Turning Point (Penumbra, Part 3)
by Catriona Campbell Boyle
He let out a breath and watched it steam and billow in the frigid air before it dispersed and disappeared. He drew in another, feeling the chill seep into his body, feeling it rake the delicate lining of his lungs like taloned fingers. He welcomed the coldness, for it calmed the heat which burned within him, it extinguished the flames of his hate and anger. Some might find it strange that one who had spent his youth on a baking planet of sand should find peace and solace in such a winter landscape, but it reminded him of the folly of impulsiveness. Ice was the punishment he met for rushing off headlong into the baited trap of Bespin.
And, in ice, a child had perished.
Events from those long ago months were still vague, a nightmarish blend of disturbing images and sounds, of wrenching terror and tearing pain; the death throes of the person he once was. His captors had fed well, gorging themselves on his twisting confused emotions, his fear and despair. Then, at his lowest ebb, they had snatched away his only hope, prised from his grasp the only thing he held close and cherished.
"You are my son!"
The truth of those words had struck him deeply and he had finally sunk and submitted. They had plotted carefully for this moment, had orchestrated an elaborate plan: they had him taken to the palace gates and, before a baying crowd and holovid cameras, they had him executed, effectively ending his life for both himself and for the galaxy.
The slate had been cleaned for him to assume a new persona.
He shivered in the freezing winds, watching as they swept plumes of snow from the peaks of the mountains around him. The sun was high, glistening sharply upon the brilliant white ice. He smiled a little ruefully, sorrowfully at the irony; he was surrounded by light, a pure penetrating brightness and it could not touch him, could not seep beneath the black costume he wore.
He had woken in the Medcentre, in a comfortable bed and, as he blinked in the clinical light, a voice had questioned carefully, "How are you feeling, M'Lord."
Luke Skywalker had perished and Sohn, The Younger Lord Vader, had wakened in that bed.
His training began soon after, his father and the Emperor pushing him to the limits of his physical and spiritual endurance, teaching him of the weakness of light and the strength of night, teaching him of power. They were always there, never giving him a moment to himself, invading his very dreams with their whispered warnings and promises, searching for glimpses of doubts and disobedience, and punishing swiftly when they found such thoughts.
Sohn was a quick study. He learned to stifle his past loves and desires, he learned the pride of achievement as he reached the goals his masters set for him, he learned of the power he held over weaker beings, he learned all they had to teach him. His power grew and his masters laughed with delight because they knew that his strength came from his hatred of them, his fear of them, his abhorrence of the same darkness he found himself embracing.
There was a turning point, an event locked in time, that Sohn would always recall. He had killed a man. It had been a mindless moment, a second or two of blazing fury as his fragile control over the Force disintegrated.
He had returned to his quarters after a difficult session with his father and the Emperor. He was irate, sweating, trembling with fury and exertion, and the soldier had simply entered the room at the wrong time and made one demand too many on top of his masters'.
"M'Lord, the tailors wish you to try..."
He turned swiftly, anger at the interruption erupting into a cry of rage. He threw out his arm, twisting his wrist and closing his fist, and the soldier was sent crashing against the wall, his innards crushed.
Vader was there within moments and Sohn turned, with growing horror, toward his father. He was stunned by his actions, sickened by his abilities. Glancing up at his father, he stammered out his only excuse. "He... annoyed me."
Darth Vader looked down at the broken body, then shifted his gaze to his son. After a long pause, he merely nodded an acknowledgement at Sohn's words, then he turned and left.
A turning point, but in which direction?
Gradually, Palpatine and his father slackened their hold, gave him more freedom of movement, retreated from his mind and allowed private thoughts once more - though Sohn knew they could, and would, invade his mind at any time. This very threat was their deterrent, their control of him. Then, they had completed the transformation and had commanded he wear this costume.
It was a black dress Imperial uniform complete with a floor length cape. Like his father, he also wore a helmet and mask. The helmet covered his entire head, but the mask concealed only part of his face, leaving his chin and mouth exposed. The purpose of this disguise, unlike the elder Vader's, was not that of life support. It was merely there to hide his features, to further smother the man he had been.
"Imagine the Rebel Alliance finding out little Luke Skywalker was their new antagonist," the Emperor cackled.
"My Lord Vader," his aide called from the hatch of the shuttle behind him. "The destroyer will be waiting for you."
Let them wait, Sohn thought bitterly, as he gazed across the snow drifts, his cape fluttering behind him. This place was so much like Hoth, it reminded him of other times, of that other person, of an innocent and shallow youth, of dreams which had long since splintered. It reminded him of friendship and love, of companionship and camaraderie, of Han and Leia.
"I'm sorry," he hoarsely whispered to the growing gale, his voice scrapping through scarred vocal cords damaged by the carbon freezing, unsure to whom he was apologising. To Ben and Yoda? To Han and Leia? To himself?
This was the price of impulsiveness, of recklessness, of anger, and he had learned a terrible lesson. He would not be so impetuous again. He would learn the virtues of patience, he would gain their trust, and he would achieve his destiny through careful treading. He fingered the lightsaber hanging from his belt clip and smiled.
The smile faltered for a moment as he quickly sought in which directions his masters were focused, and it grew again when he discovered them turned from him. Abruptly, he spun of his heel and strode up the shuttle's ramp, closing off his thoughts, guarding them jealously from possible prying. The hatch closed behind him and the craft lifted from the northern wasteland and rose through the atmosphere toward his new command on board his father's vessel, carrying him back to the stars.
To be continued
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