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Saga - OT Vader's Shadow (Luke, Vader; AU of the "Darth Vader" comics)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Saga_Symphony, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Probably how a certain character feels about now... :b

    I don't think writing surprises or "twists" are one of my strong suits, so thanks! And "diverged" is right... but there's a reason for it.

    Thanks for your comments as always, both of you. [face_coffee]
     
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  2. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Update time. =) We get back to a certain secondary character...




    Snow drummed upon the cavetops of Anthan 13.

    The night was frigid after many hours of snowfall during the day. The translucent caves were reflecting edges of ice and stone. Large shards crossed overhead, jutting from the cave walls. Outside, the temperature of Anthan 13 was below freezing. Inside, the atmosphere was benumbing.

    From the other side of the hollow, Thanoth sat on a rock by a fire, near a cornered area. The space along the wall contained a five-foot-tall heap of credit ingots: bars of gold, silver, and speckled mythra. The treasure shimmered in the icy mist.

    He took a swift glance around the cave, which had once hosted a small Rebel base. Machinery was stacked in the distance, suggesting an industrial operation. Some lizard-like gowneks flew and crawled about, attracted to the various alloys. There were the occasional remains of long-perished lifeforms as well, suited and helmeted skeletons surrounded by broken equipment.

    Thanoth rubbed at his throat, which was raw and sore. He rested a hand on the wrapped lightsaber wound on his shoulder, having used some leathery fabric from one of the dead Rebels' jumpsuits, and he bit back a moan as he twisted the knot to tighten the band. He knew it was imperative to keep it woven tight. He wished he could decipher whether infection had yet come to the wound, but his priceless monocle was now gone, shattered into pieces on the ground. It would take time to replace it, he figured, if he ever got the chance.

    Vader stood at the other side of the wide cave, silent and statuesque. He had been so for almost an hour, buried in his thoughts, while Thanoth had been left to tend to his wounds, not that there was much he could do in this freezing cavern. Vader had done nothing to stop him, had not spoken to him or looked his way.

    The droids weren't present, now shut down and kept in Vader's TIE-fighter, onto which Vader had carried Thanoth and the droids hours ago. Thanoth had regained consciousness as they sailed through space, confined in the small storage room with the droids — didn't that sound familiar — and conscientiously, he had approached Vader in his cockpit. Vader had appeared to be steering, but on closer inspection his grip was slack on the controls as he gazed out into the stars from his chair. There had been no destination set in the navicomputer.

    Thanoth had, without preamble, suggested that they travel to Anthan 13. Cylo knew of the location, he'd said, and so Vader's hidden ingots had to be moved and all traces of activity erased. Vader had Force-pushed him back into the storage room and locked the door.

    Nonetheless, here they were. Back on the ice moon.

    Vader had not wasted time. He had indeed dragged Thanoth to the caves, and he had questioned him, threatened him with pain and death, demanding that he answer for everything. Thanoth answered without resistance, and thus suffered little more than some suffocation with the Force — and Vader capping it off by crushing his monocle. Thanoth explained how he found the boy, what they had been through, from their meeting on Vrogas Vas to the their last encounter on the Devastator. He thought to question Vader as well, wanting to be filled in; he had fears as to what had happened while he had been knocked out, thanks to the infernal droids — but knowing better, he asked no questions of his own.

    The Dark Lord seemed unsatisfied as he had let him go, letting him fall to the ground, free of the Force-choke before he turned away. As Thanoth croaked and inhaled aloud, Vader retreated away and went in his meditative state. He had stayed there, in his calm, dark stillness, as if absorbed in another world.

    Now Thanoth once again sat by a self-made fire on Anthan 13, frowning at the cold and at his various pains. He eyed the Dark Lord, eyed the ingots, waiting for Vader to say something. He knew the man wished to be left alone, but there were matters to discuss. Many matters, ones that couldn't wait. Finally, he spoke.

    "So then," Thanoth began outright, his voice rasping from his injured throat. "Were you successful, Lord Vader?... With finding Cylo?"

    Vader gave no answer and made no move. His sharp breath pitched through the placid air, incessant as it cut through the silence. Typical, thought the inspector. Even when he had worked alongside Vader, the Sith Lord often let him do the talking during any interactions. He tended to be quiet, almost forbiddingly so. Again Thanoth attempted to impel a reply from him. He took a breath, this time making his tone lighter, more careful.

    "What happened on Cylo's ship, Lord Vader?"

    Vader slowly turned to him. The steep shadows sunk into the artificial mask, obscuring it with blackness. Vader stepped forward to Thanoth, taking his time as he did so. The posture told Thanoth that he was suppressing a great deal of anger that he was waiting to unleash.

    Thanoth breathed out tiredly. "I can offer no help if I don't know what happened... You heard what happened on my end. I take it you sensed what I told you was true... So tell me, what has gone down? What is our next move?"

    At this, the Dark Lord broke the silence.

    "You dare... seek answers from me?" He lifted a finger and pointed it at the inspector. "You, a traitor, who had been slinking in the shadows all this time, digging up confidential information behind my back?"

    Thanoth tilted his head in admittance. "I understand my actions have consequences, and I don't expect any explanation I give to be enough to spare my life. I accept that. I can only attest that, if I intended to work against you, I could have easily given your secrets away to a number of people. If I wished for power, or my own safety, I would not be here. I would not have investigated your activities, or the boy's identity, or the connection between you two. I fed him that story about his father sending a message, I helped him escape Cylo... I did what I did to bring him to you, Lord Vader. I am on your side."

    "Or perhaps you merely did it so you could make such claims," Vader said, coming closer, and he looked down at Thanoth where he sat, towering over him. "To gain my trust. So that should you be found out, you would be able to tell me what you could have done."

    Thanoth raised an eyebrow, then pressed it down, his wrinkles layering at the accusation. It was to be expected, of course... Vader was a Sith; he would not be easy to convince. But convince him he must.

    "You should be suspicious... As I said, I don't expect you to spare me. Secrecy is of the utmost importance, I know, and the life of an old man like me is certainly not worth the risk. It's a shame I couldn't live to help you in your endeavors — with my knowledge of arms dealers and underworld activities, I could expand upon your resources considerably — but, well... this is how it must be."

    "Your obsession with investigating the unknown has made you a presumptuous fool, Thanoth. I have no such aims."

    Now Thanoth made a small, nearly inaudible sigh in impatience. "Come now, Lord Vader. Let's not bother with any thin attempts at covering up the obvious. I knew of your credit stash here on the Anthan moon beforehand, and I knew of your involvement in the Son-Tuul fortune robbery — the result of which sits glittering before us. I know of the bounty hunters you hired, the archaeologist you had uncover information, the droid factory you took from Geonosis..."

    He looked at the black-masked Sith, again waiting for a response. The stark breath emitted through the transmitter several times. Vader said nothing.

    Thanoth coughed, his throat agitated again, and he caressed it. He glimpsed up at the Imperial enforcer, his curiosity still brimming, then he let his gaze fall — until he noticed something on the Dark Lord, just under his cape: a second lightsaber was hooked on his belt. One he knew all too well.

    "By the way... it's been hours, hasn't it?" Thanoth blinked and looked away, back into the fire. "Shan't you report to the Emperor sometime soon? You wouldn't want to appear to be MIA."

    The rough pressure of Vader's breath continued, echoing through the caves. Still he said nothing.

    "You have plans. Grand plans," Thanoth continued, nodding at his own perceptions. "Otherwise you would not have gone to such lengths. Which leads to my next question: Why am I still here, Lord Vader? Why do you keep me alive long enough to ask you these meddling questions?"

    Vader just stood there, wordless, staring down on Thanoth. Several seconds passed.

    "I require... more from you," he finally said, his voice scathing, sounding resistant to the words as he spoke them.

    Now they were getting somewhere. Thanoth obliged, nudging for more information. "More from me?"

    "Cylo's ship. It contained a vessel. A type unknown to me. None of Cylo's vessels are registered or documented in Imperial records. I learned this when searching for his whereabouts with Tagge. I must find that ship. You, inspector, will assist me in this."

    Thanoth rose an eyebrow, perplexed. He had suspicions for what this meant, but he needed to be sure. "A ship? For what reason?"

    Again Vader was silent. He didn't answer.

    Thanoth frowned. "Lord Vader, if we are to work together, you must fill me in on—"

    "I must do nothing for your convenience, Thanoth. You are either complying or dying, so answer swiftly: Can you find this ship?"

    The old inspector withheld a sigh of exasperation. Such stubbornness... It ran in this family, that was for sure.

    "I can try," he complied. "Tell me about this ship."

    Vader did so, describing a bronze, aquatic-looking shuttle with spiked fringes and semi-cloaking. Thanoth stroked his mustache as he tried to picture it.

    "I've not heard of anything like that... I'll need equipment to really delve into this. Nothing too fancy, a basic HoloNet-accessed computer, a data-distorter... But what of all this, Lord Vader?" He gestured at the pile of ingots. "As I said, Cylo knows of this place. If he is alive, I suggest we move this to a more isolated location. I could help with that as well. I know a thing or two about safes and vaults."

    "Why?" Vader suddenly spat, his mechanical tone loud and grating with resentment. "You have done all this, you have kept silent. You aided the boy, you aid me. You seek something, Thanoth. What is it?"

    So they had finally come to that. Thanoth shuffled his feet, and he slowly hoisted himself up to stand, scowling at the sharp pain in his sprained ankle. He put his weight on a tall rock formation at the side.

    "Yes, I seek something, Lord Vader... I seek change. Change in the Empire we both serve, which has been slowly crumbling. Take the Death Star project. Palpatine nurtured it for twenty years, twenty years, and it came crashing down by one snub fighter, due to a grossly overlooked flaw planted by one of our own... His grasp is faltering. He has clearly lost sight of the priorities of the Empire, what it needs, what it stands for. He carelessly lets things crumble away as he sits watching from his throne, thinking nothing will ever touch him. Not surprising. The man was a politician."

    Thanoth made a light snort and caught his breath.

    "I believe in the eternal Empire," he went on. "But that can only happen if it survives. If it has the right leadership, the right strength... For the longest time, I wondered why you stayed put in your place as second-in-command, taking orders even from the likes of Tarkin. I could not fathom why you did not seize power. Was it fear? Misguided trust?" Thanoth smiled faintly and shook his head. "No. Of course not. You did not overthrow the Emperor because you could not overthrow him. Not by yourself."

    Vader's head shifted down, the angle's light showing the redness in the mask's eyes. He stayed mute, though Thanoth noticed his hand gliding to his belt, nearing the lightsaber on his side. His knuckles just brushed it.

    "This ship... I take it young Luke was abducted on it," Thanoth declared, inhaling with some unease as he met the Dark Lord's gaze. "You wish to find him... You wish to find him, train him in your ways, and supplant the Emperor."

    Vader moved forward and instantly Thanoth was sent back. He slammed against the cave wall, a tight thud sounding as the back of his skull hit the rock. Icicles shook and shattered from the impact, splintering into pieces as Thanoth fell, unconscious, to the ground.

    For a long time Vader looked at the fallen inspector, his hands settled on the hilts of both lightsabers, the metal digits fidgeting with temptation as he struggled with the desire to wield them. To cut through that body. To forever silence him.

    He turned away, shifted his gloved hands off the weapons, and bunched them into fists.

    Vader looked at the gleaming hoard of riches, Thanoth's words still prodding at his mind.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent contest of wills and probing questions from Thanoth. Hope they do uncover facts about that unusual ship and where Luke might have been taken off to. [face_worried]
     
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  4. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    ^Thanks, WarmNyota. [face_coffee] This update should pretty much answer those questions.

    This update's longer than usual, (I couldn't find a good place to split it), and the next may be as well.

    This fic is coming to an end pretty soon, so I hope you all enjoy these last few chapters. =)




    The skies of Mustafar were grey with storm clouds and furls of smoke.

    Red lava flowed in swirling paths around the black castle. It sat on a steep edge of a large mountainous stretch, a black-stone structure, tall and ancient-looking, almost pyramid-shaped. Two spires jutted upward from it, and in the middle perched a pointed central point like the tip of a spear. The fortress' base reached down, containing an open channel that flowed with a single stream of lava. It spilled into the lava pools below like a seeping wound.

    Vaneé was more than used to the scenery, both of the planet and the stronghold. The surrounding heat, the molten sea against the peaks, the smell of brimstone with the constant volcanic eruptions, the lightning storms. Inside the castle was different: there was a somber darkness, with scarcely lit halls and a strange fog that rose from the castle grounds. The place was quiet, bleak, and usually inactive, especially in these troubling times of war when his master was so often called elsewhere. Only when he was here did the castle awaken from its sleep.

    So it had today. The red-robed Imperial Guards marched in single-file and stood attentively as their master's ship landed, and Vaneé himself had approached him, humbly waiting for his command. But Lord Vader had had no patience for such things this time, and had sped past him, carrying an old man in Imperial attire, who had floated in the air by use of his master's mysterious power. He was knocked out and looked like a human balloon that hovered after the Dark Lord as he strode past the garrison and other attendants.

    Vader had only given one command to Vaneé before he'd entered the fortress: "I am not here. Should any communications come, from anyone, I am not here."

    Again, Vaneé was more than used to this. One didn't last as a personal servant of Lord Vader for twenty years without being well accustomed to discreetness.

    So he had left his lord to his business. Though it had been only a few hours later that he had been walking through the corridors, carrying on his usual tasks, when he noticed a strong white light coming from the console station within the castle. He silently peeked inside.

    "There are no other bases? Nothing outside the Crushank Nebulae?" His master's voice was frustrated, urgent.

    "None that I can see," answered the now-conscious old man, making a weary sigh. He had been sitting there at a computer among the high-tech equipment, typing stridently. A wound was on the back of his scalp, a tattered wrap on his injured shoulder. Despite what bad shape he was in, he seemed completely immersed in his work.

    Lord Vader stayed standing at the side of him, arms folded, overseeing what the man was doing. Vaneé had thought to inquire if his master needed any assistance, but seeing how engrossed both of them were, he thought it best to not disrupt them, and left.

    More hours went by. Vaneé went about his normal duties, seeing that the castle was tended to. That the power was at its highest, that the guards were standing watch in their designated areas, that all supplies were stocked and all security measures met. Incoming communications were kept track of. Then there were the smaller matters, making sure the maintenance droids kept everything properly presentable, that his master's spare armor and cybernetics were refurbished if need be. Before he knew it, the grey sky had dulled to a faded indigo as night fell, and his menial work had come to an end.

    Vaneé was about to retire for the night when he received a comm call. He responded quickly, then retreated with diligent speed, heading back into the console room, where his master had been all day.

    But when he got there, there was only the old officer. He was no longer at the console, but instead laying on the floor, eyes closed, though still breathing, and now imprisoned behind glowing bars from an activated force field. His wrists were held back in binders.

    So Vaneé searched the other rooms that his master tended to frequent. His sanctum was empty, as was his workshop, combat room, and meditation den. Finally he found him, just managing to glimpse the black form from afar as he passed through the hall. He was standing in one of many antechambers, a holo-device in his palm. It projected the image of a Wookiee, who Vader seemed to be conversing with.

    "My Lord," Vaneé said most delicately as he approached him, bowing. "I've received word from—"

    "I said I am not to be disturbed," came the mechanized voice, low with a hint of anger. He continued to look at the hologram.

    "Yes, master, I know, but this is not an outside call. It comes from the probe droids patrolling the south. It seems they have detected something. A most unusual ship, master, requesting permission to land."

    The domed head of the Dark Lord tilted at attention. Vader then turned the hologram off and swerved around, his black cape snapping at his heels. He stared at Vaneé, but more so seemed to stare beyond him, as if listening for something that only he could hear. Then with sudden haste, Vader rushed past his hooded servant and went through the door.

    He headed down the dark halls, signaling to the droids and his watchmen to allow the ship to proceed, and to stay clear of the area.

    No sooner had he arrived at the south hangar that he saw it: a bronze ship slowly easing from the fiery air and coming down on the round landing platform. Vader strode along the narrow stone walkway that led to the platform, and stopped.

    The ship doors opened, the rail lowered, and out walked Aiolin Astarte.

    The young woman stepped forward. She made her way closer to the center of the platform, her brown cloak swaying over her blue tunic. She had a depleted look about her, but she stood still and straight, facing the Dark Lord from several feet away. Her arm hung at her side, bearing the stubbed wrist, the result of the hand Vader had sliced off. Her face held no emotion.

    "I have him," Aiolin said, her voice solemn and mild, almost serene. "I have your son, Lord Vader."

    Vader surveyed her, but he was barely registering her words. He looked at the bronze ship behind her as if spellbound. He took a step forward, ready to summon the Force. To shove her off the platform—

    Aiolin lifted her blond head, her eyes suddenly livid. "Take one more step, make any move — and he dies." She lifted her sole hand, in which she held a thermal detonator. Her thumb pressed the top button, holding it down. It sounded and blinked.

    Vader halted.

    "He's on the ship," the girl said in haste, gesturing at the vessel as it was releasing shots of steam. "Surely you can feel him... My brother is there as well. They're both weak, but both alive. For now."

    Again the Dark Lord looked at the ship, drawn to it, to that bright presence inside. Undeniably his son's. He had sensed it before the ship had landed. The boy was unconscious, he could feel, in a weak, fragile state. Another lifeform was within the ship as well, inconsequential as it lingered in the background. That could only be Morit.

    Vader took his eyes off the ship and stared at the girl, processing the situation. She stood opposite of him, her light hair framing her stoic face while she kept a sturdy hold on the device. It didn't take any Force-sense to know what she was planning. He waited for her to say it.

    "I've come to make a deal, Lord Vader," said Aiolin, watching him, her blue eyes shrewd and seeking, her stance primed for any sudden movements.

    Vader regarded the detonator. Under his cape, he made the slightest movement of a finger, reaching out to the Force yet again, ready to wrench the device out of her hand—

    "My brother has another. He'll know if I've failed and set off his own." Aiolin made an impassive blink. "Skywalker will die."

    Vader broke the attempt with the Force, incredulous at the impulsive threat, but he inhaled calmly and rumbled, "As will your brother."

    "Yes. We both lose something, unless you listen. Do I have your attention now, Lord Vader?"

    Vader glared behind his mask. For hours he had been trying to track down information about Cylo, about that ship, any threads that could lead to the boy. Now it had all spilled onto him in an instant, his efforts wasted, and all because of the loathsome twins... He had suspected that they had been on that bronze shuttle that took the boy, but he had not expected this.

    Those events had weighed on his mind since they happened. He had let them happen, let himself be stalled by Cylo and his baiting words, and when he had gone to rescue the boy... he had let him go. He had had no choice. The boy had been too close to death. It was either let him be taken, or let him die.

    Now Cylo's pawns were here, holding his son hostage... It was ludicrous. Instead of fleeing for their lives, giving the boy to Imperial forces, or ransoming him from afar, his son's captors had come to him. Of all the moves they could have made, they had chosen this... It would've been staggering if he didn't already know how arrogant and shortsighted the Astartes were.

    He continued to stare her down, waiting for her to speak, to move, but she was just as still as him. They stood adjacently, at a standstill it seemed, and Vader wanted to harness his anger into action. The situation required a certain tactfulness, but his blood was boiling. And meanwhile, the detonator kept bleeping down at a faster pace. Vader felt the rhythm in his chest race along with it.

    "Say whatever you came here to say," he finally growled.

    Aiolin made the slightest adjustment of her thumb on the detonator, and it paused.

    "I'm making you an offer, Lord Vader... one that benefits you the most. We mean you no harm. The truth is, we have renounced Cylo. He abandoned us, and so... we have nothing. We're offering you your son, and our services, and we ask for nothing more. Morit and I have agreed, and we will do your bidding should you accept it. You have the technology to fix Morit—"

    "You are deranged," Vader thundered, his tolerance afire, and he lifted a fist. "You have the audacity to come here, to my world, attempting to make bargains? Do you think I will believe any of your pitiful lies?"

    "My brother and I could've gone to Cylo instead of coming here, Lord Vader... but we didn't."

    "That means nothing to me."

    "It would be far less of a risk to us—"

    "I tire of your pathetic attempts to gain my trust, girl. You clearly learned nothing on Shu-Torun. I will do nothing for you."

    Aiolin swallowed, and she cast her gaze to the ground for a moment. Then she breathed in, as if recharging her nerve.

    "Then... I can do nothing for you," she said. She hovered her thumb over the device again.

    The Dark Lord did nothing, even as he felt the dark side wailing at him, avid to quench his fury. He stifled his bloodthirst, and kept his attention on the girl before him. He easily sensed a mix of fear and fearlessness in her, all while her pale face stayed masked with calm. She had intentions, he knew, ambitions... but there wasn't an absence of truth. And that made him all the more enraged.

    She had come here, stupidly, blackmailing him and veiling it as an offering. After the rivalry, the mockery, the fighting, the travesties toward the Force... Coming to his domain and ransoming his son's life in exchange for her worthless brother... He could not have imagined the depth of the child's foolishness.

    And yet that foolishness was the danger now. He could feel that she would do it, should he refuse. The twins knew they had something he wanted, and they would sacrifice themselves to take it from him, just to rob him of something, just to have that one victory over him.

    The boy was here, wounded and weak, but he was alive. He was so close... Everything he wanted was so close to becoming a reality...

    The detonator was bleeping, quicker, closer to activation.

    Vader remained silent, burning with doubt, with misgivings — but he looked outward from himself. He read the girl, who was clamoring for his acquiescence, and he knew she was filled with even more anxiety as these seconds ticked down. As her 'offer' was getting closer to collapsing.

    So he stood his ground. He waited.

    The girl's stoic expression slowly turned into a light frown. She was getting more unnerved now. Impatient. She took a step forward.

    "Let us prove ourselves to you, Lord Vader," she said promptly. "There's still one left, isn't there? One Cylo. You wish to find him. We could tell you where to look. We know his hideouts."

    If that didn't reek of desperation, nothing did. Vader lifted his helmeted head in consideration, deliberately stalling.

    "Yes, we would do that for you. No tricks, just results." Aiolin peered at him. "You can feel what I say is true... What have you to fear, Lord Vader?"

    Silence fell. The dead air was heavy, only imposed by the Dark Lord's mechanical hiss and the soft sound of lava rushing and stewing below.

    Then Vader rose up a hand. "Very well."

    The girl's eyes lit up. She looked at him, her face blank, as if she was too baffled to speak.

    Vader continued. "You have brought the boy to me. You have proven you are willing to do my bidding. I felt it on Shu-Torun, but I see it in action now. Serve me, and you both shall live. But should either of you think to betray me... you will die well before you are able."

    Aiolin's loose face tightened back to attention. She compressed her lips, her shoulders tensing. Her eyes darted as if she struggled to find words.

    "You..." Her tone was low-pitched, almost a whisper. "You would give us your word?"

    Vader made a slow nod. He inclined his helmeted head. "I swear it."

    Aiolin breathed in. She nodded. She lowered her hand, pressed the button, but kept her fingers curled around the explosive.

    Vader watched her for a moment. Then he looked away, and his gaze settled on the ship. He took a step forward to it.

    "Time is short," he said. "Bring them both out here. I will inform the medical facility."

    Aiolin caught her breath and made a stiff bow at him. She hurried away and ascended up the rail. In a few moments she returned, pulling the edge of a repulsorlift stretcher. Morit lay on it, one-armed and legless, his flesh and circuits broken and burnt from the lightsaber cuts he'd endured. His eyes flared as he caught Vader's gaze. His one remaining blackened hand clutched his own detonator.

    Aiolin settled him, and quickly went back up the rail. She returned, but this time there was no stretcher. She carried in her own arms the wounded, white-armored body of his son. His face was swollen and pale, with an oxygen mask over his mouth, and dry blood set on the plates of his injured arm. His legs dangled as she carried him, no doubt having little difficulty in doing so thanks to her cybernetic strength.

    "I only had one carrier... Morit needed it the most," Aiolin said as she came to him. She looked at Vader, as if waiting to be excused for the boy's state.

    "I see," he responded, staring at the boy in her arms.

    Then he glanced at her hand that had been gripping the detonator — now free of it, instead supporting the boy's neck — he motionlessly glanced at Morit a few feet away, who kept the other device in a ready, weak hold.

    The dark side billowed around him, clawing at his senses, and Vader murmured, "Well done."

    And with that, he tore the boy from her with the Force, lifting him high up in the air, out of her reach. Aiolin blinked and glared, then was sent back as if by a blast of air. She crashed into her brother, who toppled out of the floating carrier before he could react, plopping on his back. Vader twisted his hand, and in seconds the twins were lifted, facing each other as they grunted in confusion and pain. Their heads bashed into each other, and they fell.

    Several feet away from them, the shuttle suddenly inched out from the center of the platform, the legs screeching against the metal surface. Then in a sudden motion, the entire vessel was raised, kept aloft in the air. With a push from the Force, Vader sent the bronze craft off the edge and down the underside, into the burning depths below.

    Waves of lava rose like giant wings, and an explosion of flames erupted as the ship was absorbed. Light flashed over the platform. Ash and rock fell around the bodies of the two twins.

    The Dark Lord turned from the sight of it all. He made a pulling gesture. The stretcher swept to him. He lowered the boy's body onto it.

    The bright fiery light at his back, Vader marched away into his castle with his son.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    How utterly fascinating -- I can well believe Vader never expected those two to show up with the offer they did. =D= I am so relieved that Luke will get medical attention.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
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  6. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    *gushes enormous sigh of relief* WHEW!!! [face_relieved]You had me worried, there! Not surprised Vader found a way to dispense with those two as soon as he had his son.

    Good, good, now Luke can get medical attention! Take care of your son, Vader!

    Only a few chapters left? *hopes and prays Luke doesn't turn to the Dark Side* [face_nail_biting]
     
  7. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    For the rescue of his son he acted like a true sith. I was not surprised that he turned out to be the true deal breaker here.

    Sorry, when I was away from the boards for a while and did not comment. It had nothing to do with your writing, but a lack of time.
     
  8. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Thanks, everyone. =)

    Here it is, the last chapter. It's been over a year since I started this AU based on a niche part of Disney canon from a comic in the OT era, and what do you know, people actually liked it. I hope you guys feel free (but not obligated in any way) to share feedback about what you think of the fic overall now that it's done, including criticisms if you have them.

    Thanks again for reading, and I hope you all enjoy the last chapter of Vader's Shadow. [face_coffee]




    The nebula glowed around him. Blue, green, magenta, and black.

    Luke floated in the boundless void. Nothing was before him, nothing but the colorful darkness and the inescapable mass of space. His breath was gone, he felt he was shrinking in the void like a piece of debris. He could do nothing but let the volume of darkness take him. He waited, helplessly, for his life to end.

    But something appeared, far away and below. A black form stood, looking like a ghost, like a red-eyed, living shadow. Stricken, Luke reached out for it, burning with the hope to live.

    His father waited for him. He had come for him. He had come...


    The black leather hand was held out...

    He was so close to grasping it...

    And then it changed. It became like a talon, curling, sprawling out... and then Luke was flung away.

    The hues of the nebula spun around him. The Dark Lord stood motionless, overseeing Luke as he drifted away towards his death.

    Luke awoke.

    He sat upright. Things moved before his eyes in a shapeless cascade, reeling as if at high-speed. Goosebumps rose on his sweat-soaked skin. He inhaled, and relished the feel of air pulsing in his lungs...

    He wasn't dead. He had survived. Somehow he had survived...

    He shut his eyes, opened them again, and things came into focus. He was sitting in a medical bed.

    Luke looked around. The room was shadowy, the only light coming from some blinking monitors, and he saw a transfusion drip set up close to him. An oxygen pump sat on a counter. Perched at the side was a large bacta tub, empty, but gallons of the transparent fluid was stacked by it. Subsequently he ran a hand through his hair and felt it was slightly wet. There were the perpetual, humming reverberations from a working motor nearby.

    A silent dread sunk into Luke's chest. A medical center... He saw flashes of a drill closing in on his eye, a beaming light over him, voices droning around him, conversing about how to dissect him...

    But no, this place felt different from Cylo's stagnant clinic. This was not like any medical center he'd seen before. It was eerily dark and bare, the walls seemed made of stone, but the machinery that was here looked sleek and expensive.

    And there was... something else here. A sharp, cold feeling. It seemed to shower over him, rush through him and under his skin — and he felt that he was only picking up an undercurrent of it. Luke couldn't help the shudder that swept through him.

    He looked himself over. He tugged on his clothes. He was in the thin black shirt and brown pants he had worn under his stormtrooper armor and bodysuit. He wriggled his bare toes on the matted bed. He saw large pink scars stretched across his arm, and there was a slight tenderness as he bent his elbow, but he flexed the bicep easily, curled and uncurled his fingers. He looked the rest of himself over and noticed the signs of the blaster wounds were almost nonexistent on his shoulder and leg, with only faint burn marks left on his skin. Everything felt healed. He felt no pain. He felt light and whole, energetic even.

    ...How had he ended up here? He wracked his brain, trying to remember what exactly had happened before he lost consciousness... Something had struck him from behind as he had been suffocating in the vacuum of space, his insides on fire... and now here he was, healthier than he'd felt in days.

    But he felt no ease. He just felt... cold.

    A soft buzzing sound came from the back area, and Luke suddenly swerved his head. A couple of med-droids were there, an FX-7 and a 2-1B. The latter approached him.

    "The patient is awake," the 2-1B said in a heavy monotone, lifting its claw-like hands and rotating them. "Please remain calm."

    Luke slid to the edge of the bed. He stood, his legs feeling slightly unsteady as he stepped away. His voice scratched in his throat as he spoke. "Where... am I?"

    "You are in the medical facility." The droid's yellow-white eyes studied him. "Please sit back down. I will examine you to check your vital signs before—"

    "What medical facility?" Luke pressed. "Where exactly am I?"

    "I'm sorry," the droid said. "Disclosure of that information is not part of my instructional programming."

    Luke frowned. Wherever he was, he could feel that it wasn't a place he wanted to be. He searched the room for an exit, and spotted a door to the far side behind the stumpy FX-7, who rolled towards him, making electronic chatter. Luke backed away, slowly making his way towards the door. He kept his eyes on the two droids. The droids looked at him in remote silence.

    Then the 2-1B shifted its attention and headed to the medical tables. It started putting things away. The other droid pulled the valve of a machine and started hosing down the hollow bacta tub. Luke stared.

    "You're... just letting me go?"

    The 2-1B's sullen-looking metal face turned to him.

    "We were instructed to tend to your injuries," it stated. "I would advise a check-up before your leave as standard procedure, but our last scan proved you are sufficiently recovered. Someone will see to you shortly."

    "Someone. Right." Luke sighed. "Mind telling me who?"

    The droid walked away to a cabinet. "Disclosure of that information is not part of my instructional programming. Have a nice day."

    Luke blinked, nonplussed and annoyed. The med-droids seemed to completely disregard him now, both busy floating around to spruce up the place. Luke hesitated for a second, then hurried to the door. He smacked his hand over the access panel. The door wasn't locked.

    The doors parted. He went to step through, and inches in front of him was a gaunt face wrapped in a black hood. Luke immediately bounced back in alarm.

    "Who — Who are you?" he huffed out.

    A tall man stepped into the room, raising his hands as if to show he meant no harm. He had an aged, sunken face and was dressed in a dark velvety robe. He seemed apologetic as he looked at Luke.

    "Forgive me," he said in a timid, prudish voice. "Unfortunate timing. My name is Vaneé. I'm here to see you off."

    Luke was dumbfounded. "See me off?"

    "Yes, yes. Rest assured, you will be free to leave this room and roam around to your heart's content. However, before you leave, I would ask that you stand still."

    Luke raised an eyebrow and inched away.

    "It's nothing toilsome, I assure you. I have a measure-reader here, as you can see." Vaneé brought out a small pen-sized device and pressed a button. A tiny beam of light shone from it. "I'll just need to scan you over to get your clothing size, that's all. I'm sorry to trouble you for something so trifling, but well, you require new clothing, and it's just much easier to get the right fittings when the person is standing. It won't take but a minute." Vaneé slanted his head in a submissive bow.

    Luke flinched, taken aback, trying to process the man's words. First medical treatment, now new clothes? What in the galaxy was happening?

    "What... what is all this?" he demanded, his voice jittery. "Who brought me here? Who... told you to do any of this?"

    Vaneé stood there. He blinked as if he hadn't heard Luke. Luke warily moved away from him, even though he felt no danger from the strange hooded man. Vaneé kept still and hunched, watching him with a kindly composure as he held the little device, as if he were waiting for a child to calm down and cooperate.

    Luke glared at him. "Tell me where I am. Now."

    Vaneé was silent.

    "Are you with the Empire?" Luke shot at him.

    Still the hooded man said nothing.

    "I told him it was not for us to answer those questions," the 2-1B commented from the other side of the room, still dithering about and putting away equipment.

    Luke glowered at the droid. At a loss, and knowing he'd get no answers here, he turned away, heading towards the door. It shot open and he crossed through to the other side.

    "Another time, then, young master," Vaneé said pleasantly from behind him.

    Luke turned around in bewilderment just as the doors slid shut on the pale, gaunt face. He paused and blinked. He backed away from the door.

    Young master?

    His thoughts askew and his mind racing, he darted away from the metallic doors, too set on getting away to think where he was going. He looked around and saw a wide hallway of what seemed like a large, stone-made building. The signs of technology were gone, and it was even darker than the medical room, almost blindingly dark. Senselessly he found himself heading to the left.

    Obsidian walls surrounded him, and his bare feet tingled over the pavement-like floor as he jogged. Meeting nothing but emptiness after a few minutes, he slowed to a mild cadence. He came into another passage that offered some light, with cylinders perched on wall sconces that glowed like faint grey candles. Flat pillars stood aside, sharp and knife-like, and he could make out simplistic carved patterns along the walls. The ceiling was pitch-black and the rib vault arches made repeated, web-like patterns ahead.

    Luke felt like he was underground, treading in some kind of morbid cathedral. There was a feeling of antiquity to this place, and something was heavy in the air, something active and... aware. At times he would stop, look over his shoulder, certain that he'd heard something like a step, or a moan, or a chant. He could feel something... many things... stirring...

    And that ever-present coldness...

    A squeal broke out suddenly and echoed ahead. Luke came to a halt, his heart pounding. Quietly he searched the darkness, waiting, and feeling all the more vulnerable. He saw a small circle of light. It seemed to hover in the blackness, methodically coming closer. It then flashed... and then let out a bleep. Luke's eyes went wide.

    "Artoo?"

    The barrel-shaped droid appeared from the shadows, rolling slowly towards him. He approached Luke and let out a gentle whistle.

    "Artoo — how did — how did you get here?" Luke looked the droid over anxiously, feeling short of breath. He set a hand on the silver dome as if to confirm it was real. "Artoo... what happened? Where are we? Do you know?"

    Artoo let out an indiscernible bleep, followed by some weak chirps. His nubbed head twirled around and around. Luke gawked at him, and his face screwed in concern. He scrutinized the astromech's plated body, trying to see if there was anything on him, any sign of damage or depletion. He found nothing.

    Then Artoo suddenly jerked away, his smooth dome passing under Luke's palm. Artoo slowly drifted back, retreating into the darkness. He made a beckoning bleep.

    Luke watched him, his mouth agape. He furrowed his eyebrows and followed him.

    "Artoo!" he called after the droid. "What's wrong with you? What's—"

    He followed Artoo down into a cross-section, and then Luke stopped. He saw a vivid light coming from a corridor, through a series of balconies that opened to the outside. Artoo rolled down the corridor, and Luke rushed after him. Curiosity overcame him as he saw the view offered by the first opening, the radiance of the outside light washing into his eyes, everything turning from dull black to a fiery glow. He dashed out onto the balcony.

    Sweltering heat whipped at his face. He saw a sea of lava against murky mountains. Black volcanoes were trailing orange ooze and bursting with gorges of fire. The sound of it was loud and lashing even from the distance. The sky was a darkening purple, struck with several forks of lightning from a nearby storm. A foul, oily smell filled his nostrils and soaked on his tongue.

    Luke turned and looked up to see the building. It was a tall black structure, less wide than he'd thought, but as ominous-looking as the inside suggested. There were pointed spires and columns, though it was too difficult to see the higher reaches above. At the side, he noticed the stream of lava welling like a waterfall from a trench in the center. He could tell by the sheer length of the drop that he was several feet high.

    Luke looked back out toward the land, watching the tumultuous, volcanic view, feeling lightheaded as it all swirled before him. He suddenly shuddered.

    "Cold..." He inhaled as a violent gush of lava ruptured in the distance, splitting the ground and melting the surrounding rock. "It's so cold... How is that even possible?"

    Artoo lingered with him a while, regarding him quietly as Luke continued to gaze outward. Then the droid proceeded through the shadowy hallway without him.

    By the time Luke looked back inside, the little droid was gone. Hoping he hadn't gone too far, Luke pried his eyes off the outside view and hurried down the corridor. He turned a corner, and the path led to another hallway. The wall here contained many carved pillars that once again yielded to the outside and ushered in its light. One huge archway lead to a protruding stone parapet that stretched far out into the red haze like an arm.

    Luke stopped in his tracks.

    There standing on the ledge, looking out into the brewing fire, was Vader. He stood with his back turned, his cloaked form frozen, his bell-shaped helmet reflecting the scarlet darkness. From afar he looked like he was made of the same dark stone as the towering building. He seemed part of it, a poised, brooding phantom of a forgotten time.

    For a long moment Luke gazed at him. Comprehension fell over him, an awareness that he had only felt before, now materialized before him. He absentmindedly looked at his arm and ran his fingers over the large scars. He disregarded the feelings that kicked in, the dread, the voices in his head, the urges that told him to run. As he looked at that figure swathed in black, felt the burning cold presence that was bracing and bidding for him, he felt there was only one thing to do.

    Luke stepped out onto the parapet. Even as he came out into the warm air, he could feel the coldness biting into him, crawling up his spine. Yet there was also an odd tranquility to it, as if snow was softly falling as he walked.

    Vader remained completely still as he continued gazing out at the molten land, his breath thriving in its perpetual hiss.

    Luke took one step, another step, another. His insides were in a snarl, his nerves strumming. He kept his eyes on the Dark Lord, never blinking and hardly breathing. He came even closer.

    Luke stopped, mere feet away, his shadow almost melting into Vader's. The silence endured, sharp and idle.

    Then without hesitation, Luke said:

    "Father."

    The broad form remained still for a moment. Then the helmet raised. The Dark Lord slowly turned. The mask looked at Luke, the eyes like the black ruby eyes of an insect. The carven face peered at him.

    The Dark Lord watched the boy, this slender, unarmored, barefoot young man whose height just reached his neck. Familiar sea-blue eyes gazed back at him behind blond strands. The boy's mouth was agape. His young face seemed almost vacant; he was dazed with shock, stunned by uncertainty. Drained by truth.

    Father. The word lingered inside Vader, foreign and uncomfortable, yet Vader let himself grasp its meaning, and he held onto the young one's presence, onto his acceptance. He remembered the promise he made to himself the moment he had learned the name Luke Skywalker, as he had stared out into the fleets and Star Destroyers clustered among the stars:

    I have a son... He will be mine. It will all be mine.

    Triumph rose in him, a sense of completion, of relief, and mixed with something else, something he couldn't name. Vader stared at the young one, bereft of words, and the young one stared back, his chest rising and falling as he breathed, the sea-blue eyes searching, asking, waiting. He was distraught, Vader knew. He was eager and utterly confused.

    He had so much to learn.

    Vader had so much to teach.

    The night was coming to a close and dawn drew near. Father and son stood there in long silence, the redness of Mustafar showering over them, the faraway storms raging on. When the morning did come and the sun rose, they were still there, and the sky was still very dark.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excelent details of Luke's initial confusion after those disconcerting images before coming back around. Superb closing scene with the tableau of father and son against the backdrop of roiling Mustafar!!! This has been a riveting, well-characterized journey, and if you write a sequel, I will be very happy to read that too. @};-
     
    Togruta likes this.
  10. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WHAAAAA?!?!?!?!?! :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:

    I'm just as confused as Luke is.

    And you end it here!?!?!?! Here!?!??!

    If this means Luke is turning to the Dark Side, I'm done. [face_talk_hand][face_not_talking]

    Bravo, for writing such a riveting tale! All hail the lord of cliffhangers! ^:)^^:)^^:)^^:)^
     
  11. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Thanks, @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha. I'm glad you liked the ending scene. Thank you for always taking the time to read and reply to this story. If there was a "first comment" or "most consistent commentor" award, you'd definitely get it. [face_coffee]

    And @Ridley Solo , if there was a "most hype" or "most dramatic response" award, you'd get that. lol Seriously, I really appreciate how much enthusiasm you've shown for this fic, they've been some of the most fun comments I've seen. [face_coffee] And lol@ "lord of the cliffhangers".

    Also, speaking of awards, thanks to the people who voted for this story in the actual Fanfic Awards. [face_coffee]

    And if anyone's confused about the ending, I'll just say that Luke has only acknowledged that Vader is his father. Where that may go, I wanted to leave open-ended. I hope that makes sense.

    And if it doesn't, well... please look forward to Vader's Meadow, the sequel coming this fall to a fanfic forum near you.

    :b
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
  12. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Lord of all cliffhangers indeed!

    Cliff Hanger, hanging on a cliff, and that's why he's called Cliff Hanger!

    Bonus points if you know where that reference is from.
     
  13. Saga_Symphony

    Saga_Symphony Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 2010
    Hey all. I've started a sequel to this fic (unfortunately the title doesn't include the word 'meadow'), called Vader's Fire.

    So if you're interested, you can read it here. Hope you like it. [face_coffee]
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
    Ridley Solo likes this.