Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Saga_Symphony, Feb 3, 2018.
This story keeps me on the edge of my seat, I really enjoy it.
Uh-oh....uh-oh! Gah, Vader's going to get Luke! YIPE! Wonder if he'll put up a fight? Wonder if we'll get the 'I am your father' moment in a whole new context?
OOOOH, is this is just so good!
When I read the latest update none of your doubts or troubles with your muse showed up in the text. At least not for me. It was packed with intrigue and action as usual.
^That's good to hear!
Thanks for your kind comments, everyone. I think the writer's block has morphed down some, and I've at least been able to get more done, so... here we go.
The twin suns were setting.
They blazed over the cloudless atmosphere of Tatooine, one yellow, one orange, casting over the desert. Vaporators perched like spindly towers among the stretches of sand. The gorges were overshadowed in the far distance, and there was no wind across the Jundland Wastes.
On the midpoint of a salt flat sat the modest homestead, a round, whitish dome settled in fading light.
Luke stood by it, leaned against the pourstone-made dwelling. He remembered how his uncle would often remind him that their home was handmade, built from the ground up by his father, that he had installed much of the machinery they still relied on, that he had been a hard-working man even after losing his ability to walk. He often told this to Luke, especially whenever his young nephew complained or put off his chores. It usually did the trick, motivating Luke to chin up and get his workload done.
But he remembered once, when he was eight or so and had heard this same old lecture one too many times, he'd said back to his uncle, "You tell me more about your father then you do about mine!"
Owen, strained after a long, backbreaking day, had looked angry for a moment. Then he just sighed, and said under his breath, thinking Luke couldn't hear, "That's the last thing you need."
Luke now looked at the binary sunset. The orange sun was now hidden beneath the horizon, its lighter counterpart not far behind. Luke stepped away, staying close to the homestead, and he walked around to the entrance. The front was still bare and sturdy, the open tunnelway leading to the inside, same as he remembered it. But he had a feeling that something was off here. Something was missing.
He heard a sound: a murmur... some kind of voice that seemed to loom over him, beneath him, waiting and watching Luke like an omnipresent cloud. He tried to pretend it wasn't there. Maybe it wasn't, really. Maybe the sound was just the vaporators, acting up again.
A robed figure approached him from the shadow of the homestead. Luke realized who it was, could see the white-bearded face beneath the pointed hood. Obi-Wan halted before him, and lifted the brown folds over his head.
"Luke," he said, his face the same kindly, composed one that Luke remembered, tanned and wrinkled — he looked so alive. Ben... here, no longer a ghostly voice in his head but a person, present and engaging with him. Luke took a step toward his friend.
Then he hesitated, and took a step back.
"Luke, you cannot stay here," Ben said, with a nudge of admonishment. "This place... is gone. They are gone. This is not real."
Luke stared at him. Then, slowly, he pried his gaze away.
"I... know," he said, but he felt unmoved. This was all an illusion of memories. He'd known this; but Ben, he sensed, was somehow real. He himself was real. He didn't feel the same level of consciousness, but he knew he was undeniably himself, both of them manifested in a way he didn't understand.
Luke continued to watch the view of the one remaining sun. He didn't want to talk to Ben. He didn't want to listen. Right now he was just a farmboy on a backwater planet, and all he wanted to do was watch the sunset, illusion or not.
"Luke," Ben said more sharply. "You must listen to me. This time, you must listen. I do not have much time, and you have only led yourself to greater danger by choosing this path, danger you cannot comprehend... You must survive this, Luke. You must escape!"
The young man spared him a sidelong glance. He said nothing. He darted his gaze back to the horizon.
"The dark side is closing in, ready to welcome you," Ben went on, a strain in his voice. "Soon I may not even be able to speak to you at all. Luke, you must wake up... and you must become a Jedi."
"Jedi..." Luke uttered the word like an afterthought.
"You must learn the ways of the Force. You must go—"
"Ben... My father... H e's..."
Silence. Ben said nothing, and Luke continued to look away. The desert evening was turning darker... Luke looked at the dwelling again; two burnt skeletons were now sprawled on the ground, surrounded by ash and debris. The roof was set with plumes of smoke.
Then suddenly darkness came in, so swift it was like a wave. It shrouded the homestead and engulfed it until it was gone. Then Luke and Ben were standing near a cluster of crumbled slabs and rocks: slanted remains of ancient walls, pillars, and Jedi monuments. The air was filled with yellow dust.
Luke felt a hand rest on his shoulder, and Ben's own presence reaching out to him, seeking to ease his many untold burdens.
Luke wanted to accept it, to find comfort from the friend he had so missed — but he faintly shook his head, a need building up within him to shield himself, to not listen to Ben. A man who's guidance he had relied on... Old Ben, spiriting him off the dirt-drudged Tatooine and taking him to a life of adventure in the stars... and giving him a reason to feel part of it all; the revelation of a father who had walked the same path, a Jedi Knight, one who died fighting the good fight.
That revelation had changed his life. Luke had always felt that he wasn't destined for the desolate life of a farmer... and with his aunt and uncle dead, there was nothing left but the dream to follow in his father's footsteps. He had wrapped himself in that dream like a garment — a treasure, proud and personal to him.
Now it was like the universe was laughing at him for ever having such a dream. It was stripped from him without warning, and in its place were illusions, followed by an unrelenting darkness.
And a truth he wanted to ignore.
"No, it... it can't be true!" The words trembled out of him, and Luke turned and faced his departed friend, unable to fight the shrillness in his voice. "He can't... Ben, he can't be..."
Ben's eyes seemed to dim. He removed his hand from Luke's shoulder and he drew back. His posture changed. He slouched, his face bearing a distant weariness.
"Your father... Anakin." Ben made a hollow sigh. "He is as dead as I said he was. He ceased to exist, long ago."
"No," Luke responded, recoiling, stung by the fact that he'd said it, stung by his own feelings that fought against his desperation. He paused, trying to muster the energy to keep pushing, keep fighting back what his own instincts told him, but there was nothing left in him. Nothing but the truth.
Then, hating the words as he spoke them, he said, "My father... Darth Vader... is alive."
Around them, the same thriving darkness that had swept up Tatooine approached, and absorbed the temple remains and the barren landscape. In their place, a steely medical lab appeared, with monitors and blinking lights on display. A collection of needles was piled on a counter.
Luke was no longer standing. He was lying on a table, restrained, his head tilted towards the lamplight.
"I feel it," the young man rasped, his face twisted in pain. "I... I feel..."
Ben looked at him, blue-grey eyes creased in concern, and he took a step towards him, opened his mouth to speak — but he said nothing. Luke shook his head.
"Ben... why didn't you... why didn't you tell me?..."
The old man watched him, his gaze lit with compassion. He rose up a hand as if to quiet him.
"Luke. You must understand... Your father... Anakin... he was my friend. My student. He was a brave and good-hearted man... once. But he turned to the dark side, he chose it, gave himself to it. He became Darth Vader, a machine of evil, a destroyer devoid of any humanity. He could have saved the galaxy from imbalance and evil; instead he became part of it."
The young man closed his eyes, leaned against the table, holding back the scream he longed to release.
"I am sorry," Ben said with gentleness, but Luke felt prone to brush the words aside. His identity, his family, his trust, his hopes... all abolished, distorted in a needless whirl of lies.
"I meant to tell you someday," Ben went on quietly, "when you were ready... But Luke, you must understand that this need not change your destiny. Everything, the entire galaxy, is at peril. The Emperor, Vader... they must be defeated, Luke."
Luke stared at the old Jedi in disbelief, understanding the implication. "You want... You want me to..."
"Vader is Anakin's darkness," Ben went on, looking away from him, into the shadows. "He corrupted him, destroyed the goodness in him. He is only Vader now, Luke."
Luke felt a stunned anger at this, felt the urge to respond — but he found that he couldn't. A sudden shot of pain that was sent through him. It resounded deeply, differently... He hadn't felt this kind of pain before. It seemed to shatter through some barrier, connect him back to another existence... It was calling him back...
His insides were compressed, a sharpness was in his blood. Luke felt a glaring light on his face, the lamplight, sweat collecting in the crevices of his collarbone...
"Luke." Ben's voice was louder, more urgent, and Luke could see he was changing. His form was fading out, blending into an incoming brightness that was erasing everything. "You must listen to me, Luke, I beg you — you are our only hope — Luke, you must go to the da—"
The light grew and grew, and Ben's shapeless form became lost in it. The light consumed everything. Everything became light.
Excellently poignant! Ben's urgings and Luke's feelings, totally in character.
This is something new. A Force ghost that speaks a clear language and does not sound like the 3 legged cat from "The Last Unicorn". Plus this time their seems to be more understanding and love from Obi-Wan´s/ Ben´s side.
Great writing! You may continue being brilliant!
OK...Force ghost vision...Luke knows now. Good on Obi-Wan trying to explain his reasonings. And very well done in describing Luke's feelings.
But where is he? What are they doing to him? Luke, get out of there!!!
WarmNyota.Thanks, I was kinda worried about getting the characters right for this situation; it's very different from the more mature RotJ Luke talking to Ben in a quiet swamp months after the reveal, after all. Glad you liked it.
AzureAngel: lol at the comparison to the TLU cat. Yeah, I didn't want to write Obi-Wan as the "bad guy", but I wanted Luke to be understandably upset at him. Brilliant, nah, but thanks.
Ridley Solo: I really appreciate how you show such excitement for this story. The next update should answer some of those questions...
Here we go, time for an update... Enjoy. =)
Luke felt the light.
Then he felt himself come out of it.
He became aware again. His body was tingling, feeling sore and malleable. A solid surface was propped up against his back. The constraints were pressing him down, pressing the stormtrooper armor into his moist skin. All the unpleasant sensation was returning... The same light was hovering over him, making things hard to distinguish. But things were real, he knew. Real and physical.
How long had it been? Hours? Days? He didn't have the strength to truly wonder. He only remembered flashes of the medical lab, of Cylo walking through the door, speaking to him... A few careless words tossed his way, the words settling, repeating, tearing Luke apart from the inside out... Droids, clinical hands holding syringes, injections... and everything after was a blur.
A shudder ran through Luke.
He saw the figure of someone near, murmuring to someone else. And there was that familiar, skin-crawling static...
"Subject is conscious," he heard Voidgazer say in her dry voice. "Weakness and inflammation is noted, but no signs of resistance decrease. I suggest a thzolomite increase."
There was a beeping sound, a shuffling, and the recognizable images of Cylo and Voidgazer came into view. They hovered over him, both huddled in discussion. There was a movement, and Luke felt the pang of a needle being pierced into his arm.
Ben... He tried to mentally call for his friend, pleading as much as he could despite the anger he still felt, despite this dazed state he was in...
But he knew the old Jedi was gone. He was on his own.
Despondent, he tried to look around. His vision was distorted, like he was staring through bloated glass, but he could make out the stagnant sheen of tools in an array of silver and black. Appliances were flickering around him. He breathed in, taking in the bitter smell of rubber and sanitizer.
He heard the voices of the two scientists still conferring. Cylo made a tiresome sigh.
"No more," he asserted. "No more serums, no more drugs. His system is confounding the procedure, immune to the full affect... What are the results of the scan?"
"Scans are successful, but with anomalies. I've run the test several times, and each result surpasses the limit with immeasurable midi-chlorian detection. The micro-bionic extraction has been unsuccessful even at the most basic molecular level. Analysis of these cells has also proved inconclusive. The computers do not recognize the composite matter."
"Of course not. This is something else, something more... complex. A challenge for us... but the midi-chlorians are the key. These cultists can call it whatever they want, but it's biology. It's all about biology."
Luke tried to speak, but found nothing would come out of him. He made a wince, from the soreness, the exhaustion. He felt buried, he wanted to go back to... whatever he'd just left. Back to the sunset.
"...A pity we have limited time to study his responses," Cylo droned lowly in disappointment.
"I don't see why we don't terminate him now, Cylo. Dissection could help in trying to duplicate the midi-chlorians, if you're still planning on anatomic replication. And this theory of yours, to implement non-humanoid organic matter to confound the cells..."
"I adhere to it, but to be sure, we should keep him alive as long as possible. It would be quite compelling, actually... if we were to install the cyberanimate system. Imagine, complete control of a Force-sensitive... If only we had the time."
Voidgazer let out a stiff breath.
"Perhaps something smaller, then," she suggested dryly. "What of sensory substitution? Control via one primary function?"
There was a still pause between them, only the sounds of the machines purring, the devices whirring, and Cylo humming in thought.
"Very well," he said finally, making a mild handclap. "Droid, make the necessary preparations, and ready the utensils... We will start by removing the eye."
Luke felt the blood drain from his face.
His heart pulsed at the swiveling sound of a device being turned on: an operation cleaver, bladed and rotating at top speed. He tried to yell, but he only managed a painful cough.
He could make out one droid hovering over him, pressing a hosed mask over his mouth, no doubt running with knock-out gas. A taller 2-1B droid was approaching, holding the drill-like utensil.
Again he tried to find the strength to fight it, to resist, but the weakness in his body was thorough. He could already feel the gas taking effect. His eyes began to droop. The faces of Cylo and Voidgazer were smearing like water, Voidgazer's blue orbs melting, the whole clinic becoming an array of blots...
"The right eye, I think," he heard Cylo say, his voice sounding distant, like he was at the end of a tunnel.
A soothing heaviness coursed through Luke. He felt dispensed of energy, as if a pocketed part of his brain had been turned off. The blackness was taking him again... He wanted to give in to it, to sleep...
But underneath that desire was... something. A heat in his blood, an outcry in his heart, and it didn't dim down.
Luke felt something being sprayed into his right eye. It involuntarily watered from the irritation, flinched, and he squeezed both his eyes shut. The buzz of the bladed tool continued; it hissed in his ears, rang in his head.
It was coming closer... It was inches away from his face...
That heat in his heart pulsed, nourished by his dread...
The tool was right over his eye—
He felt a stream of energy. It emerged freely, swept through him, and sent itself out.
The mask over his mouth was whipped away. He heard crashes from across the room. Yelps, things thumping, falling, and metal clanking to the floor. Luke heaved, strangely invigorated. He felt the ripples of the energy, the raw power lingering around him, almost possessively, before suddenly going out like a spent flame. He opened his swelling eyes, blinking many times to see clearly.
He saw the droids on the floor, several feet away from him, turned over and moving their metal limbs in attempts to get up. The bladed device was still drilling away in the clutch of the 2-1B. Even farther away, he saw a bluish blur that suggested Cylo; he was on his back, his boots pressed to the ground. Toolkits, tables, and other equipment had been toppled over in the room. Luke couldn't see Voidgazer anywhere, but he heard her groan.
From the entrance, he heard the doors slide open and someone walk in.
"Cylo, the inspector is still missing, but we — Cylo? What happened?"
Luke recognized the voice: the robed man from the ice cave. He saw him hurry inside, still wearing that brown cloak, now unhooded, revealing a red-headed young man with a stern, round face. He hurried to Cylo, who was sitting up, gritting his teeth. Following the young man was the blond girl from the cave. She looked around the lab, surveying the scene in silence.
"...No harm done, Morit," Cylo muttered as the young man helped him up. Cylo brushed down his clothing needlessly and looked over at Luke, who caught his gaze. Luke narrowed his eyes at him.
"Interesting," the scientist said, with an undertone of dismay. "A Force-push, in such a weak condition, and no training..."
"Fore-push?" echoed Morit, sounding befuddled.
Luke himself couldn't help but momentarily wonder at the term. In the past he had felt the Force give him a small boost in times of need, making his jumps a little farther, his reflexes a little faster... but he hadn't ever used the Force as a weapon, like some kind of explosive he could trigger as a last resort. He hadn't even felt in control of himself...
Morit was now scanning Luke over, his gaze cautious.
"Cylo, you want me to put an end to him?" he asked, and he patted something on his hip — the silver hilt of a lightsaber, dangling next to another. "I wouldn't mind trying out my new weapon."
Luke glared at him. The other young man folded his arms and lifted his chin in response.
"That won't be necessary," Cylo replied in a calm tone. "He is... not dangerous. He must be kept alive a while longer."
Not far behind Cylo, Voidgazer was coming to her feet, leaning on a monitor and holding her shoulder. She was seething. Luke felt her hate; it aimed at him like a laser. For a moment he let himself feel some satisfaction, smugness even. He had used the Force. He had overpowered them, in this all-but-powerless state he was in, despite everything...
Or had he? Could it be... No, Ben was gone, he was sure of it...
"He must be so very pleased with himself," Voidgazer sneered, taking a step towards him. "I'll bet he thinks it's beneath him, to be operated on. To die for science, for the sake of advancement." She scoffed, her lips pressed in a thin line. "You're our prisoner now, boy. We will take whatever we want from you. An eye, an arm, anything we want."
"Enough," Cylo said, holding up a hand before Voidgazer could say more. "We will cease further experimentation for the time being. We'll spare one more search for the inspector; after that, we leave the Anthan system. If Vader doesn't know where we are by now, he'll find out soon enough. Morit, Aiolin, continue the search. Droids..." He glanced at the still-struggling machines on the floor with a frown. "Clean up this mess."
"And what about him?" Voidgazer said, nudging her head toward Luke.
Cylo paused for a moment, as if considering something carefully.
"Leave him be," he said. "We have other matters to attend to. And Force or not, he is still immobilized. He's not going anywhere." Then he turned and headed towards the exit. Voidgazer sighed, but followed him, as did Morit, who kicked a container as he went. Maybe he was imagining it, but Luke thought he felt something different coming off of Cylo. A sapping of the doctor's bubble of confidence. Something that seemed very much like fear.
As they left, Luke let out a breath in relief. He let himself relax a little — then winced, feeling a pounding in his ears. His limbs were still numb, the unsettled nausea still lingering in his chest. For a moment he felt the urge to vomit.
Then suddenly he became aware that the girl, apparently named Aiolin, was still in the room. She stood at the threshold of the door, staring at him. Bewildered, he looked back at her. He remembered how she appeared in the cave: her eyes bright, ice-cold, and her expression unreadable. She seemed much the same now. She did nothing and said nothing. She just stared at him.
Luke stared back, confused, not knowing what to make of this. Was this girl trying to unsettle him? Did she have some kind of vendetta against him like Voidgazer? He tried to sense her intentions, but he picked up nothing from her... except... was it curiosity?
He wasn't sure, and he had no time to find out. In a matter of seconds the girl had headed toward the door and was gone.
AAAAAGH! Reminiscent of the Borg trying to assimilate people. Oh, those sicko, terrible scientists! May they be flung into the fires of Mustafar and turned into crispy toast!!!! Good for you, Luke, fighting back! Hang in there, buddy, you're gonna get out of there somehow...right? Right???
So where the heck is Vader? Does he know what they're doing to his son? I think his presence would be preferable to those....*mutters unintelligible words* blankety blank.....words-that-cannot-be-used-in-polite-company! At least all Vader wants is to turn him, not use poor Luke as an experiment.
What TPAM said.
Wow! An involuntary Force push, can you imagine what would be accomplished with a voluntary one? Aiolin apparently has a lot to think about & I am so relieved that the "operation" has been halted. Eagerly awaiting Vader's arrival so he can ... "teach" Cylo a lesson.
Sounds like some of you aren't really fans of Cylo and his cyborg crew... I dunno, I'm just getting that vibe...
Seriously though, thanks again for your comments.
Now for the update. Time to check on two certain characters who've been MIA for a while...
Artoo tried to extend the field of his periscope from under the icy roof. His scanners were picking up nothing from the outside, no organic lifeforms or functioning technology, not within 900 yards — good. Meanwhile dusk was approaching, and the windblown snow continued to fall.
Beside him, huddled in the shaded enclosed space, sat the inspector. Thanoth ran his hands together and over his arms, then floated them over the small fire flickering between them. His expression was grim and tired, his grey-green uniform wet and stained. Artoo sent out a series of bleak hums to him.
Thanoth scowled. "Forgive me if it is hardly accommodating, droid." He coughed into his fist. "But they haven't found us, have they? As I said, hiding under this cornice did the trick." The inspector huffed with some difficulty, and breathed out white mist. "The surrounding penitente formations combined with the underlying stone structure work well as a cover, naturally."
Artoo twisted his sphere head at him and rolled out a sarcastic bleep.
"And I suppose you have a better idea?" shot the old inspector. "And do not say we should just 'go after them'. You know we don't stand a chance against them, much less if we try to just tip-toe in to rescue Luke ourselves." The inspector pointed towards the opening gap of the icy burrow. "The snowfall is only getting thicker out there. The Astarte twins do have enhanced peripheral vision — that cannot measure up to the keen eye of experience, of course—" He lifted his monocle with his thumb and forefinger, "—but I imagine their cybernetics won't hold up well to this weather. Not for much longer anyway."
Artoo's gem-like receptor flickered. He released a few ardent bleats.
"Yes, of course. Your parts won't withstand the cold temperature for very long either. Or mine, matter of fact." Thanoth blinked dully. Then he turned away, back to the fire.
The droid rumbled and twirled his dome, heading back to the edge of the opening to see the view outside. His multiple scanners continued to run, his radar spinning, but he kept his receptor on Thanoth.
It had been hours since they'd returned from the cave in which Luke had entered. After waiting and getting no response from him by comlink, Artoo had rushed into the cave himself, not heeding Thanoth's objections. They went inside, exploring the hollow. All Artoo had found was, strangely enough, a broken set of chains... and a stormtrooper helmet.
Thanoth claimed there were signs of a struggle, going on about fibers and ionization. Searching deeper in the caves, he and Thanoth had come out on the other side and still found nothing. They'd searched the area, disagreeing about where to look, Thanoth insisting they not split up, much to Artoo's chagrin.
While looking near the deeper slopes around the mountainous area, they had suddenly spotted two unknown humans: a young man and woman on a distant cliff. At this, Thanoth had gone pale and said they must hide.
Artoo hadn't wanted to go along with it, but when the two humans had gone after them, hovering in the air with jets on their soles and firing stun blasts from their wrists, Artoo was convinced. He and Thanoth slipped away into a shallow chasm that led into a forested area, and had lost them.
Since then it had been a flurry of hiding, avoiding, and covering their tracks, while still keeping a lookout for any sign of Luke. There would be quiet spells when nothing happened, suddenly broken by the sound of footsteps, or twigs snapping, or a rustle in a thicket. They'd navigated through a black labyrinth of tress, and through ice-caverns along the rocky region long throughout the day.
Thanoth had fallen over several times, from exhaustion, from his weak legs. Artoo, begrudgingly, had let him ride on him. He had regretted it at once, as the inspector insisted on treating him as his personal taxi.
"No, this way, droid. Hurry, time is of the essence!" he'd exclaimed. "We must find the TIE Defender at once. Hopefully it's not guarded and hasn't been destroyed by our pursuers... But if its communications system is still operable, with a little slicing, I can manage to signal for help."
Artoo had disagreed about this, dubious about who the inspector counted as 'help', but there was no time to argue. His scanners had suddenly detected a ship: not the TIE Defender... It was the strangest vessel Artoo had ever set his scopes on, sitting a couple kilometers away, almost hidden behind a snowy hill. It looked like some kind of cetacean creature, covered with robotic plating that fitted it like armor. Artoo's sensors had almost overloaded trying to distinguish whether it was organic or machine.
When Thanoth had zoomed in with his monocle to see it, he had merely glowered, as if the sight of this bizarre thing was no surprise.
"...As I thought. They've got him," he'd said, letting out a great sigh. Thanoth had looked back at Artoo with a look of urgency. "We need to signal for help. Now. Come on, then."
Artoo had replied with high-pitched counters and negating blurts, ignoring Thanoth's orders to be silent.
"Quiet, you infernal machine! Are you trying to give our position away?... Yes, when I say 'signal for help', I mean help from him." The old man had looked at the strange ship. "Like it or not, droid... he is the only one who can help us now, and help Luke."
Shaking his dome back and forth, Artoo had bumped the inspector off him and rolled away, heading towards the direction of the whale-ship himself. Thanoth had stopped him, taking the stormtrooper helmet he'd been carrying and used it to smack the droid's barrel-shaped body.
"Blasted, reckless machine — just like your master!... If you want to help him, droid, you'll help me find that TIE, you understand? Right now that's all we can do for Luke. I know these people — they are looking for me, I'm a link to their schemes, so they want me captured as well. I'll wager that's the only reason they haven't taken off. We need to keep them here and avoid capture, not run headlong into it!"
He had become short of breath then, his aged face contorted, his rust-brown eyes stern.
"Vader wants him alive. I'm sure of it," he went on more quietly. "Think of it this way: would you rather have Luke survive to deal with Vader later, or let him surely die at the hands of these miscreants? There is more going on here than you and I can grasp, droid... but we here in the middle of it, and we must do our part. Now, I ask you: help me find that ship."
Artoo had been still, ruminating for a moment. Regretfully, he found he couldn't argue. After murmuring a few bleeps, he agreed to help, once again forced to work with Thanoth. That seemed to be a recurring thing with the inspector.
Meanwhile the atmosphere of Anthan 13 only got darker and colder. Thankfully, they'd located the TIE Defender quite easily. After determining it was safe to approach, Thanoth had crawled into the crashed starfighter to use the communications, while Artoo had uneasily scouted the area. As Thanoth sent his message, the coast had been clear... for a while. When they'd seen the two humans from a distance, they quickly retreated from the ship. Thanoth had found a little hovel in the ground surrounded by several sharp glaciers, and they dove in.
So here they were, stuck together in this dark, compact, uncomfortable environment, just him and Thanoth... One recurrence after another, Artoo dryly mused.
Thanoth was staring hard at the small, smokeless fire before him, having created it with a handful of bark peels and bones he'd found of some animal. Artoo had used his electrode rod to ignite the pile, and so they had made a fire. The droid had to admit, irksome as the inspector was, working with him was at least getting easier.
"This should help stave off the cold, at least until the sun sets," Thanoth commented absentmindedly. "The stormtrooper helmet has built-in heating... probably won't help much, if it comes to freezing-cold temperatures... but we shall see. Let us hope we don't have a forecast of hypothermia and frozen circuits tonight."
Artoo regarded him. Thanoth kept his impassive gaze on the fire, studying the flames. The droid mumbled something nearly indistinguishable. Thanoth sniffed and stroked the long-haired whiskers on his face. He sighed.
"If I were to hazard a guess... Cylo will keep Luke prisoner, and won't just dispose of him. Perhaps he's hoping to trap us by using him as bait as well... but it is difficult to say. So many questions, so many foiling threads to untangle..." Thanoth's white eyebrows furrowed, and his nostrils slightly pulsed as he blew out of them. "Blasted scientist... I still can't figure out how he found us... Still, Vader knows of our plight now. He won't sit idly by, I assure you."
Artoo bowed and made a deep, disparaging groan. Then suddenly he made a jittery sound, and his spiraling radar came to a stop. The droid bounced and hurried to the outside, releasing a lively squeal as he went.
"What? What have you..." Thanoth's face loosened and, with difficulty, he scurried on his knees after the droid, grunting aloud. "Now hold on..."
They reached the outside. The powdery ground was red-violet, matching the glowing sky above. Artoo settled before the large glassy shards that surrounded the cornice like a barrier. Thanoth followed him. He shakily stood up and looked outwards, but saw nothing, only light flakes gliding in the air. Artoo rattled with more noises.
Raising an eyebrow, Thanoth looked upwards, focusing in with his monocle. He inhaled. He was silent for a moment, then slowly the inspector released a soft "Ah". Scrolling the rim of the lens to focus even further, he traced the distinct shape of a ship as it was descending. Steadily it landed in the far off distance.
Thanoth made a satisfied smile.
"And there it is," he said.
Excellent exchange between R2 and Thanoth. Full of snark and concern on the one hand and speculations from the Inspector, which seem to be proven correct with the timely arrival of Vader... Who will make short work of Cylo.
Oooh! Much edge-of-seatness!
OK, well at least Thanoth didn't betray him to Cylo. Love the exchanges between him and Artoo. Such a loyal little guy! And here comes Vader....slice and dice, Darth Daddy! JK. just get in there and save Luke!!!
I'm literally waiting for what happens next....
Thanks again, all. I wasn't sure whether to include the bit with Thanoth and Artoo, but it felt right to check in on them, and it was a nice change from the usual Luke or Vader perspective. Glad it was worth it!
As for Vader coming to the rescue and Cylo getting his punishment...
Hope you enjoy this next part!
In his mind, Luke pictured the power lever that was attached to the computer panel, imagined it... slanting... leaning over... turning down. The grey, clawed bar being pushed sideways as if by an invisible hand, resulting in the power leaving the mechanical restraints that held him. Any moment now, he'd be free.
The lever didn't move an inch.
He continued to stare at it, tightening his jaw as he concentrated.
"Come on," he whispered, squeezing his eyes tight, single-mindedly focused on this one thing. "Move. Move."
The lever didn't budge. Luke sighed. He had been lying upright in the lab for what felt like hours, still feeling pain and queasiness, but gradually he'd been feeling better as time passed. Whatever poisons Cylo and Voidgazer had injected him with were wearing off. Now that his sight was clear and his body was starting to regain feeling, he felt up to making use of his time. To taking action... if he could.
Cylo and Voidgazer hadn't returned since the Force-push incident, none of them had. So he was left alone. Left to linger, to think in the stillness and silence as the machines continued to process around him. Left to think of what would happen to him...
Cylo had said he would die soon. He would kill him, after using him as bait and as a lab rat, and then... Vader would come.
Coldness swept over Luke, crammed within him, and he felt his insides shrivel. Vader... The dark figure appeared in his mind, rising as if from the depths of a black pool. Vader...
Luke cringed, opened his eyes to look at the lever again. He had to focus on the lever, he had to make it move. He had to escape. He had been in worse situations than this before... He could do this.
He focused again, tried to draw upon the Force, to muster up his will and redirect his panicked energy into the lever. He needed the Force, he needed its power now. It would work, it had to. He had used the Force to push over two people... droids, tables, multiple objects... Why couldn't he do this?
Defiantly, more images barraged into his head: the death-mask, set upon a towering black form, molded from darkness. An ironclad hand grasping a red blade, cutting through a body...
No. Block it out. Don't think of it. Don't think.
Luke swallowed and made an exhaling groan in frustration. He glared at the lever, scolding it, imagining it turned down. Nothing happened. He then imagined it broken in half.
A wave of energy ran through him, and it aimed itself at the lever. It budged... It went about halfway... but it didn't go down. Luke sighed and gritted his teeth. He hung his head for a moment, basking in his disappointment.
He was about to try again — when a loud crash was heard from just outside the room. Startled, Luke stared towards the door. He listened as more crashes were heard, accompanied by the unmistakable sounds of lasers and heavy blaster fire, things breaking... A battle was going on. And there were softer sounds, mechanical chirps... It seemed a lot like...
Suddenly an earsplitting shot broke through the door, sending out fiery sparks. Luke then gaped as the small shape of an astromech droid rolled into the room.
Luke smiled... but the smile wore off quick. He squinted at the droid as it came into view... It wasn't Artoo. Its top was flat and angled, its body dark-silver, and it had one large receptor that burned orange, its shape somewhat resembling a sun. It held a smoking blaster rifle in its head compartment.
Luke barely had time to react as another droid crept from behind. A protocol droid, almost a spitting image of Threepio, save for having a similarly dark-silver body and a set of glowing red eyes that was particularly unsettling in the dark. It walked inside, unhurried, and looked around until its gaze met Luke's.
"Target found," it said, its male voice carried out in an eerily inconsistent pitch of highs and lows. "Guard the door, Bee-Tee."
"Who..." Luke trailed off as the silver droid approached. It looked over the many contraptions surrounding the table until it noticed the half-turned lever. The droid pressed it down. The restraints slid off Luke. He breathed out in relief as he felt the tight pressure subside, the smarting pain fresh from the places his plated armor had been pressing for prolong hours into his skin. He wavered for a moment as his boots found the floor, but he managed to move his legs. They wobbled, his muscles feeling almost nonexistent. He slanted, his knees failing to hold him, and he was about to fall over.
The protocol droid caught him. Instinctively Luke held on to it, tried to balance and root himself to stand. He looked at the droid.
"What..." Luke looked the droid over more, and paused. Memories flashed in his head: Yellow gorges, explosive gunshots, Chewie wounded on the ground... Luke let out a gasp. "Wait... I remember you. You're... that droid from Vrogas Vas. You attacked me, my friends... You're an Imperial droid..."
The droid stared at him, tilted its head. Then it let go of Luke, and the young man swayed, struggling to keep on his feet. Helplessly, he fell down to his knees.
"And you're that yellow-haired meatbag who stabbed me and cut off my arm..." the droid said, leering as it looked down on him. "However, I think we can put off our personal grudges until after we're out of the current harm's way, hmm?"
Luke grunted, still unable to stand up, his knees refusing to take his weight. "You're crazy if you think I'll... I'm not going anywhere with—"
The droid raised a hand, and from its metal fingertip a spike of electricity was released.
"Now you listen, you troublesome little fleshwad, our orders were to rescue you... but we can do that with or without a great deal of pain on your part. Your choice."
Luke tensed up, propped open his mouth to speak, but then closed it. Reluctantly, slowly, he made a nod.
"...Fine," he mumbled. "But, how do we—"
"Just what is the hold up in there?"
The voice bellowed from behind the doorway, and Luke couldn't believe his eyes: Thanoth's head poked out from behind the wall. Then a clear, piping series of bleeps came after. Artoo glided into the room. On his domed back he carried the old inspector.
Luke blinked in disbelief. "Artoo? Thanoth? How—"
"Hurry up!" hissed Thanoth, waving quickly as he and Artoo rolled to him, and the old man shoved a stormtrooper helmet into Luke's arms. Luke involuntarily grasped it. "We've rigged the ship to explode in a couple minutes, we must hurry. Droid, take the boy. He can't walk."
"I don't take orders from you," snapped the droid. Nevertheless he helped Luke up, and Luke leaned on him as they moved towards the door. Artoo whistled and went over to Luke's side, buzzing spiritedly. Thanoth maintained a disconcerted frown atop him.
Luke felt like he was in a daze as he passed through the white doors of the lab with the three droids and the inspector. They entered a hallway lit with panels. At the end were two battle droids the like of which Luke had never seen before, identically gold, standing attentively and holding blasters as if they were sentries.
"Cover us," the protocol droid told them, and the battle droids obeyed.
Luke, Thanoth, and the droids crossed the hall and proceeded into a less narrow passage that offered little lighting. Another pair of battle droids were stationed there. The protocol droid called them to cover them as well.
Luke listlessly turned his head to Thanoth. "All these droids... where did they come from?"
Thanoth gave him a pointed look, then set his eyes to look ahead. He didn't answer.
"Where are they taking me?" Luke persisted, glowering. Getting no answer still, he turned to the red-eyed droid who was half-guiding him, half dragging him along. "Who do you work for?"
"Really looking a gift bantha in the mouth, aren't you?" The droid nearly sneered. "That information is classified. As for where we're taking you... I suppose that wasn't specified concerning the target knowing, but our orders were very specific: you are to be removed from the good doctor's care and brought back alive, unfortunately, to a certain location on Mustafar, which I'm sure has a cell with your name written all over it."
"That's enough, droid," Thanoth said sharply. "Save the talk until after we've escaped. The scientists are locked off on the bridge, but the twins may yet return, and — droid, this next door is locked." He gestured to the orange-eyed astromech. "Open it, quickly."
The astromech made a growling bleep at Thanoth, but reached a thin limb out to the lock hatch. Seconds later, the door lifted.
Standing before them was Morit, grinning wide and holding a blazing lightsaber.
Fascinating ... I really enjoyed that. Wasn't expecting a droidistic rescue.
WHEW! The droids helping him escape...geez, that protocol droid is rude...But Artoo, yay! And with Thanoth...where are they taking him now? Mustafar? Yikes...
But rats! Their escape is interrupted! Come on, Luke, you're the best at using the Force when your life depends on it. I think this qualifies!
Amazing writing, as always. This story has sucked me in completely!
The German term for what Luke just got is "Feuertaufe" (= baptism of fire). And he really held himself up brave under such dire circumstances.
I suspect Vader to arrive in the nick of time. Like a dark thunder cloud.
(PS: Liked the bit about R2 earlier on and do not mind cyborgs that overly much.)
^Thanks, all. You continue to be great readers.
And here we go, update time... I hope these shorter updates are to your liking, btw. Some in the past were probably overlong, I know.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this!
Morit took a step forward, pointing the orange lightsaber straight toward Luke. Luke didn't move. He then made a thoughtless grab at the side of his belt, his fingers only finding air where his gun had been.
"Morit, you fool," Thanoth nearly whispered. "Of course you would insist on making things violent for no reason whatsoever."
Unabashed, the red-haired young man ushered the blade's end toward the dark-silver droid that held Luke.
"Drop him," he said. "Drop him now, or I cut you into a scrapheap."
Luke looked at the droid, at Morit, and staggered, not knowing what to do. The droid kept his hold of him and remained motionless.
"A scrapheap." The droid spoke tonelessly, the lightsaber's glow reflecting on his silver face. "Oh no... Whatever shall we do, Bee-Tee?"
There was a clicking sound, and then the astromech Bee-Tee unleashed a blinding ray from its top blaster. Seconds later more blasters joined, and Luke was blinded by an array of deadly light. He heard the lightsaber among it all, humming madly among the sound of blasterfire.
"Come on," Thanoth prompted, his forehead creasing. "The whole place is going to blow!"
Luke barely felt his legs move as he was led out, Artoo's frantic calls not far behind. He could make out an air unit being blasted open, static wires releasing, rubble flinging. Thanoth ducked as he rode Artoo, who was wheeling away toward the door as fast as his motors would let him.
They passed through into another dim hall, marching on with the noise of the struggle quieting behind them. Luke turned his head to look back. He saw fresh holes in the walls, some of the golden battle droids following them, some remaining in the battle. They were surrounding Morit, whose lightsaber was a fiery flare careening and crossing to meet the lasers. Then there was a flash of white and a flickering burst of flames.
"Five minutes," he heard Thanoth mutter. The inspector tapped his fingers on Artoo's dome. "Come on, come on..."
They heard an angry cry. They turned to see Morit emerging from the entryway, leaving a scene of whirling smoke behind him. Stone-faced, he soared above the floor, yellow flares emitting from his soles, and he dove toward them.
"Fire, fire!" Thanoth shouted, pointing at Morit. "Shoot him down!"
The droids targeted him, a rush of lasers streaming across like a red-hot rainfall. Morit swung his blade, beheading one droid, cutting another in half. He pointed his wrist, which opened up like a robotic port, and out fired a ring-shaped blast. Two droids halted and then dropped to the ground, deactivated. Morit ran his saber through them. Another shot zapped his way, hitting Morit in the chest. He grunted aloud.
Bee-Tee rolled into the corridor. The droid shot another red blast, which Morit dodged. Another; he swung his lightsaber to block it, but it hit the edge of his arm. It burned and emitted sparks. Teeth bared, he locked his eyes on all of them and changed the position of his lightsaber. He held it out like an anticipating jouster, and swooped in.
It all happened in one ripping motion: Luke registered the droid trying to move him, the orange heat slashing at Thanoth, the inspector falling with a painful groan, and Morit closing in. Before he knew it Luke found he was grabbed, and he was being brought up until he and Morit were a foot below the ceiling. Luke's legs dangled in the air and he gagged. Morit's damaged, blackened hand held him by the neck.
Morit watched him struggle to breathe, a mixture of boredom and contempt rendered on his face. Luke grabbed at Morit's fingers, trying in vain to wrench them loose. He tried to kick at him, but only hit the trim of his cloak.
"Fire and he dies," Morit said, directing his attention at the others below, and he curved the lightsaber under Luke's chin.
Luke couldn't see below him, but he heard Artoo make a nervous blurb. There were some growls that sounded like the droid Bee-Tee. Nothing came from Thanoth.
"No, Bee-Tee, we can't just risk it," the protocol droid said in bitter disappointment. "No harm is to come to the towheaded one. Drat."
Luke wrenched, trying to reach down to his belt, to find a weapon, a detonator, anything; but suddenly he found himself zooming by as if he was on a speeder. Support beams sped past as Morit flew to the other side of the hall, out the room. He slammed Luke into a wall and Luke's body thrummed from the sudden impact. He fell several feet and hit the ground.
Morit hovered down toward him. Blearily, Luke could see the droids approaching from behind him... only for Morit to wave a hand, which glowed with circuit-shaped lines on his skin, and the door sealed itself down like magic, shutting them out.
"You should've stayed put, Skywalker," Morit said, expertly twirling his saber. "Accepted your fate as a mere specimen. My sister is freeing Cylo and Voidgazer as we speak, and they're taking care of your friend's bomb. There's nothing you can do."
Luke flinched. He tried to stand, but again Morit braced his lightsaber to him. He shot Luke a glare.
"To think that this is the son of Darth Vader... some dolt who relies on an old man and some droids to save him. And guess what, your dear old father won't be saving your neck either. Vader's a relic of the past that should've been purged along with it. It's our time now, and Cylo's going to prove it. He's going trap him just like he trapped you, and finish him off once and for all. Destroying what he created... heh, that's some kind of complex, I suppose."
Luke looked at him, white-faced. "What... what do you mean he... created..."
Morit raised his eyebrows. He shook his head and made a low chuckle, pushing air through his teeth.
"Yes, that's right, dolt. Vader only lives because of Cylo. He's the one in control. He worked on Vader's body decades ago — he knows all about how he functions, what his weaknesses are. He has access to his cybernetics and can shut down the so-called 'mighty Lord of the Sith' with the push of a button. That's all it takes — a button. That's how feeble he is. And he doesn't even know."
Luke stared, lost for words and feeling an odd, indescribable dismay as he took in the information.
Morit frowned. He suddenly made a sharp motion with his free hand. There was a crackle, and Luke saw the familiar shot of blue of his own lightsaber bearing itself toward him. Morit inched the two blades until they were lighting up Luke's face.
"You... won't kill me," Luke declared, finding his voice as sweat slid down his jawline. From the corner of his eye he managed a quick glimpse behind Morit... there was a molten ring forming on the door. The droids were breaking through. He swallowed and decided to keep talking. "You can't kill me."
Morit scoffed. "Don't bother with your sad mind tricks. I'm immune."
"Cylo said I had to live a while longer..."
Then Morit's scornful face smoothed out, as if realization had dawned on him. He tipped his head and rubbed his lips together thoughtfully.
"He did say that..." he said in a hushed voice. He aimed the lightsabers away from Luke, held them apart at his side. Luke let out a suppressed breath.
Then Morit's eyes lit with a wild relish, he grinned, and he raised the blue lightsaber high over his head, ready to strike.
He stopped — and let out a shaken scream. He began to vibrate uncontrollably. Currents of electricity pulsed through Morit's blue tunic and robe, through his torso and shoulders. He let go of both lightsabers and they dropped, turning off. He staggered for a moment, staring with a vacant scowl. Then he fell, his form giving off smoke.
Behind him stood the silver protocol droid, his metallic fingers sizzling with high-voltage energy.
"And that is what happens when you turn your back to Triple-Zero," the droid said haughtily, making a high-pitched sound in delight. The electricity extinguished and the droid gestured back toward the now-ruptured door. "I'm sure the exit is back that way. Now, if you will—"
"He said they're deactivating the bomb," Luke said breathlessly. "He said... wait. Where's Thanoth?"
"Your droid has the old man. Now if you're done, let's say we all flee for our lives now, before we're caught by a bunch of power-hungry mad scientists on their vessel that looks like a giant fish. Sound good?"
He offered an arm to Luke, and Luke didn't argue. He took it, but not before grabbing the silvery hilt that lay on the floor. He put it in his empty gun holster. As he left with the droids, walking through the blaster-burnt halls as an unconscious Thanoth was carried by Artoo, Luke felt his boot hit something. He looked down.
With a low sigh, Luke picked up the stormtrooper helmet once again.
PHEW, that was too close! Glad Luke got his lightsaber back and is able to walk, at least somewhat.
So...did they actually escape this time? Did they?
Well that was one riveting edge of seat post! You write action sequences superbly! Morit's gloating assertions about Cylo and Vader are worrying, though, just "the touch of a button."
And the edge-of-seatness continues!
Still no sign of Vader though. What holds him up?