concentration, he could not feel Vader through the Force, where in past times he could whenever the Dark Lord was present.

    As baffled as he was, the news was somewhat of a relief, and he turned to tell Leia. But just as he meant to speak, every word on the tip of his tongue felt wrong. Stopping and returning his focus to Mustafar, he concentrated, and, again, could not sense Darth Vader. All the same, the very thought of telling Leia to divert felt wrong.

    Luke made a frustrated noise under his breath. How could the Force be telling him two contradicting pieces of information at once?

    “Luke?”

    Regardless, a decision had to be made. When he added in his vision, that made the choice clear enough. “He’s there, Leia.”

    “Artoo, start our descent. Keep us at this speed for now and monitor the scanners, but accelerate once we hit the stratosphere.”

    Luke stood from his seat. “I’m going to suit up, Leia.”

    She gave him a concerned look. There was still time before they even hit Mustafar’s upper atmosphere, but he needed a few moments alone. She only gave him a slow, serious nod before he ducked below.

    Stepping into the closet adjacent to the mining shuttle’s main cargo hold, he grabbed a jumpsuit to slip over his regular clothes, a parachute harness, and a facemask for protection against sulfur and ash he encountered between exiting the vessel and landing on the surface. Before he slipped on either, he paused.

    Luke the Rebel Alliance pilot and Luke the Jedi in training knew what needed to be done.

    But there was a part of him, diminished with time and the finding of his new Jedi lightsaber, yet still present, that remained confused, angry, and afraid after events at Cloud City. That part screamed to run away, far away from Mustafar. Because whatever images the vision showed him, it was still Vader, the one who beat Luke within an inch of his life only weeks before, who murdered Ben, who…



    I am your father.


    Luke knew he would face Darth Vader again, that much was certain as the stars' birth and death. But this was much sooner than he wanted. His vision showed him that Vader was gravely injured and in intense pain, but Luke knew he still could not match the Dark Lord’s skill with the Force. And many questions he hoped to resolve before this next encounter still went unanswered.

    He leaned heavily against the adjacent bulkhead. “Ben…Yoda…Please…I could really, really use your guidance right now.”

    Luke reached out for the Force…

    Kenobi and Yoda were as silent as ever since he left Dagobah, since...



    You must complete the training!

    If you are going to face Vader, you must do it alone. I cannot interfere.




    Luke slammed his fist against the bulkhead. Why were they not answering?

    Could his failure have been so great that his teachers had given up on him? Both Jedi masters warned him about the dangers of ending his training to address a vision, especially a vision concerning the future, that was always in motion.

    All the warnings of Ben and Yoda had come to pass. Leia, Chewbacca, and Threepio had been captured by the Empire but escaped without his help. When Luke found himself before Vader, instead of retreating from a fight he had been forewarned he could not win, he confronted Vader and, in turn, was utterly defeated. Because of him, Leia and Chewie had to break off their pursuit of the bounty hunter who claimed Han. And if R2 had not fixed the hyperdrive...

    Luke’s wrist suddenly ached where Vader’s lightsaber had cut through, and his chest went tight with guilt. Not again, Luke thought. I will not let my response to this vision go as before. He would be patient and measured, taking things one moment at a time, not concerning himself with what-ifs or the future or…



    I am your father.


    When Luke was a child, his father was his idol, simply because he left behind the drudgery that was life on Tatooine to travel amongst the stars. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru loved their nephew, and he loved and missed them, but Luke had never substituted them for his absent parents, and Luke never felt he shared as much in common with them as he did with that image of his father. Then, Ben Kenobi told him his father had been a thing of legend, a guardian of peace and justice, a Jedi Knight, and Luke’s sense of loss and familiarity grew.



    Search your feelings. You know it to be true.



    Luke shook his head. He refused to accept any such claims from a creature such as Vader! Much less words that called everything about his father and, by extension himself, into question. His father had been a good man.

    If only he could talk to Ben or Yoda. That would resolve the matter in an instant…


    I was once a Jedi Knight. The same as your father.

    Why wish you become Jedi?

    Mostly because of father, I guess.

    Much anger in him. Like his father.



    Luke’s stomach filled with dread. Was that why Yoda had been so hesitant to train him? Had everything been a test with his little green Jedi master from the very beginning, starting with that question? How many other tests had he failed? And if Vader was his father, what was he supposed to do? Who was he supposed to be?



    Clear your mind of questions.



    For the time being, he had to leave those questions be and do his duty, both as the Jedi he hoped to become and as an officer in service to the Alliance to Restore the Republic. As he and Leia had discussed, he would take things one step at a time in the course of determining the circumstances of the images from his vision. He would discover the cause of injury to someone as powerful as Vader, and, above all, avoid a fight with Vader, which he could not win.

    Calming his breathing, his heartbeat, and, to a lesser extent, his mind, Luke reached out for the energy that binds the galaxy together and wrapped it around himself like a suit of armor. The Force was always present, and that fact alone was a great comfort. Even if Yoda and Kenobi were not physically with him, he had their past teachings. Lies or no lies, they had never led him astray when it came to the Force.

    Luke’s cybernetic hand brushed against his new lightsaber, the one he had found and claimed in the Jedi Temple on Tempes, the one that was his own, not his father’s. Even if this was sooner than he wished, time had passed since Cloud City, and Luke had already learned more about himself. He no longer wanted to be a Jedi only to honor his father. Luke wanted to be a Jedi because the Force was with him and the Jedi stood for much that was good, goodness that the galaxy desperately needed right now.

    The ship’s audio system sounded out. “Luke, we’re starting orbital insertion.”

    Luke smiled to himself. Above all, this would not be a repeat of Cloud City because this time he had help from the very beginning.

    Luke slipped on the jumpsuit with renewed resolve, strapped on the parachute harness, hung the facemask around his neck, and returned to the cockpit. The churning atmosphere of Mustafar now filled most of the forward view.

    A few years earlier, fresh off Tatooine, he would have gasped aloud at the sight. There was not a single stretch of the planet’s surface not marred with violent volcanic eruption as far as the eye could see.

    “Still no other craft, Leia?”

    She shook her head. “I can’t imagine a reason why.”

    They were about to find out.

    “Luke,” Leia started. “I was thinking…you’ll have quite the trek to Vader’s Fortress. So, perhaps we should take the risk, and you make short contact over the comms when you are just about to reach the castle.”

    “In my vision there were buildings, but they looked to be in ruins. I didn’t see anything that looked like a castle or a fortress,” Luke mused.

    Artoo’s head swiveled back and forth, from one person to the other, its forearm extended, about to resume his interface with navigation.

    “Then, where should we go?” Leia asked, patient and trusting him as always.

    Luke picked up the datapad and pulled up a list of settlements and industrial sites on Mustafar. They were few names, but still too many to all flyby in a timely manner. While he scanned the various names, he remained mindful of the Force.

    “There.” He pointed towards the middle of the list, at the old Techno Union Installation. “Pass near there, Leia.”

    She simply accepted this. “All right. Let’s begin an accelerated descent Artoo.”

    Luke straightened. “I’m off to the cargo bay.”

    “Luke.” Leia turned to look him straight in the eye, stood, and wrapped him in a warm embrace. “May the Force be with you.”

    “And also with you.”

    Artoo also gave him a parting chirp. Luke patted the droid’s dome and departed from them both to the cargo bay.

    The mining shuttle began to buck from impacts against layers of atmosphere. As acceleration increased, Luke was pushed against his shuttle seat's straps, which steadied him through the rapid descent. Even now, the air grew warmer, both from closer proximity to the surface and the high velocities Leia and Artoo pushed the shuttle.

    The pair of cargo bay doors slowly separated. The cargo bay filled with a blast of heat and the faint smell of sulfur. Luke unbuckled himself to slowly stand. The shuttle began to decelerate rapidly and in response g-forces both increased and changed directions, pushing him against the floor. That was his signal. Luke crept up to the wide-open gap and looked down upon roiling crimson and black.

    He was not even actively reaching for the Force when the intense heat vanished, replaced by chill washing over Luke’s entire body to settle deep in his bones.

    A spike of fear ran through him. This was what he had sensed from the very beginning of their approach, but not with this potency. The entire planet was a bathed in the Dark Side with an intensity that shook Luke to his core.

    Fear is of the Dark Side, he thought. Is this how the Dark Side grows and persists? By producing its own fear?

    Luke knew from his training what he needed to do. But how could he banish his own fear in such a place and set to face Vader so soon?

    He started with Ben and Yoda’s instructions. Trusting in his ally, the Force, he reached out.

    The Dark Side was there, that presence that always followed Vader. It felt as strong as from the Dagobah cave, except emanating from an entire planet in waves that overwhelmed all other perception of the Force. But Luke continued to reach out for the Force that had always been present.

    Then he felt it. Past the waves of consuming darkness, there was still life on Mustafar. There was light, there was balance, there was the Force. Small, but hearty and biding its time.

    Mustafar was not all destruction. As soon as he felt that presence, Luke held and cradled it in his mind. The shadow on the Force was intense on Mustafar, but if it could not consume this small candle how strong could the darkness truly be?

    Luke braced himself against the edge and jumped.
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Absolutely adored the introspection!! :* [face_love] :* You've balanced Luke's misgivings and resolve perfectly.

    Eagerly awaiting what he will find and I am very glad Leia is along.
     
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  8. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Just above the surface of Mustafar


    Leia Organa edged the mining shuttle around and between sloping hills of gray sand and black rock. She and Artoo-Detoo scanned for an appropriate place to land, both hidden from sight and with enough level ground to set down.

    Artoo blurted out a warning. In his opinion, they were flying too close to the ground for comfort, and the shuttle was not built for such maneuvers. Leia responded by saying she would take every opportunity to keep low and therefore out of sight. Luke’s success depended on it. When he contacted her over the comms or when five standard hours were up, whichever came first, she was his backup or ride off this hellscape.



    Not bad flying, Princess. Right now, her inner voice sounded like a certain scoundrel.


    Leia smiled to herself. Easily impressed flyboy? Rounding another rise, she saw a mass of upheaved rock blocking her way. Leia immediately gave the shuttle a swift 180-degree turn. The entire structure of the vessel groaned through the rapid deceleration. Artoo slammed against the copilot seat. Righting the shuttle back level, she proceeded to follow a dark-red lava rivulet parallel and opposite to the direction they just came.


    Now don’t get too excited. Someone’s got to watch out for the kid.


    I will, she thought. Luke and I will see you again. Leia nudged the shuttle slightly upwards just as she noticed the terrain change. The rivulet turned black as a gap widened between the hills straight ahead. In gradual steps, Leia set the shuttle down next to a hill facing the direction she left Luke.

    Just as the landing gear settled into the coarse surface, Artoo began to squawk and frantically shake his entire chassis. Leia’s heart jumped to her throat once she understood his binary. Scans had just detected two starships parked in their vicinity. Luke did not know this.

    “Where Artoo? Show me exactly where they are!”

    The astromech’s dome swiveled, his adaptor arm whirled, and in short order, a map of their local surroundings filled the cockpit. The projected landscape glowed ambient orange; mountains, hills, and plains turned into three-dimensional contours. Two blue spots flashed. Artoo focused first on the one closest to the ruined droid factory. This vessel had parked on level, open ground, but at a distance at enough distance from the old Confederacy base that Luke could not spot it from his drop-off point. Most concerning was what Artoo reported next; the vessel was an Imperial Lambda-class shuttle.

    Leia brought her commlink up to her lips, ready to break the silence she had previously hoped to keep, then paused. That shuttle could quite possibly intercept her transmission, and with that realization she cycled through all the other possible options in response to this new threat.

    The shuttle might be Vader’s only, but Leia highly doubted that. In her experience, Vader fought personal battles alone, but the Empire was almost always nearby. But that did not necessarily mean that the shuttle occupants were allies of Vader. Luke had said that in his vision Vader was hunted, but by what he could not say. The Dark Lord had fought against rival Imperial factions before, she had seen it on Vrogas Vos, but even then, the Dark Lord had held his own and won, nothing at all similar to what Luke described. That entire vision went against expectations, which was one reason why she and Luke were here, so she needed to rethink all her usual expectations.

    Artoo took much longer to bring up any information about the second vessel. It was farther away from the base ruins than the Imperial vessel, and, unlike the shuttle, this ship was nestled behind and between sloping hills.


    Like us.


    The final information Artoo delivered further deepened the mystery. With only brief seconds of scan, the astromech could not be certain, but the most likely model Artoo matched to their second unwelcome companion was a Naboo J-Type star skiff.

    What was a specialized yacht starship, built on a lush and beautiful planet and displaying symbols of that world’s royalty, doing on Mustafar? Leia’s first thoughts went to the Emperor. After all, Naboo was his homeworld. But as soon as the thought came to her, she already began to dismiss it. The Emperor rarely expressed much special affinity for Naboo, even when he had only been Chancellor, and scarcely mentioned the planet at all. This was a reason for his early popularity in the former Republic; he was seen as a man of the galaxy, concerned for all worlds. Naboo also had its share of dissatisfaction with Imperial rule and rebel cells, even if few had merged with the Alliance.

    If that skiff was not Imperial, why were they here? They were clearly hiding, but from what? The only other clue Leia had was the fact that both ships preceded her, and they had all converged at this one location on all of Mustafar. It stood to reason the occupants of the skiff knew something about this situation that she and Luke did not.

    This matter required taking a chance. Leia made many such decisions in the course of her political and military life. In the past, some had rewarded her, others punished. In circumstances where she had little to go on, she relied in part on her instincts.

    “Artoo, let’s take us up again, nice and easy.” She paused to think. “Take us in on a direct vector. I want the skiff to know we’re are coming. Don’t run the scanners. When we’re within a kilometer, find a place to land, and we’ll walk the rest of the way.”

    “And find out who this is.”


    Surface of Mustafar, ruins of the former Techno Union Installation


    These skeletal buildings, now half encased in cooled lava, once served first as a lava mine, drawing precious metals from rivers of burning stone, later as a major droid factory for the Techno Union’s armies. Millions of battle droids assembled, packed into massive shuttles, and deployed to the stars to mow down clones, soldiers, and civilians by the billions. In the end, the Confederacy made Mustafar and this complex their final stronghold, built to withstand any bombardment, even from the entire Republic Navy. Except a lone Jedi starfighter with the deactivation codes.

    More than two decades ago, the corridors and rooms of the Confederacy’s Techno Union Installation on Mustafar echoed with bloodcurdling screams of trapped bankers, trade viceroys, and weapon designers. Mummified corpses of Wax Tambor, Poggle the Lesser, Nute Gunray, and several others lay where they fell, their faces still stretched in frozen terror. The hallways, conference rooms, and droid assembly lines, caked with black ash, remained undisturbed and unvisited since that day. A tomb, half-buried in lava and rubble, to the last moments of the Clone Wars and Confederacy of Independent Systems.

    Until now. Now the dim passages echoed with screams once more from one man, if he could be called that. Darth Vader had returned to the scene of his crime.

    The task of converting old droid parts into three makeshift prosthetic limbs was excruciating work. Vader was already physically taxed to the limit after dragging his torso into the abandoned facility. The repair droids he reprogrammed did the rest of the mobile work, bringing what old tools and droid parts they could find to the corner of the droid assembly chamber where Vader propped himself up. However, first, he needed to repair and replace those wires and metal of his own suit that had melted together by intense heat or fried from lightning. Each wire he fused, each circuit he closed, sent a cascade of electric shocks through stressed metal and agonized flesh. At times, Vader needed to close off circuits so his chest control panel, that most sensitive part of his armor and life support system, would not suffer further damage, starving his body of oxygen for a time while he quickly worked.

    Different from lying on a surgical table beneath a pool of high-intensity light while emotionless droids carved into freshly immolated flesh. The pain was not all that different.

    Vader positioned the final droid limb, a B1-series battle droid leg, against his left leg module interface. He howled in agony as one set of electronics connected to another.

    Even after all this, Vader’s trials were not over. He was no longer alone.

    A hunter was on the prowl.

    More waste of time.

    As Vader hobbled onto mismatched feet another sound of life arrived. Light footsteps echoed at a regular, sauntering pace, with the occasional tap-tap-tap of a metal end on the floor.

    “I know. I’m late. I hope you don’t feel patronized. I just didn’t want this to end too quickly.”

    A humanoid of average height, sporting a well-worn, sturdy chest and shoulder armor, drew close to Vader’s corner of the droid factory. A blaster in holster hung from a belt and this being held in one hand a long metal spear, ending with a vicious point. An array of pouches hanging along his belt hinted at other gadgets. He wore a gray and red mask with sharp edges over his entire face. Where two eyes might be, only vicious yellow light glowed, concealing whether or not he was human—all the trademarks of an assassin.

    His chatter continued, high and nasally, with a vicious edge and also almost playful undercurrent. “The Emperor said he’d forbidden you to use the Force and when I saw you dragging yourself with just the one arm across the sand, well, I respected the tenacity. But I like killing people who can stand on their own two feet. So, I hope you’ve made good use of your time, cause you’re fresh out of it now.”

    The hunter rounded the corner and glanced around the open space at scattered spare parts and tools, meandering repair droids, and not much else.

    “Ugh. Hiding?” He scoffed. “Don’t embarrass yourself. You’re supposed to be a Sith. If you can’t fight when there’s no hope, you don’t deserve to live.”

    Vader dropped down from the immobile droid conveyor belt, igniting his lightsaber.

    “Exactly.”

    The hunter moved away, but not quite fast enough. Vader’s blade made a glancing blow off the shoulder pauldron.

    Despite the surprise attack, the hunter was not fazed; his spear swung out at once. Vader edged back, but not before the spear point brushed against Vader’s chest control box, that delicate set of electronics, already damaged, that regulated breathing and organ function, both organic and synthetic. The hunter stabbed quickly once more and again, Vader moved backwards to avoid it.

    With a snarl, Vader lashed out but already realized that with that spear his opponent could keep a good distance between the end of a lightsaber while scoring hits of his own.

    “Good.” The hunter paused to mock his prey. “You made it a little interesting. But now--”

    A second time the spear point made contact with his chest panel. Vader shouted as shocks from shorted wires cascaded through his torso. If he had delayed half a second longer, the impact would have shattered the box completely. Vader retreated back even farther, but in this factory, space was limited, and defense was a losing strategy.

    Vader lunged forward while sweeping out his lightsaber in a swift, narrow arc. The hunter hopped straight up and over both the blade and its wielder. Vader made an abrupt turn, his blade already far extended and ready when his opponent landed.

    I have you now. Vader aimed for the future position of the hunter’s torso. Instead, the hunter whipped out his blaster, and Vader was forced to retreat and sweep his lightsaber in rapid, full circles to scatter the blaster bolts. Any other blade work needed the aid of the Force.

    “Surely you can do better! Just because you look like a slab of meat wrapped in metal doesn’t mean you should fight like one.”

    Vader gave a low growl at his opponent and this whole series of trials the Emperor thrust upon him.


    THIS WAS A WASTE OF TIME!


    Reasoning that he could extend his reach just far enough and also turn his profile so his opponent could not target his control panel, Vader turned so his shoulder faced his opponent. In the same motion, Vader jabbed his blade straight out, as far as he could extend.

    He paid for this desperate maneuver. The hunter’s spear end lashed out, but instead of aiming at his torso, it sliced upwards and along the lower right side of Vader’s helmet, just above the neck. The razor-sharp metal edge found fractures formed by the Emperor’s punishing lighting, broke them apart, and penetrated past weakened layers of durasteel into delicate wiring.

    Vader’s yell dissolved into harsh static; the attack had damaged his voice synthesizer. As he staggered backwards the spear came shooting forward again. Vader held his red blade straight out in front to counter any attack coming for his torso or head. Instead, the hunter aimed low and sliced along the back of Vader’s newly attached left droid leg, severing metal, wires, and pistons.

    Servos in the partially damaged droid leg failed and Vader fell backwards, his helmet and upper back colliding against the rear wall. As Vader extended his arms to brace the ongoing fall, his lightsaber slipped from his grasp. He reached for the weapon in vain, but without the Force he could only watch as the hunter scooped it up and let out a giddy laugh.

    “That was easier than I thought! I even got your laser sword.”

    He reignited the weapon, gave the crimson blade a flourish, and moved in for the kill.

    A blur of motion came from the right. A bright yellow beam struck down the red blade, forcing it out from the assassin’s hand. A very familiar, but completely unexpected young man landed between Vader and the hunter.

    Vader could only lay there, taking in the sight, his son standing with his back to him, dressed in a flight suit, hair plastered with sweat, wielding a sword of yellow light, and wonder:


    How…how could Luke be here?


    The hunter’s eyes darted from Vader to the young intruder’s weapon. He backed away slowly, then shifted from side to side, a predator gauging a new element.

    “Don’t come between me and my prey kid. Leave now. If you know what’s good for you,” he snarled.

    “No,” Luke said calmly, raising his sword to guard. “I’m staying right here.”

    The hunter’s pistol snapped up into his hand and fired. Luke brought his blade neatly into the path of the bolt, swatting it harmlessly into the factory depths. The hunter fell back, shooting as he went. Luke’s blade became a blur of motion and shots scattered around the chamber. Not a single one hit Luke or Vader. One reflected bolt impacted his opponent’s chest armor, leaving a smoldering, though not penetrating mark. At that, the predator turned prey and ran flat out into the wastes of Mustafar.

    Vader lay nearly prone and frozen in complete shock when his son turned about to face him.
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating discoveries and riveting duel =D=
     
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  10. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Surface of Mustafar, ruins of the former Techno Union Installation


    Luke tried to keep his breathing slow and steady, all while his heart thumped against his rib cage, both from the exertion of running flat out when he heard the sounds of battle and the sight of what lay before him.

    To some eyes, it seemed a desperate, mad attempt at grafting decrypt droid parts onto a humanoid torso and a hidden face, lying helpless as an insect on its back. To other eyes, even spread-eagled on the floor, its horribly asymmetric limbs, battle-damaged armor, and the underthrust jaw of its fractured vocabulator suggested a scarred, but old predator; a dangerous creature that would be up and lashing out in a second.

    To Luke Skywalker, it was all these things, but most importantly of all, it was still recognizably Darth Vader.

    Instinct had driven young rebel’s every movement up until this moment. He had heard the sounds of a battle and came running. He saw an assailant attempting to strike down a prone, seemingly defenseless opponent, so he leapt to defend. Now, conscious that he was alone with Vader, every nerve in his body sparked, every tendon tensed, in preparation for a desperate fight for his life.

    Luke saw one of those four limbs, the droid arm, twitch and begin to stretch out. Without sparing a second for thought, Luke reached out his own hand through the Force. Vader’s lightsaber leapt from the ground straight into his grasp. In the same breath, Luke slashed his own weapon between the metal elbow and wrist of that outstretched droid arm. He leveled both ignited blades, the sunlight and the bloodshine, at Vader’s throat.

    All appearances were as the vision foretold. The Dark Lord was grievously injured, enough so that he was at his mercy, and Luke’s stomach churned at the sight of obvious torture laid upon this being, by what he did not know. Even so…


    Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.


    Luke knew well he was not yet a Jedi and Vader had years of mastery of the Force on him. He braced himself in preparation to flee. Any second now the walls were going to shake, debris come hurtling down, his own body go flying…

    None of this happened. The moment stretched on and Vader remained slumped on the floor, the coarse sound of the suit’s respirator, simultaneously louder and weaker than Luke remembered from previous times, drowning out all other noise.

    Suddenly, a burst of static and sparks spewed from the fractured side of Vader’s facemask. Luke flinched, though he held both lightsabers steady. He quickly realized that Vader meant to speak, but the damage to the suit and vocabulator was such that Luke could not make out a single syllable from the static, only the hint of a groan at the end.

    A part of himself felt tremendous relief at the fact that Vader was presently unable to speak, that Luke would not have to listen to…


    Son. Come with me. Luke…it is your destiny.


    For three years, Luke had often dreamed of facing Vader in an epic duel of righteousness versus evil. When the loss of Ben was fresh, to avenge his murdered mentor, as well as his father. Later, on behalf of all in the galaxy who suffered at Vader’s hands. Yet, none of the scenarios Luke imagined in the lead-up to besting Darth Vader came close to the reality before him. His dreams always ended after a hard-won duel to the death, not finding his enemy helpless after the fact.

    Then there was the terrible feeling that though Luke had not resolved the question concerning Vader’s claim on him, try as he might, he could no longer continue to ignore it either. Father or not, if Vader really was as defenseless as he seemed, what was the right thing to do?

    Luke looked to the only thing with him for answers, the Force. His mind perceived how the Force weaved through and about his surroundings, especially Vader, although Luke pointedly avoided any interaction with that one’s mind. He felt how the Force surrounded Vader, as it did all things, but Luke still could not sense Vader’s distinct presence, that cold furnace sending waves of black terror through the Force.

    Something…something was different about Vader, and not just physically. Something Luke struggled to even begin to understand. And that left the young man at even more of a loss, for what should he do with someone so powerful, someone he hated, who now appeared by all his perceptions, helpless?

    An answer had already been clear in his mind from the moment he saw Vader weaponless and injured. Luke had never killed an injured, defenseless being intentionally before, not even an enemy. He knew well that the Jedi did not murder defeated opponents either. Luke still struggled to fully accept that Vader qualified as truly helpless, yet when he asked himself if he could kill Vader as Luke saw him, the answer came back, reluctantly, but clearly.


    No. Father or not.


    Yet, he could not just walk away from Vader, let go the best chance the Alliance had to remove one of their greatest threats.

    Actually, Luke knew exactly what to do. He had done so countless times over the past three years. He quenched Vader’s lightsaber and slipped it deep into one of the flightsuit’s pockets, but kept his own ignited and outstretched.

    “In the name of the Alliance to Restore the Republic...you are under arrest.” Still, the fact that he was saying the words to Darth Vader made this one of the most surreal moments of his life, and that was saying something.

    Vader continued to lay where he fell. Periodically, his chest would heave, or one of the prosthetics would twitch. More static sounded out from the facemask, along with a few blue and white sparks from the cracked mask, but Luke could not gauge any more meaning than a general inflection of negativity.

    “Stand up,” he ordered, trying to keep his voice firm, even as he doubted Vader would obey, and anticipated violence in response.

    Slowly, Darth Vader rose. His one usable hand braced against the wall, while the two droid legs fashioned into prosthetics, braced and then extended upwards, the left one emitting sparks as Vader approached his full height, still much taller than Luke, who took a small involuntary step backward.

    The pistons and servos in the damaged left droid leg loudly protested and in response Vader shifted his weight to his right side. But both droid legs began to shudder, and Vader’s lean turned into a fall straight forward.

    Luke thrust out his right hand at once to catch Vader on his armor’s shattered left pauldron. The combined weight of armor, droid parts, and however much-unseen flesh remained nearly overwhelmed Luke, but his hold just managed to brace the Dark Lord’s fall. Situated like this, his vision consumed with black contours and sharp edges, that terrible breathing a loud roar in his ear, closer than he had ever been to this constant threat to his life, Luke’s hand began to violently tremble.

    Every nerve in Luke’s body screamed to run away, but circumstances had not otherwise changed; Vader could not walk unassisted. Having already concluded he could not kill him and his responsibility still dictated against leaving Vader, Luke summoned all his courage to do what was required of him.

    With slow shaking movements, Luke adjusted his stance until he stood flush against Vader’s left side. To his surprise, Vader did not resist when Luke automatically reached for the severed remains of the left prosthetic arm to drape it across his back and shoulders. Arranged just so, Luke figured he could assist Vader’s mobility well enough until they reached open ground and he contacted Leia.

    With one set of hobbled steps at a time they moved together. Luke gasped under the immense weight he supported even as Vader also stepped forward. His trembling did not help, nor was the disturbing thought that Vader now certainly knew just how much Luke feared him right now. By the time they reached the nearest exit of the ruined Techno Union complex, Luke was drenched with a new flow of sweat starting to run through his eyes, but together he and Vader had established a sort of balance and rhythm. Yet, Luke continued to remain hyper-aware of even the slightest of Vader’s movements, watching and feeling for any sign of Vader preparing to lash out.

    Luke felt a fresh wave of heat blast against his face as they completely left the factory’s confines. The exit opened out to a bridge crossing over a narrow strait of oozing lava and leading up to rising hills of upheaved black and gray rock.

    Not much further, Luke thought. Once they completely crossed the bridge ahead they would be on open, firm ground. Then he would call Leia and Artoo, and react to whatever Vader did next.

    Almost across the full length of the bridge, Luke felt a warning in the Force. He hastily divulged himself of Vader’s weight and ignited his lightsaber right at the moment when the hunter from below lunged over the bridge’s side, glinting spear tip arcing outwards.

    Luke sidestepped the blade’s sharp edge, but before he could return with his own strike the assassin vaulted completely over the metal railing and had both feet flat in the bridge’s center, standing directly between Luke and Vader and the rocky shore.

    “Who the hell are you?” The assassin spat out, drawing his spear back for another lunge.

    “No one you know,” Luke said, setting a defensive stance. “Who are you ?”

    “Ochi of Beeston, assassin of the Sith. Last face you’ll ever see!”

    As the assassin spoke Luke quickly glanced over his shoulder to see Vader still standing upright and leaning against the nearest bridge pylon. Looking straight forward again, Luke dodged the next incoming blow, but did not move back. He would not dare draw close to Vader with his back turned.

    “Of the Sith?” Luke slowly registered what Ochi said and remembered where he heard that word before. Yoda had called Vader a Sith, a practitioner of the Dark Side of the Force and member of an evil religion. He heard the air whistle by his right ear as the spear veered close to his head.

    Ochi cackled. “For someone putting on a Jedi act you really don’t know anything do you?”

    “I’m asking you. Why are you attacking Vader?”

    “Because the Emperor wants him dead.”

    Luke physically staggered at Ochi’s revelation. “Why?”

    “Cause he got all weak. Let some people go he was supposed to kill.”

    Who? Luke wondered. For a fleeting moment, his thoughts went back to an antenna array on Cloud City, high above a bottomless shaft, and a dark, extended hand.


    Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.
    Come with me. It is the only way.



    “So the Emperor punished him,” Ochi continued. “And sent me to finish the job.”

    The Emperor did this to Vader? The Emperor brought down all that damage? he wondered in amazement. Luke couldn’t imagine Vader taking any punishment lying down; the Emperor must have overpowered him.

    This disturbed Luke. Yoda told him that the Emperor could wield the Dark Side of the Force, that only a fully trained Jedi Knight could take on Vader and his Emperor. Ben told him that he lost his pupil to the Emperor’s seduction. But Luke had not put together from those brief conversations with his Jedi mentors that the Emperor had such immense power, enough to bring even Darth Vader down so low.

    Luke directed a parry downwards, but Ochi dodged it with seeming ease. Luke realized he was letting his opponent distract him. Another distraction was looming closer-Luke glanced back to see Vader on his feet or rather, on one foot and half-dragging the other. With the Force Luke halted his forward motion for a brief moment, delivering more of warning, while swinging his blade in wild strokes to ward off Ochi.

    This assassin claimed he served the Emperor, but that only raised more questions. Why would an assassin of the Sith attack a Sith?

    Unless…

    “Is the…is the Emperor a Sith?”

    “What, are you thinking of facing him? You have no idea of the kind of power he has, kid! Not that you’ll live to find out after I’m done with you.” As if to prove his point, Ochi’s spear made contact with Luke’s upper arm.

    Only the flat of the blade hit him, the wound would be no more than a nasty bruise, but it was enough of a wakeup call for Luke: he could not win this engagement with his attention so divided. To his everlasting surprise, Vader remained the lesser threat right now. He needed to focus on this assassin and trust the Force to warn him about Vader.

    He took a quick breath in, then out, and submerged his awareness deeper in the Force. He saw Ochi begin to swing his weapon out yet again.

    With the Force, Luke tugged on the end of the spear, just enough to loosen Ochi’s grip and rattle his opponent’s nerves. With his other hand, Luke weaved his blade in blurred vertical chops until the spear clattered to the bridge surface, severed into five separate pieces.

    Ochi yelped and jumped backward to draw his pistol out. Luke’s lightsaber was still in forward motion and before the assassin even extended his arm the gun barrel glowed red hot and was half its length. Taking several more steps back, the assassin, now off the bridge and stumbling onto the rocky landscape, grappled with one of the pouches on his belt.

    Luke did not wait to find out what he was reaching for. With the Force, he lifted Ochi’s body straight up and threw him to the side, crashing hard onto the rocky shore of the lava flow.

    “Since you’re so talkative...time for some answers.” Luke vaulted down after him. Before he landed he saw Ochi sit up, something zip straight out from his belt, and the next moment both of Luke’s arms were being pinned tightly against his torso by multiple loops of elastic cable. He barely landed on both his feet.

    Luke desperately twisted his forearms about, while mentally chiding himself and his engagement with the Force vanished in place of panic. He still held his lightsaber firmly in his right hand, but try hard as he might, he just could not bring the blade up high enough to sever the cable trailing back to Ochi’s grip.

    “HA! I told you kid! Last face you’ll ever see!” The assassin rose back to his feet. Luke saw him draw out a vicious looking dagger…

    An enormous black mass lunged by Luke, slowly, but with direction. For a split second Luke panicked, but Vader only passed him by to cast himself forward at Ochi instead. The assassin brought the dagger forward, but Vader’s severed prosthetic left arm knocked it aside and the rest of his mass crashed down on top of Ochi. Luke was knocked down also and in doing so the taunt cable cut against his lightsaber. He quickly got to his feet, tugging away the loosening coils as he got to his bearing.

    “AAAGH!” Ochi screamed as Darth Vader pressed down upon the assassin’s body. A loud burst of incomprehensible noise and sparks issued from the side of Vader’s helmet. His one working hand pressed the hunter’s head into the scorching black sand. Ochi’s mask began to smoke.

    “Stop! Let him up!” Luke ran forward, reignited his lightsaber, and leveled it at Vader.

    Slowly, Vader’s head turned to look at Luke, those black, skull-like eyes, empty and unreadable.

    I’m giving Vader orders and expecting to be obeyed, Luke thought. “I have questions to ask him.” He centered himself in the Force once again, preparing to fight Vader, first by pulling the Emperor’s former enforcer off the assassin, then next...he did not know.

    Vader remained where he was, but released Ochi’s head. A sputter of sparks spurting from his armor’s chest unit. Luke gave a sigh of relief and directed his lightsaber from Vader to the panting, defeated hunter.

    “Ah, yes. Keeping me alive...good idea kid...thank you.”

    “You said you work for the Emperor.”

    “I am his favorite assassin.”

    Luke raised an eyebrow. That sounded more like a boast than fact. Yet Ochi did know the word ‘Sith’ and associated that title with the Emperor. How much of what he said was humoring his captors and how much was the truth?

    “You said the Emperor is powerful. Were you referring to his political power or the Force? Just how powerful?”

    “More than powerful enough to handle your tricks kid,” Ochi scoffed and glanced at Vader. “Even you Vader. Neither of you can beat him!”

    Vader raised his hand, clenched in a fist. Luke quickly responded. “In case I knocked you around too much for you to remember, the Emperor is not the only one strong with the Force.”

    “I’m talking about real power, kid! The kind you can’t defeat with a laser sword. Power beyond your understanding and mine. Power that only the Emperor could build.”

    “Build?” At that word, Vader also lurched forward.

    This is... Luke’s mind began to reel. Leia always said the Emperor was famously reclusive. Even when she had been a representative in the Emperor’s own senate she had only met the man in the flesh once. Many people claimed to carry out his will, but scarce few witnessed the Emperor’s own actions. All the spies whom the Alliance had sent to infiltrate the Imperial bureaucracy and reach into the Emperor’s inner circle either never returned or went mad.

    This Ochi could tell us more about the Emperor’s secrets, Luke thought. Secrets that the Alliance must know!

    Luke brought his lightsaber closer to the assassin, who squirmed underneath the tremendous weight of Vader.

    “What is the Emperor building?” A burst of static, ending with inflection, also issued forth from Vader. Luke surmised the Dark Lord had similar questions.

    “I-I didn’t say…,” Ochi gasped. Vader pressed his weight down further and for the moment Luke did not order him to let up.

    “Where?”


    Who…


    “What?” Luke called out aloud. Just now he heard a voice, uttering echoing, hissing words.


    Who’s that sssshouting…


    Luke saw Vader’s head jerk upwards. Whatever this voice was, it was not only in his mind; Vader heard something too.


    …demanding answerssss…


    In the Force, Luke felt a growing presence, as if a being, long slumbering, was just now awakening.


    …ssso insistently?



    Luke’s eyes followed the direction of that voice to a narrow dark gap in a cliffside, a short distance away along the lava shore. Vader’s mask aimed in the same direction, in fact his entire body leaned forward.

    Voices from an unseen presence on a world reeking with the Dark Side...Luke’s immediate response was caution. Were the answers to his questions about the Emperor’s secrets really in this here cave and from the voice speaking just now in his head? Or was this a trap or something he was not prepared for? Just what was in there?


    Only what you take with you...


    A shiver raced up Luke’s spine, leaving him with a mix of awe and fear. How did this voice know Yoda’s words, delivered just before Luke had descended into a different cave on a different world? Just what type of insight did this being possess?


    Are you just going to sssstand there, little Jedi?


    His passage through the Dagobah cave had been a failure, but failure had been a humbling experience and revealed things about himself. Luke had vowed to take no risky deviations on this mission or fight battles he could not win, but that was before he discovered the Emperor was the one who had broken Vader and the revelation of possible hidden, unknown power. If this was the only way to get answers, then he would at least take a look. The future of the Alliance just might depend on what he discovered.

    Luke wished to go alone, it had not been so long for Leia to start worrying. But while he was content enough to tie up Ochi, he could not leave Vader unattended, even restrained, for when he returned the Dark Lord would certainly be gone or waiting in ambush. Not that Luke was comfortable at all bringing Vader along. The thought came of simply releasing the Dark Lord and proceeding on his own tempted Luke once again. But duty to the Alliance insisted he keep Vader restrained and captive and though Luke wracked his brain, he knew no other option to fulfill that duty than to bring Vader along with him, for now.

    Luke stripped the assassin of all his pouches, gadgets, and remaining weapons, threw them in the lava, and then tied the assassin’s hands and feet together with the same cable Ochi had used. To add one additional layer of restrainment, Luke dragged Ochi up to the bridge to tie him against one of the bridge pylons. The assassin howled and cursed all the way.

    “You got lucky kid! That’s all. You too Vader. I was beating you before he showed up! The Emperor said you were alone. You called for help! You cheated! Ah, stang it all!”

    Luke sighed. He appreciated that the Emperor’s assassin spoke freely when questioned, but now he wouldn’t shut up.

    Thinking back on all Ochi had said, while it was still a shock that the Emperor had the means, the motivation to punish Vader was not all that surprising. Vader had admitted to Luke as much back on Cloud City of the Dark Lord’s desire to overthrow the Emperor.

    But that was not what Ochi said, Luke recalled. He told me it was to punish weakness, that Vader let some people go whom he was supposed to kill. A stark image rose in Luke’s forethought of an open black hand, reaching out across a bottomless chasm.

    Later, Luke thought as his right wrist ached with phantom pain. I will think on it later! Yet ‘later’ increasingly felt similar to ‘soon’ and ‘will’ was gradually becoming ‘must’.

    Luke tightened the final knot with a sudden jerk. “Don’t go anywhere.”

    “Now what are you doing? You woke something up, I can feel it. You aren’t going in there, are you?”

    Luke ignored him and walked to where Vader stood, standing erect, but leaning heavily on his fully functioning prosthetic leg and facing in the direction of the cave. As Luke approached Vader turned to look his way and raised his one hand. Luke quickly halted, but Vader simply proceeded to gesture first at Luke, then jab his pointed finger at the cave.

    He was waiting for me, Luke realized. And he wants to go in there too.

    “I am going in there. And you’re coming with me.” Luke made it sound like an order, but really he said it out loud to make his decision as final to himself as to Vader.

    He will not fight me. At least for now. Who knows how things will change once we enter and then after.

    Coming in close proximity to Darth Vader was no easier than the first time. Now that he was taking Vader with him into the unknown it took all his Jedi training to marshal inner calmness, though terror remained so near. Luke hooked his lightsaber on the left side of his belt, as far from Vader’s grasp as he figured it could be. He also mentally reminded himself about where he currently pocketed Vader’s own lightsaber on his person.

    They entered the cave, side by side, together.
     
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Riveting action and revelations =D=
     
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  12. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Surface of Mustafar


    Leia sealed the face filter over her mouth to breathe in several gulps of clear air. Mustafar’s atmosphere was categorized as breathable for humans, but the air was so often choked with ash and sulfur that offworlders were under advisement to bring some form of breathing assistance or masking. Artoo-Deetoo had his own struggles; Mustafar’s sand was especially abrasive. Not normally given to complain, C-3PO did enough of that for the both of them, the astromech blurted out his growing desire to get this errand over and done with.

    To speak clearly, Leia prepared to lower the mask from her face just before she felt a thermal wave hit her straight on. She squeezed her eyes closed and ducked her head, feeling the intense heat singe loose hairs around her temple.

    “I’m beginning to agree with you.” Her voice was blurred behind the filter. “But we should be able to see the ship shortly.”

    Indeed, she had just rounded a gently rising dune when she saw a glint in the near distance before her. Cresting the dune, Leia had a full view of the mystery vessel almost five hundred meters ahead, silver and sleek.

    “Artoo, set up a short-range transmission, standard encryption,” Leia said as she lowered her face filter and knelt down in the black sand next to the droid.

    The astromech gave a few confirming chirps and extended a small dish antenna out from his blue and silver dome. A few moments later, he expressed that he was ready to transmit.

    Leia cleared her throat and recited the short message she had been mentally preparing in the course of her walk. “Naboo skiff...I am the pilot of the mining shuttle that just landed, that you no doubt have already spotted. If you are here for similar purposes, then I am willing to assist you and hope you will return the favor. Given the proximity of other parties I wish to speak further only in person. Will you allow me to approach?”

    She waited with bated breath. Then an electronically altered voice came from the other end.

    “Proceed on foot. Keep your hands free and where I can see them.”

    “I will,” she sighed, immediately ended the transmission, and stood.

    “Let’s not keep them waiting, Artoo.”

    The ground ahead was flat, but littered with black rocks thrust upwards two to three times the height of an average human. To her left, in the far distance, a sheer obsidian cliff face stood almost straight vertical and glimmering black and red. The view ahead lay hidden by those scattered rocks that increasingly became denser.

    Just when Leia thought they were getting close and should see the ship in full view, a woman stepped directly from behind the nearest rock shelf. She held a blaster rifle in both hands, pointed straight towards Leia’s chest.

    Leia froze. Behind her, Artoo squealed in shock.

    “Hands where I can see them.”

    Leia thrust out her arms as far as she could extend. The woman took a few steps forward, her rifle held steady. Her hard brown eyes scanned from Leia’s blaster pistol in its holster and stopped on Artoo.

    “You said nothing about a droid.”

    “My apologies,” Leia simply stated, still gathering the measure of her opposite. This woman wore gray and black from neck to toe, clothes and boots of similar fashion Leia had seen on many of her fellow rebels, especially before the consolidation of disparate resistance cells into the subsequent Rebel Alliance. Another marker of the woman’s combat expertise was her easy hold on that rifle. Leia also noted her militaristic bearing, from her stance, to her undivided focus, to her brown hair drawn back in a tight woven bun.

    Before Leia could ask questions the woman delivered her own.

    “Why are you on Mustafar? Are there more of you?” Her rifle leaned forward.

    Leia kept her face calm and refrained from judging the woman’s suspicions, for now. If this woman did not recognize her immediately then she must not belong to the Alliance proper.

    Time to take some command of the situation, Leia thought.

    “I have questions of my own for you. I will answer yours and you can answer mine once you lower that rifle.”

    “Organa.”

    Leia tensed.

    The woman lowered her rifle a fraction. “You are Princess Leia Organa.”

    “Yes,” Leia responded and let her arms drop.

    “By the stars, why are you on Mustafar?”

    “I will tell you. May I have your name?”

    The woman’s jaw worked for a moment, and then she spoke.

    “Sabé.” She glanced again at Leia’s blaster pistol. “You may come, your Majesty, but keep that holstered.”

    Leia followed Sabé for the short walk to the ship, but kept a comfortable distance between them for the time being. Any terrible danger to her life had passed, but that did not yet mean that she and Sabé were allies. This was the first that Leia heard such a name and while the intonation and sounds indicated family ties from Naboo, it could just as likely be a cover name. Sabé still knew more about her than Leia could say she knew about Sabé.

    The only other information Leia had to work with was the look of the vessel itself. Each new view the star skiff’s mirror-polished surfaces were a breathtaking sight to behold, even while reflecting all the bleeding terrors of Mustafar. The tear-drop shaped hull and sleek wings recalled the species of birds Leia once saw swoop along the surfaces of Alderaan’s lakes every late summer. She could only imagine what risky crime or incredible gift brought such a craft into the hands of the woman before her. She felt tempted to ask Sabé how she came by the vessel, but for now, she needed to set aside all curiosity.

    Before she set foot on the ship’s landing ramp, Artoo softly whistled new information gathered by his sensors. Sabé was alone, there were no other life forms on board, but Artoo was detecting several heat signatures coming from the ship’s storage bay.

    The mystery deepened. Leia nodded to Artoo in silent thanks and cataloged the information for later.

    The yacht’s spacious interior was as luxurious as the outside. It appeared the space was meant for no more than a handful of persons, but had the capacity to transport many more if pressed. Somehow, the warm white colors, sleek interior walls, and soft upholstery did not seem to suit this militaristic woman leading Leia on.

    Sabé climbed up to the ship’s top-mounted cockpit and gestured at rear seats next to a port window, but remained standing. Leia did likewise and waited to hear what the unknown woman would say.

    “I’ve met your father.”

    Leia was taken aback and let it show. “I-I’m sorry, I don’t recall any mention of you.”

    Yet...was that true? Seeing Sabé now, away from hellfire, faint feelings of familiarity stirred within Leia. They were blurred, like images impossible to distinguish from distant memories or childhood dreams. Leia brought all her focus to bear on the woman standing before her while straining to remember, but the more she looked on those hardened eyes and increasing frown, the more the sense of familiarity faded.

    “Perhaps if you told me how my father and you first met?”

    Sabé shrugged. “It was over twenty years ago. He contacted me only a few times. Said he would help me.” Sabé looked out through the window, over the lava plains of Mustafar. “His help ended up not amounting to much in the end.”

    Leia would have remarked on Sabé’s bitterness, if her entire tone up to now had not been bitter. It became increasingly clear to Leia who this woman was: someone who had fought much and had little to show for the effort except more loss.

    “I am sorry you have had such a hard life Sabé.”

    “Why are you sorry? You had nothing to do with it. You said you had questions, your Highness. Ask them.”

    Leia concealed her sigh as a deep breath and continued. “The Imperial shuttle. Near the old Techno Union Factories...how long has it been there?”

    Sabé frowned. “What does this one shuttle have to do with your reason for coming to Mustafar?”

    “I’m on a mission for the Alliance to Restore the Republic. You’re not a member of the Alliance, are you? But you have no allegiance to the Empire.”

    Sabé’s vision turned darker and her voice low. “Of course not.”

    “Do you belong to an organized resistance?” Not all of the rebel cells had converged, even after the destruction of the Death Star. But if this Sabé had past correspondence with her father, though she was currently alone with this ship, in all likelihood she was not alone in her purpose.

    Leia saw Sabé close herself off. “Not anymore,” and that was all she said. Before Sabé’s face became completely unreadable Leia caught a glimpse of the woman again, someone who had nothing left to live for except her hatred.

    Leia knew that feeling well, it dwelled inside her too. Her parent’s lessons and her own will kept it suppressed or reserved only for the few truly evil persons in the Empire. She saw hatred in many of the rebel soldiers and pilots she commanded. Hatred of the Empire was an unfortunate, but necessary fuel that the Alliance ran on. The trick was preventing hate from reaching a critical mass, knowing how to recognize the most volatile persons and refuse them certain promotions or place them in tactical positions where they could do the least damage. If Sabé was such a person Leia would rather not concern her with this mission, but she also had no one else to ask for information on the present situation.

    Leia continued her soft approach. “Sabé, I need your help. My mission...I did not come alone. My companion and I parted ways near the Techno Union Installation, but that was before my droid’s scans detected both that Imperial shuttle and your vessel. My friend still doesn’t know. He needs your help.”

    “That’s all you need from me?”

    “That and I would still like to know why you are here.”

    Sabé looked away for a second and then spoke. “That Imperial shuttle...I’ve been keeping my eye on it since it arrived, but it hasn’t moved since. There was another shuttle, Imperial, same class, that landed in the same area shortly after the one currently there, but just as soon as that second one arrived it left.”

    Leia’s thoughts ran through several scenarios. Two Imperial shuttles, in one place, the place Luke identified as locating Darth Vader...his vision must be true.

    Sabé continued. “I did a very brief scan just under an hour ago. There are some life forms still on that shuttle. More than three, less than ten.”

    Leia nodded and waited for her to continue.

    “I don’t have anything else for you, your Highness.”

    It was enough to conclude that Luke was in danger. Leia immediately started formulating what to do next. She desired to commandeer this ship, which clearly had greater maneuverability, far more than the mining craft, and much better weapons, two laser cannons by the looks. But she did not have the authority to do so and she doubted Sabé would allow it, unless...their missions did intersect.

    Leia asked her remaining question. “Why are you here Sabé?”

    “With all due respect, this is nothing that concerns you or your Rebellion,” she said, her voice flat. “Your Highness,” she added, as if out of habit.

    “If your purpose is against the Empire, then I would say our respective missions already share commonalities.”

    “Then you presume too much.”

    At this juncture, Leia doubted she could say anything else to get Sabé to talk. Whatever this woman’s past connection with her father, they had not extended cordial feelings to his daughter. There was one other option. If Sabé would not tell Leia her mission then Leia could infer what she could.

    “Does it concern Darth Vader?”

    Sabé immediately bolted upright and lurched towards Leia.

    “Vader? You said nothing about Darth Vader!”

    “I am telling you now. Because...despite the need for secrecy I want to trust you Sabé. Darth Vader brings me to Mustafar. Is that the same for you?”

    “Yes,” Sabé ground out and after a moment’s pause continued. “My rebel cell, we are...were the Amidalans. We finally had Darth Vader where we wanted, cornered and isolated. We threw everything we had at him. Every weapon. Every vessel. Everything.” Sabé’s hands closed into fists. “It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough to kill that monster.”

    Few escaped Darth Vader’s clutches. Leia had seen the look in the eyes of some who had. They all trembled with a measure of fear and trauma. Even Luke, one of the bravest people she knew, had a haunted look to him in the aftermath of his ordeal with Vader at Cloud City.

    Sabé was not afraid. She was angry.

    “But I am not done.”

    The finality of that statement...Leia began to guess Sabé’s intentions and hoped she was wrong. Tentatively, she spoke. “My astromech picked up several heat signatures coming from your vessel’s cargo…”

    “When Darth Vader arrives I am going to fly this ship and all those explosives straight into the base of his fortress.”

    Leia scrambled to think of what to say that would dissuade this woman from destroying herself, to tell her that while so many of her companions and the Amidalans were dead in the wake of failure, Sabé still lived and had remaining strength to bear against the Empire.

    “How do you know Vader is not at his fortress right now?” Leia asked her.

    “Immediately after our battle with Vader finished I piloted this vessel to Mustafar. When I saw a lack of Imperial presence in orbit I landed here. Now I am waiting for Vader to return to his fortress. He will return. He always returns there.”

    “Vader is already here,” Leia said. “But not at his fortress.”

    “How do you know this?”

    “I have...excellent intelligence that Vader is currently in the vicinity of the old Techno Union droid factories, instead of his stronghold. Your sightings of Imperial activity in this area just further confirms this. That is why I am here and my friend is now headed to the Techno Union Installation-to take out Darth Vader.”

    Sabé’s face turned aghast. “You sent one man against Darth Vader?”

    “We have...intelligence that Vader is wounded, maybe more injured and vulnerable than he has ever been. Perhaps your attack had more success than you realize? But my droid and I did not spot the additional Imperial forces until my companion already departed. That is why my friend and I need your help Sabé. I need to warn him and I need to bring all the firepower I can bear to assist. Will you-”

    “If it’s to kill Darth Vader, then I will help you.”
     
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Amazing encounter!! =D= Sabe's emotions are dark indeed. More vengeful even than Leia's.
     
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  14. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Below the surface of Mustafar




    Unlike the cave on Dagobah, which had been cramped, dim, and humid, these underground caverns were spacious, contrasted between bright orange and yellow surfaces, lit by flowing lava, and creases between rocks so black they were like bits of night. One thing was quite similar: through the Force, Luke felt the Dark Side permeating everything, even the very air. The chill only grew as he and Vader descended further. And wherever lay at the end to these passages, there was that presence speaking to his mind and emanating the Dark Side of the Force.

    You’re a determined one, aren’t you?

    The passages, previously silent except for the occasional gurgle or burst of lava, began to fill with a faint buzz. Luke looked up and saw several faint red glows descending from the dark recesses above. Closer still they came and he saw tiny glowing maws and fluttering wings.

    Lava nymphs! Luke realized. He released Vader and ignited his lightsaber. The fist-sized insects swarmed them both by the dozens. Out from their maws spat squirts of glowing juices. Luke weaved his blade in rapid strokes to scatter the deadly projectiles.

    All your tenacity cannot solve the riddlessss of the oracle of Mustafar, The Eye of Webbish Bog.

    Oracle… Luke thought. This being has foresight. Or so it claims.

    Luke sliced his blade through the haze of insects. A dozen shattered carapaces fell, but the swarm did not let up. They resumed their lava-hot projectiles and once more Luke was forced to desperately weave his lightsaber around both himself and Vader to scatter the burning liquid rock. Except not all. Tiny splatters of lava hit along his left arm and Luke felt searing heat through his flight suit. Some also splashed along Vader’s back, upon which a cascade of sparks with a groan issued from the wounded Dark Lord’s mask.

    Still they came on and Luke knew he could hardly protect himself, much less Vader as well if he kept this up. Through the Force Luke pushed out at the space above him. Nymphs scattered and tumbled through the air, along with dust and bits of rock. To his great relief, the remainder of the swarm scattered and retreated into the darkness above. As Luke took a moment to catch his breath the presence spoke again in his mind.

    Your companion issss quite the load.

    Luke glanced over at Darth Vader, already lumbering forward, half dragging his damaged left leg. If the Dark Lord could move now on his own Luke felt relieved for the excuse to put distance between them. But he still needed to keep Vader in his sight, so his progress forward was the same.

    Why endure such a burden?

    The ground began to quake. Luke stopped and looked to see where the disturbance originated. A near rock wall collapsed, from which several large creatures stampeded forth.

    Lava fleas, Luke recognized. One was already nearly on top of him. Luke rolled out of the way only to fall into the path of another. With a quick swing of his lightsaber he cut through the flea’s right forelegs, sending it careening over.

    Vader was less fortunate. One of the charging fleas sideswiped him, sending him crashing against a large boulder. That same flea turned and aimed back towards Vader.

    Without a moment of thought, Luke broke out at a run to intercept the charging animal.

    Why bother saving him?

    Because I am a Jedi. Or will be. Jedi preserve life.


    Luke thrust the point of his lightsaber just behind the flea’s massive head. But the creature's armor put up more resistance than Luke anticipated and he did not quite deal a killing blow.

    Even his?

    Yes, Luke replied. But to be honest, his words felt more like a recital than a conviction.

    The injured flea shrieked, its multiple legs flailing in all directions. But there were others bearing down on Luke that required his full attention.

    Admirable sentiments. But how will you perform when you must both survive against all odds?

    Luke stood his ground. At the last second, he took one step while with the Force he pushed the flea over on its side and stabbed into the exposed belly. Turning, he reached out with the Force again to divert another flea bearing down on Vader.

    Then, for a brief moment, Luke saw only a mass of armored flesh in front of him. He started to move, but the creature’s lowered head struck him in the side, sending him tumbling over the rough ground.

    In a second Luke was on his feet, lashing his lightsaber everywhere he saw the flea’s head. The creature crashed at his feet and lay still.

    The remaining fleas halted, then reared back their heads to expose bulging throats, beginning to glow orange, ready to hurdle red-hot stomach juices towards them both. Luke glanced towards Vader and saw the Dark Lord hunched over the back of a flea’s corpse.

    You don’t need to kill him. All you need to do is not save him.

    “The dark side...lies,” Luke gasped out between breaths. He extinguished his lightsaber; the blade would do a poor job of dispersing streams of lava-hot acid.

    Several throats opened at once and Luke called upon the Force to move rocks and debris between himself and the deadly stream of acid. When his makeshift rock-wall collapsed he ducked behind the largest remaining boulder. But not before he flung his lightsaber forward while whispering, “I am one with the Force. And the Force is with me.”

    He felt a thrill of relief when he heard a creature’s shriek. But the sounds of movement suggested others were moving forward and Luke called his blade back to his hand.

    Luke spared a moment to look for Vader. With his right arm, Dark Lord raised up a makeshift shield from what looked like a segment of carapace, ripped from the back of one of the dead fleas. Vader blocked a stream of acid, while his severed left arm struck at the head of a charging flea, sending the creature falling on its back. The other creatures finally decided to retreat into darkness.

    Not so helpless after all, Luke reflected. He leveled his lightsaber once more towards Vader and braced himself for a fight.

    Vader straightened himself to his full intimidating height. But his vacancy in the Force remained.

    Cut off! Luke finally found the words for what he had struggled to understand. Somehow Vader was cut off from the Force! But how was that possible? And why?

    A slower, deeper sound of approach echoed through the passages. Down, from in the caverns below, a creature roared. Luke turned and braced himself for what was to come next.

    I suppose the question is more complicated when it concerns family.

    Luke immediately projected abject denial. If it was a creature of the Dark Side saying such things then they were not worth listening to! Yet, I am here because this presence claims to have answers to my questions about the Emperor.

    The ground began to tremble.

    That’s all I’m here for: answers, Luke called out with his thoughts. I felt you awaken. You called out to me. Why?

    After all your noise, I called you?

    I am asking you questions about the Emperor. Not about me. Nor Vader.


    Luke could feel the voice’s origin through the Force, it came from deep beneath his feet. This creature did indeed reek of the Dark Side. Luke felt the tremors of fear, the fire of anger, the thrill of aggression. Yet the presence, even though it had intelligence, felt like the cave on Dagobah. There was no malevolence or even motivation in the voice. It simply was.

    Do you know what you want to know? How could you even ask when you are trapped?

    Luke’s utter bafflement at the Oracle’s last words was interrupted when out from a side passage emerged a massive clawed hand, followed by a huge mouth lined with fangs.

    He had seen such a beast before, a roggwart, in Grakkus the Hutt’s fighting pits on Nar Shaddaa. Back then he could hardly call himself a Jedi, though Grakkus had advertised him as such, and that roggwart from then had been augmented with cybernetics. Still, Luke had not been seeking to repeat the challenge. Yet here it was. And he had Vader to look out for, in two ways.

    The thing about trapssss little Jedi, the more you struggle the more the snare tightenssss.

    The roggwart let out a roar and charged.

    Luke took in a breath to help reclaim the calm and focus that would guide him in the Force. Sparing a glance for Vader he saw the Dark Lord raise his makeshift shield, but remained standing where he was.

    The roggwart’s open mouth loomed over Luke before he sidestepped out of the way.

    If you’re telling me -he arched his blade first at the neck, then at one thigh - this whole place is a trap, then I’m beginning to agree with you.

    The beast screamed in pain but remained standing. Luke ducked under a grasping set of claws. But roggwart’s tail swiped him straight in the chest, sending him flying. Luke stumbled to his feet, blade thrust outwards, but still desperately trying to fill his lungs back up with air and his vision filled with stars. The roggwart’s angry roar sounded right above him.

    An animal will gnaw their own leg off to escape a trap, only to be crippled, an easy meal for predatorssss. Are you an animal, little Jedi?

    Suddenly, he also heard Vader’s breath next to him. Luke immediately dove to the side, but Vader stood his ground and slammed the edge of his carapace shield into the center of the roggwart’s chest. The deep impact made a resounding sound of crunching bone and punctured flesh. Still, the beast’s arms flailed, coming dangerously close to Vader.

    Without sparing a split second for thought, Luke reached out with the Force and sent the beast tumbling over to land on its stomach, straight on the impaled shield, sinking the sharp edge further into flesh. The beast let out one final moan and lay completely still.

    Luke gasped for breath while blinking away sweat dripping before his eyes. Yet he also felt exhilarated, similar to the first time he thread the Needle or in the aftermath of his final run on the Death Star. He grinned at the thought of how his younger farmboy self and Ben and Yoda would react to see him come so far. But as far as Luke could tell they were not here for him to see how they would react. Instead, his audience was-

    Luke whipped his head around and saw Vader leaning heavily against a giant boulder while looking straight at him. The Dark Lord’s silent looks were still difficult to gauge. But Luke had looked upon Vader enough times that right now Luke had a distinct impression that the Sith was appraising him positively.

    A chill went along his spine at the thought and he looked away from Vader. Unfortunately, when he started to walk forward again it was clear that Vader was back to needing assistance to remain mobile. Once more, Luke spared a moment to think on how he could avoid proximity to Vader. But he could not leave the Dark Lord behind, not without Vader almost certainly escaping once he was out of Luke’s sight.

    They continued the descent together until the passages ended before a solid wall. A towering square-cut neatly into the rock wall stood sealed by a pair of dark metal doors and closed tight together in the center. With the Force Luke slowly separated the two halves. Pitch black darkness concealed what lay ahead. Luke hesitated, but Vader pulled ahead and Luke lurched forward to keep up.

    Suddenly, everything changed, the light, the air, the smell. Vader’s weight vanished, as well as the Dark Lord himself.



    Darth Vader stumbled at the immediate loss of support on his left side. He had passed through the entranceway, but could only stare in stunned silence at the space now suddenly vacant beside him.

    You’re a fierce one, aren’t you.

    Vader ignored the Eye.

    Where is he?



    Luke stumbled forward as he became aware of the feel of different clothing on his person; a loose tunic and leggings, all clothes from his boyhood on Tatooine. The very air around him even felt like that planet, dry and hot, with heat emanating from sky and baked earth, different from the inferno that was Mustafar. He also realized that where he currently stood was cooler and shaded; he was indoors. He gasped as he saw and felt, in his grip, an ignited lightsaber. But not his own, his father’s. He was…

    “For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”

    Luke twisted his neck so fast it hurt. Ben Kenobi was beside him, easing himself into a seated position as he spoke those same words from three years ago in this same place, his hut on Tatooine. All things appeared and felt as they had then, except for Luke himself.

    “Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire.” Ben’s stare and finishing tone echoed with a haunted past.

    Luke drank in the sight of his old mentor as he remembered words he once uttered at this very moment. This time a quite different question, but still concerning the same person, spilled from his lips.

    “Ben…is Darth Vader my father?”

    Kenobi hesitated before he spoke...in the same manner Luke recalled from before. The old Jedi’s expression grew more haunted, as it had before. Luke’s stomach plummeted even before Kenobi uttered a word.

    “You should not think of that machine as your father.”

    Each syllable was its own sounding of doom. So it was true.

    “Why, Ben? Why didn’t you tell me?” Luke moaned. “Before...you told me Darth Vader betrayed and murdered my father.”

    Ben looked off in the far distance and did not answer.

    “Ben?” Yet Kenobi remained silent and still.

    Luke reached out, but the old Jedi slipped beyond his fingers each time he stretched out further, until Luke was on his feet, racing forward. Still, Ben lay just beyond his reach until Luke was racing out of the hut into darkness.

    But this was no nighttime desert. Nor was it Mustafar. He stood within a dank and dark passage that he recognized immediately; the cave on Dagobah.

    Before he could even begin to wonder at the change in his surroundings, he heard a small, familiar sigh. Just down the passage, he saw Yoda, sitting on a rock and scratching at the ground with his grimer walking stick.

    “Yoda!” Luke called out, bitterness leaking into his words. “Why didn’t you tell me the truth about my father?”

    The Jedi master looked him in the eye. “Ready for the burden, were you?”

    “No,” Luke freely admitted. He was not ready. He still was not.

    He heard Yoda give one of his long-suffering sighs and the tiny Jedi master bowed his head so low that his entire body curled in on itself to melt into darkness.

    “Yoda!” Luke called out. He took several quick strides forward, but saw nothing where his Jedi teacher previously sat.

    “ What is happening?” Luke wondered aloud as he stared at the empty space at his feet. A moment passed with no change of any kind, so he walked forward through the gloomy passages, semi-lit by dim light somewhere from above. Onward he walked, one single straight path always lying ahead.

    I’m trapped, that is what is happening, he finally realized.

    “What kind of test is this?” Luke called out.

    Oracle and all else were silent.

    Luke walked a few paces further, but stopped to lean against a damp rock wall. He was growing exhausted and it was painfully clear that escape did not lay ahead.

    His first instinct was to reach out to the Force. At first pass he felt nothing, certainly no signs of a physical exit.

    He sighed and settled himself to meditate further with the Force, adopting a seated position and reaching out for the mental state as Yoda had instructed him during his past training. Before seeking a solution he would start by accepting his situation.

    I am trapped.

    That stirred a memory of words spoken earlier. The Eye had said something about traps, had said...

    The thing about trapssss little Jedi, the more you struggle the more the snare consumessss.

    But the Eye’s statement had been spoken to him before his current predicament. What was the trap it spoke of? Or rather, what was consuming him?

    Soon enough, he understood the answer. It was the turmoil that he kept buried deep inside him since Cloud City. He thought he had managed to put the question aside, but ever since his visions of Vader screaming out in excruciating pain Luke barely kept that turmoil checked.

    The visages of Ben and Yoda both affirmed Vader’s words. But had those figures he had just spoken with truly been the spirits of his dead and living Jedi teachers? Or had they been Dark Side manifestations? Or were they figments of his imagination?

    Luke did not want to believe Darth Vader’s words. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had been family, but Luke had never thought of them as father and mother. He had never had a father. Luke desperately wanted to believe that Anakin Skywalker was a good man, whose son had inherited a legacy that was also good. Luke wanted to believe that from the moment Ben had handed him his father’s lightsaber that his life had been built on hope for the future, not a lie.

    How Luke wished things to be versus the terrible reality Vader proposed created this turmoil within him, not simply Vader’s words in and of themselves.

    What was the truth?

    Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

    He had searched his feelings while hanging above the Cloud City shaft and recoiled from how the Force rang with the terrible rightness of Vader’s words, how the claim to parentage fit perfectly with the steady and inviting hand Vader offered him. Now, Luke could not search his feelings without falling back on an agonizing question.

    Why didn’t they tell me? Ben...Yoda...they were good persons. Why would they lie to him?

    He reflected back on his every moment with his teachers. He remembered how Ben always hesitated when he spoke of Vader, and how the look in his eyes grew deep with regret every time. He remembered how Yoda spoke of the great responsibility teaching was.

    Yoda and Ben had plenty of reasons to keep the truth from him. To keep you from the pain that wracked Kenobi. To give you time free from the burden. To preserve you from Vader’s evil while your training was incomplete.

    And once he accepted that, once there was only him and the Force...



    I already know the truth.



    The truth was terrible, but it was the truth. Tears streamed behind his closed eyes and down his cheeks. Behind his eyelids, Luke saw darkness melt away into soft orange light.
     
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  15. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Wow, you read the Vader comics well and composed something new & wonderful.

    I also like the new brave pairings you choose: Luke & Ochi, Leia & Sabe!

    Hopefully I am able to follow this fic in future for our internet is very unstable since weeks.
     
    Cynda likes this.
  16. Cynda

    Cynda Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 20, 2014
    Below the surface of Mustafar




    There was a night, long ago, when Anakin Skywalker still lived, but lived in turmoil, when the Emperor, then only Chancellor, called him to his side. They spoke together in the Chancellor’s office long into that night and in the course of those conversations Anakin Skywalker came to understand fundamental truths about himself…

    "I am offering you . . . anything," the soon to be Emperor said. "Ask, and it is yours. A glass of water? It's yours. A bag full of Corusca gems? Yours. Look out the window behind me, Anakin. Pick something, and it's yours."

    "Is this some kind of joke?"

    "The time for jokes is past, Anakin. I have never been more serious." Within the shadow that cloaked the Chancellors's face, Anakin could only just see the twin gleams of eyes. "Pick something. Anything."

    "All right . . ." Shrugging, frowning, still not understanding, Anakin looked out the window, looking for the most ridiculously expensive thing he could spot.

    "How about one of those new SoroSuub custom speeders-"

    "Done."

    "Are you serious? You know how much one of those costs? You could practically outfit a battle cruiser-"

    "Would you prefer a battle cruiser?"

    Anakin went still. A cold void opened in his chest. In a small, cautious voice, he said, "How about the Senatorial Apartments?"

    "A private apartment?"

    Anakin shook his head, staring up at the twin gleams in the darkness. "The whole building." The shadow did not so much as blink. "Done."

    "It's privately owned-"

    "Not anymore."

    "You can't just-"

    "Yes, I can. It's yours. Is there anything else? Name it." Anakin gazed blankly out into the gathering darkness. Stars began to shimmer through the haze of twilight. A constellation he recognized hung above the spires of the Jedi Temple.

    "All right," Anakin said softly. "Corellia. I'll take Corellia."

    "The planet, or the whole system?"

    Anakin stared.

    "Anakin?"

    "I just-" He shook his head blankly. "I can't figure out if you're kidding, or completely insane."

    "I am neither, Anakin. I am trying to impress upon you a fundamental truth of our relationship. A fundamental truth of yourself'."

    "What if I really wanted the Corellian system? The whole Five Brothers-all of it?"

    "Then it would be yours. You can have the whole sector, if you like." The twin gleams within the shadow sharpened. "Do you understand, now? I will give you anything you want.''''

    The concept left him dizzy. "What if I wanted-what if I want the war to end?"

    "Would tomorrow be too soon?"

    "How-" Anakin couldn't seem to get his breath. "How can you do that?"

    "Right now, we are only discussing what. How is a different issue; we'll come to that presently."

    "And in exchange?" he asked, finally. "What do I have to do?"

    "You have to do what you want."

    "What I want?"

    "Yes, Anakin. Yes. Exactly that. Only that. Do the one thing that the Jedi fear most: make up your own mind. Follow your own conscience. Do what you think is right. I know that you have been longing for a life greater than that of an ordinary Jedi. Commit to that life. I know you burn for greater power than any Jedi can wield; give yourself permission to gain that power, and allow yourself license to use it. You can do it.”

    He sat frozen. Even thought was impossible.

    "You can have every one of your dreams. Turn aside from the lies of the Jedi, and follow the truth of yourself. Leave them. Join me on the path of true power. Be my friend, Anakin. Be my student. My apprentice."

    Anakin's vision tunneled and there was no light at the far end.

    "I know what you truly want," the shadow said.




    The shadow had lied to him that day, but not at that hour. He indeed knew what Anakin Skywalker wanted.

    Power to make all his desires reality. Power to cheat death. Power to set the galaxy straight.

    Power. Unlimited power.

    And unlike the Jedi and Kenobi, the shadow offered it with only one condition.

    And how did your choice turn out?

    Darth Vader, a being more machine than man, stood frozen still, staring at the empty space where his son previously stood.

    Tell me where he is. Or I will choose to destroy you.

    Do you want to know? Or do you need to know? Do you think you are what he needssss?

    Vader had not endured torture at the Emperor’s hands and dragged himself across Mustafar to stand here listening to useless words. He would find The Eye of Webbish Bog and force it to reveal its knowledge, including where it had taken his son.

    Darth Vader continued his descent through the heat-infused underground caverns of Mustafar, alone. Wherever his son was, he would survive. He had proved himself strong in the Force, improving his skills even in just the weeks since their encounter on Cloud City. Neither of them would succumb to this creature’s schemes.

    The boy’s appearance, here and now of all times and places, utterly mystified Vader. A long time had passed since he needed help from anyone, an age since someone had willingly saved him. How had Luke known he was here? Vader also felt deep frustration due to his current inability to communicate, his son’s pointed avoidance to perceive his father’s intentions, and anger due to his exposed, weakened state in front of the boy. But he set aside his shame in favor of waiting for the right moment to disrupt his son’s Jedi focus. His patience had paid off; the assassin Ochi spoke of secrets the Emperor kept and Luke was immediately drawn in.

    The boy was still foolish and idealistic, avoiding meeting Vader’s gaze. Despite aiding his father it was clear he still had not accepted the truth of his parentage. But that his son was here with his father at all, so soon after Cloud City, was a greater opportunity than Vader had ever expected. He would watch and wait and then, at the right moment, make his son listen. Hate, anger, the Dark Side had been Luke during their duel, and once experienced there was no escape. Just now his son had received his first inkling of the power Sidious held; soon he would understand his full majesty. And Vader would be there to offer again to his son the only way to crush weakness and obtain a power greater than that of any Jedi. His son would understand that his only hope for victory was to join his father.

    So determined. So certain. Have you already decided his fate?

    It is his destiny.

    You think that is how it works? That someone else chooses? Plucks that boy, like you, from among all others for a special destiny? Then who chose you?

    Vader ignored the Oracle and continued his descent. The air grew ever more stiflingly hot. Only one passage constantly lay ahead and it grew narrower the further down he went.

    If you could choose...would you be chosen?

    Suddenly, the ground shifted beneath his feet. Down he tumbled through cascading rock, just barely managing to latch his one working arm onto a rocky outcropping, projected over an underground river of lava.

    Or would you choose...to make your own choice?

    Vader heaved himself up and over the ledge with his one usable arm. He groaned in pain as an electric shock pierced through his chest. Then the flow of air through the surgical incisions in his scarred throat ceased. His mouth automatically opened and gasped for air that for over twenty years it could never fill while Vader gathered his focus on his chest panel.

    The damage the Emperor’s assassin had done was no minor thing; automatic systems were attempting to reroute circuits to keep his basic life support operational, but they were still in the process of failing. Before too long, the failures would turn catastrophic.

    Running his artificial fingers over the panel he adjusted a working switch that shut down an important, but currently nonessential functions, given the current circumstances. A moment passed and he felt air flow return to the tubes snaking down into his artificial lungs. The damage had taken its toll however, all his remaining flesh screamed to be given a moment’s rest. But Vader would not collapse here to die. Anakin Skywalker had been weak, permitting others to point to paths best taken. Darth Vader had always forged his own destiny.

    Always.



    Starting when Sidious had laid prostrate, pleading with Anakin Skywalker for help. The young Jedi he once was remembered the Sith’s promise of unlimited power.

    I cannot hold him! I’m too weak. Help me Anakin! You must choose.

    Vader made his choice.

    Long ago, when his suit and armor still felt foreign, Darth Vader had ripped apart space and time itself to reach his wife’s soul. Only to hear...

    I don’t know you. Anakin Skywalker is dead.



    If you have been chosen, why care what you choose?

    He would never have been in the Chancellor’s office that night if he had not been The Chosen One. For all his efforts, the visage of his deceased wife had not even acknowledged him. And in his venture beyond time-space he had caught a glimpse of what lay ahead. His final vision in that metaphysical landscape were two pillars of light, one blue, the other white, from which two silhouettes emerged, a young man and a young woman.

    He now knew who they were. His children were always destined to reunite with their father.

    Destiny...whose destiny? The father’s or the son’s?

    In his anger, Vader spoke aloud, though only incomprehensible noise sounded from his damaged vocabulator. His thoughts though were clear.

    I know this kind of talk. You serve my master, don’t you? The Emperor builds in secret. What does he build? And where? You will tell me.

    The Oracle’s presence still emanated from somewhere below. Vader dropped onto a slab of rock floating in the middle of the stream. The lava flow carried him down deeper until the passages expanded into a vast cavern where the lava collected into a basin.

    The Oracle’s voice now echoed from everywhere. Vader saw no clear exit.

    Tell you what you need to know?

    Still, his son was nowhere in sight.

    Or what you want to know?

    Still, he was cut off from the Force.

    Or does it even matter?

    The lava in the center of the lake churned. A giant head slowly emerged, first a black hood, then sick yellow eyes set into a scarred face, the face that had lorded over him for more than twenty years.

    Lies. Tricks. Enough.

    The illusion vanished. In its place floated a giant hairless creature, with only the head above the lava surface. Its eyes were squeezed painfully shut, but another had eyes with which to see. A second, smaller creature draped across its massive bald head with multiple spidery legs latched onto the scalp. The Oracle was two creatures, locked in a painful symbiosis.

    Give me what I came for.

    The giant raised an enormous hand from beneath the lava, closed in a fist.

    Every door needs a key. Even the door of night, darkest before the dawn of twin suns. Will you enter because you have been chosen? If so, who cares what you chose?

    Enough riddles.

    Vader descended into the lava which proceeded to ooze up his droid prosthetic legs. With careful steps, he walked towards the giant’s waiting closed hand, prepared to pry those fingers apart, then interrogate the creature as to the location of his son.

    The droid parts Vader had fashioned into temporary appendages were built by the now gone Trade Federation to withstand the heat of molten rock. But the damage done to his left prosthetic leg had shattered the hardened casing in several places. What little mobility he had remaining in that appendage rapidly decreased. Vader attempted to keep that droid leg extended so that it would at least stand straight and still perform as a means of support on his left side. But the leg buckled and his pronounced lean suddenly turned into a fall. The fragile electronics of his chest and facemask, themselves exposed and already in the process of cascading failure, headed straight down to the fiery surface.

    Suddenly, his fall halted. Slowly, without his own volition, his body rose back to vertical.

    Vader turned to look behind him. His son stood on the bank of the nearshore, his hand outstretched and still keeping Vader steady through the Force.

    Relief poured through him for the barest, fleeting moment. Then Luke’s gaze met his own and Vader saw written on his son’s face that he had accepted the truth. With a rush of triumph, Vader returned to approaching the Eye, feeling constant support on his left side through Luke’s direction of the Force. When he reached the Oracle, but before Vader made any move, the creature atop the head spoke again.

    Is there more you wish to assssk?

    Vader felt angered at the very thought of indulging this creature another second. But as soon as the Eye spoke Vader knew what question it meant. His disgust at the mere thought of begging for more answers nearly suppressed his thoughts before they rose to full consciousness, but ultimately his need was too great.

    Where is my daughter?

    He heard an eerie squealing noise. It took a moment for Vader to realize that the creature was laughing. The laughter finally died, but the hideous smile remained.

    You will know her by her shadow.

    Vader’s fury erupted at the riddle to his question. If he had a weapon or could wield the Force The Eye of Webbish Bog would have died right then!

    Instead, Vader could only burn in his own flame until he saw that the giant’s hand now lay open. Vader reached out and grasped what lay in the middle of that giant palm: a human-fist-sized pyramid, edges made of black stone, sides of dark green semi-transparent glass, and glowing lines of red and green light emanating from within.

    You came to me for answerssss. I gave you questionssss and riddlessss. I leave you with one more. Do you think you passed this test, or failed it?

    Vader did not care about failing or passing the Eye’s pointless test. His son was here and all the creature’s words had proven useless. Only this object held some promise, though he suspected, but did not know precisely where its purpose lay.