A NEW LIFE
by MJ Mink
He hadn't received a gift since he'd joined the Alliance. Of course not--there was no one left alive to send him anything. But now a package lay on his bunk. It had been opened and inspected, a Security approval stamp impressed on its cover. Luke lifted the lid. Something large was wrapped in a soft cloth, but on top of the object was a crisp, closed triangle.
He touched the paper carefully. Paper was rare; he'd never held any in his hand before. It was smooth and cool, but it warmed quickly under his touch. His name was written on its face. He turned it over and carefully ran his finger under the crest-like seal on the back. The document unfolded in many directions until it lay flat. There was more handwriting--beautiful, bold, neat handwriting, better than he'd ever managed. It said:
My son,There was no signature. He didn't need one to know it was from Darth Vader. That brief sighting of the mysterious cloaked figure on the Death Star, before Ben died at Vader's hand, had been enough to establish some kind of mental link. Tentative at first, it had strengthened until he sometimes thought he could hear Vader's voice in his head. And the meaning of the link was unmistakable; he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was Vader's son. That meant Ben had lied to him. Vader hadn't killed the elusive Anakin Skywalker, his father. Vader was his father, and that made him Luke Vader. Skywalker was a made-up name, a lie told to an abducted child. Had Uncle Owen kidnapped him? Or Ben?
Eighteen years ago you were stolen from me. Since that day, I have continued to search for you. Do not run from me any longer. I will come for you very soon. Until then, may the enclosed remind you of our happier times together.
He put the letter aside and lifted the wrapped object out of the box. It was soft and gave way under pressure from his fingers. He unfolded the cloth and stared. It was a child's toy, a stuffed mystee, its ivory fur yellowed with age, its little amber glass eyes dulled. He rubbed them with his finger until they sparkled up at him. "Toddy," he said without thinking.
Toddy. That was the little animal's name, somehow he remembered that much. He brought Toddy to his chest and rested his chin on its head. It felt familiar and comfortable. Toddy. He wrapped both arms around it and squeezed. Eyes closed, he let his mind drift. Through a haze, he saw Toddy, clean and bright, heard a man's cheerful laughter, a woman's sweet voice. He concentrated but could make out no faces. With Toddy tucked safely beneath his arm, he scanned the note again and then refolded it. He'd hide the fuzzy creature under his bunk; it wouldn't do for anyone to see that Luke Skywalker, hero of the Battle of Yavin, had a toy mystee. His image would be shot to hell.
He spent a few minutes examining every inch of Toddy's floppy body, hoping to awaken more memories, but nothing happened. Finally he gave up and rewrapped the mystee in the cloth. Face down on the floor, he slid the toy as far under the bunk as he could. As for the note, it would have to go in the safest place he could find. He looked around the room he shared with two other pilots. Finally he unzipped his duffel and unwrapped the waterproof packet that contained his personal records. He slipped the note inside, hoping his privacy would be respected. He paused before resealing the packet. There would be time to consider the contents later--though the words were already branded onto his brain.
* * *
General Rieekan stared at Mon Mothma, his face grim. "They came out of hyperspace on top of us! We've deployed the fighters, but the Imperials aren't attacking. They haven't sent out their TIE's, and our fighters are totally ineffective against star destroyers."
"What can they want?" Mothma mused thoughtfully. "This is not their typical pattern of aggressiveness."
Leia frowned. "It's Vader--what's he up to now? He wants something from us."
"General!" a com operator interrupted excitedly. "Incoming from the medical frigate--they say they're caught in a tractor beam and being pulled toward the Executor."
The command staff watched the screen, helpless to assist as the frigate was swallowed by the huge ship.
The com operator's voice shook. "Another incoming...from the Executor."
"Put it on speaker," Rieekan ordered, a frown creasing his face.
The voice was powerful, and it resonated through the small, enclosed room. "Rebel Alliance, this is Admiral Ozzel. You will not be attacked if you obey our command. Send the son of Lord Vader to the Executor. You have one standard hour to respond. If you do not, we will destroy your medical ship."
"The bastards," Rieekan muttered.
Mothma's eyes reflected everyone's bafflement. "Vader's son?" she repeated incredulously. "Does anyone know to whom he refers?"
Leia shook her head. "If we had someone named Vader in the Alliance, we'd know it."
"If Vader's son is with the Alliance, he is using another name. Have we had any particular personnel problems, General?"
"The usual." Rieekan shrugged. "No traitorous acts, no betrayals. If Vader's son is with us, how do we find him?"
* * *
Half the x-wings were recalled to protect them in case the Imperials launched a sneak attack. Luke removed his helmet and climbed quickly down the ladder of his snub. The bay was crowded with pilots and mechanics. He pushed his way through the people and headed for the command center. Maybe he could see Leia or-- "Han!" he called, spotting the tall Corellian checking a cargo list near the Millennium Falcon. He ran across the deck.
"Hey, kid. Chewie, let's get this stuff loaded!"
"What's going on?"
"We're getting the hell out of here as soon as we're clear of the Imperials, that's what's going on." Han cursed under his breath. "I shouldn't have hung around so long. Now we're screwed."
"But what's happening? The Imps aren't attacking."
"They will soon. Vader gave the Alliance an hour to turn over his son, then he destroys the medical frigate. And us, too, probably."
"His son?" Luke echoed.
"Yeah. It's the shits, ain't it?" Han shook his head and hefted a large crate onto one shoulder. He headed toward the Falcon. "Guess we got a traitor with us--no wonder the Imps know every move the Alliance makes. Vader's got a direct pipeline."
If Han thought that, then everyone did. Luke swallowed and looked around. He had no choice. Vader would not hesitate to destroy the medical frigate if he didn't get what he wanted.
There was no longer any reason to check in with his flight leader; his life in the Alliance was ended. Luke hurried through the narrow corridors to his room. Dropping to the floor, he reached under the bed for Toddy and then retrieved his duffel. He stuffed Toddy inside and added as many of his few clothes that would fit. He zipped the duffel and slung it over his shoulder.
He headed for the command center, heart pounding with both fear and excitement. True, he had no choice--but did he really want one? Though he was one of the most hated men in the galaxy, Lord Vader was still Luke's father. A powerful, commanding figure, the right hand of the mighty Emperor, both physically strong and skilled in the ways of sorcery. If Luke were an Imperial trooper, he'd be full of pride for this rogue father of his. Should these few months spent with the Rebels eternally affect his attitudes and his future?
He paused uncertainly at the entry to the command center. Almost immediately he was pushed aside by an aide running in. He edged along the wall until he was stopped by a console. Mothma, Rieekan, and Leia were among the leaders standing around the strategy board.
Rieekan turned on the aide. "Any luck?"
"No, sir," the woman panted. "Nothing yet. They're still running names through, trying to correlate the data, but there are no clues--"
"Damn." He turned to Mothma. "Our time's running out. We'll need to put the defense strategy into motion."
"What of the medical frigate?" Mothma folded her arms, a study in composure that Luke admired.
"We may have to accept that as a casualty of war."
"There are five hundred people aboard!" Leia protested. "We can't just sacrifice them--"
"Do you have another suggestion?"
Luke watched Leia, feeling a little forlorn. In a few minutes, he would no longer be part of her life. Would she miss him or wouldn't she care? Just then she looked up and saw him.
"Luke--what are you doing here?" She turned to Mothma before he could answer.
He shrugged, tugging awkwardly at the duffel strap as it slipped. "I packed."
Her attention was drawn back to him. "Packed what?" she asked absently.
No, she wouldn't miss him. "My stuff." She wasn't even listening. She was talking to Mothma again. He glanced around the room. No one was paying any attention to him. He looked at the situation chron--only fourteen minutes left on it. That must be Vader's deadline.
A rush of irritation filled him. He was the most important person in the room--the answer to this impossible predicament of theirs--and they were ignoring him. "I said, I packed my stuff." His voice rose in frustration. "To go to the Executor."
Incredibly, no one but Leia responded, and she still sounded distracted. "Luke, we're not attacking yet. But you'd better report back to your squad and get ready. Be careful."
And he was staring at the back of her head again. "You don't get it." He waited until there was a momentary lull in the nearly constant conversations and said softly, "I'm Vader's son."
For a moment he thought that no one heard him, because the babble resumed. Then it stopped as if a door had been slammed on it. All the eyes in the room turned toward him. It was a heady feeling, having their attention, and he enjoyed in some perverse way. He hefted his duffel again and gave them a little smile. "You're running out of time," he pointed out. "Don't you think you should get me over to the Executor?"
Rieekan took a step toward him. "Who are you?"
"Luke Skywalker." He almost said Luke Vader, but his special situation told him not to antagonize these Rebels while he was still under their control.
The General's eyes lit with horrified recognition--the destroyer of the Death Star was the son of Vader. That made him a powerful ally--now would they chance his emnity?
"Luke--" Leia hesitated. "This--it can't be true."
"Of course it's true." This was a new side of him--he felt arrogant, superior to all these small, worried people. "Why do you think Ben Kenobi was shepherding me? But we don't have time for discussions." He nodded toward the chron. It was down to nine minutes.
"You can't just turn yourself over--"
"I can, and I want to," he said flatly. He turned to Rieekan. "Authorize a shuttle for me." He couldn't allow them time to consider the situation; they might decide his execution was worth the lives of 500 hostages. His eyes skimmed over Mothma. She hadn't spoken; she just watched him with something like sadness in her eyes. He looked at Leia. "Good-bye, your highness."
He turned on his heel. The feeling of vexation was gone, replaced by one of strength. His father would teach him how to wield his power, how to make people respect him. He wondered if he would have to wear an Imperial uniform, or if he could be a Jedi--or whatever his father was. He picked up his pace, increasing to a run as he neared the docking bay. Mentally, he reached out to his father, tried to tell him he was coming. He felt some kind of response--an acknowledgment?
In the bay, he passed Han as he headed for a shuttle that was being guarded by Security officers.
"Hey, Luke, wait up!"
He didn't pause, but Han caught up with him as he prepared to enter the small craft.
"What's going on?"
He looked at his new friend. "Like you said, Vader wants his son."
Han stared first at the shuttle, then at him. Comprehension lit his face. "And you're the sacrificial lamb? Luke, as soon as you get there, Vader will know you're an imposter. What're those idiots in Command planning?"
Luke laughed and touched Han's arm. "No, Han. I really am Vader's son. And somehow I don't think I'll be seeing you again, so...good-bye. Say good-bye to Chewie for me. I'll miss you two."
"You're--?" Han faltered, the same way Leia had. His face mirrored his voice: surprise, dismay, fear, even respect.
The reactions pleased him. Luke nodded once and boarded the shuttle. His gaze remained fixed on the stars and the huge Executor as the pilot lifted the ship into out of the docking bay and into space.
A new life was waiting for him, and it was only a few minutes away.
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