Title: Vader’s Shadow Author: Togruta Timeframe: OT (Post-ANH; takes place after the comic “Vader Down”) Characters: Luke, Vader, Thanoth, Artoo, various characters from the OT and Darth Vader comics Genre: Adventure, drama, AU Summary: Luke comes across a certain Imperial inspector who claims his father is alive... and claims to be Darth Vader's adjutant. While Luke searches for answers, Vader is pitted in a rivalry for his position in the Empire — but driven by his own secret ambitions, it's only a matter of time until his path crosses with young Skywalker... (FanFiction.Net link: here) Starting out with a sort of prologue to set things up; this fic is largely an AU of the Darth Vader comics, but if you haven't read them you should still get what's going on. Hopefully I wrote enough to make sense of everything... Anyway, hope you enjoy! — "I'm ready," said Luke. "Going into hyperspace in three... two..." He was just about to activate the hyperdrive of his X-Wing, awaiting the inescapable view of darkness phasing into traps of light. He exhaled, tightening his grip and tensing in his seat. Over the comm, however, a deep voice suddenly crackled through: "Don't even think about it, kid." Luke lifted his gloved hands off the controls, startled. "Risking your life, and for what? An oversized glowrod with a laser setting... And just when I thought you couldn't get more off-the-wall." Luke closed his eyes and sighed in disbelief. So much for his plan to leave without anyone noticing... "And guess what?" the voice continued dryly. "The Falcon's anchored on a gravity lock getting repaired, so I can't go and save your sorry hide for the umpteenth time. Swell timing, huh?" Han, back at the Rebel spaceport not far from Luke's floating starfighter, was no doubt frowning at him. "Now you listen: I don't care how mystical and magical that Jedi stuff is, it's not worth dyin' over. You hear me, Luke? You better hear me—" From his stationary canopy in the X-Wing, Artoo vocalized something. The droid's translated words appeared on the computer screen, and Luke held back a laugh. "Yeah, Artoo... I can almost see the lines on his forehead, too." "Luke," Han went on, in that I-know-better-than-you voice. "This is crazy. You're crazy." Luke half-grinned. "I think I'd be worried if you didn't think so, Han." The other man sounded like he was about to say something more heated, but another voice took over. "Luke — I'll tell you this only once: return to the port." Leia's tone was softer, but as usual it left no room for argument. "You're a lieutenant of the Rebel Alliance. You can't just sneak off without permission to go on your own mission just because it's personal for you. That's not how we do things in the Alliance." Luke's hands lifted from the controls slightly, then tightened, then loosened again. "...I'm sorry, Leia," he said, and he was. He wished he'd just kept his idea to go on this mission for himself, to himself. He had told them both that he wanted to go. They hadn't talked him out of it then, and they wouldn't now. Resisting the temptation to close the comms right then and there, he added, "But I'm not leaving my lightsaber on that rock. I'm not." Luke swallowed, remembering the moment of shock hours ago, when he'd realized that silvery hilt that always hung on his belt — his lightsaber, the Jedi weapon that Ben had entrusted to him, his father's heirloom... he, Luke, had lost it. And there was only one explanation: before they had all retreated from their previous battle, he had been captured by Imperial troopers. He'd boarded their shuttle, having been knocked out and only half-aware of what was going on. There had been so much chaos that day, starting with the aerial onslaughts — and the presence of Darth Vader... But the shuttle must have either been damaged or a substandard vessel, as it had suddenly broken down not far above the terrain. Miraculously, he'd survived the crash and escaped, apparently as the only survivor. In the midst of that and their swift takeoff from the dusty planet afterwards, Luke hadn't thought to check himself, like any sensible Rebel fighter would. To make sure the guards hadn't unarmed him when he was unconscious... Turns out, they had. "Whatever chance that it's still there, I'll take it," he declared over the comm, his thoughts charging him. "It's all I have left, Leia. And it's my responsibility to get it back." "Luke, this is ridiculous. I would expect this type of loner selfishness from Han..." The authority in Leia's voice was now dropping to something worse: disappointment. "...but not from you, Luke." At this, Luke felt an inevitable wave of shame. Leia was adept at brutal honesty. He could only imagine the look on Han's face right now. "Luke... I know that lightsaber means a lot to you," she went on patiently. "But Vrogas Vas will be under Imperial surveillance. It's the location of a former Rebel base. You can't risk—" "It's my risk, Leia—" Han's voice came through again. "Look, kid, you can't just go poking around in battle remains like it's a junkyard. That's just—" A series of spirited growls interrupted him. "What... what dy'a mean 'he's had worse odds'? Why you stupid, hairy heap of —" Leia cut in, "Luke, please. The Alliance needs you. You were there... you saw what happened over Vrogas Vas. We can't afford to lose a pilot like you, especially after—" "Well, if that doesn't tug at his heartstrings." Han couldn't have sounded more incredulous. "Yeah, Luke, our friend who's walking straight into the enemy—come back, okay? We don't have enough pilots." There was silence, and Luke was more than thankful to be as far away as he was. He also felt an echo of sadness, thinking of all the Rebels who had been mercilessly shot down over Vrogas Vas... And that had been before the Imperials knew of their base... Then Leia's voice came back, soft and level as ever. "Luke. If you're going to go through with this..." He heard her sigh, something she rarely did. "...You understand that if something happens... we can't send help. We can't come after you. We've suffered too much on Vrogas Vas already. We can't..." Her words trailed away, followed by a dull quietness. In his cockpit with nothing but the perpetual blackness of space before him, Luke now suddenly felt very alone. The low whirring of the X-Wing engines continued. Alone it is then, he thought, his hands steady on the control sticks. He couldn't back out now. After all, he had been up against worse odds. He wasn't helpless. He still had his blaster, his droid, his ship... And greatest of all, the Force. "Look... I understand. It's okay," he said, genuinely trying to assure her, Han, all of them. "Don't worry. I'll be back. I promise I'll be back." With that, he pushed at the controls and vanished from their scopes as he was swept into hyperspace.