The Legend of Tatooine Hallooine
by MJ Mink
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away--"
"No, no," the man interrupted. "This story is happening today...this very day, Hallooine, in other parts of our galaxy."
"'Kay, whatever you want," the youngster said agreeably. "So...today, on the far left side of our galaxy, some fr--"
"Da-aaad," the boy admonished. "If you want me to tell you a bedtime story, you have to quit interrupting."
"'Kay." The father snuggled down, pulling the blanket to his chin, and looked at the child sitting in the chair. "Go on. Just don't make it too scary."
"It's Halloween, it's gotta be scary." The youth cleared his throat. "Okay, so...on the far left side of the galaxy, some friends are talking, getting ready for the big night, tonight, Hallooine...."
"Didn't you celebrate Halloween on Tatooine?" Leia asked curiously.
"Yes, but we called it Hallooine. And we didn't celebrate it like this." Luke shivered, frowning slightly as he watched Han string Jack O'Lanterns on the hull of the Falcon. The docking bay was dark, and all around them ships were similarly decorated with lighted faces. Eerie grimaces, triangular eyes and noses shimmered out of the blackness. "We had parties and food, adults gave us candy, maybe told us some scary stories...but there was nothing as scary as these...mean faces."
"They're just pumpkins, kid," Han explained for the third time. "Gourds. You like the pies, right?"
Luke shrugged. "Yeah, we had pumpkins, but...." He looked embarrassed. "Tatooine Hallooine was a fun, safe time. But here it's evil and frightening. I don't get it."
"It's not real fear, Luke," Leia explained, patting his arm comfortingly. "It's...fun fear."
"Fun fear," the blond repeated skeptically. "I don't see what's fun about fear."
"You'll see tonight when all the ghosts and goblins come out."
He sent a terrified glance at Han, then looked down.
"Hey," the Corellian said, concerned, "don't take it so serious. None of this is real."
"My nightmares are real!" Luke blurted. "I've been having the same one over and over--a big black ghost, with wings, flying at me, swooping down and carrying me off in his claws."
"Oh, a vampire." Han nodded. "I think they're real."
"Han!" Leia glared at him before turning to the younger man. "Vampires aren't real, Luke, don't worry."
"I know that!" He scowled at them. "It's not a vampire, it's Vader! I've been dreaming about him for the last couple nights. He's always chasing me."
"Ah, you've felt that way since we learned it was him in the fighter behind you. He's not chasing you."
Leia nodded her agreement to Han's words. "It's natural to be traumatized after what you've gone through--what happened at your home, then losing your friend Biggs...."
Privately he disagreed, but he could see it was pointless to argue. They didn't understand. "I guess."
"Hey." Han hung a final glowing orange Jack O'Lantern and squatted in front of him. "You know what I do when I'm scared of someone?" He waited until Luke shook his head. "I imagine him standing in front of me in his underwear. No one is scary in their underwear."
Luke and Leia were silent. "Underwear," Leia finally said. "You want us to imagine Darth Vader in his underwear?"
"Yeah, let's all do it!" Solo enthused. "Close your eyes. Good. Now imagine him standing right here between us. Start taking off his clothes, the cape, the black armor...and there he is, in black...no, white briefs."
"It's not working," Leia stated."He won't get undressed."
"Don't ask him, take his clothes off yourself!"
Luke opened his eyes, slouching down farther on the crate that they used as a chair. "I don't want to see Vader in his underwear."
"I'm telling you, kid, it'll work, you won't be scared of him anymore."
"The very idea of Vader in his underwear is scaring me," Leia snapped, standing. "Let's get ready for the party."
"Sorry," Han muttered, "I thought it would help."
"That's okay." Luke nodded. "The idea is a sound one, and I think I can use it. Not with underwear, though. You two go ahead, I'll be along in a few minutes."
When they had gone, he closed his eyes, allowing his mind to fill with a familiar image from Tatooine Hallooine...there had been a story he'd never liked, something about a bantha-rider...if he could imagine Vader in the story, maybe he wouldn't be as scary....
Focusing as hard as he could, he willed the picture to fill his mind.
"You said this wouldn't be scary," the father accused.
"It's not. Yet." The boy grinned. "Now, be quiet so I can continue."
"'Kay," the man breathed, not wanting the child to stop. "Go on, I want to hear more."
"'Kay." The boy cleared his throat. "On the same night, tonight,
Hallooine, the scariest night of the moon-cycle, on the far right side
of the galaxy, a man was dreaming...."
It was a nightmare, it had to be. He was being chased, pursued by something bright, blinding, so white that he couldn't look at it. The thing kept coming, making no sound, and that silence frightened him almost as much as the apparition itself. He turned to flee, for his lightsaber was of no use against this being, nothing could save him, not even his Master, so he ran and ran and ran until someone called him, demanding his attention, calling him to return....
Darth Vader returned to consciousness with a jerk. His forehead struck the mechanism that held his helmet. "Ouch! Sith!" He rubbed his head irritably, then used the Force to command the steel arm to lower his helmet back around his head until it settled with a click. With a wave of his hand, the meditation pod began to open.
Someone was waiting for him, and that someone had better have an excellent reason for interrupting his meditation...even though the officer had also inadvertently intervened and ended the terrible, mystifying nightmare.
The jaws of the pod parted fully, revealing Piett. "Yes, Captain?"
"AAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!" the man screamed.
"Captain!" he snarled, surreptitiously determining that his helmet was indeed fully on and latched. "What is the meaning of your behavior?"
The man's eyes were huge in his gaunt face. "Uh... nothing, nothing, I apologize, milord. I... uh... the, uh, Emperor has commanded that you contact him from the bridge. He wishes to see the status of the... uh... the... uh... bridge."
"Very well." Though he knew Piett could not see his scowl, he was certain the man felt it for he fidgeted nervously as Vader rose and strode to the door.
With a whirl of his cape, he turned. "What?" he roared.
"Milord, are you going like...that?"
Though perplexed and highly offended, he did not ask what Piett meant. If he didn't value the man's military expertise and loyalty, he would rid himself of this nuisance. As it was, he wished Piett to live; hence he could ask no more for fear the reply would push him into a rage. So he continued into the corridor, noting, as they traveled toward the bridge, that everyone they passed ventured screams or shrieks of one kind or another. How odd.
In the lift, Vader stared at his reflection in the shiny surface of the walls. He could see nothing amiss. Indeed, his helmet was polished to perfection, his clothing impeccable, his codpiece-- yes, his codpiece was snugly fastened. It was a mystery, indeed, what could be frightening everyone. Beyond and above their usual fear of him, of course.
At his shoulder, Piett cleared his throat.
"Yes?" he rumbled warningly.
"I was just wondering, milord, if you... I mean... I have never known you to celebrate a holiday before."
"A holiday?" Ah, yes...today was Hallooine. How well he remembered it from his youth...even slaves could celebrate Hallooine with the townfolk. There had been special sweets, parties, costumes, storytelling late into the night. He and his mother had looked forward to Hallooine for many months prior.
He stifled a sigh. "It is my favorite holiday," he confessed, then realized he was becoming too familiar. "Do not repeat my words or I will have you welded to a torpedo and fired at an x-wing."
"Of course, milord." Piett nodded and flicked open the bridge entry.
Sweeping onto the bridge, he ignored the screams of shock and horror.
Evidently it was the perverse and barbaric way the rest of the galaxy celebrated
Tatooine Hallooine that was putting his men on edge. He did, Vader grudging
supposed, look a bit like one of those 'vampires' of Corellian legend.
Still, it was disturbing that his staff would become so unbalanced over
a simple holiday. He could but hope that these frailties would disappear
when this day was over. If not, he would have to replace the entire crew.
"I don't see why everyone is afraid of Vader," the man said defensively. "He's a nice enough guy, just misunderstood."
"I know." The boy patted his head. "But what have I told you about interrupting?"
"Sorry. Go on."
"That's better. We're almost finished." The child smiled. "As
I was saying...."
"Open the channel."
He waited with characteristic impatience, pretended not to notice the secretive glances and open stares of his underlings. When the Emperor's image flickered to life, Vader knelt.
Instead of the usual greeting, there was silence. After a few minutes, the Dark Lord lifted his head.
The Emperor was still there.
"Master?" he enquired nervously, wondering what could be amiss.
"Lord Vader," Palpatine said slowly. And said nothing more.
"Yes, Master?" He took the acknowledgment as giving him leave to rise and he did so, eager to stand as a near-equal to the greatest Sith.
The Emperor cleared his throat. "Ahem. Yes...how goes the search for the Rebels?"
"We continue to follow up on reports, Master, but the Rebel fleet remains elusive."
"Mmm." The Emperor was quiet again, though he did not seem angry. "My Lord?" he murmured eventually, questioningly.
"Yes, Master?" he asked again when the Sith did not continue.
"Uh...nothing. Nothing." It was rare for Palpatine to repeat himself, and Vader was worried that he had done something to offend his mentor. "Carry on. And...enjoy your holiday."
Enjoy my holiday?! he thought to himself, incredulous. Has the Emperor-- and the Empire-- gone finally, truly, mad?
"Captain Piett," he said with an abrupt gesture that brought the officer to his side. "I am retiring to my quarters for the evening. Contact me in the event of Rebel sightings-- otherwise do not disturb me."
"Yes, milord. But, milord...?" Piett followed him into the corridor.
"squeeeeeeee!" a mousedroid squeaked as it fled.
"What is it?"
"You'll...." Piett clasped his hands behind his back as he gathered courage to speak. "Milord, you'll miss the apple-bobbing at 2130."
Rare were the occasions when Darth Vader could find no words. He stared at the solemn-faced man for many silent seconds, then gave up. Turning on his heel, he stalked away, his ebon cloak waving behind him like a flag. By the time he reached his quarters, he was close to screaming himself. Meditation, he needed meditation, he needed to get this blasted helmet off so he could breathe on his own, see with his own eyes, and ignore this ship of fools.
The pod closed around him. The mechanical arms obediently lifted the helmet from his head. He dimmed the light to near-darkness, inhaling the rush of filtered air. The quiet was peaceful, relaxing... instead of meditating, he fell into a deep, exhausted sleep....
...He was being chased, pursued by something bright, blinding, so white that he couldn't look at it. The thing kept coming, making no sound, and that silence frightened him almost as much as the apparition itself. He turned to flee, for his lightsaber was of no use against this being, nothing could save him, not even his Master, so he ran and ran and ran until someone called him, demanding his attention, calling him to return....
...It was the apparition. It raised a white lightsaber, and Vader cringed, waiting for the fatal downward stroke that never came. Instead, the saber was doused and the figure knelt beside him.
It was a boy...only a boy. A blue-eyed, blond boy, and for a moment he thought it was a ghost of himself in his youth. But...no....
The boy smiled. "Hi," he said ingenuously. He removed Vader's helmet and tossed it aside. "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you."
"You're who?" he asked, confused.
"It's me--Luke!" A crestfallen look appeared on the lad's face. "Have you forgotten about me?"
He gawked at the boy. "I...yes...no...."
Luke sighed. "You've been chasing me--remember now?"
"I...yes, yes, I do."
The youngster nodded. "Good. Because I want you to stop. If you don't...I'll keep doing THIS." He gestured toward the discarded helmet.
Vader followed his motion. And froze, not believing what he was seeing.
"AAAAAAAAAARGH!" he screamed.
"Don't be here when I wake up," was the last warning he heard before he fell into a dead faint.
"You really have to feel sorry for him, don't you?" the man asked.
The man frowned, but said nothing other than: "Go on with your story."
The boy hid his smile by looking at the floor. "'Kay. So, back
on the far left side of the galaxy...."
"Did you sleep all right?" Leia asked him the next morning as they waited in line for breakfast in the mess. "I hope Han's stories didn't scare you too much."
"I was fine." Luke smiled at them. "I took your advice, Han, about picturing Vader in a funny way."
"Yeah?" Han glanced impatiently at the people in front of them. "Wish they'd hurry, I'm starving."
"How did you picture Vader?" Leia wondered curiously.
"Well, there's an old legend on Tatooine about a settler who was killed by a Tusken spirit late one Hallooine night when he ventured alone into the Jundtland Wastes and captured the spirit's bantha. The spirit took his head, but he didn't die."
Han shuddered. "Now that's a scary story."
"How did that make you less scared of Vader?" Leia's expression was doubtful. "Or did you just trade one nightmare for another?"
Luke shook his head. "The legend says that the settler's ghost still rides the Wastes on Hallooine night, searching for his head...but until he finds it, he's doomed to always carry a pumpkin in the crook of his arm."
They looked at him blankly.
"So," Luke added with a little grin, "I just pictured the pumpkin on Vader's head instead of his helmet, and pretended that everyone except him could see it. Then I wasn't afraid of him anymore."
He could see his image form in their minds--the black-cloaked figure topped with a grinning orange Jack O'Lantern--a second before they burst into laughter.
"Still," he added, unheard, his small voice drowned by their amusement, "it was a weird dream. It was so...real."
Finally, it was his turn to load his tray. Food took precedent over all other concerns, and he dismissed the memories of his strange dream. For now, anyway.
"So it was like a premonition?"
"Telepathy and the Force, as you well know. You've heard this story a gazillion times." The boy stood and stretched. "It's time for you to go to sleep now."
"'Kay." The man yawned. "First, tell me...does Vader ever figure out a way to stop the nightmare and get rid of the pumpkin?"
"That's a story for another night. Sleep well, Father."
"You too, young one."
The youngster patted the round orange head of his father, then paused in the doorway, sending him a fond smile before turning out the light.
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