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 "Father." 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.