Title: Ghost of the Past
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by George Lucas, Lucasfilms Ltd. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: In his youth, Luke Skywalker was killed in a horrible accident. Now, thirteen years after the death of his wife, Lord Darth Vader must deal with a ghost of the past.
With breathless excitement, Luke Skywalker, thirteen standard years old finally! scrambled eagerly into the cockpit of his brand new T-16 Skyhopper. His eyes were impossibly wide as he ran his awed hands over the immaculate controls. Well, perhaps not so immaculate. With a frown, he brushed off the sand that had settled across the throttle. Sand gets into everything, he lamented in his mind, but he was far to hyper to think of it for anymore than a second. In fact, he thought he just might combust any minute.
Outside, standing in the bright glare of two suns in Tatooines sky, stood the tall figures of his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, who had gifted him with the Skyhopper for his thirteenth lifeday. With a broad, brilliant smile at the pair of him, Luke gripped the controls and started the engines, gasping a delighted breath as they rumbled to life beneath them. He bounced a bit in his seat, unable to sit still.
The engines whined as the little hopper slowly lifted from its perched position into the air, rotating slowly. With a firm Uncle Owen directing from the ground, Luke slowly made himself familiar with the presence of the Skyhopper around him. Almost an hour later, after several signals from Owen to land, Luke finally let the Skyhopper settle onto the ground, the engines making flurries in the rippling sand. Leaping out with a delighted cry, Luke flung his arms around his Uncle, babbling a hundred words a minute.
Did you see, did you? he giggled, eyes sparkling. The engine thrusters the controls were great On and on he went, until he was too out-of-breath to speak anymore.
Owen and Beru merely smiled at him, and Uncle Owen even ruffled his hair as he tugged his nephew towards the homestead dome, despite protests that he had to check the hopper and make sure nothing was damaged in the test flight.
He glowed with a mixture of joy and excitement all through dinner and getting ready for bed. He didnt think hed be able to sleep that night, not with a brand new Skyhopper in the sunken yard. He was right, for two hours later he was still tossing and turning, heart thumping every time he thought of his brand new hopper. Finally, unable to stop himself, he sat up in bed and began to pull on his whites. Just a quick check couldnt hurt, right? Just to make sure nothing was wrong, check for Sandpeople out to steal, and such.
It wouldnt take long, he thought. Just a quick look and back to bed. No real reason to take a warming nighttime coat even. With that assurance, Luke quietly made his way towards the door of the dome, easing it gently open. In the moonlight, the Skyhopper gleamed silver instead of gray, settled like an ungainly sky predator on the sand. Grinning, Luke darted across the sand to run his hands over the wings and cockpit, feeling his heart pound. It was beautiful, and more importantly, it was his! No way could Biggs beat him now not even with his own Skyhopper. Luke would practice until he could take the Stone Needle at full throttle. What would Biggs have to say about that!
He took a deep breath of the cold Tatooine night air. Over on the horizon, Tatoo 1 was already sending a slight glow over the sands, despite the early hour. Because Tatooine had two suns, the days were always much longer than the nights, with daylight coming with Tatoo 1 and falling with the setting of Tatoo 2. For a moment, Luke simply looked at the pale blue glow before glancing back at the Skyhopper.
Could it really hurt? He wondered, staring contemplatively. After all, he knew all the controls, and he wouldnt do much. Just a quick jaunt around the farm, nothing dangerous he knew what he was doing.
Mind made up, Luke climbed into the cockpit, readying the controls and starting the simple start-up sequence. Obediently, the engines rumbled to life, and he joyfully lifted the Skyhopper off the ground.
He looped gently around the homestead, careful to watch the rising of the sun and being sure he kept out of sound range of the dome. With a sigh of pure bliss, Luke sat back and began to enjoy the ride. Mentally, he pointed at each control and recited what they did, feeling satisfied when he managed each one without fault. He looped higher and tighter, feeling a dizzying jolt of excitement as he did so. He looped tighter, almost a spiral into the sky.
He could see the stars a brilliant backdrop of pinpricks of light against the velvet blackness of space. He imagined that he was flying a starship, out among those stars, seeing all of them in person, learning everything he could about all the planets
With a jolt, he realized suddenly that he was very high higher than he was comfortable with, truthfully. His homestead was a tiny white spot below him, and the suns looked different from this height. Suddenly uneasy, Luke began a downward loop, letting the Skyhopper drift downwards towards the farm.
The next second, the engines died.
It was a freak accident, really. One could make the exact same Skyhopper, with the exact same imperfections, and take it on the exact same test flights a hundred times, but not have the same result not once.
With a heavy, slow realization, Luke simply watched the ground barrel towards him at an astonishing rate, his stomach in his throat, his heart and lungs constricted painfully. He wasnt even able to utter a sound, and so it was with dead silence that Luke Skywalker, finally thirteen years old, hit the dusty, sandy earth in almost the middle of his aunt and uncles sunken courtyard, just as Tatoo 1 cleared the horizon.
He didnt die instantly, which surprised him, really. He lasted long enough to realize what had happened, and feel the horrible agony of his twisted body within the equally twisted remains of his prized Skyhopper, and have the dull, slow realization that he was, at best, paralyzed for life, and at worst, dying here, now, and alone.
He had only a single, drawn-out moment in which he saw his uncle charging through the domes door, his face twisted into horrified, anguished disbelief, before he blinked once, twice, three times, and forgot to open his eyes once more.
A moment later he was standing upright, looking at his empty Tatooine whites crumpled in the twisted metal and plastic of his brand new, absolutely trashed T-16 Skyhopper.
Chapter One: The Jedi Council
No, Luke! No! his Uncle Owen shouted, his hands scrabbling desperately at the twisted cockpit door.
Luke looked up from the Skyhopper to his uncle, confused. He glanced down. No, he still had his clothes on. In fact, they looked exactly normal.
Looking up at his uncle, Luke frowned in bewilderment. Hadnt he just been in the cockpit? Hadnt he just been in a lot of pain?
Uncle Owen, what happened? His uncle didnt even look at him.
Luke! Luke, are you all right? Can you hear me?
Yes, Im here, Uncle Owen, Luke said, confused. Look, Uncle, Im right here!
Luke stepped forward to tap his uncle on the elbow, and suffered an enormous shock when his hand passed right though his uncles arm. He snatched it back, unbelieving, his eyes wide with shock.
Uncle Owen, whats going on? he asked louder, somewhat desperately.
He blinked and stepped back when his uncle didnt answer, but continued to yank at the twisted metal, which bit into his calloused hands and caused blood to run. His neck muscles strained and his tendons stood out like cords as he hauled at the door.
Luke looked up, suddenly, feeling a prickling at his neck. At the door of the dome, his Aunt Beru stood, dressed in sleeping clothes and holding her hands to her mouth. Tears streamed down her face, but she made no move to help Owen.
Finally, Owen managed to free the door and flung it unceremoniously aside.
Luke, he shouted, on his knees beside the broken cockpit. Luke, can you hear me?
But Luke wasnt in the cockpit only the twisted, yellowed materiel of his whites.
That cant be right, Luke thought, perplexed. Im wearing my whites; I can see them.
But there was no denying it they were Lukes farming whites. Then realization slammed into him; the whites, the crash, the horrible, horrible pain and the realization. He watched in stunned disbelief as Uncle Owen freed the trapped clothes and pressed them to his trembling lips, tears leaking from the usually hard eyes.
He was dead.
He was dead.
Oh, Sith, no. Luke suddenly couldnt breath. The world swum before his eyes and he suddenly felt light headed.
But that cant be, he thought, feeling hysterical. Im dead, how can I feel? Im dead! Dead, dead, dead!
No, Uncle Owen! The cry was ripped from his throat, tearing violently from him.
He jumped forward and stumbled, hitting the ground. The sand didnt shift beneath him it was hot and hard, like stone beneath the sun. Panting, Luke spun around, staring at the ground behind him. The sun was in front of him, and that meant
There was no shadow behind him.
He collapsed on the hard, hot ground, running his fingers over the grains of sand, feeling, to his surprise, tears start to stream down his face. He gulped, trying to stem them, but no avail. He sobbed, on the ground, as his uncle stood up shakily, his thick-jointed hands twisted in Lukes empty clothes, and staggered up to his Aunt Beru to wrap her in his arms. Together, they stood in the doorway, crying silently as the person that they mourned cried behind them in the sand.
Several long, horrible moments later, Luke heard footsteps in the sand, and looked up. It was an old man in a brown hooded robe, gray-haired. He recognized him old Ben Kenobi, from beyond the Dune Sea. The old man stared hollowly at the wrecked Skyhopper, understanding gleaming in his aged, wise eyes. He turned towards Lukes aunt and uncle, his step graceful for his age as he moved towards them.
What happened, Owen? Old Ben asked softly. Owens shoulders trembled before he whirled, his eyes a mask of rage.
Why do you care, Kenobi? Uncle Owen shrieked. You know what the result is! Luke is dead! He gestured sharply towards the wrecked hopper, face twisted into a grimace of grief and anger. Make your own conclusions! With that, Owen turned abruptly to guide his wife into the dome.
Wait, Owen, Old Ben said quickly. Owen stilled, facing away.
We all must leave this place, Old Ben said quietly. I felt Lukes death cry Vader would have felt it too. He may recognize the boys Force signature.
Aunt Beru shook her head, buried in Owens shoulder. Uncle Owen looked at her for a minute before turning. Tears still glittered in his eyes.
No, Obi-Wan, he said quietly. You leave, Beru and I will stay here.
Owen Ben started, but stopped when Owen sharply shook his head.
No, Kenobi. We will stay you must go to Leia.
There was a long moment of silence before Luke saw Old Ben Kenobi slowly nod his head. Then he turned and walked away without another word. Luke wiped his eyes and slowly stood, unaccustomed to the feel of an uneven, hard ground beneath his feet. He watched, feeling hollow, as his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru walked slowly into the dome and closed the door.
A moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Jumping in shock, he turned quickly. Behind him was a tall man dressed in funny brown and white clothes, his dark, graying hair shorn just below his shoulders. His face was wise and kind looking, and he wore a small, gentle smile as he looked down at Luke.
Hello, young Luke, he said, and Luke instantly liked his voice. Calm, collected, and gentle. My name is Qui-Gon.
Bu but I how do you I mean, Im dead! Luke stammered, his brain racing to fast to put proper words out. He flushed a bit, but Qui-Gon only smiled.
Yes, I know, he replied calmly. So am I.
Y you are? Luke asked, his voice a bit higher than usual. Wow! I didnt know I mean, I had no idea
That one still sticks around after ones dead? Qui-Gon asked, amused. Well, you only really do if you feel incomplete. I was ready quite soon after I died. You, however, feel the need to finish a lot of things. Or, more appropriately, you will, when you are told about them.
What? Luke asked blankly.
Qui-Gon smiled and wrapped his warm fingers around Lukes hand.
Come, child, Qui-Gon said gently. All will be explained. You must meet the Council.
The Council turned out to be a room full of humans and strange looking humanoids. Luke stared around in awe at the chamber, eyes wide.
The council stared hard at him as he was led before them, Qui-Gons warm hand reassuring on his own. In the middle of the half-circle setting of seats, a tall man with dark skin and no hair sat, mouth hard and eyes regarding Luke seriously. Luke blinked shyly and tried a quick smile before ducking behind Qui-Gon.
For a moment, no one spoke.
This is young Skywalker? the man in the middle asked. Luke blinked at him.
Yes, Master Windu, Qui-Gon replied. This is Luke Skywalker. There was a moment of silence.
He is not afraid, the man Master Windu, said slowly. Lukes brow furrowed.
No, hes not, Qui-Gon said. Also, he is here, which is unfortunate. Our only hope now is the girl, and she is not as strong.
She will need a guide, another man, this one with a long, lumpy head, spoke from the side. Luke glanced over at him quickly.
Who better than her brother? Qui-Gon asked swiftly, and there was an abrupt silence. Luke frowned.
He is untrained, the man with the lumpy head said slowly. Uneducated. How can he guide one with a Destiny such as hers?
Because his is still entwined with hers, for all that he is on the other side, Qui-Gon replied. Uneducated he may be, untrained and young, but he has the most basic knowledge of his Destiny, having lived with the prospect of it. It is linked with hers.
Yes, Master Windu said quietly. You are correct. Very well, Master Jinn. Take him and inform him. Master Windus dark eyes connected with Lukes, who ducked his head. May the Force be with you, Luke Skywalker, Master Windu said slowly. Luke blinked.
Uh, thank you, Luke said, and Qui-Gon led him away.
Chapter Two: Leia
So this Leia is my sister? Luke asked, staring at Qui-Gons noble face.
The tall man nodded with a smile. Luke paused, taking that in.
Twin sister? he whispered blankly.
Qui-Gon laughed gently.
Yes, Luke, he said, smiling. Your twin sister, Leia.
And I need to to help her? he frowned, confused. But Im dead, how can I help her when Im a a spirit?
The Force, remember, Luke, Qui-Gon said. A Force sensitive can often appear to another Force sensitive after they merge with the Force. When you go to Leia, you will be able to reveal yourself to her for small amounts at a time.
Oh, Luke said slowly.
Dont worry so much, Luke, Qui-Gon said in his mild voice. The Force will guide your actions. You just need to allow it.
Right, Luke said, blinking. When do I meet her?
Right now, if you like, Qui-Gon replied. Simply close your eyes and search within yourself. You will feel a bright light, and beside it, a smaller light. Touch that small light. Luke closed his eyes and stood there, confused. Take a deep breath, Qui-Gon said quietly. Dont try to force it, just let yourself go
Luke sighed and relaxed, and his vision, black because his eyes were closed, began to lighten. To his surprise, two white lights appeared in front of him. Reaching out, he touched the smaller one. It pulsed beneath his mental probe, and abruptly, he opened his eyes to find himself in a huge room full of opulent materials. White and pale blue dominated the color scheme, a pale bedspread with white hanging drapes, and filmy white curtains across a broad, graceful window overlooking a beautiful ordered garden.
A girl was stretched out on her stomach on the bed, propped up on her elbows with a book in front of her. She had long, dark hair that curled loosely and spilled across her back and shoulders, and warm dark eyes in a pale, flawless face. Luke blinked.
Sit down, there, Qui-Gon said from behind him. Luke looked. He was pointing at a chair, which Luke sat down in. Now, simply observe for a while, Qui-Gon said quietly. I cannot stay this is your mission alone. When you feel the time is right, simply concentrate on allowing her to see you. Speak with her, but dont explain too much.
What is too much? Luke asked quickly, but he was too late. Qui-Gon had gone.
Sighing, Luke scooted more fully onto the seat and pulled his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. For long moments, he simply watched the girl Leia and looked around at her room. In the corner were two powered down droids a golden Protocol droid and a short, squat little astromech. Finally, bored, he concentrated on allowing her to see him. Slowly, he began to shimmer blue.
Hi, he said quickly, before he lost his nerve.
The girl jumped, sitting up swiftly. Her eyes grew wide.
Who are you? she demanded, standing up. How did you get here?
Uh, Im not sure, Luke admitted. Qui-Gon still has to explain a bunch of stuff to me something weird, I should say. He blinked. Oh, sorry. Im Luke.
Well, Luke, Leia said, sounding like she was gritting her teeth. Why are you in my room?
To see you, of course, Luke said, feeling it was obvious.
Yes, but why? Leia asked sounding irritated.
Well, why not? Luke said. Does there have to be a reason for everything?
Well, yes! Leia bit out. Why do something without a reason?
For the sake of it. Luke said promptly. Then he hesitated. Well, perhaps that isnt always a good idea. Thats how I died.
Leias expression went into shock, as if she had just now realized that he was bluish and transparent.
D died? she asked, sitting down heavily. Youre dead? Then why are you here? What is going on? She sounded frantic.
Calm down, Leia, Luke said quickly. Oh, and dont speak loudly if there are people about. Someone might wonder why you are talking to thin air. Only you can see me.
Only me? Leia asked weakly. Why who are you and what is going on?
Isnt it obvious? Luke said promptly. Were talking. Well, trying to, anyways.
But why? Leia asked desperately.
She looked as if she wasnt accustomed to asking why all the time. Luke hoped she wasnt like this normally.
Because Im here to help you, Luke said simply.
With what? Leia asked blankly. Luke shrugged.
I dunno yet. I suppose with anything you need help with.
Why me? Leia whispered.
Because youre my sister, he replied. Im your twin.
My twin? Leia yelped. I dont have a twin!
Well, technically, not anymore, Luke conceded. Im dead, after all. But I am your brother.
Were you adopted by someone else? Leia furrowed her brow. Is that why we werent raised together?
No, I wasnt adopted, Luke shook his head. I was raised Luke Skywalker, with my aunt and uncle, on Tatooine. I dont know why we werent raised together. Luke frowned, eyes unfocused. In fact, I dont know much of anything, really.
Why not? Leia asked.
She suddenly seemed interested, scooting forward. Luke smiled at her.
Well, Ive only been dead a few hours. Luke pointed out. Im still getting used to all of this. Apparently, when a Force-sensitive dies, they merge with the Force unless they have a job to do, like I do. I have to help you before I can go on to he paused. Well, onto wherever people like us go
Us? Leia questioned.
Luke waved a hand.
Force-sensitive people, he said.
Leia looked blank.
Jedi, he clarified.
Leias eyebrows shot up.
Jedi? she gasped.
Well, not really, he admitted. I wont ever be a Jedi one has to train for that. You can, though. When we uh you get older, maybe.
Come to think of it, I think Ill be thirteen forever, now, he scowled. How irritating. Mentally Ill age. Ill always be short, though. Thirteen forever.
He made an expression of disgust.
Well, you wont get old, Leia pointed out.
Luke shrugged, still scowling.
Well, Leia hesitated, looking uncomfortable. Luke looked up, his expression questioning. Uh, if you dont mind me asking um, how did you I mean, what ?
She stalled, gesturing to his form. He seemed to understand, however.
How did I die? Luke finished, smiling.
I was stupid, he said matter-of-factly. My Uncle Owen had just bought me a brand new Skyhopper er T-16 model. I flew it too high, which was the stupid part, and without permission, another stupid thing. I wouldve been okay, though. But the engines failed.
You fell? Leia whispered, her face a mask of shock.
Luke nodded, no longer smiling.
It wasnt so bad for me, he whispered quietly. I hit hard, hurt a bit until I died. Took about fifteen seconds, I would say. Enough time for me to see my uncle running from the dome his face was he looked absolutely horrified.
Luke trailed off. For a few seconds, he simply remembered.
My aunt came out to watch him, he continued, closing his eyes. He wouldnt accept it, kept screaming my name and tearing at the wrecked hopper. Aunt Beru, though, she knew. She knew as soon as she saw the hopper that I was already gone.
Thats terrible, Leia said quietly.
Luke only nodded with a sigh.
So you believe me? he asked, suddenly smiling again. No denial?
Well, no not really, Leia said, her words choppy. I suppose I knew I mean, I dont know if you know what Im talking about, but some sort of feeling when I saw you
You know, then, Luke said smartly. The Force already told you.
Well, yes, I suppose. Leia said, sounding skeptical still. Yeah, I guess.
She frowned, and stared at Luke, who ducked his head self-consciously.
We dont look alike, she said pensively.
Luke shook his head.
I suppose we take after different parents, he said with a shrug.
I remember my mother, Leia said. Our mother, she corrected. She looked like me well, a bit. She was very beautiful, I remember. I have her hair and eyes. She seemed sad. Leia whispered, her voice quieting at the end.
I dont remember her, Luke said softly. Unfortunately, I have to move on before I can see her. She wasnt Force-sensitive. We get that from Father.
I dont remember him, Leia said. Have you met him?
No, not yet, Luke said, feeling eager. I really want to, though. Ill tell you about him maybe hell come see you too. I dont see why not.
Yeah, maybe, Leia smiled.
She studied Luke again.
Do I mean can we touch each other? she asked, uncertain.
Probably not, cause I dont have a body, he said. Im just a spirit.
He reached over and brushed a hand on Leias wrist. It went right through. Luke didnt feel anything, but Leia shivered, looking spooked.
What? he asked. What did it feel like?
Like static, she said uneasily. Kind of fuzzy and tingly.
Luke raised an eyebrow, and Leia opened her mouth, perhaps to ask another question. However, they were interrupted by a soft voice.
Its time to go now, Luke, Qui-Gon said. We have much to discuss.
Luke nodded and rose to his feet.
Bye, Leia, he whispered softly.
Leia looked at him looking somewhat forlorn.
Will you come back? she asked desperately. You arent leaving forever, are you?
No, no, Luke said, smiling. Ill be back soon. Im your helper, remember?
You can call for him, Leia, Qui-Gon said. Simply concentrate on his presence and call his name. Hell hear you wherever he is, wherever you are, and come.
Oh, all right, she said, looking happier. Bye then, brother.
Luke waved cheerfully at his sister, gave her an easy, casual smile, and his surroundings faded as he drifted away. Leia was the last thing to fade, and for a moment, she stared at him, hard, until she, too, faded away. Luke was once again in Qui-Gons private quarters.
They sat down on Qui-Gons seat, and the Jedi had a droid, which Luke looked at with bewilderment, go and get refreshments for them.
Well, what did you think? Qui-Gon asked. Did you like her?
Oh, yes! Luke said enthusiastically. Shes wonderful!
Im glad you think so, Qui-Gon smiled, and then his face became serious. Luke, he started, his voice sounding heavy. Im going to tell you something that the Jedi Council doesnt wish me to tell. However, I am a believer that truth and blood will prevail.
What? Luke said, feeling a sense of foreboding descend over him.
Its about your father, Qui-Gon said. Who he was or is and why he isnt here.
You mean hes alive? Luke asked.
Yes, he is.
Why didnt he raise Leia and me? Luke whispered, confused.
Because he thought you had died with your mother, Qui-Gon replied heavily. But I will come to that in a moment. For now, I will start with your mother, who, when I met her, was fourteen years old, and the Queen of Naboo.
Queen? Luke said, surprised. Qui-Gon nodded.
She was Queen, and I met her when the Jedi Council sent me and my Padawan my Apprentice, to Naboo. There was a blockade, you see, surrounding her planet. They planned to force your mother to sign a treaty, which she was against. My Padawan and I convinced her and her handmaidens to accompany us away from the planet, so we ran the blockade in a Naboo starship. Unfortunately, our hyperdrive was damaged we had to make an emergency landing for spare parts. We landed in an out of the way settlement on a desert planet called Tatooine, where we met a young slave boy named Anakin Skywalker.
My father? Luke asked. He was a slave?
Yes, he was, Qui-Gon said quietly. He took a deep breath and continued, and Luke listened with rapt attention as a wonderful, horrible, achingly sad tale unfolded.
Anakin was desperate, you see, to save your mother, Qui-Gon said quietly. Desperate enough to defy all Jedi laws, and become that which he hated. Still, your mother died after you were born, having lost the will to live. When Anakin awoke from his injuries, he discovered that he had lost the only thing he cared about anymore, and his fall to darkness was complete. He still lives, but he has forgotten who he was, what he strove so hard for. He became a shell, an almost robotic slave, feeling nothing because he cares for nothing. I dont believe that Anakin is completely gone, however. Not like the Council, who never believed in him at all. It is only you and Leia who can bring him back, Luke. You, who are his beloveds children, can blow on that tiny ember of light and make it burn again.
Where is he now? Luke whispered, almost afraid of the answer.
With the Emperor, Qui-Gon said. He is the Sith Apprentice. He calls himself Darth Vader.
Chapter Three: Vader
Luke peered around the corner, staring at the tall, broad figure that strode swiftly down the hallway of the ISD Devastator. His spirit-heart hammered as he stared at his father for the first time ever.
Who was rapidly moving out of sight.
Cursing quietly in Huttese, his second language, Luke ran to catch up, but couldnt slow to a walk even when he did. His legs were far to short for that, and instead he was forced to do an awkward sort of hopping jog-like walk. Luckily, being dead meant he couldnt lose his breath. While moving along beside him, Luke examined the blinking lights on Vaders chest as best he could with the man striding so fast, and wondered curiously where Vader was going.
That was answered when they emerged onto the bridge of the Devastator. His father moved right up to a man dressed in a pale uniform with a hat, who straightened up quickly and gave a curt nod.
Lord Vader, we are approaching Imperial Center now. We will be coming out of hyperspace in approximately five standard minutes.
Very well, Captain, Vader said, and Luke jumped at the deep, resonant bass that emerged from the sinister-looking mask. Have my shuttle readied. Remain in orbit until I return.
Yes, Lord Vader, the Captain said quickly.
He turned and nodded sharply to an ensign, who hurried away. Vader turned and stared out the viewport, the deep blue of hyperspace lined with white the only thing to see. However, never before seeing such a sight, Luke was instantly intrigued. He stood right up close to the window in awe, staring out into the blue. He almost didnt see his father leaving the bridge, and had to run again to catch up to the huge figure in black. He only just managed to jump in the shuttle that Vader boarded before the hatch closed and Vader sat at the controls. A moment later, the Devastator shuddered as it left hyperspace. The shuttles engines whined as Vader lifted it up, and the hangar bays hatch opened wide, yawning like a great mouth. Beyond it was the velvety black of open space, lit with a brilliant backdrop of stars.
Luke slumped in the co-pilots chair as the shuttle cleared the hangar bay and looped around. A moment later, Luke gaped as they faced a huge planet that glittered and glowed with its own light. Luke had heard of this place.
Luke watched as Imperial City grew bigger and bigger, and the many lights that gave the entire planet its glow coalesced into discernable lights, lighting up enormous skyscrapers of the like Luke had never before seen.
He wasnt even jolted when his father sat the shuttle down, and he only realized they were on the ground when Vader started to unbuckle his seat restraints and stood up. Luke jumped up to follow.
Welcome back, Lord Vader, an officer on the docking bay greeted his father as he strode down the ramp. The Emperor wishes to see you at your earliest convenience.
I am on my way, Vader rumbled in reply, not even pausing to glance at the officer.
He strode briskly away, leaving Luke scrambling to keep up.
Luke wanted to call out to his father to wait for him, but common sense kicked in just before he shouted and he remembered that one, he wasnt visible to Vader right then, and two, he wasnt supposed to let Vader see him yet. So he simply continued to trot after the long-legged figure as they made their way into the Imperial Palace, and moments later, into Emperor Palpatines own throne room.
Vader slowed as he entered the room, making his way towards the steps that led to a huge chair, currently turned away from them. Vader, to Lukes surprise, knelt at the bottom of the steps.
Rise, Lord Vader, came a voice from the chair.
Luke jumped. The voice was strange. Slick almost slimy sounding. The chair turned, and Luke reared back in surprise at the grotesque face. Flesh, pallid and flabby, seemingly rotting right off the skull. Sickly yellow eyes peering from the bulging folds, and rotting yellow teeth. Luke swallowed, his stomach rolling.
The room seemed wrong. A cloying feeling permeated the air, sickly sweet. Luke was afraid to open his mouth; afraid the feeling would settle on his tongue like thick, poisoned syrup impossible to remove all the way. He shivered and shifted closer to his father, wanting comfort even though it was practically impossible for him to be harmed. At least his father didnt feel like this; he didnt think hed be able to stand it for very long.
What is thy news, my master? Vader asked, and the previously commanding voice was suddenly soft and subservient.
Luke stared in surprise.
Mon Mothma, Lord Vader, the Emperor said quietly.
Luke would have thought him simply mentioning the name in passing if the Force hadnt bucked as he said it. It gave the feeling that he was spitting the words even though he said them in a perfectly even tone.
She has been extremely careful, my master, Vader said. I have not been able to accumulate irrefutable evidence against her yet. However, I feel I am getting closer to her, and I feel that she will soon make a mistake. I will be there when she does, and will strike then.
Very well, Lord Vader, the Emperor said. Now, will the young Force-sensitive in here please show themselves?
There was a pause, Luke looked around nervously.
Master? Vader asked quietly.
Show yourself! Palpatine snapped, and Luke jumped. There is someone here, Lord Vader; I sense them, and I want them in front of me now!
Uh, oh, Luke whispered.
The Emperor had sensed him. That was not good. Time to go, he knew, and just as Vader turned around as if to search out the mysterious presence, Luke concentrated and touched that place inside his mind where his sister resided, and his surroundings faded away to be replaced with his sisters familiar room.
She was twirling in front of a mirror, dressed in a form-fitting white dress with a scooped neck and wide, pointed cuffs. She wore silver colored shoes on her feet and a large silver pendant around her neck with the Alderaan Senate logo etched into it. Her hair was drawn up into a tight coil on the back of her head, with several long silver cords streaming down her back, ending in soft tassels.
Going somewhere? he asked casually as he slumped in his seat.
Used to it, Leia merely glanced at him and continued examining herself in the mirror.
Yes, she replied absently. My mothers sisters son, Julian, is having his coming of age party and I must attend.
Oh? Luke grinned, watching his sister, the Princess of Alderaan, twirl around the mirror in her expensive gown while he lounged in her chair in his Tatooine whites.
Can I come?
Leia blinked and looked at him.
Well, I dont see why not, she smiled. Might liven it up Julian is so dull!
Im sure, Luke rolled his eyes. You never do anything fun! Dont you ever want to do something just because its fun? Like borrow one of the guards swoop bikes and go for a joyride?
No! Leia said sounding scandalized. Besides, Alderaan guards dont have swoops. They have airspeeders.
Well excu-use me, Luke said, rolling his eyes.
Also, I have no desire to commandeer an airspeeder, as I have no need for reckless thrills, she said haughtily.
Luke rolled his head back against the seat in exasperation.
You see? he asked. Youre no fun!
Oh, leave it be, annoying brother. How did spying on Vader go? I still dont understand the fascination you have with him. You dont admire him, do you?
For the last time, Leia, yes, I do admire the man, even as I cannot stand his actions! I can admire his strength and piloting skills while not liking him, promise.
Just making sure, she said as she adjusted a pin in her hair. Hes not a great role model to have, you know.
I know, I know. By the way, its been three days since I died. Ben Kenobi should be arriving soon, I think. You said it only takes about three days, right?
For the last time, Luke, its Obi-Wan!
Well, I was raised with him as Old Ben, so there! Luke retorted.
Leia gave him a look. He laughed.
Oh, all right, call him Ben if you like. I have an evening engagement. Are you coming along or not?
Yeah, yeah, Im coming, he said, levering himself off the chair.
He looked longingly at it. It looked so wonderfully comfortable. Unfortunately, being dead meant that it didnt give under his weight, and so was hard as a rock. With a sigh, Luke followed his sister as she made her stately way down the hall, her hair shining in the light and the silver tassels shimmering. Luke laughed quietly as he followed her.
Are you laughing at me? she hissed from in front of him. Shut up, you nerf-herder!
Luke couldnt help it. He burst out into delighted peals of laughter. In a huff, his sister stalked away. He sniggered as he jogged to catch up.
She stopped stalking as they got to the Palace grand staircase, and slowed her pace back to its stately appearance, chin held high and back straight. Luke mocked her my mimicking her posture exactly, a fake-solemn expression on his face. She shot him a dirty look.
Ah, Leia, you look stunning, a man said from the floor.
It was Leias adopted father, Bail Organa.
Thank you, Leia replied coolly. Shall we go?
We shall, Bail Organa replied with a laughing smile.
Luke snickered behind Leia. She made a rude gesture with her hand behind her back as she took her fathers arm.
The party room was almost full when they arrived, guests milling around with drinks in their hands, making small talk. When Leia and Bail entered there was a murmur of greeting from the assembled people, and Leia curtsied.
Good evening, all, Bail said, his voice carrying. Id like to welcome you all to Alderaan Palace and wish the guest of honor, Mr. Julian Norindo, a happy lifeday! Now, if we could have some music, if you please, something soft, yes, thank you.
The band started something soft and lilting, easy to talk over. Leia made her way over to a group of young women and girls. Luke followed.
Adelaide, hello, Leia said as she arrived at the group.
A girl, about Leias age with long, straight honey blond hair and clear blue eyes returned the greeting and gave Leia a slight hug. She had a dusting of freckled across her nose and cheeks and was slightly taller than Leia. The two girls began to talk quietly, and made their way towards the refreshment table to get drinks. Sighing, Luke followed.
A tall, dark-haired young man greeted Leia at the table. When he spoke it was with the absent quality of the slow minded. Leia returned the greeting with a pleasant smile.
This is boring, Leia, Luke said as they moved away from the table.
Leia glanced at him, her smile rather fixed. Her eyes told him to shut up. He ignored her.
I mean, I thought there would be fun music and stuff.
His eyes wandered the party.
But all I see is little elite groups of nobodies.
Excuse me, Adelaide, but I must use the refresher, Leia said pleasantly. Ill meet you back here in a few moments, all right?
Of course, Leia, Adelaide replied, and Leia, with a jerk of the head at Luke, moved away.
Sighing, Luke fell into step beside her.
Here, Luke, parties are calm, pleasant, light-hearted affairs! Not wild, rowdy brawls!
Luke rolled his eyes at his sister.
How boring! he complained.
Shaking his head, he wandered away from his sister, ignoring her hisses to come back. He moved back to the refreshment table, watching as many guests came and went. Adelaide still waited there, nursing her drink. Leia returned a few moments later, just as another young man, about eighteen, came over. Dark-haired like most of the people there, he had a face that seemed to settle into a natural sneer.
Leia, Adelaide, how nice to see you, he said quietly.
The girls whod been giggling about something a moment before, stopped and turned to look at the young man.
Lorrk, Leia said slowly, her face frozen in a tense smile. Pleasure, as always.
She seemed to get tenser as the young man leaned nonchalantly against the table, crossing his arms. Luke straightened up and frowned.
A friend of yours, Leia? he questioned doubtfully.
Leia glanced his way and gave one miniscule shake of the head. Lukes eyes lit up. A plan instantly unraveling, Luke watched and waited until the young man, now chatting to Leia like they were old friends, finally served himself a drink. Luke darted around the table, examining trays. Smiling, he spotted what he wanted. Large, deep green olives, the kind with the strong flavor, were on one tray. Concentrating like Qui-Gon had taught him, Luke managed to reach through the Force-walls separating his reality from Leias and lift one of the olives with the Force. When Lorrk wasnt looking, the olive slid soundlessly into his drink. With a wicked grin at a wide-eyed Leia, he crushed it. Leia looked stunned.
The next casually elegant sip Lorrk took of his drink stalled in his mouth as a confused expression came over his face. He swallowed painfully and looked into his drink in consternation. Luke laughed.
That was unbelievable! Leia hissed later that night as they made their way up the stairs. She held her dress up to avoid stepping on it, looking tired. I couldnt believe it when you crushed that olive poor Lorrk! He had no idea how it happened!
I know, Luke laughed. Come on, Leia, it was funny!
Leia didnt answer, and Luke looked over at her. Her face was averted.
Leia? he asked nervously. All right, Im sorry, I wont to it again
She was laughing.
Hey! Luke said, eyes widening.
Her laugh pealed out, echoing slightly.
All right, all right, she hiccupped. Yes, it was funny. The expression on his face it was all I could do not to laugh right there in front of him.
There, Luke said, smug. I knew you had a sense of humor.
Leia batted at him, laughing.
Go on, you! she ordered. Its late dont dead people sleep?
Grinning, Luke waved goodbye to her and let his surroundings fade.
Chapter Four: Son
One Year Later
Darth Vader listened to his heavy, measured footsteps as he strode down a hallway in the Devastator. The rhythmic sound of his boots and his breathing calmed his raging temper.
Mon Mothma had struck again.
Oh, he had no proof that it was Mothma, of course, but he knew it was she who had done it. Shed struck an Imperial Outpost with her pitiful band of renegades, stealing ships and killing soldiers. Not much of a loss to the Empire, no. It was the fact that on the entire Imperial fleet there was not one Admiral competent enough to take care of the aftermath of the skirmish, and he was forced to turn his flagship around to take care of it himself. That was why he was angry.
Turning the corner, Vader was about to continue on when he felt a jolt in the Force, as if someone with Force-sensitivity was calling out to him
Confused, Vader paused. There was no Jedi left no Force-sensitive people trained enough to call out through the Force. Then a glint of blue caught his eye, and he turned his head. There was a child crouched in a shadow, one hand playing with an unraveled thread on the loose sleeve, eyes focused on Vader.
There was a child on his ship.
Now that was something that didnt often happen.
What are you doing here? he demanded, taking a step closer to the boy.
The boy tilted his head back, longish hair falling away from his face.
That was when Vader realized something. He wasnt staring at the boys eyes he was staring through them.
To the wall behind him.
Im meeting my father, the boy said matter-of-factly.
Vader didnt answer. He was too busy staring at the boys body, which was outlined in blue and transparent. For a moment, he was speechless.
What? he managed, once he forced his mind off the transparency.
The boy had said something; hed just not caught it.
Im meeting my father, the boy said again.
Who is the idiot officer who allowed his son on board my ship? Vader asked angrily.
The boy simply blinked at him.
Oh, no one allowed me on board, he said easily. Im just here.
You are a stowaway? Vader rumbled.
Not really, the boy replied. Im not really here, after all.
You are a holo-image? Vader asked blankly, feeling that would make sense.
If one didnt think on the fact that holo-images were generally shaky, completely blue things that often distorted, and this one was clear, still, and colored. Then the boy shot that down when he answered.
No, Im a ghost.
For the second time in as many minutes, Vader was thrown into speechless surprise.
A what? he demanded finally.
The boy blinked up at him.
Im a ghost, he said, as if it were obvious. A Force-spirit.
Darth Vader had entire armies under his command. He was responsible for hundreds of lives, when they ate, when they slept, which ones died, which ones were promoted. He prided himself on his unshakable mind, immune to weak emotions such as happiness or shock. However, for the first time in fifteen or so years, he was so shocked he was unable to even formulate a response. He simply stood there, staring, until the boy took pity on him and stood up.
Stang, he said quietly. Leia didnt respond like this. Louder. Why dont you take us somewhere private, and we can talk?
Talk? Vader asked dumbly.
Yes, talk, he said patiently. So an officer or someone doesnt come around the corner and see you talking to the air.
Numb, Vader slowly stepped forward. The boy followed. Vader jumped, startled, for the first time in years. His life-support sped up in response to his stress, and his heart thudded faster. All the while, the only thought that ran through his mind was that the see-through boy was moving.
Somewhere private? the boy reminded him, and Vader managed to move again, still staring at the boy as he emerged from the shadow.
His transparency was suddenly more evident. Vader instinctively moved towards his own quarters and used the Force to open to door. The boy thing followed him in.
Being in his own private surroundings gave Vader a little steadiness. He whirled around on the boy.
Explain, he growled.
I told you, he said. Im meeting my father.
Your father? Vader said slowly.
You are a ghost. Vader said. It wasnt a question, but the boy answered anyways.
Yes, I am. Im dead, the boy said.
Your father can see you? Vader asked.
Well, yes, he can. Hes a Force-sensitive.
Who? Vader demanded. Who is your father?
The boy gave him an exasperated look.
Well, now, I understand that this is a bit of a shock, but shouldnt you know? Who am I here to see, meeting for the first time?
What are you talking about, boy? Vader growled.
The boy glared at him.
I heard you were intelligent, he rolled his eyes. Force, its you!
For the third time, numb shock filled Vaders mind. He suddenly could only see the boys face, faintly gleaming fair hair, blue eyes, and only one name filled Vaders mind.
No, he rasped. Youre dead!
Well, duh! the boy said, rolling his eyes again. What did you think I was?
You died before you were born. Vader said, sudden images racing through his mind.
The boy blinked.
Is that what they told you? he questioned.
He looked curious. A moment later, though, he shrugged.
Oh, well, no use now. I died last year.
Last year? Vader hissed. Where how?
Tatooine, the boy replied. My Skyhoppers engines failed. I was high. I hit hard, died fast.
Stunned, the Dark Lord of the Sith could only mouth the words.
Several breathing cycles passed before Vader could move. His voice was even more hoarse than usual, weak even through the vocoder.
What is your name?
The boy smiled at him, eyes crinkling cheerfully. Vader could almost see Tatooines brilliant sky reflected in the blue of the orbs.
Luke, he replied. My name is Luke.
Luke, Vader said slowly, numb lips forming the words. He swallowed. Luke. He whispered. My son.
He stared at the boy Luke sitting on the only seat in the room with his arms wrapped around his knees, staring at him with too-blue eyes. Vader reached out a hand that would have trembled had it been real.
Luke extended his own. Vader almost flinched when the so-small hand ghosted through his own like smoke, but met Lukes eyes. They were calm and knowing and he was smiling at him gently. Vader was captivated, couldnt turn away. It was Padmes smile. Padme, whom he hadnt thought about in years, for fear of generating feelings best locked away.
Now, however, they flowed through Vader like a Force-storm, ripping through once iron-tight mental walls. Vader simply let them fall.
How can this be? he whispered finally. Why are you here?
Because the time was right, Luke said simply. You can see me because we are both Force-sensitive.
Vader had no answer to that.
Padme? he asked, moments later.
Luke blinked at him, smiling that soft, knowing smile.
She loves you, he said quietly. That is all Im allowed to say.
What what Vader blankly looked around, confused. Now? he whispered.
Luke smiled at him.
Dont worry, itll be all right, he said. He slid his feet to the floor and stood up. Im going to help you, so close your eyes a second, all right?
Vader closed his eyes, not knowing anything else to do. He felt a strange, sort of fuzzy feeling beside him, but resisted the urge to look. A moment later, the Dark Side of the Force surged, and Vader realized, with surprise, that his mental shields were rebuilding themselves. Just before Vader opened his eyes, he heard a soft voice whisper to him.
You need to rest now, to accept everything. I will be back soon, father.
When Vader opened his eyes, the bluish figure had gone, and his turbulent feelings were once more calm and quiet. Vader knew what had happened, though.
Luke, he said slowly. My son.
My Force-sensitive, beautiful, long-dead son.
With that thought ringing in his mind, Darth Vader proceeded to destroy his private quarters in his grieving rage.
Chapter Five: Goodbye
Three Days Later
Im going to be a senator, Luke, Leia said haughtily.
Why, though? Luke asked as he sprawled out on the floor.
Because I can help the people from inside the Empire itself, Leia replied.
What makes you think you can help? Besides the fact that you are politically brilliant.
Leia looked at him.
Am I supposed to answer that? she asked.
Luke rolled his eyes.
No, I suppose not. he sighed, sitting up.
Besides, I have the perfect spy. I can learn anything.
How so? he asked lazily.
Leia turned to stare at him.
Why, you, of course, she replied.
Me? he asked, straightening abruptly.
Yes, you! Nobody but me can see you, and only when you want me to. You dont leave fingerprints, cant be spotted on security cameras the perfect spy.
Luke had no idea if that was allowed. He simply stared at Leia, who had her eyebrows raised at him.
Well? she asked impatiently.
Ahhh Luke said, eyes wide. Ahh, you see, I dont know if
Oh, come on! Leia snorted. You, who seek thrills even after theyve killed you, dont want to have the thrill of spying? Really, think of it! We could learn secrets from anyone! Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, even the Emperor himself!
Ah, Luke started, wiggling his fingers. No. The Emperor can sense me Ill not be going there, thanks.
Oh, well, that hardly matters. You can hear everything from other sources.
I dont believe my stuffy Royal sister is trying to get me to spy for her, Luke grinned. Yeah, all right, Ill do it. You owe me, sister.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Leia replied, turning back to the mirror.
Luke stood up off the ground.
Times up, he said cheerfully. Im off. Tell me what you want me to find out and Ill see what I can do.
See if you can find Governor Tarkin. There isnt anything specific I need to know, but Ive always hated the man. See if you cant find some things about him.
Sure, whatever, Luke replied.
He waved at her through the mirror and let his surroundings fade.
Hi, Master Qui-Gon, he said as they rematerialized.
His surroundings were now Jedi quarters, where he spent what little spare time he had. Qui-Gon Jinn looked at him from the window.
Luke, good. Ive been waiting to talk to you.
Yeah? he asked, suddenly feeling uneasy.
Something in Qui-Gons voice wasnt right.
I cant stay here anymore, Qui-Gon said quietly. Luke blinked and felt his heart thud nervously. Ive been staying here to help you, but my place is further in, with the rest of the Jedi.
Further in? Luke asked, eyes wide.
Yes. I took you there, once, just after you died. The Jedi Council. Did you feel the difference between there and here?
Luke thought back to those terrible minutes just after he had died. Yes, he remembered. There had been a difference. That room where the Council sat was filled with peace and contentment compared to the room Qui-Gon resided in. Slowly, he nodded his head.
That is where I belong, Qui-Gon said. I have taught you much in the past year, young Luke. You are ready to go on, on your own.
But I dont want you to go, Luke whispered sadly. Qui-Gon smiled at him.
I know, Luke, he said. but it is time for me. I have faith in you. You will do what is right.
Blinking quickly, Luke nodded his head and looked down at his feet. Qui-Gon put a hand on his shoulder.
You remind me much of Anakin, he said, a smile in his voice. Luke glanced up, puzzled. Led by your heart, Qui-Gon said, placing a hand on Lukes chest. A fierce weapon, your heart can be. Be wary, however. Remember your fathers path. He fell to darkness to prevent his vision, and by doing so, made it come to life.
Ill remember, Luke whispered. I wont let Leia do the same thing. Ill bring my father back. Hes good, I know he is.
I look forward to seeing it come to be, Qui-Gon smiled.
He stood up, tall and strong and wise, and moved towards the door of his spirit-like quarters.
Good luck, young Luke, he said, and with one last smile he opened the door, and was gone.
Suddenly overwhelmed, Luke sat down hard on a chair at the kitchen table and buried his face in his arms.
The Star Destroyer Devastator Darth Vaders private hangar bay
Size two hydrospanner, Vader said, holding out a hand.
He kept his eyes on the shuttles exposed circuit panel, holding them steady with one hand. A few seconds, and an assistant droid set the required tool in Vaders other one. He went back to work on the wires, gently twisting them into place.
Ive always loved ships, a voice said suddenly from behind him.
Vaders heart suddenly labored. He knew that voice
He turned his head. Sure enough, the ghostly blue figure of his dead son sat slightly behind him, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around them. Slowly, deliberately, Vader put his hydrospanner down, and took his hand away from the wires, shifting the bulk of his body to face Luke.
You came back, Vader said, for lack of anything else.
Luke smiled at him.
Of course. I told you I would, didnt I? he replied.
Vaders respirator cycled several times.
I have learned, in the course of my life, to not expect anything, he finally responded.
Well, Im here anyhow, even if you didnt expect me to be.
Why are you here? Vader asked after a moments pause.
Luke grinned at him, eyes sparkling.
To see you, of course.
I see, he responded. And what do you plan on doing now?
Luke grinned and shifted onto his knees.
Well, I thought wed talk. Get to know each other and stuff.
He shifted forwards, examining the wires in the panel.
Ive always loved ships, he said again, poking at an exposed wire.
He giggled when his finger slid through it.
Did you enjoy piloting? Vader asked, before remembering how his son had died.
Piloting accident, he remembered, and felt his lungs constrict again.
Oh, yes, Luke smiled. Very much so. One of the only things I hate about being dead I cant fly anymore.
There are no ships? Vader asked, disturbed.
No ships he didnt like the thought of that.
Oh, Im sure there are, Luke said reassuringly. I cant fly them, though. I dont have access to them.
Access? Vader asked blankly.
Luke grinned at him and shrugged.
Yeah, but its really hard to explain everything about there. Im not sure Im allowed, either, so I better not say too much. Luke bent closer to the panel. I used to repair lots of things, too. Vaporators, mostly, but we had a lot of helping droids that broke down a lot from the sand. I always had fun repairing them. And my speeder! Luke laughed. It was always breaking down sand and stuff. It was really old. I always used to make little modifications on it I made the rear engine respond to the frontal throttle once, but that was an accident. Scared me good when I discovered it. He laughed. I had a great time watching my friends try and figure out what was going on. None of them would pilot my speeder anymore.
Really? Vader asked, slowly bending beside the blue figure.
Luke nodded and sat back.
My Uncle Owen had a swoop bike when I was really young, but I only have a few memories of it. When I started getting interested in it, my uncle sold it immediately. He had the right idea, I think. I would have wrecked it, sooner or later. I had this bad habit of sneaking out at night Luke grinned, looking up at his father from under his lashes. I remember I took the speeder once to Anchorhead I must have been nine or so. Just after Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru fell asleep. I went with my friends. Biggs, who was eleven, and Deak and Windy, ten, I think. We lost track of time, and I didnt make it back in before my aunt and uncle woke up. You should have heard Uncle Owen shout, Luke grinned in remembrance. It was fantastic. I was grounded for so long
You were not were you happy, there? Half way through, Vader changed what he was going to say. If it wasnt true, he didnt think Luke would appreciate being asked if he was abused. Luke shrugged.
You mean was I content? No, not really. I could never keep my head on my shoulders my uncle always said it was in the stars, where I really wanted to be. But I was fine. I loved love my aunt and uncle I just didnt want to live with them. I always wanted my father, Luke smiled. I wanted to be a star pilot I was never content on the farm.
I see, Vader said, distant. Do you know how you came to be on Tatooine?
Yes, Luke said. Ben uh Obi-Wan Kenobi took me there.
Obi-Wan! Vader said. Is he still there?
No, he left, Luke replied. Same day I died. Just a couple hours later, he was gone.
Vader stilled, and sank back down, having been about to surge to his feet.
Where did he go? Vader asked, trying to stay calm.
Luke stared at him, eyes calm.
I dont know, he said quietly. I didnt follow him.
Vader turned away in frustration. When he turned back, Luke had gone.
Chapter Six: Rebel
Three Years Later
Leia is seventeen years old
Luke hovered behind his sister, invisible to save his strength. Taller than him now, she stood straight in a pure white gown, her hair combed into shining chocolate buns on each side of her head. Luke thought it looked ridiculous, but Leia would give him that look if he dared mention it.
Sighing, he fidgeted impatiently and stared with blank boredom up at the ceiling. He wouldnt have thought it possible four years ago that a ghosts feet could hurt, but they were. All this political talk was boring him to death, as well. This Senator So-and-So had an awful, droning voice. How was one supposed to pay attention if the materiel they were supposed to be paying attention to was unpayattentionable? He blinked at that thought. He didnt think that was actually a word
A soft snapping sound caught his attention. Giving a put upon sigh, he shimmered into view and stepped up beside his sister.
Yes, Your Highness-ness? he drawled lazily, watching her eyes.
They were downcast, but a moment later they flicked up and to the right, and then up to the podium, as if some movement had caught her attention but shed merely glanced over it. He followed her first gaze, and sighed again.
Motti again? he grumbled. I keep telling you, hes a stupid, too-ambitious-for-his-own-good Admiral who wouldnt recognize bantha fodder if it was flung in his face. I never hear anything when I watch him. He frowned at her. Yeah, yeah, fine, Ill go. Dont expect anything of enormous proportions though. Nobody ever talks to that stuffy, stuck-up city-bunk, and I can understand why, he scowled as he made his way to the railing on the balcony they were in.
He climbed up and jumped off and floated over to Mottis balcony, wishing he were flying in a speeder, or on a swoop instead.
I tell you, its almost complete, Motti was whispering.
Abruptly, Luke forgot all of his complaints to his sister and listened raptly. This was different perhaps Motti was good for something occasionally. Hed been gathering information about this project thing for years, now. Not once had he heard the name of it, or its function. Only that it was a fail-proof method to keep all planets in the galaxy in line, supposedly a space-worthy piece of technology of enormous proportions, its construction time going on eighteen years.
You said that five years ago, the man beside Motti said skeptically. How am I to know if its true or not?
I have contacts! Motti hissed. I hear things a lot of things! I tell you, this time its right! The Death St
Shhh! the other man snarled, looking around frantically. You idiot! Dont mention the name!
Death what? Luke breathed. Death St ar? Death Star? Death Station?
All right, all right! Motti was saying, trying to calm the other man. Dont worry so much, Carlonson, there are no security cameras on this balcony. My contacts made sure of that.
Yeah, but you didnt count on those already dead, did you, my dear Motti? Luke chuckled.
There had better not be, Carlonson growled. Or Tarkinll
Tarkin wont ever know!
Lord Vader might, you know what the rumors say, he can read minds, I think
You dont believe that garbage, do you? Force powers? Right! Motti sneered. As I was saying, the project is nearing its final stage. They will be looking for a test subject soon, and I believe
No, Luke hissed, as the Senate and people around him began to rise. The sounds covered the last of the words, and when Luke got close enough to the two men to hear, they were finished with the discussion and leaving as well.
No matter. Hed just heard a ton of stuff of enormous proportions, indeed. He rushed back to his sister, also gathering her things, and settled beside her.
Luck hit, dear sister of mine, he drawled with a smile. Motti the stupid thug was discussing a secret project with one of his colleagues. The Death Station, or something, I didnt catch it all. Apparently its nearing it final stage in construction and will be looking for a test subject soon, but I didnt catch all of that part, either. Luke smiled at his sister, who nodded her head subtly. Heard something about stupid rumors that arent true about Vader reading minds, here Luke grinned. And something about Tarkin, of course. Oh, and Motti apparently has contacts hes a stoopa, and he thinks that having contacts means he cant be overheard.
They emerged from the Senate building and into Imperial Centers gray outdoors.
So you getting voted in, you think? he asked, moving right through a parked speeder. He looked over at the controls in interest.
I hope, Leia replied. So far, so good.
Youngest Senator ever, Leia Organa, eighteen standard years old! Luke laughed.
Leia didnt answer, but Luke saw a little smile curling her lips. He snickered, waved, and faded away.
The Star Destroyer Devastator, The Bridge.
Get the troops to their fighters, I want this battle won, Vader rumbled.
The Captain looked nervous.
Yes, Lord Vader, he said quickly. At once. Ensign, the man turned to a lower-ranked officer. Contact the hangar personnel. The pilots are to be in their suits and fighters as soon as possible.
Yes sir, Captain, the Ensign replied smartly, and he hurried away.
Vader turned back to the viewport. He had Mothma now.
The Devastator was in hyperspace, launching herself towards the far-off planet of Clakdor VII, where the Rebels had settled their base. Vader felt a fluttering of anticipation for the up-coming battle, muscles tensed in waiting for the great ship to leave hyperspace.
A shudder indicated it had just happened. Vader braced his legs to absorb the rapid decline in speed. A shiver in the Force indicated the Devastators sister ships, eleven of them, hummed out of hyperspace on her flanks.
On the surface of the planet, the Rebel Base was lit with alarms, but it was too late. Already, fighters were sweeping out of the Devastators hangar bay, squads from the other Star Destroyers following. Within a minute, A-Wings, B-Wings, and Y-Wings were winging up from the planets surface, interspaced with a few versatile, speedy X-Wings. Vader headed for the hangar bay to his waiting shuttle. When the battle was over, he would go to the surface.
A shimmer of blue beside him caught his attention, and even before he turned his head he knew what he would see. Sure enough, at around mid-waist level, the spirit form of his son, dead for four years, smiled up at him, his signature hopping gate keeping him apace with Vader. Vader slowed for him and reached out with the Force. No one was around, only his sons brilliant Force presence.
Luke, he greeted, slowing more.
Hi, Luke replied, eyes twinkling. Are you going to fly?
Yes, but in a shuttle, not my fighter, Vader replied.
Im coming, Luke decided. Ive always wanted to see a Rebel base,
Why would you want to do that? Vader asked.
Luke looked up at him.
Well, why not? he said matter-of-factly. Nothing else to do.
I see, Vader said distantly.
There were small viewports in the hangar bay, and Luke floated up to stare outside. Rebel pilots and Imperial troops winged past silently, and flashes of green and red lasers lit up the darkness. The often-exploded fighter would transform into a huge mushroom of yellow-red flame, splashing light against the hulls of the sinister, looming Star Destroyers before abruptly snuffing out in the airless vacuum of deep space. Luke, wide-eyed, simply stared, torn between loyalties. He watched an X-Wing spit blazing lasers towards a TIE, slicing into the wings and hull. The TIE blazed apart in a rush of yellow and red. Three TIE fighters spun around and spat lasers back. The X-Wing tried to swerve out of the way, but three direct hits pierced through the shields and sent the fighter spinning away to burst into a brilliant yellow flower of flame.
Stang! Luke breathed softly.
He felt a familiar, aching longing. Four years, he thought. Four years since that fateful day. His last day in a cockpit his last day alive
Movement beside him made him turn his head. His father stood there, looming darkly against the harsh light of the hangar bay, his black-gloved hands clasping his wide belt. Luke had the feeling that the man was fighting to find words to say something. He waited patiently, but the moment passed, and in the end, Vader turned away again. Outside, the remaining X-Wings abruptly turned tail and fled down to the surface. There were only two left.
Luke turned and hurried after his father, jumping onto the shuttle. His father shut the hatch and started the engines. As Luke sat down in the co-pilots seat, the engines whined and the shuttle smoothly lifted up and soared from the hangar bay, bursting out among a score of waiting TIE fighters in the shadows of the looming Star Destroyers that hung motionless in space.
The shuttle flew down towards the planet among an escort of TIE fighters, and within moments, they landed smoothly upon an empty, silent docking bay. The hatch lowered, and Luke followed his fathers tall, stalking form down the ramp. Around them, Stormtroopers spilled from a second shuttle, blasters raised.
Find the Rebels, especially Mon Mothma, Vader ordered loudly. I want her unharmed.
The Stormtroopers fled towards the docking bay entrance, and there was the sound of many blasters firing, shouts, screams, and heavy running footsteps.
Vader stepped in when the sounds ceased, and nudged a fallen rebel with his foot. The man didnt move. Luke felt sick.
A squad has scouted ahead, Lord Vader, a trooper said smartly, snapping a quick salute. They will find your Rebel prisoners.
Good, Vader rumbled, and strode through a second set of doors.
Luke hurried after him, nearly getting whacked in the face by his fathers rippling cape. He dodged to the side.
A moment later, there was a loud scream ahead and the sound of rapid blaster fire, and then the heavy sound of an explosion. Vader stopped still, listening, before moving off at an even faster pace. They turned the corner to see half the scouting squad in pieces around a bloodied hallway, and the other half standing back away from a lone, young rebel sitting slumped in the middle.
He was holding a thermal detonator.
Instantly, Vader reached out a hand and yanked the switch on the detonator down, deactivating it with the Force. The young Rebel looked down in surprise, and that was when Luke realized his legs ended mid-thigh. The rest was a mass of blood and bits of bone and flesh. He backed up a step in shock and horror.
The young man tried to reactivate the detonator, but it was too late, and Vader yanked it away.
The Rebel sat in stunned disbelief, staring at his empty hand for several seconds. Then his eyes hardened and his jaw tensed, and his hand darted to the side. A split second later he was firing madly at the troopers and at Vader, who blocked the bolts with an empty hand. The troopers fell within seconds.
Vader reached out as if to snatch the blaster from the mans hand as he had the detonator, but the mans eyes flashed towards him and a sneering, angry smile stretched his lips as he turned the blaster around and pulled the trigger. His blazing brown eyes then closed as he slumped backwards, a smoking hole in his temple. Luke took two steps to the side and stood directly behind his father, out of view of the corpse, and Vader reached for a comlink and pressed a button. A moment later the rest of the Stormtroopers trotted around the corner.
Mothma is still in the base. Have the docking bays watched and have the rest of the base searched. She is here. Find her.
Luke grimaced as Vader turned around to look for him, but gave him a quick smile when their eyes met.
Its almost time for me to go, Luke said slowly. I dont get a lot of visible time anymore. I seem to tire myself out more.
He frowned in confusion, feeling the weight that signified it was time to let his visibility fade. Vader stared at him for a moment and then nodded his head.
Very well, he said. I will see you another time.
Of course, Luke said, grinning cheerfully. Bye, then.
He waved and let his surroundings fade. They reappeared to the spirit-rooms that Qui-Gon had led him to so many years ago, and he rushed to the refresher and was promptly sick.
Back at the Rebel Base Vader felt Mothmas weak Force-signature disappear, blasting for open space in a blockade-runner. Furious, he called the dozen Star Destroyers with orders to capture them. Minutes later, as he himself soared for empty space in the shuttle, he saw his Star Destroyers milling around like headless scurriers. There was no sign of Mothmas runner.
Throats closed that day.
He had a fleeting thought that he was glad his son wasnt there to witness it, but he banished it forcefully and didnt think of it again.
Chapter Seven: Yoda
Luke looked up at the triumphant hiss to see his eighteen-year-old sister staring at an official looking datapad, with the logo of the Imperial Senate. Her brown eyes were bright.
You got voted in, did you? Luke asked, bored. Leia flicked a glance at him, a smug smile stretching her shiny lips. Well, at least now youll have a real reason to wear those silly ceremonial buns you insist on wearing Luke trailed off with a laugh as his sister threw a pillow at him and it soared right through him. What are you going to do, now? he asked, grinning at her.
I dont know, Leia said, her smile fading to be replaced with a concentrated look. I need to prove myself to the Senate before I can risk joining the Alliance, but that shouldnt take long. I just have to keep a low profile.
You, keep a low profile? Luke snorted a laugh. Leia glared at him. Leia, keeping a low profile would mean being a passive Senator can you see yourself sitting back and watching others make the decisions?
Well, no, I guess not, Leia said pensively, her glare gone completely. Luke nodded his head.
Youre a leader, of course, Luke smiled. You cant stand to have others make the decisions. When you want something done, you get it done yourself, if no one else will do it your way.
Yes, and thats because the people of todays galaxy are becoming indolent and lazy! Leia said hotly.
Exactly, Luke said smugly. Leia looked surprised, and Luke laughed. Hey, I never said it was a bad thing! He winked. By the way, are you going to tell your father about that, or what?
Oh, right! Leia said, standing up hurriedly.
Luke followed her out, but once in the hall he jogged to walk beside her. Her stride was longer than his, but he didnt have much trouble keeping up with her. Unlike a certain someone who always dressed in black and had the longest legs Luke had ever known.
Leia knocked gently on Bail Organas office door, peeking her head around at his quiet word and grinning broadly at the dark-haired man within.
I made it, she said happily. By thirty-one votes.
Wonderful, Bail said warmly, rising from his seat to wrap his arms around Leia. I am proud of you.
Thank you, daddy, she said, calling him the childish name she had called him as a younger girl. She only said it when they were alone now Luke didnt count. I cant wait to get started. Next meeting is in two sevendays, right?
Right, Bail said, smiling. And this time, it will be you on the transport, not I, and I cant think of a better successor for a man to have.
Youve been the best instructor, Leia replied, her cheek resting on Bails chest.
Luke felt a sharp, uncharacteristic stab of jealousy. He hadnt touched anyone since Qui-Gon had left a year now and hed never once been able to touch the person he so wanted to be able to, to embrace as Leia was doing now. Luke shut his eyes and shoved the thoughts away, and with one last glance at Leia, who had pulled away and was chatting happily to her father, he let his surroundings fade to the familiar ones of the Devastators bridge, where his own father was already standing beside the viewport.
His heart still feeling uncharacteristically heavy, Luke didnt materialize immediately, but instead stepped close, feeling his fathers dark, heavy presence with the strong currents of fierce possessiveness and beneath it all a tiny flicker of light. It was oddly comforting, despite the negative feelings that close proximity to a Dark Lord of the Sith was supposed to generate.
Luke harbored no delusions. He knew that it was only himself who could get so close to the Sith and not feel either revolted or terrified, because that tiny, flickering light existed only for him.
He was about to step forward to show himself when he felt a faint pulse in the living Force, so faint he stilled abruptly and strained to feel it again. There a tiny flicker of presence that seemed to call to him. Stretching out, Luke waited for it to pulse again, and touched it when it did, and like he had so many years ago when he was just learning to change his place, he found himself abruptly sitting in a little hut made of clay.
There was a little green thing there.
The little green thing was sitting by an equally little pot, stirring with a wooden spoon. It was dressed in homespun brown robes and had the oddest, largest ears Luke had ever seen on something so small.
He stopped examining the little green thing when said thing looked up and around.
A young Force-sensitive is here, I sense, the little thing said in a funny voice. See him, I do not. Come out, will he? Luke jumped. Another one who could sense him! He doubtfully shrank back, staring dubiously at the creature. It didnt look dangerous but then, neither did the Emperor. Hurt you, I will not, The thing said. Frowning, Luke pulled his knees to his chest in a posture he only used when uncertain, and concentrated on shimmering into view. The little green thing merely looked at him.
A Force-spirit, you are, it said in its strange voice. Seen one of you before, I have. Long ago.
Really? Luke asked, before he could stop himself.
He clamped his mouth shut tightly and ducked his head. He looked up, though, when the little thing hee-heed at him. It was waving a crooked gimer stick around. Luke blinked.
Questions, the young Force-spirit has! Wary, he is. Good! Luke got a strange feeling that had he been solid, the thing would have poked him with the stick.
Ah, ah Luke said helplessly. It was a little green thing talking about Force-spirits and questions and knowing far too much!
Name, do you have, young Force-spirit?
Ah Luke, Luke said, feeling far too out of his depth.
Luke, the thing said. Luke Skywalker, perhaps?
Gah! Luke said, eyes bugging.
He moved to stand up but froze when the thing waved an imperious hand at him, and slowly shifted back to his previous position.
Yoda, I am, the thing Yoda, said. On the Jedi Council I was, when the Jedi still lived.
The Council! Luke said in surprise. You were?
Thinking about the castle, Luke felt a sudden, sharp stab of longing. He frowned and shook it away, confused.
You doubt my word, young spirit?
Yoda asked. Luke blinked and backpedaled.
Ah no you see ah Luke felt a strange urge to take that gimer stick and whack the little thing laughing at him, but unfortunately the same thing that kept him from being hit also kept him from doing the hitting. He also felt a strange urge to laugh as well, at the little creatures own hee-hees of mirth. Then something caught his eye.
It was small and furry and had four legs and a long, furred tail, a rather pointed face and two pointed ears that flicked back and forth. Wings protruded from its shoulder blades, waving every once in a while as it sat on its haunches and blinked with bright gold eyes. It was staring at him.
Is that thing able to see me? Luke asked abruptly, feeling as if he would pass out in a moment. The feeling passed when the urge to hit came again.
Hee-hee, hee-hee, Yoda said. Dagobah Wildcat, that is. Have the ability to see the Force, they do.
Oh, Luke said, bemused. Thats nice. He looked at the little creature for a moment more. Why does it have wings? he asked curiously. He thought cats were land creatures, despite having never seen one before.
A reason, is there, that they should not? Yoda asked.
No, I guess not, he replied, and lapsed into silence.
Yoda followed suit for a very long while, simply stirring whatever it was that was in the pot. It looked like green leaves mashed together.
A reason you are here, is there? Yoda asked finally.
Luke glanced up with a shrug.
I felt your presence in the Force, Luke said. I followed it.
Hmph, Yoda said. Here, you are, for a reason.
Huh? Luke asked.
Your sister, it is, Yoda said wisely. Luke furrowed his brow in bewilderment.
What do you mean? He asked warily.
Think, you do, that I called to you? Yoda asked. Wrong, you are. Searched for me, you did.
What are you talking about? Luke asked, feeling a little frustrated.
Want to know, you do, when youre sisters training will commence.
Ah, Luke said, feeling confused. Yeah, all right. When will it start?
Ready to be a Jedi, she is not, Yoda said, bending down over his pot of wet leaves. Must become a Freedom Fighter first, she must.
A Freedom Fighter? Luke asked. You mean the Alliance? Shes joining as soon as suspicion falls from her father.
Good! Yoda said. Smart, she is. Your Mothers influence, that would be.
You knew my mother? Luke asked eagerly, sitting forward. What about my father?
Your father. Yoda sighed. Anakin Skywalker, his name was.
Yes, yes, Luke said, waving a hand. I know that. I want to know about him before he turned into Darth Vader.
If Jedi Masters were inclined to emotion, Luke got the feeling he would have seen Yoda jaw drop. As it was, already big green eyes got bigger.
Oops, Luke whispered.
Qui-Gon, it was, who told you! Yoda said, and waved his gimer stick around rather violently. A rogue Jedi, he has always been!
Hey, its not like I told Leia! Luke said defensively.
Yoda stilled mid-swing.
Tell her, you will not? he asked suspiciously.
Well, no, I wont.
No, Luke said truthfully.
Yoda straightened, looking at Luke closely.
Good, he said finally. Hmph. Later. Teach her, I will. Contact you, I will. Tell her, you must.
All right, Luke replied.
Hmph, Yoda said again. Time for Yoda to eat. Go now, you will.
All right, sir, Luke said, shifting. Ill tell Leia.
With that, Luke reached within himself and once more let his surroundings fade.
Chapter Eight: Freedom Fighter
Entering realspace in five, four, three, two, one. Realspace entered, Alderaan system, the starships pilot said on the bridge.
Leia stood in front of the viewport, watching eagerly as the blue of hyperspace dissolved into the inky black of realspace, the blue and green orb of Alderaan hanging silently in the light of the planets yellow-orange sun.
The console crackled, and the communications officer flicked the switch. A tinny voice cracked through the speaker.
This is Alderaan Spaceport. State your name and business.
Captain Antilles, the captain said. Tantive IV, returning to the Palace. Transmitting security code now.
Cleared for landing, Tantive IV, the tinny voice said after a moment. Landing bay eight in the Aldera area. Welcome home, Princess Leia.
Its good to be home, Leia replied, and the communication crackled away.
Senator Organa, as well, Luke said with a smile at his sister. Soon to be Senior Diplomat to the Rebel Alliance.
Leia didnt smile, but her eyes did gleam. She was pleased.
The Tantive IV settled on the specified docking bay, its blocky, uneven shape perching like an ungainly bird upon her landing struts. Leia bent down to gather her bags, but Captain Antilles beat her to it.
Allow me, Your Highness, the man said, lifting Leias bags as well as his own with ease.
Thank you, Captain, Leia replied primly.
Luke let his visibility fade but remained behind his sister, invisible to save his strength, which he didnt have much anymore.
Bail Organa waited just off the docking bay, leaning against a bright red airspeeder. Leia left behind her royalty persona and ran towards him with a cry of joy, throwing her arms around him.
Father! she said eagerly, looking up at him. Are they here?
They are indeed, Bail replied, smiling down at his daughter. Hop in. Are you driving?
Yes, please, Leia replied, and Captain Antilles loaded her bags into the back of the speeder.
Bail moved over to him as Leia got in the drivers seat of the speeder and discussed something in a low voice. Luke moved over to them.
so this thing is a war machine? Bail was asking quietly.
A battle station, Antilles replied. Designed to keep planets in line. Be careful, Viceroy, he said intensely. Keep your dealings quiet.
I always have, Captain, Bail replied. But thank you for your update.
Always a pleasure, Viceroy, Antilles said quietly. I must get back to the Tantive IV. The cleaning crew often needs encouragement after a long trip. Good luck, Viceroy. Good bye, Princess, and good luck to you as well. The last was directed at Leia, who was giving both of them an intense look.
Thank you, Captain, Leia replied. I will see you at 0600 tomorrow morning.
I look forward to it, Antilles replied, and Bail climbed into the passenger seat of the expensive looking speeder.
Antilles turned and began to walk back to the landing bay where the Tantive IV sat, still warm from the long flight, as Leia rested her hands on the controls and started the speeder up.
Luke grinned as he hopped in the back. This was the closest he ever got to feeling the wind, anymore, though it felt more like a strange sort of tingle. He didnt care just the sight of his surroundings being left behind was enough to slightly calm his craving for speed. He could have easily simply appeared in the Palace, but that was no fun, really.
Leia didnt have Lukes flare for piloting and his instinctive knowledge of everything around him, but she was an accomplished pilot in her own right. When they got to an empty stretch of road, Leia let the speeder loose. Luke whooped with delight, and evidently Leia heard him, because a laugh escaped her lips. The ground rushed by underneath them, and Leia made the speeder shoot up into the air, and then back down again. All too soon, they were at the palace gates, and then through them and to the palace doors.
Leia leaped out hurriedly and quickly patted her hair, making sure it was still tightly braided, and looked down at herself to make sure her white senatorial gown was still pristine and straight. Then she straightened her back and arranged her face into a firm, confident expression, which Luke had seen many times before, and began her calm, unhurried walk up the steps and through the doors. Laughing, Bail grabbed her bags and followed, Luke just behind him.
Theyre in the informal lounge, my dear, Bail said with a smile.
A servant silently appeared and took Leias bags.
Will you join me? Bail asked, offering his arm. Leia smiled and took it.
Of course, she replied. Luke sighed and followed.
The informal lounge was much more comfortable than its formal counterpart, with less opulence and a quieter setting. Seated comfortably with drinks in their hands and snacks on the table, were two familiar figures. Lukes gaze snapped to the woman, who was dressed in a similar dress as Leias but with short, auburn hair. Her face was a picture of stately calm. The Force roiled around him, even though hed never seen her before. His fathers deep voice echoed in his head.
Find the Rebels, especially Mon Mothma. I want her unharmed.
Mothma is still in the base. Have the docking bays watched and have the rest of the base searched. She is here. Find her.
This had to be Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance.
Princess Leia, Mothma said, standing up. The man beside her stood as well. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person. I am Mon Mothma and this is my colleague, General Rieekan.
Pleasure, Your Highness, General Rieekan said to Leia.
Luke instantly liked him much more than Mothma. His voice was calm and mild, and reminded him of Qui-Gon.
Pleasure is all mine, Leia replied, and Luke was slightly surprised to see her smiling at them.
Your father has told us of your interest in joining the Alliance, Mothma started, seating herself once more. Leia followed suit in a chair across from them.
Thats right, Leia replied. I am already on the Imperial Senate, an ideal position to perform mercy missions with diplomatic immunity.
I agree, General Rieekan said with a nod. You will have the ability to move past Imperial blockades with no consequences. Such a thing would be a great asset to the Alliance.
Yes, Mothma said, smiling. Your father has been a quiet helper to us for many years. I think it is a given that you will do the same. Welcome to the Alliance, Senator Organa.
Good Morning, Captain, Leia said, moving up the ramp of the Tantive IV with Luke following behind her How are we doing?
Good Morning, Your Highness, came the reply. Everything is going well. We will be ready to depart in fifteen minutes.
Excellent, Leia replied. I will put my things in my quarters. If you need anything, that is where I will be.
Copy, Princess, Antilles said, already slipping into space-speak.
Smiling, Leia strode down the halls in her white ship-suit, feeling as if she were floating. She couldnt see him, but she felt Lukes presence beside her, familiar and calming, and even though she was leaving her beloved planet and her loving father again, she felt that nothing could make her life better at the moment.
Luke remained out in the hallway while his sister changed, and fell into step beside her again when she emerged, dressed in senatorial whites and with her hair in the funny buns on each side of her head. Luke grinned broadly, feeling his sisters euphoria.
They emerged onto the bridge, feeling the growing whine of the engines as the ship lifted, and the thunk as the landing struts retracted. The ship pivoted slowly in the air until it pointed towards the west, and with a shaking whine, the engines sent the ship out over the green countryside of Alderaan, rising swiftly through the planets atmosphere and emerging within moments into the inky blackness of space on Alderaans night side. The planet behind them looked like a rounded sliver of blue and green. Leia and Luke, watching as it grew smaller and smaller, both felt the shivering premonition that the planet of Alderaan was in great danger. Luke felt ill, but Leia shook the feeling away, not knowing that there really was something out there that threatened to take her beloved home.
Chapter Nine: Desolate
Three Months Later
Transmitting data, a tinny voice spoke through the Tantive IVs communications console. A moment later, a beep sounded, signifying the ship receiving the transmission.
Data received, the communications officer replied. Then there was a series of beeps from another officers console. The officer jumped to his feet.
Captain, computer readouts have detected an enormous ship planetside its an Imperial-Class Star Destroyer. There was a horrified pause, and Luke turned, feeling a horrible premonition in his gut. Sir, the officer said, looking sick. Its the Devastator.
Sir, theyre hailing! the communications officer said, staring at a blinking light on his console. Luke felt the officers terror, but the mans face remained firmly calm.
Put them through, Antilles said, compressing his mouth and looking fierce. Luke felt a surge of admiration for the man.
Tantive IV, this is the ISD Devastator. We have tapped into information you have recieved via transmission. Shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded.
Leia, dont let them board! Luke said frantically, feeling the Force roll. Leia glanced at him, her face white, before she strode over to the communications console.
This is the Tantive IV, she said. We are on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, and you have noauhority us aboard your ship. She released the button and turned to Captain Antilles. Captain, set the coordinates for an out-of-the-way planet on the Outer Rim and make the jump to hyperspeed.
Devastator to Tantive IV. I repeat, shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded.
Instead of the engines dying, Luke felt the whine increase as the little ship swooped to the left in order to line up coordinates for the nearest Outer Rim planet. A whirring sounded.
I repeat, shut down your engines
The stars began to streak along the viewport, and the brilliant blue of hyperspace replaced the inky blackness of real space as the crew gave a collective sigh of relief.
When they pulled out of hyperspace some time later, Luke looked out of the viewport and saw a great red-gold planet. His eyes went wide and he moved closer, feeling the Force hinting to him. He knew that planet, although hed never seen it from space. He knew it even though the last time hed been there hed been only thirteen years old and longing to leave.
Lukes wide eyes were yanked away from the viewport, however, when a jolt rocked the Tantive IV, causing alarms to sound throughout the ship.
Were under fire! the officer at the computer readouts yelled. Sir, I dont understand! How did they get here before us? Its the Devastator!
Get us out of here! Antilles ordered. Tolsin, ignore that hail!
Yes, sir! the communications officer said smartly, and resolutely ignored the blinking hail light.
The ship shook again, and the shields began to die.
Shields at 76! came a voice. Their lasers are enormous!
Leia! Luke cried desperately. Leia, get the plans out!
What? Leia gasped, scrambling towards him.
The plans to the battle station! Luke yelled. Get them out of here! Send them down to the surface with Artoo and Threepio!
Leia nodded and ran for her quarters. She almost tripped over a figure just outside the door.
Artoo! she gasped. Artoo, come with me! Artoo beeped and whistled questioningly, but Leia was already hurrying down the hall and ducking into a small side passage.
The Tantive IV shuddered as the Devastator caught it in a tractor beam.
Take this, Leia slid the little black disk containing the Death Stars plans into Artoos compartment. Down to the surface with Threepio. Hide there I will send someone to fetch you. This is of utmost importance, Artoo. Can I count on you?
Artoo beeped reassuringly, and Leia nodded, patted him on his dome, and glanced to the side. She pulled her hood up over her buns and hurried away. Luke glanced after her, and remained by the droid, following him closely as he fetched the golden protocol droid See-Threepio. Their banter and insults traded quickly back and forth as the little astromech droid moved towards the escape pods. Luke watched them enter the pod and saw it jettison away. Turning, he hurried to where Leia had been heading. He got there just as a spiral of blue caught his sister and she slumped to the floor.
No! he shouted, wishing he could hit the stormtrooper who had done it. No, Leia!
But Leia couldnt answer.
Moments later she stirred, to find her hands bound behind her back and a squad of stormtroopers standing around her. Gasping, she struggled upright and looked around, calming slightly when she spotted her brothers glowing presence just beside her.
Dont worry, Leia, he was whispering. Ive got a plan.
Leia took heart, firming her face and straightening her spine.
I demand you release me at once! she said imperiously, pulling her legs underneath her and standing up. You have no right to treat me this way! I
Take her to Lord Vader, one of the stormtroopers said, and Luke closed his eyes in dismay. He had known his father would most likely be on board the Devastator, but he had hoped
He clenched his jaw in determination.
It was time.
He turned to his sister as she was yanked along the hallway.
Leia, I must go, he whispered, keeping pace with her. I must find someone to fetch the plans. Do not worry I will make sure they are delivered safely to your father on Alderaan.
He stared at his sisters eyes, noting her pleading, bewildered expression.
I can do it, Leia, he whispered. Take care.
Just before his surroundings faded, Luke glanced in front of the squad of stormtroopers to the looming black figure beyond. Then he vanished, reappearing on Alderaan itself.
He took a deep breath to stave off exhaustion and hurried towards a little cottage about twenty feet in front of him. He let himself float through the doorway, his eyes seeking and finding the painfully familiar figure that brought to mind hot suns and burning sands a silent, far-off guardian angel. Luke shimmered into view and went to speak and was startled at the weak, pleading sound that emerged from his mouth.
The old man snapped his head up, startled.
Luke! he said, standing quickly. What is wrong?
That was when Luke realized that ghosts could still shake. He felt his hands trembling and tried to quell it unsuccessfully. He blinked rapidly, staring into Bens wise, concerned blue eyes.
I no, he said, sounding lost. The the Devastator traced the transmission to the Tantive IV. Ben the Empire has Leia.
Ben closed his eyes to cover the emotion in them, taking a deep, steadying breath. After a pause, he spoke again, without opening his eyes.
The Death Star plans?
Thats why Im here, Luke said quietly. The Tantive IV went into hyperspace, but F Vader evidently caught on to where we were headed. When we pulled out of hyperspeed, the Devastator was waiting. We were above Tatooine. Luke swallowed, fighting back memories. Leia sent the plans down to the surface in Artoo, but she got caught by Fa Vader and nobody knows where they are to retrieve them. I came to the only person who could see me. Ben, you have to get those plans.
Yes, Ben said, eyes distant. Yes, the plans are needed. He shook his head as if to clear it and looked at Luke.
I will retrieve the plans, he said decisively. You must go to Leia.
All right, Luke said quietly.
Go, Ben said firmly, and Luke nodded and let his surroundings fade to reappear in the detention cells of the Devastator.
Leia was lying on her back; eyes closed and face white as Luke moved over to her. Exhausted, he was unable to appear to her, and so simply sat by her head and ran his hand through her hair. In his bleary state, he almost felt as if he could feel it. Swallowing back nausea, Luke simply sat and waited for the events of the future to unfold.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was not a great pilot. He was a good one, but not a great one, like Anakin had been. As it was, he piloted slowly and carefully away from the planet of Alderaan. He set familiar coordinates for Tatooine, watching beyond the shuttles viewport as hyperspace enveloped it.
Slowly, he sat back in his seat, feeling years weigh down on him. The shuttle would be in hyperspace for several hours he should meditate but he was so tired
He woke abruptly when the beeping on the console went off, indicating approach to the coordinates specification. Shaking his head, Obi-Wan reached forward towards the hyperspace lever, watching the countdown and pulling the lever when it was complete. A whirring sounded, and the brilliant blue was replaced by inky black a ball of red-gold hovering in the light of two small suns. Obi-Wan took a deep, steadying breath, memories converging on him.
Here, Master. Tatooine... It's small, out of the way, poor... The Trade Federation has no presence there.
I was right, Obi-Wan breathed. Out of the way, indeed.
He closed his eyes for a moment, simply remembering.
It was one of the only things I was right about, he whispered faintly.
You will be a Jedi I promise.
When will you learn, Obi-Wan? he whispered to himself.
Blinking, he rested his hands on the controls and flew the shuttle down towards the surface, unquestioned, just like it had been so many years ago.
Everything is the same, he thought, once on the surface. This planet never changes.
The suns were still scorching, the sky still brilliant, the sands blinding. The hot, dry air still made his throat feel like sandpaper. Directly in front of him was the black remains of a Tantive IV escape pod.
It had been stripped and gutted; all that remained was the black metal frame. Footprints around it had long since been erased from the sands. Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan sought the guidance of the Force. A moment later, he pulled the hood of his old, worn Jedi cloak up over his white hair and began to move eastward.
No Luke sobbed.
Leias cries pounded into his skull, even with his ghostly hands pressed hard over his ears. Her frightened, angry face still burned into his retinas even though his eyelids were tightly squeezed shut. Luke hadnt known ghosts could hyperventilate, but here he was, gasping like a baby, rocking back and forth with his knees to his chest.
The only sound was the mechanical breathing of his fathers respirator, the low whir of the interrogation droid, and Leias occasional moan or sharp cry. Every once in a while Vader would demand an answer to a question, but it was generally the same endless tormenting quiet. Invisible to both of the others in the cell, only Luke could hear his own dry, gasping sobs.
It seemed like an eternity for Vader Luke couldnt call him father, not right then to finish and leave. Luke was left to crawl forward miserably and shimmer into sight. Leia blinked at him tiredly, frowning when she saw his face. Her trembling hand reached out as if to touch him, and slumped back down when she realized she couldnt. She blinked at him gently and gave him a small, sad smile before closing her eyes to sleep. Luke remained crouched by her sleeping figure for a very long time.
The red, Owen Lars grunted to the Jawas. Come on, then.
A little red astromech droid trundled forward while the silver and blue began beeping frantically and rocking violently back and forth. The golden protocol droid behind Lars turned to look. Owen began to walk away, knowing the droids would follow him. He turned back, however, when the protocol droid called out to him.
The red astromech was smoking and sparking. Owens face darkened.
Whatre you doing? he demanded. Look at this! He gestured towards the red droid in disgust.
Master, if I might interrupt, the protocol droid said. That droid over there is quite functional. I would know, having worked with him before.
Oh, yeah? Owen said with interest. All right, then. Ill take that one.
He gestured to the blue while addressing the Jawas. They chattered at him and one scampered over to the astromech and gave it a hard smack on the dome. The droid made a rude sounding beep, making Owen smile.
Come on, then, he said to the astromech droid. Youll be working on the farm.
Of course, Master, the protocol droid said, shuffling after Owen. I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, and this is R2-D2. Might I enquire your name?
Owen, came the reply.
It is a pleasure to meet you, Master Owen, Threepio said.
By now, they were in the speeder and soaring towards the homestead. Owen blinked at the words, a niggling feeling of familiarity in his mind.
As Owen pulled up at the homestead, he felt that niggling feeling develop into full power, and he suddenly slammed on the brakes.
See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo
In dismay, Owen turned to look again at the droids, taking in the newly polished golden plates, replacing them with oil-covered silver. Seeing the familiar blue dome
Artoo Owen said, feeling frightened. Why are you here?
The little droid went into a frantic series of bleeps and whistles, causing Threepio to start in alarm.
What did you say? Threepio demanded. A mission, did you? I must apologize, Master Owen, I have no idea what hes talking about
Wait! Owen ordered. What did he say?
Why, he said hes been sent by a certain Princess Leia. I have no idea who hes talking about, frankly. He says shes been captured by Imperials. We have been sent here to guard the plans of something called the Death Star, and await rescue.
No! Owen gasped, leaping out of the speeder. Beru! he shouted. Beru, come outside!
What? Beru asked worriedly, poking her head out the door. Owen, what is it?
Get some clothes. Were leaving, Owen said rigidly. Now.
Beru didnt question, but hurried into the dome to shove some spare clothing into a bag for herself and Owen. Within moments they were speeding towards Anchorhead and passed it, moving towards Mos Eisley.
Wearily, Obi-Wan moved into a Mos Eisley cantina, hoping for a cool drink. In the few years since hed left Tatooine, hed gladly forgotten the scorching heat and almost constant thirst. Hot, dusty, and thirsty, Obi-Wan moved to sit in a stool at the bar, hailing the barman and ordering his drink. While waiting for it, he looked idly around the darkened cantina, observing the milling movement around him. In the corner, an enormous Wookiee gave a raspy roar, receiving a snapped comment in return from the swaggering man he followed.
Obi-Wan drank deeply when his drink arrived, finishing quickly. He tossed a few credit coins on the bar when he finished and stood up and left. As he made his way down the streets of Mos Eisley in search of a speeder he could rent, he had to shake the image of the Wookiee and his human companion from his thoughts. Even if the Force demanded that he notice them, there wasnt much he could do about it until he knew why. In the meantime, he rented a speeder and made his way out of Mos Eisley to where the Force indicated he would find what he searched for.
It ended up not being droids that the Force indicated, but instead the blackened remains of a familiar homestead. Heart pounding, Obi-Wan searched through the ashes but found no bodies. Even the Force, when asked, vaguely placed the notion that nobody had died in the explosion. In relief, he closed his eyes.
He thought the droids would be in Mos Eisley, now that the Force was quiet. However, it was growing dark and his own ship was closer, so he made his way towards it, planning to sleep.
Gritting his teeth, Owen guided his wife through the teeming streets of Mos Eisley, keeping a close eye on the droids following them. They couldnt stop anywhere, he knew. Imperials would be after them now the droids were wanted. It was only Tatooines naturally instinctive hatred of the Empire that kept them safe now. Owen glanced at Beru. She had aged so quickly since Luke had died. She returned his look, eyes sad and frightened. He tried to smile reassuringly, but wasnt sure he succeeded.
Dont worry, he said quietly. Well find somewhere.
She nodded with a brave smile, and Owen glanced back to make sure the droids still followed.
Youve been forgetting, Obi-Wan, he thought to himself ruefully. How could you forget the Jawas?
Before him, beside the frame of the escape pod, lay the gutted remains of his own ship. Despite being securely locked when he left, Jawas were incorrigible creatures, and not much stopped them. With a sigh, Obi-Wan moved forward to search the remains. Most of his things were still there. Jawas were only interested in technological parts, not private possessions. Consequently, only the ships controls and engines were gone, leaving the shell, and his lonely bag of clothing. Hoisting it to his back, he stared at the ship for a moment before turning to walk back to the speeder. Looked like Mos Eisley, then.
He arrived back at the dusty, deserted town just after false dusk, as the second sun eased its way past the flat horizon. The reddish light lit Tatooine eerily, deepening the shadows. It was beggars time.
Credits? a little old man whispered faintly from the shadows. Credits, friend?
His voice was hissing and malevolent sounding, and only a faint shadow told Obi-Wan where the voice came from. Swallowing, he shook his head, knowing that if he gave to one, hed have to give to all. Faint hisses followed him, like serpents in the dust. Selfish selfish
He emerged from the shadowy street into the red light of the second sun in relief, his footsteps hitting the dusty streets and sending little flurries around his feet and legs. He strode towards an old seedy inn, his hand fingering his bag of credit chips. There was an old brass bell on the door that rang when he opened it. A alien came over to him, a leer on its face.
Can I help you, friend? he asked, sneering a smile.
Obi-Wan looked him in the eye.
I want a single-person room for a human, thank you, he stressed the human part, knowing that if he didnt the innkeeper would likely give him a room meant for a Dug as his idea of a joke.
Fifty-five, the alien replied, large orange eyes flickering slightly.
Twenty, Obi-Wan replied, falling into Tatooine banter with ease.
Forty-eight, came the growled reply.
Thirty-five, Obi-Wan growled. Or I go to Mos Espa.
Fine, the alien smiled, stretching out a slimy hand.
I pay when I leave, Obi-Wan sneered. While doing so, he waved his hand discreetly.
You pay when you leave, the alien echoed dully.
Nodding, Obi-Wan withdrew the mental probe.
Now, he whispered faintly, laying a hand on the aliens bony shoulder and guiding him towards a back room. I have quite a few funds and I need some information.
Yes? the creature asked, suddenly interested.
Im looking for the location of a man and a woman. Theyre from here, of course. Im looking for a pair of moisture farmers, middle-aged to elderly, probably nervous and tense looking. They might have a pair of droids with them
Wait, the innkeeper said sharply. Are you with the Empire?
Not at all, friend, Obi-Wan said easily. Quite the opposite, in fact.
He shifted, the few coins he had in his robe clinking faintly. The orange eyes gleamed.
Owen jumped up when he heard the sound of soft footsteps on the old-fashioned stairs outside their rented room. Nervously, he glanced at Beru and the pair of droids that had gotten them into this mess. Berus eyes were frightened.
A soft knock sounded on the door.
Heart pounding, Owen fixed his face in a determined, fierce expression and slowly opened the door. His jaw gaped.
Kenobi? he asked, his mind going blank.
Hello, Owen, Kenobi replied.
Chapter Ten: Alderaan
Im telling you, Owen said stubbornly. Beru and I do not wish to leave Tatooine.
You will be killed! Obi-Wan said, his voice sounding oddly frustrated. The Empire will not hesitate to kill a pair of farmers who do not give them the information they desire!
We will go to Mos Oorin, its on the other side of the planet, Owen returned. They will not find us there. Obi-Wan sighed, defeated.
Very well, Owen, he said quietly.
Take the droids, Owen said firmly. We no longer want them.
Of course, Obi-Wan replied. There was a pause, and Owens face softened slightly.
Do not worry, Obi-Wan, he said finally. We can take care of ourselves.
Obi-Wan sighed, then smiled.
Of course, Owen, he said. You always have been a strong man, he smiled. Now I must go, his lips twisted ruefully. I have to find transport to Alderaan the Jawas destroyed my shuttle.
Did they really? Owen grinned.
Obi-Wan shuffled a bit, nodding. Beru laughed softly in the background.
Good luck finding an honest one, Owen said. Mos Eisley pilots tend to be murderers or drunks.
I will find someone, Obi-Wan said confidently.
When Leia woke up again, she looked much better. Torture droids didnt mess around with blood and broken bones, they simply sensitized the nerves and poked. Therefore, Leia woke up to absolutely no pain at all. Sighing in relief for the temporary reprieve, she sat up and looked around.
She saw no familiar glow of blue around her, and crushed down her disappointment. Luke couldnt always be there, she knew. Besides, he was probably checking on the droids, or doing something to make sure they got to Alderaan. All the same, she couldnt stifle the aching desire for him to be there with her.
As if her wish had reached him, wherever hed been, a shimmer of blue caught her attention in the corner of her eye, and she turned. Her heart immediately broke at the sight of her brother, looking so small and young and fragile, sitting with his knees to his chest in a posture she hadnt seen him hold in years. His whole body seemed to be wracked with fine tremors, and Leia had never seen his face so white, even through the blue glow.
Leia! he said, looking at her in relief. Are you all right?
Yes, Luke, she said, surprised that her voice sounded so normal. Of course, she hadnt screamed much, either. Im fine. The serum wore off while I was asleep.
Luke seemed to shrink in on himself even more, but this time his face was fixed in an expression of relief. His eyes rolled back in his head and Leia wouldnt have been surprised had he fainted, but he shook his head and managed to stay upright. He blinked rapidly for a few moments and swallowed convulsively once or twice before he could speak again.
I contacted Ben Kenobi, he started. He left at once. Should everything go all right, he should be back at Alderaan within two days with the droids.
You should go check on him, Leia said worriedly. Make sure everythings all right.
Blinking, Luke managed a shaky nod. He seemed much more rattled than she was, but she supposed the wondering could be worse than the actual pain. He didnt move at once, however, just sat there and watched her quietly.
Now, would be good, Leia said pointedly. You do have to show yourself to him.
Luke blinked and nodded one, taking a deep breath. He paused, and then straightened, lowering his legs. He reached out with a hand and brushed his fingertips over Leias wrist, causing a feeling of static electricity to fuzz along her arm, making the hairs stand up. She gave him a small, sad smile.
Go on, then, she said, and Luke nodded before fading away.
My Lord, an officer said nervously. The guard in the Detention Level has something he wishes to show you.
I see, Vader rumbled. How much importance, Lieutenant?
He says that one of the prisoners is well, shes talking to herself, he said. He thought you might like to hear it. Its Princess Leia.
Very well, Vader said. Tell the Deck Officer to record every word she says. I will review the tapes at my leisure.
Yes, Lord Vader, the Lieutenant said hurriedly, and then moved quickly away.
The Mos Eisley cantina was one of those places that could make one feel physically sick. The combination of heat from Tatooine, the smell of smoke and alcohol and the smell of unwashed bodies was enough to roll Obi-Wans stomach. He swallowed and ignored it, moving towards the bar to order a drink. Looking around, he surveyed the many humanoids around him, searching for one that looked promising.
Instead, his eye caught a glow of blue.
Snapping his eyes to the shimmer, his gaze settled on a thirteen-year-old boy, standing with his hands at his sides and his head tilted slightly to the side. A little smile was on his face. Obi-Wan furrowed his brow, unable to speak in the presence of so many people. Luke didnt speak. Instead, his smile widened and he raised his hand to point at something behind Obi-Wan, who turned to look. Familiarity struck him in the form of a swaggering, dark-haired man and a seven-and-a-half foot tall Wookiee. When he glanced back again, Luke was gone.
Laughing softly, Obi-Wan stood up and moved towards the Wookiee, who was walking towards the bar. The man was making his swaggering way towards a table in the corner. The Wookiee ordered a glass of hot beer, which Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows at. Smiling, he tapped the alien on the elbow.
I am Ben Kenobi, he said when the Wookiee turned questioningly. I am looking for passage to Alderaan.
Yes, Luke, Im fine. The serum wore off when I was asleep, the Princess said, her expression facing the wall of her cell.
Vader stiffened in shock.
You should go check on him, the Princess spoke again, her voice echoing slightly in the confines of the cell. Make sure everythings all right. There was a pause, while Vader barely breathed. Now, would be good, she said pointedly. You do have to show yourself to him. Her eyes rose, her wrist twitched and moved, and she smiled sadly. Go on, then, she said.
Vader swallowed. There was nothing unclear about this. The cameras wouldnt pick up a ghost. The princess acted exactly as if she were speaking to someone invisible.
Whirling in the grips of a sudden rage, Vader stalked from the Detention Level, the Dark Side storming around him.
Han Solo, the dark-haired man said. Captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me youre looking for passage to the Alderaan system.
If its a fast ship, Obi-Wan replied, wondering what had caught Lukes eye about these two.
Fast ship? Solo asked, sounding incredulous. Youve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?
No, Obi-Wan said, fighting a smile. Should I have?
Its the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs! Solo said, angry. Ive outrun Imperial Starships! Not the local bulk-cruisers either, mind you. Im talking about the big Corellian starships. Shes fast enough for you, old man. Whats the cargo?
Only passengers, Obi-Wan said, smiling now. Myself and two droids, he leaned forward. And, no questions asked.
Local trouble? Solo asked, his interest piqued.
Lets just say we want to avoid any Imperial entanglements Obi-Wan said, smiling a slight smile.
His gaze slid to the left, where a shimmer of blue shone in his peripheral vision. Luke was smiling at Solo, the bright blue of his eyes twinkling. Glancing once at Obi-Wan, the boy blinked at him calmly before opening his mouth. Oddly, his voice echoed, as if he was behind a wall of water. Now that Obi-Wan thought about it, his image wavered weirdly, as if looking through a warped mirror.
Bad news, Ben, he said, his voice wavering with echoes. Vader heard Leia talking. Hurry, I feel that something bad is going to happen soon. Lukes eyes bored into Obi-Wans own. This one has good in him, he said finally, and slowly faded away.
Hey, hey! Solo was saying. Man, wake up!
Hmm, sorry? Obi-Wan asked, turning to the man.
Solo looked disgusted.
Ten thousand in advanced, Solo said in irritation.
Obi-Wans eyebrows raised.
I have two thousand now, Obi-Wan said, and leaned forward. And a further fifteen thousand when we reach Alderaan.
Solo looked shocked.
Seventeen thousand, eh? he breathed, exchanging a look with the Wookiee. Youve got yourself a ship. Well leave as soon as youre ready. Docking bay ninety-four.
Obi-Wan smiled as he rose to his feet.
A pleasure, Mr. Solo, he said. Laughing under his breath, he strode away, his step slightly springy.
Sadly, Luke watched Vader striding towards Leias cell. Throat working, Luke hesitated, not wanting to witness the torture again. But Leia needed him he knew that. She needed his support, if nothing else. Shakily, he stepped into the cell just before the door hissed closed.
Leia sat up, nervous but fierce. Her glossy lips pulled back, baring her teeth. Vader merely paced. Just over two of his steps brought him to the wall, and he pivoted to take two more steps. His hands were clenched behind his back.
How do you know Luke? he finally demanded, and Leia sat up straighter in surprise.
Luke gasped, then groaned in dismay.
What? Leia asked, startled.
How do you know Luke?
Luke? she asked, surprised.
In desperation, Luke jumped behind Vader and shimmered into view, waving madly at his sister and shaking his head. Her eyes flicked at him nervously, undecided. Horrified, Luke stumbled back and covered his eyes with his hand, not wanting to watch disaster unravel. A moment passed then
Well, I had an Uncle Luke, Leia said. He died last year.
Luke slumped in relief.
Interesting ship, Obi-Wan said neutrally.
The Millennium Falcon was a Corellian Freighter, saucer-shaped with a double protrusion on the front. The panels of the ships outer shell were darkened with grease and tell-tale signs of skirmishes, and looked as if they were bolted on with spit and hope. Doubtfully, he once more wondered why Luke had pointed him to these two.
Shes the fastest ship in the galaxy, Solo said proudly.
He jumped down when the ship sparked beneath one of the wobbly panels. He hit it once and the sparking stopped.
Yes, you mentioned that she was fast, Obi-Wan said idly. Are we ready to lift off?
Huh ? Oh, right, Solo said, grabbing up a toolkit. Come on, then.
Obi-Wan beckoned to the droids, who followed him. Artoo bleeped and whistled cheerfully as he ascended the ramp, but Threepio made anxious noises as he followed.
Just as they boarded the ship, a swell of stormtroopers entered the bay, blasters blazing.
What the Solo said, surprised.
Get us out of here, Obi-Wan said quickly, relieved when the ramp finished closing.
Right! Solo said. Chewie, start er up!
Governor Tarkin! Leia spat, her eyes blazing.
Beside her and invisible, Luke stared angrily at the old, gaunt-faced man whom his sister was addressing. Hands bound, with a squadron of stormtroopers at her back and Vader, her most hated enemy, standing beside her, she showed remarkable defiance. Luke felt a surge of pride.
I should have expected to find you holding Vaders leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.
Tarkin laughed softly.
Charming to the last, he said, smiling.
Luke disliked his voice, but his attention was diverted when Vader stepped backwards to stand directly behind Leia. Suspicions began to arise and a feeling of dread. Out of the viewport, Luke recognized the blue-green orb that hung in space. Around it, though the Force, was a feeling of imminent destruction.
Luke backed away, feeling sick. Beneath all of his darkness, Vaders light had never seemed so small.
Not after we demonstrate the power of this station, Tarkin was saying. In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that'll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power...on your home planet of Alderaan.
The sick feeling grew in the pit of Lukes stomach, growing worse by the second and Vader shifted his weight slightly behind Leia.
No! Leia cried. Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons! You couldnt possibly
You would prefer another target, a military target? Tarkin demanded. Then name the system! A pause, where Leia stared out at Alderaan in horror, her eyes shining with a sheen of tears. I grow tired of this, Tarkin growled. Where is the Rebel Base?
Leia seemed to shrink. Her voice was weak defeated. Her head fell.
Dantooine, she whispered. Theyre on Dantooine.
There, you see, Lord Vader? She can be reasonable! Tarkin said, pleased.
Vader didnt answer, knowing, like Luke, that Leias words werent true. Tarkin turned away, his smugness radiating off of him.
Continue with the operation, he ordered. You may fire when ready.
What? Leia cried frantically.
Youre far too trusting, Tarkin smiled. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration, but dont worry, we will deal with your Rebel friends soon enough.
No! Leia moaned, making as if to rush forward.
In horror, Luke saw Vader his father! reach forward and grab Leia, preventing her from attacking Tarkin. In spite of knowing that he shouldnt, and knowing that it would certainly have repercussions, when that horrible feeling of imminent destruction coalesced in his abdomen, Luke stepped forward into view.
NO! he screamed, reaching out one despairing hand towards his father before a streak of green lit up the darkness around them and Alderaan exploded in a shower of rock.
The Death cries of the people of Alderaan reverberated in the Force around him. Anguished, Luke screamed again as he flailed and fell. He didnt see Vader turn towards him abruptly, didnt see Leia sway with the devastation and almost fall as well.
He was in that place where one is dead but not gone, sitting at the table in a chair that hed sat in so long ago to speak with Qui-Gon, as he cradled his head in his arms and cried.
Aboard the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan Kenobi swayed. When he raised his head again, his eyes were filled with sadness, even though he didnt know exactly what had happened.
Chapter Eleven: Solo
Vader stalked along the hallways of the Devastator, his cape billowing back behind him. Around him, the Force boiled with his anger but beneath all of that anger was fear and sadness.
Ever since that day almost two days ago, now, when Alderaan had been destroyed, hed found himself hard-pressed to keep his mind on his work. Oddly enough, he continually saw that moment in which hed last seen his son.
It was split-second, really. Hed heard a faint, echoing scream, had turned to look in time to see his son shimmer slightly into view and physically fall backwards and down. His face had twisted in anguish, one more scream had sounded and hed vanished with the rocking death cries in the Force. He hadnt seen him again since.
It was not as if Luke hadnt been gone for far longer than this before. In the years since hed first seen his son, the boy had been random and unpredictable, sometimes hed see the boy several times in a period of a few days, other times hed wait for a week or two before hed see him again. This time, however, he rather felt that Luke wouldnt be coming back for a while.
Were coming out of hyperspace in a moment, Solo called from the cockpit.
Threepio looked up from where he sat beside Obi-Wan.
Oh, good. I was beginning to thin wed never get off this ship, he said. Obi-Wan smiled as he stood and made his way to the cockpit.
The ship shuddered and a low whirring sounded, and Obi-Wan was just in time to see the patterns of hyperspace melt away into the velvet blackness of realspace and feel the ship lurch as it was pummeled by rock.
What the Solo said distantly, staring out at the viewport.
Obi-Wan looked then blinked in shock and horror. The Wookiee was growling something.
Were at the right coordinates, Solo snapped. But no Alderaan, he finished quietly. Chewie growled again. I dont know, Solo snapped. The Empire couldnt have done this, destroying a whole planet would take a dozen ships with more fire-power than whats that?
TIE fighter, Obi-Wan replied, blinking past his horror.
That cant be right, Solo said in bewilderment. A TIE couldnt make it this far on its own. Chewie growled again. Yeah, youre right, Chewie, but not for long, Solo said in determination.
What are you doing? Obi-Wan asked.
Destroying that fighter before it gets to that small moon, Solo pointed.
Obi-Wan looked, and sure enough there was a gray sphere in distant view. A thrill of foreboding crawled down Obi-Wans spine, and he suddenly knew without a doubt
Thats no moon, he whispered. Its a battle station.
Impossible, Solo said in disgust. Its far too big to be a Then the crater-like indentation came into view, and Chewie gave an alarmed roar. Han trailed off.
Yeah, he said, I think youre right. Lock in the auxiliary power, Chewie.
Chewie started flipping switches, and the ship shuddered. Hans uneasiness grew.
Lock in the auxiliary power, Chewie! he shouted.
Chewie roared, his enormous paws grasping the sides of his head. In dismay, Han looked at the growing space station out the view port.
Were caught in a tractor beam, he said. We have to shut down the main engines, but theyre not going to get me without a fight!
You cant win, Obi-Wan said. However, there are alternatives to fighting.
Deep in the Death Stars depths, Leia Organa sat up quickly. Beside her, Luke seemed duller in the brilliant white light of her cell. She could barely see him, but his eyes seemed to smile at her reassuringly. Relief to see him again overcame her, and she sat up fully, releasing a breath. She was about to speak to him when he lifted a faint hand and pressed his finger to his lips in a hushing gesture. She quieted.
Were working on it, Leia, he said, and his voice seemed clearer than usual to her.
She hadnt really realized it, but over the years his voice had gotten weaker, more wavering. Now, however, she thought he was almost stronger looking than hed been when shed last seen him. She nodded slightly to his words, feeling a surge of hope.
I must go to Ben, he continued. They were on their way to well, theyre almost here. I must speak with him but Leia, dont worry. He smiled at her gently. Well get you out of here.
Leia nodded again, feeling tears prick behind her eyes. She violently pushed them away, clinging with every ounce of her strength to her fraying composure. Luke seemed to understand, and smiled at her one last time before fading into faint wisps of blue and disappeared.
Beneath the floorboards of the Millennium Falcon, two men, a Wookiee, and two droids huddled silently together, listening to the pounding footsteps above them as officers and stormtroopers inspected the Millennium Falcon with no regard to her delicate machinery. Deep within her hull, Han Solo sat seething, listening to the crashes as the troopers destroyed who-knows-what.
Finally, silence settled back over the Falcon, leaving the hiding passengers with their ears ringing. Straightening, Han slowly eased the floorboards up and peered cautiously over the rim. The ship was empty.
Cursing quietly, Han slid the panel back and heaved himself out, tapping three times on the other panel as he went. A moment later, it opened as well. Han moved over to help the old man out, but before he could the gray head poked out and the man gracefully pulled himself out. Both of them turned, and with Chewies help, managed to haul the droids out quietly.
Death Star, Conference Room
We've captured a freighter entering the remains of the Alderaan system, an officer said over the intercom. Its markings match those of a ship that blasted its way out of Mos Eisley.
Tarkin looked up at Vader, looking slightly smug.
They must be trying to return the stolen plans to the princess, Vader said to the man. She may yet be of some use to us.
Tarkin frowned, looking irritated. Finally, he nodded reluctantly, and Vader moved for the door of the room. In the hangar bay where the ship sat, looking like a flying junkyard, several officers and stormtroopers stood to attention. Vader approached one of the commanders.
There's no one on board, sir, the officer said, snapping a quick salute. According to the log, the crew abandoned ship right after takeoff. It must be a decoy, sir. Several of the escape pods have been jettisoned.
Did you find any droids? Vader rumbled.
No, sir. If there were any on board, they must also have jettisoned. Vader paused, thinking. Something tickled at his senses, a familiarity
Send a scanning crew on board, he said finally. I want every part of this ship checked.
Yes, sir, the officer replied smartly, snapping another salute.
Frowning behind his mask, Vader reached out his senses.
I sense something... he said distantly. A presence I haven't felt since...
Turning abruptly, he strode quickly for the hangar doors.
In the Falcon, Han looked glumly down at his gaping smuggling holds.
I use them for smuggling, he explained to the old man. I never thought Id be smuggling myself in them. This is ridiculous. Even if I could take off, Id never get passed the tractor beam.
Leave that to me, Obi-Wan said quietly.
Damn fool, Han said derisively. How did I know you were going to say that?
Who is the more foolish the fool or the one who follows him? Obi-Wan asked, smiling.
Han stared at him, eyebrows raised and silent. Finally, he shook his head, muttering to himself.
Obi-Wans attention was suddenly caught by a blue glow in a corner shadow. He glanced over at Luke, who stepped forward to speak with him. Unlike in the cantina, Lukes voice was clear and strong, making Obi-Wan wonder if it was simply something on Tatooine that caused Lukes image to waver and shake like that. He shrugged it away when Luke started to speak. Han glanced over at him, wondering why the old man was suddenly still and silent, as if listening for something.
A moment later he nodded, and turned back to Han and Chewie.
Here is the plan, he said quietly, and started to explain.
Eyebrows raised, Han thought it might just be crazy enough to work.
Ships all yours, the trooper said to the scanning crew. Report immediately if your scanners pick anything up.
One of the officers nodded, and he and his partner carried a large, unwieldy trunk up the ramp and into the Falcon. Han struck quickly, using the butt of a blaster to knock one of the officers out as Chewie slammed the other ones skull into the trunk itself. The heavy case crashed down, and Han winced as he called out, hoping this crazy plan would work.
Hey down there, can you give us a hand with this?
He held his breath, hoping yes! The troopers glanced at each other and then turned, striding up the ramp. Han and Chewie were ready. Instantly, they fired, killing the troopers. Han dragged one of them away from the hatch and yanked the plastisteel armor from the body, revealing a clone of Jango Fett. In disgust, he pulled the trooper armor on himself, ending with the helmet just in time to hear the irritated tones of an Imperial officer inquiring his whereabouts. He hurried down the plank, looked up at the control room, and tapped the side of his helmet. Dimly, he saw the officer sketch him a salute of acknowledgement. Turning, he moved back up the ramp. His voice was tinny and flat when he spoke through the helmet.
Chewie led the way, followed by Han. They arrived at the door to the control room just as the gantry officer opened it. The man looked up at Chewie in shock, reaching for his blaster. Chewie roared and flattened the officer out on his back. Behind him, the officers partner looks up, surprised, and reached for his blaster. Han took care of that one.
They ran into the room, Han pulling off his restricting helmet. Chewie growled something.
Bring them on! Han snapped in reply. I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around!
Behind him, Threepio and Artoo set to work at a computer outlet, trying to find the location of the tractor beam. Obi-Wan moved up to them and tapped something into the outlet, making a map appear. He indicated to the droids to move aside.
Artoo began to inspect the control panel curiously, and Threepio watched from behind him. A moment later, Artoo began to squeal wildly, making the others jump.
He says that if he plugs in, he can try to find a precise location of the tractor beam, Threepio said.
Ben straightened with a nod, and Artoo plugged his arm into the socket, twirling it around. A moment later, a blue holographic map appeared, a spot of red indicating the location of the tractor beams controls. Obi-Wan examined them for a moment before looking up.
You cant come with me, he said to Han and Chewie. I must go alone.
Fine by me, Han said. Ive done more than Ive bargained for on this little trip
Abruptly, Artoo started squealing louder than ever, rocking back and forth.
What is it? Han demanded, and Obi-Wan paused to hear.
I dont know what to make of it, sir, Threepio said apologetically. He keeps saying Shes here, shes here, over and over.
Who? Han demanded.
Princess Leia, Threepio replied.
Obi-Wan stilled in surprise.
The Princess? he said faintly. Where?
No, Ben, a voice said behind him.
Obi-Wan turned in surprise, eyes seeking a familiar blue glow the only person who called him Ben. Luke stood before him, looking up at him from his thirteen-year-old height, eyes calm.
You must go to the tractor beam Han must rescue Leia.
He wont, Obi-Wan replied, ignoring the consternation on Hans face as he apparently spoke to midair. He doesnt care.
Use his weakness, Luke said. What does he desire most? He has a bounty on his head, Ben, and unless he can pay an extraordinary amount of money, he will die.
Breathing deeply, Obi-Wan thought for a moment, then nodded, turning towards the smuggler.
The Princess is due for termination, Threepio was saying, and Obi-Wans heart lurched.
We must rescue her, Obi-Wan said to Han.
What are you talking about? Han demanded uneasily.
The droids belong to her, Obi-Wan explained. She is why Im here.
Hey now, dont get any funny ideas, Han said warily. We should just stay right here
They will terminate her, Obi-Wan said intensely. Do you want her to suffer like that?
Better her than me, Han retorted.
Obi-Wan looked at him sadly, wondering yet again why Luke had chosen this man.
Shes rich, Obi-Wan said after a pause, sighing.
Chewie perked up with a growl.
Rich? Han asked with his interest piqued.
Rich, powerful, Obi-Wan said with a smile. If you were to rescue her, the reward would be Obi-Wan trailed off suggestively.
What? Han demanded, looking greedy.
Sorry, Leia, Obi-Wan thought with an inward wince. Astronomical, he said. As much as you can imagine.
I can imagine a lot, Solo said.
Youll get it, Obi-Wan replied.
Id better, Solo retorted.
You will, Obi-Was assured.
There was a pause, where Han thought in silence.
All right, old man, he said finally. Youd better be right about this. Put on those binders, Chewie were getting that Princess out.
Smiling, Obi-Wan eased out the door of the hatch, making his way for the tractor beam. Beside him, Luke shimmered into view and gave him one small, knowing smile. Obi-Wan smiled back, knowing it was one of the last times hed ever see Luke as a glowing blue figure.
Okay, lets get this over with, Han said to Chewie.
The Wookiee nodded, growling.
Sir, Threepio said. What should Artoo and I do if someone comes?
Lock the door, Han replied. And hope no one finds you.
That isnt very reassuring, Threepio lamented as Han and Chewie moved out the door and in the direction of a lift.
Han took a deep breath, trying to look inconspicuous. He was slightly taller than a stormtrooper, so he had to scrunch down a little in the armor, making his breathing restricted, but he dealt with it as he had so many other things with grit. Once in the lift he glanced once and Chewie, glad to have his partner with him. He nodded once as the lift glided smoothly to a stop at the detention levels, where the supposedly rich Princess Leia was being held. He straightened up and took a firm grip on Chewies arm, holding the blaster at an angle to make it appear as if it were pointed at Chewie, but wouldnt hit him should he actually pull the trigger. The lift door hissed open, and he strode out as if he did it every day, prodding Chewie forward despite the protesting growls.
Obi-Wan fought a shiver. Hed spent a long time on temperate Alderaan, and before that, many years on arid Tatooine. Space was cold. Despite that, his shiver was not entirely of cold. A black presence hovered on the edge of his consciousness utterly familiar yet horribly not so. Twisted, dark, evil.
He gestured quietly towards a squad of troopers, and they obediently turned away, conveniently not seeing him. He made his way silently towards the power controls, where the tractor beams energy levers were located. As he used the Force, the feeling of darkness grew stronger. Vader knew where he was.
He made his way out onto the platform and around it, pulling down one lever. A low hum sounded, signifying the draining of energy from the beams resources. The machine would need hours to get up the proper energy again. Satisfied, Obi-Wan moved forward to the rest of the levers, watching the red column on the computer screen lower to nothingness with the low dying hum of the tractor beam. Nodding to himself, Obi-Wan snuck away, giving one more gentle Force-push to the troopers, ensuring that they remained safely oblivious as he made his escape.
The time was near.
Where are you taking this thing? The officer demanded, looking up at Han and Chewie.
Han prodded Chewie with his blaster, thinking fast.
Prisoner transfer, he blurted, starting to sweat. Oh, why hadnt he thought of what to say first? From block one-one-three-eight. He continued, guessing at the terminology. Please let this work
I wasnt notified, the officer said, betraying his bewilderment. Ill have to clear it.
Alarmed, Han looked up at Chewie. Were done for
Let him loose, a faint voice seemed to whisper to Han. Take off the binders
Good idea as any, Han thought, punching the button on the binders. Instantly, Chewie flung them off and grabbed Hans blaster. Yes! He thought triumphantly. This is more like it!
Look out! he yelled gleefully. Hes loose!
The guards and officers within the room were momentarily astounded.
Go get him! Han shouted, not realizing that his words were not that of a stormtrooper.
The real troopers didnt realize it, but the officers gave him a surprised look. Grinning beneath his mask, Han leaps for a laser pistol and starts firing towards his co-pilot. Unfortunate for the Empire, his shots missed, instead hitting the other officers, the security cameras, and laser controls. Along with Chewie, they demolished the room officers and guards included. Grinning still, Han pulled his restricting helmet from his head.
Okay, he told his co-pilot. Heres this Princess cell two-one-eight-seven. You go get her Ill get the comlink
Chewie growled an agreement and hurried down the hall.
Swallowing, Han pressed the squawking comlink. Anxious and trying to sound firm and official, he spoke into it.
Everything is under control. Situation normal, he said, hoping it would work.
What happened? the voice over the comlink demanded.
Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, Han said, starting to get nervous. But uh everything is perfectly all right now. Were fine were all fine here, now, thank you, Han winced. Heart pounding, Han blurted out the next line. How are you?
How are you? Han thought, dismayed. Is that all you can think of? Now were really in trouble. Good going, Solo! How are you!
Were sending a squad up, the voice over the intercom said decisively.
Ah, ah Han stammered, eyes going wide. Negative, negative, we have a reactor leak down here now. Give us a moment to lock it down.
There was a pause.
Very large leak, Han said desperately. Very dangerous.
Who is this? The voice demanded. What is your operating number?
Han winced, wavered, and finally blasted the comlink altogether.
Stupid conversation anyway, he muttered, annoyed. Chewie, he shouted down the hall. Were about to have company!
A soft voice woke Leia from her sleep, making her blink in the blinding light of the cell. She looked up curiously, happy to see her brother again. His presence soothed her.
She smiled at him slightly, and he returned it.
Leia, he said again. Were going to get you out of here. Help is coming, he smiled. In fact, I should say that theyre already here.
Leia jumped when a loud blast sounded outside her door, and said door bounced and warped. A second later, it was flung open with such force it nearly cracked in half. An enormous figure emerged from the smoke of heavy blaster fire, causing Leia to give a little cry of alarm.
Its okay, sister, Luke assured her. Thats Chewie hes here to help.
Some rescue, she said weakly, staring up at the tall Wookiee.
The creature gestured wildly and roared something at her. Leia could feel her eyes growing wide.
Go on, Luke said. He wants you to go with him.
I hope youre right about this, she said, standing.
Chewie looked at her questioningly, and she shook her head at him dismissively as she followed him.
Death Star, Conference Room
Vader paced restlessly, his senses searching the Force. A familiar presence shivered at the ends of his senses, taunting him with memories best left forgotten.
He is here, he said faintly to the other man in the room.
Governor Tarkin looked up at him, gaunt face taut.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, he said, his voice sneering. What makes you think so?
I have felt him, Vader said distantly. A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in his presence.
Surely he must be dead by now, Tarkin said derisively.
Dont underestimate the power of the Force, Vader rumbled, shaking a finger in Tarkins direction.
The Jedi are extinct! Tarkin retorted. Their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that remains of their religion.
A blinking light on his comlink followed Tarkins words.
Yes? he said, activating it.
Governor Tarkin, the voice on the other end replied. We have an emergency alert in detention block A A-twenty-three.
The Princess, Tarkin said, angry. Put all sections on alert!
Yes sir, the voice replied.
Obi-Wan is here, Vader rumbled. The Force is with him.
If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape. Tarkin said.
Escape is not his plan, Vader said distantly. I must face him alone.
He strode for the doors, preparing to face his old master. As he did so, however, he once again found his mind reaching out through the Force. Not for Obi-Wan, no, but for his absent son. And once more, his longing call went unanswered.
Death Star, Detention Hallway
Get behind me! Han shouted, hearing the sounds of troopers in the elevator in front of them.
A moment later, the doors opened and nearly a full squad of troopers came tumbling out. For a moment, Han was astonished that so many could fit in there without dying of asphyxiation. Another moment after that, though, hed forgotten all about it as he raced back down the hallway in pursuit of Leia and Chewie, lamenting that he wasnt getting paid enough for this.
Cant get out that way, he said when he caught up.
Looks like youve cut off our only escape route, Leia said derisively.
Maybe youd like it better in your cell, Your Highness, Han retorted sarcastically.
Leia gave him a dirty look as she ducked in an alcove, out of the way of incoming blaster bolts. Thinking rapidly, Han continued exchanging fire with the oncoming troopers, hoping to hold them back. He ducked behind an alcove periodically before shoving his comlink in the Princesss direction.
Call Threepio, he ordered her. And ask him if there is another way out.
The Princess looked momentarily surprised before she raised the comlink to her glossy lips and pressed the send button.
Threepio! she ordered. Come in Threepio, its Leia.
Mistress Leia, I am so relieved to hear you are all right, Threepios voice came on.
Threepio, Leia interrupted. Weve been cut off. Are there any other ways out of the detention level?
Let me check, Mistress Leia, Threepio replied, and there was a flurry of beeps and whistles and a few insults from Threepio while blaster-fire bounced through the hallway. A second later, Threepio returned. All systems have been alerted to your presence, Mistress, Threepio said. The only way in or out appears to be the main entrance. All other information is restricted.
There isnt another way out! Leia called.
I cant hold em off forever, Han said, gritting his teeth. What now?
This is some rescue! Leia said angrily. You mean that when you came in here, you didnt have a plan for getting out?
Hey! Han said angrily. The old man is the brains in this outfit, sweetheart!
Leia, Lukes voice said beside her.
Instantly, the shouts and blaster fire seemed to recede into the background as she turned to look at her brother. He didnt continue speaking, only smiled cheerfully at her and pointed across the hallway. She followed his finger, seeing him point to a large grate near the floor. She stood up and snatched Chewies blaster, blasting away the grate with one shot.
What are you doing? Han demanded, ducking away from a barrage of fire.
Someone has to save our skins, Leia retorted. Into the garbage chute, flyboy.
Chewie growled in protest as he smelled what was down there, watching the Princess slip down the chute lightly.
Get in there! Han ordered, kicking at his co-pilot to make him go. I dont care what you smell!
Ducking backwards, Han shot a few more blasts before leaping headfirst down the chute.
Wonderful girl, he muttered to himself. Either Im going to kill her or Im beginning to like her!
He tumbled out of the chute and into a rank smelling room, filled with garbage floating on top of brackish water. Instantly the stinking water soaked his pants and boots. Han looked down with a grimace of disgust.
What a lovely smell youve discovered! he sneered at the Princess. Lets get out of here. Chewie, get away from there
Zing! Zing! Zing!
Han ducked beneath his ricocheting blaster bolt in surprise, just in time to avoid it singing his hair off.
Sith! he shouted.
Put that thing away, the Princess ordered. Before you get us all killed.
I had everything under control, Han yelled. Until you led us down here! Its not going to take them long to figure it out!
It could be worse, the Princess retorted.
Then a low moan sounded through the room, causing the occupants to stiffen in surprise.
That wasnt mechanical, Han said, sounding uneasy. He glanced at the Princess. Its worse, he said. Chewie roared in terror, leaping up on top of the garbage. Thats your imagination, Han replied. Theres nothing alive in
Chewie? Han yelled, shocked. Chewie, where are you? Chewie, Chewie!
Luke! The Princess shrieked. Luke! Han looked over in bewilderment. Luke ? You have to help him! The Princess yelled, and instantly there was a horrible thrashing and Chewie resurfaced, looking terrified and soaked.
What happened? Han yelled, grabbing the Wookiees arm and hauling him up on the garbage. Chewie roared something. Let you go? Han yelped, disbelieving. Why would it
The walls of the magnetically sealed garbage room groaned and moved a couple inches, rendering Han silent. Leia froze. So did the walls.
A moment later, they started moving again, scooping the garbage up to smash it flat into one large sheet. Leias eyes went wide, and she started struggling to get on top of the garbage, but her long senatorial dress hampered her efforts. Han scrambled over to help her as Chewie frantically struggled to open the maintenance hatch. The Princess seemed distracted, Han noticed. She wasnt focusing on the walls, but on something right in front of her
Then her gaze snapped over to him.
Give me your comlink, he ordered, and he complied. She switched it on.
Threepio, come in! she ordered.
Waited a moment, and tried again.
Threepio, its Princess Leia, come in.
Artoo? she demanded, sounding nervous. Artoo, Threepio, come in! Do you copy?
Now what? she demanded to no one in particular.
She seemed to listen to the silence before she shook her head skeptically and continued speaking into the comlink. A moment later, her efforts paid off.
Oh my, Mistress Leia! Threepios voice came on, just as the first restricting pressure of the garbage and walls ground against her ribs. I am so sorry!
Threepio! Leia interrupted frantically, scared now. Shut down all the garbage compactors on the detention level! Do you hear me? Shut them all down! All the garbage compactors on the detention level!
Shut them all down, Threepio could be heard over the comlink. No, all of them, you garbage can! Hurry!
A moment later, to Leias great relief, the crushing walls groaned to a stop. Han and Chewie exploded into shouts of relief, and beside her, her infuriating brother smiled broadly at her. She would have hit him had he been solid.
Threepio, she said. Were all right. Thank you. You did great. Laboriously she moved over to the hatch, looking for a number. Open the pressure maintenance hatch on number three-two-six-eight-two-seven.
When it opened a moment later, Leia hauled herself out into a dusty, unused hallway. In relief, Han and Chewie followed.
Now, if we can just manage to ignore any female advice, well be okay! Han said, shifting his grip on his blaster. Lets get moving.
Leia stepped forward and grabbed him, whirling him around to face her.
Listen, she ordered. I dont know who you are, or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you. Okay?
Stunned, Han could only watch her stalk away down the hallway, soaked to the skin in mucky water and still walking like a Princess.
Hey! he said finally. Look, your Worshipfulness. I take orders from one person! Me!
Its a wonder youre still alive, Leia retorted, already halfway down the hallway. Chewie followed her.
No reward is worth this, he muttered to himself.
Beside him, Luke grinned broadly, wishing once more that Han was Force-sensitive so he could speak to him.
Obi-Wan felt Vader approaching swiftly; a cloud of dark anger, so familiar and so strange to him. He turned down yet another hallway, knowing confrontation was inevitable, wanting to stall it just a few more moments to give Leia and Han time to get out. He would have worried for them had Luke not been there with them, but he knew in his heart the Luke would get them all out.
He knew his life was near its end. Soon, very soon, he would join Luke in an incomplete death. In his mind, he saw his past. His life as a youngling in the Jedi Temple. His Master Qui-Gon, and his years as a Padawan. The wonderful time before the Sith really rose before Qui-Gon died.
Before he met Anakin.
Hed been so young then...so full of life, and so high on the Force. Ready to take on anything that came his way. He was strong and clever and arrogant, and he got carried away with it from time-to-time. Arrogant enough to think he could train an apprentice just as good as Qui-Gon had.
Ironic, really Count Dooku had been Qui-Gons Master. How could one who turned evil train such a good apprentice? Granted, Qui-Gon had always been a bit of a rogue Jedi Dookus words came back to him from so many years past. Would Qui-Gon have joined him?
What makes a dark Force user? Obi-Wan hadnt followed Anakin. Qui-Gon had been different than the other Jedi but would he have gone dark?
Obi-Wans musings spiraled in a circle, making his mind cloud. He didnt know if it was age or merely his impending death.
He was not scared though. No. Hed be with Luke again.
You came in that? Leia asked, aghast as she pointed out a viewport overlooking the bay where the Falcon was docked. Youre braver than I thought, she said, glancing at Solo.
Nice! Han said sarcastically.
Threepio, Leia said in the comlink. Do you copy?
For the moment, Mistress Leia, Threepio replied. Were in the main hangar across from the ship.
Leia stood on tiptoes to see where they were.
Good. Were right above you. Stand by, she said.
Giving the Princess a dirty look, Han grabs her arm and began to drag her down the hallway. Oddly enough, she didnt protest. Chewie followed behind them, blaster ready. A squad of stormtroopers turned the corner just as they did, and both groups stopped, surprised.
Its them! A trooper said. Blast em!
YAAAAH! Han shouted, drawing his blaster pistol.
Abruptly, he was charging the startled stormtroopers, who scattered. Wide eyed, Leia moved to follow, thinking that this smuggler was one hell of a rescuer.
Leia, that way! Luke shouted from behind her.
She turned and looked. Her brother was pointing frantically down a side hallway. She stared at him, eyebrows raised, and gestured down the hallway after Han and Chewie. Luke shook his head. Sighing, she hurried down the hallway he indicated, hoping that hed get her out once more.
Theyre going to meet more than just one squad of troopers down that hallway, Luke explained hurriedly. Go this way, youll have a better chance. Find a utility closet. On a weapon like this, they have blasters in every cupboard.
All right, she said, starting to run, holding her skirt.
Get a utility belt as well, Luke said, running beside her. Youll need it.
Right, she gasped.
She skidded around a corner and found several doors, two on one side and one on the other, which she headed for. Right in one, she thought to herself, opening it. There was a rack of blasters hanging in there, and extra power cells. She grabbed a nasty looking blaster and a few extra cells, and in a box on the floor reached in and hefted out a heavy utility belt, equipped with standard tools used on a starship or in this case, a star moon. Rushing now, she hooked it around her hips where it sagged loosely, far too large, then hefted the blaster and followed Luke down the hallway. Shouting behind her told her that she had been spotted.
Groaning, she tried to run faster, dodging blaster fire and firing over her shoulder. A hatchway at the end of the hallway catches her attention, and she hit the controls and ducked underneath it. Then she froze, staring at the abyss in front of her.
Blast the controls! Luke shouted, jerking her from her stupor.
Turning, she jabbed the controls to shut the hatch and blasted them, melting the door shut.
Now what? Leia asked, ducking as more blaster fire sailed over her head.
She returned fire to a pair of troopers across the chasm and a floor higher than her. In reply, Luke pointed at her utility belt.
Wha Leia asked, looking down. She stopped. There, on her belt, lay a grappler hook.
Youre crazy! she snapped, staring at the thin metal. I could never his anything with that!
No, Luke said, nodding. But I could.
What do you mean? she demanded, and in answer, Luke smiled up at her and moved up to her. He slid his hands into Leias.
Dont control your hands, he commanded, and Leia obeyed, letting her hands go slack.
But they still moved. In shock, she watched them move to her belt and pull the grappling hook out, aim it, and fire. It wrapped around a protruding pole and tightened strongly. Luke released her.
Go! he ordered, and Leia obeyed, still shocked.
She jumped, sailing out across the chasm. She skidded and almost slipped when her path eased her right onto the other part of the retracted bridge.
The sound of blaster fire followed Han and Chewie down the long hallway, Han in the lead. Chewie ran behind him, firing behind them at the trailing troopers. He growled something in disgust, causing Han to falter in his stride.
I did not lose the Princess! Han retorted.
Chewie growled again.
She ran off! Han protested. Thats not my fault!
They skidded around a corner, seeing a set of open blast doors.
Close the blast doors! The lead trooper ordered, and in alarm Han saw the doors start to do just that.
Exchanging a look with his co-pilot, Han strained all his muscles and tendons to make the running leap, with Chewie beside him, just as the blast doors slammed shut in front of the pursuing troopers.
Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors! the trooper shouted.
Triumphant and laughing, Han and Chewie raced away, heading for the hangar bay where the Falcon perched.
There was the Falcon, perched like a large flat crab on a rock, looking in deceptively bad shape. Obi-Wan felt his heart sink. Han and Leia werent there yet, and down a side hallway stood a tall black figure holding a glowing red lightsaber.
It was time.
In a way, Obi-Wan was ready to die. Ready to end the constant pain of failure, ready to relinquish control. First, however, he needed to distract Vader, keep him away from the escaping prisoner and her rescuers. He only hoped Luke would get them out in time
He lit his lightsaber.
Ive been waiting for you, Obi-Wan, Vader said, his voice deep and resonant. We meet again at last. The circle is now complete.
Obi-Wan lifted his lightsaber, waiting.
When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master. Vader rumbled.
Only the master of evil, Darth, Obi-Wan said, but deep within his heart he was aching.
He didnt want to do this didnt want to fight. Memories of the last time continued to haunt him. It had to be done though, he knew. He had to keep Vader away from Luke and Leia. Had to give them time
He swung. Vader parried and attacked in turn. Obi-Wan went on the defensive, blocking repeatedly.
Youre powers are weak, old man, Vader taunted.
Heart in his throat, Obi-Wan thought of what he was about to do.
Im so sorry, Luke.
You cant win, Darth, he said, keeping his voice emotionless. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine.
True, in a way
In his peripheral vision, Obi-Wan sat a gleam of white, a flash of gold Leia and Threepio, obviously with Artoo and Han and Chewie and a soft, nearly invisible gleam of blue. Beyond that, a squad of seven stormtroopers spotted Obi-Wan and Vader, and instinctively rushed towards the fight. Obi-wan could feel Lukes tense feelings, and flicked his eyes towards the glow of blue. Vader was distracted; his fury all consuming, and only Obi-Wan saw the sad, knowing blue eyes, saw the nod of the head.
Im sorry, Luke
He straightened his stance, let his lightsaber still the glowing red blade descended on him, searing a pain through his chest. A flash of white seemed to fill his vision, and the last thing Obi-Wan saw was Han grabbing Leia and forcing her to run.
so, so sorry
Blast the door, Chewie! Han bellowed, dragging the Princess along with him.
She was staring aghast at the pile of brown robes that had once been occupied by the old man.
No! she cried. Obi-Wan!
Its too late! Han yelled. Get on the ship!
Now, Leia, Luke echoed frantically. Get on, hurry! Theres nothing you can do!
Acknowledging his words, Leia turned and ran for the ship, scrambling up the ramp after Han and Chewie, with Luke just behind her. She jabbed the controls, causing the door to rise and close tightly as Han started the ship up, powering up the shields as the troopers realized what was going on and started firing wildly. The ships engines whined in protest at the abrupt start, with no warm-up sequence, but she held together.
I hope the old man managed to get that tractor beam out of commission, Han growled. Or this is going to be one short escape.
The ship swooped upwards and out of the hangar, clear of the blaster fire. Leia sighed and slumped in relief.
Dont get comfortable, Han said grimly. Were not out yet. Weve still got the sentry ships.
Chewie growled, and Han stood up quickly as the computer readouts began to bleep, signifying enemy ships approaching.
Angle the deflector shields, Chewie, Han ordered. Im going to power up the main guns. He turned to look at Leia. Can you shoot a ship?
Yes, Leia said.
Then come on! Han yelled, already heading for the gun ports. Take the bottom, he ordered, climbing the ladder.
Leia slid down into the lower port, slithering into the harness behind the laser cannon. She slid the headset over her head in time to hear Hans voice.
You in, Princess? he asked. Okay, stay sharp, here they come.
Leia took a deep breath and adjusted her grip on the cannon, nodding her head. A TIE zipped across her field of vision and she traced it, spitting green lasers. Missed. Took another deep breath. In the upper port, Han followed a TIE with his lasers, back and forth across the gun port as the TIE spun crazily to avoid the fire. A moment later, it exploded in a brilliant mushroom of flame.
Yes! Han laughed.
Dont think, Luke said in Leias ear. Just feel.
Leia took another deep breath, closing her eyes. She opened them again just as a TIE blasted towards her port, lasers spitting. As if in a dream, she fired once. The lasers sliced into the ship, causing it to blaze apart. She swiveled in the seat, scanning for the other two. Moments later, she scored another hit, the TIE bursting into flames and snuffing out abruptly. Han scored the last one just seconds later, and abruptly the Falcon was clear. Han whooped in delight and relief.
Good job, Luke said, smiling at her.
Leia let out a long breath of relief and smiled back.
Boy, she said, releasing herself, am I glad to be out of there.
Im sure, Luke said, grinning at her.
He looked oddly tired, she thought. Strange
Come on, Luke said, standing up. There is something you need to have.
Curious, Leia followed. Luke pointed at the floor.
Panels open, he explained at her puzzled look. Pull that one up.
She did so, prying it up with her long fingernails. Underneath was a deep space.
Smuggling holds, Luke said. He pointed at the old brown bag within. Bens bag. He would have wanted you to have what is inside it.
Luke stared at her, his face unreadable.
It was my fathers, he said quietly.
Blinking, Leia jumped in and grabbed the bag before heaving herself out. Opening it, she saw an extra pair of clothing and a long silver cylinder. It was a lightsaber.
In surprise, Leia looked up at her brother, and then blinked.
He was gone.
To be continued...