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Saga - OT Vader's Fire (Luke, Vader; AU, Drama/action, sequel to 'Vader's Shadow')

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Saga_Symphony, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Title: Vader’s Fire
    Author: Togruta (later under the username Starith)
    Timeframe: OT (Approximately two months after ANH)
    Characters: Luke, Vader, various characters from the OT era and Darth Vader comics
    Genre: Drama, action / adventure, AU
    Rating: PG-13 (violence, themes)
    Summary: Luke and Vader confront each other in the wake of their unlikely alliance — and the truth that led to it. But as Vader plans for a future of darkness and domination, Luke is shrouded by the Dark Lord's motives. Will sides shift, or will father and son find that they remain enemies?...

    Like the title says, this is a sequel to another story, so if you haven't read Vader's Shadow, probably check it out first before reading this.

    Edit: Going back and splitting up these first chapters so the posts aren't sooooo loooooong...

    Anyway, here it is, the start of chapter 1. Hope you enjoy!

    Chapter 1

    The word lingered in the air as Luke stared at the broad figure in black. He drew in a breath, taking in the unwanted smell of brimstone while his chest hovered over a rapidly beating heart. He let the breath go and waited.

    Vader turned around. The black mask looked at Luke, its carved, sunken face as alien as ever, the large eyes dark and bulbous. His mechanical rasp ushered like a static whisper, the only outward sign that a living soul inhabited the armored form. Luke waited for him to speak, his nerves tight, his body tense, and a stuffed feeling whirring in his brain.

    Beyond the stone parapet where they both stood, the volcanic world was boiling. Lightning storms warred in the distance. The only movement was Vader's cape as it rolled in a light wind.

    Then Vader slowly turned away from him. He looked back out into the volcanic view. Stupefied, Luke took a nervous step toward him. He wondered if there was something in particular the Dark Lord was observing, but nothing in the distance stood out. Luke waited still for something to happen, for Vader to acknowledge him again, to say something, but the silence and stillness continued.

    At a loss, Luke stepped back, unable to stay still, unable to focus on anything. He felt too disoriented, too thrown off by Vader's indifference. He searched around for a distraction, and all he could see was the looming, obsidian castle behind him.

    "My fortress."

    At the sound of the deep, filtered voice, Luke spun around. The Dark Lord didn't look at him, but gestured out towards the lava-filled haze. "Mustafar. My world."

    Luke's heart continued to pound at a wayward pace. Mustafar. The place the droid Triple-Zero had said he was supposed to be delivered to... Anxiousness pumped in his veins, and he glanced again at Vader. Then Luke swallowed. His eyes fell to the ground.

    Darth Vader. His father. Questions were racing wildly in his head. There were so many things he wanted to know... So many things about this dark, mechanized man who was somehow his father... So many things about the past, about Obi-Wan, about himself. About family...

    There was so much, too much. This was his father, this masked man who terrorized the galaxy — but he had saved him. They had saved each other. It all seemed so surreal, these truths, these questions... Luke felt it all amass into one giant, white-hot void of impossibilities... yet Luke kept that void, held tight of it, let it grow inside him. He couldn't stand the weight of it all, but he couldn't speak what was in his heart either. He couldn't bring himself to be that frank, that vulnerable, much less expect Vader to be.

    Vader continued to view the span of Mustafar. The sky had changed behind the bleak mountains in the distance, the violet-red melted into burnt-grey, of what Luke presumed was morning on Mustafar. The molten ocean trailed with black scabs, its lava pools as bright as glowing blood.

    Thoughtlessly, Luke stared down into the unseen depths beyond the stone contour, nonplussed as he stood next to his father.

    What could he possibly say?... He tried to think of something passable, something to invite Vader to speak, but nothing came.

    Then Vader walked away. He headed toward the large stone arch that led back into the castle.

    "Come," he said evenly, the helmet tilting slightly to glance at Luke. "Walk with me."

    Vader headed toward the opening, his cape floating after him like a black wave. Luke hesitated. He inwardly debated whether he should go — perhaps he was feeling particularly rebellious after having to follow Vader's every order as a stormtrooper — but what was the alternative? It seemed pointless to dwell here... and he'd learn nothing if he did. He walked slowly after the Dark Lord and caught up to him.

    Luke followed Vader into a lightless passage, the grey sheen from the outside now faded as the hall stretched onward. They made their way through the shadowy interior, Vader's heavy steps plodding the ground without haste.

    Knots pulling at his stomach, Luke tried to appear calm, to appear just as aloof as Vader as the dark silence endured. It was ominous, like a haunting dream, quietly walking beside him like this. Luke's mind wondered and veered to predict what could be in store — and his imagination snapped to thoughts of interrogation and torture — he couldn't help it — nightmarish scenes of the towering Dark Lord, needling into his mind...

    "Your thoughts betray you."

    The deep voice cut into his thoughts like a vibroblade. Vader walked on heedlessly, but Luke was abashed. Vader answering his thoughts... he shouldn't have been surprised, after all it wasn't the first time it had happened...

    He remembered when he was suffocating in space, thinking he would soon shrivel out of existence; and he'd heard his father, felt his power consciously working to save him... Luke had never felt such a strong depth of the Force before...

    He spared a glance at his scarred arm, remembering when it was clamped in the jaw of Voidgazer's rancor. He had been stricken with pain, and then suddenly heard Vader's voice in his head telling him where to strike, found his lightsaber in his hand...

    It had been so instant, so effortless, to understand his father's intentions. That link in the Force, it had felt... so strong...

    And the Force was strong here too, in this place. It was different, a spine-touching darkness that permeated everywhere. It was like the gravity was heavier, the air was sharper... And then there was Vader's constant presence, moving coldly like a vaporous flame...

    The echoing of their footsteps ceased. The corridor opened to an upper stairway. Vader began to climb it and Luke slowly did the same. The surface of the archaic-looking steps was like coal on Luke's bare feet.

    They reached the top, and before them was a round chamber with a transparent window. Muted light flooded the room. Maintenance droids propped up their heads and scuttled away as Vader approached. He came to the center and stood in front of the window, his dark form washed in the grey light.

    Luke stayed where he was, confused, still standing on the last step. Vader looked straight at him, and Luke felt all the more alert. He couldn't shake the feeling of wariness — of course this was Darth Vader, who wouldn't be wary — but he felt a certain passiveness too, being in his father's presence... which confused him even more.

    Vader had saved him... Here he stood with Vader, in this grating, unspoken lull as if nothing was amiss, as if they were at a truce...

    Were they? His mind yelled both yes and no. More questions reeled in his head, and as that grim gaze watched him, Luke felt restless. He understood the unspoken meaning of where he was; that Vader must have rescued him after he'd blacked out, and had brought him here, arranged the medical treatment...

    But what was going to happen to him now? Luke couldn't stand this complete uncertainty anymore. He had to get some answers, now, he needed something to help this all make sense...

    He took a step forward to Vader. He tried to think of the right words...

    Vader stood opposite the boy, watching him fixedly. He felt that anxious energy declare itself through his son's untrained senses. Vader kept his own energy contained, guarded around himself, trying to dissuade the effect of the boy's presence. It only continued to swirl like a volt of noise.

    Though the boy couldn't know it, Vader himself felt at a loss. He should not be, he knew. He should have had a plan for this very meeting, he should have known what to do and what to say. But despite the time he'd had to prepare for this, it felt... almost unreal, that his son was here. An avalanche of life-changing lies and truths were all embodied in this blond, blue-eyed young man, bearing a boyish face tanned by nineteen years of Tatooine's twin suns.

    He caught the sight of the boy's scarred arm; an arm that would've been torn to shreds had Vader not intervened. Vader frowned, remembering their time fighting together on Cylo's ship. That was a complicated thing in of itself... yet the broader, simpler realizations sunk into Vader now. That those things had happened, that the two of them now faced each other in his castle...

    He had thought his search for his son would take time and planning, that he would be the one to seek him out... But now here he was, a would-be Jedi, one of the Empire's worst enemies, having come to him. Having saved him. Having just walked up to him and openly acknowledged him as Father.

    All these changes had happened in just a few days... and Vader was not prepared.

    But he had to be.

    Now Vader stared at the boy, lost in his musings, thwarted by his own indecision on what to do. He decided to usher his senses away from himself and instead flow outward to the boy, who's anxiety was only rising like a heated wave in the Force. Vader keyed on them, waited for those feelings to build up. To intensify. To direct him.

    "What... has happened?" the boy seethed out. "Tell me... what's going on."

    Vader said nothing. He kept testily silent. Of course the boy wanted answers... undoubtedly more answers than he felt ready for. Vader remained quiet.

    "You're my father," the boy exclaimed, his face reddening. He looked at him, frantic-eyed, and he patted his chest. "I'm your son!"

    Vader stiffened. His resignation wavered for a moment, his lips sliding to make a reply to that impossible proclamation. But silence pervaded him. The enclosed stone walls amplified it.

    The boy looked at him, dismayed. "Why am I here? How am I here?" He held out his arms and gestured at the walls surrounding them. A lump coursed down his throat. "You have to tell me something!... I can't just... There's so much I need to know..."

    His bare arms tensed as he stood there, livid, fervent for him to speak. Vader held his gaze. The boy's bright presence was uneasy, agitated. Culminating into anger.

    Anger. Now Vader knew what to do.

    "You seem to have... a tendency to lose this."

    He grasped the silvery hilt that hung from his belt and held it out. The metal reflected watery streaks of grey and black.

    Luke was perplexed. His lightsaber... his father's lightsaber... The thing that had incited everything... A simple quest for a lost weapon had hurled him into all of this. Now as he looked at the old weapon in the leather-clad hand, he felt aloof, almost spiteful towards it — yet he knew he still wanted it. To have some fulfillment in possessing it again, after everything...

    "Then take it," Vader compelled quietly.

    Luke arched an eyebrow. He looked at the saber again. He tightened his face. He felt too taken aback, too resistant... What was this?

    Then Vader held the weapon upward and released it, his fingers spreading out. The lightsaber didn't drop but stayed in midair, floating vertically between them. In an instance a blazing blue streak shot from it.

    "Take it," Vader persisted. "Use it."

    Luke was dumbfounded. Was Vader... provoking him? Mocking him? He didn't know. But the image of snatching the saber flashed in his mind, followed by images of attacking the dark warrior, of making him talk...

    Making him talk? Where had that come from? He couldn't possibly...

    But the idea repeated itself, as if trying to burn into his memory. Luke remained still, his hands tense, an odd feeling coiling through his nerves.

    The incessant hum of the lightsaber continued along with Vader's artificial breath. Finally the blue blade disappeared with a sharp hiss. The hilt dropped to the floor.

    Vader rumbled lowly. "I see you still lack conviction... trooper."

    Vader saw the boy glower at the familiar admonishment. It was in him, Vader knew, the desire to attack. His feelings were whispering with abhorrence. This was but a nudge, a means to gauge the boy's tendencies toward the dark side. If Vader pushed him in the right ways, it would happen. His plans for the future would soon be set in motion. He had seen the boy's anger before, his sheer recklessness...

    And, he thought grimly, he had seen a glimpse of his ruthlessness. In his mind he could still see the boy holding that remote, the device that could end his life, threatening to use it on him just as Cylo had. After everything they'd undergone together, how many times he'd saved the unwitting boy, the two of them fighting alongside each other... How quickly the boy had been ready to...

    Vader stalled these thoughts. Petty thoughts. Pointless grudges. Turning the boy was his goal, that was his focus. He had to succeed.

    Vader stepped and looked away, giving the boy a chance to pick up the lightsaber without his pressuring gaze on him — surely he would not want to remain defenseless for long — but when Vader glanced back the weapon was still there. The young man only drifted slowly towards the edge of the room, skulking.

    Vader was precarious, almost nonplussed. The boy looked at the silver cylinder on the ground, but Vader sensed he wasn't thinking about wielding it. His mind was on something else, someone else. Mixed emotions welled from the young face: regret, bitterness, defensiveness. Fondness.

    Vader understood, and a spike of resentment shot in him.

    "He misled you," he told the boy blatantly. "He sought to use you. To forge you into his weapon. You realize this."

    The boy's mouth skewed, but he said nothing.

    "And now he is gone," Vader said, not without relish, and he sent a dark vibration through the Force to the boy's consciousness. "A pointless coward's death. No less than he deserved."

    The young gaze wavered, now holding a glint of sullenness.

    "No," he said.

    "Yes," Vader said. "He filled your head with lies. Deceit disguised as hope. You learned the truth, but not because of him. Tell me, was it Thanoth who told you? My adjutant told you more truth than Kenobi did?"

    "No, he..." The boy's chagrined face loosened. He cringed. "Cylo... he told me."

    The boy glanced away, and Vader sensed a cold, repulsive feeling coming from him. No doubt flashes were running through his young, susceptible mind, memories of his imprisonment by Cylo... Vader himself could not help but feel a strange, bitter curiosity, a temptation to see those memories with the Force, but he resisted. He let the boy be absorbed in his feelings, let them linger in him.

    The boy let out a sigh and glanced back up. He nervously slanted his jaw. "What... what happened to Thanoth?"

    Vader frowned, and answered, "What I decided would happen to him."

    "And Cylo? What happened with the ship, the battle? How did you —"

    "It is irrelevant." Vader lifted a finger and pointed at him. "It is not your concern."

    The boy released another, louder, sigh. "And what happened to my own astrodroid? I saw him just strolling around here, acting like his memory's been wiped, like he didn't even recognize me."

    "The droid has been conditioned. And do not waste your thoughts on the inspector. He deceived you as well, though not as overtly as the coward Kenobi."

    "Obi-Wan was a hero!" the boy suddenly cried. He clenched his fists and his stance became wired. "He was trying to do the right thing, always, even until the end — even when—"

    His teeth bit down on his lip and his slender frame shook with the urge to move, to charge forward at Vader. Vader stared at him, feeling his vehemence, seeing the young eyes now lit with fury. He heard the unspoken, accusatory cry the boy was holding back all too clearly: Even when you killed him!

    The boy was aiming his anger at him... This anger, it was what Vader was seeking, yet as he sensed the boy's wistful rage, saw how much he wanted to cling to his perception of Obi-Wan... it rang in the face of Vader, colliding with his resolve, taunting him. The boy still admired Obi-Wan.

    A crinkling sound was heard, and he was aware that his leather hands were grinding into fists. His son noticed this as well, but he only glared in defiance. Disdain simmered in Vader, but he drew on the Force, on his own self-discipline. He could not resort to the boy's childish outrage. He had to conceal his anger, let it lurk without letting it storm.

    "Let us speak no more of the dead..." Loathing slid into his voice again; he stifled it, made his tone composed. "Let us speak... of the present."

    The boy's scornful face only sharpened. He took a cautionary step back.

    Vader considered for a moment, thinking how to go about this. His son was here, raw, untrained. There was so much work to do... and perhaps more than a nudge was called for. More than mere words.

    "You seek the Force," Vader said, a softness in his baritone voice. "And it seeks you."

    A streak of crimson rose from Vader's hand.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  2. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Wow, there you are again with a brilliant update. Thank you.

    Sithly parenting is stressful and frustrating for both parties involved. Luke wants to love and trust. Vader cannot help seeking the higher ground through power and constantly mistrusts his own off-spring. As if the young man knew about the rule of two and would crave anything else besides time from his father.

    As for Vanee, I fear he cannot be trusted as "a groupie" from Palpatine's private fan club.
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super start full of conflicting motives and emotions. =D= You paint the grim Mustafar scene very vividly.
  4. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    "Sithly parenting is stressful"... lol That could almost be a title for this chapter.

    Thank you, @AzureAngel2 and @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. This was definitely not the easiest chapter to write, so I'm especially glad you're liking it so far. Thanks again!

    Edit: Using this post to put the second part of chapter 1...

    "What..." Wide-eyed and slack-mouthed, Luke stepped away.

    Vader moved towards him, his lightsaber readily pointed. Luke staggered as he came closer. Instantly he bent on his knee and reached for the lightsaber on the ground. He grabbed it and pressed the ignition button.

    He held out the blue blade while Vader began to side-step around him, his red blade positioned parallel to the blue. Luke eyed the other saber, his blood racing; and then the young man suddenly looked at his sizzling blade, as if just noticing it.

    "Wait," he huffed out, and held up a hand. "Why... why are you—"

    The black form lunged forward, his saber raised to strike. Luke swayed but caught it as it came down inches above his head. The two sabers crackled at they touched. Luke felt himself being pushed back by the weight. He grunted, tried to ground himself to fight it. Unable to, he gave away and pulled back.

    But Vader and his scarlet blade followed. He lifted his blazing sword again. Luke dodged it. Vader swung at him again. Luke dodged again. Vader swung.

    His temper rising and his nerves grating, Luke suddenly lunged forward, swung his blade in a senseless fit — but in seconds he found himself back in another deadlock. Caught in an awkward stance, Luke now hunched as he held the lightsaber tight, once again trying to hold. His legs wavered as he tried to push back. As he struggled Vader remained where he stood, steadfast, keeping Luke at bay with one hand.

    Luke gritted his teeth, his chest heaving. "Why — do you want me — to fight you?"

    Vader watched him struggle to disengage. The young one continued to hold, his position faltering, his bare arms trembling, his young face creased in anguish. Finally Vader relented, drawing his blade to the side and then shoving him away with the Force. Luke fell to the ground with a yelp, the lightsaber flying out of his hand and hitting the wall.

    "Again," Vader said, lifting his blade as he loomed over him.

    The boy looked up at him, uncomprehending. He made no effort to get up. He shook his head again and again.

    "Attack," Vader barked, and he directed the end of the saber at his neck. "Prove that you are better than Kenobi."

    The boy's face blanched. His hand shook on the ground, but didn't even inch in the direction of the lightsaber. He seemed all but paralyzed, his face bearing a strange, tranquil kind of dread.

    Vader waited for him to do something. The boy did nothing. Seconds passed, and still he didn't move.

    The boy was refusing to fight... Vader was uncertain what to make of this. Part of him was pleased — another part skeptical. That part rushed through his bloodstream, the unsaid fury he'd been holding back now resurfacing. He felt it rush out of him.

    "You infiltrated the whale-ship," he said coldly. "You disguised yourself as an Imperial trooper and interfered in my mission to dispose of Cylo. Why?"

    The youth gawked at him, as if he couldn't believe this question was being asked.

    "Perhaps you sought something," Vader continued, his lightsaber still blazing, still targeted toward the boy, and he tightened his grip on it. "Something very useful. A weapon, perhaps."

    The boy's face went blank. "Weapon? My... lightsaber?..." His mouth moved wordlessly, but suddenly he froze. The realization came over him.

    Vader's tone was a soft sneer. "Yes... Cylo's device. A fine tool to have at your disposal."

    The boy swallowed and grimaced. He started to stutter. "I didn't — It wasn't—"

    "You meant to use it against me. So do the same now. What is stopping you, boy?"

    The young man's gaze hardened and he grunted aloud. "I thought you were going to get us killed! The ship was going to blow up, and all you cared about was going after Cylo! I had to do something to stop you!"

    "The Force assured me there was no danger. Had you not been so inclined to listen to fear, you would have known that as well."

    "You could've ordered me to leave," his son shot back. "Before any of that happened, at any time, you could've told me to regroup with my 'squad', or you could've had me arrested. I never meant to tag along with you, that was your call!"

    Vader scowled behind the mask, feeling the urge to rebuke the boy's words. He held out the lightsaber's deadly heat close to the young face.

    The boy didn't flinch. He looked up at him, exasperated, but without fear.

    "You brought me here," the boy said. "If there's one thing I know by now... it's that you don't want me dead. You don't want to fight. So... I won't fight you."

    The Dark Lord watched him. A dangerous fume had started to spark, to spread — but then it died down. Vader felt it sink back into his dark heart. His lightsaber inched away from the boy's face. Vader stepped aside.

    He faced the wall. He shifted around and took a sidelong look at the boy. He sat there, helpless and agitated, still at his mercy. Vader read him with the Force, took in the confusion, the frustration — but also the truthfulness. An innermost promise he felt from the boy: I won't fight you.

    Luke slowly, carefully got back to his feet. The crimson lightsaber remained alight, and he eyed it, taking in the scenario. Here he was once again, one move away from being killed should the Dark Lord choose. Memories flew past him: the trench run through the Death Star, Vader on his tail... Facing Vader, charging at him with his saber; Vader belittling him, readying to slay him... Vader chasing him down as he fled on a speeder... Vader trying to shoot him down over Vrogas Vas...

    "I... still don't... understand," Luke found himself saying. "You saved me on Cylo's ship... You saved me in the vaucum of space... but all those other times you've tried to kill me..."

    Vader remained where he stood, his back turned. His voice was dull. "You refer to our previous encounter on Cymoon 1, when you attempted to strike me down with a lightsaber? Or perhaps afterwards, when you collided into my ship in dire hopes of destroying me?"

    Luke blinked, caught off guard as he remembered all the times he had, in turn, tried to end Vader's life. He felt a slight coaxing of regret. It met his indignant anger head-on like an asteroid, confounding and confusing him, and he hated it. Frustrated, he spat out, "You — you were targeting me! You were targeting everyone, shooting all the squadrons down! And I—" He paused, winched. "I didn't... know then."

    A moment of hard silence.

    Luke mustered his voice again. "I'm guessing... you didn't know either. Or you wouldn't have..."

    Vader made no reply. Luke watched him, waiting for an answer, but the dead air prolonged. Yet Luke's curiosity was still brimming. He took another step forward. He softened his voice.

    "Why... did you make me go with you?"

    The black-domed head lifted slightly. The deep voice murmured. "Not for your usefulness in battle, I assure you."

    "Usefulness... like saving your life? When you were stunned by Cylo, and when we came to that tower room, and that rancor —"

    "I gave you the means to slay it. That was hardly your doing, boy." The cloaked figure turned and the glaring, large-eyed mask stared at him. "I saved your life more times than you know, for which I find your gratitude profoundly overwhelming."

    Luke's mouth twitched as he caught his words in his throat. He veered away, again feeling a tinge of guilt that he wanted to repel. He looked away into the dark corner of the room.

    Meanwhile the crimson blade continued to hum. It felt like a neverending impasse as they stood opposite of one another, the seconds passing at a crawling pace, drawing out without remorse.

    "Our destinies... have converged," Vader said at last. "They are bound... by the will of the Force. It cannot be denied."

    The young one stared at him, perplexed, as if he was speaking another language. Yet Vader felt his bright presence spurring out curiously. Anxiousness drilled into Vader.

    "You have gone through... much... for my sake," he said, slower, the words rigid and drawn out. "Despite this war, despite our roles in it... you came. You dared. You have followed me... fought with me, at my side..."

    At this the boy looked away, sinking his head as if mortified — a feeling Vader himself shared — but he went on, too determined to relent. "You say I made you accompany me on Cylo's ship... yet you did not flee when you could."

    The boy continued to stare away. He shook his head half-heartedly. "Everything... was happening so fast, I couldn't..." His words trailed off.

    "You did not flee because you would not."

    The boy sighed. "I can't... I can't flee... The Alliance—"

    "The Alliance will not win this war," Vader pressed. "You know this."

    The young man looked at him, both bewildered and antagonized, but looking too tired to express either. He hunched, his bangs shrouding his eyes, and he ran a hand through his hair. He took in a sharp breath.

    Vader surveyed him, letting him sieve through his thoughts. Doubt blurred the boy's mind. Vader felt it, and felt himself impacted with something... a subtle responsiveness. He felt his own inner promise, his own hope unburying itself... An openness...

    He instinctively closed it off, but then refrained, held it cautiously inside him, like a droplet on the verge of breaking.

    His thumb shifted over his saber's deactivation button, hovering, hesitating.

    A voice called from the other side of the room: "My Lord, there is some — oh..."

    Vader's black form whipped around. Luke looked towards the stairway and immediately recognized Vaneé, the servant who had greeted him in the medical chamber. He stood at the head of the stairs and made a slightly surprised blink at them.

    "Forgive the interruption," he said hastily to Vader. "I was unaware you were busy, master. I tried to call by comlink, but you were unavailable..."

    The armored figure was unmoved for a moment. Then he strode slowly towards the hooded man, his lightsaber whirring at his side.

    Vaneé's eyes darted from the black mask to the red blade, and he made several swift bows. "Which of course means you wished not to be disturbed, yes I know, but there is a... a situation. In the lower levels, northside. I believe you'll want to see it yourself, master."

    Vader came to a halt before him. There was a long pause filled with a few passes of mechanical breath — then the plasma sword vanished back into its hilt. The Dark Lord moved away, heading straight toward the stairs, his dark cape gliding across the floor. Vaneé made way for him, dutifully bowing while doing so.

    "Watch him," Vader told the servant. He passed him without another word, and then he was gone.

    Vaneé remained and straightened. He looked attentively over at Luke.

    Luke compressed his lips and turned away. As he did he caught a gleam of silver — his lightsaber. He stepped over to the wall and picked the weapon up. The metal was still warm. A tremor tan through his fingers as he held the hilt tight and secure in his hand. Luke grimaced, and let out a heavy sigh.

    Suddenly he saw a simultaneous, eye-blinking flash that came from behind him. Luke swiveled around and saw Vaneé holding a beaming pen-like device in his hand. He made a courteous nod at Luke.

    "There, clothing size. Got it." He lifted the little pen indicatively with a smile. "And yes, I scanned for all the necessary data. You'll be provided with new clothing in no time. At present however, since Lord Vader is preoccupied, perhaps you'd like a tour of the castle? Perhaps you would, yes?"

    Luke stared at the hooded servant, unblinking and lost for words. He then stared vacantly into the reflective, chrome-like surface of the lightsaber in his hands, wondering now if he felt more or less confused than he had been before.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
    Darth_Furio and AzureAngel2 like this.
  5. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    Hmm.... I wouldn't say that Vanee is a Palpatine groupie so much as a Vader groupie. And I'm sure he has a good reason.
  6. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    "Vader's groupie"... lol Speculation already, I like it!

    Speaking of Vaneé, in case anyone here doesn't know, he's actually a canon character and not an OC. He's the guy who approached Vader in his bacta tank in Rogue One. It's a small role and the name's never mentioned, so I really wouldn't blame anyone for not knowing; I know I had to look it up. Anyway, just thought I'd point that out. =)

    Edit: Posting first part of chapter 2 here...

    Chapter 2
    Vader surveyed the cyborg girl before him. Aiolin Astarte's arms were held back by two red-robed Imperial Guards, the girl now on her knees, her head lowered. Her form was twitching, the blue leather on her sleeve singed around her arm.

    "The prisoner was being moved to the oubliette for interrogations," one of the guards reported. "She escaped, and we pursued. One guard was killed. Slice in the neck; she disarmed him and used his force-pike. The prisoner managed to find her way here and reached into the security port. Where you found her, my Lord."

    Indeed, where he had found her. Just as she had reached the board of the security system's mainframe, her arm reaching for the input device, circuit-shaped lines glowing and dimming under her skin, the defense mechanisms had triggered. Vader had not wielded his lightsaber nor any Force power. He had simply stood and watched as the high-voltage light flashed violently over the girl's body, overheating the peripherals, and she collapsed.

    Somehow, she survived it.

    "All other primary sensors are still working," Vader observed, waving a hand dismissively. He viewed the dim paths of the cell halls, taking in the scorch marks on the walls and pavement. He turned to the other crimson-clad guards. "Repair and reboot the system, and check all units of the other levels. Double the guards, and cancel the interrogations with the droids. I will deal with this prisoner myself."

    The helmeted guards all nodded obediently.

    "Let her go," Vader ordered them. "And leave us."

    The guardsmen settled her on the ground and left, their scarlet forms disappearing into the shadows.

    Aiolin was limp where she sat, hunched over as if she would fall completely. Overhead, small streaks of grey beamed as the only source of light. She made an undistinguished grunt as she tried to raise her head.

    The Dark Lord waited a while, letting her bask in her helplessness.

    "You thought you could penetrate my security system," he said derisively.

    The girl looked up at him through her blond strands, her breathing brisk, her pale eyes straining.

    "Why... do you keep me... alive?"

    She hoped to salvage information from him, Vader saw. To try to talk her way out of this, just as she had tried before. Bringing his son to Mustafar, offering to deliver him alive if Vader repaired her injured brother and allowed them both to live. To live and serve him...

    And now this pointless interruption. He had left the boy for this, and at a crucial moment — crucial for what, he didn't quite know. He had been infuriated when Vaneé had barged in unannounced, and yet part of him welcomed the excuse to step away from the boy, to depart from the tumult of questions that came with him. He had to think. He had to regather himself before he confronted the boy again...

    And he had to deal with the Astartes. They had been held as prisoners, taken in by the guards after being knocked out on the landing platform where they'd arrived. They had been imprisoned separately, kept alive in isolation. Weakening them would make them easier to break. Today Triple-Zero had been scheduled to extract information from them, but in light of this incident...

    "I have not forgotten the terms for our agreement," Vader said. He began to pace before the girl, his hands behind his back. "I believe you offered to disperse certain information in exchange for your lives. It would be... unbefitting, if you did not uphold your end of the bargain."

    Her voice was virulent. "The conditions were not met... Consider our... 'agreement'... terminated."

    Vader inched his helmeted head down, slightly, slowly. His intoned voice was almost a whisper. "Perhaps you should choose your words more carefully."

    "I gave you what you wanted," she scratched out, fidgeting her arms as if to rise, but she remained on the floor as if bound to it, more sign that her cybernetics were nearly drained of power. "I could've killed the boy! Morit and I, we could have given your secrets away, we could have served you... that was all we wanted. All we wanted was to live."

    "And you do live."

    "You said... no harm would come to us!" she spat, her voice hoarse. "You attacked us, imprisoned us—"

    "You have caused more harm to yourself than I did simply disarming you, girl. This was your doing. All of this was your doing." Vader leered, the folds of his cape shifting as he brought out a hand and pointed at her. "If you do not wish for worse, you will tell me what you know. Tell me where Cylo is hiding."

    Aiolin's gaze was steady, her eyes bearing a cold bleakness. Her mouth was set in a bitten line. She said nothing.

    "If you refuse," Vader went on. "I will bring it out of you. Your brother cannot speak or move; he is nearly dead. Perhaps I should end his suffering."

    The girl made a deadening blink. Her face remained impassive.

    Vader eased away. He paced again, slow and patient, and then he summoned the Force. He directed it at the girl's mind. He tried to see her thoughts, comb through her memory. Words and meanings appeared to him —

    But then became... blurred.

    Quietly surprised, Vader stared at the girl, waiting to see if she would make any reaction. The girl was still. She didn't make a sound. Even her heavy breathing was soundless.

    "My patience runs thin," he rumbled at last.

    "As thin as your promises, it would seem," she said faintly.

    Vader lifted a hand, his black fingers flexing. Aiolin let out a rasp. She began to lift from the ground. She hung in midair as if dangling from a hook, her arms and legs slack as she choked from the invisible grip on her throat.

    "I've had my fill of charades as of late, girl," he said dangerously. "I will hear no more of your hypocritical berating. I owe you no promises, no safety. You and your brother came here for your own conniving self-interests. Supply your treacherous intel now and be done with it. It will be retrieved from you one way or the other."

    He let go of his Force-grip on her. She crashed and fell, face down, to the floor. Gasping and coughing, she struggled to lift up her torso, pressing to the ground with her elbows.

    "That," she said weakly, numbly inching her head up as she inhaled, "may not be... as doable as you think."

    Vader stood before her, taking in her insolence, collecting it into his muted anger. The dark side gathered around him, roaming the room like a miasma. He drew on its strength, made it reach out, unleash itself onto the girl's mind like a ready net.

    Aiolin made a wince.

    "All things are doable through the Force," he muttered. He stopped in front of the girl, his shadow cast on her. "As you shall soon see."

    Luke made a numb blink as he was led through the dark hall.

    "Mustafar was once known for its mining, you know," Vaneé said as he led him through the shadows. "And most of the walls and flooring of this fortress was made from the flood basalt in the Gahenn Plains, isn't that interesting? And the atrium nearby was built with opalescent firestone, quite rare..."

    Luke barely listened as he and Vaneé entered a narrow corridor. It contained several steel doors to the side.

    "So what's this place?" Luke asked dully. "What's behind those doors?"

    Vaneé didn't answer. Luke sighed. He was getting more frustrated as the hour dragged on. He knew this tour-guide act was just an excuse to keep an eye on him while Vader was away. Walking among the skin-crawling darkness was unnerving enough, but did he have to be stuck with this creepy servant who bored him with talk of Mustafarian architecture?

    The few rooms Vaneé actually let him inside were nearly empty, just supply rooms or hubs for power. He had once mentioned a workshop that was apparently Vader's, but just as Luke's interest had piqued, the hooded man had directed him away and said nothing else. The only useful thing Vaneé had provided him with was footwear, a pair of black leather boots he'd retrieved upon noticing Luke was still barefoot.

    It was hard to be thankful for the subservience when the hooded man hovered around him and acted so ignorant. He dodged questions about Vader, about the ''situation'' he was called away to. He just filled in the empty time talking about obsidian-walled decor, stone-carved pillars, intricate stairway designs...

    Now seeming to notice his frown for the first time, Vaneé gave him a considerate look. "Oh, the young master seems lacking of energy. You require nourishment, yes? You have been in recovery for some time..."

    "What?" Luke blinked. "Uh, no, I just... Vaneé, why do you call me that? 'Young master'?"

    The hooded servant tipped his head. "Lord Vader said you are a guest here, and that I am in your service. It seems only appropriate."

    "Well, it's not. I'm not your master," Luke said firmly. He touched the lightsaber that hung on a belt loop from his hip. "And I'm not a guest here either."

    "Lord Vader says you are."

    Luke looked ahead, despondent. "I guess I am... if all guests here get lightsabers pointed at their throat."

    Vaneé made a high-pitched drawl and shrugged, as if responding to a mildly amusing observation. He held out a white lantern as he walked, casting his and Luke's shadows to stretch along the floor.

    Luke followed, feeling aimless. Not for the first time in the hour, Luke wondered what he was doing, why he was going along with this... He had already wanted to leave this ominous castle, and now he was being treated like a child who needed looking after...

    But he wasn't going to try to leave. Vader had to know that; he was letting Luke walk around, and with a lightsaber no less...

    He still wasn't sure what to think of his confrontation with his father. He didn't know what he was more unsettled by: Vader's mixed reactions, or his lack of reactions. The quiet aloofness, the spur of aggression, the incredulity — Darth Vader, holding a grudge against him... drilling him like he was a traitor, after everything... His father had seemed determined to hold on to animosity, but then had seemed determined to dispel it.

    And then the persuasiveness, the impelling about the Force, the near-commending of Luke for saving him...

    Our destinies... have converged.

    The Alliance will not win this war.

    Suddenly a sound rose, a quick thrum. Luke turned and saw one of the steel doors opening... and out stepped a dark-silver protocol droid, followed by a matching dark-silver astromech.

    Luke grimaced.

    "...That we have to stand watch is rather piddling, I agree," said Triple-Zero. "But at least Master Vader will reward us. How does a good torturing of the twins sound, mmm? That should—"

    The protocol droid noticed Luke and Vaneé, and came to a stop, his red eyes set specifically on Luke.

    "Well, well," said Triple-Zero, his eerie voice pitching up and down. "If it isn't the yellow-haired fleshbag who refused to die... How did you escape from your cell? You know, like the one you trapped us in?"

    Luke groaned and blew out a sigh, remembering when he'd locked the two droids in the brig on the Devastator. But before he could say anything Vaneé let out an impatient huff and made a brush-away gesture at the droids.

    "Alright, away with you now. This one is not a prisoner. Move along," he said.

    Triple-Zero sounded aghast. "Not a prisoner? Do you know how much I looked forward to draining this one's blood?... And who are you supposed to be anyway?"

    "I am Lord Vader's assistant," Vaneé said haughtily. "Now leave, droid."

    Bee-Tee made a buzz in discontent. His flat-topped dome turned to Triple-Zero, who curved his metal head. He held up his wrist and a white light blinked. It flashed, again and again, then went out. "Hmm... it seems Master Vader is unavailable... No way to confirm your information. How unfortunate."

    Triple-Zero peered at them, his laser-red eyes scanning Luke and the hooded servant over. They both scowled back at him.

    "All that trouble we went to catch this Rebel, and I'm to believe he's... well, alive for one, but also just strolling about?" The protocol-assassin droid made a strange sound, like a stringed instrument being put in a grinder, suggesting laughter. "And it just so happens I've never seen you before, the self-proclaimed 'Vader's assistant'?"

    Vaneé's gaunt face flared slightly. "Do not question things that don't concern you, droid. The master is busy at the moment, but that does not mean—"

    "Let me guess what is really happening here," Triple-Zero spoke over him. "You're on a rescue mission, trying to retrieve the towheaded one. Seems everyone just wants to get their hands on this little nuisance these days, doesn't it, Bee-Tee? But things went a little awry when you ran into us, didn't they?"

    Luke rolled his eyes at the accusation, though he had to admit the story sounded more believable than the truth.

    The droids fully stepped out into the hall, and as they did so Luke side-glanced the room they exited — and his eyes tensed. Just as the doors were shutting, he caught a glimpse of... was that an old, mustached face? It became lost in an array of red light. Then the steel doors closed.

    "Wait, is that—" he began.

    "I will not tell you again: be on your way!" Vaneé told the droids, pointing them down the hall. "The master gave you instructions for the day. You will follow them."

    Undeterred, Triple-Zero took a step closer. Then another. Beside him, Bee-Tee rolled forth. A plate on his front folded away, and out came a powered gun. Vaneé's black eyes widened and Luke took a step back, but the hooded man looked more annoyed than frightened.

    "Bad droid!" he admonished. "Now look here, you cannot just—"

    "Oh, I think you'll find I can," interjected Triple-Zero. A spike of electricity crackled from his metal fingertip.

    There was a loud, blazing hiss; a shot of blue. Luke held his ignited lightsaber and neared it towards the droids. They both stopped in their tracks.

    "I wouldn't try it," he said steadily to them. "Look... Vader just wanted me captured and brought to Mustafar, remember? Well, now I'm here. Mission accomplished. You can attack, go all out on us, but remember, Vader wanted me alive. And I'm sure you don't mind taking the risk of directly disobeying him..."

    The silver droid stared at him for a moment, the red eyes burning. No one moved. Then after several seconds, the electric charge at the droid's fingers went out.

    Vaneé folded his hands, looking bemused.

    Luke eyed the door. "I'm going in there. Don't try to stop me."

    Triple-Zero didn't move and didn't object. Luke kept the blade protectively in front of him as he made his way to the door. He pressed the access button and sidled inside. Vaneé and the droids trailed behind him.


    In the center of the low-lit room was an energy barrier, and sitting inside it, hunched over, was Thanoth.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  7. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    I knew that. :D
    AzureAngel2 and Togruta like this.
  8. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    Ahhhhh, so nervous!!!! [face_nail_biting]Please don't hurt Luke! And Luke, PLEASE don't turn dark!!! [face_nail_biting]
    Search your feelings, Vader. That's your SON! Show some sort of parental care, at least...please? :(

    OK, first chapter in and already I'm addressing the characters directly. That's how well you write them.
    How do you DO that? How??? I'm so invested in this story I cannot wait to read more! =D=^:)^
  9. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Thanks, @Ridley Solo. Glad you're liking it so far. [face_coffee]

    Thanks for reading, all. Hopefully it's not too much to read per post...

    Edit: Second part of chapter 2...

    Luke took in the sight of the old inspector. He was sitting on the ground, his form bent, his arms wrapped around himself, the leg containing his injured ankle stretched out. His signature monocle was gone, and his Imperial uniform was stained and still frayed at the shoulder. His lightsaber wound was wrapped in a torn piece of cloth that was seeping. Bruises were on his temple. He looked very sickly, but he made a calm, unbothered smile as he looked up at Luke.

    "Well. There you are," he said very quietly. "You've gotten yourself quite... entangled in circumstances, it seems."

    Luke stared at him, not knowing what to say.

    Vaneé shuffled in and stepped in front of the barrier. "Now that's quite enough! I insist we depart at once, young master. Lord Vader would not want you interacting with—"

    "What's he doing in there?" Luke exclaimed, pointing at Thanoth. "He's Vader's adjutant. Why is he imprisoned?"

    "That's the master's business. I would ask that you leave. Don't make me call security."

    Luke scowled. He didn't move. Vaneé pursed his lips, then made a shift into his robes. Luke reacted fast, shoved him, and a communicator dropped to the floor. In another instant Vaneé reached into his sleeve. Luke grabbed at his wrist with one hand, and after a brief struggle, a stun-taser slipped from Vaneé's fingers. Luke flung both devices away with his boot and they slid to the far corners of the room. He pointed his lightsaber at the servant.

    Vaneé gawked at him, eyebrows raised, and gingerly he began to move away. Meanwhile Triple-Zero and Bee-Tee edged along into the room, both watching Luke but staying their distance.

    "You two were keeping watch over him," Luke determined. "Two assassin droids, just to watch over an injured old man?"

    "Believe me, it's not our idea of a good time," Triple-Zero remarked. "Listening to his griping and wheezing."

    "Fry your circuits, you infernal droid," Thanoth snapped darkly.

    Luke blinked. He took in the situation, observing it all. The droids, the servant, Thanoth. The barrier. He considered for a moment what to do; what he should do, why Thanoth could be behind that deadly wall of light... The old inspector, who had steered him in this direction that had led to Vader, who had been his guide in his search for his father...

    He had to help him. Luke took a step toward the barrier's control panel.

    The droids and the hooded man all moved to stop him. Luke blocked them with the blue blade.

    "Luke," came Thanoth's somber voice, carrying a tone of warning. "Don't do something we'll both regret. I am to be kept alive. This is only precautionary."

    Luke gaped at him. "You're... okay with being imprisoned?"

    "Of course not — but Vader has need of me. And I am doing valuable work." He motioned out to the other area of the room, which Luke hadn't bothered even looking at. There was a computer station nearby, its tables scattered with shut-off datascreens, and other equipment Luke didn't recognize.

    "That's all very interesting," Luke said in a hurry. "But as much as I'd hate to rip you away from your 'work', there's a medbay not too far from here..." Luke looked around the control panel. "How do I get you out? Do I turn this switch or—"

    "What gall," commented Triple-Zero. "I've seen deathstick addicts with more sense of self-preservation than this one."

    "For once, the droid has a point," the inspector said, the wrinkles on his face contorting. "Luke, where in the galaxy do you think you are? This is Vader's fortress. I should not have to tell you why this is a horrible idea. I am not worth it, Luke."

    "You saved my life," Luke said belligerently. "I think that's worth a bacta patch or two."

    "Not if it's against the master's wishes," Vaneé supplied with earnest. Luke glowered at him.

    Thanoth made a snort. His coarse voice suddenly turned very low. "Luke, I don't know all that has happened, or how you got here... but you cannot possibly think you can just do whatever you please. I think you do not understand precisely what's going on here..."

    "You're right, I don't." He sighed exhaustively, and his shoulders sunk. But he kept his grip on the lightsaber, kept it lit before the two droids and the hooded man.

    They all stared at him, waiting.

    Luke looked from Thanoth, to the glowing barrier, to Vaneé and the droids. It was dead silent.

    Do not waste your thoughts on the inspector. He deceived you as well...

    He remembered his father's words, wondered how true they were. Coming from Vader, it was impossible to know... All Luke knew was that he and Thanoth had been through a lot, dangers that could've been the end of either of them... And even if he was following Vader's orders by doing so, Thanoth had saved him. He had at least tried to help him.

    Yet Luke briefly wondered how things would have been if he had never encountered Thanoth on Vrogas Vas, if he never put any kind of trust in him...

    But he had, and now here he was. And there was Thanoth, withered and weak, trapped behind a laser-heated force field. Luke found himself lowering the blue blade.

    "Well then, anticlimactic tension aside," Triple-Zero said, making his way forward now that the saber was pointed away from him. "We've all been reacquainted and had a nice, treacherous chat. So I think now would be a good time to leave."

    "Yes," nodded Vaneé, his black eyes nervous as he glanced around. "Please, we don't want Lord Vader to catch us in here..."

    Thanoth nodded in agreement. He then shot a questioning, eyebrow-knitting look at Luke.

    Luke gnawed his lip, hesitating. He looked at the control panel again.

    "We'll leave," he said slowly. "Just as soon as I trigger off this... whatever it is. Laser prison."

    Vaneé and the droids all began to object, to pitch sounds, to try moving past the lightsaber, but Luke inched it closer to them. The inspector made a disapproving scoff, but through all the noise, Luke thought he could hear him mutter just under his breath, "Plasma prison..."

    Luke felt the corners of his mouth stretch. He shook his head as he began to press the buttons on the panel. He turned the switch.

    Vader walked out of the elevator.

    He passed the undercroft and now strode through the furnace room, where channels were ushered in from the outside, carrying streams of lava. The area was noisy, containing pumps, air handlers, and connecting to much of the electrical mechanisms that powered the castle in the furthest bottom levels. Vader walked, almost without awareness as to where he was going.

    He was furious. He had spent two hours with the Astarte girl, questioning, pressuring, trying to break her mental defenses. He had not been so easily discouraged by his first attempt to read her; he had tried again. And again. He'd searched for something tangible, a stray memory, an echo of a thought... The Force showed glimmers to him, but they were faint, indecipherable.

    Eventually her thoughts had become closed off completely. He had learned nothing. Cylo's whereabouts remained unknown to him.

    It was not so rare, dealing with a being that was less susceptible to the Force. On occasion, his attempts at quenching the truth were met without success; some individuals were simply able to resist that power. But usually these were particularly intelligent or strong-willed beings — not what he would expect from one of Cylo's mechanical-minded creatures. The Astarte girl was no free thinker, she was indoctrinated by Cylo, a mere tool, young and full of shallow delusions.

    Perhaps it was some enhancement, he thought. He remembered Voidgazer speaking of her cybernetic rancor, how it was protected from the Force's influence by design — it seemed just as likely that all of Cylo's creations shared this trait...

    Regardless, it was troubling, frustrating, and an unforeseen delay. He wanted to be rid of the twins, but Cylo had to be destroyed, and as soon as possible. The scientist was carrying too much knowledge. Vader suspected it could already be too late to prevent the danger Cylo could pose...

    But there were other options for finding him, as well as other matters to attend to. The aftermath of the battle with Cylo, the work that had to be done to cover up evidence, locating and silencing anyone else linked to his plans... He had already tasked bounty hunters to track down both Cylo and the archeologist Aphra who had previously worked for him. Meanwhile Thanoth had been digging through data, finding a new location for Vader's credit hoard, and even suggesting more assets to add to Vader's resources.

    Begrudging as he was toward Thanoth, Vader accepted his help, keeping him weak, keeping him guarded and watched whenever he worked. He did not want the inspector to feel at ease. He wanted the inspector gone — for all his deception, all his meddling and involvement with the boy — but he couldn't deny the value in keeping him alive. With Aphra's absence, he needed someone to provide this sort of work, and Thanoth was a seasoned professional, an improvement over Aphra both in talent and in demeanor. So far, the inspector had yet to fail him.

    Vader turned around a corner and entered an antechamber. He proceeded to the platform of a bridge, but then his stride gradually slowed. He stopped.

    Ahead, standing on the bridge, was his son. And standing beside him was none other than Thanoth. The old inspector looked in noticeably better condition now, his wounds patched and healed, he wore a clean uniform, and he walked with the aid of a medical cane.

    Taken aback, Vader felt a wave of rage, of aggravation, an urge to go forth and demand answers, but he remained still.

    He waved a nearby droid to him with the Force. Quickly he pinpointed the console room on its map. A screen displayed the interior. The glowing force field was still on, but inside it now was Vaneé, who sat glumly on the floor, his hands bound behind him. Outside the barrier were the distinguished forms of Triple-Zero and Bee-Tee, both unmoved, both bearing stab-shaped holes in their metal bodies.

    Vader took in the sight, intrigued despite himself, though he felt inclined to be displeased. The boy had done this, in this short time... and he had done it to help Thanoth...

    He let the droid go and it floated away. He looked directly back at the boy and the inspector, who continued walking together. He could see they were conversing. Rather than venture forth, he decided to back away. He turned the auditory dial on his belt, strengthening the range. He turned off the sound of his mask's respirator. He listened.

    The two came across the center of the metal bridge that spanned the wide, dark area.

    "...So that is what happened," Thanoth was saying, rubbing his chin. "And I thought that ordeal with the exogorth was something. A Force-resistant rancor... Fighting alongside Vader... Clones, jettisons into space... You and Vader have been busy."

    The boy, from where Vader could see, didn't reply. He grimly looked away.

    Thanoth spoke again. "You know it's only a matter of time before those med-droids inform him of all this?... I'm surprised they even allowed my access into their facilities, but of course, it helped that you threatened them with your lightsaber. You are really forming a bad habit of that... Vader has made much allowance for you, it seems. Free roam of his castle, your own servant..."

    "I don't have free roam, and that hooded guy's not my—"

    "You're not on Vader's side," Thanoth interjected, as if to pacify the boy's tone. "Though obviously, you are not a prisoner either."

    The boy said nothing.

    Thanoth glanced at him quickly, then faced away again. He made a cough into his fist. "I take it... you have come to certain... conclusions. About you, and him."

    Vader felt a shadow of anger rise in his chest. That meddling, insufferable inspector...

    The boy came to a stop, a look of shock on his young face. His eyes bugged as they rest on Thanoth.

    "What... are you... Did you know? Did you... always..."

    Thanoth made one more tap with his cane, then he too stopped. He regarded the boy, his face unfazedly calm. He then made a single nod.

    For a moment the boy looked paralyzed — then he looked explosive. His lips squirmed, he seemed on the verge of yelling, his hands trembling as he stared at Thanoth, who remained as passive as ever.

    "Perhaps you regret coming to my aid now?" the inspector asked softly.

    The boy's face wrenched, and he turned away. He let out a loud, angry sigh, staring into the black abyss over the railing bars. He grabbed them.

    Thanoth stood still, leaning on his cane, watching him keenly, without sympathy. "You made your choice, Luke."

    The boy pounded his fist on the metal railing. "I know! And you tried to warn me... I could've walked away — but I didn't, and now everything's just... everything's..."

    Luke paused, and all of a sudden he felt unnerved, a spill of burning coldness running through him. He turned and looked around, searching for a second, and then he saw the dark figure of Vader approach from the other side of the bridge.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Vader was chillingly menacing with Aiolin, but frustratingly unsuccessful in getting the information he wanted.

    Luke got Thanoth free, but based upon his conversation, he may be having mixed feelings about that. :p

    Since Vader knows what they were talking about and what Luke was up to, the upcoming conversation is going to be interesting!!!

  11. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Thanks again. [face_coffee]

    So, it's been a while since the last update... Sorry about that. Writing's been a struggle lately. But I got something done, and so here we go. Another chapter...

    Edit: First part of chapter 3...

    Chapter 3​

    His breath resounding with each step, Vader walked forth, observing the boy and the inspector. Neither of them moved.

    Vader came to a halt before them. Thanoth straightened. The boy faced him adamantly, clearly meaning to look steel-faced for this confrontation, but his young features contorted slightly and his posture leaned back, showcasing his nervousness.

    Freeing Thanoth. Detaining Vaneé. Wrecking the droids... What the boy had done was nothing truly damaging, Vader knew, but it was still defiance.

    The moment he had been carried into his castle, Vader knew he had to decide how to manage the boy's presence. His first instinct had been to keep him restrained. To take no risks, make no mistakes. Keep him imprisoned, where Vader was sure he'd remain... It was only after thinking it over more that he had decided against this. It was unwise, he knew, allowing this much freedom — yet there was a whispering part of Vader that hoped the boy would surprise him — as he had when he suddenly showed up on Cylo's ship, donned in trooper armor, having risked everything just for the chance to save him...

    But Vader was not surprised that the boy had done this. Disappointed, but not surprised. He had wanted the boy to remain confused and uncertain to a degree, but he had also wanted to allow him to settle, to think. To comprehend that he was not a prisoner here. Not an enemy. Vader could not have made that more clear.

    And it had not mattered. The boy had had the space, the benefit of neutrality, and had acted like... a Rebel. Vader tightened his fist under his cloak. He had expected too much.

    Dry-mouthed, Luke looked at the Dark Lord. He found his hand tugging at the end of his black shirt, near where his lightsaber hung from his hip, as if trying to hide it. The tips of his fingernails skimmed over the emitter.

    Thanoth met Vader's gaze, his white eyebrows curved. He made a mild swallow, and then took a step forward. He stood between the Dark Lord and Luke.

    "Now then... gentlemen..." He looked from one to the other. "I'm sure we have much to converse about, so let us do so... civilly. Yes? Lord Vader?"

    It was quiet.

    Then Luke took a step forward. "It was my idea. He didn't do anything, it was all—"

    "We must speak," Vader said, his voice firm, but surprisingly passive. "Now."

    Luke felt a numbness on his tongue as he bit it, searching for the words to explain, and feeling a wave of panic... It wasn't like he hadn't known he'd have to own up to what he'd done, but what could he possibly expect? He tried to brace himself.

    "Inspector," Vader said pointedly. "Now."

    Then Luke noticed Vader wasn't even looking at him. He was looking directly at Thanoth, addressing him as if he was the only person standing there.

    Thanoth made an uncomfortable shift with his shoulders, and he eyed Luke, then made a curt nod at the Dark Lord. "As you... wish, Lord Vader."

    Vader went forward. Thanoth turned, and before Luke knew it they were both striding past him, neither sparing him a glance. Mouth hanging, Luke silently watched them go.

    Vader walked on with the inspector, keeping the pace of his footsteps slow to match the inspector's lagging gait. He felt the boy's bafflement, felt him standing behind watching. He and Thanoth walked side by side, silence hanging over them, his son's gaze pressing at their backs.

    They stepped onto the flooring at the end of the bridge and Vader led the way through to the next entry. They gradually came into a spacious hall, Vader filling the air with the sound of his automated rasp. Thanoth's cane made blunt taps as he went.

    Minutes passed until the inspector finally spoke.

    "I only went to the medical center," he said, reservedly, but with a hint of defensiveness. "You can check the med-droids and the surveillance footage, Lord Vader."

    Vader didn't respond. He didn't look at Thanoth, didn't give him an ounce of a reaction. He felt rage at the intermeddling old man — and the boy — but he would not show it. Let them be worried, he decided. Let the boy continue to stew in uncertainty, and let Thanoth stew in it for once.

    "I did not have much choice," Thanoth continued. "He insisted that I go. I thought that perhaps... Well, wanting to earn his trust, perhaps you allowed him certain... privileges—"

    "Your current tasks," Vader cut in, his voice nearly bellowing. "I would know of your progress on them."

    Thanoth was quiet for a few seconds. No doubt he was curious about Vader's choice to ignore the boy and flagrantly disregard what had happened, but he made a rough hum in his throat and lifted his head, clearly snapping into his professional demeanor. "Yes... I've had no concrete success in finding Cylo. The Crushank Nebulae seemed to be his core base of operations, and with it and his fleet destroyed or taken in by Imperial forces, there is little information to go on..."

    "So you've found nothing," Vader snapped.

    Thanoth made a sigh. "Not yet. But on a positive note, from what I can tell, Cylo is considered dead. No word that he's been found by Imperial forces. But he was heavily involved in the elite scientific field, so there must be something to draw on, allies, manufacturers he's dealt with... I only wish I had the help of my colleagues in the Inspectorate, not to mention the equipment... It would be much faster if I were allowed some on-the-field investigation work myself, but as I'm confined here, it may take more time... Still, I'm confident I can find a lead eventually.

    "As for the archeologist's whereabouts, I do have some success. It took a good two days of grinding at the Axion memory banks of various DT-4 servers, but I've tracked her ship to the Cosma 5 refueling port on the Cosmatanic Steppes. I would have relayed the information to you sooner, but again, I've not been able to. Having no means to communicate and all."

    Vader turned his head slightly to look at Thanoth, perturbed at this less-than-subtle badgering. He wondered if the inspector was trying to rile his anger, to push him. But Vader faced forward again, walking steadily on, determined to appear unbothered. Thanoth made a hard blink and continued.

    "As for my other tasks, I've cleared the footage data as you ordered. All evidence in the Empire's files regarding the boy has been erased. It won't be traced to us. I've managed to link the deed to a recent Rebel-operated slicers group that has attempted to hack into the ISB before."

    Surprisingly welcome news, thought Vader... but it wasn't enough. "And what of the expansion of my resources?" he prodded.

    "Ah, yes... There is a vessel that I believe fits your specifications. Fresh from the industrial factory, in high demand. Your bounty hunters can see that it is... relocated, I'm sure. And I see opportunities among the Five Syndicates. We can comprise a plan on where to start. The Crimson Dawn is ideal, but would be too much to hope for at this stage. I suggest a smaller faction such as the Son-Tuul or Crymorah. We both have some experience in dealing with them."

    Vader processed the information, wanting to find something wrong with it. He couldn't. Thanoth had indeed been busy these last few days since the boy's recovery... There were many opportunities at the ready... But there was still more to check. Matters that were even more important.

    "What of the aftermath of the battle?" he began lowly. "What are the internal reports?"

    Thanoth regarded him with a tight, concentrated look. "I've done some digging... From what I can tell, I am reported as escaping arrest. Your status is in question. No sightings have reached the Emperor, no information has surfaced — only that the whale-ship you were aboard was last seen colliding into a sun. Tagge has only reported you missing. I'm sure it will take some time, or some very convincing evidence, before you're presumed dead, as you wish."

    Vader barely slighted. Of course Thanoth had figured that out by now. Since the battle with Cylo, Vader had retreated, had not contacted anyone; he had communications watched and probe droids and guards were on constant alert for any sightings or incoming signals. Vader himself had to appear as inactive as he could. But as Thanoth said, it would take time to convince the galaxy that he was dead. He couldn't risk returning to the Empire, not with Cylo and Aphra out there, and the boy finally here, and so much depending on how much Palpatine knew at this point...

    The Emperor... Vader truly did not know if he could be fooled. His master was adept at predictions and sensing stirrings in the Force, and even more adept at finding his presence. And Palpatine had been aboard the Executor, close to the battle at the time... Still, it was possible. Palpatine knew much, but he wasn't omniscient. Vader would make it difficult for him, refuse the dark connection between them, muddle the waters of the Force and distance himself from the Emperor. He was not foreign to doing such things. He could achieve it. He would achieve it.

    But there was the constant danger of not knowing, of needing to be prepared for anything, for news, for something to happen that would sink or solidify how he should proceed. Right now the road ahead was hazy. He needed to wait. And no matter what the Emperor knew... ultimately, all that mattered was that the boy stayed out of his reach.

    All Vader needed was time.

    The Dark Lord led Thanoth into a narrow hallway — the very one that contained the room where Thanoth had been imprisoned. He moved his gloved hand to the door's access panel.

    "I must ask, Lord Vader," Thanoth said suddenly, inching toward him, his bald head nearly peeking over his shoulder. "Where does the boy fit into all of this?"

    Vader turned his helmeted head to him, his annoyance rebounding. Thanoth's dark eyes widened for a second, as if he was unsure whether to press for a reply. He sealed his lips, but he still met the Dark Lord's gaze, expecting an answer.

    Vader stiffly returned his attention to the access panel and pressed to enter. The metallic doors shifted open. They walked into the room. Before them was the energy barrier, still activated and still containing Vaneé, who immediately tried to rise, but only managed to scramble to his knees. The hooded man bent his head in shame as Vader approached.

    Not far from the barrier were the reflective, damaged bodies of Triple-Zero and Bee-Tee, their circuits littered on the floor.

    With the Force, Vader deactivated the glowing prison and the reddish energy was absorbed into the frame. Vaneé's binders unlocked and fell from his wrists. Slowly Vaneé rose.

    "My Lord, I—" he began meekly.

    Vader grabbed him by the neck.

    "Take the droids to be repaired," Vader barked, and he flung him to the wall. With a shrill gasp, Vaneé staggered and nodded hurriedly. He swerved out of the way.

    Vader made a swift turn to Thanoth, who made a jolt.

    "Go," Vader growled to him. His leather-covered hand pointed into the empty space where the barrier had been.

    Frown lines appeared from behind Thanoth's thick mustache, but he made a half-nod and slowly stepped forward to comply. Then he paused. His fingers lightly rapped the top of his cane. He didn't meet Vader's gaze as he spoke.

    "Lord Vader... we are working to usurp the Emperor. To create a warpath that will dismantle the galactic government as we know it. Precautions and secrecy is an issue I'm all too aware of, but... we are on the same side. You've been able to sense that I am trustworthy for some time, you must have... And the boy... I understand it will take some time to reform him. I have spent time with him, observed his behavior, and he is a reckless one indeed — though thankfully that recklessness doesn't seem to stem from arrogance. But his training must begin sooner rather than later. Shan't you take the necessary measures?"

    Vader's insides scalded. He didn't know what he detested more, that Thanoth was daring to advise him about the boy, or that he did it so carelessly. An image of the inspector writhing from a red blade in his chest burned in his mind. He rumbled inwardly, but his voice was subdued when he spoke. "Do not intend to enlighten me about things you know nothing about, inspector."

    "I don't. I know nothing at all," Thanoth said conversationally. "The Force, the Sith, the training involved... I have no answers for you regarding that certain dilemma, and I can only imagine the position you're in, Lord Vader. But letting him walk about so freely... that was a mistake. Even now, after what he's done, you let him. And, well... earning his trust that way just won't work. Earning his trust may not be the way to go about it at all. He is a Rebel, after all. A child. And sometimes children need to be made to learn."

    Vader stared hard at the old face. Thanoth hunched, seeming all too aware of the anger the mechanized man was holding back, as if he could hear his murderous thoughts. The corner of his eyes squirmed as he glanced at Vaneé, who was still ambling in the background, hastily picking up parts.

    Then without warning, Vader lifted a hand. Thanoth stumbled — his cane had flown into Vader's palm. In seconds it was snapped in two. The halves fell to the floor.

    "Concern yourself with your own work, inspector," Vader seethed out. "It is the only thing that is keeping you alive."

    Pressing a hand to his chest and regaining his balance, Thanoth eyed him, affronted, apprehensive. He chewed his upper lip.

    "Just so," he replied, and he limped quietly into the empty spot where he was immediately surrounded once again by the red-lit walls that shot back to life.
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    I echo Luke's confusion. He was left in freedom and then told his actions have consequneces [face_thinking]

    The motives and conflicts and interactions are very rivetingly played out! Your characterization of Vader continues to be fantastic! =D= That last line :eek: [face_worried]
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
    AzureAngel2 and Togruta like this.
  13. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Thanks, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. Yeah, Luke's confusion is definitely warranted. Though, he hasn't exactly been the smartest Skywalker by doing all this stuff while Vader's been away either...

    What about that last line?... [face_skull]

    Edit: Posting second half of chapter 3 here...

    Luke stood on the bridge, looking out. Nothing could be seen ahead or behind but darkness. There was the faintest glint from suspension cables and a few blinking lights of towers in the distance, but the view was overall a mist of darkness in every direction.

    He stared into it, transfixed. His thoughts buzzed in his head. He didn't know what had happened... When Vader had appeared as if from nowhere... Luke hadn't known what to do. He had felt caught standing there with Thanoth, yet he had also felt ready for whatever punishing thing was in store...

    Instead his father had glossed over it like it was nothing, like he was nothing. He wondered if the Dark Lord had been eavesdropping... It was almost as if he had expected to find Luke and Thanoth there...

    Luke didn't understand. Vader let him walk around, followed, but still able to wander, even try to escape if he truly wanted. And his father hadn't uttered anything when he left Luke with Vaneé. He seemed keen on leaving without a word. It was like Luke was a ghost...

    What was Vader doing? What did he want? Did he really not care that he'd helped Thanoth? He had to have figured out Luke was responsible... Was Vader ignoring him just to show how insignificant he was? Or was he trying to keep him uneasy, still thinking Luke was a traitor for brandishing that remote? Luke didn't know which of these possibilities was more infuriating.

    And Thanoth... Vader's voice gloated in his head: He deceived you as well. So his father hadn't been lying... Thanoth had known all along that he was Vader's son. He had lied to him about finding a message from Anakin Skywalker asking for help. Their whole venture to infiltrate Vader's ship, to rescue his father, it had just been a ruse...

    And I fell for it, Luke thought. His fingers squeezed the steel bar of the handrail, his knuckles turning white. Why was I so stupid? Vader's adjutant, an Imperial, a total stranger who stole my lightsaber, who blackmailed me — why did I believe him?

    He was still angry at Thanoth. He still wanted to land a punch in that old, calm face of his... But when that towering black figure had appeared from the other side, coming toward them, Luke couldn't help but feel dread for Thanoth. He had more or less forced him out of his imprisonment, and whatever Vader did to Thanoth would be his fault. He could very well see Vader punishing the old inspector as a result of what he'd done. Despite everything, Luke didn't want to see Thanoth die, least of all because of something he did.

    Luke let out a hard breath, leaning more on the rail. He felt restless, almost senseless. He straightened, crossed his arms, looked away from the black emptiness to the metallic deck of the bridge. He was so dazed that he made a start when he heard a faint sound behind him.

    He looked around anxiously, and at the other end of the bridge appeared the stout form of Artoo. His blue-and-silver dome twirled as he rolled over towards Luke.

    "Artoo..." He couldn't help but feel uplifted seeing the little droid. Artoo had been with him through so much, from Tatooine to the Death Star and everything after... Perhaps he hadn't been so 'conditioned' that his former self was gone, Luke thought. As technically improbable as it seemed, he wanted to grasp some hope that perhaps the fiery, friendly droid was still in there. And more than anything, Luke wished to talk to someone, to see a familiar face. Someone he could actually trust.

    "Artoo... you know me," he said lightly. He cracked a smile and lifted a hand to place on the round head. "I know you do, buddy. It's me, Luke."

    The little droid made a bland bleep, like a transceiver signal going off. Similar bleep sounds followed. The language was so monotone Luke almost couldn't make sense of it, but he was sure he picked up the words 'low power' and 'location'. Artoo was asking where to find a power hub to recharge. Luke just stared at him, and after getting no response, Artoo wheeled away. Luke watched him, crestfallen, seeing that the once-spirited droid was now reduced to a hovering drone.

    Suddenly a chill fell over him. Luke tensed and spun around, aware of another presence. One that approached like a cold, black flame.

    Vader slowly made his way forward, his steps softly thudding the deck. The boy stood in the middle of the elongated bridge as if frozen in place. Vader went to him without haste, his fury still mulling in his blood.

    He had walked for a while after dealing with Thanoth, wanting to collect himself before he dealt with the boy. He had sensed he would still be here, standing on the bridge, still stunned and flustered. Still waiting to face him.

    The boy... there were many reasons to despise and mistrust him. He tried to remind himself that there were just as many reasons as to not — but his anger bore down on those thoughts and they dissolved. This boy had no idea what was happening, the work being done to build upon Vader's plans, plans for power and conquest that were unraveling by the day, plans that had everything to do with this boy... his future... their future...

    He is a Rebel, after all. A child. Thanoth's words invaded his thoughts. Swiftly Vader forced them out of his mind with a vengeance.

    The boy... he had to be warned. He had to understand the position he was in, see that what he'd done was pointless, and then Vader would let it pass. It was against his better judgement, against his own instincts that roared this was a foolish move and a sign of weakness and that he would regret it. Vader tried to quell those feelings, to ground himself on this decision. His decision.

    The boy had saved his life. He would not reinforce his enmity; it would achieve nothing. They were not enemies.

    A warning. If that didn't get the message through to him...

    Vader came to a stop. The boy set his gaze on him and stood upright, grave and ready, an eagerness about him. The muscles on his neck flexed as he tried to hide his apprehension.

    "What... happened?" his son said in a clear, but uneasy voice. "Where's... Thanoth?"

    Vader watched him, his mouth hardening behind the mask. Sheer, unassuming naivety. The boy's first question was not about what would befall him, but what had become of Thanoth. And after the inspector had just admitted to deceiving him...

    The boy's gaze dropped. He took in a breath as if suddenly exhausted. His voice was faint. "Look, I wasn't trying to... I just happened to find him, and—"

    "You aided my prisoner," Vader interrupted in a deadening tone. "Assaulted my assistant. Damaged my droids. Did you think I would not find out?"

    The boy looked at him, abashed, as if hearing his actions put to words was alarming. But his features tightened and he shook his head. "He's your adjutant. He's on your side. You had to know he couldn't go on like that..." He nearly added the details of how Thanoth's wounds had been infected, how the old man had been so weak he nearly passed out on the way to the medics, but Luke stopped himself.

    "His condition is no concern of yours," Vader rumbled.

    The young eyes narrowed. "I made it my concern."

    "Indeed. Blindness begets foolishness. Even after you see that he lied to you, you defend him."

    "I'm not defending—"

    "But if you presumed that you could disrupt my operations on a whim, you were mistaken."

    Vader moved, and the boy nearly jumped, his arms held out readily, but the Dark Lord merely stepped aside. He proceeded forward and stopped when he was almost shoulder-to-shoulder with the boy, who kept still.

    "Perhaps you have forgotten what I told you only hours ago," Vader whispered. "This is my fortress. My world. Remember that, young one, and remember to tread carefully, for I will not let such things pass next time. You are not immune to consequences."

    The boy's blue eyes shifted. Resentment and worry worked on his face. Vader then veered away and walked forth to pass him across the bridge, much the same as he did when had left with Thanoth.

    He felt the boy fume. Suddenly he heard his nervily-pitched voice shout behind him, "I don't care about consequences!"

    Vader marched on with indifference. He felt the boy's anger spike at the gesture.

    "Walking off again?" he spat. "There's a surprise."

    The Dark Lord walked on, slower. Anger clashed with his urge to be dispassioned, the temptation to lash back at the boy. He was being more than generous, choosing to turn a blind eye like this, and the youth had the nerve to instigate him...

    But Vader kept walking. As with Thanoth, he would give the boy nothing. Answering him, being provoked by words, that was what he wanted. So he said nothing.

    But he heard the boy's light steps follow him, and heard his voice again, nearly screeching.

    "What did you think would happen when you brought me here?"

    The Dark Lord held his silence, frustration spurring in him.

    "You make me fight you," the boy exclaimed. "Then you just leave without a word, let me wander around, then act like what I did was nothing, and now you're telling me there are consequences? Consequences for what? Damaging torture droids and helping an injured old man?"

    Vader stopped. His voice was a razing undertone. "Enough."

    He felt the young man stare at him, felt the disarray of his emotions, blind resentment, morose confusion, all roiling within him. His bright presence flickered and flared. It reached Vader so freely, so easily, that he felt his own emotions change, his bitterness still intense, but now meshing with a different dark inclination: his wish to turn the boy.

    He felt compelled to read him more, curious to see the depths of his distress... Meticulously, he reached through the Force to brush the boy's mind...

    But the silence was suddenly broken, as was his concentration; there was an electronic whistle. Vader swerved around and saw the boy's droid sliding in from the other side, seeming automatic and oblivious to them. The boy shot an awkward glance at Vader before approaching the small astromech. He stood in its path and silently tried to shoo it away.

    Vader watched, his eyes fixed on the sight of the boy and the all-too-familiar R2-unit...

    Images of another time resurfaced, awakened from the inertia of his memory: a different gloved hand, touching the top of that dome...

    Disdain welled through Vader. He pushed the memory back, out of his focus. A distraction, a pointless reminder. This droid — that was all it was. And he had kept it around — for the boy's sake... The boy, who himself was but another reminder...

    Vader felt the dark side course through him with ease.

    Children need to be made to learn.

    "No, Artoo," the young one hissed. He pushed at the silver-topped head of the droid. "Go back, just go back the way you came..."

    It twittered and bleeped, but it didn't budge.

    Then suddenly the droid let out a high-pitched squeal. The light of the droid's receptor flashed and its head swerved. The droid had started to levitate.

    "Wha..." The boy backed away, awestruck as the droid continued to float in the air, as if suddenly weightless. He looked at the Dark Lord, who's hand was raised, his fingers jutted out in a clear Force-hold.

    "W-what are you—" the boy started, raising his voice.

    The Dark Lord's fingers spread out. With that, the droid was sent flying over the sides of the bridge.

    "Artoo!" White-faced, the boy sprinted to the side rails and leaned over, compulsively reaching out a hand. The droid plummeted, its electronic scream trailing and echoing as it disappeared into the shadowy depths below.

    The boy stared into the darkness for several seconds. The droid's echo ceased.

    Vader relaxed his hand. He turned back around and continued his walk. But he had not made his fourth step before he heard the youth again.

    "You can't... You can't do that! You can't just...!"

    Vader whipped around, his cape lashing from the motion. He held the boy's demanding gaze, studied his livid face, felt the wave of outrage flowing from him. It magnified Vader's own cold fury, interlaced with his impatience.

    He rose a hand. The boy parted his lips, but he winced before he could let out a word. His upper body wavered for a moment, then his feet left the bridge floor. His whole body was soon suspended in midair.

    Stricken, the boy tried helplessly to move, waving his arms and legs to fight the unseen energy that held him aloft. His eyes scornfully targeted the Dark Lord.

    "We both know you won't kill me," he said, gritting his teeth. "Just put me down! This is pointless and you know it! So just... put me down!"

    He was pulled away. He floated over the side rail, over the edge, above the darkness. The youth looked down into the vastness beneath him, horrorstruck, then met the gaze of the Dark Lord. The black mask stared at him, its dark-red lenses blank, the leather-clad arm stretched out.

    "Very well," the Dark Lord said simply. He twitched his fingers.

    The pupils in the blue eyes shrunk.

    The boy fell.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  14. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    ARTOO! :(:eek:


    Tapping out. My emotions can't deal with any more. [face_hypnotized]
  15. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    lol. ESB must be unwatchable for you, @Ridley Solo. Hey, at least Luke's still got both hands.
  16. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2010
    Of course ESB is didn't involve the loss of R2. :_|
  17. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Well, it's been a while, but here's the next part to this (most literal) cliffhanger. Enjoy!

    Chapter 4​

    No, no, no, no—

    Heat struck at Luke's face as he was engulfed in the black abyss, his body stiff with fear. He was lightheaded, too choked with shock to scream. His brain was sputtering prompts to him — stop, grab something, do something — but the chasm was wide, pitch-black, and there was nothing to stop his descent. The air grew hotter and heavier the further he fell.

    The descent seemed to last forever, but gradually the darkness subsided. A blue-violet light radiated beneath him. It grew bigger, at first looking like an eye of light, than turning larger, until it was like an otherworldly portal that awaited him. Luke's tearing eyes widened, then squinted as he fell closer to it.

    Use the Force! he thought frantically, and in the interval of seconds Luke tried to muster the power, to concentrate, to make himself stop in midair. But his focus slipped away. He saw the violet light expand until it was the size of a field.

    Luke cringed. The light grew more brilliant. It was so bright, burning like a supernova...

    His body seemed to buzz with an overwhelming heaviness, a thrum of noiseless sound seemed to pass through him. His weight seemed to be... resisting itself, to meet against some other force and ward off the pull that had brought him down.

    More and more Luke felt surrounded by an airy vibration, and soon it was so dense he felt the mass of energy below him like it was living, breathing thing. He felt himself... slowing down. Soon he found he was floating towards the light more than falling, held by an unexplained updraft.

    Luke was mystified. What was happening?...

    The Force... He was using the Force. It was kicking in, like it had so many times before when he was in extreme danger... He closed his eyes, trying to stay level-headed enough to hold it, to put effort into it. He barely felt like he had to try, it felt so easy...

    With almost delicate slowness, he glided closer to the purple energy below. He saw that he was right above the energy field, only a few meters away from it. He fidgeted, his limbs feeling oddly stuck. He could barely move.

    Luke exhaled. He looked around, desperate to see where the purple light ended. It stretched for a long, long way into the darkness, farther than he could see.

    Suddenly he heard a chiming, a mechanical ring... followed by a series of beeps. Luke's jaw dropped. Artoo was hovering over him, his rocket boosters flaring from his mechanical feet.

    "Artoo!" he cried, reaching out for him. "Artoo! Help me!"

    The little droid tweeted and then he descended towards him. He made a loud whistle and bobbed his metal head, which Luke took as 'Grab on'. When he was close enough, Luke wrapped his arms around the barrel-shaped droid, all but smothering him. He mustered all his upper body strength to hold on. He weighed the small astromech down considerably, but slowly, Artoo made an unsteady flight up.

    Heaving, Luke continued to hold on as tight as he could, his legs dangling as they flew. He tried to place a foot on the astromech's legs for support, but his foot slipped. The motion caused him to lose an inch of his hold on Artoo. Swallowing, Luke tried not to move again as they flew across, his insides squirming in a tug-of-war of dread and relief.

    "Artoo, we... we have to... We have to get to..." Luke didn't know how to finish that sentence. Get to where? Back up? Back where...

    Luke darted his eyes around. Now that he actually took in his surroundings, he saw things weren't quite as dark and empty as he'd thought. The more his eyes adjusted the more he saw they were in a vast area. He caught shapes in the darkness. The energy field in the chasm reflected on surfaces, blue-violet glimmers catching metalwork.

    Then he spotted the black outlines of a scaffolding several feet away, connecting to a larger structure.

    "Over there," he called to Artoo, pointing to it. "Can you get to it?"

    The droid headed towards the scaffolding. They reached the metal base of the walkway. Luke let go and shakily stepped off after Artoo landed.

    Short of breath, Luke uneasily adjusted himself to the solid plank, to the feeling of something under his feet. He gripped the suspension poles and overlooked the vast view.

    The space was heavily fogged but he could see it was wide, crowded with large industrial-sized machines that were stacked in the murky glow. There were cool hues of bluish smoke. Engines growled nearby, inducting, compressing, piped with huge cords and pumps.

    This seemed like some kind of underground factory, he thought. Luke's nostrils winced at the smell, which reeked of something worse than brimstone. He looked back into the shaft, at the purple energy field.

    Artoo slid over to his side. His gem-like receptor flashed and he sounded a soft, tuneful bleep. Luke lifted his hand to touch the dome, wanting to say thank you, but his hand passed over the droid and fell. He still felt too shaken to form even the simplest words of gratitude. Instead Luke made a semblance of a smile and gave Artoo a nod.

    He looked back at the blue-violet energy, welling down like an electric waterfall. Studying it more, he noticed it was coming from a crevice in the walls, a large square vent... Now Luke understood: it was a hyper antigravity lock. He'd heard of these before, used in construction to keep large structures grounded or afloat. The artificial gravity stabilized it, this one's power was predominated down. The other pulse was weaker, but still made a potent push upward...

    Enough to cushion a person's fall to what would otherwise be certain death, apparently.

    It made sense now why he'd been caught just above the energy field. A building the size of the castle, sitting on terrain where volcanic eruptions were common... it had to require some kind of countermeasure to protect it. This was it.

    The pressure in Luke's heart lightened, free from the momentary confusion of the mesmerizing danger — but it was simultaneously hit with another, more sobering truth. Not only had he not successfully used the Force to save himself... but neither had Vader.

    He dropped me.

    Vader... he had actually, actively thrown him off that bridge. Like he was disposable...

    Luke's heart caved in. He had thought... He had felt so sure that his father wouldn't...

    I don't care about consequences! He remembered what he'd told his father; he could only take this as the Dark Lord's response... but he couldn't believe it.

    "He... let me fall," he uttered, the air stilling in his lungs. "He let me fall..."

    The realization enwrapped him, surrounded him like jarring laughter. His thoughts were scattered, trying to make sense of it... trying to fight his want to make sense of it, to find reasons why...

    He had fallen... but he hadn't died. Had his father known the gravitational pulse would catch him? Or had he plunged Luke down here, not caring how he fared, or if he lived? How could he possibly react to that? How did Vader expect him to?

    Luke looked sideways at Artoo. His mouth rippled, then slowly quivered into a scowl. He clenched his fist.

    He couldn't stay here.

    It was time to escape this place. Time to leave Mustafar.

    Luke sighed. He drank in the air and felt the foul heat, and wiped a hand across his moist brow. First thing's first, I have to get out of this blasted place.

    He walked across the long scaffolding, overlooking the raucous, steel-warped view. At the end of the walkway, a set of steel perches ran down, connecting to a large machine. He carefully gripped them and slid down. He landed on the flat top component of the machine, its throttling imbalancing him a moment, and he leapt off. His boots met the concrete ground. Artoo soon rocket-glided after him.

    They made their way to a bare spot away from the gargantuan equipment. Luke searched the farthest reaches until he caught a glint of light. He saw there were illuminated rods aligned in the distance, suggesting a possible exit.

    "Come on," he said to Artoo, waving towards it and coughing as smoke blew in his face.

    They traversed past the alley of machines, making their way over the few pipes and tubes that were in their way. At last they reached the path of lights. The rancid smell and the noise of the running engines died out as they walked.

    Then Luke saw a large hovel bearing a door and access panel. He approached the door and it automatically shifted open.

    Before them was a dark corridor. Glow panels gleamed on the ceiling.

    Luke ignited his lightsaber to see. As he walked through the hall, he saw a few empty cells to the sides, all with transparent windows that revealed white confinement bunks; like something for an asylum, Luke thought with a grimace.

    Then Luke froze — a tall black shadow rose on the stone floor. He slowed his footsteps and his thumb crept over his lightsaber's button, turning it off. Darkness showered over him. The shadow was still visible. Then it receded. The figure was walking away.

    Moving in slow motion, Luke came to the corner and leaned against the wall. He inched closer, then peeked to the other side.

    He held his breath as he recognized the flowing red garb and hood-shaped helmet of an Imperial Guard. The guard strolled down the hall, clasping a staff-like weapon. Thankfully he wasn't looking Luke's way; he turned a corner and disappeared. Luke took a step back, quickly browsing around to find a different passage. A hallway opened further ahead. Luke glanced back at Artoo, who nodded at him.

    Seeing no guards, Luke drifted into the hall. He looked behind him several times, keeping as quiet as he could. He searched, listened hard, straining to see any shadows move or hear any footsteps. The hall shaped into a wider area that split into two aisles. One had a guard standing at the end. The other offered a stairway that led down. Luke frowned; going further into these depths was probably counter-intuitive to escaping this place... Then again, maybe it was a better alternative, sneaking below the castle instead of daring to go back up, where Vader was...

    Looking to see if the guard noticed him, Luke carefully went down the stairs.

    They led to a dark and dry dwelling. The walls were made of stone and the only lights emitted from small grey shards on the walls. The passage was long and contained more empty, transparent cells. Minutes crawled by as Luke found his way through one dark, airless area after another. Artoo straggled behind him, keeping close and quiet.

    Finally they ended up at another door. Luke looked around again to check the area. He quietly tapped the button and the hatches parted.

    Inside was a well-lit room. Exhaust pipes dipped from the ceiling. Computer equipment was installed in the corner, as well as a transmission's pedestal. Not wanting to linger, Luke went straight to the next door up ahead and pressed the access panel. There was a tinkering beep; the entry was locked. A passcode screen blinked to the side.

    He sighed and glanced at Artoo. "Can you override it?" he whispered.

    Artoo made a whine, but forwarded over toward the gadget. His receptor scanned the device.

    Antsy, Luke looked left to right, and then he suddenly blanked. He felt something — another presence, suddenly become known to him. His hand lazed to his hip and he gripped the lightsaber

    "Don't move."

    Luke froze. Artoo zoomed away from the door and chirped in alarm.

    The voice behind him was a deep monotone. "Put your hands above your head. Now."

    Luke swerved, instinctively dodged as a sharp motion blew close to him and a buzzing came to his ears. He scrambled away, distanced himself, and ignited his lightsaber. He faced his assailant: an Imperial Guard, towering, red-robed, and brandishing an electrostaff. The purple bolts teemed from both ends of the poled weapon.

    Luke knew electrostaffs weren't as powerful as lightsabers, but they could still hold up against them, and could send electric charges capable of frying the gizzards of a full-grown bantha. The guard made a series of aggressive jabs at him, ready to prod him with the forks of light. Luke blocked, scurried, was shoved back. He ran heedlessly into the transmitter pedestal, nearly tripping on it.

    The guard hit the edge of the circular plinth. Sparks shot at the base. Luke backed and made a clumsy stab with his blade. The crimson warrior shifted warily. He twirled his staff, jabbed again, aiming at Luke's arm. Again Luke dodged, his skin prickling with warmth as the tip of the staff just barely missed him.

    He moved away and the guard pursued. Luke waved the saber at him and the guard stepped back. Unable to find a way past him, Luke turned and ran. He slammed his hand on the access of the door and slipped through.

    When he reentered the hall he turned left, and came into another corridor. He froze. To his horror he saw another red-cloaked figure coming from the other side. He turned and, to his relief, saw a turbolift on the other side.

    Then the other guard appeared, blocking the turbolift. Both Imperial Guards warded off both sides of the hall, closing him in.

    Luke swallowed, his feet feeling cemented, panic binding every bone in his body. He looked back to see Artoo, but there was no sign of him. The sound of his heartbeat thundered in his ears. He scanned around, dizzy and desperate as the watchmen began to enclose him.

    There was nothing to do but fight them, Luke decided. He enclosed his fingers around his lightsaber.

    "You're escaping."

    The voice came from along the right center. Behind one of the see-through cells there sat a blond, pale-faced young woman. She was fitted with weighty restraints that fastened around her wrists in giant bulks.

    Luke stared. "You..."

    "Let me out," she said calmly, lifting her head. "And I'll help you fight them."
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Super duper post, as we (with Luke) wonder if Vader let him fall or if he knew there was a mechanism that would stop his fall. Looks like Luke has found an ally in escaping. [face_thinking]
    AzureAngel2 and Togruta like this.
  19. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Thanks, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. Lots of "maybe, maybe nots" in this chapter it seems...

    Next part coming soon. [face_coffee]
  20. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Force Ghost star 4

    Oct 30, 2010
    Like I said, soon. Part 2 of chapter 4...

    Luke's face scrunched up as he took in what he'd just heard. "What?"

    "Use your lightsaber, cut through," she pressed, bending her head towards the see-through wall. "Hurry, it won't be long before the terror droids come."

    "Terror droids?" Luke gawked at the lightsaber in his hand, at the approaching guardsmen, and at her. His mind went numb.

    Then he was aware of something swooping over him. A searing sound came from behind. A force-pike. It passed over him as he jerked away, the vibro-bladed end glowing like a blue bulb.

    Luke swerved and rotated. He waved his saber madly, trying to shield himself in a pocket of frantic blue light. But one guard broke through, catching his saber with his purple staff. He then delivered an uppercut with his gauntlet fist right into Luke's jaw. The other sentry lunged forth and administered a volt to Luke's back. An excruciating pain ran through his spleen. Luke staggered and smashed against the wall.

    He groaned, then spun out of the way just as the electrostaff came down. Its electric tip grazed his arm. Luke grunted and glared at the crimson-clad soldier. He brandished his saber again, recklessly, haphazardly swinging, wanting to slice through the towering crimson figures. He tried to meet their movements, but he felt lost in the flurry of their speed, his pain, and the viciousness that rose in him.

    One guard stepped aside to aim at him, the staff spitting and buzzing in motion. The other guard reached out, and before Luke knew he had snatched his arm. Luke felt his lightsaber sliding from his hand — no, not sliding, being yanked. Luke could do nothing as the guard grasped the hilt away.

    Luke ducked and flung himself to the right, and felt his arm miraculously pull free from the other's hold, but the guard had the lightsaber. Spits of light shot as the blade was brought down, aiming for Luke's hall, but only hit the wall, scarring and hissing, like acid eating metal.

    Luke turned. The guard waved the saber, and to Luke's further resentment, he rolled and trailed the blue blade in a careless, playful display. The other guardsman was still and now stood observing like an interested bystander.

    Luke felt a heat in his blood. The watchman readied to swing the saber.

    Then Luke heard the mechanical swish of a door opening. He turned again — and he saw Aiolin Astarte.

    She stood in the now-open cell door, hunching and stone-faced. The locking device at the side was now sliced in the middle. Luke only momentarily gawked before he noticed the lock device on the door: it had the same burnt slashes as the nearby walls, a result of all the plasma-based weapon-swinging. It had gone unnoticed in the spur of all the fighting.

    The red-robed sentries noticed Aiolin as well. The one with the lightsaber rose it toward her.

    Aiolin stepped away and readily held out her arms. In a blink the mechanism that had bound her wrists was sliced in half. She had set it right in the path of the guard's downward strike. She then forced the remaining bulk of the mechanism across the guard's visor, grabbed his weapon, then thrust the electrostaff into his helmeted head. He gasped as lethal volts ran through the metal headgear. He collapsed.

    Luke stared as Aiolin turned around, electrostaff in hand — her only hand, Luke noted, as the other arm bore only a singed wrist — he remembered Vader had cleaved the other off.

    The other guard rushed toward her. Aiolin pointed at him and a ray of yellow beamed from a folded plate on her forearm. He dodged it. They then engaged in staff-and-saber combat, both striking, slashing, trying to shove the other off in a struggle made of multi-colored flashes.

    She suddenly shot at both his hands, and both the force-pike and lightsaber were flung away. She shock-pierced him in the chest and he fell.

    Luke watched speechlessly for a moment; then his survival senses snapped awake. He centered on what was happening. This girl... she was one of Cylo's agents... and she had just killed two guards. He could be next.

    Luke made a dash. He dove and grabbed the lightsaber off the floor. He ignited it.

    Then he felt a large hand grab hold of his leg. The fallen guard was pulling him. Before Luke could react he felt a hot sting in his knee, held in place by the vibroblade in the guard's grip.

    Luke shrieked and crashed down to the floor. He blindly rose his saber to stab at his attacker — then suddenly the hot flood of pain stopped. He blinked hard and saw the scarlet form lying still at his feet. Aiolin's purple staff dug into his back.

    Bewildered and breathless where he lay, Luke just stared at her, completely floundered.

    "Terror droids," Aiolin said, pointing. She lifted her weapon and kicked at the guard's body, which rolled over. Luke feebly pushed himself to stand. He looked to where she was pointing.

    A flock of black-plated, spider-shaped droids were striding towards them. They stoodt at least six feet tall each, their midsections glowing with orange shooting scopes. They were priming to fire.

    A laser shot their way. Aiolin twirled the purple electrostaff and blocked it. More shots came, and Luke tried to meet them. He stumbled, but managed to bat a few shots away.

    "If you give me your lightsaber," Aiolin said, holding out her hand, "I can easily destroy—"

    "I don't think so," Luke growled, reflexively holding the silver hilt away.

    The droids continued, clambering towards them in unison, unstopped as their sharp spindly legs crawled on. Luke exhaled, seeing a formation of more droids behind them.

    "There's too many," he shouted through the tumult of blasterfire. "We have to get out of here!"

    Aiolin ignored him and ran up to the first line of droids, zigzagging around the fire until she struck one droid with the electrostaff. Its appendage burst out of its socket and caught on fire. Aiolin made an unprecedented limp as another laser scored past.

    Luke looked down the other side of the hall. To his great surprise, he saw Artoo, waddling before the now-accessible turbolift. He was chirping and beckoning to Luke.

    "That way!" he yelled as another red streak hit the pavement in front of him. "There's no where else to go!"

    "They're only droids," said Aiolin vehemently. "And they're slow."

    "There's dozens of them, and they're slow to destroy," Luke retorted. "Come on!"

    Aiolin made a hiss between her teeth. She paused, pressing her stubbed wrist to her chest while the other hand deflected another shot.

    "Yes," she conceded. "No point wasting time here."

    With that she turned. They both ran, Aiolin waving her weapon at the ongoing fire as Luke leapt over the bodies of the two Imperial Guards, blindly flailing his saber as the tracks of laserfire stalked them. Smoke clouded the hallway.

    Finally they reached the lift. The doors were still closed. Artoo rotated his spherical head, bleeping erratically.

    "Artoo, what're you doing? Open it!" Luke huffed. He bashed his palm on the access button. Nothing happened. A red light flashed on the panel.

    "They've locked it down," Aiolin shouted, still deflecting more shots. She let out a hard breath and her footing slipped. A laser hit her shoulder and she grunted. Luke could see the effort to keep fighting was starting to take a toll on her.

    "Cut through with your—" she began.

    Luke forced his azure blade into the doors before she could finish. He flinched as a beam shot from behind, nearly hitting his fingers as he pushed the super-heated sword through to make a hole. Finally the plating yielded and he kicked it down.

    The plate fell into a black pit. There was no lift on the other side, only a thick set of hoist cables set up in a dark shaft.

    "Just — get in! Use your thrusters!" he said to Artoo, and he pushed him inside. The droid wailed and dropped like a rock. Luke's heart stopped — but soon Artoo had appeared again, and he was floating in the darkness. He moved closer to Luke.

    "I — yeah! That's it," Luke said hurriedly, seeing what he was trying to do. He reached out to touch the little droid. "That's it, get close enough so I can grab hold—"

    He couldn't finish. Aiolin suddenly pushed him aside. She plowed past him and jumped through the opening in a straight dive.

    Luke's jaw fell as he saw her plummet down into the darkness... Then he saw her flying upwards, her heels emitting yellow flares. She skyrocketed past Artoo, who spun in place as she sped through him, and drifted inches away — enough so that Luke couldn't reach him.

    "Oh come on!" Luke cried. He glanced back at the terror droids, and he instinctively blocked a laser with a lightsaber wave, then looked dubiously into the dark shaft. Artoo, still disoriented, continued to helplessly float away. Scorch marks were beginning to blacken the floor. The formation of droids was marching closer.

    Luke turned off his saber and jumped through the opening. Arms held out haplessly, he found himself thudding against the large set of hoist cables. He grabbed them and held on for dear life. At once he started climbing as fast as humanly possible.

    Artoo fluttered near him, still wheeling around. He let out a mad, mangled bleep.

    "I know!" Luke said as the blasts continued below, missing him by inches and hitting the walls as he climbed up. "Look, don't' blame me. It wasn't my idea to let her out!"

    Artoo made a vanquished moan. Luke frowned and looked down, having traversed a good couple of feet from the opening now. He saw the metal legs of one of the droids caught in the threshold, scurrying idly in place, its whole body proving too wide to fit through.

    Luke looked up, expecting to see more blackness. To his surprise, he could still see the yellow of Aiolin's flares, not even far enough to become mere dots in the distance.

    Artoo, who had finally stopped spinning, came closer to him. Luke nodded and once again wrapped his arms around the astromech.

    "Well... all things considered," Luke said, looking up, then looking back down at the giant metallic legs that were still shuffling in place. "I'd say we owe her way more than she owes us."

    Artoo only made a crude and distorted growl in response.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
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  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Amazing action! Very well done too on a skills level too, I'm so used to Luke putting on a lightsaber dazzle ... :cool: but I have to remember where he is at training-wise [face_thinking] =D=
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  22. Starith

    Starith Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 5, 2020
    Hey, all. It's me, "Togruta", with a new username. Sorry it's been a while since my last update. What can I say, writing has just been difficult.

    But thankfully I seem to be getting back into it, and I got something done. So without further ado, here we go. [face_coffee]

    Chapter 5​

    Burning instruments shifted over the table where the bodies of the dark-silver droids lay. Their damaged parts were spread across a nearby counter, comprised of blackened framework and seared circuits.

    Vaneé stood behind the window outside the illuminated room, glumly overlooking the repairs as the AR-9 unit did its work, the tank-sized machine's multiple cranks putting the two murderous droids back together, like collecting pieces to a ransacked puzzle.

    Vaneé coughed; his throat still felt sore from his last meeting with his master. It was with a rasp that he had told the voice-activated machine to fix the droids, just as his master ordered. He felt it was imperative to make sure the order was fulfilled, so he stayed to see that it was, leaving nothing to chance.

    The Automated Repair unit estimated the droids would be fixed in approximately eighteen hours. These particular models had to be rewired and some parts had to be substituted, which would take time.

    Vaneé hoped the estimate wasn't accurate. A swift fix may help appease his master's anger at him for his recent failure. He recalled his accompanying the young man in black, guiding him and watching over him. It had been an easy enough task... at first. How could he have predicated such a turnaround, much less the danger the lad posed, that led to such a blunder on his part? Being bound in that confounded barrier... Vaneé was still embarrassed over the whole ordeal.

    Yet he felt no need to begrudge the young man. Surely his master would see that he got his punishment, yes... He did not like to make assumptions when his master was concerned, it was never wise, but by now he guessed the boy was either dead, or sorely wishing that he was.

    Regardless, he didn't know the fate of the boy... which had made his approaching his master all the more awkward. After staying with the droids maintenance for about an hour, Vaneé had been informed by an attendant about a certain matter, one concerning the boy, which he didn't quite know how to handle. So he had reluctantly gone to Lord Vader himself.

    His doors weren't locked. After they retracted to reveal the colorless room and Vaneé heard that coarse breath that confirmed his master's presence, he stepped inside.

    Vader had been in his circular meditation chamber, his dark form planted in his seat. He was staring through the half-open hatch, the clinical light of his private dome turning the black stone of his bare quarters grey. He stayed there, frozen, trancefully staring out into the hollow gloom.

    He was in a meditative state, Vaneé could tell. A heavy one. With soft steps, Vaneé neared the vault-like encasement and tried to address him.

    "My Lord. Apologies for disturbing you, but there is a matter that I must... run by you..." He fumbled for a moment, then added, "And I would report on the progress of the two droids. They shall be repaired shortly, master, very shortly, absolutely. The AR-9 is working nonstop."

    Vader paid no attention to him. The black-shelled head stayed turned. Vader seemed transfixed, peering at the contrasting shadows and scarce light through the dome's opening, completely immersed, as if he could see something active but unseen. Something happening elsewhere.

    Vaneé had a terrible feeling he was unwanted; stern silence like this was a telltale sign that his master was not in the mood for talk. Quietly, Vaneé had turned to leave.

    The gravel voice stopped him. "Your comm is open?"

    Vaneé turned and blinked. He had no communicator; he hadn't dared go back to retrieve it from the barrier room where the young man had disarmed him. He folded his hands. "I... shall make sure to get a communicator on my person as soon as possible, of course. You have been keeping your comm off as of late so I did not think it was of... utmost importance." He cleared his throat. "But, my Lord, if I could ask you... about this one small matter... it's about the boy..."

    The doors of the insulated pod opened fully, humming as the squared edges separated. The dark figure turned in his rotating chair. He rose and walked into the space of the room. He stood slightly off-center, not quite facing the hooded servant.

    Vaneé decided to get the question out of the way. "Master, I've received word from the tailer-droids. The new clothes for the young man are ready. I was, ah... unsure whether to validate it. Shall I cancel, or...?"

    Vader said nothing. He still seemed dazed, lost in his meditative musings. He stood blankly for a long moment, his breath distilling in and out several times. Then without preamble he looked straight at Vaneé, and said, "I must go."

    Vader moved around him and headed to the doors to leave. Vaneé pressed in his wrinkled lips and trailed after him. "Go, master? Where to?"

    The black-cloaked figure didn't turn. It glided across the room.

    "To make arrangements," he said. "I will contact you soon. Be ready." And Vader passed through the doors and melted into the darkness outside the threshold.

    "Stop complaining, will you?"

    The stubby droid was unsteady as he carried Luke, floating on with his rocket-boosters flaring under his feet. Artoo groaned

    "I know, I know, it's not easy," Luke replied with a sigh. "Just hang in there, okay?"

    Artoo veered his head and whined like a sulky bantha cub.

    Luke sighed again, and looked down into the black void of the elevator shaft, then up, which was just as hopelessly dark. It had been half an hour or so since they had lost the Terror Droids. The distance was impossible to judge, and as he and Artoo had slowly trailed their way up Luke hadn't seen any means to access the turbolift doors from the inside. He didn't even see any crawlspaces to slide into. No exits seemed within reach.

    But he did keep noticing that he and Artoo weren't the only ones trapped here. Above them, two tiny yellow lights lingered in the distance... and they weren't fading. If anything, they seemed to be getting closer. Or perhaps he and Artoo were getting closer to them.

    "Wonder what's holding her up?" he muttered.

    A couple of bleeps came out of Artoo.

    "Yes, I know her foot-jet things are literally holding her up, Artoo."

    A string of electronic chatter answered him, ended by a groan, and Luke frowned. "Come on, you've been carrying me all this time. Why are you complaining about it so much now?"

    The droid made a blunt buzz, then piped out a suggestion. Luke rolled his eyes.

    "Fine, fine. If it's easier for you, I'll climb."

    Artoo bobbed his head. He floated over toward the thick steel cable until Luke could grab it. Luke winced as he felt the pang in his shoulder, in his back, and especially in his knee where the Imperial Guard's vibroblade had struck him. He started climbing the cable like a rope, trying not to aggravate the injuries too much, and Artoo, now free from his extra weight, hovered lightly, whistling in delight.

    Luke managed a small grin. "You sure seem a lot more like yourself... But I thought... I thought they memory-wiped you..."

    The droid's bowl-shaped head shook back and forth, and he twirled around. He stopped, and on his back Luke saw some dents and missing plating that exposed an inner circuit board. The damage looked disconcerting, but Artoo made a chorus of satisfaction as he explained.

    "Repressor chip was damaged in the fall, huh? Lucky..." Luke made a mix between a chuckle and a scoff. "At least one good thing's come out of all this."

    Artoo suddenly quieted. He hovered until he was almost alongside Luke. He hummed.

    "No, don't wait for me, Artoo. I'm fine," Luke smiled. "Go scout up ahead. See if there's a way out of here. Just... try to avoid that cyborg lady."

    Artoo let out a scratchy affirmative. He floated up slightly, but then without warning his stout body made a tremble. Luke's forehead creased.

    "Artoo? What—"

    There was a sharp echo above. Luke jerked his head up and saw a barrage of movement: yellow flashes, a blur of blue... and then no more than thirty feet away from him and Artoo, he saw Aiolin. She was bounding downwards, her repulsor-jet flares sputtering.

    "Oh no." All Luke could do was watch as Aiolin struggled to direct herself to no avail, wobbling her arms and legs as she fell in shuddering bursts. The repulsors on her soles continued flaring erratically as if on the verge of snuffing out at any moment. She gravitated further down until he could see her scowling face up close.

    Luke panicked, feeling prone to help her, but also a sliver of uncertainty. She was out of reach, zooming out of control. What could he do?...

    The fiery propellants on her feet were now dying, their blaring sound reduced to a burning hiss. Furiously Aiolin nicked at her heels as if to knock them back to full power. Then suddenly the repulsors dimmed out. She fell in a violent drop.

    Luke's eyes enlarged. "G-Grab the line!"

    She then made an abrupt stop in midair, mere feet below Luke and Artoo. Her repulsors had fired up again, but they continued to fizzle. Aiolin shot him a harsh, teeth-gritting glare.

    "I... can't... climb." She propped up her black, handless wrist.

    Luke stared, then gnawed his inner lip. All he could manage was a feeble "Oh."

    He tried to think fast, and turned to Artoo. The eye-like receptor scrolled dubiously.

    "Artoo can hold you," Luke exclaimed. "Quick, grab a hold!"

    Aiolin regarded him, then Artoo. The young woman glared below into the fathomless depths, and again she kicked at her ankles. The flares only sputtered and let out sparks.

    "Fine," she conceded. She gestured to Artoo. "Come here then, astromech."

    The little droid didn't move.

    "Artoo." Luke's tone was a weary growl.

    Artoo complied and descended towards her. When he was at her level, Aiolin jumped on him, her fingers practically clawing at his dome. The flares on her soles extinguished and let out smoke as Aiolin leaned her torso on the droid's spherical form. She smashed her boot on one of Artoo's wires that jutted from his flat feet, making him buzz in annoyance. Artoo tilted, wiggled, and adjusted to her weight until she finally settled.

    Aiolin caught her breath. She had her head bowed and pressed to the dome.

    "Risky move," she uttered.

    Luke's nerves bunched up with an unwelcome foreboding.

    "Yeah, well... what's not risky right now?" he said back. He wished he had a more confident reply.

    He drew air in and out, and peered again into the glum, distant darkness above and below. Well, nothing else to do, he thought. He gripped the steel cable and resumed his climb, trying to shake off the unnerved feeling brought by Aiolin's presence. Artoo flew slowly at his pace as he carried her. It was quiet for a while.

    "You're injured," Aiolin suddenly commented.

    Luke eyed her, wondering if this was a thinly-disguised insult. "And so are you."

    "My cybernetic scopes detect it's at least three-hundred feet going up. Do you plan on actually making it all that way in your condition?"

    "I plan," Luke grunted, annoyed at her droid-like analytics, "on getting out of here, and I don't see any other options right now, do you?"

    She didn't say anything. Silence fell again. Stagnant minutes passed, the quietness accompanied only by the sounds of Artoo's motors running and Luke's panting as he all but dragged himself up. His muscles were starting to ache, and he felt blisters forming on his palms, to say nothing of the splitting pain in his back, knee, and shoulder. Luke blew his bangs out of his eyes, sweat sliding down his jaw. He kept climbing.

    He spared a glance at Aiolin. She was watching him like a carrion deathbird, her face more visible behind the curtains of whitish-blond hair. Burns and grime were on her face, her blue tunic, and the blue body suit she wore underneath. He noticed she still had the force-pike on her, now compacted into a deactivated handle that was secure on her belt.

    More minutes passed, and as her unflinching gaze stayed on him, Luke felt more unsettled. His mind rewound to when he first saw this girl, in the cave on Anthan 13: those bright icy eyes were the last thing he'd seen before he was knocked out. And then when he was imprisoned by Cylo, he remembered her looking at him like this. Idly, curiously, with that same stoic calmness.

    And another image flickered in his head: when she had attacked him in his stormtrooper disguise, her green lightsaber inches from his masked face, the kick to the ribs... Though he supposed it would be petty to hold a grudge for that. He knew he had just been caught in the middle of that battle, with her, her brother... and Vader...

    "Did he put you down here as well?"

    Aiolin's lips barely seemed to move as she spoke. Luke fidgeted, and felt his throat harden.

    "I thought so," Aiolin went on. "He wanted you in one piece... I suppose it was only so he could torture information out of you. How did you escape your cell?"

    Twisting his mouth, Luke fixed his attention on the entwined cable. He kept climbing, numbly, silently. Left hand, grab, hold, right hand, grab, hold. Keep moving. Momentarily, his left hand slipped and he slid a few inches; he grasped it again. His heart pelted against his chest.

    "I didn't... I wasn't put in a..." The words seemed to come out on their own. He huffed out, swallowed. "I wasn't a prisoner. Not... like you were. He... threw me off a bridge. I ended up here."

    Aiolin made a light blink. "I see."

    "What about you?" Luke asked quickly. "How'd you get imprisoned?"

    She raised her head. "Ironic that you would ask that... especially as it's because of me that you're here."

    Luke knitted his eyebrows. Artoo made some muddled, sarcastic noises.

    "Lord Vader didn't tell you," she assessed. "Of course... When you were outside Cylo's ship, when you were floating half-dead in space, I was the one who saved you. I had limited supplies on my ship, just an oxygen dispenser and a medkit, but I kept you alive until I took you to Mustafar. You, and my brother... There I made your father a deal: you, in exchange for fixing my brother and declaring a truce between us and him..." She bent her head down glumly. "He wasn't interested."

    Luke had stopped climbing. Her story was alarming. He had thought it was Vader who had retrieved him after he'd blacked out in space, that he alone had rescued him and taken him to Mustafar... Vader hadn't denied that he had. And between him and this girl, this follower of Cylo, who was Luke to believe?

    Vader had dropped him down here... Luke still couldn't stop wondering why. To meet his death? Surely that couldn't be it, this had to be some harsh punishment, a result of angering his father... after all that anti-gravity field had caught him...

    Or was Luke just trying to convince himself? He couldn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to.

    It doesn't matter, Luke thought bitterly, a tiredness seeping into his bones. I don't care why. I don't care if he lied, I don't care if she's lying, I don't care who saved me. He pressed his eyes shut, opened them again. They stung. I just want to get out of here!

    "I'm surprised," Aiolin said offhandedly. She rest her chin on the blue, shapely pattern atop Artoo's head. "You actually think you can escape."

    Luke shot her an incredulous look. Hadn't he just gotten her out of her cell? Even if it was inadvertently, just who was she to talk?

    "Though I'm less surprised you haven't noticed," she added, and she tapped the side of Artoo's head with a finger, "that I'm not the only one who's running low on power here."

    Luke stared; and his eyelids twitched as he studied Artoo. The astrodroid snorted, but his receptor avoided Luke. It was then that Luke realized the droid's rocket-boosters were weakening, much as Aiolin's had been. And then Luke suddenly remembered that Artoo had mentioned needing a recharge on the bridge, right before they both fell... and that had been at least an hour ago.

    What's more, Luke realized just why Artoo had been complaining about carrying him so much, why he suggested that Luke climb his way up instead... if he did lose power...

    "Artoo, you— why didn't you say something?" Luke's jaw fell, and he turned angrily to Aiolin. "And why didn't you? What's wrong with you?! You think now's the time to—"

    He stopped. A deep, shuffling noise resounded from below, like the sound of an incoming sub-train through a tunnel. The surrounding walls vibrated. Then Luke looked down and felt his stomach turn as he saw the roof of a turbolift ascending out of the darkness.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oooh, shocking revelations and a cliffhanger. Glad this story has resumed =D=
    AzureAngel2 and Starith like this.
  24. Starith

    Starith Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 5, 2020
    ^Thanks! Glad to be resuming. [face_coffee]
  25. Starith

    Starith Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 5, 2020
    Here's some more. Enjoy!

    "No — how—" Luke breathlessly looked at the rising lift and the unmoving cable in his hands. "It's not activated, how could it—"

    But his words were drowned out by the noise. The turbolift was racing at a high speed, and it was sure to reach them in seconds. The metallic roof became more visible as it came closer. Luke gaped at it, his nerves wringing. He felt glued to the line, incapable of movement.

    The thunderous sound got louder as the black depths became more obscured by the turbolift, the emptiness filling with it. Amid all the sound, Luke registered a wide-eyed Aiolin, who was trying to scream something to him. She bared her teeth and then made a fist, which she waved around like a wand. Luke understood, and his nerves unfroze. He snatched up his lightsaber, holding on to the hoist cable with one hand.

    The turbolift was ten feet away. Luke pressed the round button on the silver cylinder. Five feet away. The azure blade burst out of the hilt, its light cutting through the dark.

    Luke let go of the cable and landed on the flat roof. He wavered, the velocity of the fast-moving turbolift pushing him like a ton weight. He saw Aiolin also land, while Artoo thudded against the surface and flopped on his side. Luke tried to stabilize his footing, but found himself careening until he fell facedown on the roof's surface. It took several seconds for him to rise just enough to view upwards, and to his dread he saw the dead end of the shaft's ceiling just starting to become visible. Scrambling to his knees, he raised his arms and drove the lightsaber down into the roof.

    "Hurry!" he barely heard from Aiolin, who was holding onto Artoo and clenching her teeth.

    Luke pushed the plasma blade through the grey-steel slate. Embers flew past him like glowing dust. Soon he completed a hole and the metal chunk fell on the inside.

    "Get in!" Luke shouted, and he reached out to help Artoo, but Aiolin kicked at the droid and he toppled and rolled into the opening. She then crawled toward the hole herself and slipped inside. Luke extinguished the lightsaber and fell straight down after.

    He hit the floor hard, feeling the air getting knocked out of him. He groaned as he tried to sit up, his head pounding as he took in the brightness of the interior. Artoo lay across from him, still flipped on his side. Aiolin was pressing against the shut doors, slumped over.

    The turbolift made an abrupt, forceful stop. They all flew up, then were pummeled into the floor. The noise of the engines softened as the power drained. The lift had stopped.

    Luke cringed as he sat up. His limbs felt strangely squeezed together, his lungs heavy, his whole body disoriented by the sudden stillness.

    There was a soft ding. Metal doors opened before them. Artificial light ushered in.

    Aiolin was still sitting on the floor. Artoo was waddling to try to get back up.

    "We... we made it," Luke said quietly.

    He pulled himself to his feet, then he grabbed Artoo and set him upright. He briefly looked at Aiolin, who was moving to get up herself, albeit slowly.

    He stepped out of the lift and looked around carefully. Ahead was a dark, spacious hallway. The floor was marbelized, there were air filters overhead, and bars of blue light shone on the ceiling archways. It was definitely distinct from the stifling, stone-walled underlevels.

    Luke paused when he caught the polished glint of something to the side: there were figures standing against the walls. Luke nearly jumped before he realized they were completely still, standing in rows like statues, covered in black armor with red sashes across their chests, and holding axe-shaped staffs. The figures stood in identical fashion like antiquated suits of armor.

    "Never seen those in the castle before," Luke said warily. "Sure hope they're just for decoration..."

    Artoo inched to his side, his droid gibberish so low-pitched Luke could barely make it out, but he heard "Detect no life forms, no energy levels." Luke relaxed a little.

    On his other side Aiolin appeared, gripping the side of the lift and easing into the hall. She looked back and scanned the frame of the elevator. "Of course, a magnetized mode... The hoist cable system was just a fail-safe..."

    Luke nodded. He rubbed the sore spot on his shoulder, then took a nervous glimpse at her.

    "You all right?" he muttered, half-hoping she'd think he was solely talking to Artoo.

    Aiolin didn't say anything. She began walking down the shadowy hall. Luke followed her, keeping his distance. Artoo wheeled slowly after him. His mini-processor blinked and he made a sheepish hum to Luke. Luke frowned down at him.

    "You should've said something," he scolded him. The little droid twirled his head unapologetically and released odd, diluted tones. A precarious feeling squirmed in Luke. Artoo was on the verge of losing power... if he did, how could Luke get him out of here? An immobile droid was no lightweight... and Aiolin—

    "Thanks for waiting right until we almost got crushed to say something, by the way," he blurted out. "And what happened to that special cybernetic vision of yours? You could detect the shaft's height in detail, but you couldn't detect a turbolift was coming up a couple square feet right below us?"

    Aiolin looked back at him a moment, her face stern and taut, then she turned away.

    But Luke sped up and caught up to her. "Look, if something dangerous like that happens, you can't just leave us in the dark. You can't just ditch us. We both have the same goal, don't we? And you're hurt, you're low on power, I'm injured — we might as well work together."

    "In other words, you need me." Aiolin observed the path ahead, searching the dark passages. "Just like you used me for protection against the red guards and Terror Droids. I may still be of use, even like this. A distraction, a human shield... Yes, son of Vader, I understand the situation very well."

    Taken aback, Luke stared at her for a moment. He stammered. His voice scattered as he tried to form words. "No, th-that's... not..."

    Just then he noticed something up ahead: a hexagonal-shaped doorway with a large keypad. Luke brightened.

    "Look, over there!" he exclaimed, thankful for the distraction.

    Aiolin shook her head. "I doubt that's an exit. It looks too small to lead anywhere."

    "No, look..." Luke reached the door and pressed one of the panels, opening it. "It's a power hub. I'd recognize that door design anywhere. They were practically the only rooms that Vaneé guy would let me in when he was showing me around." Luke stepped inside. He scavenged around the small, dark space. "There's a bunch of power-units, and a generator! You two can recharge here."

    At this, Artoo immediately made his way into the room. Luke flashed a smile and grabbed a cord that was attached to a hefty device. It radiated a green light in the otherwise unlit room. He connected the cord into the droid's power socket. "Here you go, buddy. You should be good to go in fifteen minutes tops."

    Artoo's orb flickered and he made a grateful chirp.

    Aiolin, however, remained where she was, standing hunched in the hall. No expression surfaced on her pale face. Her eyes were deadening.

    Luke lifted an eyebrow. "Well...? You said you were low on power, didn't you? Can't you... I mean, aren't you... uh... compatible, with any of these?"

    "I am not a droid." Her tone was tolerant, as if this was something she had to clarify to others often, but it held a hint of indignity. "I have a secondary accumulatory cell that cycles indefinitely."

    Luke's cluelessness must have manifested all too clearly on his face, as Aiolin sighed and added, "An auto-recharger. It just needs time."

    "How much time? We can't just hang around here. They could be looking for us. I'm surprised no one's found us yet... If they reactivated the lift, they must've known where we were... You'd think they'd easily be able to locate us."

    "Yes. You'd think."

    "You think it could be a trap? Maybe—"

    Luke couldn't finish. Aiolin had shifted in place, and with that slight movement her legs suddenly gave away. She fell, her boots screeching against the floor. Astounded, Luke sprinted towards her, sunk down to his knees, and grasped her shoulder. He tried to hold her up. "Whoa, are you okay?"

    Aiolin breathed in as if concentrating hard. She drooped her blond head. "Don't pity me."

    Luke compressed his lips, and for a moment he hesitated. He didn't move. Part of him expected her to glare at him, to shrug him off, but she didn't move either. She just sat there, passive, eyes closed and ignoring Luke as if he was no longer there.

    Stupefied, Luke removed his hand, and to his relief she stayed sitting up. He really didn't know what to say, but he knew her words didn't resonate. He only felt anxious, and somehow guilty, seeing what a frail, weak state she was in. And he didn't know if it was Force-sense or not, but he picked up a crippling air surrounding her... her pain.

    She'd saved his life. Cylo's follower or not, what else could he do but help her?

    Aiolin's ice-blue eyes suddenly flew open, an alertness in them. She raised her chin and regarded him. "Son of Vader... I think you're right."

    Luke grimaced. "Can you stop calling me—"

    "I said, you're right," she repeated. "I should... recharge. Sooner rather than later. Take me there, to that room." She inhaled deeply. "I need my strength if I... want to free my brother."

    Luke screwed his face, but he did as she said, helping Aiolin to her feet and leading her toward the small room. So her brother was also imprisoned in this fortress... Luke couldn't pretend to be pleased about this; Morit had delighted in threatening and belittling him when he was Cylo's prisoner. It seemed a wonder he could even still be alive after having his arm and legs cut off by Vader, though Luke guessed that was the perk of having cybernetic limbs...

    They entered the power hub. Aiolin crouched near a large generator in the corner. She pulled a cord from it, spread her hair, and snapped the wire into the back of her neck. With that, circuit-shaped lines lit up underneath her skin, on her face, and on her hand.

    Luke watched her curiously. The lined patterns were almost like glowing constellations, he thought. He wondered what it must be like, living like this, being part machine, having metal embedded in your body, needing energy from a device in order to survive...

    Images flooded his mind: a massive dark figure frozen in place, rendered helpless by the push of a button...

    Luke bit the inside of his cheek. He tried to turn his mind off; he looked at Artoo, who was composed and quiet as he recharged. He looked at Aiolin, who looked restful, her eyes closed, her breathing evening out. Luke pried his gaze away from her. For some reason he felt angry.

    She just wants out of here, same as me, he told himself. We're fellow escapees. That doesn't make us friends.

    Luke looked into the semi-reflective silver of Artoo's dome. He placed his palm on it. And the last prisoner I tried to help in this place, the last person I thought was actually trustworthy, was Thanoth...

    Suddenly there was a thud outside the room. Luke bolted up, startled. There were many thuds... footsteps. He dashed to the doorway and looked across the dark corridor.

    There stood a formation of the black-armored figures, their axe-like weapons now glowing. They were marching straight towards them.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020