Summary: Who is the man claiming to be Anakin Skywalker? Both Luke and Vader race to find him -- and the truth. Post-ESB.
A March 2005 challenge posted on the Luke/Vader Writers List: Write an L/V story based on from this plot bunny: Someone is masquerading about the galaxy under the name of "Anakin Skywalker." The information reaches both Imperial and Alliance networks. Both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker hear of it and react accordingly.
"I am not going to forget about Han! Stars, Leia, how can you even think that?" Irritated, he flung the rest of his gear in the duffel.
"I didn't mean it that way," she said hastily, reacting to Luke's indignation. "But if our plan is going to succeed, you need to arrive at Jabba's palace at the right time, and if you're chasing around the galaxy looking for someone you know is dead -- "
"It's not 'someone', Leia," Luke corrected, drawing a deep breath to subdue the agitation that seemed to constantly claw at him. He fastened his duffel and swung it over his shoulder. "It's my father. Of all people, you should understand why I want to find out who this man is. You're an orphan, too."
Her small hand grasped his sleeve. "Anakin Skywalker died years ago, Luke. You know that. Why do you want to put yourself through the futility of chasing an imposter?" She hesitated, her hand drifting upward to lightly touch his cheek. "You do believe he's an imposter, don't you?"
Reflexively, he pulled away from her caress and didn’t reply. For someone who thought she knew it all, she didn't understand how she affected him. She couldn’t know about Vader’s shattering revelation, but she knew how he felt about her. One minute she was kissing him and the next thing he knew, she was in love with his best friend.
"Luke, it could be an Imperial tr -- "
"Enough!" Immediately he regretted his harsh tone and tried to soften it. "I'll meet you on Tatooine on time and we'll get Han back. Don't worry about him."
"I'm worried about you, too." Her eyes reflected both compassion and guilt, and he felt a perverse pleasure knowing she was thinking about their kiss.
With nothing more to say, Luke nodded and left her standing in his quarters as he headed for the docking bay.
"I strongly discourage your proposed action, Lord Vader," the Emperor stated, static interference making his holographic image twitch like a puppet on strings.
"I must investigate, Master," he persisted. "This imposter is using my...former name. He must be stopped."
"You have duties that require your attention, to me and to the Empire."
"I will fulfill them. It will only take a short amount of time to find this imposter and dispatch him." He was determined to have his way; this was one time Vader would not bend to his master’s wishes.
"You are aware that this could be a Rebel trap." When Vader did not respond, the ruler added, "As stubborn as ever, I see." Palpatine's cowl tilted back, revealing what appeared to be a small smile playing on his decaying face. "Very well, my lord, I give you leave to pursue this phantom Skywalker. You won't take too long, will you."
It wasn't a question. Vader bowed his head in acquiescence, not looking up again until the image was gone. Then he rose to his feet and stalked through the gray corridors of the Executor. From the moment he had learned that a man calling himself Anakin Skywalker had surfaced from nowhere and was cavorting about the galaxy wearing Jedi robes and performing so-called 'miracles', he had been determined to track down the scoundrel. It was contemptible enough that his name had been stolen, but what if Luke should hear of this? He could feel the boy’s fragile mental state, and there existed the danger that Luke might take emotional refuge with the imposter who declared himself a father. Such an event would create considerable disruption in Vader’s plans for their future.
"Prepare my TIE," he snapped to the aide who appeared briefly at his side and disappeared just as quickly. His mind continued racing, searching for possible clues to the man's identity. A Jedi who escaped the purge? If Kenobi had managed, perhaps others had. But why assume his old identity? Unless the plan was to draw him out. Perhaps it was a foolish trap, set by a cohort of Obi-Wan's, someone who knew his former identity. Or perhaps his master was correct and it was a trap set by the Rebel Alliance... or by his son. No matter. Whoever it was would pay for the deception with his life.
Unless, of course, it was Luke’s trap for him. Then the net would be dropped on the pursuer.
He could've used Artoo's navigational help, but the droid was already on his way to Tatooine. Rorra's atmosphere was thick and murky with clouds that would've done Dagobah proud. It was an odd place for 'Anakin Skywalker' to be located, far off the well-traveled trade routes. There had been rumors circulating for months about the alleged Jedi, though the information had been kept from Luke until he returned from Bespin, wounded and lost in a shocked depression. Mon Mothma had finally told him then, perhaps thinking the news would lift his spirits.
Information has been received that a man declaring himself to be Anakin Skywalker has visited several planets along the Outer Rim.
Instead of cheering him, the revelation sent him spiraling into a state of confusion. First his father had been navigator, then a heroic Jedi knight murdered by Vader, then Vader...and now here was someone claiming to be Anakin Skywalker back from the dead.
Turbulence buffeted his ship and Luke refocused on the task at hand: landing safely. Once through the thick cloud cover, he saw green, rain-soaked fields and distant white-topped mountains. Not as soggy as Dagobah, and hopefully more hospitable. A village registered on his scanner, but he chose to land a discreet distance from it, hoping to avoid detection so he could observe 'Anakin' in secret.
Stripping out of his flight suit, Luke brushed off his plain black pants and shirt, an outfit neutral enough to blend in with the native dress. A light mist dampened his head, and he pulled a black rain poncho out of his duffel before stowing his belongings in the cockpit and heading toward the village. Without warning, his heart began to pound faster and his stomach tightened as he considered just whom he would be meeting.
Had Vader lied? Was Anakin Skywalker alive? Or had Ben told the truth and Vader had murdered his father? Was this a trap set by the Dark Lord? Maybe Vader intended to finish what he had started on Bespin by forcing Luke to join him.
No, it couldn't be. There had been several sightings of this Skywalker. It could hardly be Vader, considering he couldn't live without his mask and that wasn’t a terrifically subtle disguise. Anyway, Vader certainly wouldn't take leave from the Empire for the sole purpose of capturing Luke--that was a ridiculous idea.
He came to a halt, then shook his head. He'd been hearing that voice since returning from Bespin. At first he was certain that it was the Dark Lord and that this contact was proof of their relationship. But in the last few days he'd decided that it was his own confused mind playing devil's advocate with his more rational side. Anyway, even if it was Vader, it was simply communication through the Force, not evidence of any stronger connection between them.
“The Force is all I have in common with you,” he whispered, waiting for a reply that, to his relief, didn’t come.
The Force, indeed! It was annoying enough that Luke had come running to meet this poser, but to deny their relationship -- ! It was absurd to even consider that he could be hurt by the boy's rebuff. Darth Vader’s pride was piqued, simply that and nothing more, he reassured himself. He would not allow Luke’s stubborn denial to cloud his mood; his pride had cost him dearly over the years and he forbid it dominion over him again.
The surface of the damn planet was soggy. He hated being wet. Maybe it was a natural reaction to his upbringing on Tatooine; maybe it was simply the fact that his hem of his cloak became hopelessly wet and muddy in such environments. Whatever the reason, he already intensely disliked Rorra and that dislike made him even more inclined to execute the pretender immediately, without pointless discussion.
His boots made sucking noises when he pulled them out of the mud, step by step, picking a careful path up the incline. At the top of the hill he paused in the shadow of a wide fir tree and watched Luke traverse the opposite hill, half-running, half-skidding.
Be careful, he Sent, and had the satisfaction, petty as it was, of watching Luke snap his head around, then slip and land on his rump in the mud. Vader folded his arms. Typical. His offspring was reckless, always jumping into situations without considering the consequences. He must have inherited that trait from his mother.
Luke recovered, brushed futilely at his clothing, glared upward at the sky, and then continued on his way. Vader continued to watch as he mirrored Luke’s path from the opposite side of the narrow valley that sheltered the village. As they both neared the site, his systematic scan of the area caught the figure of a man wearing Jedi robes. Still some distance from Luke, the man spread his arms and the boy came to an abrupt halt.
Vader cursed under his breath. He’d hoped to locate the pretender and remove him before Luke made contact. With mixed feelings of resentment and bitterness, he watched his son approach the stranger and saw the man embrace his son. It was a small gratification to observe that Luke did not immediately respond and did, in fact, withdraw from the offensive contact. But the youngster remained close and the two became engaged in conversation.
Enough! It was time to intervene.
Luke couldn’t stop staring. Without a doubt, he knew that he was looking at himself in twenty years. Sandy blond hair, blue eyes, cleft chin -- If this wasn’t Anakin Skywalker, who was it?
“I’m so glad you found me,” Anakin said warmly. “I have been trying to contact you for months, but the Rebel forces are difficult to locate.”
He gulped, struggling to breathe around his wildly pounding heart. “Wh-where have you been?”
“Frozen in carbonite, as Vader left me two decades ago.” One hand reached out and clasped Luke’s shoulder. “What a fine man you have become, my son. You are everything I hoped you would be.”
He couldn’t bear the touch and backed off, wrenching his gaze away. This should be a joyous moment, but he felt a no happiness. Betrayal, loss, anger, longing -- violent emotions raged through him, swirling and stinging like a desert sandstorm. Where was the elation he should feel, where was a son’s immediate, joyful recognition of his father? He’d identified more with Vader during their confrontation.
The realization stunned him.
“Why didn’t you -- Why -- I don’t -- ” he stammered, unable to articulate his anguish and confusion.
“I couldn’t come for you,” Anakin replied gently. “Nor could I send a message. No one was present when I was captured, so they supposed I had been killed. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you while you were growing up, Luke. But I’m here now.”
“How touching,” a deep voice drawled, and Luke spun around, drawing his blaster.
"Vader! I should have known!" Why hadn’t he heard the Dark Lord’s approach? Why hadn’t he felt his presence? And why in the name of all hells was a feeling of relief underlying his consternation?
The Sith folded his arms. "Known what? That I would walk willingly into a trap?"
Luke stepped back a few paces, pointing his weapon toward the older man. "If there's any trap here, it's of your making." He looked wildly at Anakin. His father -- whichever one of them it was -- wouldn’t try to trap him, would he?
Oh, stupid question!
"Unlikely." Vader gestured toward his weapon. "For shame...a Jedi student, contemplating patricide? I do not believe Obi-Wan would approve."
"Well, we'll never know, will we, because he's dead and you killed him." But Luke flushed in reaction to the mockery and holstered the blaster. It was useless anyway, assuming Leia's description of Vader stopping laser blasts with his hand were accurate. "What're you doing here? If you think you’re going to finish what you started with him, you’ll have to get through me.”
Vader ignored him and studied Anakin. “A fascinating replication...but of Luke, not of me.”
The Jedi smiled. “I’m not afraid of you, Darth. I am stronger than I was twenty years ago. And with my son at my side -- we are invincible. So attack if you must, but together we will defeat you.”
“I have no idea who you are,” Vader replied coolly, though in truth he was unnerved by the Force presence he sensed. It was subtle and indefinable, familiar yet elusive.
“Permit me to introduce Anakin Skywalker,” Luke interjected with a surprisingly sarcastic edge to his voice.
“There is no such person.” He laced his voice with practiced persuasion. “The one named Anakin Skywalker ceased to exist many years ago, before you were born.”
“Oh, yeah?” Force, the boy was not influenced! “Then just who is this?”
“The very question I am asking.” He turned a calculating gaze on the charlatan. “A renegade of some sort...a Force user of no particular loyalty. One who is eager to deceive you, to lure you to his side in order to achieve his own ambitions to which we are not privy. Luke, he is not your father. I have that singular honor.”
Anakin shook his head. “You haven’t changed, Darth. Your speeches are still filled with lies.”
“I do not lie,” he growled icily, simultaneously deeply affronted and secretly mortified.
“Ah, that’s right. You ‘alter’ the truth.” The fraud drew out a lightsaber. Ignited, it flashed a blade the color of dried blood. “Luke, join me and together we will vanquish the evil that is Vader.”
Immediately Vader ignited his own blade and held it in a defensive position, alert for an attack upon Luke. “It is you who must die. You are an imposter, and I will not allow you to deceive the galaxy using the name of a great Jedi.”
Luke stepped nearer, foolishly brave and too close to the lit sabers for Vader’s comfort. “Stop! Don’t fight—I don’t want to lose my—my father...again,” the boy said miserably, his distraught gaze flickering between them.
The Sith felt the youngster’s terror and emotional torment. It distressed him when it should not even concern him. “He must be destroyed. Stand aside, Luke.”
“Stand with me, Luke,” the other said quickly. “I need your help. The carbonite imprisonment sapped my strength. Will you not defend me? Use your blaster!”
“No!” Vader snapped. “Move away, Skywalker, or suffer the consequences.”
Anakin stared at Vader. “My son will stay by me. We will die together, if we must.”
Half-mesmerized by the powerful gaze, Vader forced his eyes free and refocused them on his offspring. “I will have the truth from him, Luke. Stand aside. Do not make me injure you further,” he added harshly, nodding to the boy’s prosthetic hand.
The young Jedi stared at him, then the trickster, then back at Vader, his eyes reflecting his uncertainty. The Dark Lord recognized the moment when the boy reached a conclusion. He drew his blaster. In one graceful movement he was at Vader’s side.
“You are not my father,” he told the imposter firmly. “Vader’s right. Who are you?”
The man shrugged, smiling derisively. His form wavered, gradually turning transparent, and he began to shrink as though sucked slowly down a powerful drain. The two Force users stared in silence as the last of the form disappeared into the solid earth, leaving them alone.
After another long moment, Luke turned wide eyes toward him. “What was that?” he demanded.
“Someone very powerful in the Force,” Vader answered heavily, disarming his lightsaber and hooking it back on his belt.
Luke blinked a few times. “Who would that be?”
Vader nearly snorted before dismissing the question as youthful naivete. “I know of only one person who is more powerful than I am.”
“Who -- ? Oh. The Emperor.” The youngster paused, and for a moment they seemed almost equals as they contemplated Palpatine’s motives. “He wanted to...?”
Disturbed, he ventured: “Destroy you...or me. Keep us apart. Take you for himself. As I have said, he fears you. He knows that if you join me, together we have the potential to destroy him.” He let the reminder hang in several seconds of silence while he studied the boy, curious. With uncharacteristic hesitance, he asked, “Tell me, why did you choose to stand with me rather than with the one who looked so like you?”
“Too like me. Besides,” Luke smiled tightly, “he was eager to sacrifice me. You warned me out of harm’s way. It was obvious that -- Well, it was just obvious.”
Evidently Luke was not ready to verbalize the truth of his heritage, but it was clear that in his heart he had accepted the Sith as his father. The knowledge gave Vader a moment of pleasure, touching something inside him that he had not felt for decades.
He pushed away memories that he could not afford to recall. The past was dead and buried, and resurrecting it would be a dangerously irrational act. What mattered now were the boy’s powers and using them to unite father and son against Palpatine. “I have something for you.” Reaching inside his cloak, he drew out a small velvet pouch and dropped it in Luke’s outstretched hand.
“What is it?” With a surprising amount of trust, his son turned the pouch upside down and an icy green gem tumbled into his palm.
“It is a power crystal. You will need it for the new lightsaber you will build.”
“Build?” Luke repeated incredulously. “I have no idea how to build a lightsaber!”
“You had better learn.” Vader tilted his head in salute. “You will need it for our next encounter.”
Several expressions flashed across the transparent face of his son: shock, anger, understanding... and something resembling respect. Luke nodded, accepting the challenge, and Vader turned his back on his child, beginning the short trip back to his ship and the long journey back to his cunning master.
“So...you’re leaving? Just like that? You don’t want to...capture me?”
Vader smiled and continued walking. “It is not time for us, boy. Accept this reprieve as a gift from your father.”
“Well...okay, then... See you around,” Luke called with casual bravado.
Sooner than you think, he Sent back.
No. Not until I’m ready, came the surprising reply, and Vader realized that his son was a fast learner, indeed.
Just like his father.