by MJ Mink
he was five years old, they told him the truth. The smallest details
of that day were engraved on his memory. He was certain they were
memories, because no one had ever talked about that day again. But
the pictures in his mind were as vivid as if he had just opened his
eyes and looked at them. ...Playing in the mound of sand he'd built
in the center of the courtyard, hearing the adults‚ńô raised voices,
Owen and Beru and Ben calling him inside....
was only five and, for better or for worse, the path of his life was
here next to me, dear," Aunt Beru said.
climbed onto the sofa beside her, and she put her arm around him. He
flew his toy speeder across her lap, making zooming noises until she
took it away. ‚ńúPay attention, Luke. Uncle Owen and Uncle Ben have
something to tell you."
school?" he asked eagerly. ‚ńúIt's only three days!" Three
days until he could go to school in Anchorhead - finally! All the
kids would be there, even the older ones. He was so thrilled, he
could hardly wait.
Uncle Owen said. ‚ńúLuke...." He squatted on the floor and
leaned forward, his big hand curling around Luke's shoulder. ‚ńúYou
need to stop doing those...things...that you do. You can't do them at
things?" Probably those things that made Uncle Owen mad, but he
didn't know how he did them and he sure didn't know how to stop doing
be difficult, Luke. You know what I mean."
me," Uncle Ben interrupted gently.
Owen returned to his chair and sat scowling at them. "I hope you
know what you're doing."
you have a special gift," Uncle Ben began.
I have it now?" he asked excitedly. "What is it?"
Owen grumbled something.
already have the gift," Uncle Ben said. "You can do things
that very few people can. You know things that other people don't.
Not many people are like you."
are." That‚ńôs what Uncle Owen said. Just like damned old Ben,
and sounded angry when he said it.
I am," he agreed. "You and I can do these special things.
But you must not let anyone else know that you and I are different."
we bad?" he asked doubtfully. That's what Uncle Owen said.
just different," Uncle Ben said slowly. "Luke, I have to
tell you secrets that you must never, ever tell anyone. Only you and
me and Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen know. These are very special secrets,
dangerous secrets, and I'm asking you to be a grown-up about them and
never repeat what I tell you. Can you promise not to tell?"
promise," he agreed enthusiastically. He liked secrets. "I
know lots of secrets and I never tell."
good. But these are especially secret secrets. If you tell anyone, I
could die. And you might die, too. People would kill us."
he didn't like these secrets. He was scared. He'd seen animals dead
in the desert, and once he‚ńôd found a lizard that was really sick
and he'd stayed with it while it died. It made him sad when it just
lay there in the sand, empty.
stuck his thumb in his mouth. Aunt Beru took it out, saying absently,
‚ńúDon‚ńôt put dirty fingers in your mouth, Luke,‚ńĚ and held his
and I have the power to access the Force," Uncle Ben said. "The
Force is an energy field that surrounds us and -- Well, it lets us
do special things that other people can't do."
of." Uncle Ben sighed. "Some people who use the Force are
called Jedi. I used to be a Jedi."
I a Jedi?" Luke interrupted.
but you could have been," Uncle Ben said, looking sad. "Right
around the time you were born, all the Jedi were killed by the
Emperor and Darth Vader. I escaped and I have been hiding here."
thought about this. He'd seen holos of the Emperor and Darth Vader.
They both looked scary, and Uncle Owen said they were really mean.
"Did they get killed 'cause they were bad?"
Jedi were good."
why did they get killed?"
good people die, Luke, when evil people want to destroy all the good
in the galaxy. Do you understand why you can never tell anyone about
you and me? And you can never let anyone know that you can do magic.
That means you can't call your toys to you; you have to go over and
pick them up. You can't tell people when something is going to happen
before it happens -- like when a sandstorm is coming or when Tuskens
are going to attack."
Luke stopped, overwhelmed. "Those are good things. To help
know. But you can't do that anymore. You will find other ways to help
cuddled closer to Aunt Beru. She smelled good, like cookies. "Okay."
nodded, pouting. "But I don't like it!"
do I, Luke." Uncle Ben glanced at Uncle Owen. "There's
something else I have to tell you."
still say it's a bad idea," Uncle Owen said harshly.
necessary," Uncle Ben replied shortly. "Luke, it's about
put his thumb back in his mouth. This time Aunt Beru let him keep it
there. He didn't like to talk about his daddy or his mommy. They died
when Luke was very little and that still made him feel sad.
no easy way -- " Uncle Ben paused and sighed again. "Luke,
we didn't tell you the entire truth about your father. We told you he
was a spice smuggler and a bad man. The truth is, your father is more
than bad. He is... evil. He killed all the Jedi. He tried to kill me.
If he found you, he would kill you. Or he would make you be evil like
was a lot to think about. He felt a tear slip down his face. He
thought his daddy was only regular bad, but he was really really bad?
His daddy killed people? How could his daddy want to kill him? "But
he isn't dead. He's -- "
have to tell him, Owen. He has to know. It's the only way to protect
him." Uncle Ben's finger went under Luke's chin and tilted his
head up so their eyes met. "Luke, your father is Darth Vader."
the clarity of that day, his memory of the long-awaited first day of
school was blurred. Of course, over a decade had passed since then,
so maybe he didn't remember simply because it had been boring. He did
remember that he'd thought a lot about his father, feeling dazed and
confused; he remembered because he still felt that way. When he was a
child, My Dad the Smuggler had been a kick, an exciting, forbidden
thing to boast about, and that was the lie Owen encouraged him to
continue telling. But as he grew older, it had become something else,
something darker. Luke Lars, the smuggler's bastard, they called him.
Ugly as it was, he supposed it beat being known as Darth Vader's
son, although that label might have given him respectability or at
least fearful respect. Or maybe even self-respect.
the old days, before he knew the truth, he'd been ignorantly happy
with his life. Even at that young age, he and Biggs had tried some
skyhopper racing behind Uncle Owen's back. He'd had dreams of
adventure: flying in space, doing great things, being a hero.
that had changed when he learned the terrible truth. His father was
the weapon of the Emperor's wrath, the strong arm of the Empire. Luke
had to be careful not to use the Force for even the smallest things,
to always pretend and lie... or he would turn out the same. You would
become evil like him.
hell with all of it. Luke pulled the hat farther down on his face as
he leaned back into the patch of shade offered by the 'hopper.
you're not going to school at all?" his best friend asked.
school." He drew a long draft from the glitterstim stick,
blowing out puffs of smoke into well-practiced globes. He'd tried
every variety of cheap, low-quality spices that he could buy or
steal, but glitt was his favorite because it could make him forget
who he was.
the university placement test is today," Fixer said nervously.
Why do you care? We're screwed anyway. Our grades are so bad, we'll
never get off this rock."
I‚ńôll be stuck running this place. At least you can be a smuggler
like your old man, get to travel."
label would never leave him. "You're such an ass," he
snapped, irritated. "You think it's an inheritance, like I'm
automatically the member of some damned labor union?"
in hells would I know? I'm just a mechanic, always will be."
why are you worried about the placement test?" he asked
shrewdly. "You don't need a degree to fix engines."
not worried. I just thought...."
then. Quit your friggin' whining and go!"
not going if you're not going."
swore under his breath. "Damnit -- go." There was
more emphasis in his voice than he'd intended, and he realized
guiltily that he had just used It... the Force, the bane of his life.
He wished It would just go away.
I'm goin'!" Fixer yelled, pushing himself off the ground.
his friend stomped away, Luke ground the stick into the sand and
closed his eyes, pretending he was in space and couldn't hear the
muted sounds of Anchorhead echoing from the other side of the
Station. There was no point in taking the test. Even if he passed --
and he probably would, despite his lacking of studying -- Owen would
never let him leave Tatooine. In a few years, he could go on his
own... but should he? He hated to agree with his uncle, but the logic
was irrefutable: Luke Lars was dangerous. He carried the blood of
Darth Vader in his veins along with the same destructive potential,
the same evil. The galaxy doesn't need another Vader, his uncle
declared often enough, and Beru always nodded in sorrowful agreement,
her dark eyes holding a hint of fear as she studied Luke. Her
expression haunted him and, now that he was older, he realized she
had always looked at him that way.
was it possible that anyone could be all bad? He'd seen the Dark Lord
on newsvids and read about his exploits, his military campaigns, the
political reforms he instituted that seemed to occur with less
frequency as the years passed and the Empire strengthened. Luke
thought it was only natural to be curious about his father and want
to know him. It wasn't fair that they were apart. Unless the things
Ben had told him were true. Maybe Vader would see him as a threat and
kill him, or turn him evil. But maybe he wouldn't. If only there
were some way he could see Vader, even just observe him from afar,
just to get an idea what he was like....
levered himself up to reach one of the brews he'd stashed in the back
of the speeder. Popping the lid, he tilted his head back and
swallowed a cool mouthful. A shadow fell across his face, and he
glanced up from beneath the brim of his hat.
Darklighter dropped onto the sand next to him. "Fixer says
you're not taking the placement test."
point." Why was Biggs bothering with him anyway? They hadn't
been friends for years, a long time before Biggs went off-planet to
school. "What're you doing here?"
over, I'm on break. Then I'm heading for the Academy. Officer
was only one place young Tatooine males meant when they said "the
Academy" in such reverent tones. The Imperial Naval Academy, the
training ground for pilots and ground crew. They accepted almost
anyone for ground crew school, but to be an officer and a fighter
pilot -- that meant you were the best of the best. Even an
insignificant backworld like Tatooine could produce a Navy pilot.
"Congratulations," Luke said dully, chugging the rest of
could do it, too, if you applied yourself," Biggs replied,
sounding like his teachers.
never leaving Tatooine."
not? Just a couple more years and you'll be free. There's nothing to
be afraid of."
not afraid!" he snapped furiously. Hurtling the empty bottle
aside, he reached for another.
Biggs drawled. "You'd rather be a loser and a drunk than take a
chance and get out. Move to Mos Eisley then; you'll fit right in with
the rest of the failures."
glared at the bottle. This is what had come between him and Biggs in
the first place -- the truth. Biggs didn't understand -- couldn't
understand the dangers he faced, and Luke couldn't tell him the
truth. No one could know, ever. He maintained a sullen silence,
resisting his desire to explain. The truth would only make everything
worse. So much worse. Hi, I‚ńôm Luke Vader. Maybe you‚ńôve heard of
wish you would talk to me. Maybe I could help." After a moment,
Biggs added: "Is it Owen? Has he hurt you?"
many times do I have to say 'no'?" His anger dwindled into
weariness. "It's not him, it's me. Just me."
Luke!" Biggs shook his head, frustrated. "I can't help you
if you won't tell me -- "
didn't ask for your help." And there's nothing you can do,
his companion said. "Well, good luck to you. You'll need it.
I'll...maybe we'll meet each other again one day."
watched silently as the older youth rose and walked away. "Biggs!"
he called suddenly. "Good luck!" And be careful, he added
he stretched out his legs, crossed them at the ankle, and settled
down to do what Biggs and everyone else expected of him: get drunk.
in too fast, he clipped the edge of the speeder's fender on the
garage entry. He didn't care, but it made enough noise to bring Owen
and Beru rushing to the scene. Luke ignored them and concentrated on
finishing parking very carefully before climbing out of the speeder.
His foot hooked on the door and he fell. Picking himself up, cursing,
he reached inside and switched off the engine.
drunk!" Owen raised his voice even though he was only an
me somethin' I don' know." Luke pushed past him, heading for his
Luke," Aunt Beru sighed sadly, but he didn‚ńôt respond, in no
mood for another endless lecture about how disappointed she was in
him. ‚ńúWe trusted you not to do this again.‚ńĚ
you di‚ńôn‚ńôt, you never trusted me,‚ńĚ he slurred.
course we --"
when? Maybe when I was three, did you trust me when I was three?‚ńĚ
he shouted over his shoulder as he stumbled through the passage.
just like his damned father," he heard Owen tell Beru, and fury
rose inside him, heating his face and blinding his vision. How dare
was never a drunk."
paused behind the doorway, struggling to control his anger as he
strained to hear them. Anakin? He'd never heard that name before.
Fumbling for a stylus, he scribbled it on his palm.
wish we could enlist the damn kid and get him some discipline, but
there'd be hell to pay if..."
voices became indistinct murmurs. Staggering to his desk, Luke
flipped open his datapad and scratched 'Anakin' on it, just to be
absolutely certain he would remember it in the morning. Then he
flopped onto his bed, closed his eyes against the spinning room, and
was afternoon before Luke felt awake enough to get up. He vaguely
remembered Owen trying to rouse him at dawn to go work on 'vaporators
before school, but to hell with that. He indulged in a quick sonic
shower, then detoured to the kitchen to grab a leftover drumstick
from the cooling unit. Back in his room, he remembered that he'd
scratched something on his hand the night before. It was smeared and
unreadable. He looked at the datapad lying open on his desk. Yeah.
snatched it up. 'nikn'. What the hell was nikn? No, that wasn't it,
but close... inikn, enikn, anikn... Anakin. Beru said something about
Anakin being his.... No, that couldn't be. His father was Darth
inhaled sharply. Had they been lying to him all these years? His
heart raced faster as a feeling he hesitated to identify as ‚ńėhope‚ńô
rose in it. He wished he could confront Ben and ask him what the real
truth was, but Kenobi was gone, killed by Tuskens during a raid six
years earlier. The idiot, throwing his life away trying to save some
kid they'd snatched. The brat had died anyway. A fool's death, just
like Owen had said. Protect your own. Never die for a stranger.
Back to 'Anakin'. Maybe it was simply another name for Vader. Or
maybe not. Either way, he needed to find out, and it was a sure bet
that Owen and Beru would never tell him the truth, not if they'd kept
this secret from him for this long. They must have hated him a lot to
have told him that Vader was his father. Fine, the hell with them.
Mos Eisley had better databases than Anchorhead. He would skip school
today -- well, not today, no point since the day was half over --
tomorrow and go into Eisley to do some research.
maybe he could even enlist. Maybe he could get into the Academy as a
vowed to be on his best behavior for the rest of the day so Owen
would have no reason to be suspicious.
second thought, his best behavior would make Owen suspicious.
a yawn, Luke returned to bed to dream about a faceless stranger named
Anakin who welcomed him with wide-open arms.
not taking the speeder this morning."
scratched his head and a strand of hair fell into his breakfast
cereal. He fished it out and stretched it on the table where it swam
in a small trail of milk. "Fine. You can drive me to school."
his uncle declined. "I don't have time for that," Owen
growled. "Damnit, if you take the speeder, I don't want so much
as one more scratch on it."
he drawled, knowing how that response pissed off his uncle.
expect you to pay for the damage you did."
it out of my pay." As if Owen ever paid him for his work.
a damn job! And don't dilly-dally after school, I need you back
he repeated. "I never dilly and hardly ever dally. At least not
when anyone can see me."
pushed back his chair. "Your smart mouth will be the death of
you one day."
wish," he called, but his uncle was already out of the room.
shouldn't bait him like that," Beru remonstrated gently.
shrugged. "We'll never get along. Just accept it." He
stood. "See you later." Maybe.
Beru went back to her kitchen, he raided Owen's 'secret' hiding
place, drawing a fistful of credits from the niche before sliding the
door back into place. Then he threw a backpack with some clothes in
the back of the speeder, just in case the Imps let him enlist. The
dent in the fender was deeper than he had expected, and there were
long white scrapes gouged into the dusty red finish. He rubbed his
sleeve on them, but they didn't disappear, so he quit trying. Lifting
the speeder out of the garage, he pressed the accelerator all the way
down and took off like a laser shot. Wind rushed through his hair,
occasionally snapping it into his eyes as he sent the vehicle through
some sharp turns that it wasn't designed for. It stalled once, but he
managed to restart it and zipped past the outskirts of Anchorhead on
his way to Mos Eisley.
the city, he slowed down and entered at the garrison end, knowing the
guards were used to seeing him and would just wave him through
without a demand to see his papers. This city-entry inspection was
stupid, really, considering the Imps didn't monitor the docking bays.
All the excitement came from off-world, not from the boring moisture
farmers or chattering Jawas.
nodded to the trooper, not bothering to stop, and the white-armored
figure gave him a disinterested flap of his hand. Luke cruised
through the streets, checking out the action, which wasn't much at
this hour. All the entertaining people were probably still asleep
parked the speeder outside Offlander's Cantina, shouldered his
backpack, and wandered indoors.
Granv nodded at him from behind the bar, setting up his usual cheap
Corellian ale. "How's school?" the man asked dryly.
flipped a few coins on the counter and snorted. "Friggin' boring
and a waste of my valuable time."
you have so many more important things to do," the man mocked.
narrowed his eyes. Alderaanis always acted like they were better than
everyone else. "You bet," he replied easily. "I'm
planning a big career following in your footsteps, serving scumbags
in a filthy dive."
if you have any better prospects." Green eyes flashed at him.
"You'll be dead before you're thirty."
hope so, I'd hate to get as old as you," he said flippantly. He
downed half the ale. "Actually, I'm thinkin' of enlisting."
smiled slightly. "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?"
Luke finished the warm beverage in two swallows. "I'm a little
smart for a stormtrooper, bro. You won't catch me on the front lines,
risking my life so some ugly old man can own another planet."
treason, boy." Granv took his empty mug and waved him away. "Get
on with you. Go harass someone else."
a sloppy salute, Luke grinned before departing.
Central Databank was open, but with nothing to go on other than
"Anakin", his search was hopeless. There were a gazillion
Anakins in the galaxy, but not one named Anakin Vader or even Anakin
Lars. What kind of galaxy was it where a kid didn't know his father's
real name, Luke wondered wistfully. He didn't bother to look up Darth
Vader; he'd done it so often that he'd memorized the Dark Lord's
and Sith and Force stuff were more interesting but harder to find.
Mostly there were vague references to their sorcery, dismissing Jedi
magic as sleight-of-hand and hinting that Sith magic was far superior
and infinitely more secret. Over the last couple years he'd gotten
some ideas to practice, like moving things around and using his voice
to command others. What he really wanted to do was fly without a
ship, but he hadn't found any references to that and wasn't yet ready
to jump off a cliff to see if he could do it.
nothing new about the Force had been added to the database, he left
the Databank and wandered over to the garrison. A uniformed man was
at the gate instead of a trooper, and Luke didn't know him.
He leaned on the ledge of the gatehouse window.
soldier gave him a bored look. "Whatever you're selling, we
don't want any."
selling myself," Luke snapped, then bit his lip. "I mean --
know what you mean, and you should go to a brothel for that."
mean I want to enlist!" he declared indignantly. "I'm a
The man eyed him skeptically. "What are you, about twelve years
On your left, Room C."
Well, that was easier than he'd thought it would be. Luke walked
through the dusty yard, wondering if he really wanted to enlist. The
uniforms were pretty cool looking. Maybe he could be an officer
instead of a mechanic. The mechanics wore baggy gray jumpsuits and
all looked alike. Trooper armor was the coolest, but then he'd get
shot at. Besides, he'd heard that most troopers were clones so they
probably wouldn't accept him.
sign outside Room C read Recruiting with changeable lettering that
today stated "Lt. Jovay". Luke peered around the doorway. A
young uniformed man sat at a table looking very serious as he studied
officer jumped and hastily closed whatever he'd been looking at. His
face flushed slightly.
in. How may I be of assistance?"
he was polite! Luke decided to copy him. "I'm interested in
enlisting. I'm pretty good with my hands. As a mechanic, I mean. Do
you...um, have any openings?"
always have openings," Jovay said, chuckling. He was human and a
bit older than he'd looked at first glance. "How old are you?"
eyebrow raised. "How old are you?"
lieutenant rested his chin in his palm, focusing green eyes on him.
"How old are you?"
sixteen," he confessed in a mumble, stretching the truth by a
back and see us in two years." The dark head bent over a
Luke folded his arms and didn‚ńôt budge. "Don't you have a
junior brigade or something?"
looked up and laughed, leaning back in his chair. "Sorry, kid.
Good try, though."
I come back in two years," he persisted, "can I really sign
up? Can we check to see if I'm eligible?" If he said he was the
son of Darth Vader, odds were that they'd let him into the Navy in a
heartbeat. Probably as an officer. Maybe even an admiral.
Either the officer liked his spirit or he was bored, because he
opened a new screen and his fingers poised over the keyboard. "Name?"
Lars." He leaned forward eagerly. "I live outside
Anchorhead with my aunt and uncle and I really want to get -- "
such person," Jovay announced. "Want to give me your real
He gnawed his lower lip, considering. "Try 'Luke Vader'."
frowned at him. "I don't have time for games, kid. Come back
when you grow up."
not -- " He gave up. "Okay. But could you just...you know,
check that name?"
man studied him. "Are you an orphan?"
was a crack in the military facade that Luke could work to his
advantage. He nodded solemnly. "I don't know who my parents
were. My guardian likes to compare me to Lord Vader, so I thought
maybe.... I know that's stupid, but...."
bout of coughing didn't succeed in totally covering the laughter.
"I'll check." Jovay typed something, then looked at the
screen. "It says here that Lord Vader has no offspring."
He hadn't expected confirmation, but it was still disappointing.
could have a blood test," Jovay said. "That would tell you
the names of your parents."
you do it?" he asked eagerly.
I can only do it for legitimate recruits." Jovay sounded
genuinely regretful. "But there are several places in town that
will do that for you."
don't have much money."
try Murino's on Curved Street. He's cheaper than the rest, and you'll
get the same results that you would anywhere."
thanks!" Luke exclaimed enthusiastically. "You've been
great! I'll see you in two years!"
officer smiled and nodded, and Luke bounded out the door in search of
started on his way to Murino's, determined to stop nowhere, but
Curved Street was full of interesting things to see. Some places --
well, he just liked to peek in the windows and watch until he was
chased away. After a few sneaky looks at activities he suspected
weren't entirely legal in any galaxy, he wandered into Kaslah's
Parlor, one of his favorite haunts.
Ka!" he called cheerfully to the old woman who was bending over
a Rodian's rump, giving him a neon yellow tattoo that showed up very
brightly on his green exterior.
she mumbled, tilting her head to examine her artistry from another
better hope he doesn't -- "
dat mouth, boy!" Her grin took the edge off her words. "C'mere,
give Ka sweetums."
he protested loudly, but complied, brushing his lips against the
sun-ravaged skin on her forehead. Folding his arms, he watched her
laserpen create an unfamiliar design. "What is it?"
Rodian replied something incomprehensible. Luke doubted he would have
understood even if the being's face hadn't been burrowed into the
god symbol," Ka said. "You here fer dat 'too you keep
if it's free."
"Huh! You buyin'
later, if I have enough credits left."
Up, you!" She slapped the Rodian's butt. "What buyin'
a set of parents. "Stuff, nothing special." He averted his
eyes from the Rodian redressing and opened Ka's cooler. "Can I
have a brew?" he asked rhetorically, flipping off the top and
taking a swallow.
go broke wi' cus‚ńômers like you, boy. Good ting you so pretty ta
blush warmed his cheeks, but he pretended not to hear her compliment.
"Thanks for the brew. I'll come back later."
buy glitt, I give you 'too free. Maybe dat x-wing you likin'."
be great," he said fervently. "See you!"
he'd look terrific with the x-wing tattoo on his left shoulder! It
could do battle with the TIE fighter already emblazoned on his right.
Careful not to spill the ale, he flexed his arms out in front of him,
imagining how envious Fixer would be. Fixer's folks wouldn't let him
get tattooed. Of course, Owen and Beru wouldn't let Luke do it
either, which is why he never showed it to them. Or let them know
what he really did while he was supposed to be in school or at
Tosche. Like he always said, what they didn't know would never hurt
by his own cleverness, he belatedly discovered he had passed Murino's
and had to double back. It was a real hole-in-the-wall, not even a
door. Pushing aside beaded curtains, he stepped inside and
immediately wrinkled his nose in distaste. What a mess! A single bare
table with two stiff chairs on opposite sides, all coated with a fine
layer of Tatooine's finest sand. One interior door, closed.
here? Hey! You got a customer!"
reply. He tried the door ‚ńĒ locked -- and prowled impatiently around
the small room. "Hurry up! I don't have all day!" Plopping
into a chair, he drank the rest of the brew, anxious to finish it
before it got warm.
door clicked, then opened. A redheaded man entered, hastily buttoning
his shirt. He was probably a Corellian. They always found time for
their assorted and varied pleasures.
morning," the man said in a cultured voice, and Luke revised his
opinion to Disgraced Alderaani, Banished to Tatooine. "I am
Ewani Murino. How may I be of assistance?" He sat behind the
desk without offering his hand. Definitely Alderaani, the snobs of
Luke, no last name. That's what I'm looking for."
nodded; obviously he'd heard similar requests many times. "A
blood test. Fifty credits."
Luke exclaimed. He'd expected it to be three times higher.
a vague gesture of his hand, Murino said, "Forty, then. Can't go
blinked a few times. "Forty it is," and handed over the
you." The Alderaani went into the back room and returned with an
old-fashioned, oversized datapad that he put on the table. "Push
up your sleeve."
obeyed. "Will it hurt?"
course. Is that a problem?"
a strange question! "Uh...."
a painless test, go to Quesnel's and pay five hundred credits."
Murino pulled a dirty cord out of his back pocket and tied it around
Luke's upper arm, since they both knew he didn't have five hundred
credits. "Say 'ah'."
The man sighed. "You people never understand jokes."
was tempted to make a smart reply, but Murino had an ancient-style
hypo in his hand -- one with a needle, for sith's sake! -- so Luke
had no intention of offending him. "Sorry."
your fault. Brought up badly. Working class." Murino smiled and
jabbed the needle into Luke's arm.
he yelped, involuntary tears filling his eyes. "Kritpeth! Does
it have to hurt that much?"
no, I enjoy inflicting pain," the Alderaani murmured absently.
looked away from the vial slowly filling with blood. His blood. He
felt queasy. ‚ńúI thought you only needed a drop of blood for a
The man squeezed his arm as if to pump out the blood faster. ‚ńúThe
rest is for my collection.‚ńĚ
groaned and hoped the guy was kidding. "Is it almost over?"
he asked weakly.
done. You can open your eyes." Murino pulled the needle out of
his arm, untied the band, slapped a steripatch on the wound, and
reached in his pocket again. He pulled out something small and
stamped the back of Luke's hand. "A medal for your bravery."
Luke rubbed at the inked likeness of an Imperial Medal of Honor.
"Thanks a lot."
Buck up. In just a minute more, you'll know who your parents are."
Murino manipulated the datapad. "Galactic Database...
Medical.... Do you need both father and mother? ...DNA...."
of them." Excitement filled him. In the midst of his pain, he'd
momentarily forgotten why he was going through this. He leaned
forward, sliding to the edge of the chair.
fall off and sue me. Huh, both parents. What‚ńôd they do, dump you
doubt it," he replied coldly. "They probably died."
course." The tone was one of polite disbelief... then it changed
abruptly. "Oh, kritpeth demrat!" Murino cursed violently.
"Krit! Give me your datapad -- quick!"
Luke panicked, throwing off his backpack and fumbling through it for
Murino cursed again. "No wonder you don't know who your father
is -- godsdamnit, where's your datapad?"
found it and threw it at him. "What's wrong?"
Alderaani downloaded his information, then tossed the datapad back to
him. "Now get out of here. My inquiry sent an immediate
notification to the Imps, and it'll be forwarded to the base in a few
minutes. They'll be after you."
stood, bewildered. "But... I don't understand!" It Vader
really was his father, why should he be afraid of stormtroopers?
grabbed his arm and hustled him toward the beaded exit. "You're
a Jedi's kid," he hissed. "The Imps kill Jedi kids...and
now they know you're here. Get out of here -- off-planet if you can.
And destroy that datapad once you've read it. Krit!" He looked
at his own pad and the vial of blood. "I'm screwed, too."
There was a pause. "But I'll talk my way out of it." Murino
looked at Luke. "Which are you, deaf or stupid? Don't you
understand? Get out, hide -- if you want to live."
ran. After a block, he realized he was attracting attention, so he
slowed and matched his gait to the other casual strollers in the
business district. But his heart was racing and he could barely grab
who the hell was his father?
took a shortcut through Shezar's Emporium and wound his way to
Pleasure Street where he slipped into a narrow alley, hopefully
unseen by anyone of authority. The datapad was slick from his
sweating palm, so he wiped it on his shirtsleeve before switching it
on. Heart pounding, he took a deep breath to steady himself and began
wasn't much, just bare bones to lure him on a search for details. But
the names were there. Names, homeworlds... and one more notation.
Skywalker," he whispered. He shivered, his eyes misting for a
moment before he blinked them clear.
name. At last he had a name, one that belonged to him and no one
else. He wasn't Luke Lars or Luke Vader. He was Luke Skywalker.
was a fine name.
slipped the datapad into his backpack. No way was he destroying it!
He wanted to be able to look at the names and hold them in his hand
when he needed to be reminded that he had parents. In fact... maybe
he could find out more about them right now!
himself not to run, he walked as quickly as he was able to the
library archives. It was underground, beneath an emporium, unposted
and unadvertised, and seemed to be frequented rarely. In fact, he'd
never anyone else in it except the librarian. Luke had happened upon
it by chance one day when he was exploring, and it was the source of
much Jedi information that he hadn't found in the Galactic Database.
The information was historical and mostly dull as dust, but today he
had a purpose -- today he had a name.
elderly librarian was sound asleep as usual, so Luke tiptoed past him
and around the stacks of dusty datadisks until he saw the wall that
had a small flap close to the floor. It looked like it was covering a
vent, but he knew better. He crawled through it and slid down a ramp
that led to the concealed room. It was cool with a hint of dampness,
and he had to squat in front of the old screen because the low
ceiling wouldn't accommodate even his less-than-impressive height. It
was as if someone had wanted to hide the room, which seemed
ridiculous because he'd found it easily.
screen took its sweet time flickering on, as if it was deliberately
testing Luke's patience. Eventually it was as ready as it was going
to get, and he drew a deep breath before typing in a single word:
he hated this old machine because it binged and bonged and clicked so
loudly it could wake up the dead... although not, apparently, the old
librarian. It took forever, probably two whole minutes, before data
began marching across the screen. He squinted at the jumbled bright
letters streaming across the dark background, wishing desperately
that he could download what it was spitting out, but its ancient port
wasn't compatible with today‚ńôs datacards, even the older type like
he had. Part of the screen winked on and off, and he struggled to
grab whatever words he could... akin... ywalker... edi Knight...
pilot... Clone Wa... warrior... Jedi Council... to Chancellor
Palpa... missing, presumed de....
krit, krit! His teeth ground together with the effort of not shouting
the words aloud when the screen went black. Frustrated, he pounded
the side of the monitor with his fist and -- it came back to life.
this screen was different, promising a graphics selection. Could it
be a holo of his dad? Or his mom? Or both of them? Excited, Luke
tapped the icon and waited for another endless download. When it
finally finished -- oh, it was a moving holo, those were so rare!
Before he could consider the semi-miracle he'd been offered, a shaky
scene appeared, old-style fighters exploding across the screen,
zipping past and looping around each other in a ferocious battl --
are you doing in there?"
slammed his hand on the off switch, leaped to his feet, hit his head
on the ceiling, yelped in pain and screeched "Nothin'!"
while he scrambled on all fours past the librarian, then ran for the
exit to the street. The old man didn't follow him, and he hoped the
guy wouldn't report him to the Imps. And he probably wouldn't,
considering he was hiding Jedi information in his library.
on the street, Luke slowed and considered what he'd just learned. Not
much, but enough to know that his father was an amazing pilot, a
great Jedi, and something to Palpatine... an aide or a foe? He was
determined to figure it out.
where was his father? Missing, presumed dead wasn't the same thing as
dead. He was certain that a hero Jedi would never abandon his child,
so what had happened to him? What if...
if his father or mother was alive? If he had any hope of finding
them, he would need to access the genealogical records in the
Galactic Database. But if the Empire monitored DNA research, they
probably monitored everything. He would have to use a terminal that
he could abandon quickly, a public one in a crowded place.
wasn't something he dared do today. He needed to get home and
confront Owen and Beru. Why had they lied to him? He wasn't Vader's
son; he was the child of a Jedi Knight, a legend, a defender of the
weak and helpless. Jedi Skywalker. All the magic he could do was
because he came from a Jedi, not from a Sith -- how dare they lie to
him! "Ben, why didn't you tell me?" he whispered. For a
moment, he slumped against a wall, depressed by the betrayal. Then he
shook himself back to reality.
he wouldn't go home. Why should he? He could find transport off this
rock. It would have to be cheap transport, though, judging by the
weight of the credit pouch in his pocket. Hells, he could work for
transport. Ships always needed good mechanics. Or -- he could sell
the speeder! It would serve Owen right for lying to him, and it would
raise enough credits for passage from Tatooine to somewhere better.
and excited that he had a plan, Luke trekked back to Outlander's
Cantina. On the way, he spotted a torn and dirty cloak that someone
discarded on a stack of trash. Shaking out the sand, he held it up
and couldn't see any bugs or blood, so he swung it over his
shoulders. Cringing, he pulled the hood onto his head. He hated being
dirty -- especially if it was someone else's dirt -- but this
disguise would make him less conspicuous, just in case stormtroopers
really were looking for him. There had been no sign of activity so
far, and he wondered if the Alderaani bloodsucker was simply an
rounded the corner onto Straight Street and stopped abruptly. Krit --
troopers! He slouched against the building, pulling the cloak around
him, wishing he had the ability to disappear. There was his red
it was surrounded by a cadre of white-armored troopers and a
into a doorway, he peeked around the side of the building. Maybe they
would leave. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe they were just
standing around shooting the breeze and not actually looking for him.
wishes were smashed when a second officer joined the first. Luke
recognized the lieutenant from the recruiting office. "Krit,"
he muttered in disgust. His immediate reaction was to panic and run,
but there was nowhere to go. He needed a better disguise and a
hideout. Maybe Ka could provide him with both.
were troopers at the far end of Paradise Road, but none on Curved
Street, so he hurried into Kaslah's Parlor, then strolled
nonchalantly to the back room, hiding his face in the folds of the
hooded cloak. Ka saw him, but said nothing as she continued to work
on a human woman who was getting an ankle tattoo. Left alone, he
raided her stash and crammed a handful of glitt sticks in the
backpack he had slung under his arm. They'd be good for trading or
selling, and he'd need something more substantial than a few credits
and a smile to get him to safety.
grabbed a waterstick from the counter and drank thirstily, then added
a few more to his pack. By the time she entered, he was standing with
his arms folded, looking completely innocent.
bad boy in trouble," she hissed at him as she wiped her hands on
a stained towel.
need a place to stay until things cool down," he said in a low
voice. "Just for a day or so."
be here, no trouble here." She flapped the towel at him. "Go
can't go," he whined. "There are troopers after me. I
didn't do anything! They'll kill me!"
Hands on her ample hips, the old woman glared at him. "You
course not!" Palms raised in the air in a gesture of
virtuousness. "They have me confused with someone else."
snorted. "'Kay den. You stay, but you be quiet!"
flashed her his widest smile. "Thanks, Ka, you're the best!"
snorted again before moving slowly back to her customers.
room was stuffy and warm, and he yawned. He was still keyed up, but
it was safe to relax now, so he took a cold ale from the cooler, then
prowled the cupboards looking for something decent to eat. She had a
lot of food -- business must be more profitable than it appeared --
but none of it appealed to him. Something simple, like a
banthaburger, would be great. Maybe she could get some decent food
for him. He sidled to the door and looked for her. The shop was
empty, so he walked cautiously through it. Then he caught a glimpse
of her skirt outside the door and dodged to one side, edging closer
-- tell dem whiteheads," she was telling someone, "dat
Luke here an' I wan' reward."
frozen with shock at her treachery, he watched a small child run past
the doorway on the errand, and then he backed up until he was
plastered against a freestanding display of tattoo art. Ka entered
and headed toward the back. He glared at her, unseen, before slipping
out the door.
Owen was right about some things, he thought bitterly. You
can't trust anyone.
that lesson in duplicity, there was no way he was going to seek
refuge with anyone he knew. They'd all sell him out for money. He
wondered how much the Imps were offering for him. He doubled back to
Paradise Road and searched through garbage bins in the tiny,
crisscrossing alleyways. There wasn't much that could be considered
useful, but eventually he found a partially used can of colorspray
for his hair, some skinpaint, and a shard from a broken mirror.
Carrying his discoveries, he settled on the ground between two bins,
propped up the mirror fragment, and went to work.
minutes later, he had bright blue hair and dark red face and hands.
He wasn't exactly sure what branch of the human species had that
coloration, but there was bound to be one somewhere. He wouldn't be
conspicuous among the motley visitors to Mos Eisley.
yet, he could hide out with the streetkids. He'd seen a pink-haired
girl earlier. He'd just have to track down their lair. In the
meanwhile, he had a call to make. At a public callbox, he dropped in
credits and entered Fixer's code, all the while watching for
The voice was slurred.
it off," he snapped. "I'm in trouble. I need you to come
and get me. In Eisley."
you -- "
ask questions. Just meet me as soon as you can at... that place we
got thrown out of last time, remember?"
was a yawn at the other end of the connection. "Luke, I can't do
it tonight, I got stuff I gotta -- "
tomorrow! Just -- look, bring whatever money you can scrape
together. And some food."
really are in trouble." Fixer sobered abruptly. "Okay,
tomorrow. As early as I can get there."
From somewhere he could hear the distinct sound of marching boots, so
he hung up abruptly and ran back into the alley.
be fine today, as long as he could keep away from the Imps. But the
desert grew cold at night, and he would need to find shelter. With a
sigh, Luke trudged off, wondering how his life could have changed so
fast and so dramatically without him even lifting a finger.
wasn‚ńôt hard to find the street kids. After a few inquiries, he was
pointed in the direction of their leader, a girl his age with purple
hair and a stern expression.
have to pay,‚ńĚ she said flatly, in response to his request for food
in his pack, he found two glitt sticks and held them out. She didn't
respond. With a dramatic sigh, he grudgingly offered a third, and
this time she accepted. He slipped the food into his pack, knowing it
would have to last him until Fixer arrived.
the subterranean depths, it was impossible to differentiate between
night and day. Every few hours, Luke made forays to the mouth of the
passage, checking the location of the suns. When darkness fell, he
relaxed. Fixer wouldn't come until mid-morning at the earliest. In
the meanwhile, he was safer here in this cavern with other refugee
kids than he would be with any of his so-called friends in the world
above. With a yawn born of alcohol, stress and hot temperatures, he
secured his pack under his head and used it as a pillow. Closing his
eyes, he was asleep in minutes.
next day dragged endlessly. Fixer didn't come. Luke kept racing
anxiously between the hideout and the little cantina on Paradise Road
that they'd been banned from for their behavior, rowdy even by Eisley
standards. He didn't want to chance another call to his friend; it
was risky enough dodging troopers and people who might recognize him.
Surely the Imps would give up soon, believing that he'd gone
off-planet or headed home.
used the last of his pilfered glitt sticks to buy more food, then
surrendered half his credits to the street kids for watersticks after
he drank the ones he'd taken from Ka. He didn't have enough money
left to buy passage to anywhere, so hopefully Fixer had managed to
liberate some from his parents' stash.
stomach was twisted with anxiety by the time night came and Fixer
still hadn't shown. Staying with the kids for many more days would be
dangerous. Besides, the code of the street said that when he couldn't
pay, he'd have to leave. At the rate he was spending his assets, he'd
be tossed out by morning.
night he lay awake watching the shadows that flickering torches
splashed across the rough ceiling. He stared at them, mesmerized, as
he listened to the sounds of sniffling and snoring and nightmares, to
the sounds of the little ones who buried their faces in makeshift
pillows and cried themselves to sleep. Enough credits flowed through
Mos Eisley's gambling dens every hour to support a home for these
lost children; hell, Jabba could house and feed them indefinitely
without missing the money. One day, when he was rich and a famous
Jedi, Luke Skywalker would come back here and build a home for all
the homeless kids.
he couldn't do anything now. He didn't know how to do any Jedi magic
that would conjure food or a nice place to live. He could barely keep
himself out of an Imperial prison cell. Eventually, exhausted, he
fell into a fitful sleep.
was late on the second morning when Fixer finally showed up. Luke had
abandoned his sanctuary with the homeless kids and was trying to
appear inconspicuous on the streets. But the red color was wearing
off his hands and the interior of his hood was turning blue from the
look like banthakrit," Fixer declared in a hushed tone, glancing
around nervously. "What did you do?"
on." Luke led his friend to a deserted underground doorway. It
wasn't deep enough to feel comfortably safe, but it was the only
shelter available. "Did you bring water?"
Fixer handed him a waterstick and Luke gulped it down too fast.
"Thanks," he gasped, wiping his mouth with the back of his
hand. "What about money?"
silent, the other youth turned over a stack of credits that Luke
quickly counted. "Five hundred?" he asked incredulously.
"How'd you get so much? Won‚ńôt your folks miss it?"
folks sent it." Fixer shook his head. "Luke -- "
are after me. I didn't do anything! Did you bring something to eat?"
-- " A small bag of cereal was offered. "Luke, there's
something -- "
I should just go home," he said despairingly. "Owen'll kill
me, but it's not my fault. It's not fair!"
"Luke -- "
he snapped, ripping open the bag and crunching the crispy bits. When
his buddy didn't speak, he swallowed and looked closely at him.
Fixer's face was abnormally pale. "What's wrong?"
friend took a deep breath before speaking in a low voice.
"Stormtroopers came. They asked me where you were. I said I
didn't know. It took a while before... before they believed me.
That's why I couldn't come yesterday, my folks wouldn't let me out of
the house. They were -- we were scared."
tracked you down?" Luke moaned. "That means they've gone to
my place. Owen really will kill me!"
he...." Fixer sighed. "We saw smoke and.... Luke...the
troopers went to your place. They killed Owen and Beru."
words were incomprehensible for a moment, then the shock of them
knocked him against the rough wall. He slid to the ground and landed
hard on his rump, struggling to piece together the astounding words.
squatted beside him and placed one hand on his arm. It tightened
painfully. "They're dead. The Imps trashed and burned the place.
We went over there last night. Owen and Beru were... well, not much
was left. You can't go back, Luke. There's nothing there anymore and
the Imps are probably watching it."
of it made sense. "Nothing left?" he repeated
uncomprehendingly. "How can they be dead? I just -- They were
just -- Uncle Owen's too mean to be -- Why would troopers kill them?"
were looking for you," Fixer said in an odd tone. "What did
didn't do anything," he answered numbly. "I just wanted to
know who my -- "
couldn't answer. His father was a Jedi. That heritage had been a
death sentence for his guardians. He didn't want it to kill his best
not going to tell me, are you? Okay." Fixer squeezed his arm
once more before releasing it. "Whatever it is, you have to get
off Tatooine. Look, take my identification papers. Be me. If they
find out, I can say you stole them."
can't -- "
have to," Fixer said firmly. "You can't be Luke Lars
Lars, Luke Vader, Luke Skywalker.... First he had three names and
then, abruptly, he had no name at all. And no home....
swallowed the dread that rose in his throat and accepted Fixer's ID.
"Thanks," he murmured, conscious of the inadequacy of the
response. "Don't get in trouble because of me."
problem. They didn't ask for my ID when I came into town, so there's
no record that I was here today. Look, I brought you something else."
Fixer reached in his full pack, dumped out more food and watersticks,
a bag of loose glitt, then handed Luke a ship model. "Take
was the titanium skyhopper that Fixer had struggled to build and was
so proud of. Luke picked it up and cradled it against his chest.
"Why?" It seemed fragile, though it was not. Maybe it felt
that way because it was the only familiar thing he had left.
case...." Fixer cleared his throat. "We might not see each
other for a long time. I just... I wanted you to have something to
remember me by."
never forget you, Fix." Like he was a baby, Luke started to
sniffle. He was embarrassed and struggled to choke back the sobs, but
when Fixer put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him, Luke
surrendered to the devastating fear and confusion he felt.
let him cry and probably shed a few tears himself, but Luke didn't
look at him to find out. Eventually they separated and Fixer said
gruffly, "So, you're Laze Loneozner now."
groaned in mock displeasure. "You have the worst name ever."
any more. Now you've got it." They both stood and Fixer
continued, "I have to get back. I promised my folks I wouldn't
stay too long. They're worried."
nodded and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "Thank them for me. And
thanks for...everything, Fix. We will see each other again, I
promise. I'll come back some day and chase the Imps out of here."
them too." They shared shaky grins.
seein' you, Laze."
a final awkward handclasp, they parted, Fixer heading down the
street. Luke followed at a safe distance, ensuring that his best
friend got safely back to his speeder.
he was alone.
Row was the best place in town to become invisible, what with all the
tiny alleys that branched off its wide street. The bazaar and casino
attracted beings of all species who were passing through and anxious
to spend, or hopefully supplement, the credits they'd picked up in
their travels. Despite the presence of the military garrison, there
were no restrictions on what was bought and sold in Mos Eisley:
spice, hard drugs, alcohol, counterfeit credits, pornography, people.
Luke had heard rumors of unwary visiting youths being kidnapped and
sold as slaves, but he knew he looked like a savvy native, one not
worth the trouble his abduction might bring. Or maybe it was the
blaster hanging from his belt that prevented slavers from risking an
just maybe it was the blue and blond striped hair, which made him
look certifiably insane. He caught a glimpse of himself in a tiny
mirror in the bazaar and frowned, tugging the hood a little farther
over his forehead. It wouldn't do to scare off a prospective ride,
and it was bad enough that he was filthy and probably smelled worse
than he ever had in his life. He considered stopping at a rooming
house and buying a bath, but if the hair dye washed out completely,
it would be easier for the Imps to identify him.
cautious circles of the Row later, he decided to follow the human
male who had exited one of the docking bays and headed for a cantina.
His arrogant attitude and swaggering stride identified him as a
captain of his own vessel, and the worn clothes hinted that he could
entered the crowded bar, looking around warily before approaching the
table and touching the back of a chair. "Mind if I sit down?"
spacer extended long legs and crossed his feet onto the chair with
twin thuds. "Whatever you‚ńôre sellin‚ńô, I‚ńôm not buyin‚ńô.
Get lost, kid."
a chair from an empty table and dragging it over, Luke sat a safe
distance away from those boots. "I'm looking for passage."
where?" The man took a pull from his bottled ale.
your next stop is." The other gave him a disinterested look, so
Luke added quickly. "I can pay."
There was a glimmer of interest. "How much?"
on where we're going," he replied coolly. This guy was obviously
easier to barter with than your average sandperson.
on how many credits you're talking."
"Look, I haven't got a fortune, but I need to get out of here."
man looked beyond him. "Lemme ask my copilot. Hey, Chewie, want
to take on a passenger?"
was a rumbling roar, and Luke leaped to his feet. A huge furry
monster was towering over him, and he flinched involuntarily. A
wookiee! He'd never seen one, only read about their ferociousness.
They were a lot bigger in person than they looked in holos.
spacer shrugged in response to the roar. "Just the kid -- I
guess. Right, kid, just you?"
nodded nervously, wrapping the cloak tightly and throwing one end
over his shoulder. "Yeah, just...." He faltered. Three
stormtroopers entered the cantina, laser rifles held across their
chests. "Never mind. I have to -- have to go." Casting
frantic looks around, he couldn't see another escape.
go in any place without knowing another way out," the spacer
drawled. "Hallway behind me, second door on the right. We're
leaving bay 94 in an hour, with or without you."
he breathed, then spared not another moment. The exit was where the
stranger said, and in a few moments Luke found himself on Curved
wasn't wise, but the troopers were too close and he couldn't take the
chance that they would see him. Luke trotted along the street,
weaving around sellers' booths and dodging speeders. Ahead of him, he
could see two more armored troopers, so he ducked into a narrow
alley. Racing around the corner, he collided with something solid.
man grabbed his shoulders, either steadying him or preventing a
harder impact. Luke looked up, meeting a pair of green eyes. His
breath caught in his throat and he choked on it.
the Imperial recruiter!
Luke stared at the ground, muttered something unintelligible, and
tried to move on. The grip on his shoulders didn't release. He
continued focusing on the dust beneath his feet, determined to become
well, it's my young recruit. Do you know how many people are looking
for you, Jedi?"
not a Jedi," he hissed. "Maybe my father was, but I never
knew him. Let me go!"
you go? Hmm.... There's a thought. But why would I do that?"
Luke stared at the young man. "Do you want a bribe?"
we can add attempted bribery of an Imperial officer to your list of
crimes," Jovay chuckled. "Perhaps I only want the glory of
capturing the dangerous Jedi."
not a -- " he began furiously, then reconsidered. "If I'm
really a Jedi, I could hurt you."
ahead. I don't think you can do anything, but there are troopers
watching us. They won't let you get away, no matter what you do to
froze, paralyzed with a sudden rush of fear. "I don't want to
die," he whispered. "Not yet. You don't understand -- I
can't help who my father is -- was. Don't let them kill me --
understand better than you know, Luke Lars Skywalker Vader,"
Jovay said, his voice unexpectedly soft.
boots made noise even on sand. "Lieutenant?" a voice
questioned excitedly. "You got him?"
looked past Luke. "It's not him, just some street punk." He
released Luke's shoulders. "Get off the street, kid, and stay
there. You fit the description of a dangerous fugitive we're
tracking. Corporal, let the troopers know not to bother this one.
He's heading home."
eyes widened with disbelief. He didn't know Jovay, and the man was
letting him go? It was too good to be true. But Jovay's eyes were
kind and sympathetic, though his face was hardened in a strict
I won't forget this," Luke whispered, then he bowed his head and
left, walking quickly around the troopers, his stride firm and steady
though his heart was pounding at a wild pace.
trust anyone, Owen said. But today his best friend and two strangers
had put themselves in danger to help him. The galaxy was a strange
stopped abruptly, Jovay's words suddenly registering.
took only a cursory check to see that troopers were guarding all the
docking bays. There was no way he could get back to Spacers Row and
past them to his ride. Escape would have to wait until the search
cooled down. In the meanwhile, he knew of only one place to hide and
that was back with the street kids. But if he gave them his credits
in exchange for shelter, he wouldn‚ńôt be able to buy passage later.
He had to find another way.
trudged back to the passage to the kids' hideout and lounged across
the street, checking for troopers or spies before making his way into
the gloomy entrance. Ten meters in, he found a large boulder that had
been nudged aside to reveal a narrow aisle that hadn't been visible
before. He could hear the echo of far-away voices and, curious, he
squeezed around the rock, slipping through the passage. The dug-out
hall was rough against his hands as he felt his way through the
darkness toward a faint light in the distance. The voices grew louder
though he could not discern the words. Then a short, high-pitched
scream pierced the air, and Luke broke into a run.
aisle opened into a large space, and he caught himself before
plunging into it. Crouching behind an outcropping in the wall, he
peeked around it, assessing the situation.
and teens, some he recognized from earlier, huddled together with
their leader standing protectively in front of them. She held a short
knife like she knew how to use it and faced a man dressed in the dark
garb of a Rillavin hunter, creatures feared throughout the galaxy,
rumored to enjoy the taste of human flesh above all others. A tiny
girl lay on the sand between him and the teen leader.
one," the hunter wheedled, his voice garbled by the translator
he wore, "and I'll leave the rest of you."
get behind me," the leader ordered, but the girl appeared too
terrified to move.
hunter reached for her, and she screamed again as his claws pierced
get involved in other people's problems, Owen warned, except your
neighbor's. You need your neighbors to survive.
last thing he wanted was to get in a fight that might draw the
attention of the Imps, Luke thought glumly as he drew out his
blaster. But these were his neighbors, and the son of a Jedi -- or
even a Sith -- couldn't let this scum go free. He had less humanity
than a Tusken, and Luke had killed a few of those. A Rillavin
deserved no mercy.
out of the shadows, he centered his aim on the bastard's center. You
may not be certain where a Tusken's heart is hidden under his cloak,
Owen advised as they crouched behind the rocks, watching the Raiders,
so always go for a gut shot. "Hey there," he called softly.
Rillavin turned, then started, dropping the child when he saw the
blaster. "No! I -- "
pulled the trigger. The monster made a startled sound that choked off
as he died, the blaster burns smoking his ragged clothes. It was not
so different from killing a Tusken, Luke noted remotely, though this
thing was more human than a Tusken. Would it be any more difficult to
kill a human? He supposed that one day he would find out.
away an unexpected sensation of queasiness, he strode over to the
corpse and kicked at its feet. "I want the boots," he
announced flatly, knowing he had to generate respect along with a
little fear, "you can have the rest."
youngsters were staring at him and the leader's eyes were narrowed,
assessing his intentions.
staying here. I'm hiding from the Imps." He paused. "If you
betray me, I'll kill you. If not, I'll protect you from dangers like
this." Giving the body another kick, he smiled tightly. "Are
girl nodded, resignation clear on her delicate features. "I'm
Tia. I'm in charge."
now, Luke thought, then wondered if this coldness in him came from
his father. If so, it was not Jedi. It was Sith... and maybe he was,
Lars Skywalker Vader Laze Loneozner. Stifling a sigh, he struggled to
find an acceptable name out of that excess. Laze...Loner...Ozner....
she repeated with a clipped nod and a smile that didn't touch her
eyes. "You may stay here, but you must follow our rules. We will
accept your protection, but none of us will sleep in your bed."
I'd want you to," he retorted sarcastically, flushing. "I'm
only staying until I can find a way off this -- Hey, I said I want
young boy jumped back from the Rillavin with a guilty grin. "Sorry,
wouldn't fit you anyway," Luke added in a mollifying tone. He
bent down and picked up the little girl with bleeding arms. She hid
her face against his chest. "You have first aid supplies?"
Come," Tia directed, and Luke followed her deeper into the
cavern, the other youngsters running ahead.
a set-up you have here," he commented. "More than you let
me see earlier."
not stupid enough to trust strangers!" she snapped.
didn't say you were."
emerged into a single cavernous room that held a dozen more young
people, and Tia lifted Tessi from his arms. "We'll tend her. You
get different clothes," she directed. ‚ńúGereeza, get Oz into
something more... appropriate. Do something with his hair -- and for
Sith's sake, show him where the bath is!"
was one occasion when he was happy to obey orders.
had been moments during the last couple months when Luke thought he
wouldn't live to be any older. But here he was, safely sixteen, still
not officially an adult, yet he was positive that he bore more
responsibility than most grownups did over their entire lifetimes.
kids, even Tia, depended on him to care for them. He'd hijacked food
supplies destined for the Imperial garrison, rolled drunken gamblers
as they stumbled out of casinos carrying more money than was healthy,
taught the little ones to beg and the older ones to pick pockets.
There had been a few losses on the way -- some arrests that made them
hold their breaths, but no captured child had ever betrayed their
sanctuary. They had stayed safely out of the grips of troopers who
would want to ship them somewhere, probably into slavery. All in all,
he considered himself a hero. No one could have done better than
Oz... except Luke Skywalker, Jedi-Sith Knight.
crouched on the rooftop‚ńôs narrow ledge that rose over Curved
Street. Below him, the night was alive with the usual scum that
inhabited Mos Eisley, but above him the stars shone clean and white
against the moonless blue-black backdrop of the sky. He leaned back
against the curved roof and took a long draw on the glitt stick. It
added to the pleasant buzz that he'd gotten earlier from the spiced
wine he'd liberated when its drinker had put it aside casually,
paying no attention to the outlandishly dressed youth. Homeless kids
were a part of life in this city and the more extravagantly they were
clad, the more people ignored them. Tonight Luke was decked in a
multiple layers of colorful garments that the kids had picked up
here and there. He still wore the Rillavin's black boots and had
added blue velvet pants, gold satin shirt, patterned green brocade
vest, and long purple coat, topped with a fringed red scarf wound
several times around his neck and a blue feathered hat with a wide
brim -- in other words, he was wearing his entire wardrobe. Hiding in
plain sight. The more outrageous he looked, the more people avoided
looking at him. The face paint helped, too, and he'd become adept at
altering his features through the use of color and swirling lines.
He‚ńôd also noticed that people steered clear of him even more
determinedly when he held out his hand for money.
his head, he studied the shop across the street, halfway down the
block. A few days ago, a new treasure had been added to the window,
one he desperately wanted. A lightsaber. The weapon of both Jedi and
Sith. Whichever was his heritage, by rights the lightsaber belonged
to him. In the absence of a teacher, he was training himself as best
he could, finding skills through experimentation. A lightsaber would
make him complete -- it would make him official. It was so tempting,
so visible in that window, so easy to steal.
obviously a plant. It was confirmation that the Imps hadn't given up
looking for him on Tatooine. The idea of sending one of the little
kids in to snatch it kept fluttering at the edges of his mind, but it
was simply too dangerous. He had to be patient; an opportunity would
arise one day. Whatever it took, he would find a way to make the
gaze lingered on the streets, studying the crowds that had thinned
out. By this time of evening most people were in clubs or casinos or
bedded down with purchased companions. When he saw no one he cared
about, Luke leaned back again, puffing on the stick. One afternoon
months ago he'd seen Fixer with Deak and Windy. They were trying to
be casual, but even from the rooftop, Luke could see them casting
surreptitious glances around. He longed to hail them and spend time
with his friends, but then they had all started laughing and shouting
and punching each other. They were having a good time, just like he
used to have with them. It was a painful realization: their life went
on without him; they didn‚ńôt miss him at all.
his father didn‚ńôt miss him. Yeah, his friends weren‚ńôt the only
familiar people he‚ńôd seen recently. Darth Vader had been visible ‚ńď
just on the holonews, true, but it had given him a jolt of fright
that was coupled with a strange thrill. For months Vader had been on
the far side of the galaxy in pursuit of rebel criminals, but lately
the Rebellion seemed to be edging toward the Outer Rim, closer to
Tatooine. And Vader was in pursuit. That didn‚ńôt mean he‚ńôd come to
Tatooine, of course, but if he did.... Luke hoped he might be able to
get a closer look at the Sith-maybe-father. Just stand in a crowd and
watch him, maybe hear that resonating voice in person and see how
tall Darth Vader really was. See if maybe Darth Vader would recognize
his lost son.
end of the stick singed his fingers and Luke threw it down, grinding
the butt under his heel. Moving to the opposite side of the roof, he
climbed partway down by clinging to window cut-outs and then, from
two stories up, he jumped, landing neatly and almost silently. Next
time he would try it from the third floor. It was a Force trick,
though he wasn‚ńôt sure how he was doing it.
what I could do if I had a teacher," he mused aloud. Maybe the
possibilities were infinite. If only he could access more information
on Jedi and Sith, but he feared any such inquiry into the Galactic
Database would be a red flag. He needed to travel, to access the
Database from different planets so the Imps wouldn't know it was Luke
Lars Skywalker Maybevader Laze Loneozner Oz doing the searching.
he couldn‚ńôt leave. The children who sheltered him also worshiped
him, and now the responsibility for their welfare had become a
burden. He didn't want to stay on Tatooine, but neither could he
simply abandon them.
Oz," a stall-keeper called, waving him over.
Sullustan offered him a brew. "Sorry it's not cold, but we blew
the recirc fan on the cooler generator, they say it can't be fixed.
New ones are expensive at Gat's Repair."
nodded. "Might be able to help you with that." Gat's was an
easy mark at certain times, namely when his lazy, porn-reading nephew
was minding the shop. "You say the fan is expensive."
shrugged. "Probably about the same as a two-week supply of
watersticks and synth-meat for ten hearty eaters."
weeks for twenty."
weeks for fifteen."
weeks for twenty, no less," he stated firmly.
you're a robber, Oz," Teren said good-naturedly. It was not a
serious complaint, since feeding twenty would cost considerably less
than a new recirculating fan.
chugged the rest of the warm brew and expressed his appreciation in
the Sullustan way: burping. "See you in a day or two."
a wave, he moved on, stopping at a few more vendor stalls, picking up
business and collecting promises. He headed back to his grotto in a
roundabout way, using his senses to be aware of Imps and bounty
hunters. That was another thing he'd become adept at, 'feeling' when
someone watched or pursued him. Once again his untapped talents
frustrated him. There were moment when he felt limitless power, but
those moments were fleeting and stumbled upon accidentally. Still,
they teased him with the realization that he could learn to harness
and use that power -- if only he knew how!
he studied the two stormtroopers positioned at the end of the block.
They were probably only on routine patrol, but he still couldn't risk
returning to the little ones. With a shrug, he turned to avoid them
and entered an underground club a few blocks away. Imps generally
avoided these dens, knowing it was likely they would not exit in one
piece. The clientele was rough, but Luke kept his blaster in plain
view and the face coloring helped obscure his youth. He ordered a
drink and a glitt stick, then bent his head over the bar, engaging in
no conversations and looking at no one -- directly. The unbreakable
reflective plexi behind the bartender acted as a mirror and would
warn him if anyone tried to approach.
an hour later, it did. He gave a rueful sigh when he saw an angry
young woman storming through a thick fog that was created partly by
smoke and partly by the pleasant haziness in his mind. He gulped down
his fourth drink and waved the glass at the bartender who quickly
refilled it, slopping liquor over the rim and onto the counter. He
handed the man a few extra credits. "Stick for the road,"
he mumbled, holding out his palm until the glitt was slapped into it.
are you doing?" Tia hissed in his ear. "Do you know what
time it is? The kids won't settle down until they know you're back.
And here you are, drunk and high and who knows what else!"
Rodian to his left snorted and the bartender chuckled. "If I had
a credit for every old lady who came lookin' and scoldin' her old
sighed again. "She's not my -- "
not my old man!" Tia knocked the glass out of his hand, shaking
her head, dark hair flying around her face. "Come on, we're
can make your life hell, can't they?" the bartender continued.
"Not worth arguing. You either go along with 'em or dump 'em. I
dumped mine. She wasn't as hot as this one, though. If you get tired
of her -- "
Luke could reply, Tia was halfway over the bar, the tip of her knife
at the bartender's crotch. Luke sighed again and tugged her arm.
"Fine, I'm coming, let the man go."
should slice off his -- "
bring troopers down on us?" he reminded her. Tossing a large tip
onto the wet counter, he dragged her off, casting a glance back to be
sure the bartender wasn't going to contact the authorities. The man
gave him an amused nod, apparently not at all distressed by his
encounter with Tia's blade.
a pain in the ass, Oz," she complained bitterly as they walked
through the cold night air, Luke staggering slightly.
to hell," he replied with a bored yawn.
had everything under control here until you -- "
had nothing under control, you didn't even have enough food."
was a temporary situation!"
argued during the short journey back to the tunnel, then parted in
cold silence. Luke returned to the small 'room' that served as his
sanctuary and collapsed on the bed, not bothering to remove his
back...." a sleepy voice whispered.
turned his head. Four-year-old Tessi was curled up in the corner on a
rumpled bundle of old blankets. "Why aren't you in your own
Her lashes drifted up, then closed again, obviously too heavy to
remain open. "You smell funny."
know." Resignedly, he rose and changed into his old white
clothes, using the oversized coat as a modesty shield, though he
suspected she was too sleepy to peek. He pulled his boots back on, a
habit he'd developed while living 'on the run'. Always be ready,
Owen said. Funny, he'd hated his guardian, but now he was
realizing just how much Owen Lars had taught him.
over, he straightened the blankets to cover Tessi better and
considered carrying her to her own cot in the makeshift dormitory
with the other young ones. But if she woke during the night she'd be
back, and it wouldn't the first time. Once he'd almost stepped on her
before noticing her asleep on the floor in his room. So he moved her
into his bed against the wall, then lay beside her, one arm curving
protectively over her tiny body.
save me," she whispered before falling asleep again.
good old Oz, the drunk, glitt-using Jedi-Sith, hiding from Imps,
hiding from his maybe-father who wanted to kill him, wondering where
the famous Anakin Skywalker was, and stuck on this rock with a
barrelful of kiddies under his wing.
was tempting to mope further, but the combination of intoxicants he'd
consumed chased him into a deep sleep instead.
world was shaking. Quake? Shouts pierced through the fog, and Luke
struggled to stay asleep. Kids were playing, calling... screaming?
His body was being jerked to and fro.
opened his eyes. Tessi was kneeling beside him, shaking his arm.
Ready to scold her, he saw that her eyes were wide with terror. Then
the sounds registered. Adult voices giving orders, mingled with the
protests and sobs of children.
Luke leaped up, grabbing his pack and stuffing it with clothes, extra
watersticks and Fixer's 'hopper model before anchoring it across his
chest. He threw on the long, nondescript cloak that he wore when he
wanted to fade into the scenery. Never go in any place without
knowing another way out. The narrow tunnel was the reason he'd
chosen this room as his own. It opened into the basement level of
Jabba's townhouse, and from there he could get outside without being
boots echoed on the hard dirt, coming closer. He raced to the hidden
exit and pushed aside the curtain that disguised it.
closed his eyes, cursing silently, then snatched up Tessi, hiding her
in the folds of the cloak. "Don't make any noise," he
warned as they slipped behind the dusty fabric.
whimpered, but pressed her face into his shirt as he ducked and ran
through the dug-out passage, not hesitating when he reached the end
of it. If troopers were there, they were trapped; they couldn't go
back so there was no point in delaying. But still he heaved a shaky
gasp of relief when he saw the room was empty save for a few corpses
that Jabba stored for a purpose Luke didn't want to consider. He held
the back of Tessi's head so she wouldn't see them as they hurried
past. She had already had enough nightmares in her short life.
onto the street, he turned and walked quickly in the opposite
direction, keeping his face well covered. From an alley, he climbed
up to one of his favored rooftops and put Tessi down. ‚ńúYou stay
here, don't move and don't make a sound."
to his stomach, he used his elbows to propel him toward the edge
where he could spy on the happenings a few blocks away. It was Imps,
all right, and they had rounded up the kids. Stealthily, Luke drew
out his blaster, considering which trooper to shoot first. Could he
take down all of them? Probably not, but killing one would throw them
into confusion and give the kids a chance to get away.
took aim, then saw Simri run up to the trooper and punch the stock of
his blaster rifle. Luke caught his breath, but the Imp only
shouldered his weapon and bent to say something. Then he picked up
the little boy, tucking him under one arm. The gesture was so
experienced that Luke realized the trooper had to be a parent, and he
lowered his blaster.
weren't going to arrest the kids. It was Oz they wanted, Oz the
trouble-making thief. When a speedervan labeled Family Services
pulled up, he knew the kids were going into official custody, maybe
even to foster homes. Wherever they went, it would probably be a lot
better than living in a cave and scrounging for food.
come back," Tessi called, crawling toward him.
he whispered sharply. "Stay there, Tessi. Don't talk. We don't
want the troopers to find us."
sat down again and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
he turned back to the group, a scuffle was underway. A teenaged girl
broke away and ran, and Luke fingered his blaster again as a trooper
took aim on Tia. But an officer stopped him with an upraised hand,
and Luke watched as she ran behind some buildings and disappeared.
wriggled away from the edge of the roof and made his way back to
Tessi. "We'll stay here for awhile."
hun'ry. An' t'irsty," she whined.
too." He gave her a single sip from a waterstick and a cookie.
"Why don't you take a nap."
stay," he affirmed, then moved them both into the shade of an
overhang, contemplating his next move while his little charge slept.
was mid-morning by the time they found Tia hiding behind a large
garbage bin. Luke knelt beside her, releasing Tessi's hand.
our fault," Tia said through angry tears. "They followed us
last night, because I was too mad and you were too drunk to be
was silent. That realization had already crossed his mind, but he
didn't like thinking about it. There‚ńôll be hell to pay, Owen
used to admonish him, and he supposed this was it. Only he
wasn‚ńôt the one paying. "The kids will go to homes. They'll be
better off. Why did you run? You should've gone with them."
so naive." Wearily, she leaned her head against the wall. "No
one will adopt me, I'm too old. The only reason anyone would want me
would be for a slave or sex partner."
glanced at Tessi but she was busy drawing circles in the dirty sand.
"I don't think you'd make an obedient slave," he joked.
"And I'm not sure about the other stuff."
sent him a disgusted look. "Asshole."
to you," he countered, biting his lip to stop from uttering
am I going to do?" she asked rhetorically. "No one will
hire me for a decent job. It's not like there are families here. I
could take care of kids, you know... if there were any around. I need
to go somewhere else."
you're not coming with me!"
wouldn't go anywhere with you in a million years!"
glared at each other before mutually deciding it wasn't worth the
energy. For a few minutes they watched Tessi play, then Luke dug in
his pack. "Need a waterstick?"
nodded, and he handed her a couple, then reached into his pack again.
looked at the fistful of credits. "What's for? It's not enough
to get me off planet."
know. I don't even have enough to get me off planet," he
said glumly. "Hire a speeder or hitch a ride to Anchorhead. You
know where that is?"
nodded, her gaze suspicious.
a place called Tosche Station. My friend Fixer practically runs it.
Tell him Luke sent you. His folks will help you out, maybe even let
you stay there." A profound sadness washed over him. If only his
own way out was so simple.
would they do that? They don't even know me." Her distrust was
gradually turning to hope.
good people." He had a feeling that Fixer would find Tia much
more to his liking than Camie. Someday maybe he would return to
Anchorhead and find Fixer and Tia married with lots of children
gathered around them. They‚ńôd probably even name one Luke. "Take
Tessi with you."
shook her head. "I can't take Tessi to live somewhere that
isolated, Oz. She's too fragile, she'd never survive ‚ńď she‚ńôs
barely making it now. You know that."
if sensing they were talking about her, the little blond girl came
and crawled onto Luke's lap. "Tessi," he asked, "do
you want to go with Tia?"
can't -- " Krit, there was no point in frightening her further.
Or worse, making her cry. "I'll figure something out. You'd
better get going, Tia. If you get a ride soon, you can make it before
kissed Tessi's forehead, hesitated, then gave him a quick brush on
the cheek. "Thanks, Oz. Or should I say 'Luke'? You're not
always an ass, you know."
I am,‚ńĚ he replied quickly, blushing. ‚ńúTessi, say 'bye' to Tia."
care, both of you." Tia paused. "I don't know what you did,
but I hope the Imps never catch up with you, Oz."
too." They shared grins for a final time before she left. He
watched until she was out of sight before turning to his tiny
companion. "Okay, babe, let's get this show on the road."
Tessi declared in a loud voice. "Eat now!"
you and me, sister, are going into one of these wretched hives for a
bite to eat.‚ńĚ
a watchful eye for stormtroopers, Luke led Tessi away. Where in hell
could they go? It was difficult enough for him to find hiding places,
but now that he had a little one in his care, Mos Eisley had suddenly
become a lot smaller.
he muttered under his breath. Picking her up, he trudged into an
alley and deposited her in a broken-down doorway. "There."
stared up at him wide-eyed and didn't move.
can go here," he clarified.
look of horror crossed her face. "No!"
I'll find a sani for you later, but for now, just...go. I'll watch to
be sure no one comes near."
She started to cry.
for -- " This was definitely not going to work out. He lifted
her again. "Then you'll have to hold it until I find another
go. An' hun‚ńôry." Her tone was plaintive.
Just give me a few minutes to find a place, okay?"
hurt sniffle was the only reply he received, and he hoped she
understood what 'hold it' meant.
minutes later, he'd found a woman to take Tessi to a public sani --
just in the nick of time, judging by the pained look on her face.
That task completed, they headed to a cafe. Luke wondered if hiding
in plain sight would work when he was being this blatant, wearing
street kid paint with traditional Tatooine whites. Sitting at the
table in the dimly-lit establishment, he pulled face paint out of his
pack and touched up the colors that were fading. Two humans at the
next table laughed, but he ignored them.
too!" Tessi demanded.
drew green triangles on her cheeks.
held the small mirror so she could study her reflection.
look, here comes your lunch." Thank the Force for the
distraction. While they ate, he pondered this tiny problem he'd taken
upon himself. He couldn't leave her alone, so he wouldn't be able to
get supplies or food, or even find a chance to get off planet. He
should've let the troopers find her. Or made Tia take her. Why
couldn't he learn to think before he acted? And on top of all this,
he was getting a headache.
call me that, honey," he said absently, suspecting his
admonition was of little use. If anyone overheard the name 'Oz', they
might turn him in to the Imps. After cutting her banthaburger into
small pieces, he continued thinking.
had no friends in Eisley -- no one he could entrust with a little
girl, anyway. She would have to go to Family Services, but he could
hardly abandon her on the street. Maybe he could make an anonymous
call. Or --
He grinned at her. "I have a brilliant idea. Finish your lunch
so we can get out of here."
in the dark depth of the night, Luke folded his cloak and tucked it
against the wall. Tessi fell asleep within minutes, and he moved
several meters away. Now he would wait. It was a simple plan, but its
success didn't depend on him.
he heard the door open, he drew his blaster and edged to the corner.
Light flooded from the doorway, illuminating the sandy walkway. A
sweetly feminine voice bid farewell and was answered by an
indiscernible baritone. Luke lowered the blaster to his side, holding
his breath as footsteps drew nearer.
he reached the end of the building, the man was already turning,
somehow perceiving the threat, but Luke was faster. He wrapped one
arm around the man's neck, pulling him backward in a chokehold,
holding the blaster barrel to his temple.
make a sound and you won't get hurt." He forced his captive
around the corner and part way down the alley. "I'm going to let
go. If you run, I'll shoot."
much for not getting hurt," Lieutenant Jovay said dryly. When he
was released, he turned to his captor. "Ah, once again it‚ńôs
our favorite fugitive, Luke Lars Skywalker Vader. If you're planning
on using me as a hostage to escape the planet, I doubt that will
shook his head. "I'm not. I need your help."
folded his arms. "Why would I help you?"
got the blaster." He waved it threateningly.
officer smiled smugly. "You wouldn't shoot me."
sighed but stated flatly, "I don't want to. But if I had to, I
dark eyes studied him for a few seconds, then his smile died slowly.
"I see. Well, I suppose you had better tell me what you want."
passage. Not for me." Luke stepped back and gestured to the
small bundle on the ground beyond them, holstering his blaster. "
For her. And I want to know that the other kids are okay."
a wary glance at him, Jovay walked over to Tessi. "She's
practically a baby," he said softly, then looked at Luke.
"You're Oz, aren't you? I suspected as much. And this is one of
the children who got away today."
shrugged. "Can you take her? To Family Services... or maybe you
can do a blood test and find her parents."
stretched for many seconds before Jovay spoke hesitantly. "She's
so young to end up in Family Services. I doubt that her parents
are... anywhere. But my brother and his wife would be happy to have
her. They haven't been able...."
swallowed. "Where do they live?"
brother?" Jovay paused, a slight flush darkening his skin.
"Naboo. What's her name?"
he replied automatically. "Naboo? My mother was from Naboo.
Maybe you know something about her? Her name -- "
haven't been there in years," the lieutenant interrupted. "She's
waking up. Hi there."
bent and picked her up. "Tessi, this is...."
the officer supplied. "Karas Jovay. Hello, Tessi, it's nice to
put her thumb in her mouth.
Karas is going to take care of you now." He handed her to Jovay,
adding bluntly, "I have to leave."
stay!" She burst into tears. "Oz s-s-save me!"
held her close to his chest while Luke stroked her hair. "I
can't stay, sweetie. But Karas will have a nice home for you. With
food and a sani and a real bed. Right?" He glared at the
right. I think my lady friend will find a nice bed for you tonight.
Are you sleepy, Tessi?"
smiled. "No? Who was that little girl asleep on my cloak?"
she exclaimed, pleased with herself for some incomprehensible reason.
is a smart girl," Jovay praised, and she beamed at him before
yawning widely and closing her eyes, her head flopping on his
up his cloak, Luke shook out the sand and threw it around his
shoulders. The Imperial looked at him. ‚ńúThe other children are with
Family Services and will be sent to good homes or facilities on other
planets if we can‚ńôt find their parents. But you have to get off
just wave my magic wand."
not a joking matter," Jovay scolded. "The noose is
tightening around you. If you don't get out within the next day or
two, you won't get out."
are you telling me this?" he asked suspiciously. "Why
should you care if I'm captured and executed?"
Remarkably, the lieutenant laughed. "Considering who's looking
for you, that's hardly an option."
does that mean?" Riddles, all he ever got were riddles instead
of answers! "Are you talking about Vader? He killed the Jedi,
he'll kill me, too."
Lars Skywalker... Vader.
Jovay looked away. "I'd better get going. I have to do some
serious sweet-talking before I can drop Tessi off. Then I have to get
back to the barracks."
Luke grabbed his arm and lowered his voice. "Please... why
aren't you turning me in? Who's looking for me? Do you know anything
about my parents? I don't understand any of this."
you really?" Jovay pulled himself straighter, looking every
centimeter the smug Imperial officer despite the sleeping child in
his arms. "I didn't say that I wasn't turning you in. It's my
duty to report this encounter. An edited version anyway," he
added, gazing down at Tessi. "Get off planet. If I see you
again, I'll identify you and have you arrested. Are we clear?"
Luke snapped, scowling as Jovay walked unhurriedly away. Frustration
clawed at his throat and he wanted to demand answers.
this Imp wasn't talking. Evidently he would have to find his answers
was nowhere left to hide, so the next day Luke decided to simply
ignore the possibility that he might be arrested. Wandering into
Outlander's Cantina, he took a seat at the bar and nodded to Granv.
the Alderaani asked.
the hell, might as well burn the money he had. "Nope, spiced
wine," he ordered. "And don't be stingy with the spice."
raised an eyebrow. "Coming up in the world. Let's see the
slapped them on the bar. "Good boy," Granv praised, and
vidscreen in the corner was switched on and Luke watched it while he
waited. The Imperial News Network was reporting on the status of the
Fleet‚ńôs pursuit of those pesky terrorists, which was now focused in
space near -- Tatooine.
he mumbled under his breath. ‚ńúI hope Vader isn‚ńôt with them.‚ńĚ
barkeep slid a tall glass across the counter, then leaned over and
lowered his voice. "Got a live one for you. Some reptile needs
work done on his ship. Over there against the wall."
Luke followed the direction of Granv's nod and saw a green-skinned
humanoid sitting alone, his arms folded, staring down his long nose
at the cantina's occupants. "Oh. Does he look like he can pay?"
Thanks, I owe you one." Sipping the wine, Luke slid off the
stool and followed a roundabout route to the reptile's table. He had
no idea what species the guy was and wished fleetingly that he hadn't
skipped school so often. He stared at the back of the thing's head.
It was scaly, but hair grew in one place on the top of his skull like
it was coming out of a hole. Luke wondered if the hair was
you wish to speak with me?" the reptile inquired in a cultured
voice, "or are you content simply to silently admire a member of
the superior race?"
didn‚ńôt see any eyes in the back of the creature's head, but that
didn‚ńôt mean they weren‚ńôt there. Luke moved around the table,
pulling out a chair and sitting without invitation. "What kind
of work does your ship need?"
sublight drive is behaving sluggishly. It requires..." One
long-fingered hand waved vaguely, and golden brocade slid back to
reveal a green arm. "...some sort of adjustment."
should be simple enough. "I can do that, but it'll cost you. The
sublight drive is a delicate piece of machinery."
The humanoid glanced at the spiced wine, then back at him. "I
have found that humans often exaggerate their skills to obtain
rewards not commensurate with their knowledge and expenditure of
blinked. "Is there a question in there somewhere?"
being smiled slightly. "Why should I believe you are capable to
remedying my vehicle's malfunction?"
shrugged, though his heart began to beat faster. "If you don't
trust me, don't hire me. But I'm good with machinery. I can fix
anything. And I'm not going to con you, unlike some of these losers
expression remained neutral. "What is your price?"
tried to keep his voice steady. "There's a laser sword in the
window of a shop on Curved Street. I want that, plus passage off
The being was amused. "A steep price. But yes to the laser
sword, if the price is reasonable. No to passage."
no deal. And you won't find anyone else as skilled as me."
narrow, elongated eyes perused him thoughtfully. "I have never
taken a passenger. I may be willing to drop you off at my next
port... if I am satisfied that you are as capable as you claim and if
you can complete additional adjustments to my ship's systems."
his gaze, Luke stared into the wine, pretending to contemplate the
offer, but really attempting to hide his elation. "All right,"
he said finally, as if it had been a difficult decision. "Get
the laser sword and meet me back here."
well." The creature rose. He was very tall. "You must be
sober when I return or the deal is off and the saber is mine."
rolled his eyes in disgust. "I'll be fine," he said
tightly. "Hey," he added when the reptile began to leave,
"what the hell are you? And what's your name?"
being sneered at him. "Only an ignorant human would not
recognize one of the galaxy's finest inhabitants. I am Falleen,"
he declared, his voice resonant with pride. "And my name,
dull-witted one, is Jaslin Xenar, of the noble house of Xenar."
Jaslin's nose wrinkled as if he smelled something foul. "A small
name such that could be mistaken for a sneeze."
that was some sort of Falleen insult, Luke didn't get it. He shrugged
and returned to the wine, but watched closely as the lean, muscular
reptile strode regally through the cantina. He could believe the
'noble' part. Xenar walked and dressed like someone with credits to
spare. "Must be nice," Luke muttered.
rose and returned to the bar where he drained the wine. "Hit
me," he commanded Granv.
should take it easy."
not my father," he snarled, "so back off."
raised his hands in capitulation and poured him another drink.
stinging chill whispered through his body, and he shivered suddenly.
Maybe he should have ordered a hot drink, but those were a rarity in
the desert. Was he getting sick? He never got sick! "You‚ńôd
better have spice in that," Luke warned crossly.
was no answer as he raised the glass. But before it could touch his
mouth, it went flying out of his grip and shattered on the floor.
Nonplused, Luke sat for a moment, his frozen fingers still wrapped
around the non-existent flagon. Peripherally, he noted that the
cantina had gone silent, and it was so cold, as if the air had turned
to ice. Kritpeth! He hadn't meant to use the Force! Maybe it had just
turned on by itself. Maybe....
filled the mirror behind the bar, dark and mystifying as night. There
was a strange sound, too, like a motor that was running
intermittently, hissing and... exhaling and... inhaling. Like a...
slowly, he turned on the stool. It was black, all right. Big and
Illo by Sara T
he raised his gaze up and up... panels, switches, lights, solid
hell!" he muttered when his eyes finally rested on the helmeted
visage that had become familiar to him through repetitive databank
explorations and INN reports.
huge figure of Darth Vader stood, legs planted on the floor like
saplings, arms akimbo, staring at... Granv.
heaved a sigh of relief.
dare," a deep voice rumbled, sounding more sonorous than on
holonews broadcasts, "to serve this vile poison to children?"
m-m'lord, it won't happen ag -- "
flinched at the sudden silence and the sound of much breaking glass.
it will not," the Sith Lord said with obvious satisfaction. A
gauntlet-covered finger pointed at Luke. "You, come with me."
me?" he asked weakly, frantically looking around for another
victim. "Or... you mean -- him? Or maybe... them?"
strode away, his heavy cape flagging behind him.
didn't move. There was a new, funny feeling in the pit of his
stomach. The glacial ice was melting and he was all tingly and hot
like a shorted fuse.
the doorway, Vader stopped and turned. "Are you deaf, boy?"
wave of righteous anger flooded him. Whether Vader was his father or
not ‚ńĒ and especially if he was ‚ńĒ the big guy wasn‚ńôt
getting away with treating him like this! Luke folded his arms,
ignoring the tingly feeling. "No, I'm not deaf and I'm not
coming with you!"
ripple of excitement in the form of murmurs ran through the cantina.
stood motionless for a moment, perhaps astonished by the defiance.
Then he simply raised a finger and Luke felt himself sliding off the
stool and skidding across the room where he ended up face-to-face
with Vader's chestplate.
‚ńď you -- " Flabbergasted, he struggled to find his voice.
Glaring up at the expressionless mask, he shouted, "Don't you
dare use that Force stuff on me! Who d'you think you are? You
can't get away with that -- I won't let you! Don't you da --
smrph...." His voice cut out and he choked, trying to clear his
suddenly constricted throat.
Vader grabbed his upper arm and dragged him out of the cantina.
the street, Luke spluttered and struggled, still unable to talk. He
made some violent gagging noises, and whatever Force Vader had
employed was released. After a short coughing spell, Luke could
ever do that to me again! What's the big idea? Where're you
taking me? HELP!" he called to people on the street, though they
seemed to evaporate, sliding into doorways at an amazingly fast rate.
"I'm being abducted by a pervert -- helllllp!"
that ridiculous caterwauling at once or I will do it for you."
distracted, Luke asked curiously, "What's a caterwaul?"
decided to try the polite route. "My arm hurts. Would you please
let go of it?"
answer, no release. While he was considering his limited options, he
was pulled into a docking bay where a sleek Imperial shuttle sat, two
stormtroopers standing at attention at the base of its ramp.
dug his heels into the sand, startling the Dark Lord into stopping.
"Where do you think you're taking me, you sithspawn bastard? I'm
not going anywhere with you!"
abrupt gesture from Vader brought one trooper over with a pair of
binders. Luke's wrists were fastened together and the Sith pushed him
onto a bench, none too gently. "Your language is offensive,"
Vader stated. "Your behavior is atrocious. Your appearance
borders on the ludicrous. In short, I am taking you somewhere you
will be taught to behave properly."
I don't want to -- "
'wants' are immaterial." Vader addressed the troopers. "If
he escapes, your lives are forfeit. Restrain but do not harm him. You
will suffer if he is damaged." Without further explanation, the
giant stalked away.
where are you goin'?" Luke called. "Don't leave me here
like this! Hey...!" Abruptly he switched his strategy. "Wait
-- please? I just wanna... ask you something. Pleeeease?"
pleading tone worked. Vader stopped, hesitated, then returned.
Luke rolled his eyes toward the troopers and jerked his head in their
direction several times, trying to send Vader a subtle message.
Sith waved them away and repeated, "What?"
He had a lot of questions, especially about his father and this weird
electric feeling he was getting when Vader was near, but the odds
were against Vader answering more than a couple before losing
patience. "Are you... uh, going to kill me?"
if you continue to annoy me."
snorted and tried to fold his arms but the binders prevented it. "I'm
glared at each other. Or at least Luke assumed Vader was glaring.
"Hrmph. Well... what do you want me for?"
you are deemed suitable," the Dark Lord said slowly, "my
master will train you in the ways of the Force."
didn't like the sound of that. "Who's your master?" Maybe
the Force was creating these quivers along his nerve endings.
wrinkly King Ugly. Great, just great. Life couldn‚ńôt get any better
than that. Slave to an evil emperor, it sounded like a holovid. A
very, very bad holovid. "What d'you mean by 'suitable'?"
potential. Being amenable... and obedient."
me, Mr. Obedient." He grinned and winked, hoping to show the big
fellow that he was harmless and didn‚ńôt need to be manacled. "Wanna
see my tattoo?"
beg your pardon?"
tat. I've got a TIE fighter on my shoulder, wanna see?" He
tugged unsuccessfully at his shirt with his bound hands. "If
you'd take these cuffs off me, I could show you."
so you don't want to see it." He sighed, considering. "Well...so
why does Old Ugly have to train me?"
Sith Lord made an odd choking sound. "You must not speak
disrespectfully of the Emperor."
Why does he have to train me?"
do not understand your reluctance. If he deems you worthy of
training, you will be appropriately grateful."
sighed loudly. "You don't get it. I mean, why does he
have to do it? Why can't you?"
The tone was puzzled, and Luke realized with some pride that he was
already learning how to read the emotions behind the mask. "Why
would you prefer that I train you?"
he, Luke Lars Skywalker Vader Laze Loneozner Oz, wasn't as insightful
as he thought, or the Dark Lord was pretty dense. "Aren't
you...?" Aren‚ńôt you my father? he wanted to ask,
but half-dreaded the answer. Good news/bad news... sometimes it was
hard to tell the difference. "Never mind, it doesn't matter."
a long pause, the deep voice murmured, "All things matter, young
think so?" Vader's last words, which seemed almost an
endearment, hurt and somehow disappointed him. "I don't. Nothing
matters, nothing lasts. Because of you, I don't have a home any more,
and it wasn't that great of a home anyway. Because of you, I can‚ńôt
see my friends, and now all the kids are gone, too. You're going to
take me off this stupid planet, but only to that ‚ńď that --
slave-master who'll probably kill me 'cause you two killed all
the Jedi, I read about it and Ben told me you‚ńôd kill me, so what‚ńôs
the point of gettin‚ńô off this rock? I never get to do what I
want, there's always somebody makin' me do stuff I don't want to do
and you're the same as everybody else and now I have these weird
feelings and I don‚ńôt know why!"
folded his arms. "Your speech is immature, inelegant, and
lacking logic. I suggest you do not plan for a career in diplomacy or
he shouted. "Don't make fun of me! Who the hell are you anyway?
You think you're so great 'cause you're big and can threaten people!
You're just a bully!"
am the bully who is now in charge of your life,‚ńĚ Vader rumbled
threateningly, ‚ńúso I suggest you modify your words.‚ńĚ
narrowed his eyes. Are you my father? He hoped Vader would
just confirm or deny it without being asked.
feelings are you referring to?‚ńĚ
His mind went blank. Vader was asking him a question?
referred to having ‚ńėweird‚ńô feelings.‚ńĚ
Vaguely astonished that the Dark Lord of the Sith wanted to know
something from him, he looked down, trying to sort out his
thoughts. ‚ńúYeah... well, funny feelings, y‚ńôknow? Just
since... now, when you‚ńôre around. Like....‚ńĚ He held out his
hands. ‚ńúLike I can feel the nerves under my skin, all of them. They
don‚ńôt hurt, they‚ńôre just... awake. Does that mean anything?‚ńĚ
is the Force.‚ńĚ
never felt the Force like that before.‚ńĚ Luke cringed as Vader
moved. But, incredibly, the large man lowered himself to sit on the
bench beside him. Are you my father? ‚ńúI could always do
things, y‚ńôknow? And I guess sometimes I feel things, but not
this much and not this way.‚ńĚ Daringly, he asked, ‚ńúCan you feel
it, too? Just since I‚ńôm here?‚ńĚ
was a long silence that seemed out of proportion for such a simple
question. Eventually Vader replied, ‚ńúYes.‚ńĚ
is it happening?‚ńĚ
are irrelevant.‚ńĚ Vader stood. Evidently their conversation was
over, but Luke was reluctant to let it end.
just said that everything matters.‚ńĚ
reminder was ignored.
in defeat, he decided on a semi-direct approach. ‚ńúAre you Anakin
tingling feeling abruptly morphed into something dark and oppressing,
more violent than a sandstorm. Air was sucked out of the room,
leaving them in a terrifying vacuum. Luke flinched as if struck,
staring up at the mask fearfully, desperately trying to figure out
what he‚ńôd said wrong to cause this horrible sensation.
you have nothing of importance to say,‚ńĚ Vader said coldly, ‚ńúI
will finish conducting my business." The Dark Lord signaled to
the troopers, then turned away.
wait!" Luke called after him, but this time his call was
disregarded. "Fine," he muttered to the retreating form.
"Act like a jerk, I don't care."
much hope, he tested the binders, but they were fastened securely.
The stormtroopers approached, eying him closely, their laser rifles
held across their bodies. "I suppose those are set on stun?"
response. Luke sighed. There had to be a way to escape, he just had
to figure it out.
first he had to decide if he really wanted to escape. If Vader
wanted to kill him, he'd already be dead. And if Vader was truly his
dad... well, that put a different spin on the universe, didn't it?
back against the wall, he crossed his legs at the ankles, yawning as
he considered his options. It wasn‚ńôt like he really had a choice.
If he ran away -- assuming he could get away -- he‚ńôd still be stuck
on Tatooine with Vader and the Imps after him. If he went... well, he
was bound to have some adventures and maybe a pretty cushy life with
his dad, assuming that‚ńôs who Vader was. Closing his eyes, he
drifted into a light doze, imaging a palace, lots of speeders,
fighting the bad guys....
from his sleep by the sound of voices, Luke jerked up and stared at
the changed scene. The reptile -- what was his name? -- yeah, Jaslin
Xenar, that was it -- was talking to the troopers.
‚ńú -- emissary from
Prince Xizor. Lord Vader is expecting me.‚ńĚ
Luke frowned. Jas hadn‚ńôt said anything about being an official rep
of the galaxy‚ńôs biggest transport company. ‚ńúHey, are you really
troopers whirled in response to his voice and, just as quickly, Jas
pulled a blaster from his voluminous sleeve and shot them. Luke
stared, wide-eyed and silent with astonishment.
gawking!‚ńĚ Jas snapped. ‚ńúCome, before Vader returns.‚ńĚ
Luke rose, following the Falleen to the docking bay doors. ‚ńúWhat‚ńôs
rescuing you,‚ńĚ Jaslin said matter-of-factly. ‚ńúYou may thank me
later, after we are safely out of Vader‚ńôs reach. Do not run or
otherwise attract attention to us.‚ńĚ
wasn‚ńôt going to run,‚ńĚ he muttered resentfully. Jas yanked the
colorful scarf from Luke‚ńôs neck and draped it over his bound hands.
‚ńúDo you really work for Xizor?‚ńĚ
was a falsehood.‚ńĚ
you kill those troopers?‚ńĚ
it was his fate today to have his questions left unanswered. Jas took
off at a brisk pace and Luke followed automatically, wishing he had
time to think this through. The one thought that kept jumping to the
front of his mind was that this might be his only chance to escape
the Emperor. But... Father? he wondered wistfully, and was
taken aback when he felt the tingling again. This time it was in his
mind, almost as if....
as if Vader was answering him!
had to be his imagination, and yet.... Father!
Jas whispered, and they entered a small docking bay where a strange
ship was waiting.
stopped and stared in awe. It was a fair-sized ship, its trim lines
elegant and clean, and it was obviously built for both local and deep
space travel. ‚ńúWow,‚ńĚ he breathed.
your admiration for another time. We must leave and enter hyperspace
before Vader can track us.‚ńĚ
you doing this?‚ńĚ he asked, half-complaining. ‚ńúHe wasn‚ńôt going
to hurt me. I don‚ńôt think....‚ńĚ
whirled on him, the brocade coat twirling around his long legs.
‚ńúFalleen hate Vader,‚ńĚ he hissed. ‚ńúWe will do anything to thwart
Thwart,‚ńĚ Luke repeated. It was a new word, but its meaning was
unmistakable. Uncomfortably, he wondered if Jas had heard any of the
conversation between him and his... maybe-father. ‚ńúSo, um, you‚ńôre
rescuing me because...?‚ńĚ
just answered you!‚ńĚ Xenar snapped in exasperation, shoving Luke up
the ramp. ‚ńúIn, quickly!‚ńĚ
but -- wait!‚ńĚ Panicked, he stopped. ‚ńúMy pack, I left my pack!‚ńĚ
your ‚ńėpack‚ńô contain something more important than your life?‚ńĚ
could hardly explain why a model skyhopper was definitely worth going
back for. Although he was pretty sure his life wasn‚ńôt on the
line, if Vader caught them, Jas would be punished, maybe even
executed, and Luke didn‚ńôt want that to happen. After all, the guy
was just trying to help him... even if he didn‚ńôt exactly need
a true lack of enthusiasm, Luke allowed Jas to enclose them in the
ship and made no protest as they blasted off. What the hell, it was
Dad, he told Vader, though this time there was no answer, and he
thought that he might never see his captor again.
he realized, with some dismay, that possibility saddened him.
were in hyperspace before Luke had gotten a good look at Tatooine
from space. He had only a brief glimpse of a ball colored with shades
of gold hanging in a progressively darkening blue sky before Jas
ordered him to strap down in the passenger lounge. He felt suddenly
melancholy... leaving home was what he‚ńôd wanted for as long as he
could remember, but now that it was happening....
he hadn‚ńôt loved Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru when he had lived with the
Lars, so why were his eyes misting now? He hated weakness! ‚ńúKrit,‚ńĚ
he cursed under his breath, swiping his cuffed hands across his eyes.
‚ńúKrit, krit, krit!‚ńĚ
here!‚ńĚ Jas‚ńôs voice echoed through the speaker.
made his way to the spacious cockpit. ‚ńúYes, master?‚ńĚ he drawled,
sliding into the copilot‚ńôs seat.
get comfortable,‚ńĚ Jas warned. He swiveled and rose from the pilot‚ńôs
position. ‚ńúIf I remove those binders, you must make me a promise.‚ńĚ
do you mean ‚ńėif‚ńô?‚ńĚ he huffed. ‚ńúYou‚ńôre damn well going to
take them off!‚ńĚ
Falleen folded his arms and stared him down.
you gonna get them off? Do you have... like, a key or something?‚ńĚ
squirmed. ‚ńúAll right, all right, what do you want me to promise?‚ńĚ
you will clean yourself and those filthy clothes. My olfactory sense
is highly developed.‚ńĚ
mine isn‚ńôt? Hey, you think I like smelling like this?‚ńĚ
grimaced in what Luke considered an elegant and refined way. ‚ńúThere
is a sonic shower in my compartment as well as a clothes sanitizing
unit. You may use them.‚ńĚ
a lot.‚ńĚ As if there were any alternatives. Luke raised his wrists.
‚ńúNow get these off me!‚ńĚ
pleasure.‚ńĚ From somewhere inside the folds of his voluminous
garments, Jas produced a silver cylinder. Before Luke had time to
speak, the other pressed a button and the long shaft of a lightsaber
hummed into view, glowing bright and brilliant as the Tatooine skies
he'd just left behind.
you got my lightsaber!‚ńĚ Another thought followed hastily. ‚ńúYou‚ńôre
not gonna use that on me, are you? You‚ńôll chop off my arm!‚ńĚ
if it is unavoidable.‚ńĚ When Luke blanched, the Falleen laughed, and
for the first time Luke realized that the other wasn‚ńôt much older
than him. ‚ńúI‚ńôm teasing. I think we can do this. Why don‚ńôt you
put your wrists on the... well, just hold your hands up.‚ńĚ
Luke pressed his fists into his stomach. ‚ńúNuh-uh, there‚ńôs no way
this will work. There‚ńôs not enough room between me and the
sighed and turned off the saber. ‚ńúPity, I was looking forward to
mine,‚ńĚ Luke reminded him.
exchange for repair work.‚ńĚ
tried to fold his arms but ended up twisting his wrists. ‚ńúFrom the
sound of the engines, there isn‚ńôt a damn thing wrong with this
sure you can find something. But for now, go shower.‚ńĚ
heaved an exasperated sigh. ‚ńúHow am I supposed to do that with
these binders on?‚ńĚ
your olfactory sense is as developed as you claim, I‚ńôm sure you‚ńôll
find a way.‚ńĚ With a nod of dismissal, Jaslin turned back to his
console and pulled navigation charts onto the screen.
made a point of sighing very loudly and stomping hard as he headed to
the passenger compartment. Removing the lower half of his clothing
wouldn‚ńôt be too difficult, but he stopped after getting his boots
off, picturing himself wearing a shirt and nothing else. Sliding down
to the floor, he stared at the binders. ‚ńúOff!‚ńĚ he commanded.
expected that wouldn‚ńôt do the trick and it didn‚ńôt. Dad, he
called in his head. Father? You around somewhere? Yoo-hoo, can you
hear me? Faaaaaather!
like that would work. He glared at the binders. Well, just use the
Force, Luke, he told himself. Yeah, right. Closing his eyes, he
concentrated as hard as he could. Nothing happened.
trying too hard. Relax.
eyes flew open. ‚ńúWho said that? Dad?‚ńĚ
zilch, no answer.
then.‚ńĚ This time he focused on relaxing, forming a picture in his
mind of the binders, the mechanism that kept them locked, releasing
the latch and....
was a clunk.
opened one eye and peeked. The binders were on the floor, wide open.
Luke murmured, impressed with himself.
he could do that, he could probably do a lot of other stuff. But now
wasn‚ńôt the time to experiment, what with the strange Falleen who
did/didn‚ńôt work for Xizor and whose ship was/wasn‚ńôt in need of
repair... and, come to think of it, who had/hadn't rescued/kidnapped
well. He'd worry about all that later. Whistling happily, Luke dumped
his clothes in the sani-unit and headed gratefully for the shower.
wasn‚ńôt nearly as happy when he exited and found Jas standing in the
room, reading Luke‚ńôs datachip.
What‚ńôre you doing? Where‚ńôd you get that?‚ńĚ He knew damn well
where the other youth had found it. ‚ńúThat was in my boot! I didn‚ńôt
say you could go through my stuff!‚ńĚ Backing into the sani unit, he
peered around the door. ‚ńúThrow me my clothes, will you?‚ńĚ
not ready,‚ńĚ Jas said calmly. ‚ńúSo, you are the son of a Jedi, and
Vader does not wish to kill you. He will train you, I think, to be
Sith like him.‚ńĚ
out, Luke grabbed the edge of the sheet and tugged it off the bunk,
bunching it around his waist. ‚ńúYou shouldn‚ńôt go through other
shouldn‚ńôt steal other people‚ńôs silver chains,‚ńĚ the Falleen said
absently, waving his hand toward the floor where Luke had dropped the
treasure he‚ńôd found in the sani cabinet.
Uh... I was just looking at it.‚ńĚ
glanced at him and raised one eyebrow.
okay.‚ńĚ His face felt hot. ‚ńúSorry. And you still shouldn‚ńôt
go through my stuff.‚ńĚ
are a stranger I have taken on board my ship and you steal from me. I
have every right to search your belongings... such as they are.‚ńĚ
didn‚ńôt -- I hadn‚ńôt -- you looked in my stuff before I took your
is becoming tedious.‚ńĚ Jas pulled the chip from the datapad and
tossed it on the bunk. ‚ńúAre you Jedi?‚ńĚ
grabbed his precious datachip and clenched his fist around it. ‚ńúNo.
I don‚ńôt know. Maybe. No. I mean, I‚ńôm nothing, I‚ńôve never been
trained, I can‚ńôt do anything.‚ńĚ
Reaching down, Jas retrieved the binders and dangled them from one
just... uh, fell off. Guess they weren‚ńôt fastened very well.‚ńĚ
Something about the other‚ńôs skeptical stare embarrassed him. ‚ńúOh
-- I don‚ńôt know how I got them off! I just thought about it and
they came apart.‚ńĚ
user. Maybe Jedi, maybe Sith. Did I make mistake by assuming you
wished to be rescued? Perhaps you wished to go with Vader?‚ńĚ
guy was sure direct! Luke swallowed. ‚ńúI don‚ńôt know. He just
dragged me.... I mean, it‚ńôs not like he asked what I wanted.‚ńĚ
if he had?‚ńĚ
guess... no... maybe. I‚ńôd be afraid of the Emperor.‚ńĚ Luke
shivered. ‚ńúAre my clothes done yet?‚ńĚ
shrugged. ‚ńúWe will talk later,‚ńĚ he said, and exited the cabin.
gnawed on his lower lip. He felt uneasy, unsure... and those emotions
were not familiar. He‚ńôd always been one to dive into action and
worry about the consequences later. Now he was out of his element,
away from familiar territory, in space, with lots to think about...
and even worse, he was hungry.
after he ate, he‚ńôd be able to think more clearly.
was annoying, but after he finished eating the unfamiliar food, he
still had a gnawing feeling in his gut. Shifting in the comfortable
lounge chair, he looked at the Fallen who was engrossed with the
ship‚ńôs control board.
you have any glitt?‚ńĚ
Spice. Have any?‚ńĚ
sent a look of disdain over his shoulder. ‚ńúCertainly not. Are you
not!‚ńĚ Luke snapped, though that was something he‚ńôd worried about
more than once. ‚ńúI just find it relaxing. How about a drink?‚ńĚ
wasn‚ńôt offering you one! I was asking for one. Do you have anything
to drink on this ship?‚ńĚ
that would be palatable to a human tongue.‚ńĚ The other swiveled his
chair around and stared. ‚ńúAre you an alcoholic?‚ńĚ
asking me stuff like that!‚ńĚ He frowned and subsided into silence
for several minutes, aware that Jas was watching him. ‚ńúWhy do the
Falleen hate Vader?‚ńĚ he asked abruptly.
continued staring and Luke found the gaze unnerving. Or maybe it was
the other‚ńôs appearance that made him uneasy. He‚ńôd seen non-humans
in Eisley often enough, but he‚ńôd never been in continuous contact
with one so alien. He was both fascinated and discomfited.
is a... he proved himself to be totally without conscience.‚ńĚ Jas
swiveled back to the panel, running his long fingers over the
controls in a manner that appeared completely aimless.
long sigh ended in a decisive movement as the Falleen rose gracefully
and paced the small area. ‚ńúA contaminant was released into the
atmosphere of a Fayaet, large Falleen city. Vader annihilated the
city to prevent contamination to the rest of the planet. A quarter of
a million Falleen were killed. So goes the official Imperial line.‚ńĚ
shifted uneasily. ‚ńúWhat‚ńôs the unofficial story?‚ńĚ
dark eyes narrowed and focused on him. ‚ńúVader had chosen Fayaet as
the location for a biological warfare laboratory. A huge, populated
city. There was an ‚ńėaccident‚ńô, or so the Imperials labeled it,
that resulted in the release of bio-contaminants into the atmosphere.
Palpatine declared Vader a hero for saving the rest of Falleen... by
murdering the population of an entire metropolis. Of course,‚ńĚ here
Jas smiled bitterly, ‚ńúhad he not chosen Fayaet as the site to
conduct his despicable experiments, there would have been no
necessity for heroics. What a pity the laboratory had not been
constructed on Coruscant.‚ńĚ
one of the few times in his life, the shock was so great that Luke
had no words. Frantically, he tried to sort out his thoughts,
struggling to separate Vader-the-Evil-Sith-Lord from
Vader-his-father, for only an evil Sith Lord could have done such a
terrible thing. No honorable man would have. A father wouldn‚ńôt be
involved in biological warfare experiments ‚ńĒ wasn‚ńôt that illegal
anyway? A father wouldn‚ńôt kill hundreds of thousands of beings...
men, women... even children.
apparently his father had. It was just like Ben and Owen told
him. Vader was evil... and his son had inherited the same potential.
Anakin Skywalker, the great Jedi hero, was Darth Vader, the evil
Sith. So that made Luke... who?
you all right?‚ńĚ The Falleen‚ńôs off-handed words pierced Luke‚ńôs
yeah,‚ńĚ he stalled, trying to gather his thoughts. ‚ńúI‚ńôm... I‚ńôm
just tired. Would it be okay if I turned in? I can work on your...
whatever‚ńôs wrong... tomorrow.‚ńĚ
course. Follow me.‚ńĚ
he obeyed, not really noticing the small passenger compartment Jas
guided him to. ‚ńúYou may have this,‚ńĚ the other youth said,
gesturing to a folded pile of white fabric on the bunk.
picked it up, gratified to focus on something tangible, even if it
was only smooth, silky fabric. ‚ńúWow, this is soft, I‚ńôve never
felt anything like this before, thanks, I can wear it with ‚ńĒ with ‚ńĒ
anyway, thanks, I‚ńôll be ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
babbling,‚ńĚ Jas said irritably. ‚ńúDo not wear it with
anything. It is for sleeping, so human skin does not befoul my silk
Luke shouted at him. ‚ńúWhat in hells is wrong with you? So you‚ńôre
green, big deal, you‚ńôre nothing special! Quit treating me like I‚ńôm
some kind of ‚ńĒ of ‚ńĒ sithspawn scum!‚ńĚ
you have a healthy rest.‚ńĚ Impervious to his outburst, the Falleen
inclined his head and exited, pulling the small door closed.
stared at the door, struggling to maintain his anger. He failed, and
it dissolved into agony. Slumping to the floor, he leaned back
against the cot, clutching the nightshirt in his hands. Maybe Jas
lied to him about what happened on Falleen... but that was unlikely;
it was too easy to check. No, the hideous truth was that Vader ‚ńĒ
no, Anakin Skywalker had done an unbelievably wicked thing in
trying to create a ghastly weapon. And then he‚ńôd compounded his
depravity by murdering the innocent victims of his experiments. No
wonder the Falleen hated him ‚ńĒ everyone should! Why hadn‚ńôt the
entire galaxy risen up in protest when the massacre happened? Krit,
he didn't even remember seeing the story on INN!
staggered to his feet, stripped, and pulled the nightshirt over his
head. The hem puddled on the floor, much too long for him, and he
stared at the ripples, his mind blank for several minutes. Then,
climbing into the narrow bunk, he pulled the sheet over his head. Had
he inherited this evil... or had Anakin Skywalker Vader contaminated
him during their brief meeting? He‚ńôd been weak during that
encounter, longing to know his father despite his protests. He had
thrust aside the warnings from his guardians, wanting to touch Vader
on some emotional level, needing to know if there were any emotions
in the man to be touched....
he was contaminated. Or maybe he‚ńôd been contaminated since birth.
Maybe Uncle Owen had been right all along. ‚ńúSithspawn,‚ńĚ he
whispered. For the first time he understood the deeper meaning of the
old curse. Only Owen had ever called him that, under his breath when
he thought Luke couldn‚ńôt hear. Sithspawn... an ancient evil
passed on from father to son.
it!‚ńĚ Rolling onto his stomach, he pulled the pillow over his head.
It was time to quit thinking. He never had to see Vader again, didn‚ńôt
have to have anything to do with him... and maybe Vader wasn‚ńôt
Anakin... in fact, he probably wasn‚ńôt. People lied about
stuff all the time. This was just another lie. Just another one....
"Just one," the hunter wheedled, his voice garbled by
the translator he wore, "and I'll leave the rest of you."
get behind me," the leader ordered, but the girl appeared too
terrified to move.
reptile reached for her, and she screamed again as his green claws
pierced her arms.
get involved in other people's problems, Owen said, except your
neighbor's. You need your neighbors to survive.
last thing he wanted was to get in a fight that might draw the
attention of the Imps, Luke thought glumly as he drew out his
lightsaber. But the son of a Jedi -- or even a Sith -- couldn't let
this scum go free. He had less humanity than a Tusken, and Luke had
killed a few of those. A Falleen deserved no mercy.
there," he called softly, igniting his blade.
Falleen turned, then started, dropping the child when he saw the
lightsaber. "No! Luke, don't!"
swung, decapitating the reptile easily. It was not so different from
killing a Tusken, Luke noted remotely, though this thing was more
human than a Tusken. Would it be difficult to kill a human? He
supposed that one day he would find out.
thud drew his attention, and he turned to look at the monster‚ńôs
head as it rolled to a halt against the cave wall. It was wearing a
black helmet. It hadn‚ńôt worn a helmet before, had it? This almost
looked like Vader's helmet. Luke approached cautiously and touched
the tip of his blade to the faceplate. It exploded in a brief cascade
of sparks. When the smoke cleared, he realized he would get a glimpse
of his first Falleen kill. But when the smoke cleared... when the
was looking in a mirror.
a strangled cry, Luke bolted upright, gasping for breath. It took
several seconds for him to fully wake and realize where he was. The
steady hum of engines... the silk gown stuck to his sweating chest...
the starlit darkness of space outside the tiny viewport.
laid back, his heart pounding wildly. Damn you, Father, he
whispered in his mind, damn you forever. Why couldn‚ńôt you be
someone else? Anyone else... anyone except who you are.
he fell asleep again.
crawled out of the maintenance compartment and laid the hydrospanner
back in the tool kit. ‚ńúFinished,‚ńĚ he announced in a loud voice.
‚ńúThis thing‚ńôll fly like it‚ńôs been greased.‚ńĚ
makes no sense,‚ńĚ Jas commented. ‚ńúGrease as a lubricant is
utilized only when and where necessary on specific pieces of
equipment. Although, theoretically, my ship might not fly if those
pieces of equipment had not been greased, I believe that the
modifications you have made will not ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
just an expression,‚ńĚ he replied patiently, having grown used to the
Falleen‚ńôs literal interpretations after the days they had spent
cooped up together. He wiped his hands on his trousers and crossed
the cockpit to sprawl in the copilot‚ńôs chair. ‚ńúYou know, we could
Jas repeated without blinking, evidently also having grown used to
his companion‚ńôs unusual ideas.
We‚ńôll just fancy up your clothes a little, make you more colorful,
and we can cruise around the galaxy, goin‚ńô wherever we want!‚ńĚ
implies boarding and robbing vessels.‚ńĚ
Luke replied, gesturing vaguely. ‚ńúThe important thing is that we
get to explore.‚ńĚ
am already exploring,‚ńĚ the other answered calmly, ‚ńúand we agreed
that you would be left off at the next port in exchange for your
the lightsaber,‚ńĚ he reminded, abruptly disappointed. ‚ńúBut
exploring the galaxy would be more fun with me.‚ńĚ
am not doing this for ‚ńėfun‚ńô. It is a Falleen ritual that an
aristocrat and future leader, both of which I am, makes a pilgrimage
to other planets to observe the natives and remind ourselves of their
heaved a big sigh and propped his feet on the edge of the control
panel. ‚ńúHow boring for you.‚ńĚ
course it is! You go places expecting to not find anything wonderful,
so you don‚ńôt ‚ńĒwhat a drag! Stick with me,‚ńĚ he waggled his
finger at the Falleen, ‚ńúand we‚ńôll find all sorts of new and
exciting things ‚ńĒ people, places, food ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
from the little I know about you,‚ńĚ Jas interrupted, ‚ńúit is
trouble that we are most likely to find.‚ńĚ
too!‚ńĚ Luke grinned and then added in a wheedling tone, ‚ńúC‚ńômon,
let me stay on board. It‚ńôll be fun. And you‚ńôll be able to observe
my inferiority more closely.‚ńĚ
coughed, though it sounded suspiciously like he was hiding a bark of
laughter. ‚ńúVery well, I cannot resist such an opportunity. But we
will not be pirates, merely explorers.‚ńĚ
he agreed cheerfully.
no spice or alcohol use while you are accompanying me.‚ńĚ
not fair!‚ńĚ He scowled but the other‚ńôs expression was adamant.
‚ńúOh, all right.‚ńĚ
sound so sincere,‚ńĚ Jas retorted skeptically.
So, where are we going first? How about Naboo? It‚ńôs not too far, is
have been there.‚ńĚ
not with me!‚ńĚ
Falleen sighed. ‚ńúYou wish to visit your mother‚ńôs home planet.‚ńĚ
nodded. ‚ńúMaybe I can find some relatives.‚ńĚ
then you would wish to stay with them!‚ńĚ Jas said brightly.
he considered the options. If he found his mother‚ńôs family, he
might want to stay on Naboo, and then he couldn‚ńôt go exploring the
galaxy. Another of those good news/bad news choices that seemed to be
popping up lately. ‚ńúMaybe, maybe not.‚ńĚ
least you‚ńôre definite.‚ńĚ The other youth studied him for a
moment. ‚ńúVery well, Naboo it is, and perhaps I can rid myself of
you wouldn‚ńôt miss my company!‚ńĚ Luke scoffed. His feet dropped
from the control panel. ‚ńúNow would be a good time to teach me how
to fly this thing.‚ńĚ
I can help out. So you can rest sometimes. I wouldn‚ńôt fly fast. I‚ńôd
be careful. Honest.‚ńĚ He flashed his most sincere smile.
Falleen appeared doubtful, but replied: ‚ńúVery well. I will teach
you a few things. But you are not to practice anything without
wouldn‚ńôt dream of it,‚ńĚ he fibbed, and began to pay attention to
had never seen a planet as beautiful as Naboo. Of course, he had
never seen another planet from space, except the too-brief view of
Tatooine. Still, he was willing to wager that Naboo was one of the
prettiest planets in the entire galaxy. It was covered with colors ‚ńĒ
many shades of green, gold, white and blue. It stood to reason that
if the planet was so beautiful, his mother must have been, too.
Falleen look like this?‚ńĚ he asked his companion curiously.
has more water and ‚ńĒ ah!‚ńĚ
gasped as the ship jolted. ‚ńúWhat was that?‚ńĚ It felt like they
were being dragged away from the planet. ‚ńúWhat‚ńôs going on? What‚ńôs
scowled and muttered Falleen curses under his breath as he flicked
switches, shutting down the main engines.
you doing? Why aren‚ńôt we ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
Xenar said icily, ‚ńúwe have been captured in a tractor beam.‚ńĚ
the planet? Why would they ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
not from the planet, idiot boy! From another ship. Look for
toward the scanner, he saw a blip that appeared considerably bigger
than their little blip. ‚ńúWho is it?‚ńĚ he asked, though the sinking
feeling in his stomach was providing the logical answer.
Luke was annoyed, scared, relieved, nervous... and a bit flattered
that Darth Vader would come chasing after him.
wants you very badly.‚ńĚ Jas swiveled his seat around and studied
him. ‚ńúDo you prefer to fight or surrender?‚ńĚ
Vader? I don‚ńôt think we‚ńôd win.‚ńĚ Anyway, he wouldn‚ńôt mind
spending some time with his dad. Maybe he and Vader could look for
his mother‚ńôs relatives together. Assuming, of course, that Vader
was Anakin Skywalker, something he was still a little confused
we would likely be killed.‚ńĚ The Falleen‚ńôs tone was cool. ‚ńúThat
might be preferable to being captured and tortured, do you think?‚ńĚ
He wouldn‚ńôt torture me... er, us. I'm pretty sure.‚ńĚ
have heard stories of his methods. He will torture me. As for you...‚ńĚ
Jas shrugged. ‚ńú...it is said that the Force can both break and
rebuild a being. Perhaps that is your fate.‚ńĚ
disgusting.‚ńĚ Scowling, he peered out the viewscreen at the gray
hull of a ship coming into focus above them. ‚ńúI understand why you
hate him, but nobody can be all bad. Besides, he wouldn‚ńôt hurt me ‚ńĒ
I‚ńôm just a kid.‚ńĚ
were children in Fayaet," Jas said quietly, but Luke pretended
not to hear.
other ship filled his vision for a few seconds before they were
enveloped by darkness, and then they re-emerged into a hangar bay. A
detachment of white-clad stormtroopers came running and, as best he
could see, completely surrounded their small cruiser. Unlike his
companion, Luke was unperturbed and found it all quite exciting. It
was like a hologame -- well, except it was real, of course, but he
couldn't believe his maybe-dad would let anything bad happen to them.
main hatch reverberated with pounding. Jas sent him a grim look and
pressed the control to release the hatch. Five stormtroopers, rifles
pointed at them, and an Imperial officer entered the ship.
Xenar,‚ńĚ the officer intoned, ‚ńúthis ship is confiscated and you
are being taken into Imperial custody on the charge of abduction of a
minor child. Take him away.‚ńĚ Two troopers cuffed Jas and led him
off the ship. The officer watched them depart before adding, ‚ńúLuke
Skywalker, come with me.‚ńĚ
you calling child?" he muttered under his breath, then:
Luke Skywalker?! It was the first time anyone had said his
real name! Daydreaming for a few seconds, he followed the older man
without paying attention, but when they stepped out of the ship and
into the large bay, he was reminded of his situation. Was he an
Imperial prisoner, too? No, that was impossible. He wasn‚ńôt cuffed
and his pop was Darth Vader; no one would dare arrest him.
and excited, Luke chattered and studied his surroundings as they
walked. ‚ńúThis is a really big hanger bay! Does this ship have other
hangers? What kind of ship is it? It‚ńôs really big, isn‚ńôt
it? Are you the captain? Is Lord Vader here? Is he the
captain?‚ńĚ The man wasn't answering, but Luke was afraid to stop
talking in case the officer said something he didn't want to hear.
‚ńúWhat‚ńôs your name? Does the ship have laser cannons and
torpedoes? Can I see the cockpit or helm or whatever you call it?‚ńĚ
muscle twitched in the man‚ńôs jaw.
I a prisoner or a guest?" Luke added hastily. "Do I get to
wear a uniform, too? I‚ńôm hungry. Is it time for lunch yet? Or is it
dinnertime? Do you count time in space the same as we do on planets?
If different planets have their own times, how do you ‚ńĒ ‚ńĚ
officer raised his hand and came to a halt, meeting Luke‚ńôs gaze
with what looked like amusement in his eyes, though his face was
perfectly official and serious. Luke stopped and waited, hoping his
shaking was invisible. ‚ńúI am Captain Piett. This is the Imperial
Starship Devastator, Lord Vader‚ńôs flagship of the fleet. The
armament of this ship is a confidential matter. You will be advised
when you will be fed. It is approximately 1500 hours. Imperial ships
keep Coruscant time. Is there anything else?‚ńĚ
blinked. ‚ńúUmm... am I a prisoner?‚ńĚ
remains to be seen,‚ńĚ Captain Piett replied, reaching over his
shoulder to press a button on the wall. A door slid open. ‚ńúFor now,
this will be your quarters. It will be locked and you will be unable
peered into the dimly lit room and took a few cautious steps inside.
It didn't look so bad. He relaxed slightly. ‚ńúYou have kids, don‚ńôt
particular question was ignored. ‚ńúPlease remain quietly in this
room and do not destroy any Imperial property.‚ńĚ
I would!‚ńĚ He rolled his eyes at the preposterousness of the
suggestion. ‚ńúIs Lord Vader coming?‚ńĚ
you should take a nap. Good day.‚ńĚ
door slid shut, cutting him off from the captain while he was
spluttering in indignation. ‚ńúA nap?!‚ńĚ
it turned out, he did fall asleep, although he would never admit it
to anyone, especially his father who needed to realize that he was
practically an adult and too old to boss around. Fortunately, he woke
on his own without 'anyone' being the wiser and discovered that the
fresher had a regular sonic shower, not water like he'd hoped. Taking
a full water-shower was one of his goals in life. After a fast
in-and-out, he felt clean again, but it was disconcerting to peek
into the sleeping area and see new clothes lying on the bunk.
Obviously there was no one in the room right now, but still:
was no reply, so he deemed it safe to expose himself. He dashed into
the room, grabbed the clothes, then scurried back to the sani. He
dressed, disappointed that they‚ńôd given him a boring gray jumpsuit
instead of a snappy uniform. It had pockets on both thighs, though he
had nothing to put in them, and a utility belt, though he had nothing
to hook on it.
and edgy, he prowled the small quarters, taking about ten seconds to
circle the entire place. He peered into empty built-in shelves and
tried to peek under the bunk, but it was welded to the floor. There
had to be listening devices, right?
I‚ńôm bored. Can I get out? Is it time to eat? When is Lord Vader
coming to see me? What happened to my friend Jas?‚ńĚ
waited, but no answers came. Maybe there wasn‚ńôt even a speaker in
here. What if there was an emergency and the ship had to be evacuated
and they forgot about him and left him here to die? ‚ńúHelloooooo!‚ńĚ
He needed to say something guaranteed to get a response, so: ‚ńúVader
is a crazy krit and all Imps are bantha-krit!‚ńĚ After a pause, he
added: ‚ńúDon‚ńôt forget I‚ńôm in here. And I have nothing to do!
There isn‚ńôt even a vidscreen!‚ńĚ
he tried the door, but it was still locked. Maybe the Force would
work on it. Luke closed his eyes and concentrated on opening the
door. Nothing happened. Frustrated, he gave it a few kicks but
succeeded only in hurting his foot. He heaved a great sigh and sat on
the edge of the bunk. Maybe his father was going to let him rot in
here. Or not let him out until he was delivered to the Emperor who
would probably torture him.
lay back, tucked his hands behind his head, and stared up at the gray
ceiling. Gray, gray, gray, everything was gray and boring. His entire
life was in the balance, and he was locked in a gray room with no
information and no food. With nothing else to do, he closed his eyes
and drifted off to sleep again.
clanging noise woke him and he shot into a sitting position. A
soldier was in his room, putting a tray on the small metal table.
that dinner?" Luke asked eagerly, pretending he'd been awake and
alert and that the man's presence wasn't a surprise.
He hurried over. "Do you know what‚ńôs happening? Or where my
friend is? Or when Darth Vader is coming to visit me? Or when I‚ńôm
getting out of here? Anything?"
soldier looked him up and down. Luke did the same thing. The other
man was sort of young, but looked tired. "I‚ńôll be sure to ask
Lord Vader to add you to his agenda," he said sarcastically,
turning to leave.
Luke balled his fists and put them on his waist. "Do you know
who I am?" he demanded.
know, don‚ńôt care," the soldier responded, and walked out the
door. It slid shut with a sharp click, and Luke knew he was locked in
again. At least this time he had food. And if Vader was feeding him,
that meant he wouldn‚ńôt be killed... right?
removed the cover and stared at the plate. Nothing on it was familiar
to him. Guess the rest of the galaxy ate differently from Tatooine.
He sampled a pale lump that evidently was some sort of meat. It had
an odd after-taste. Maybe it was poisoned... maybe Vader had decided
to kill him slowly and painfully. Damn, what he wouldn‚ńôt give for a
big banthaburger right about now.
yellow lumps were vegetables, nothing surprising about that
non-flavor. He uncapped the beverage. It was white. He swallowed a
mouthful. "Milk?" he called out. "What does a guy have
to do to get a real drink around here?" Milk, like he was
a baby. "Blech."
it was this or starve to death, so he finished everything, even the
milk. He wondered if the soldier would come back to pick up the tray.
How could there not even be a vidscreen in these quarters? Or a
computer set up to play games? What in hells did military people do
in their spare time? He had no idea, but he did know what
prisoners did: they escaped!
his maybe-father couldn't be bothered to check on him, he would just
leave. Vader thought he was a child -- well, he'd find out
differently! Maybe Luke Skywalker was confused and out of his element
here, but Oz was street-smart. Oz took care of a herd of children for
months. Oz was clever; he'd find Jas and they would escape together.
Then Vader would be sorry!
idea perked up his spirits. He twisted the utility belt around his
waist, inspecting it closely. There was a small metal fastener that
looked like it might be useful. After a few twists and tugs, it came
off. Luke dragged the chair to the center of the room and stood on
it. He couldn't reach the ceiling, so he hauled over the table and
climbed onto that. With a smug smile, he squeezed the fastener flat
and used it to turn the screws on the plate that covered the fan
vent. It was awkward work, but after several minutes, he was able to
remove the plate. His grip on it slipped and it fell to the floor
with a loud clatter. He waited a few seconds, but no one came to
investigate, so he grabbed the edges of the opening and heaved
himself up. As he suspected, the duct was wide enough to allow him
easy access. He could crawl through it and, with any luck, find the
rescue mission went smoothly for several minutes. The ductwork made a
few sharp turns, but he was pretty certain he could find his way back
if he needed to. There were a couple access plates that were screened
instead of solid, and they allowed in enough light so he could see.
Not that there was anything to see but more gray metal.
duct narrowed, forcing him to drop lower and use his elbows to pull
himself through in a shimmying fashion. He came to another solid wall
and wriggled around the sharp turn. And came to a sudden stop.
utility belt was caught on something.
twisted his hips, but the belt didn‚ńôt come loose. He tried to back
up, but found he couldn‚ńôt move at all. He tried to move forward
again. No luck.
he‚ńôd just remove the belt. But he couldn‚ńôt move his arms backward
to unfasten it. He tried to roll onto his side. His shoulder hit the
top of the duct. No problem, he‚ńôd just hold this position and
squish his arm down and....
didn‚ńôt work. Now his arm was stuck, too. He lay still, considering
his options. He could chew off his arm and free himself. He could
wait until someone noticed he was gone and came looking for him. But
they wouldn‚ńôt know where in the ducts he was. He could yell for
help...but what if he was in a storeroom or a deserted area where no
one ever came? He could starve to death. But before that happened,
he‚ńôd have to go to the fresher.
he muttered. Well, okay then, he had to ignore his pride. "HELLLLP!"
he yelled, trying to bang his fists and heels against the duct. "Get
me outta here!"
was mortifying, but he had to continue shouting for help. A desert
kid shouldn‚ńôt be in a ship anyway, not even Oz, and especially not
in a heating duct. Who knew they were so small and full of sharp
edges to catch him on? It wasn‚ńôt his fault, and his maybe-father
couldn‚ńôt blame him!
endless minutes of pounding, he heard voices, then clunking and
scraping. A few minutes later, a voice called from somewhere behind
him: "Luke Skywalker! Come back this way and get out of there
like it was so simple! "I can‚ńôt, I‚ńôm stuck!" You
moron, he added silently. "Don‚ńôt you think I would if I
fell. After more minutes of absolutely nothing, Luke called, "You‚ńôre
not going to leave me here, are you?"
one answered. With a sigh, he rested the side of his face on the cool
metal plating. He was beginning to feel claustrophobic and panicking
just a little. What if Vader decided to leave him here? He was going
to die slowly and horribly and his skeleton would rattle in the duct
forever. Maybe his ghost would haunt the ship.
he heard a loud hum and sparks appeared along one side him, then the
other. Before he could react, the duct opened up to blinding light
and he fell, hearing the shriek of metal, the sound of tearing cloth
‚ńď and the thud of himself, landing hard on the deck.
he complained, struggling to recover from the sudden shock. Gingerly
he moved his body. Nothing seemed to be broken. "That hurt!"
Looking up, he found himself surrounded by officers and troopers. No
one looked sympathetic about his possible injuries, and he gulped.
him to a detention cell," a familiar deep voice said crossly.
his head back, he saw the upside-down figure of father hooking a
lightsaber to his belt as he stalked off. "Hey, wait!"
Twisting around and stumbling to his feet, he watched Vader disappear
down the corridor. "Wait!"
destroyed Imperial property," someone said in clipped tones.
"Look at this damage."
he saw a very stern Captain Piett pointing to the smooth cuts the
lightsaber had made in the ceiling. It was a big hole, all right.
"Don‚ńôt blame me, he did it!" Luke declared
defensively, pointing in the direction of his dearly departed Dark
ignored his excuse. "Take him to detention," he told the
was marched off. By the time they arrived at the detention cell, he
realized that he probably should have apologized to the captain. But
it was too late.
Jas was locked up near by, but after a few seconds of hollering, Luke
decided that he couldn‚ńôt be heard outside his cell. There were no
windows and the door appeared to be airtight. He was going to use up
all the oxygen and die in here. He sat on the hard ledge that
couldn‚ńôt possibly be a bed and pulled his knees up to his chin,
wrapping his arms around his legs and sighing. It was a tiring job,
maintaining this level of resistance and defiance... pretending not
to care about anything, when what he really wanted to do was get to
know his father. Even if his father was Darth Vader. Maybe.
that momentous day when he‚ńôd first read the name "Anakin
Skywalker", he'd continued wondering if Vader was really his
father or not. Sometimes the idea was terrifying, but other times it
was breathtaking. Imagine, ruling the galaxy at the side of the Dark
Lord! They could get rid of Palpatine and make the galaxy a better
place. It was a wild fairytale, a soaring adventure, and it could be
his life. But now it appeared that the reality was nothing like his
dreams. The real Vader was neither Evil Sith nor Doting Dad. The real
Vader didn‚ńôt even try to understand him and sure didn‚ńôt feel any
love or respect for him. As for what Luke Skywalker felt for Vader...
well, nothing good. Fear, uncertainty, disappointment.... True, there
was that tingly feeling, but Vader said that was the Force, not a
father-son thing. Did that mean Vader wasn't his father? But that
would leave only Anakin Skywalker... who was dead.
he really was twelve years old, he would feel sad enough to
cry, but he was sixteen and practically an adult and it was time he
started acting more like one. Men didn‚ńôt cry, though he wasn‚ńôt
sure what men did do in situations like this. It wasn‚ńôt
something he could ask his maybe-father. He was willing to bet that
Darth Vader had never cried in his entire life.
rocked back and forth, humming a little in an effort to stop his
brain from thinking. It didn‚ńôt seem to be working because he
continued to have thoughts about the varied and horrible things that
might happen to him here. Torture at the hands of the Emperor‚ńĒ or
worse and almost unthinkable... his maybe-father might torture him.
Maybe Vader wouldn't even like him, let alone....
hadn‚ńôt been all that bad. He should‚ńôve stayed on the farm. Yeah,
he would have been bored forever and probably hated his life, but at
least he would have had a life. Now that might no longer be a
warning, without a tingle or a chill or any other kind of
premonition, the door to his cell slid open. Luke sent a terrified
glance at the black figure, then put his forehead on his knees and
closed his eyes. "Just kill me quick," he whispered.
not indulge in melodrama, it is wasted on me," Vader stated.
didn‚ńôt comment, but turned his head to the side and opened one eye,
checking the hem of the black garments to see if a toe was tapping.
did you hope to accomplish by such foolish actions?"
he muttered sullenly and closed his eye again.
did you hope to accomplish?"
repeating every question an Imp habit? "I said‚ńĒ noth-ing!"
iron grips encircled his wrists and pulled him into a standing
position. "Address me respectfully and answer me truthfully.
What did you hope to accomplish?"
loudly, Luke tried to look anywhere but up. He settled for focusing
on the set of switches on Vader‚ńôs chest. Maybe he should turn off a
couple and see what happened. "I wanted to find Jas and escape."
cannot escape this ship. That is an absurd idea."
you say so." Luke shrugged, and his arms were released.
Falleen abducted you."
thought he was saving me. From you."
was taking you to Xizor."
just said he worked for Xizor Transport. He made that up."
you‚ńôre still a bully! And you don‚ńôt get it!" He took a step
back and glared at the unreadable mask. Lifting his hand, he tapped
the black helmet. "Knock, knock, anybody hom‚ńĒ"
he could finish, he was pinned against the wall ‚ńĒ high, higher than
Vader‚ńôs head. Fingers of steel curled around his throat, cutting
off his words and his breath. Dimly he was aware that however
frightened he had ever been in his life, he had never truly felt fear
before this moment. This was it -- the end!
care, child," Vader murmured in a harsh tone that was clearly a
warning, not a blessing. "No one treats me with disrespect. Not
spots appeared behind his eyelids and he felt consciousness slipping
away. Then he was released and held steady as he gasped for precious
air. It took seconds ‚ńĒ maybe minutes ‚ńĒ he didn‚ńôt know how long
‚ńĒ before he recovered enough to talk. Dizzy and a little nauseated,
he leaned heavily on the leather-clad arm that steadied him and
blurted out the first thing that came to his mind:
me?" He looked up through lashes that shimmered with unshed
tears. "That means I‚ńôm special. That means I am your
son! Why can‚ńôt you just say so?"
are alive... for the moment." The Sith Lord withdrew his
support, folding his arms and leaving Luke to weave unsteadily. "That
speaks of your importance."
onto the hard bench, Luke sighed. "I guess I wasn‚ńôt so
important sixteen years ago, was I?"
was no hint of motion in the dark figure, but Luke felt something he
couldn‚ńôt describe, almost like a ripple in his mind. It was from
Vader, that much he was certain, but he didn‚ńôt know what it meant.
"Did you not want me or what? Why did you leave me on Tatooine?
Why did I grow up without parents?"
ripple became a gale. As if its power was too strong to resist, Vader
turned and walked a few steps away. "Put aside useless dreams of
the past and focus on the future."
you talking to me or yourself?" he asked shrewdly.
whirled and shook a finger in his direction. "Do not mock me,
child, or you will pay dearly."
right." Luke rolled his eyes. "Let‚ńôs see, you‚ńôve killed
the people who raised me, destroyed my home, taken me away from the
kids I was protecting, arrested the guy who was trying to save me,
choked me a couple times.... What am I missing? What else could you
possibly do except kill me? Ben always said you‚ńôd do that, so it
wouldn‚ńôt be any surprise."
is this 'Ben'?" Even through the vocoder, the voice sounded
Kenobi, an old‚ńĒ"
that name certainly struck a chord in the big guy. "Friend of
yours?" he asked sarcastically.
Curious, Luke studied the Sith. There was no physical change he could
see, but the ripple in his mind grew stronger and he had the
impression of a storm, a violent, sweeping storm of sand or...
something else. It was as if Vader‚ńôs mere presence was letting him
get closer to the Force. He couldn‚ńôt interpret what he was feeling
-- but just imagine if he let Vader teach him! He could learn
everything. "When I was little, he told me you were my father
and that you would kill me. Or make me evil. I guess you two really
hated each other?"
was my friend... and he took everything from me." It was a
whisper, raw-edged and richly laced with unspoken memories.
of like you did to me," Luke commented softly.
wondered if the jab would hurt. Vader flinched visibly and that
pleased Luke. I want to hurt you, he thought meanly. I want
to pay you back. I want to hurt you until you... until....
he glared at the Dark Lord. "Stay out of my head!" If
you're my father, you're supposed to know what to say! You‚ńôre
supposed to... to... feel something for me.
ask for what I cannot give," Vader said, and Luke didn‚ńôt know
if he was answering the warning or the thought. Either way, he didn‚ńôt
like the reply.
he said dismissively. "Are you going to keep me here?"
helmet tilted slightly. "I am keeping you."
in Vader's voice made him shiver. It was so... possessive. Luke
wasn't sure if he was afraid or pleased. "Will you let Jas go?"
would I do that?"
I'm asking you," Luke muttered. "He didn't hurt me. Just
get my lightsaber from him first, will you?"
he snapped. "Is it yours? I‚ńôm not stupid, I know it was
planted to lure me out. Okay, so you got me. Now I want the saber."
see." Vader folded his arms again, evidently his favored
position. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
now that you mention it." Luke stood up and mirrored the posture
by folding his own arms. "I want my backpack that I left in
Eisley. Do you have it?"
clothes and contraband."
my skyhopper!" he added, outraged at the easy dismissal of his
belongings. "My best friend made that and I want it back!"
disappointing. I had hoped the model was a demonstration of your
flushed, caught off guard. "I‚ńôll give you a demonstration of
my talent some day!" he retorted.
look forward to that day, young one." With a dramatic swirl of
his cape, the Dark Lord turned to the exit. Immediately the door
opened for him.
it!" Luke called, panicking. "I need my ‚ńôhopper! And let
Jas go! And I don‚ńôt want to stay here. Can I have another room? I
promise not to take it apart -- I swear!"
gestured to someone unseen. "I leave such decisions to you,"
he said and continued on his way.
sighed as Captain Piett entered and stood very straight, hands
clasped behind his back. "You have a request?"
couple, actually." He flashed his best smile at the ship's
commander. "A real room to stay in? I promise not to destroy any
more property. And I‚ńôm sorry I messed up your ship ‚ńď it was an
accident, honest! I just wanted to... umm... explore. Or maybe...
okay, I wanted to escape," he added when Piett didn‚ńôt respond
positively. "Dumb idea, hunh?"
He was starting to like this guy. "But that‚ńôs all I want, just
a room to stay in instead of a cell. He has the other stuff I
want ‚ńď like my pack and my model skyhopper. Oh ‚ńď unless you can
let my friend go? He didn‚ńôt kidnap me, he thought he was saving me
from Vader. That‚ńôs a pretty logical assumption, don‚ńôt you think?"
incline on the head allowed that yes, indeed, it was logical.
was looking promising. "If I‚ńôm going to be here for awhile,
maybe I could have a holovid in my room? And some snacks? Maybe
something to do? I could fix stuff for you, I‚ńôm good with my hands.
In fact," he continued, warming to his subject, "I wanted
to enlist as a mechanic -- they said I was too young, but that was a
long time ago." Pausing, he studied the solemn face. "Or do
you think Vader‚ńôs going to kill me?"
raised one eyebrow at the last suggestion. "I think... that we
can find other quarters for you. If I have your solemn promise that
you will not destroy any more Imperial property."
swear!" Luke said eagerly. "Anything, I just want out of
here! And I would like to not be killed, please."
small smile quivered along the edges of the captain‚ńôs mouth.
"Perhaps if you were more judicious in your choice of words...?"
looked at him blankly. "What do you mean?"
didn't answer him, which was an annoying and rude adult habit, but
instead gestured to a uniformed man wearing very few rank insignia.
After a brief conference, the man jerked his head to indicate Luke
should follow him.
Cap!" He gave Piett a casual, two-fingered salute and followed
the other man.
Sergeant," the captain called as an afterthought, "take him
to the barber first."
He was so horrified, he couldn't even form words to protest. As
if his life wasn't messed up enough, now they were going to give him
one of those military haircuts. But... maybe that meant they were
going to let him enlist! Maybe Vader was going to let him be an
that wasn't an option.
* * *
took a long time arriving because it took forever for him to fall
asleep. The ship was full of strange noises. His room was totally
dark except for a faint light coming from a ceiling vent, providing
only enough illumination to create shadows in the corners. Luke woke
with a jolt and lay in bed for several minutes, breathing fast from
the terrifying nightmares that had woken him several times during the
night. He didn‚ńôt remember anything about them, except that there
had been a lot of darkness, he couldn't see and he was scared by...
something. Maybe he‚ńôd dreamt about Vader; that wouldn't be
surprising. The upshot of the sleep-disturbed night was that he was
exhausted, more tired than he'd been yesterday. And his brain that
was tired, too, from everything he'd learned. He'd never expected
Vader to allow him to have a computer that linked into the Galactic
Database. Or maybe it was Captain Piett who'd done it.
way, he'd found some new stuff about Anakin Skywalker, that he'd been
a heroic Jedi and a supporter of the "right" form of
government -- that turned out to be the Empire, no surprise there.
But the biggest gift was finding out about his mother, Padme Amidala
or Naberrie or whatever -- she had been a senator and a queen, his
mother had been a queen! He had a lot of mixed feelings about
that. It didn't surprise him that Anakin Skywalker Vader had courted
a queen because Vader was pretty amazing. But Luke felt uncomfortable
that he was the son of a queen... he sure didn't look or act like a
prince. No wonder Vader was disappointed in him. There was a saying
that Aunt Beru had scolded him with a couple times. His memory was
hazy about the exact quote, but his interpretation of it in this
situation was: if he would be a better son, maybe Vader would be a
better father. It was worth a try. He'd be better than good, he'd be
perfect -- how hard could that be?
I am Lord Vader and this is my Perfect Son Luke.
what if Vader didn't want a son? Nowhere in the Database did
it mention that Padme married -- or ever had a baby, for that matter.
So it must have been a big secret, maybe a shameful one. He supposed
that when Uncle Owen called him a sithspawn bastard, he'd
meant it literally.
he wriggled his body around until his legs flopped over the edge of
the bed and the floor brushed his feet. He propped himself on his
elbows, resting for a moment before gingerly pushing into a sitting
position. The bed was a mess, sheets tangled and twisted in mute
testimony to his night terrors. With a yawn, Luke stood and
stretched. If he was going to get Perfect, it was time to start.
Rubbing his eyes, he staggered into the fresher.
sonic shower made him feel only marginally better. He combed his
hair, delaying looking in the mirror. Dressing quickly -- he still
hated the jumpsuit -- he drew a deep breath and steeled himself to
check his reflection.
hair was... well, not too short, but it barely touched his
collar now. Still, the various bright colors that had never quite
come out of the ends had been cut off, making him look a little more
civilized. He straightened, realizing he looked much more Perfect.
Except for those... shadows? No... what was that?
forward, he spread his collar wider. His throat was black and purple
and blue. Rubbing it with his forefinger made him wince. That wasn't
dirt, it was bruises. From his father choking him.
vision blurred and he took several deep breaths to clear it. He would
be a better son and Vader would be a better father. Until then, he
couldn't let anyone see the marks. He fastened the buttons to the top
and turned up the collar. Only the edges of the bruises were barely
visible. No one would know that his father had --
a minute! No one knew he was Vader's son. They thought he was a Jedi,
in which case the bruises were acceptable, even a mark of bravery
that he'd lived through a confrontation with the Dark Lord. Still....
he left the collar buttoned high.
heard the sound of his door sliding open. "Doesn‚ńôt anyone
knock around here?" he grumbled before stepping into the main
room. Captain Piett stood there and Luke was surprisingly glad to see
him. "Hi!" he said cheerfully. "Did you come to visit
came to escort you to sick bay," Piett said, not returning the
smile, though it looked like it was a struggle to keep his lips in a
not sick!" He tried again, this time with his absolute widest,
friendliest smile. "Just hungry!"
having blood tests and a general physical, then you may eat. Are you
do I have to get ready?" he pointed out as he followed
the officer into the corridor. "Are you in charge of me? Why
isn‚ńôt someone else dragging me around, like an ensign or whoever?"
Piett replied crisply as they stood in front of an elevator,
"shepherding you takes precedence over commanding this ship."
Luke grimaced. "Sorry."
your fault," the man said shortly, then added so crossly and
quietly that Luke knew he was talking to himself, "Not when
there‚ńôs an admiral on board."
elevator arrived and they entered, making the fast trip in silence.
Arriving on another level, Luke found himself in an identically
boring and impersonal corridor. There was very little of interest to
observe, so he amused himself by marching in step with the captain
and pretending he was an officer, too. That entertained him for a
good ten seconds.
you like Vader?"
shot him a reprimanding glance. "Lord Vader is commander of the
it didn‚ńôt sound like the captain was going to be forthcoming with
any gossip, like if his dad had a girlfriend and if said imaginary
girlfriend would tolerate a nearly-grown son. "What do you know
about me?" he asked curiously.
name is Luke Skywalker and Lord Vader ordered your capture."
it?" Krit. That meant he probably shouldn‚ńôt tell Piett that
Vader was his dad. "He didn‚ńôt say why he wanted me?"
you know?" Piett didn‚ńôt seem particularly interested. In fact,
he seemed eager to abandon his charge in front the door labeled
was a little miffed about being brushed off. "Well," he
said innocently as they entered the medical area, "I think it‚ńôs
because of this." Holding out his hand, he employed one of the
few Force tricks he could usually manage. A datapad flew across the
room and into his hand. He grinned. "You think that‚ńôs
scowling, gray-haired man wearing a medical tunic snatched the
datapad from him. "I want him under guard while I examine him."
be good!" Luke vowed, looking away from the stern physician to
his new friend Piett. But the captain didn‚ńôt look too friendly
right now. "Honest. No guards required."
have a trooper posted outside the door," Piett told the doctor,
then frowned at Luke. "Please do not attempt any more Jedi
tricks or I will be forced to restrain you."
won't. Anyway, I can only do little tricks. I‚ńôm self-taught,"
he added proudly.
folded his arms. "Proceed with your examination, doctor."
doctor wore no name badge, so Luke decided to call him ‚ńėDoc‚ńô.
"What‚ńôre you going to do to me, Doc? I‚ńôm ticklish, y‚ńôknow,
so be careful."
the table and remove your shirt." The eyes were steel-gray and
fidgeted under that gaze. "Umm... why?" he asked, stalling.
If the doctor saw the bruises, there would be questions.
Doc said in an exasperated tone.
as the doctor asks," Piett commanded.
didn‚ńôt ask," Luke pointed out. But they continued staring at
him, so he hopped onto the exam table and unbuttoned the tunic as
slowly as he could, hoping they would get tired of waiting and tell
him to skip it.
so many of his desires, it was evidently going to remain unfulfilled.
He let the tunic drop around his waist and looked down, not wanting
to see their expressions.
see you‚ńôve met the Sith Lord," Doc said, chuckling
Piett scolded, imitating the physician‚ńôs earlier exasperation.
this examination will proceed much faster if you don‚ńôt interrupt. I
suggest you wait outside."
well." Piett hesitated when Luke sent him a horrified glance.
"Don‚ńôt be afraid, you‚ńôll be fine."
not afraid!" he lied stoutly.
doctor waved his hand at Piett. "Go on, I won‚ńôt kill him."
reassuring," Luke mumbled, wishing Piett wouldn‚ńôt leave. "I
won't mind if you want to stay. Really."
captain walked over to the door, paused to study him, then remained
inside the infirmary, arms folded, watching them. Luke felt better.
The doctor grumbled something inaudible.
it turned out, Luke had been worried for no reason. He‚ńôd never had
a physical, but it was simple and painless. Even the blood test
didn‚ńôt hurt, and he couldn‚ńôt help comparing the Alderaani
bloodsucker‚ńôs technique with this doctor.
relatively healthy," Doc finally pronounced. "Vader will
love your blood sample."
had no idea what that meant. "Why?"
sure he‚ńôll explain before he kills you," Doc said mildly. "You
can put your shirt back on."
he thrust his arms into the tunic, managing to twist it while he
wriggled. "I'm just a kid, he wouldn't kill me! I don‚ńôt
you or keep you prisoner. Either way, the end result will be the
same. You never should have let yourself be captured by the bounty
bounty hunter?" Luke exclaimed.
enough!" Piett said sternly. "If you are finished, I‚ńôll
take Luke now."
quite." Doc handed Luke a small packet. "Put one of these
patches on your chest before retiring for the night. Be sure to use
for?" He turned the packet over, bewildered.
withdrawal causes night terrors. These will ease the symptoms. Now
get out of my sickbay." Doc waved them away.
followed on Piett‚ńôs heels, barely holding in questions until they
were in the corridor. "Are you spying on me at night? So
I had a nightmare ‚ńď big deal! I don‚ńôt need these patch things!"
He was furious, embarrassed, and hurt. "I'm not an addict! He's
a liar!" He tried to corral his emotions but that was doomed to
failure. "What bounty hunter? What‚ńôs he talking about?
Vader caught me and Jas, not some bounty hunter! I hate it
captain sighed. "Luke, please settle down. The doctor was
referring to the Falleen, but we have no indication that he was a
about the spying part?" he asked suspiciously.
are monitored in your quarters," the captain conceded, sounding
as though he would add more but evidently thinking better of it.
don't like that," Luke replied flatly. "And I'm not having
withdrawal. That doctor should be punished for saying so."
was only interpreting your blood test," Piett said firmly.
It was so humiliating! Spice was supposed to be relaxing, just for
fun. "Everybody does it," he muttered. "It's not
supposed to be...addictive." Get real. You know it's bad for
you, he scolded himself. You don't want to admit it, but you
came to a sudden halt.
coming." It was like standing in the desert and feeling an
approaching sandstorm throbbing beneath his boots. He couldn‚ńôt see
it or hear it or smell it, but he knew it was coming. He had
that feeling now, only the throbbing was in his heart instead of his
to be more circumspect than you have been," Piett advised.
thoughts exactly," and he chanted to himself: Perfect Son,
Perfect Son, Perfect Son. Perfect Spice-Addicted Son.
object of his good intentions loomed over him, bigger and darker than
ever. "Hello, sir," he said politely to the Sith and was
answered only by regulated breathing. Vader held out his hand.
are the results, my lord," Piett responded, producing a medical
scanned it briefly, then it disappeared, presumably into a pocket,
though Luke had a hard time believing that sleek uniform had any
pockets. "Thank you, Captain, you are dismissed. Young one, come
gave a clipped bow. "Yes, my lord." He smiled slightly.
Dark Lord had already turned away, and Luke had to lengthen his
strides to catch up and stay with him. "Did you hear that? He
called me 'Luke'."
will be severely reprimanded."
Uncertain, he looked sideways at his maybe-sire. Was Vader serious or
did he have a sense of humor? "I just meant that you could call
me that, too. Instead of 'Skywalker' or 'young one'. If you want..."
His words trailed off.
was getting used to Vader's lack of responsiveness. It annoyed him,
but he reminded himself that Perfect Son wouldn't comment on it.
"Would you have some time so we could talk? Sometime? Please?
black helmet swiveled and shiny eye pieces regarded him. It was like
being stared at by a giant mutant insect from a horror holovid. After
several seconds of surveillance, Vader said, "Now is convenient.
Come with me."
he agreed happily, before remembering that most of the stuff he
wanted to talk to Vader about wasn't very pleasant. "So... the
doctor said my friend Jas is a bounty hunter."
behind the mask came a sound like a snort. "The doctor is a
gossip-monger. Your abductor -- who is not your friend -- is a
foolish young one who thought to curry favor with Xizor by thwarting
There was that great word again. Falleens sure enjoyed thwarting
Vader. "What're you gonna-- " Perfect Son. "I mean...
please, sir, what will happen to him? You're not going to hurt him,
are you? He didn't do anything to me."
ship has been confiscated and he is on his way back to Falleen, where
his father is awaiting his arrival, no doubt most displeased with the
loss of his ship, as well as with his son."
said, as I am with mine, but Luke figured it was his
imagination. He increased his pace to a trot to keep up with Vader's
long strides and was breathless by the time they entered an elevator.
we going to Naboo now?"
much for finding his mother's family. "Are we going to
The head swiveled and the bug eyes stared at him. "You are an
embarrassment. I will not present you to my master until you are
swallowed his immediate response of indignation. "What do you
mean by 'ready'?" he inquired carefully.
you have learned proper manners and behavior."
then. Obviously it was time to rethink the Perfect Son plan. So he
thought about it for two seconds before banishing the idea. Being
perfect was too much trouble anyway.
that's gonna happen," he commented sarcastically as the elevator
came to halt and they entered yet another personality-free gray
corridor. "I don't need patches to sleep! It's hard enough to
wake up naturally. There's no sun in space! How am I supposed to wake
are many suns in space."
made a scoffing sound. "You know what I mean! Krit, this is a
long walk! When are we going to get there? Where are we going?"
have arrived." Vader halted by a closed door, pressed the panel
to open it, then marched inside.
followed, a little worried that he wasn't being annoying enough. The
longer he could put off the trip to Coruscant, the better. "Arrived
where? What is this? Krit, what's that thing?"
Immediately he headed for a huge metal ball at one end of the boring
room. "I could fit inside there! Ten of me could fit
away from it," Vader snarled. "It is my meditation pod and
I will not allow you to disrupt its serenity."
exsqueeeeze me! I wouldn't want to punch a hole in your
lordship's big black bubble!" There. That should convince the
big guy that it would be a very, very long time before he was ready
to be presented to King Ugly. Like maybe never.
some way, Luke found himself airborne. It wasn't an unpleasant
feeling, just... unsettling. He needed to learn to do this! He
floated toward a small conference table and landed in a chair with a
are you blind? I'm sitting! Good thing this seat is padded or I'd
have one sore butt!" He put his elbows on the table and gestured
to the opposite chair. "Take a load off. Let's talk."
Vader thundered, "are insolent!" The Dark Lord paced back
and forth. "You are a disgrace to the name of Skywalker. I am
heartily ashamed of you. You are ‚ńď "
ashamed of me?" he interrupted, jumping to his feet. The
chair fell back onto the floor with a loud clatter. "After the
stuff you've done? Jas told me about that Falleen city, how
you killed everybody, even the kids! You should be ashamed of
yourself, not me!" He folded his arms and glared. "How
do you think I feel, having a father I'm ashamed of?"
was a moment of stunned silence, following by what sounded
suspiciously like stuttering. If Darth Vader could stutter. "I ‚ńď
You ‚ńď I ‚ńď You are a thief and a drunk!" The medical datapad
reappeared and Vader slammed it on the table. "You are a spice
addict! Have you no brain? Spice is poison!"
change the subject! And I'm not an addict, I haven't had spice
for ages!" Even if the accusations were true, they still hurt.
"So I'm not perfect, what did you expect? I'm your son!
Nobody ever expected me to be anything but ‚ńď but... evil," he
finished, suddenly struck by the truth that he'd never thought deeply
about before. "Nobody expected anything good from me."
certainly fulfilled their expectations," Vader huffed
righteously. "How you have managed to live so long -- I can only
believe it is because your Destiny is stronger than your will to
was definitely 'destiny-with-a-capital-D'. "What Destiny would
that be?" His anger re-ignited. "Following in your
footsteps? Being a killer? No wonder I'm a disappointment to you ‚ńď
I'm only a thief and a spice user!" He yanked the chair upright,
holding onto it for a couple seconds before sitting hard and slumping
forward onto the table, his head lolling across his arms. "You
might as well go ahead and kill me. I'll never be good for anything.
I can't even be evil right! I'm a failure." He sighed heavily
and closed his eyes, completely depressed, and waited for Vader to
falsely accuse him of being melodramatic.
the Dark Lord pulled out the opposite chair and sat very straight,
gloved hands clasped on the tabletop. "I am hopeful that you
have some virtues," he said in a unsympathetic tone. "You
are brave... foolishly so at times. You cared for and protected
children on Tatooine."
killed children," Luke reminded him, raising his head, "so
why's it good that I protected them?"
hand made a sharp gesture. "There was much more to that incident
than you understand. A contaminant was released ‚ńď "
I know that part." He stared at his own hands. They looked a lot
smaller than Vader's. These were definitely not choking hands. "Why
did you put the factory there? Why were you even doing
sighed, the sound amplified by his vocoder. "It was my duty."
duty," he repeated. "So you think that makes you innocent?"
the quiet that followed, he could hear the low thrumming of the
ship's engines matching the harsh breathing. The helmet bent forward.
"Nothing can make me innocent, Luke," Vader said
eventually, sounding tired. "Perhaps I never was. And neither,
perhaps, were you."
shivered. A strange feeling coursed through him. It felt like... he
wasn't alone with his scary thoughts any longer, even though he
hadn't been aware of being alone until this moment. He wished he
could say it out loud so that Vader knew what he was feeling, but....
feel it too."
looked up. "Stop reading my mind," he said without heat.
not." Was that the hint of a smile in Vader's voice? "Only
the feelings that you broadcast so strongly... or perhaps those were
my feelings that you received and reflected back."
like I'm some sort of Force antenna?" He pretended to frown.
"Great, I'm on the Darth Vader Channel." Amusement was born
and died a quick death. "Does that mean I'm going to be evil
like you? Unless you kill me, of course."
am not going to kill you," the Dark Lord said with some
exasperation. "Why do you continue to fixate on that idea?"
told you, that's what everybody told me would happen!
Evil or dead, not my choice!"
Just who is 'everybody'?"
told you!" he snapped. "Don't you listen?
Owen and Beru and Ben!"
people. Hardly 'everybody'."
he muttered sullenly. Folding his arms, he refused to look at...
well, his father, whether Vader admitted it or not.
me with respect."
stood. "Address me with respect or suffer the consequences."
rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. "There you go with the
'consequences' threat again. If you're not going to kill me or make
me evil, what consequences are left?"
one, you do not know whom you are baiting!"
that's right, I don't, because you won't tell me!" Luke grinned
wickedly, pleased to get even more reaction out of the Sith.
"Speaking of knowing... did you know my father? Anakin
Skywalker? Jedi Knight? Sound familiar?"
one." With a swiftness surprising in someone so large, Vader
came around the table, grabbed Luke by his already-too-tight collar
and lifted him from the chair. "You will make a dramatic
change in your attitude and you will begin now or you will pay
his feet weren't touching the floor! "Put me down! You're
the one who needs an attitude adjustment, not me!" His wriggling
was proving fruitless, so he tried punching at some of those buttons
on Vader's chest. "Let me down! And I wanna see your face
when you're yelling at me! Take off that stupid mask!"
cannot take it off!" the Sith roared and let go of Luke's
collar so suddenly that the boy dropped to the floor, then turned his
back, visibly shaking with violent rage and...
else. Luke frowned as he scrambled to his feet. "Why not?"
clenched, but Luke could see little else behind the ebony cloak.
"It... breathes for me," Vader finally hissed, so low that
his words were barely audible.
he repeated. Well, that explained the famous Vader sound that kids
used to imitate in school. They thought he breathed strangely because
he was an alien monster, and Luke hadn't been able to correct them.
was injured. I... no longer have working lungs." The shaking was
controlled but the fingers were still balled tight.
lungs?" Appalled but curious, he pressed, "How did it
fist unrolled and the hand made a gesture of open frustration. "It
happened... that is all you need to know. Anything further is not
your concern. "
image flashed through his mind -- pain, rage, horrific screams...
blazing fire that he'd seen before... in his dreams? -- and he jerked
his head to clear the scene. "Does that mean... is what Ben told
me true? He said you were more machine than man."
made a guttural sound, aborted suddenly as if the breathing regulator
wouldn't allow it. "Then Obi-Wan had forgotten what makes a
man," he said bitterly.
was stricken into silence. Sure, he was angry at Vader for... for
not... well, for something. But he hadn't meant to really hurt
him by bringing up awful memories. He'd only wanted to hurt the big
guy enough to make him respond. Well, he was responding all right.
"I'm sorry," Luke whispered.
whirled on him. "I do not want your pity!" he
what do you want?" Luke retorted desperately, stepping
back from the angry giant.
heavily, the Dark Lord said nothing for a long minute, thankfully
taking time to control his temper. When he spoke again, his voice was
tense but even. "I have assigned you the quarters next to mine.
There you will find your new uniforms, which I expect you to wear
every day. Your appearance will be consistently clean and neat. You
will obey me in all things. In return, I will teach you that which
you will need to know to survive your future."
questions was obviously not a good idea right now. "Yes, sir,"
he replied, temporarily subdued.
are dismissed. Your quarters are to the right. I will come by shortly
and I expect you to be ready."
for what, he wondered, but decided it would be wiser not to ask. Luke
walked slowly to the door and hesitated before opening it. "Tell
me, Darth Vader... " he managed to ask in a whisper, not daring
to look back at the older man, "... who are you?"
not for the sound of breathing, he would have thought Vader had
vanished. But several respirations later, a deep voice behind him
am your father."
skin got clammy and his limbs started shaking. Luke barely made it
into his new quarters before his knees gave way and he leaned against
the wall beside the door, sliding down to hunch on the floor. Gasping
frantically to suck in air, he wrapped his arms around his middle and
am your father.
Four words. He'd known this! He'd always known it. Why should
just hearing the words hit him so hard? I am your father your
father your father... they echoed over and over in his brain,
like shouting in Beggar's Canyon. ...father father father....
were dark spots on his sleeves. He watched as more appeared. When he
heard a sob, he realized it must be him. Crying like a baby. He was a
grownup, he couldn't, he mustn't fall apart. He squeezed his arms,
digging in his fingers, holding himself tighter and tighter as if he
could force the tears to stop. Words from the last hour ripped
through him. His father was disappointed in him, they'd both said
terrible things, that wasn't what he wanted, he just wanted a father
-- a regular father. What was he going to do with Darth
what was Darth Vader going to do with him? They didn't even
like each other! They were nothing alike, they had nothing in common.
His father was a powerful leader, while he was a no-good kid. There
had to be a dreadfully evil force that controlled the galaxy,
something that thought it was funny to first separate them, then
bring them together like mismatched pieces of a puzzle that had no
was too complicated to think about. He couldn't think. He
just... hurt. Inside and outside, he hurt. His father was
coming and he had to wear the new uniform, he had to be ready for his
father, but he couldn't move.
good enough, Skywalker! He had to move. He had to be ready
so his father wouldn't be even more disappointed in him. But his legs
wouldn't budge. Even when he heard the door to his quarters slide
open, they still wouldn't move. Darkness like an impending storm
moved into his field of vision. Black boots, the edge of a shiny
ebony cloak that eddied like shifting sands. He should say something
n-n-not r-r-read-d-d ‚ńď "
deep voice interrupted, "You are a very strange child."
didn't make him feel better. He began to shiver harder. "N-not a
are behaving like one. Still, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised,"
Vader said, and Luke couldn't even begin to interpret his tone.
blackness swirled, enveloping him like a tent before puddling down on
his head. Claws hooked into his armpits and he was lifted to his
will make yourself ill." A black glove latched on his arm and
steered him somewhere. "Be calm. Focus the Force to calm
d-d-don't know h-how!" He was pushed down into a cushiony seat
and the Dark Lord paced in front of him, only the boots and the
swirling cape visible to Luke's lowered gaze.
course you know how!" Vader snapped. "Obi-Wan must have
taught you something!"
The word came out as a very loud hiccup, making him even more
embarrassed than he already was.
Vader had called Ben by that Obi-Wan name before. "He d-didn't
teach me any.. anything." His babyish sobbing was slowing, thank
the stars. He sniffled, hiccupped, sneezed, and grabbed a
handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Then he blew his nose, hard. Twice.
realized his ersatz handkerchief was black. "Sorry." He
looked up and sent his father a watery, apologetic smile, folding
over the wet edge of the cloak a few times before squeezing it flat
and releasing it. The quantity of stuff that came out of a nose
always amazed him.
levitated an object during your medical examination." To Luke's
relief, Vader was evidently going to ignore the fact that parts of
his cloak were sticking together.
taught myself." He hiccupped again. "Stuff I read about
Jedi and Sith doing. I can move little things and I can jump off
roofs. Can the Force stop hiccups?"
will work this time," Vader said firmly. "Inhale deeply."
another hiccup, he drew in a long, loud breath. Vader's hand clamped
over his mouth, leather-clad fingers squeezing his nostrils shut.
Luke struggled, wondering if this was retaliation for the Cloak
He was not squirming! Just when he thought he couldn't go a
moment longer without air, the hand was removed. Luke gasped twice,
fully recovered. "What was that for?"
hiccups are gone," the Dark Lord declared smugly.
Luke folded his arms and waited. Nothing happened. Maybe Vader was
right. Hell of a way to cure hiccups, though. The Dark Lord could use
some classes in parenting.
have rules for you. They are not subject to discussion."
stifled both a sigh and a smart response. It was second nature to
snap retorts back at people, but Vader wasn't a person. Vader was his
father, and this is what fathers were supposed to do -- tell their
sons what to do. "Okay."
will address me with respect. In front of others, you will address me
as 'my lord', 'sir', or 'master'."
I call you 'father' in private?" Luke interrupted.
hesitated before answering. "If you wish. However, no one must
know of our relationship."
he whispered, disappointed. That ban brought up several questions.
"This isn't a discussion, but... who will people think I am? Is
it private here? Aren't my quarters being monitored?"
quarters are not monitored. I am allowing you several privileges,
privacy among them."
Cool!" He grinned. "What are my other privileges?"
sounded like the Sith sighed again, but he couldn't be certain. "It
will be assumed that you are my apprentice. It is unfortunate that
the name 'Skywalker' was revealed. To help mitigate that blunder, I
will address you only as Luke. Those newly familiar with the name
'Skywalker' have had losses of memory or have been otherwise dealt
frowned. So Captain Piett wasn't calling him by his first name
because he liked him, but because he was forced to. "What's
wrong with 'Skywalker'?"
was a short pause, then Vader sat beside him. The sofa cushion
depressed, tipping Luke slightly. "Certain people are aware of
my former identity. It is not safe for you to be known as my son."
He finally had his father, but he still couldn't tell anyone.
It was dismaying, but he refused to let it spoil the joy he was
feeling right now, having a great conversation with his dad. Unless
he was very much mistaken -- and he hardly ever was -- his solid
steel old man was softening. There was one sure way to find out.
Cautiously, ever so slowly, Luke began to lean sideways. Just a
little. He kept tilting like a top-heavy building until the side of
his head rested against Vader's arm.
That was much better. The cloak was really soft against his face. Too
bad his father couldn't feel it. Did he always have to wear all that
armor and padding? Even the gloves? Luke couldn't help wondering if
there was anything left of his dad's body. Maybe he was a droid
except for his brain. Still... he had a voice, so there had to be
some of him left.
about my other privileges?" he prodded.
had stiffened at the contact and now he tried to pull the edges of
his cloak closer, like he wanted to withdraw into it. Luke choked
back a giggle as the immaculate leather glove came in contact with
the... well, his nose residue. Vader grunted and wiped off his
fingers on a clean part of his cape, then stood. Luke caught himself
before falling flat and sat up straight.
am going to change my cloak. Put on your uniform. When I return, we
will go to the bridge. It is a privilege and," Vader added
sternly as he strode to the door, "a test of your behavior. Fail
this test or any other, and you will be confined to your quarters
harsh, he said silently. Aloud, he said, "Yes, Master,"
earning a glance that he suspected was actually a glare beneath that
mask. But he grinned, feeling more light-hearted than he had in...
well, in forever.
finally had his father and he was positive that they were going to
"uniform" wasn't bad at all. In fact, he looked very mature
in black and brown, sort of a mini-Vader but cuter. Too bad there was
nobody on the ship to admire him. Not that he needed girls to
admire him, but it would be a pleasant change.
image in the mirror didn't look confident, though; it looked anxious.
He struggled to change his expression and ended up with a barely
acceptable "Honest, I'm fine" look. Turning away from his
substandard reflection, he wiped sweaty palms on his pants. He had so
many questions about his future that he didn't know which one to
start with. But his father had forbidden discussion.
father entered his suite without asking permission, so Luke left the
'fresher and went to confront him, hoping his appearance was
acceptable. Vader dropped a box and a familiar tan bag on the desk.
pack! You brought it!" Luke exclaimed, forgetting his concerns
and rushing over to rip it open. Colorful fabrics spilled out. "You
didn't take my clothes!"
am not a thief."
happiness dimmed a little and he sent a reproachful look at his
father. "Neither am I. Not any more."
am relieved to hear that." Vader watched as he unwrapped the
model skyhopper. "I am surprised that your friend was willing to
part with work of such quality."
Fixer's good with his hands." He examined the ship carefully,
ensuring it was fully intact. "It was a going-away present.
Something to remember him by."
Vader folded his arms. "I take it, then, that 'Fixer' is Laze
Loneozner, the person who illegally gave you his identification
thing Vader couldn't see his heart pounding in sudden fear! "Uh...
no, he didn't give them to me, I stole them."
with his model?"
I wouldn't steal from him! Uh... I mean, besides certain things...
just his I.D...."
helmet tilted slightly. When he spoke again, the Sith's voice sounded
almost indulgent. "Fixer must be a good friend indeed to take
such a risk for you."
best friend," he said sadly, blowing particles of Tatooine sand
off its wings before placing the model at the far side of his desk.
"For almost my entire life."
long?" Vader moved closer and leaned against the edge of the
desk. One gauntleted hand reach toward Luke's face. He flinched, then
forced himself to hold still. Fingers spread his collar wide and
hovered over the bruises. After a moment, the hand dropped.
stretched several seconds until it crossed the boundary from
tolerable into awkward. Luke swallowed. "Does my, um, uniform
fidgeted with the collar. "So... I'm not an officer or anything,
right? I mean, this isn't like a real uniform, there's no insignia."
arms folded. "It is similar to what I wore as a young Jedi
Knight and Sith warrior."
But no cloak? I guess I could wear my old one." He rummaged
through the pack.
not. At any rate, given your limited history with cloaks, I believe
your laundry costs would bankrupt the Imperial Treasury."
funny." He looked down, struggling to form words that would
convey his worry without angering the Dark Lord, who seemed to be in
a good mood for a change. He couldn‚ńôt find any.
a few more silent moments, Vader spoke. "Young one, you asked me
a question that I answered. Now I have the same question for you."
shot a wary glance at his father. "What is it?"
did you mean when you asked me?"
that case...." Luke smirked. "I'm your son. Lucky you."
son of multiple identities. I require clarification as to which one
is the true Luke." The helmet tilted to the side and Vader
raised three fingers. "Luke Lars is a miscreant who is not worth
my time." One finger folded down. "Luke Skywalker, on the
other ‚ńď "
have different names, too!" he snapped defensively to avoid
further ridicule. "It's no big deal! And you skipped 'Luke
Vader', I was him my whole life. Of course, that was a Big Secret
that I couldn't tell, so I never really was Luke Vader, was I?
And now I can't be Luke Skywalker because it's a dangerous
name. Maybe I should just stick with Oz, he's smart and cool and
dangerous and totally not Luke." A glint of enlightenment
flashed across his mind, then vanished almost as quickly, leaving him
as confused as always.
the Dark Lord murmured reflectively. "An interesting persona,
one I could possibly utilize."
he felt queasy. "So you want me to be Oz?" Disappointment
interlaced with his confusion.
this time, I do not need to add another criminal to the Imperial
payroll." Vader paused. When he continued, his tone was quieter,
more reflective. "You must understand your importance. If your
behavior continues to be as inconsistent and irrational as it has
been, you will be useless to the Emperor and to me. You lack
definition and purpose, and that is unacceptable."
I don't know what my name is," Luke mumbled lamely, looking
around the room for a reason to change the subject.
are only labels," the Sith replied dismissively. "I want to
know who you are."
impact of all Vader's words exhausted him, he sagged onto the edge of
the desk, close but not too close since proximity seemed to
make his dad nervous. "I don't know." It was his automatic
response, but when he thought for a moment, he realized it was the
truth, and it was a truth too complicated to face right now, so he
lashed out. "You've got rules for me and I'm supposed to
obey them, but I don't know who I am! How am I going to find
out if you always tell me what to do? And if names are so damn
unimportant, how come you have more than one?"
helmet tilted slightly and his father sighed. "Child, I was not
ignoring your existence during those months I allowed you freedom in
Mos Eisley. I learned much about you. Your teachers regarded you as
intelligent but a disruptive influence, your grades were poor because
you missed many classes -- "
didn't ‚ńď "
raised one hand for silence. "These are not accusations, Son,
Luke's heart leaped into his throat. "Okay," he mumbled,
suppressing his sudden need to hug the Sith Lord and get hugged back.
aroused great loyalty in some friends, but disappointment and fear in
others. Your evasions of troops sent to catch you cannot all be
attributed to your untapped Force skills; there is an innate
cleverness in you that was also at work. You are na√Įve, yet
streetwise. Wary, yet too trusting. You are mature enough to care for
a group of orphans, yet among adults...." Vader surprised him by
Luke asked nervously when the Dark Lord didn't continue.
behave either as a caricature of an irresponsible adult, one who
abuses alcohol and illegal substances, or you behave considerably
younger than your years. Your actions can be honorable or
reprehensible. In my presence, you prefer to hide behind the
protection of a puerile mask rather than expose your true self."
by the onslaught of descriptions, he wasn't certain whether he had
ultimately been complimented or insulted. But the last one.... "What
does puerile mean?" he asked uncertainly.
And obnoxious." Vader folded his arms, but it didn't seem
to be a sign of displeasure this time. "You wear many masks."
of masks and lots of names, like father, like son!" Luke
quipped, uncomfortable with the serious direction this conversation
was taking. "But the obnoxious part isn't a mask, it's how I
I believed that, I'd throw myself out an airlock," Vader said
seriously. He shook his head. "Luke, your identity is not tied
to the names you use. It is here." Black leather fingers brushed
the center of his chest.
yeah? Does that mean you're still the same inside?" He
reached over and mimicked the gesture, careful not to press any
buttons this time, and looked directly into the mask that hid his
father's face. "The same as when you were named Anakin
in the room rattled, and he snatched back his hand. Vader was angry.
Luke could feel that anger inside him. Yet it wasn't only rage
coursing through the Sith; there were more emotions, confusing ones,
like earlier. Pain, sadness, loneliness... feelings that seemed
uncharacteristic for a Sith Lord. But Luke couldn't quite tell the
difference between his feelings and his father's, so maybe those were
his sorrows and fears, not Vader's. "You wear a mask,
too," he whispered, the words coming from his heart rather than
his brain. "The difference is that everybody can see yours. They
can't see mine. They think the mask is really me. Except... you
see me. Just like I see you."
the Dark Lord rose and stalked to the opposite side of the room. For
a heart-stopping moment, Luke thought he was leaving. But Vader
halted in front of the door and turned, fists on his waist. "We
are talking about you. Your upbringing was inadequate. You
were not allowed to develop your true self -- to learn that you have
an identity beyond being the son of Vader. I believe that is why you
have no direction in your life." His father paused, studying him
for interminable seconds. "I will endeavor to give you only
rules of behavior, not rules that dictate who you should become. You
have infinite potential, but you have not had the guidance that will
allow you to reach that potential. Indeed, the deplorable lack of
guidance has caused you to veer off the Path toward your Destiny."
nodded vigorously. "Yeah, I've been thwarted a lot, that's for
Dark Lord made an odd, strangled noise as if he was clearing his
you must change in order to survive. I am willing to provide
guidance, but I have no experience as a father and will require input
from you. If you have needs, tell me and I will fulfill them if they
seemed like a lot of 'if's'. Luke slid him a sideways glance. "I
have a need not to be choked. Think that's reasonable?"
came an unnerving silence. "I will try not to throttle you,"
Vader said finally, "and instead find another outlet for my
hope you don't mean a person," he answered uneasily. "Maybe
you could kick a door."
you could attempt to be more reasonable and refrain from deliberately
never deliberately.... Well. Okay, I suppose I could try."
you," his father replied dryly. "I realize I am requesting
the nearly impossible."
good that you realize it," Luke stated solemnly. His father was
still hovering by the exit, so he looked around for something to
detain him. His gaze landed on the forgotten box that Vader had
brought. "Hey, what's this?"
beginning of your education." The Dark Lord approached and they
both looked into the box crammed with datatapes.
a lot of tapes," Luke said doubtfully. "It could take
months to get through them."
years, to be precise. At the rate of one per week. If you are slower,
it will take longer."
he picked up a couple tapes and looked at the labels. "The
History of Galactic Civilizations?" He grabbed more. "They
all say the same thing."
are a lot of civilizations in the galaxy," Vader said, something
that sounded suspiciously like amusement in his voice. "However,
that single study would certainly not give you a well-rounded
education. There are also tapes of increasing levels of mathematics,
geography, political -- "
don't like math," he complained.
you want to be a pilot, you will need to know how to program jump
points, will you not?"
what navicomputers are for!"
if your navicomputer fails?"
sighed loudly. "Can't I use the Force?"
Also," Vader continued in the same playful tone, as though he
were enjoying himself, "there are tapes on physical sciences and
biology, psychology, tactical -- "
Emerging Empire: The Glorious Promise?" he quoted
incredulously, waving a tape in the air. "You've got to be
kidding! I'll get old and die before I get through these! It'll be so
boring! Can't I have a tutor tell me this stuff instead?"
is an Imperial vessel, not a school. You will study quietly, and I
will personally examine your understanding of these subjects by
questioning you after completion of each tape. This a large
commitment of my valuable time, so I will expect you to be prepared.
You may select which category to study first."
to think I always wanted a father!" he grumbled under his
you?" Vader asked after a slight pause.
had changed in the tone, Luke noted. "Yeah... sort of. Okay, if
you want to torture me with all this, I'll go along with it. But hey,
what are we doing hanging around here? I thought we were going to the
are. And there you will demonstrate to me your ability to follow my
rules. You will remain close by my side -- "
-- yet at a respectful distance."
do I ‚ńď "
will address me properly ‚ńď "
when we're on the bridge?"
all times," Vader continued, unperturbed by his interruptions.
"You will not speak to anyone except to respond to greetings.
You will not bother the personnel with questions. Agreed?"
guess." He grinned. "Can I fly the ship?"
you fly any ship?" Vader parried.
very well," he confessed. "I used to until I totaled the
'hopper years ago and Owen wouldn't get me another one."
will teach you to pilot."
will?" The door slid open and he stopped, staring at Vader with
helmet inclined slightly. "It is a necessity. But not today, and
we will start with a much smaller vehicle than a Star Destroyer."
Thank you... Father," he added shyly. His father was going to
teach him to fly a ship ‚ńď someday maybe even this ship. He
would be a pilot, a fighter pilot like in vid games! One day, he
could even be a hero.
hero was as good a person to become as any.
thought that went well," Luke said cheerfully. "Except
for... you know, that one thing. And except for my stomach rumbling."
His father was silent. "It wasn't my fault! I didn't have
fault was that if not yours?"
stepped into the lift, presumably headed back to their quarters.
"Uh... no one brought it to me."
is an auto-nutrition system in your quarters. Learn how to use it and
cease blaming others for your indolence."
sir." Was it possible to please Darth Vader? If so, he wasn't
doing it and that failure was making him nervous. He cleared his
throat. "And the... other thing was an accident, you know."
would have put that on your grave marker: 'Luke Skywalker, dead at
sixteen, it was an accident'."
not funny!" he snapped heatedly. "You told me not to ask
questions! How was I supposed to know that one tiny button would
flood the entire bridge with decontam foam? It wasn't marked 'danger'
a skull-and-crossbones insignia have stopped you from pushing it?"
don't know why you think this is a joke." Luke scowled, leaning
against the lift's wall.
am not remotely amused." It was Lord Vader who looked at him,
not his father. Helmet-Face was completely unreadable and
intimidating. "The crew knew to put on emergency masks; you were
unprotected. You could have been killed if not for the fast action of
that was another thing. His dad should have been the one to rescue
him, not Cap! Luke sent his father a sulky glare. "You wouldn't
have cared," he accused.
lift slid to a smooth stop. Vader stalked into the gray corridor with
Luke close at his heels. "Wait up! What's your rush? The ship
isn't going anywhere!"
do not know how to respond to such a ridiculous statement. Of course
the ship is going somewhere." The Sith came to an abrupt stop
and looked at Luke. "What are you doing?"
stepped back. "Nothing!" he denied automatically, feeling
guilty even thought he was nearly positive that he was innocent of
any wrongdoing at the moment.
are wrinkling my cloak again."
enough, when he looked down he saw that his fingers had wound into
the edge of the silky black fabric and were crumpling it, just like
they'd done on the bridge when he was struggling to remain 'close,
but at a respectful distance' while Vader kept walking away. "If
you knew what I was doing, why did you ask?"
surprisingly, his pointed question was ignored. Also not
surprisingly, Vader brought their stroll to a halt directly in front
of Luke's quarters.
I have to study?" Despite his effort to sound neutral,
his tone held a decided whine.
I am withholding the audiopad so you cannot study." The
Dark Lord pressed the door panel, but did not step inside. "I
want you to spend the next several days meditating, without
distraction of any sort. Except," Vader held up his hand to halt
Luke's immediate protest, "food."
inky helmet tilted. "About your past and your future," his
father said quietly. "I want you to review and analyze your
actions to this point in your life. Consider where you should have
acted differently and learn from those insights. Decide on the route
your future will take and the behavior necessary to arrive at your
desired destination. When you are done, we will talk."
will ‚ńď "
door slid closed. Luke punched the panel, but it was locked from the
outside. Just think? For days? He'd die of boredom
before then. Vader was the most unreasonable father in the galaxy and
he doubted that he would ever find anyone who would disagree about
pulled off his boots and padded over to his desk to figure out which
one was the auto-nutrition panel and how it worked. If he was going
to meditate, he'd need a lot of sustenance to keep up his strength. A
bowl of chips sounded good right about now, but he was annoyed to
find that his "menu" consisted of nothing but so-called
'healthy' choices. "Thanks a lot, Pop!" he muttered
sarcastically, confident that Vader was telling the truth when he
said Luke wasn't being monitored.
sating himself on cereal, fruit and milk ‚ńď his only beverage
choice, totally unfair ‚ńď Luke flopped on the bed and interlaced his
fingers behind his head. "How am I supposed to meditate? It
would be easier to talk, wouldn't it?" he asked the
was struck by a brilliant idea. Vader's words were so predictable,
Luke could be both of them and have a dialogue. "What an
excellent idea, Luke," he said in a deep voice. "You are a
Dad. So... what d'you want to talk about?"
my favorite subject ‚ńď you, of course!"
love talking about me." What had Vader instructed him to
meditate about? "Uh... my past, right? What I might have done
differently." He stared at the gray ceiling, considering. "Well,
I don't know what that would have been. I mean... like I said,
everybody expected me to turn out bad."
just who," he asked in a snide Vader-voice, "is
heaved a sigh. "Do I have to keep telling you over and over?
Owen and Beru and Ben!"
right, fine. So his teachers didn't know he was Vader's son... and
his friends didn't. And the entire populations of Anchorhead and Mos
else knew beside those three? Surely, my precious son, you didn't
base the course of your life on the opinions of three people?"
sat up. It was disconcerting to realize how much he could sound like
his father. "I don't even need you here to talk to you!"
stalling. Someone else knew. Who?"
was only one other, of course. "Me," he admitted quietly.
"I knew. I'm the one who didn't expect anything from me. I'm the
one who was sure I'd turn out badly. That's what you're saying,
right?" For a moment, he forgot he was alone and waited for a
all the answers were tucked away in his own head. "Yeah, okay,
that's what I'm saying. Owen and Beru and Ben may have labeled me,
but I created the 'Son of Vader'... and so what? Big deal. Am I
supposed to feel guilty? Or is this supposed to be like some big...
revelation, when I suddenly 'see the light' and decide to change my
a snort, he closed his eyes. His father had given him vague
instructions about meditating, but they were confusing and unclear.
What he'd already learned about himself was disconcerting, so when in
about it and take a nap.
was supposed to be a refuge, but it definitely wasn't this time. He
twisted and turned, sweating, heart racing, running in darkness, away
from fire that licked at his legs, screaming as invisible hands cut
off his oxygen supply and he was lost in the darkest place he had
ever been, he couldn't see or hear or breath and the planet was
shaking, shaking ‚ńď
up!" a deep bass voice said sharply, and he was yanked upright.
he rubbed his eyes and blinked, his gasps echoing the pounding in his
are having a nightmare." Darth Vader was sitting on the edge of
his bed. "You were told to use sleep patches, why didn't you?"
not night! I'm not sleeping, just taking a nap." He studied the
black-clad form, trying to assess his father's level of anger.
"Besides, patches are for an addict and I'm not an addict."
are not," Vader said, shocking him ‚ńď but in a good way this
time. "However, it is only thanks to the power of the Force that
you are not. A normal human would be."
was news. So if he couldn't become addicted, then there were probably
all sorts of things that he could ‚ńď
the Sith said sharply. "The Force only works to prevent physical
addiction. Psychological dependency is still possible... and such
dependency would temper your access to the Force."
well... he didn't really want to use spice anyway. His life was much
more interesting now and he didn't need drugs to 'spice' it up. "How
did you know I was having a nightmare?"
feel your strong feelings." Vader stood and walked to the desk,
inspecting the empty containers from his lunch.
light went on in his brain, flashing to get his attention. "Hey!
There was something you said earlier about that... umm... I wasn't
really paying attention."
an unusual occurrence."
cheeks heated. "You talk a lot, I can't listen to everything!"
are blaming me for your inability to pay attention?"
sighed heavily. "Will you let me get to the point? You said that
maybe I wasn't feeling my feelings, that maybe I was
reflecting your feelings." The helmet inclined slightly,
encouraging him to continue. "Then how will I know whose
feelings I'm feeling?"
more experience, you will know. And if you are more honest with
yourself, you will easily see the difference."
considered. "Okay, but before, when you said that... I was
feeling glad that I wasn't alone anymore because you're here. So if I
was reflecting your feelings that means you were feeling the same
thing. And that means you were lonely without me and you like
me and you're glad I'm here!"
that what it means?" Vader asked coolly, but there was a hint of
discomfort in his voice.
he said smugly. "Are you going to say I'm wrong... Father?"
was Vader's turn to sigh. "How did you get to be so precocious?"
better than obnoxious... isn't it?" he answered, a little
uncertain if he was being insulted yet again.
suggest that your first educational tape be language skills."
His father paused. "Precocious means that in some ways you are
developed beyond your years. You can be very perceptive at times."
He smiled a little, pleased. "I thought...."
Was that a command or an encouragement?
thought you thought I was... stupid." Flushing, he realized how
silly that sounded. "I mean...."
was a longer than usual pause. Luke counted six wheezing breaths
before his father spoke. "I regret if I have given you that
impression. You are far from 'stupid'. You are, however,
uneducated... a regrettable circumstance that we will rectify."
two wheezes. "As for my own education, I believe you will be an
excellent challenge to my patience."
yeah?" He smiled wickedly. "Wanna race? Which of us do you
think will win?"
was not aware we were entering into a competition."
grin widened. What the hell. He had a trick that always drove Uncle
Owen crazy, and it was pretty much guaranteed to push his pop over
the edge, too, and put a fast end to this race. "I was not aware
we were entering into a competition."
beg your pardon?"
bet your pardon?" Luke echoed.
sighed. Luke sighed.
Vader said nothing. Ten wheezes. Twenty wheezes. Thirty wheezes.
you going to say anything else?" Luke blurted, unable to stand
the silence any longer.
you going to say anything else?" Darth Vader repeated in
ominous, measured tones.
gasped. "Oh, no! Don't you dare!"
no. Don't you dare."
stood and placed his fists on his waist. "Don't do that!"
Luke pressed his mouth shut tight and glared.
unfolded his arms. If that mask could smirk, it was definitely
smirking now. A black-gauntleted hand reached out and a tape flew
into it. The other hand reached into the ebony cloak and brought out
a small audiopad. They were both held out to Luke, who grudgingly
father left‚ńĒhe didn't just walk, he strutted, like he was
proud of himself! Somehow Vader had gotten what he wanted, which
apparently was for Luke to shut up and study, and Luke wasn't quite
sure how it had happened.
there a tape here titled, Dad Vader 101?
life spent studying was a life depreciated. "I'm filled with
ennui," Luke said aloud, just in case Vader had lied about not
auscultating to him. Now that he had consummated the language tape,
he needed something else to transact. And his brain needed an
intermission from all these new words.
he walked across the room, shoved his hands in his pockets and stood
in front of the wall, leaning forward until his head rested against
the smooth surface that separated his quarters from his father's.
"Luke to Dad," he muttered, concentrating on sending brain
waves through the wall. "Disengage my door and emancipate me."
turned his head sideways and looked at the door. A dozen times today
he'd tried it, but he was locked in. It might be possible to take the
panel apart and rewire it so he could escape, but after the ceiling
duct incident he'd be pushing his luck with his dad and Captain
Piett. Without much hope, he walked over to the door and pressed the
He raced into the corridor, then stopped and dashed back to his desk,
snatching up the audiopad before heading out again.
were he wouldn't be allowed to explore ‚ńď and anyway, he didn't want
to explore, he wanted to be with his dad. So he approached Vader's
door, hesitating before raising his hand to knock. As he
semi-expected, the door slid open before his fist could make contact
he said brightly. "How was your day? I studied through the
plentitude of the day! I got through the aggregate
Vader was sitting at his large desk, datapads strewn in front of him.
The helmet turned to face him. "The what?"
the language tape. I've effectuated language already."
father sighed. "There is more than one tape."
His good spirits faltered, then rebounded. "Well, I'll actualize
the remainder in a timely manner. I was just wondering if you'd like
to perambulate with me. Or if you'd prefer to have some stimulating
wheeze was violent, like he was coughing. "What?"
Pops wasn't in a good mood. "Uh... you know... a little walkin',
a little talkin'. I'm bored." In case that didn't tweak the
right buttons, he added glibly: "And lonely."
an unnerving pause, his father replied, "I am busy and unable to
comply with either of your wishes. I suggest that you review the tape
you have completed. Be aware of multiple definitions. Also, you do
not need to use all the words you learn; use a select few in
moderation. And properly."
can't win!" Luke threw his hands in the air, then dropped onto
the sofa without invitation. "You want me close but not too
close. You want me to learn new words but not use them. You sure send
a lot of mixed metaphors!"
Vader snapped. "Mixed messages!"
glad you agree." Luke nodded seriously before breaking into a
wide smile. "I know, I was just yanking your chain."
my chain," the Dark Lord repeated incredulously, his voice low.
"So," he added after a moment, "you have reconsidered
your need not to be choked."
No!" Luke bolted upright and shook his head vigorously. "Nope!
Not at all!"
made a promise in exchange for that favor. Do you remember what it
not exactly. "Uh... not to antagonize you? I'm not antagonizing,
just... teasing." And since when was not being choked considered
tease a Sith," Vader said shortly. "If you promise to keep
quiet, you may continue your study here."
I promise!" Pleased, Luke stuck the audiobuds in his ears and
pressed 'play'. The sofa was oversized, though he had a hard time
imagining Vader lounging on it. Anyway, it was uncomfortable, so he
rearranged himself to sit cross-legged. After a couple minutes, his
legs became restless, so he slid down and hooked his right foot over
the back of the sofa. He tried that position for thirty seconds, but
the back was too high to be relaxing. So he stretched out, yawned
loudly, crossed his ankles and closed his eyes, idly wondering if he
could stay awake through the drone of the digitized voice. Maybe if
he hummed a snappy tune....
at the desk."
started. "Huh?" He lifted his head to see his father
gesturing to the opposite end of his wide desk. "Cool! Thanks."
end was too far away from his dad, so he grabbed the heavy chair. It
screeched as he dragged it across the floor and deposited it across
from the Sith. "What're you working on?"
promised to be silent," Vader answered without lifting his head.
Luke corrected. "Not silent." The reflective eye pieces
looked at him. He could sort of see himself in their surfaces.
"Sorry. I'll be silent."
pretended to be listening to the tape, but he was secretly watching
his dad punch the multiple datapads, moving from one to the other
without hesitating. It was pretty impressive. He was probably doing
something important, maybe moving troops around like on a galactic
wished really hard that his dad would show him what he was doing.
Maybe you could teach me. Maybe I could help!
what? "I don't know how."
ignored him. Luke struggled to be quiet, but it was impossible. "Can
I get something to eat? I'd be a lot silenter if I wasn't hungry."
may do whatever you want ‚ńď in your room."
He'd rather be hungry with his dad than eat alone again. "That's
okay, I'll stay here and not eat."
Your room. Go. Now."
raised his hand, palm outward, forestalling his protests. "You
made a promise. I gave you multiple chances, but you did not keep it.
You have forfeited your opportunity to stay here. Go."
He really, really didn't want to go. "I promise I won't ‚ńď "
do not believe you. Go. If I have to tell you again, the consequences
will be dire."
so not fair! You just enjoy being mean!" he
Vader snarled, shaking his finger, "you begin to understand me!"
rolled his eyes and stood. "Fine! I've been thwarted enough by
you, I'm going!" He stalked to the door. "Next time you
want some stimulating intercourse ‚ńď good luck finding anybody
who'll talk to you! I can tell you one thing for sure -- it won't be
only thing wrong with his exit was that the door wouldn't slam.
later, he was still in a bad mood. The loud muttering about his
father's unfairness was finished, but he still harbored dark thoughts
and didn't bother to "think silently", whatever that meant.
it wasn't really a surprise when the door slid open and the hulking
black figure of Darth Vader filled the doorway, undoubtedly in
lecture mode and ready to criticize.
you completed your sulking?"
made a face. "No." He folded his arms, fully prepared to
remain in a stubborn state of righteous hurt until Vader apologized.
chance. Vader didn't say another word, just folded his own arms. They
stared at each other. Luke tried not to blink, but Helmet-Face had
the advantage in a staring contest. "What?!" Luke demanded.
please! You're not expecting me to apologize, are you?"
helmet tilted slightly. "For what would you apologize?"
In the silence that followed, he noticed his fingers were tapping on
his sleeves, so he uncrossed his arms and plunged his fists in his
pockets. "I wasn't exactly being noisy!" he added
defensively. "Okay, maybe I wasn't super-quiet, but it's not a
crime! Sorry! You make such a big deal out of everything."
not a response, nothing!
you going to say anything?" Luke finally demanded, frustrated by
the silence. "I said I was sorry!"
what are you sorry?"
sorry I didn't escape!" he snapped. "Krit! I'd rather be
stuck on Tatooine than be here with you!"
can be arranged!" the Dark Lord rumbled, leaving Luke with a
queasy feeling in his stomach. It sounded like his dad was actually
kidding," he mumbled grudgingly. "I'm sorry I wasn't quiet.
I'll be quiet now."
Sith shook his head. "You do not understand." The anger
vanished from his tone as quickly as it had arisen, but now he
sounded disappointed, which was a thousand times worse.
blinked, thinking quickly. "I broke a promise. I do
understand. I'm sorry. I just... I didn't think that saying I'd be
quiet was really a promise... it was more like a... hope."
strange rasping sound startled him. Was that a laugh? He offered his
father a tentative smile.
walked toward his desk, almost like he was stalling. Luke watched
carefully, practicing being quiet as he waited for his father to
speak. Eventually he did.
give your word is a matter of honor. In the end, all a man has is his
honor." His dad paused. "Every person makes mistakes. One
cannot always keep one's word, but it is important to keep your
honor. If your word must be broken, it should only be in the most
extreme circumstance, for a critical reason."
feet shifted as he moved uneasily. "You mean I lost my honor
because I didn't keep quiet enough?"
black-gloved hand gestured sharply. "A promise is too important
to be given lightly. Before you make a vow, consider if you truly
intend and will have the ability to keep it."
had a feeling that there was more to this lesson than Vader was
saying. His pop was probably leaving the rest of it for him to figure
out himself. Luke nodded. "Okay," and since that seemed
inadequate, he added, "I'll think more about it."
And now have you completed your sulking?"
grinned. "Mmm... I'm not sure."
a pity. I had thought you might enjoy an excursion with me, but
perhaps another time." The Sith turned to leave.
he said quickly. "What excursion?"
short trip in my personal shuttle. Deep space sprites have been
spotted. I thought you might find the experience of viewing them to
be interesting and informative. However...."
space sprites!" Luke had no idea what those were, but didn't
want to reveal his ignorance. "I'll go!" He hastened to his
father and looked up at him. "I don't have to be quiet on this
excursion, do I?"
do not," Vader affirmed.
Luke followed him into the corridor. "And even though you didn't
ask, you're forgiven."
being cranky," he answered cheerfully. Then, because his father
seemed to be in a good mood -- and because he wasn't quite
forgiven -- Luke decided to point out something that he'd realized.
"You know, you made a couple mistakes earlier today."
I am certain that you will edify me as to the nature of these
I will. One," he held up a finger as they waited for a lift,
"you called me Lu‚ńĒby my full name in the lift and two,"
second finger raised, "you gave me the audiopad after you told
me you wanted me to meditate instead."
are correct," Vader agreed, and Luke smiled smugly. His cheeky
grin died, though, when his father continued, "After our
excursion, you may spend the rest of the evening in meditation."
he grumbled under his breath, though his heart was light. "Thwarted
am sorely tempted," Darth Vader said, "to strap down your
sent his father a disgusted look. "I won't touch anything - I
promise." All right, the shuttle's controls were right in
front of him, practically begging for him to use them, and maybe his
dad was reading his mind - but he'd made a promise and after that
sobering lecture on the same subject, he wasn't going to break it.
But if Vader didn't trust him....
he blinked and smiled, then stared out at space like he hadn't
noticed his father trusting him. His fingers began to tap restlessly
on the arm-grips of the copilot's seat, so he forced them to curl
around the edges. Keep still, damnit! "What're those?"
he asked, trying to distract his fingers.
sparkly things. It looks like blowing sand. But there's no wind in
are deep space sprites."
things?" he exclaimed, disappointed. "But... they're
nothing. Just dots."
were you expecting?"
you know...." Luke shifted uncomfortably. He hated looking like
an idiot. "You said sprites, so I thought sprites... you
know... naked little girls with wings."
uttered a very large noise that made Luke jump. Then he realized it
must have been a bark of laughter. For a second he was embarrassed,
but he decided that anything he could do to mellow his old man was a
good thing. "I have a naked little sprite tattooed on my...
do not. You have one tattoo, which will be removed."
amusement in Vader's voice so distracted him that he almost missed
the threat. "Oh, yeah?" He recovered quickly. "I'm
keeping my tattoo! It's an expression of my personal freedom. In
fact, I'm going to get another one, an x-wing fighter."
unfortunate choice. I would prefer you kept the TIE."
nothing wrong with an x-wing," he mumbled, disconcerted by his
father's sudden agreeableness. "It's not my fault -- I mean,"
he corrected hastily, remembering another lecture, "I agree that
it's unfortunate that the x-wing has become the primary combat
vehicle used by the rebels, but that doesn't detract from its
overall... uh... fly-worthiness."
taken," Vader said, his surprise not hidden from Luke's senses.
"However, I feel that one tattoo is adequate as any young man's
expression of freedom."
he agreed quickly before his dad changed his mind again. "If you
won't let me have another tattoo, I'll get pierced. Maybe my tongue."
long as the piercing comes with a closure mechanism."
rolled his eyes and looked to the side, struggling to hide his grin
from his dad. The holonews had never shown this side of Darth Vader,
his wit and humor. What else didn't he know about his sire?
attempt at solemnity was hopeless. He burst into laughter, both at
his dad's joke and his own overwhelming happiness.
find my statement amusing?"
not laughing at you," he said hastily, knowing how fast
his father could change moods, "I'm laughing with you."
am not laughing."
Vader didn't sound even a little convincing, Luke decided. "That's
an unfortunate choice."
Sith sighed. "Do you wish to learn about sprites or not?"
he answered cheerfully. "I'll learn whatever you want to teach
is bad enough that you think that ridiculous word," his
father said snappishly. "Do not say it."
right, all right!" He out-sighed his father loudly and
dramatically. "Go ahead, tell me about sprites. Hey, maybe I
have them confused with angels! Are angels naked girls with wings?
Have you ever seen one?"
was noticing that when it took his father a long time to respond to a
simple question, that meant the question wasn't as simple as Luke had
intended. Or the answer wasn't. He wanted to tell his dad to never
mind, it wasn't important, just tell him about sprites, when Vader
began to speak.
Or at least I thought I had. She was the most beautiful woman I had
ever seen. But she was no angel; she was only human, with all the
flaws and frailties of our species. She wished for the impossible...
and would settle for nothing less."
let the silence stretch for awhile, hoping to hear more, but it
finally became obvious that his father was lost in his memories.
"What happened to her?" he prompted.
roused himself physically, shifting in the pilot's seat. "I
risked everything to save her, but she betrayed me and I killed her.
Or... I thought I had killed her. Now I don't even know if she
truly betrayed me. I suppose I will never know," he added in a
Luke stared out at the rapidly disappearing sprites. The heaviness of
his father's mood was smothering. It filled the cabin, oppressive and
stifling. No wonder, with all those dark thoughts. How could his dad
kill someone he wanted to save? "Can I fly?" he asked,
anxious to lighten the atmosphere.
I fly the shuttle? You said you'd teach me. Now would be a good time,
don't you think?" He forced a smile as the blank mask turned
toward him. "Please?"
looked away. "Rest your hands on the controls."
gonna let me fly?" Really, he had no idea that a simple 'please'
could work so well!
will take the craft through some common maneuvers. Rest your hands
around the copilot's throttle and panel. They will reflect my
control. Feel the way the ship responds to different pressures and
wasn't real flying, but it was the closest he'd come since his
old 'hopper. Time seemed to speed past as his father ran through
simple moves first, then took them into trickier ones -- a spin that
left Luke's stomach somewhere in the rear compartment, sideways
swoops that made him laugh and Vader chuckle, and some heart-thumping
action that involved racing backward, then shooting straight up.
he breathed when the shuttle slowed again. "That was something
his father said smugly, "for a shuttle. Fighters are much more
responsive and agile."
I thought this was pretty amazing!" Luke stretched his arms up,
punching his fists in the air in pure glee.
your hands on the controls," Vader said mildly. "A pilot
never relinquishes command of his vessel."
not piloting," he protested, though he curled one hand around
the throttle and ran the other over the panel of buttons, enjoying
the power he felt thrumming beneath them.
are," his father said so quietly that it took a second to sink
am?!" He snatched his hands away, then hastily put them
back. "I'm not! You're messin' with me!"
black-gauntleted hands rested on the arms of the pilot's seat.
gulped. Tentatively, he pushed the throttle to the right, sending the
ship into a sharp dive. "Whoa!"
shuttle does not respond to verbal commands."
what you learned, how the controls felt when I was piloting."
Vader's voice lowered, becoming soft and hypnotic. "Do not think
about what you need to do. Close your eyes... close them, Luke... and
now simply become part of the ship. It will respond to your slightest
wish... gently... yes, like that, good. Become the ship... see what
it sees... feel for asteroids, space debris, anything that might be
in your way... avoid it or move it aside. Do not be frightened, I am
with you... you can feel my presence... you can feel the shuttle...
and still you feel yourself, separate yet one with everything that
surrounds you. Good boy."
wanted to open his eyes but he could almost see with them
closed. He felt things around him, unfamiliar things, living things,
yet he wasn't afraid of them. And it wasn't just because his dad was
with him. All the strangeness wasn't scary... it wasn't even all that
strange. It was stuff that was inside him, had always been inside
him, hiding, waiting for this moment. Waiting for him to wake up.
Now open your eyes."
was difficult to adjust to a reality that seemed suddenly
one-dimensional. Luke blinked a few times, struggling to rouse
himself. There was a big ship in the distance. "Where are we?"
have flown for nearly one hour and brought us back to the
Devastator. I will take over the final approach. Rest."
tired," he complained sleepily. "What was that?"
time, these experiences will not tire you and you will have more
awareness and control. 'That' was the Force. You connected with it
like...." Vader sighed.
a natural. Like I did." That was definitely pride in his
father's tone. "You have done very well, my son. Now rest. I
will take care of the rest."
he yawned. "Tha's a really, really big ship. An' you're the boss
Go to sleep."
didn't have the energy to answer.
only good thing about living on the ship was being near his dad.
Otherwise it was pretty boring. He was stuck inside all the time with
nothing interesting or fun to do. He missed fresh air, walking on the
ground, climbing hills, sunlight, nighttime, new people, old friends,
and young people in general. Studying, even the Force training his
dad was doing with him, was no substitute for friends. As the months
had passed, Vader had allowed him a little more freedom. The latest
'privilege' was that he could use the officer's lounge. "Big
deal," Luke muttered, standing in the doorway of the spacious
room, studying the possibilities.
ago he had reached an inescapable conclusion: officers were boring.
Or maybe they were like him, bored because they were stuck on the
ship. They read a lot or talked privately, shutting up and smiling
politely (though warily) when he approached. There were always games
of one sort or another going on, but they involved gambling and his
dad didn't give him an allowance.
was no different than any other day. There was nothing for him to do
here, and his dad was acting incommunicado, locked in his quarters,
probably meditating or doing something equally dull. With a
discouraged sigh, Luke left the rec area and walked slowly back
toward his room. Waiting for the lift, he noticed that the call plate
was loose and began to pry it from the wall. Maybe he could fix ‚ńď
along. Move along."
glared up at the recorded voice. Every time he touched something,
that damned voice echoed out of a speaker! He just knew that
somewhere in the ship an ensign was watching his every move and
taking delight in pushing a button to initiate the scolding voice.
"Someday I'll find you!" he threatened loudly to the
passing officers stared at him, then averted their gazes.
he stomped into the lift. Today of all days, he deserved a little
fun. It was his birthday! He was finally seventeen and here he was,
little more than a prisoner on an Imperial warship. If it wasn't for
his dad ‚ńď
dad couldn't have forgotten his birthday, could he? Wait -- did he
even know it was Luke's birthday? "I'll bet he doesn't!"
That explained the silence. Well, maybe with a little
poke-in-the-ribs reminder his dad would arrange for a cake and come
up with a great gift... maybe his own shuttle ‚ńď or better,
lightsaber lessons! It was about time his dad let him practice with a
real lightsaber instead of a stick.
of the lift, he turned right and headed for Dad Vader's quarters. The
door didn't slide open for him like it usually did. Son to Dad,
he sent. I need to tell you something really important.
Luke leaned his forehead against the door and thumped it a few times,
not too hard. Are you meditating? Let me in and I'll wait quietly
until you're done. He could do that now, be quiet. It had taken a
lot of practice ‚ńď and some reminding from his dad ‚ńď but Luke
considered it quite an achievement. Please?
Cautiously he stepped inside and peered around. It was darker than
usual; in fact, nearly all the lights were out. The viewscreen at the
far end was open and Luke went to stand in front of it, staring out
at the starfield. They were probably tracking down Rebels again,
which meant another battle that he could only watch, his dad decreed,
from the safety of this very spot. It wasn't that he was anxious to
fight the Rebels; he still hadn't figured out if he was for them or
against them. But when his dad went out in a TIE, Luke desperately
wanted to be with him just in case the worst happened. If his dad was
going to die, Luke wanted to be with him. Well... preferably he would
save them both with some heroic act, but if not, then he'd rather die
with his dad than go back to his old life. Or worse, become King
leaned backward and peeked around the corner. The meditation pod was
closed. Someday he wanted to get in there and shut it, just to see
what it was like, but his dad had made him promise not to, which made
the attempt more difficult. Promises, honor, studying endlessly,
Force training, keeping quiet... his dad demanded a lot from him, but
so far nothing that Luke hadn't been able to accomplish.
decided to use this quiet time to identify the few planets that were
visible and remind himself of what he'd learned about them.
Civilizations, industry, agriculture, sports teams.... That occupied
him for a several minutes until he heard the whoosh of the pod
opening. He practiced patience and remained still, hands clasped
loosely behind his back, not turning until he heard his father's
cautiously because he sensed some tension in the older man, he said,
"Hi. Is this a bad time?"
bad time?" Vader echoed, and Luke flinched at the
I can come back later. Later today, I mean, because‚ńĒ"
the Sith interrupted. "This day that I have despised beyond all
others, every year for the last seventeen years? Why would you think
this is a bad time?"
Luke stared at his father. His mouth was hanging open and he knew he
must look stupid, but he couldn't think of one single thing to say.
year, this hated day reminds me of the worst moments of my life ‚ńď
as if I require reminding!" Vader began to pace, most of his
words turning into mumbles that Luke couldn't hear. But others were
way too clear. "... Padme... nightmare...."
It was becoming clear. "I didn't mean to kill her," Luke
whispered miserably. "I couldn't help being born."
few more mumbles, then Vader whirled and stalked over to him. "What
are you blathering about?" he demanded.
mother!" he snapped back, his own anger rising. "She died
giving birth to me, right? Is that why you're mad at me?"
are making no sense."
than anything, he hated when his father said that to him, especially
in such a scornful tone. "It's my BIRTHDAY!" he shouted.
"It's my birthday and I killed my mother and that's why you hate
jerked back. "Your birthday?" He shook his head and then
said, "I see. Yes, of course. Padme had to live long enough to
bear you." The helmet tilted to one side. "But you
did not kill her, young one. I did."
took a few deep breaths. "What do you mean?"
Dark Lord crossed to the viewport. The light from a thousand stars
reflected off the helmet. "Obi-Wan must have kept her alive long
enough to give birth. Then he stole you. That explains much." A
long, ragged sigh came from his father. "My master did not lie
to me as I feared; I did kill my beloved."
He sank into a hard chair, staring at the cloaked figure. "Why?"
was my angel," Vader whispered as if to himself. "I loved
her above all others."
was no angel; she was only human... I risked everything to save her,
but she betrayed me and I killed her....
felt like there wasn't any air for him to breathe. Luke struggled to
inhale before he could force out the words. "Then I guess it's
good that you don't love me. Maybe I'll live for awhile longer."
lasted so long that he thought maybe Vader hadn't heard him. Which
would be for the best; that had probably been a stupid thing to say.
But eventually his father turned.
have been too protective of you; I see that now. You do not know me
as a Sith Lord. You do not understand and appreciate the acts of
which I am capable. You do not respect my Dark powers. You do not
I do," he said hastily. "I'm sorry, I just meant ‚ńĒ "
gauntleted hand raised for silence. "Let us become better
acquainted. I will tell you some of what I have done in my life, so
that you will not be surprised in the future," Vader said
really don't want ‚ńĒ "
'wants' do not concern me. Sit," he commanded in a strong voice
when Luke began to rise. "You will listen. You will learn of my
path to the Dark Side. When I have finished, you will know me better
than anyone, save my master. Then you will understand your own path
and your future in the Empire."
stomach twisted. He had a bad feeling that what he was about to hear
would be awful, like the massacre on Falleen. "Father, you don't
I will not tell you again." Darth Vader pulled out a chair and
sat opposite him, their knees almost touching, so that Luke was
forced to stare at the emotionless mask. "My path to true power
began on Tatooine when I was about your age...."
felt ill... no, old. Luke stared out at the starfield. He
often saw Vader standing here, and he supposed that he'd begun
subconsciously imitating his father.
thought disturbed him, and he turned his back on the stars, slouching
against the viewport. How far could imitation go before his wrong
choices began to mirror his father's? Force knew, he'd already made a
lot of wrong choices in his seventeen years... but none had had the
repercussions of the choices Anakin Skywalker had made at the same
had they? He had ended up here, in Vader's custody, destined to
follow in his footsteps. Why should he hope to turn out differently?
will, his conscience whispered. "Choices," he agreed
aloud. "The choices I make will determine my future... not some
weird prophecy or a 'destiny' that I have no direction over."
sent a troubled look at the closed meditation pod. Vader had finished
his long recitation of evil acts ‚ńď almost like he was purging
himself and shifting the burdens to his son ‚ńď then retreated to the
pod without further comment, leaving Luke to brood alone.
his father's synopsis of his life could be summed up in a couple
words, Luke decided the words would be 'obsession' and 'love'. Both
the lack of love and the overpowering force of it. His dad had very
little compassion for masses of beings, but possessive and
self-absorbed love for a few. That combination made life dangerous
for him and everyone who came in contact with him.
and obsession were not traits that Luke felt he shared with his
father, and maybe his lack of intensity would save him. Oh, he could
love, but his love was quieter, steadier. Despite the atrocities he
had heard described today, he still loved his father. Darth Vader. He
loved Darth Vader, the man the galaxy feared. Strangely, he felt no
fear. Today he had heard of murders his father had committed --
horrifically violent acts committed even against children, ugly acts
that had brought involuntary tears to his eyes -- but instead of
making him feel afraid or hate his dad, he felt sad for him. His dad
needed someone to take care of him and teach him the difference
between right and wrong. There wasn't anyone who could do that except
Luke Skywalker, so....
I have to reform."
okay. He could be a hero, all good and pure and just. He fervently
hoped he wouldn't end up being boring, too. Luke crossed to his
father's meditation pod and sat on the floor outside it, determined
to out-wait Vader's sulking. What he really wanted to do was
run away. Escape to a planet, find some air to breathe, be free
again, do whatever he wanted even if it was something stupid like
rolling down a dune ‚ńď
You wish to flee from me."
started. "How did you get out without me hearing?" He
turned and studied the Dark Lord. Anger still roiled just below the
surface ‚ńď ah, that was why he hadn't heard the pod opening, his
mind was overwhelmed by his father's emotions. Anger and... fear.
Yeah, Darth Vader was afraid. Afraid of losing again. "Not
really," he replied, carefully gauging his dad's mercurial mood.
"I'd like to be out of this ship for awhile. On a planet. With
air and ground. Sort of like a vacation."
sat back in the chair. Bright lights reflected on his helmet and
armor. Maybe that's what he did in the pod, get shined and polished.
"You are afraid of me now."
tilted his head. Vader couldn't read him as well as he could
read his dad. "No." His voice was soft. "I suppose I
should be, but I'm not." The air between them was tense, as if
his dad was waiting for... what? The rejection that he saw as
inevitable? "You're my father."
fingers clenched around the arms of the chair. Luke felt his heart
like it was thumping against his ribs. He swallowed. "The things
you've done... that you've told me about... they sicken me. I don't
understand how you can kill so easily, especially little kids.
But...." To his horror, he felt tears welling in his eyes. He
swiped his shirt sleeve across them. "But you're still my dad,"
he said, choking on the simple words, "and I love you."
the quiet that followed, Vader made a small beckoning gesture. Luke
scooted over on the floor, leaning back against his dad's leg. A
gloved hand rested heavily on his head, and they relaxed in a
am I going to do with you?" his father mused eventually.
are your choices?" Luke grinned, happy to stay just as they were
at this moment.
you, kill you, let Palpatine have you."
"If those are the only choices, I'd prefer the first one."
didn't respond to that suggestion. "There are only ever two Sith
at a time. A master and an apprentice."
I can be your apprentice! No, wait!" He changed his mind. "I
don't want to be a Sith... do I?"
am the apprentice," Vader said heavily. "Palpatine is my
master, Darth Sidious."
sighed. "Why do you guys always have so many names? Anakin
Skywalker was a perfectly good name, you didn't have to change it."
are avoiding the issue at hand."
issue?" He pulled his legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms
around them. "You mean that there's no room for me to be a Sith?
Fine, I don't want to be one anyway. I could be your... assistant or
something. I'll study hard." Vader's cruel words from weeks ago
came back to him. "If I get smart enough, will I be of use to
are my son. You are priceless to me."
He hid a pleased smile in his sleeve. "So I can be your helper.
Or...did you really mean it when you said you might give me to King
Ugly? I don't want to be a slave."
that how you see me, as his slave?" The tone was dangerously
you always do what he tells you to?" he retorted.
because he's right."
not always?" He turned his head to look at his father's mask.
"Does he know about me?"
am certain he does, though I have said nothing to him."
leaned back again, unwilling to lose this rare moment of physical and
emotional closeness. "Someday he'll call you back to Coruscant,
won't he? Then what will you do with me?"
my child, is the problem."
was finally becoming clear. "You don't want to take me to him."
His dad didn't reply. "Why not? I mean, that's great, I don't
want to go, but... why not?"
sighed raggedly, hesitating before admitting, "You are all I
have. I will not lose you."
Luke replied sarcastically, though he was actually deeply touched,
"for a second, I thought it would be about me, but
noooooo, it's always about you."
Sith Lord stood abruptly. "Out!" he thundered, pointing
toward the door. "Go study! Make yourself useful! Find something
to do! Go!"
Luke got to his feet, grumbling under his breath. "Tell a guy
the truth and look what happens. Always so grouchy. Why can't ‚ńď
Hey!" He raised his voice. "It's my birthday,
remember? You owe me a present." He ignored the fact that Darth
Vader now had his hands planted on his waist in that intimidating
stance he liked to affect. "How about a real lightsaber lesson?
Or a flying lesson? Or a cake? A cake would be good...." His
voice trailed off, but he refused to surrender. He copied Vader's
stance. "I'm your son, you love me even if you don't wanna say
it ‚ńď so how about at least a 'Happy Birthday, Son'?"
big arms lowered and Vader shook his head, but it wasn't a negative.
"Very well. A flying lesson, 1900 hours."
He backed slowly toward the door. "A cake would not be amiss."
his father quoted.
sticking with small new words for awhile."
See ya." Once at the door, he slipped through quickly.
was the easiest way to deal with his dad, but it didn't change the
harsh facts. Somehow he had to get his head around the realities of
Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker and how a hero could transform into
something quite different.
happened to his dad; Luke didn't want it to happen to him, too.
squad of TIES's was lined up in the hanger bay, surrounded by
mechanics who crawled under and climbed over them. Darth Vader stood
in the center of the flurry of activity, arms folded, probably giving
everyone heart palpations by his silent presence.
kicked a lost bolt in front of him like a ball as he criss-crossed
the wide expanse and finally stopped next to his dad, capturing the
bolt under his foot. "Expecting trouble?" he asked. "Or
just hoping for it?"
always expect trouble." His pop looked down on him. "It is
imperative to keep fighting vessels in peak condition, ready for
knew a lecture when he heard one. "Yessir! I'll remember that
when I'm put in command."
Vader said dryly. "Let us reinforce the importance of this
lesson. Take that TIE," he pointed, "and follow me out."
me?" he said stupidly, feeling his eyes go wide. "My own
ship? You mean - " But his dad was striding off toward another
TIE. Luke followed hurriedly, climbing into the vessel that Vader had
selected for him. His dad had pointed out the basics of the controls,
but he'd never flown in one. Vader must be feeling really guilty
about forgetting his birthday to let him do this.
pulse was fluttering erratically as he maneuvered the TIE out of the
dock. Oddly, the space seemed a lot smaller than when he and his dad
had taken out bigger ships. It was enough to rattle a guy's nerves,
but he managed not to hit the sides of the docking bay (okay, his TIE
was actually dwarfed by the bay doors, but it still felt
tight) and get safely into open space where he could follow his dad's
TIE. His maneuvering was a little irregular at first, but within a
couple minutes he had the feel of the ship and was experimenting,
looping and curving as he followed his dad's straight path away from
are we going?" he asked over the voice-activated inter-ship com.
are not 'going' anywhere. We are moving clear of the ship so that you
if I would hit the Devastator," he teased. "You have
no faith in me."
have faith in the Force, young one, including the Force in you."
He supposed that was Deeply Meaningful, since his father talked about
the Force like it was a religion, but it was hard to feel pious about
virtuous words coming from a man who'd done the things his father had
done. Still, despite what he'd done, Vader was second in command of
the universe, so Luke felt he had a lot of wiggle room when it came
to any mistakes he might make. Not that he would ever do anything of
the magnitude his dad had done, like killing little -
ship jolted and rocked. "Hey! What!?"
attention. You are under attack." With that, his dad fired off
another practice burst.
reacted immediately, but not quickly enough to totally avoid being
'hit'. "You should've warned me!"
will give no warning ‚ńď neither will friends. You must always be
prepared to defend yourself. You are armed. Fire at me."
Not with real‚ńĒ" He jerked the stick back and sped away from
another flash from his dad's weapons. So you wanna play rough?
Okay, watch this!
turned out to be a real struggle to get the other TIE in his sights.
His dad was a helluva pilot, no argument there. Vader took the little
fighter through maneuvers Luke had never seen, not even in a
holo-game. Luke would get the TIE in his crosshairs, but it would
vanish before he could fire. After several minutes of getting more
and more frustrated, he shouted, "Hold still!" and,
surprisingly, his dad did. The TIE lined up beautifully in his scope.
He held his breath, pulled the trigger, and ‚ńď the fake laser
exploded harmlessly in the empty place where the TIE had been.
dredged up every curse he could remember.
his father chastised over the com.
Wow, his dad sure had his priorities screwed up. "You sure have
your priorities screwed up," he called, putting in motion a
brilliant idea that had just occurred to him. "You wipe out the
Jedi, you massacre children, you kill ‚ńď "
dare you!" Darth Vader shouted, and Luke took the opportunity to
fire his weapons.
he declared smugly, watching the other TIE wobble.
Winning by cheating is still a victory. Of course, you have lost your
He flushed angrily and fired again, but this time his dad was faster.
Vader's ship flipped over, raced above Luke and dropped down on his
tail, firing harmless blasts that Luke was hard pressed to avoid. His
father's condemnation was a distraction. It wasn't fair! How could
his dad criticize him after the things he'd done? "I
didn't cheat," he mumbled, with so little conviction that he
didn't even persuade himself.
‚ńď " His dad was interrupted when, without warning, two
teardrop-shaped ships dropped from nowhere some distance in front of
them. Were they Rebels or pirates? As Luke stared, mesmerized,
blazing missiles shot from their deployed foils, streaking by him
close enough to make his TIE vibrate.
back to the ship!" Vader barked harshly.
not leaving you here alone!" He craned his neck, looking around
for the fast-moving vessels. "Those were just warning shots! Who
to the ship!" His dad's TIE dove in front of him. "That's
not - "
have no weapons!" Vader roared, and he fired at the intruders,
proving that his ship carried more armament than just practice
couldn't bring himself to obey. Besides, a rush of TIE's exploded
from the Devastator, jetting around him as they headed out
toward the attackers. Not that they were needed. Two bright flashes
appeared in quick succession, and both ships were obliterated by his
TIE's swarmed like insects, some of them returning to the landing bay
while the rest began to patrol in orderly formation as if they
expected further attacks. Luke flew behind his father back to the
ship, dismayed to note that he was shaking ‚ńď but with excitement,
not fear. He made an Academy-perfect landing, jumped down from the
TIE, paused to be sure his knees would hold him upright, then hurried
to his dad.
waited until Vader finished speaking with the squad commander and
dismissed him. Luke grinned. "Next time, I get real guns! I want
to fight, too! That was terrific - you were amazing!"
Sith Lord stared at him, and Luke could have sworn that the mask was
scowling. "Today you have seen once again how easy ‚ńď and how
satisfying ‚ńď it is to kill," the voice hissed. "We are
not unalike, boy."
Luke watched his father stalk away in a dramatic swirl of midnight. A
shiver ran through him. He hated when Vader held up a mirror and he
saw himself reflected. He'd been born Son of Vader, and over the last
year he supposed he'd earned that label. But it no longer seemed like
such an evil person to be. He and his dad shared a lot of feelings
and abilities, both good and bad. It was just a question of how and
what they chose to use. There was no reason his dad couldn't change
his mind and decide to be good. It was never too late to change.
Biggs had told him that a couple times, and Luke hadn't really
appreciated its significance until now.
was a great lesson and he was determined to teach it to his father.
The question was: how? His dad carried a lot of guilt, but it was
protected and held in place by a wall of defiance and anger that
wasn't too hard to penetrate with little jabs and humor. But how to
tear it down completely and reach deep inside his father to help him
change? Was that even possible?
how was he going to change his dad, when he still did things
you enjoy your first close look at battle, Luke?"
turned away from watching his dad scold the admiral. "Hey, Cap,"
he said with a touch of unease. "Yeah, I guess... I didn't get
the next time Lord Vader takes you for practice, you will be armed."
Piett looked slightly perplexed, as if he couldn't decide whether
Luke should have weapons or not.
He had visions of accidentally blasting his dad to smithereens.
"Maybe. Who were they, do you know?"
Vader suspects they were hijackers." Piett frowned. "Whoever
or whatever they expected to hijack, I'm sure they were as startled
to drop out of hyperspace and see the Devastator as we were to
walked through the hangar bay, Luke only partially paying attention
as the captain made visual inspections of the fighters. He wondered
if Piett knew that Vader was his father. It would be great to have
someone to talk to... ah, but there was no way an officer would speak
honestly about his dad. Everyone was too afraid. Everyone except him.
you let me work down here?" he asked impulsively. "I'm
really good at fixing things, and I swear I wouldn't hurt the ships."
just stared at a point over his head.
shifted his feet. "I want to ‚ńď to contribute. I've been here
for months with nothing to do."
to do?" a deep voice repeated.
he turned around to face Lord Vader. "You," the Dark Lord
pointed at Luke, "come with me. I will give you something to
sighed as he watched his father's retreating back. Piett gave him a
small, possibly sympathetic, smile, the kind of good-bye smile you
gave to someone on their way to execution. "Perhaps we can find
a way for you to contribute ‚ńď if Lord Vader permits."
be the day." Luke followed his pop into the corridor and tagged
behind him on a wordless journey that ended in his dad's practice
room. "What're we doing here?" he asked, though it was
obvious ‚ńď his dad was going to let him have the lightsaber lesson
he'd asked for. He must feel guiltier than Luke realized.
didn't answer ‚ńď always an unnerving sign ‚ńď but instead waved his
hand at a cabinet across the room that obediently opened to reveal a
it. Not that way," Vader scolded when Luke began to walk over.
"Use the Force."
closed his eyes, focusing the way he'd been taught. As if he were
dreaming, his hand extended, fingers opening. The saber rattled, but
didn't moved. He tried again, concentrating harder. To his relief, it
raised into the air and floated over.
a meter from his outstretched hand, it clattered to the floor.
he apologized nervously, bending to retrieve it. "I wish I could
do that as well as you." Maybe some flattery would mellow out
the big guy. "My teleporting is sort of hit-and-miss. Hey, this
is my lightsaber from Tatooine!" He flicked it on. The blade
made a loud humming noise and sent a vibration running along his arm.
"Krit, it's heavier than it looks." He hefted it in both
hands and swung it in figure eights. "Cool! Where's the practice
here." Darth Vader snapped on his own fire-red saber.
swallowed. "You, uh... want me to practice with you?" Dueling
Vader on one of his happy days would be intimidating, but on
a cranky day.... "Maybe that's not the greatest idea for my
first time. I might accidentally ‚ńď "
red saber swung and Luke instinctively crossed it with his own blade,
staggering back under the power behind the strike. It wasn't followed
by a second blow, so he lowered the saber to his side. "Really,
I think I should practice with a droid, don't you think? I wouldn't
want to ‚ńď "
powerful blows, one after the other in quick succession. He managed
to parry one and dance out of the way of the other two. "Dad,
what're you - ?"
require discipline. Stop talking and block properly."
Sithspit! The blows kept coming, pushing him backward in circles
around the room. Never vicious blows, but Vader was aggressive,
pushing him, challenging him, and worse ‚ńď Vader was getting angry,
Luke could feel it in the depths of his soul.
idiot was just gloating that he wasn't afraid of Darth Vader?! What
moron had thought that he knew how to 'handle' Vader? Krit!
would be the same idiotic moron who was now out of breath and
half-stumbling. "Stop! Okay, I surrender! Whatever! I'm done!
have more to learn. Why should I obey you when you do not obey me?"
The next blow was the hardest yet, and he reeled back, barely able to
hang onto his saber.
that was what this was about! Just because he didn't want to
leave his dad behind to die in battle, he was being punished!
"Bastard!" he shouted, his own anger flaring to life and
driving away the fear. A surge of adrenaline gave him strength and he
slashed wildly at his father. The blow glanced off his dad's arm and
he hesitated, horrified, holding his breath as his dad grunted in
pain. Then Vader's blade swung so quickly that it was barely a
brilliant flash in the air, but it sent his lightsaber flying. It
turned itself off as it skittered across the floor. But what was that
wrapped around its hilt?
stared at his hand. The lightsaber wasn't there and... his hand
wasn't there. There was his cuff and a little blood and ‚ńď
howled in shock and pain, clutching the wrist to his chest.
Wide-eyed, he stared blankly at the motionless cloaked figure. He
felt... strange. Light-headed. Woozy. Breathless. "D...Dad?"
red light vanished and the dark figure let loose a string of curses,
some of which Luke had never heard but hoped he would remember.
"Language," he mumbled automatically.
A strong arm locked around his shoulder and hustled him out of the
stump... began to throb. "Where's my hand?" Luke shivered.
Leaning against the wall of the lift, he closed his eyes but the
motion made him nauseous so he opened them again, willing himself not
to throw up. What had just happened? He tried to look at Vader, but
the elevator stopped and he was hurried along before he could focus.
landed in sickbay. "Well, well," Doc said too cheerfully,
"what have we here? An amputation? Did you bring the detached
Vader handed the physician a hand. My hand. Luke stared at it.
It didn't look alive. It wasn't moving. The fingers were curled as
though they still held the lightsaber. "That's my hand," he
said aloud, looking down at his cuff, expecting to see it there, too.
turned the hand over, examining it with interest while Vader pushed
Luke to sit on a gurney. Vader's hand pressed down on his shoulder,
as if he thought Luke was going to float away. "I can't fly,"
know," Vader said quietly. "Well, Doctor?" and his
voice changed suddenly, becoming loud and impatient.
Of course, as you are well aware, m'lord, lightsaber amputations
can't be repaired." Doc kept talking, but Luke didn't hear the
next bit. He would be one-handed for the rest of his life. Maybe he
should be glad his dad hadn't aimed lower and cut off his legs. Like
Kenobi had done to his dad. "...will take awhile to make one in
the proper size. Luke, why don't you just relax...."
a clue how he got there, he found himself lying down. He yawned.
There didn't seem much point in staying awake, so he....
wasn't sleepy after all. Luke yawned again and stretched his arms
over his hands, interlinking his fingers and ‚ńď
He opened his eyes and stared at his outstretched limbs. Yeah, he had
two hands! What a nightmare that had been! He could've sworn it was
real, but ‚ńď
are you feeling?"
arms dropped to rest across his chest and he turned his head on the
pillow. Doc was sitting by his bed. "What're you doing here?"
else would I be?"
This wasn't his quarters. "Where am.... Oh." Sickbay. So it
hadn't been a nightmare. "He chopped off my hand."
don't chop, they slice."
much information." Grimacing, he pushed himself into a sitting
position. He felt dizzy for a second, then he was fine. "You put
my hand back on." He flexed the fingers a few times. They felt
odd. Alien. "What's wrong with it?"
a prosthetic." Doc held out his own (real?) hand and took hold
of Luke's fingers. He pulled out a needle and poked three times
before Luke snatched his hand away. "Did you feel that?"
Stop stabbing me." His dad had all prosthetic limbs. Luke hadn't
realized that fake ones appeared so real. Maybe his dad didn't look
so bad under that armor. He turned the hand over. It even had lines
in its palm... but not his lines. "Do you think it will
rubbed his hands together. They both got warmer. "It seems to
course it does. I am an excellent surgeon." The medic studied
his face. "If you grow further, it will need to be replaced."
He had a vision of himself as big as his dad, with one tiny hand.
around sickbay hummed quietly, reminding him of the lightsaber. There
wasn't much more to say about his hand, at least not to Doc. "Thanks
for fixing it."
welcome. Now it's time for you to surrender this bed for someone who
needs it. You've been lounging here long enough." Doc opened a
small cabinet behind him.
have?" He slid off the bed, finally noticing that he was wearing
a plain green shirt and matching loose trousers. "How long have
I been here?"
physician tossed his clothes at him. "Nine days," he said
picked up his tunic and looked first at the bloody cuff of his tunic,
then at Doc. "Why? Did something go wrong?"
ask me, I'm only the doctor. I have no say about what goes on in
sickbay ‚ńď everything is done as Lord Vader commands."
day that sarcasm would get Doc in trouble. Although so far it had
worked pretty well for Luke. "Okay, thanks anyway!" he
called after the departing physician.
he pulled on his clothes. Nine days! Time to track down his father
and find out what was going on. He paused and looked in the mirror,
running his new hand through his hair. What a confusing mess... and
what a memorable, horrible, awful, miserable, depressing,
secret-revealing birthday it had been. The only part that remotely
seemed fair was that every year from now on when his dad brooded
about the worst day of his life, he would also have to remember that
he had chopped off his son's hand on his birthday.
year," he scolded his reflection, "just settle for a cake."
study tapes were crushed and strewn across the floor of his quarters,
along with the remnants of his computer, desk, and chair. The hulking
figure of Darth Vader waited for him amidst the wreckage, arms
folded. There was no anger radiating from the Dark Lord, so Luke
surmised that the destruction had taken place sometime in the
intervening nine days. You could have cleaned up, he thought,
hoping that the message wasn't transmitted to his father.
simply stared at him.
know why you were so mad," Luke said finally, after discarding
several conversation openers that all involved accusations like 'why
did you chop off my hand?'.
you inferring that I mutilated you deliberately? I did not."
know." He rubbed the alien wrist. "But if something happens
because you're angry, is it really an accident?"
dad chose to ignore that question. "If I was angry, it was
because I was worried. You disobeyed me. You could have been killed."
the hijackers or by you? He shrugged. "That too, I suppose."
He let the silence drag on until Vader was forced to ask:
new palm was fascinating. Luke pretended to be engrossed in examining
it. "Because of the things you told me that you didn't want to
are not making sense."
telling me that!" he snapped, exasperated. "You know
exactly what I mean! Now I know the worst about you, so what? Did you
think I wouldn't love you anymore?"
expected some sort of gruff denial about love not being involved, but
instead Vader sighed and uncrossed his arms. "Perhaps. But we
have a more immediate problem than discussions of affection."
(a) affection wasn't a problem and (b).... "What
Emperor has sent for you."
words were stark, the tone bleak. Luke felt something draining from
him, as though his spirit was seeping out... or going into hiding.
His mouth opened and closed a few times before he could speak. "Sent
nodded. "You alone. Not me. I would not be there to protect
swallowed and licked lips that were suddenly dry. "Is he going
to... kill me?"
father slowly crossed to the bed ‚ńď the only unbroken piece of
furniture ‚ńď and sat heavily. "Possibly. It is more likely that
he wishes to train you to kill me and take my place."
head jerked back. "I'm not going to do that! He can't make me!"
could make you want to." The helmet turned toward him. "I
stalled, keeping you unconscious and telling him you needed time to
recuperate from your traumatic injury. However, I will not lose you,
so there is only one alternative."
could hide together," Luke suggested, putting off the moment
when he had to hear the inevitable words of separation. "Just
the two of us. We could go live on the edge of the Outer Rim, where
he wouldn't think to look for us."
one day I would regret all I had given up, lose my temper, and kill
you as I killed your mother."
scared as he felt, he understood that his father was more frightened
of the impending separation. But Vader's fear was darker, deeper; it
was part of his essence. And he would never be free if he never
gathered the courage to face it. "Then what?" Luke asked
softly, anticipating the reply. "You're going to hide me?"
cannot be hidden, my son. He can sense you. Your Light burns too
brightly." Vader stood, suddenly galvanized into action. "I
have packed your belongings." Luke's old backpack flew through
the air, nearly knocking him over as he caught it.
you can't hide me, then where am I going?"
orders I have and will execute fully state that you are going to
Coruscant. However, your vessel will be hijacked, and Laze Loneozner
and his pilot will become the newest members of the Rebel Alliance."
Are you kidding?"
do not kid."
that for your officers! I know you kid. Why would you want me to ‚ńď
as this may be for you to believe," Vader said mildly, gesturing
for Luke to exit his quarters and into the wide corridor, "I
have a plan."
are you going to share that plan with me?"
head inclined slightly in warning. "You are going to Coruscant,
young man, and I will brook no more discussion."
rolled his eyes. "Yes, master." We should've talked more
before going into monitored areas, he pointed out. Yoo-hoo!
Can you hear me?
hear you. We will be able to communicate this way in the future... if
you are able to focus.
can focus, all right! he declared grimly, struck by the unhappy
thought that momentarily he would be separated from his father. "Did
you pack my 'hopper model?"
You have no need for toys where you are going."
not a toy." So, you want to keep it for sentimental reasons!
Vader hustled him toward a small bay off the main hangar where a
sleek, long-range ship waited.
what is that? It's gorgeous."
is a modified Naboo starfighter."
That reminded him of his mother, but he kept the thought to himself.
His father was quiet, too.
stopped at the base of the ramp. "This is happening awfully
fast," Luke said, his voice unexpectedly choking on the words.
"Thank you for... everything. Except for chopping off my hand.
If the Emperor decides to train me, maybe I'll see you again."
said The Man of Few Words.
nodded. "Okay... well... I guess I should get going."
What's going to happen? Who's going to hijack me? Is that your
whole plan? What will I do when I get to the Alliance? Can we hug?
of our best security officers is piloting you," Vader said
threateningly, "so do not try anything foolish."
that mean ‚ńď
Dark Lord looked beyond him and raised his voice. "He is ready."
His gaze returned to Luke. "You have been a good student. Go
like that?" he demanded wildly, welling grief pushing aside
is an honor to obey the Emperor. Go."
he could reply, he felt a soft cloud surround him. It was warm and
glowing, filled with sun and... with love.
smiled faintly and returned the emotion as best he could, hoping his
father felt it. "Okay," he said quietly. Turning, he
hurried up the ramp, casting a wary glance at the pilot.
aboard," Lieutenant Karas Jovay said without a trace of
recognition on his face.
came to a dead stop. "What're you doing here?" he
demanded of Lieutenant Jovay, catching himself before he could
he was being left out in the cold and he didn't like it. His dad had
a Plan, and for some reason the Mos Eisley Imperial Recruiting
Officer was part of it. And they were in a public area where their
conversation could be overheard, so he couldn't even ask! Luke made
an about-face and stomped back down the ramp to face his father. "I
changed my mind, I don't want to go."
Emperor is bestowing an honor upon you by requesting your presence,"
yeah. Luke sighed. This mental-talk was hard. He was getting a
headache. "I'd rather stay here and learn stuff. You wouldn't
want me to neglect my education, would you?"
educational datatapes are in your pack."
That explained the extra weight. Krit. He let the pack slip off his
shoulder and drop to the deck. "I don't want to go," he
repeated, trying not to whine. Why was he even bothering? His dad
wouldn't be sympathetic and would only scold him.
do I want you to leave, Vader's fierce thought echoed in Luke's
head. But you must, for both our sakes. "You are going
and you will be appropriately grateful for the honor."
sir." You'll miss me! The need to be hugged by his dad
was becoming an almost physical ache. "Will I be coming back...
here?" Back to you?
black gauntlets raised toward his face and Luke flinched. Don't
hands rested on his cheeks, cupping his head like it was as fragile
as an egg. Which, of course, it would be if those hands decided to
squeeze. "Make me proud," the Dark Lord commanded.
the enemy? Luke pressed his face against the caress, trying to
express his confusion and fears. Do you want me to fight with
them? Or spy on them? I don't understand.
up with your studies," Vader said smoothly. "Keep your mind
open; be willing to accept new ideas, but with wisdom and caution.
The Emperor can teach you much."
nodded, waiting for a Thought from his father, but nothing came.
hands dropped. "Remember, your lightsaber is your life. Keep it
I don't know how to use it very well."
the need arises, when you are desperate, you will know how."
Listen to what I am saying, child.
Bewildered, he gave the mask one last, searching look. "Be
careful. I won't be here to look out for you."
you." A spark of amusement colored the deep voice, along with
something gentler. "I will endeavor to remain safe without your
then." He backed toward the ramp. We'll still be able to talk
exactly like this, right?
helmet tilted. As physical distance grows between us, it will
become more difficult and will require more focus. Words may not be
as clear as they are now, but I will feel your emotions. If you need
me, you will be able to reach me.
Luke repeated uncertainly, disliking the impending separation more
with each step he took. Well, krit! He whirled and marched up the
ramp like a soldier, passing into the ship and throwing back a single
you hear me now?
mental sigh shuddered through their link, and Luke smiled, satisfied.
Can you hear me now?
not call me that. I can hear you. Stop asking.
craned his neck to look back at the shrinking Devastator. "I
changed my mind."
didn't spare a glance for him. "Hmm?" he murmured absently,
intent on whatever manipulations his fingers were doing with the
don't want to go," Luke stated. "Take me back to the ship."
sighed and leaned back in the copilot's seat. Dad? Can you hear me
changed my mind. I want to stay with you.
is not possible.
am busy. Cease interrupting with your pointless request.
rolled his eyes. Fine! "My father says you should turn
the ship around and take me back."
I didn't hear him say that."
course you didn't! But I did. In my head."
grinned. "Good try, kid. I see that getting away from the
dustball hasn't changed you much."
do you know," Luke said grimly. Nothing about this was fair. He
and his dad were still getting to know each other. They shouldn't be
separated yet! It occurred to him that when they met, his dad already
knew the worst about Luke and went ahead and taught him to be better.
Now he knew the worst about Vader (at least, he hoped
it was the worst) and he wasn't allowed to stick around to help his
dad. "I really, really need to go back."
The young lieutenant swiveled in his chair. "Your father is
sending you away to keep you safe. You know that."
well.... "Just who are you, anyway?" he challenged.
"You're not really an Imp recruiter in Mos Eisley, are you?"
anymore. I got a promotion," Jovay's smile turned smug, "to
captain in Intelligence."
for? You let me get away!"
I? Yet here you are." The officer's grin widened. "Maybe I
got the promotion because I'm brilliant, clever and handsome."
brother! I am so confused," Luke muttered. "Are we
really going to the Rebel Alliance?"
my dad is sending me to the enemy?" He struggled with the idea.
shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe they're not the enemy."
do that, I'm confused enough!" Not for the first time, he wished
he could read his father's mind and learn what was really going on.
"What am I going to do there?"
have no idea. I'm not going with you. Somehow I don't think the
Alliance would treat me gently if they discovered my secret identity
as an Imperial Intel agent."
Oh, great! "But‚ńĒI don't‚ńĒKrit! My dad said you were staying!"
Da‚ńĒaaaad! Can you hear me now?
If you can survive the streets of Mos Eisley, you can survive
anything. You'll be fine."
words were meant to be reassuring, but he wasn't feeling at all
reassured. "Do you think I'm supposed to be a spy?"
don't know," Jovay repeated patiently. "Didn't your father
tell you anything?"
said he has a Plan-with-a-capital-P," Luke said glumly, "but
he didn't clue me in about it. He just told me we'd be 'hijacked' and
end up at the Alliance."
was his intention."
Slowly Luke turned his head and studied the other man. "Aren't
you following his plan?" he asked suspiciously. Oh-oh. Dad,
can you hear me now?
now," Jovay said by way of an answer, "our hijackers are
scheduled to appear." They were both quiet for a few moments
before warning beeps began to sound. "Right on time."
Luke stared at the two ships that were heading toward them from both
about now-- here we go." Jovay depressed a button and space
turned into a blur. Luke was jerked back in his seat as they
accelerated into hyperspace. The officer checked his instruments,
then relaxed and looked over. "A slight alteration of Lord
you kidnapping me?" Luke demanded, shocked by the
audacity of the other.
wouldn't dare. I'm taking a different route, but the end result will
be the same, you'll be with the insurgents." Jovay frowned,
obviously disapproving, then continued after a resigned sigh, "I
figured that what Vader didn't know, the Emperor couldn't
you insinuating that my father would betray me?" He started to
rise, ready to protect his dad's honor.
I'm not. Settle down." The captain swiveled around and leaned
forward, resting his arms on his knees. "What I think is that
Palpatine has spies and listening devices everywhere. I have no
intention of being the one who loses the Dark Lord's son. So I
devised a variation on the original plan. I'm not Intel for nothing,
kid. Brains as well as beauty, that's me."
know, you could be really irritating," Luke observed, then
immediately wondered if this was how he irritated his father. "Huh.
So, Intel, are you dangerous too?"
Jovay grinned. "Not to you, of course."
fortunate for you."
the newly-minted captain continued, oblivious of Luke's sarcasm, "for
you I would lay down my life."
was taken aback. "Really? Are you serious? You're kidding,
smile turned small and reflective, and maybe a little sad. "I'm
Luke folded his arms and glowered. "I don't like any of this,"
he declared. "We should have followed my dad's plan."
Luke, where are you? What has gone wrong?
sure, now you want to talk! Well, never mind, I don't want to
talk to you anymore!
dad!" Jovay chuckled. "That's still hard for me to imagine.
However... say, are you hungry?"
the old distract-him-with-food routine!" Grudgingly, Luke
unfolded his arms. "Maybe. What do you have? And where are we
gave him a tentative smile. "To rendezvous with alternate
where?" he demanded.
much information is not necessarily a good thing."
you call yourself Intel," he scoffed. "Be sure to tell my
dad that when he asks what you're doing."
away. Then, worried that he sounded too harsh, Luke added, I'll
talk to you later, after I figure out what's going on.
Tessa?" he asked as he caught the box Jovay tossed at him.
Peeling off the lid, he stared in dismay at the extensively processed
and unidentifiable 'food'. "Ugh. I'm not hungry after all."
it for later then. Now that you've opened it, it will be your next
meal. Never waste nutrients when you don't know where your next meal
is coming from."
rolled his eyes. Jovay sounded like his father. Lecturing was another
of those annoying adult habits. "Did you hear me? I asked how
fine. Some nightmares when she first arrived on Naboo." Jovay
glanced at him. "Something about a monster that tried to eat
nodded. "A Rillavin hunter."
swiveled his chair around. "She said you killed the monster and
shrugged modestly. "Does she miss me?"
any longer." The captain smiled at his dismayed expression. "A
child's sense of time is different from an adult's. She's forgetting
a lot of what happened on Tatooine. She's happy with my brother and
his wife, and she has many friends in the neighborhood."
good." It was petty and small of him, but he felt a little
jealous of Tessa. Quickly he pushed the unwanted emotion aside. "I'm
glad for her," he said, and truly was.
seemed to be nothing more to say. Luke searched carefully, pulled the
selected datatape out of his pack, and plugged the audiobuds into his
ears. Might as well spend this travel time learning something. He
didn't want to let his dad down.
settled back in the chair and closed his eyes as the tape whispered,
Imperial Government Structure Part II: Security and Intelligence.
flipped off the datatape and pulled the buds from his ears. "Where
pretended to be startled. "You've been so quiet, I forgot you
were here. What went wrong? Music ended?"
was listening to an educational tape," he replied icily.
"Not all teenagers are music freaks."
I was. I must have memorized the lyrics to a thousand songs, went to
a dozen concerts. I even got to meet The GreedleMoth when they were--
tuned out the unnervingly cheerful agent. For Intel, Jovay sure was
chatty. In fact.... "Hey," he interrupted, "you're
avoiding my question. Where are we?"
officer chuckled. "In hyperspace, kiddo."
know that! Where in hyperspace?"
tilted his head until one green eye could focus on Luke. "In
hyper, you're nowhere until you get somewhere."
that!" Krit, this was exactly the sort of stuff he would say to
his dad when he wanted to drive Vader crazy. "Where are we
other man began to laugh, enjoying his frustration. "Let it be a
Luke guessed. "We're going to Naboo!"
Jovay sobered abruptly. "Think, Luke. You're wanted by the
Emperor. Would I take you to my home planet and put it at risk?"
course not." He folded his arms, uncertain if he was more
disgusted by the chastisement or by his naivete. "Let's go put
someone else's planet at risk." He could almost feel the sharp
glance as it raked him.
won't be there long enough to endanger anyone. Why don't you take a
a pesky child. "I've been studying Imperial Security protocol,"
he said to regain control of the conversation, "and there's
something I don't understand. Maybe you could answer a question for
officer swiveled his chair around, stretching out his legs and
clasping his hands behind his head. "Shoot. Not literally."
rolled his eyes but didn't let the flippancy distract him. "Can
you tell me why," he asked sweetly, "an Intelligence agent
would be loyal to Darth Vader and choose to defy the Emperor? Sounds
like a risky move... maybe even a treasonous one."
relaxed posture became rigid, though Jovay did not change his
position. "I'm sure the agent would have good reason."
leaned forward. "What reason do you think? Hypothetically, of
course." Jovay gave him an annoyed look. "Hypothetically,
the agent might feel some sort of personal loyalty to Vader motivated
by... oh, like being Vader's son who's enlisted in the Rebellion."
not an agent! And we're talking about you, not me!" His father
wasn't sending him to be a spy, was he? Yet what else could he be,
Son of Vader nested like a viper in the heart of the Rebel Alliance?
talking about a hypothetical agent," Jovay reminded him. He
studied Luke in silence for several moments, then his face softened
and he relaxed. "When I was a child, your father saved my life."
he had expected, this wasn't even close. Luke slid to the edge of his
seat, his eyes focused on the Intelligence officer. "What
happened? Tell me everything about it."
was six, and a climbing fiend," Jovay reminisced with a chuckle.
"I climbed a tree -- Naboo has the best climbing pines
anywhere... well, I've heard Kashyyk has great trees but-- "
you get back to the story about my dad!"
it's a story about me."
he ever saw his dad again, Luke vowed never to tease or taunt him.
"Just tell it. Please?"
Long story short, I was hanging near the top, lost my grip and fell.
Your dad made a fantastic jump -- I was sure it was a hundred meters!
-- and caught me before I was halfway to the ground. He landed still
holding me, put me down safe and sound, and I was his for life. Or so
my parents promised. And I followed through."
mean you're like his slave?" Luke gasped, horrified.
do you get such wild ideas? Stars, no. After he left Naboo, I didn't
see him again until I enlisted and then... then he was a lot
different." Jovay's head turned and he stared into the darkness
they sped through. "I'm not sure how I recognized him. It was a
feeling, and I called... no, I didn't call, I just thought 'Anakin
Skywalker'. I think he was more surprised than I was." With a
sharp sigh, the officer refocused his attention on Luke. "I
promised him my fealty and he in turn gave my career a few nudges.
You see, nothing startling or sinister. A pretty simple story,
little too simple, Luke mused. Questions whirled in his head
and he attempted to sort through them. "So... you mean you knew
him when he was Anakin? Before Vader?"
hesitated before asking in a near-whisper: "What was he like?"
was... colorful. Very alive, always moving-- even when he was still,
if you know what I mean." He smiled faintly. "Blue eyes
like yours. Tall, wiry... mercurial. His mood could change in a
second. He laughed a lot... and he was completely fearless."
isn't any more, Luke thought sadly. "I wish I'd known him."
know him now," Jovay said in an odd tone.
But he's different now." His words sounded like a betrayal. Luke
swallowed. "I still love him, though."
We're about ready to come out of hyperspace. Watch and learn."
He hesitated. "So... your loyalty to my dad is just personal?
There are no politics involved?"
surprise was evident in the agitated way his fingers punched at the
controls. "I think we've talked enough about this."
you a double agent?" Luke asked suddenly. An Imp Intel officer,
pretending to spy on the Alliance but really spying on the Empire and
reporting to... Darth Vader? No, that didn't make sense.
been watching too many holomovies. Pay attention to what I'm doing."
adult put-down. Sure, he'd watched his fair share of holomovies, but
that didn't mean he was obsessed with them. Anyway, he enjoyed space
adventures more than espionage holos. Not that it mattered to Jovay;
the accusation was just a way to shut him up. "Okay," he
muttered, deciding that if the officer didn't want to talk, Luke
might as well 'watch and learn'. "Are you going to tell me where
nodded at the viewscreen. Abruptly the blurred starfield ended and
they emerged within sight of a large planet that Luke didn't
recognize. "I haven't studied this one," he mumbled.
Of all the planets he could have picked, this would have been his
first choice to visit. Well, maybe not his first first choice,
but his first choice after Naboo, Coruscant, and Alderaan. "What're
we going to do there? I want to see the old Pirates Bazaar and the--
not staying long enough for you to get in trouble," Jovay
warned. "It's just a quick stop. I'm not letting you out of my
sighed loudly. "I never get to have any fun," he
keep it that way," the agent said sternly, then laughed. "You
want to handle the landing approach?"
be right here if you get into trouble," Jovay said, and 'right
here' really meant right here because he didn't vacate the
pilot's seat and his hands hovered nervously over the controls.
can do it, I can do it!" Luke grumbled crossly.
Coronet Cantinonet, besides having a stupid name, was nothing like
the dives in Mos Eisley, but not by any stretch of anyone's
imagination could it be called 'elegant'. There was a band playing
the creepiest, eeriest music Luke had ever heard. The huge expanse
was dark except for multicolored flashing lights that pulsated all
over the ceiling, floor, and walls. Luke found himself turning in a
circle, getting dizzy from the relentless onslaught of bright/dark
that came every few milliseconds. Jovay grabbed his arm and pulled
him along until he found a table against the wall.
tossed his pack into the booth and slid in beside it. He stared at
the table. It was flashing lights, too, and it was making him feel
a color and just stare at that color. It will steady you."
was the dumbest thing he'd heard in ages, but he had nothing to
lose... except that awful meal he'd had onboard. "Blue." He
stared at a blue spot on the table. It blinked in a steady pattern of
alternating spots and hollow circles. After a few seconds, Luke felt
his stomach begin to unclench. A few more seconds and he felt brave
enough to look around. The lights didn't bother him as much. In fact,
they looked terrific. "Great place!"
you like it, kid," a strange voice said, and the voice's owner
sat down next to him.
stranger turned out to be a man who looked vaguely familiar-- and
when his giant Wookiee companion took a place across the table, Luke
realized instantly who they were. "Hey, you're-- "
Wookiee interrupted with a string of growls. "Yeah, Chewie,
you're right," the man said. "It's the kid from Eisley. Oz,
did you know my name?"
tavern owners still tell tales about you and the band of kids who
ragged on the Imps." The man gave him an assessing look. "The
stories are bigger than you are."
glared and opened his mouth to retort, but Jovay interjected
smoothly, "Han Solo and Chewbacca, meet Laze Loneozner, aka Oz."
gave him a nod, then focused on the other human. "So, Karas,
what's the job?"
the boy... and no questions asked."
Solo sipped his ale and leaned forward. "What is it, some kind
of local trouble?"
just say," Jovay lowered his voice, "he needs to avoid any
that's the trick, isn't it? It'll cost you extra."
Jovay nodded. "Fifteen thousand. Five now and ten when you get
Luke exclaimed. "What's-- "
the two men admonished, and the Wookiee added a low growl to the mix.
Luke muttered. "But why there? I studied it! There's nothing on
the planet except a few tribes of nomads!"
has people there who will take care of him, Han," Jovay told
do?" Luke asked. "Nomads?"
long as I get paid, it's doesn't matter to me where I dump him,"
matters to me!" Luke said loudly, irked that the three were
thousand." Jovay slid his arm across the table, credits peeking
out from under his sleeve.
leaned his arms on the table and the credits disappeared into his
feel like I'm being sold," Luke complained.
rest of the money?"
him safely to a man named Willard. He'll pay you."
I'm still here," Luke reminded them. He reached for the nearest
beverage, but Solo swatted his hand away.
Wookiee slid out of the booth, with Jovay following him. "Take
care of yourself, Oz," the agent said quietly, reaching out to
ruffle his hair. "Try to stay out of trouble."
not coming?" he asked, aghast.
shook his head, smiling slightly. He gave a Solo a half-salute. "He's
all yours for now, Han. Good luck." He turned, weaving through
the crowded cantina without looking back.
we haven't got all night," Solo said roughly. He stood, downed
the rest of his drink and set the empty tankard hard on the table.
"Chewie, start warm-up as soon as we get there. An easy fifteen
thou, a few repairs, then we can take on Jabba's next job. Let's go,"
he added impatiently.
just waiting for you!" Luke exclaimed defensively. "You are
used to it." Solo took two steps, then stopped. "Stick
close to me, kid."
fine." As if he couldn't take care of himself!
gave him an incredulous look. "I'm worried about the ten
thousand, not about you."
he shouted to be heard over the music that was growing ever louder.
"Fine, just fine!" and he was talking to the empty place
where Solo had stood.
a sigh, Luke shouldered his pack and followed the dark head that was
following the giant Wookiee. What next?
Dad? Can you hear me now?
not. Talk to you later... sometime... I hope.
He couldn't begin to imagine what was waiting for him on that
desolate planet. Tatooine... Dantooine... he had a bad feeling about
long is it going to take to get there, Mr. Solo?"
long, and it's Captain Solo."
He leaned forward, trying to peer between Solo and the Wookiee, but
there wasn't much to see. Just space and stars. "Captain of
what? Are you an Imp?"
Solo looked back at him, his mouth curled and his face flushing.
"Look, kid, I'm captain of this ship 'cause it's my ship
and if I say I'm captain, then I'm captain."
just asking!" Affronted, Luke folded his arms and slid back in
his seat. The Wookiee growled something that ended in a snort. "I
couldn't agree more."
both turned and stared at him. "What?" Luke demanded.
shook his head. "Never mind. Chewie, any ideas on that little
waited until after the growled response ended, then asked, "What
problem? And why is it taking a long time to get to Dantooine? It
shouldn't take long. I know where Dantooine is, I've studied all
genius," Solo commented under his breath before raising his
voice. "Hyperdrive's been acting up. That's the problem and the
name is Lu-- Oz, stop calling me 'kid'!" He'd thought the ship
looked like a piece of junk, and obviously his first assessment was
correct. The Millennium Falcon was well named... the question
was, what millennium was it from?
Cute. I thought it was pronounced 'Laze' like a laser."
is." He gnawed on his lower lip, struggling to remain civil.
"Just call me 'Oz'. Please." If this guy got any ruder, he
was going to forget his promise to Dad Vader about behaving properly.
Wookiee growled at Solo, something about being nice to the little
one. "Thanks," Luke said to him. "Can I call you
was a moment of silence before the other two turned around. "Did
you understand what he said?" Solo asked.
not all of it."
woofed and barked in a friendly way, indicating that Luke was welcome
to call him by name. "Cool. Chewie." Luke grinned, and
Chewie ruffled his hair with a huge paw.
did you learn that?" Solo asked suspiciously. "Have you
been to Kashyyk?"
but I hear they have great trees!" Luke replied
enthusiastically. "I've never actually seen a tree, except when
we were coming into Coronet, but Jo-- Karas said they're great for
launched into a rambling story that Luke didn't catch entirely, but
it had to do with climbing and living in trees that went into the
clouds. Solo grumbled to himself for a few seconds, then interrupted.
enough with the chitchat, we've got work to do here."
Go take a nap."
felt more disgusted than angry. "Typical adult put-down! You
just want to get rid of me!"
got that right. Once I get the ten thou, you're outta here, junior."
whaddaya mean, 'adult put-down'?" Solo snarled. "You're an
am not!" Incensed, Luke jumped to his feet. His head connected
with the top of the cockpit and he dropped back into the seat. "Ow!"
okay?" the Corellian asked gruffly while Chewie wuffed with
rubbed his sore head, then brought his fingers down and looked at
them. "Well, I'm not bleeding, so I guess I'll live."
I don't want to lose that ten thousand. Now go take that nap."
not sleepy," Luke lied.
huffed a few times and stood. "Okay," Luke said resignedly,
following the Wookiee out of the cockpit. "You're really tall.
This ship should be bigger so you don't have to bend down so much.
Are Wookiee ships bigger? Well, that's dumb, of course they are. Have
you known Captain Solo for a long time?"
answering, the other gestured him into a small room. A couple bunks
were built into the bulkhead. "Thank you, Chewie," Luke
said politely as the Wookiee patted his shoulder and left. Chewie was
a lot nicer than that Solo person. He wished Jovay hadn't left. Why
couldn't Jovay have taken him to Dantooine?
pulled off his boots and stretched out. If Jovay met his dad on
Naboo, maybe he'd known his mom, too. Why hadn't he thought to ask
that? Exasperated with himself, Luke rolled onto his stomach and
buried his face in the pillow. His life was moving too fast;
sometimes his thoughts couldn't keep up with all the changes. And--
he jerked his head up and glared at the closed door-- Solo was wrong
when he said Luke was an adult. Luke Skywalker felt the same today as
he always had, so that was impossible. An adult would act more mature
and think better and smarter... right? Unless this was as good as it
got and the way he was now was the way he would always be.
a groan, he pulled the pillow over his head and almost immediately
began to feel drowsy. In a pleasant haze, he imagined himself in a
tree, all the way at the top, clinging to rubbery branches, but the
branches began swaying to and fro, faster and faster. A sharp leaf
cut his finger and he let go, sliding, sliding, then sailing into the
blue sky, falling...
landed in his father's arms. "Dad! You caught me!"
Darth Vader put him on the grass. It was soft and grainy like sand.
Vader wasn't wearing his helmet, but Luke still couldn't see his
face. "Luke, where are you?"
looked around. "I think it's Naboo."
sighed. "No. Where are you now?"
He stared up and up at his father. The sun blazed behind the figure,
obscuring his features. "I guess I'm dreaming. I'm on a ship."
are you going?"
Dantooine somewhere. I don't know what's there."
so good about that?" he asked as he rolled over. He opened his
eyes and stared at the gray durasteel of the deck. With a sigh, he
punched the flat pillow. He had too many questions, his brain
wouldn't slow down, he would never fall asleep. In a few minutes,
he'd get up, go back to the cockpit, and offer his help again. But
right now the blanket was heavy on his limbs and he felt warm and
comfortable. So he'd wait just a few more minutes...
Luke breathed softly, leaning between pilot and copilot to take in
the view. "Is that grass?"
chuckled. "Sure is. Never seen grass, desert boy?"
shook his head, stunned into silence. It was blue! The wind created
waves in the grass, making it look like living velvet. The lack of
contrast between the clear sky and the purple-blue grass was amazing.
He could hardly wait to get out of the ship and touch the ground to
see what it felt like.
were flying low. "How do you know where we're going? It's a
whole planet-- how are you going to find this Willard guy? How do you
know where to-- "
me, Oz, I know what I'm doing. Karas gave me the coordinates."
How do you know Jo... Karas?"
'Joe' is his first name, huh?" Solo gave a short laugh. "He
saved our bacon once and turned out to be a good contact. Got us some
Evidently Solo didn't know Jovay's true identity. "Um... what
did you say he saved?"
kept us out of a mess. Right, Chewie?"
Luke persisted, "you said something else."
said he saved our bacon, kid. You got beans in your ears?"
Not only was Solo obnoxious, he was weird! "Why would I-- Oh,
never mind. What's bacon?"
provided a colorful description of a delicious meat made from
Corellian kaarthogs. Luke nodded. "Okay... so Karas saved your
shipment of this meat?"
an expression. I don't have time to give you a school lesson, kid."
Luke sat back, frowning. "Are we there yet?"
Right... there." Solo gave a nod toward a distant spot. "Chewie,
punch in the confirmation code."
" Luke abruptly shut his mouth as a complex of buildings came
into view. The structures looked as though they hadn't been there for
long. This wasn't a city, though it was large. No, this was-- "The
Rebel Alliance! Right? Is that who it is?"
looked over his shoulder, seeming to study Luke up and down, then
trying to peer around him.
looking for your 'off' switch."
a sound of disgust, he slouched back in his seat and folded his arms.
"Fine. I'll be quiet."
Wookiee laughed at what must have been, for Solo anyway, a witticism.
Luke rolled his eyes. Dad, what have you gotten me into?
managed to keep quiet while they landed their embarrassingly ugly
ship on a hard surface some distance from the smaller buildings, but
within several meters of ship hangers. It was dark inside the
buildings, but he could see the outlines of small fighters-- x-wings!
Maybe somebody here could give him the x-wing tattoo he wanted.
have a tattoo of a TIE fighter."
just meant-- Oh, forget it!" He squeezed his lips together
tightly, vowing not to speak again unless someone asked him a
silence, he helped Solo and Chewie unload a few crates from the ship.
After they finished, an old man approached Solo. Luke started to edge
away, but Chewie grabbed his arm.
just want to feel the grass," he wheedled, "just for a few
minutes, pleeeease? I won't go anywhere, just... right there."
Wookiee nodded and released him, and Luke hurried away before Solo
saw him. He stopped at the edge of the duracrete strip. With a grin
of excitement, he touched the grass with the toe of his boot, then
leaped forward, landing on his hands and knees. He ran his fingers
through the living carpet, surprised by its smooth texture. Lying on
his back, he stared up at a blue sky that was a clear and vivid as
the one above Tatooine.
a sigh, he pushed himself to his feet. Grass wasn't as exciting as he
thought it would be. There was a great-looking tree at the top of the
hill behind him, though, so he started walking. He could climb the
tree, but more importantly he wanted to see what was on the other
side of the hill. Something was telling him that he needed to take a
look at whatever--
Get back here!"
he muttered under his breath, giving the hill a longing look before
stomping back to address Solo. "You're not my father, you can't
tell me what to do!"
Solo turned to the older man and said, "He's all yours. Hand
over the cash."
so rude," Luke complained to the stranger who was counting out a
handful of credits. "Are you Willard?"
Willard," the man corrected quietly.
Why are you paying so much money for me?"
be a bargain at a tenth of the price," Solo offered, drawing a
laugh from Chewbacca.
money is from Karas," Willard said. "Solo, hope you make
another run back this way soon. You didn't bring much this time."
didn't pay for much," the Corellian drawled. "Chewie, we're
outta here. Oz... good luck."
thanks," he replied uncertainly. People sure came in and out of
his life fast. It would be nice if someone stayed for awhile. Like
maybe his dad. And speaking of his dad, that ten thousand obviously
came from Vader! No way would Jovay have that kind of money. And what
was with Jovay anyway? Did everyone know him? Intel people
were supposed to be inconspicuous, but Karas Jovay seemed
extraordinarily well-known to diverse groups-- Imperials, Rebels, and
the other hand, Oz was now known to the same groups. Pleased with
what would probably turn out to be his new-found celebrity, Luke
waved to his two escorts. Only the Wookiee waved back.
see your identichip."
Luke rummaged through his pack and produced Fixer's I.D. "Here."
Loneozner," Willard read as he ran the chip through his handheld
scanner. "Well, I can see why you prefer to be called 'Oz'."
he said ruefully. Luke Skywalker was a so much better name. If he had
a choice, that was who he would be. But he had to be Oz for awhile,
at least until his dad came and got him.
his dad wanted him back.
know anything about ship maintenance?"
Luke sighed. "Yes, I'm good at fixing things. I can pilot, too."
We'll put you in Maintenance for now."
he replied without enthusiasm. Daa-ad! Can you hear me?
of his life: no reply. Disappointed, Luke followed Commander Willard
toward the compound, casting a quick look back at the hill with its
single tree silhouetted against the bright sky.
Willard's deeply lined face was serious. "Are you planning on
Luke responded blankly.
you want to be a pilot someday, you have to be a member of the
stared at the ground as they walked. "I hadn't given it any
thought," he replied honestly.
thinking," Willard said sharply. "You're only here because
Karas asked for a favor and-- "
paid a lot of money."
older man stopped. "The Alliance runs on money. You can't fight
a revolution without supplies and weapons. You'll bunk here. Green
But Willard left him without another word, and Luke looked at the
building in front of him. It was a large portable unit that didn't
look like it would stand up to a strong wind, and it was painted
gray. He saw no green anywhere until he noticed a small strip at the
top of the door.
outside for a moment, he considered how to enter. There was probably
a central recreational area that was surrounded by small rooms
designed to house a single person. If he went in as Oz, he would have
to be confident, arrogant and flippant... but he was getting tired of
Oz. It was a strain to be Oz, and he wished again he could just be
Luke Skywalker. Or even Luke Lars. For a second, he toyed with the
idea of bouncing in with Hi, I'm Luke Vader! and the probable
reactions from the others made him smile.
Maybe he had to be called Oz, but he didn't have to behave like Oz.
He wasn't that person any more. Whether anyone knew it or not, he was
the son of Lord Vader, he was a Force-user (junior grade), and his
future was full of possibilities. Even if he had to be a mechanic for
awhile, sooner or later he would be a hero. Might as well start
practicing being brave. Straightening his shoulders, he hefted his
backpack higher and strode determinedly through the door.
first thing that struck him was the darkness. The second thing was
the dirt, as dust motes spiraled through the air like sprites when
the sunlight hit them. The third thing he noticed was the... smell.
The strong odors of sweat and very old socks mixed with grease and
oil and smoke. There was a recreation area all right; it was a small
table near the door where five men were smoking deathsticks and
gambling with hexagonal chips. The rest of the cavernous room
contained rows of beds that were little more than cots. Some were
empty, some occupied by men wearing underwear that obviously hadn't
been cleaned in-- no, he couldn't look at any more!
the damn door!" someone called irritably and, muttering an
unintelligible apology, Luke backed out into the sun, gulping for
no, no, no, no," he muttered to himself. "What a mess! I've
never lived like that and I'm not starting now." Finally he
could appreciate what a nice home Aunt Beru had kept. Nice and clean.
looked around. There were other buildings that looked the same as the
one he had just left. They were probably the same inside, too. There
had to be somewhere else he could stay, there just had to be.
Oh, for his quarters on the Devastator! Captivity by the
Imperial Navy had never looked so good. And this group of unwashed
ruffians thought they could defeat the Empire? Luke sniffed. Not a
I help you?"
turned and studied the thirty-something man who regarded him with a
serious but friendly face.
looking for a place to stay. Commander Willard told me here, but...."
not a pilot then," the man said, sounding disappointed.
am! Just not... yet." It would have been simple to say yes and
be assigned the pilots' quarters, which were bound to be a lot better
than these barracks. At least he would get one night's sleep before
they kicked him out. But his dad had told him that lying was a bad
idea, and Luke didn't want to start off on the wrong foot. "I
can't stay there. It's... awful."
other laughed. "You must be from Naboo."
felt his eyes widen. "Well, n-no, I'm not," he stammered.
"Why did you think so?"
the princesses of the universe. They even elect a queen." The
blond officer chuckled at Luke's blank expression. "They like
their comforts," he explained. "So where are you from?"
What would this guy say if he knew Luke's mother had been one of
those Naboo queens?
The man looked surprised. "I thought you backplanet boys could
stand just about anything."
is very clean," Luke said edgily, bristling a little at the
insult. "The sand scours everything. And these... these people
are filthy. They don't bathe!"
man choked a little, trying unsuccessfully to hide a laugh. "Well,
my young prince, let's see if we can find you somewhere cleaner
to stay. I know a few hidden nooks. What's your name?"
stifled a sigh. "Oz. It's actually Laze Loneozner, but call me
to meet you, Oz. I'm Garven Dreis, known to some people as 'Boss'."
He thrust out his hand and Luke shook it firmly.
Are you in charge of this place?"
just one fighter group. I'm the leader of Red Squad."
fighter pilot!" Luke exclaimed.
started to walk. "Is that what you want to be?" Dreis
opened his mouth to call out an excited affirmative, but bit it back
just in time. His dad wouldn't appreciate his son fighting against
Imperial ships, would he? Luke sighed. "I guess not. Maybe just
fly something else... transports or... something... I guess."
see. Well, I understand. Being a fighter pilot is a very dangerous
occupation. Sooner or later, your number comes up."
not afraid!" he said hastily.
should be." Boss stopped and looked him in the eyes. "And
if you're smart, you will be. You picked a dangerous side to
fight on. We're outnumbered and outgunned. Our greatest strengths are
our beliefs and our determination."
you think the Imps aren't determined and don't believe in what
studied his face. "If you're not here because you want to
overthrow the Empire, why are you here?"
didn't say I didn't want to overthrow‚ńĒWell, I'm here, okay?
I'm just here." I'm here because my dad sent me and I don't
know why. "I'm not sure why, I just know that I have to be
older man kept staring at him. "How old are you? Fifteen,
glanced down at his feet and shuffled them a little. "Mmm... I
just turned seventeen," he mumbled.
I can't hear you."
he snapped. "I just turned seventeen!"
see. You seem much younger."
from a backplanet," Luke said sarcastically. "We mature
tilted his head. "Huh. So what are your political convictions?"
is this, an interrogation?" He started walking again and Boss
joined him, steering them to the right. They followed a narrow dirt
road that turned uphill. "Tatooine is a long way from the
Empire. They mostly left us alone. We have Hutt gangsters running the
planet, and the Imps let them do it. The Imps never bothered me.
Except," he added, "for killing my aunt and uncle who
raised me, and chasing me around until I got off planet."
Why were they chasing you?"
of these days he would learn to think through his statements before
he made them. He scrambled quickly for an explanation that would
contain more truth than lies. "I dunno. Maybe because I knew
they killed my aunt and uncle and it would have been bad publicity if
I told anybody."
sent him a skeptical glance. Luke stifled a sigh when he realized he
was describing his life, not Fixer's. Now he could only hope
they didn't run a background check on 'Laze Loneozner'. "Well...
they were also after me because I led a gang of street kids and used
to raid the Imp barrack's food supplies."
just done it again! Luke, think before you speak. Would he
ever remember that instruction?
Dreis drawled. "And how did you get off Tatooine?"
as well finish with the rest of the truth. Sort of. "I got a job
fixing a ship and traded my repairing skills for the trip
see. Whose ship did you repair?"
sure ask a lot of questions." He sent the man a chastising look
the way Oz would have. "It was a Falleen, a young guy. He was on
some kind of trip to explore other planets and see how inferior
humans were to the Falleen."
Dreis seemed satisfied. He chuckled. "I've met a Falleen with
that exact attitude."
nodded enthusiastically, relieved to have something in common with
this suspicious man. "Yeah, this guy was really arrogant. But
kind of nice, too. In an aggravating sort of way, know what I mean?"
Boss said dryly, which made Luke give him a suspicious glance. He was
being well-behaved; surely Boss wasn't referring to him!
he could ask, they reached the rise of the hill and Luke came to a
sudden stop. Below him, a small gray city sprawled. It was full of
activity; people, machines, droids‚ńĒ "It's huge!" he
exclaimed. "This must be the whole Rebel army!"
We're going in here." Boss steered him through an open doorway
into a small hut. Four tables were crammed into it but only one
person sat inside‚ńĒ Commander Willard.
older officer looked up and sighed wearily. "You just got here.
How can you be in trouble already?"
interrupted with, "I found him loitering in the compound."
assigned you to Green," Willard pointed out.
didn't like it." Boss shrugged and sent a quick glance skyward.
"It's too dirty for him."
You people are sure‚ńĒ "
raised his eyebrows. "I thought‚ńĒ "
we're not dirty on Tatooine!" Luke exclaimed. "You people
have a lot of prejudices. Krit!"
swung the backpack off his shoulder. Boss grabbed it and said, "Let's
see what he's got."
friend sent him," Willard interrupted. "He's okay."
look anyway, just to be sure." Boss smiled slightly. "Although
I think an Imperial mole would make himself less conspicuous."
Luke repeated uncertainly. "Who, me?" But... what if that's
exactly what he was?
tapes. Good for you," Boss commented as he pawed through the
contents. "Colorful clothes. I didn't realize Tatooine was so...
dramatic. Hello, what's this?"
it is, it's mine," Luke said coldly. "This stuff is
all that I own. I don't appreciate you‚ńĒ " Oh, krit! Boss had
this one of those laser swords that Jedi used?" he asked,
hefting the hilt in one hand.
lightsaber," Willard confirmed. "Oz? Where did you get
junk shop in Mos Eisley." He eyed Boss's wide sweeping motions
uneasily. "Careful with that."
seen them before, I know which end is hot." The blond officer
pointed the saber outward and pressed the control.
tried again. "It doesn't work. The crystal must be missing. Not
surprising after all these years." Boss returned the saber to
his backpack. "Nice souvenir, though."
kept silent, though he was worried. His lightsaber was broken! His
dad told him to keep it safe and keep it with him. His dad said that
his lightsaber was his life! What had happened to it? No one
had touched it since....
Darth Vader had put it in his pack.
it close always.... But I don't know how to use it.... When the need
arises, when you are desperate, you will know how.
"Yeah, that's what I thought, it's a great souvenir even though
long as the Imps don't catch you with it and get the wrong idea,"
Willard said quietly.
kidding." He met the other's eyes, keeping his own gaze blank
what are we going to do with you?" Willard asked.
a great mechanic, I can fix anything," he replied. "I'm not
boasting; that's the truth. And I can fly."
not fighters," Boss pointed out.
shook his head. Let them think he was a coward. Better that than risk
meeting his dad in combat.
was a brief pause. "I'll take him," Boss finally said. "We
could use a mechanic who's exclusive to Red Squad."
nodded. "If he works out, share him with the other squads."
quelled Boss's protest with a Look that reminded Luke of Dad Vader.
sighed resignedly. "Okay. C'mon, kid."
Boss grinned at him. "Let's get you settled in a nice, clean
Luke had a vision of the building he'd fled from. "I want my own
him, Willard chuckled as they went through the door.
have a private cubicle all to yourself," Boss assured him, "just
like the pilots have. You'll only have to share a 'fresher."
closed his eyes briefly. Well, this was war. Sacrifices had to be
made. And if he had to share a 'fresher...
was Luke Vader-Skywalker (in disguise). He could do anything!
I have to?" he inquired plaintively, just to be certain.
war. Sacrifices have to be made-- even if it means sharing a
'fresher," Boss said, leaving Luke at a standstill, staring
gotta be more careful with this Force stuff!
sat on his bunk, pretending to search through his backpack. He was
actually listening to the pilots' chatter, trying to get a feel for
them before he joined them. The brief introduction that Boss had
given ("This is Oz, new mechanic") had barely generated any
responses. He wondered if pilots considered themselves superior
beings or if they'd accept him as one of them.
there was only one way to find out. Tucking the pack securely under
his bed, he walked into the rec area. This was more like it! It was a
large, comfortable room with tables for eating or gaming, and soft
chairs for relaxing. There was even a small holoscreen that was
currently turned off.
decided not to interrupt the game of sabaac, even though he probably
could give them a few pointers, and headed for the two men lounging
in one corner. "Hi," he said when their conversation
brown haired youth looked up at him. "You're the mechanic...?"
name. I'm Wedge Antilles." The pilot didn't stand or offer a
hand. "This is Jek Porkins‚ńĒ"
stout young man gave him a half smile.
Loneozner," Luke said awkwardly. "But call me Oz."
waved at a chair and Luke took it as an invitation to sit. "So.
nodded. "I can fly, too, but I've never been in an x-wing."
can fly?" Porkins straightened. "Great, we need more
need a mechanic," Antilles reminded him. "You ever work on
only‚ńĒ" He had just about said, only TIE fighters,
"smaller ships. But I'm good, I can fix anything."
we can teach you to fly x-wings," Porkins interjected. "You
enlisted, right? Or are you a civie?"
I'm a civilian. That reminds me," Luke remembered, "do you
know how much I'll get paid?"
laughed a little. "Same as the rest of us. You get room and
board. If you're not enlisting, you don't even get a uniform, so keep
your clothes clean."
can pop for a jumpsuit for him," the other man protested.
"Sithspit, Antilles, you Corellians are cheap!"
why we're rich," Wedge said in a regretful tone that meant he
had no money at all. "Where're you from, Oz?"
We don't get many from the Outer Rim Territories."
conversation faded off, and Luke wondered if it was always this
boring here. Maybe he could perk things up. "So why are you
fighting the Empire if you're not getting paid?"
door behind him banged open and Boss entered. Luke expected people to
stand, but no one did, so he stayed in his seat.
Empire is evil. That's why we're fighting," Porkins said.
old story. "How can a whole Empire be evil?" Luke asked.
"That's billions of beings... including us." He felt a
presence behind him and knew that Boss was hovering.
government of the Empire," Wedge clarified. "Don't they
teach you anything on Tatooine?"
was getting tired of people thinking Outer Rim inhabitants were
stupid! "Of course they do!" he snapped. "But we
hardly see anything of the Empire, so I'm asking! Is that a crime?"
chuckled. "He's a feisty one, boys, best watch out." The
red-haired man walked around him and sat across from Porkins. "The
Emperor staged a coup and dissolved the Republic nearly twenty years
ago in order to establish a form of government that relies on terror
and torture to enforce its hold on the galaxy. The Moffs and Vader,
with millions of stormtroopers at their disposal, enforce the
then," Luke asked carefully, "wouldn't it be easier to just
get rid of the Emperor instead of fighting millions of troopers?
Maybe the stormtroopers don't like the Empire. I mean... the Moffs
probably like it because it's why they have power, but I'll bet Vader
doesn't like it either."
was a moment of silence, then Porkins said, "I can see this kid
is going to be great for morale."
just asking!" He folded his arms. "I want to know
how other people think!"
all right," Wedge said understandingly. "We're not making
fun of you. It's just hard to relate to someone who hasn't
experienced the Empire firsthand."
not quite true," Boss said thoughtfully. "Oz, you told me
your guardians were killed by stormtroopers and that you were driven
from Tatooine by them."
shrugged. "That was like a police action. It wasn't politics."
course it was politics," Wedge countered. "That scene is
playing out over and over, everywhere in the galaxy. Farms and
businesses being stolen, homes destroyed, families separated and
hoped his dad wasn't doing anything like that. "It doesn't make
sense. If Palpatine destroys so much, there won't be an Empire left
for him to rule." The other three smiled slightly, as if they
were humoring a child, but Luke thought his point was valid. "I
still say, get rid of the Emperor. He's the one controlling
we'll just fly right up to the palace and shoot him," Porkins
and Vader both," Boss mused. "Cut off the head and the rest
of the snake dies."
of which...." Wedge stood and grabbed a box, dealing out
electronic darts between the four of them. "Let's have a go,
shall we?" He pushed open a door, revealing crudely painted
images of the Emperor and Darth Vader on the back of it. Aiming
carefully, he threw a dart. It lit bright orange and made a buzzing
sound when it struck Luke's dad in his chestplate.
flinched and quietly put his darts aside. "When do we eat?"
he asked, hoping to distract them.
didn't work. They were caught up in their game and soon added rounds
of derogatory shouts along with each throw. With a sigh, Luke slipped
away and went outside. Dad? he asked without much hope, and
there was no answer.
looked around. No one was paying attention to him, so he wound his
way through the buildings and headed for the hill that looked so
enticing. Time to see what was on the other side.
was nothing. Luke made a sound of disgust and dropped to the grass,
disappointed. He didn't know why he had felt compelled to climb the
hill nor why he had stopped where he did, in a wide valley ringed by
steep slopes. Still... there was something familiar about the place,
almost as if he'd been here before. It felt... good.
lay back in the grass. It was soft, warmed by the single sun that
shone down with a temperate heat. It was nothing like Tatooine.
Strange, how rarely he thought of Tatooine. He never wished he was
blinked, then threw his arm across his forehead to shield his eyes.
At the moment he'd thought 'home', the image that flashed into his
mind was not the Lars homestead, but rather his room on the
Devastator... and Darth Vader, standing there looking at him,
hands on his hips, smiling behind his mask.
sniffled and blinked a few more times, then sat up. Determinedly, he
concentrated on his surroundings, pushing his father to the back of
his mind. It was pretty here, but there was something else, something
more than just the attractiveness of the landscape... there was a
feeling of.... Well, he didn't know what it was.
Luke walked farther, entering an odd cluster of forest. Now he felt
wary, as if someone lurked behind the trees, waiting to‚ńĒ
he shouted when a spectral figure suddenly appeared in front of him.
are you? What are you doing here?" the figure demanded angrily,
and he saw it was just a girl in a white dress.
scared the krit out of me!" he accused.
dare you talk to me that way," she huffed, folding her arms and
glaring at him.
squinted to take an inventory of her. She was about his age, shorter
than he was, with a stupid hairdo. "What are you doing here?"
are you doing here?" she countered.
have every right to be here." He folded his own arms and
returned her glare. "I'm with the army!"
please!" he scoffed. "You're a girl! What kind of girl‚ńĒ
Oh." Well, why not? Those kind of girls did a big business in
Mos Eisley. "You're that kind."
gasped, then her glare became more intense. "I have no idea what
you mean," she said icily, "but I am a senator and I
won't be treated this way by some‚ńĒsome-- peasant!"
you calling a peasant, sister?" he demanded. "You don't
even know me! You don't know anything about me! And you, a senator‚ńĒ
c'mon! You're about twelve years old!"
Oh!" She was so angry, she couldn't form a coherent word, and
Luke couldn't help but grin at her.
what's your name?" he asked. "I'm Oz. I just got here
"Hrmph." She still
scowled, but obviously good manners were warring with her
irritation. "Leia Organa," she said finally.
a pretty name," he replied as a peace offering. "Where're
shuffled around a little, as if she didn't want to let go of her
anger. She reminded Luke of his dad. "Alderaan."
I'm from Tatooine."
rolled her eyes. "No wonder you have no manners."
know," Luke snapped, "I've never met as many rude people in
my life as I've met here. You're all prejudiced and act superior!
Some Alliance! I'm not impressed."
accusations must have had some impact, because she looked
embarrassed. "You're right," she acknowledged with a tiny
sigh. "I'm sorry, Oz. So tell me, what are you doing
here? Most people don't come here. I think of it as my private
Sorry for trespassing." He looked around. "I'm not sure. I
just... like the way it feels. I know that sounds silly."
I understand, that's how I feel, too." She looked at him with
faint surprise on her face. "I just haven't met anyone who felt
the same way."
It occurred to him that he was actually talking to a nice girl, and
he wasn't nervous. He also wasn't attracted to her, which made him
annoyed with himself.
stood motionless for a moment. The hair along the back of Luke's neck
prickled and he shivered, not from the breeze that was warm and
moist. He looked over his shoulder. Nothing was there.
folded her arms again, but this time she appeared cold rather than
angry. Their eyes met. "I think we should go," Luke said
nodded. They began to walk, then increased their pace to a trot after
only a few steps. Luke grabbed her arm and broke into a run. When
they were in the sunny, open meadow again, they both stopped and
was creepy," Luke muttered, unable to pinpoint what had so
Leia said softly. "Like... something was wrong. Bad."
nodded in agreement. "Have you ever felt that before?"
shook her head. "No. I've been a little uncomfortable in the
forest, but nothing like this time."
Maybe it was a Bad Sith thing that he attracted. Probably evil
spirits were swirling around and were going to follow them back to
for getting us out of there so fast," she said, and he knew it
was a small gesture of friendship.
really saved our bacons," he boasted playfully.
giggled a little, then agreed with a nod and a smile. "I need to
get back," Leia said when they reached the outskirts of the
too. It was nice meeting you," he said, to show her that
Tatooinies could be as polite as anyone else in the galaxy.
too, Oz," she answered with a smile, and he felt a pang of
regret that he had to lie to her about his name. "Good-bye."
watched until she disappeared out of sight and sighed. This feeling
wasn't nearly as bad as when he'd had to leave his dad, but still...
he felt oddly bereft.
feeling sorry for yourself, he scolded, and added aloud: "I'll
go look for the mess hall. A hearty dinner, and I'll feel great!"
and board. He was pretty sure that meant they would feed him.
yes, they fed him, but he wasn't impressed with the food, which was
even worse than Imp-ship food... except for the lush fruits that were
freshly picked and full of juice. Luke wondered if he could live on
fruit alone and skip the dry rations.
dinner, there didn't seem to be much to do so he returned to his tiny
room and shut the door. Maybe if he took a nap, he could talk to his
dad again. It worked last time. "Luke to Dad," he muttered,
closing his eyes and pretending to sleep. "H'lo, Dad, come in!
a few minutes of waiting, he gave up. He wasn't tired and it was hard
to fake sleep. He wandered out into the encampment, enjoying the
fresh, clean air and cooling temperature. Dusk was just beginning to
settle, and on the horizon he saw two moons beginning their climb
into the darkening azure sky. They looked lonely sitting out there by
themselves, waiting for full night to reveal their starry companions.
turned his head. Leia Organa. "I guess. Tatooine has two suns.
The moons remind me of there... well, except that these are moons
instead of suns, it's cold instead of hot, grass and trees instead of
desert, full of people instead of‚ńĒ"
get the idea," Leia interrupted good-naturedly. "Um... Oz,
I'm not usually as rude as I was this afternoon. Something about that
area set my nerves on edge. I'm sure that was why you were rude,
he disagreed cheerfully. "With me, what you see is what you
get." Except for all the lies about his identity.
made a funny cluck-clucking noise. "I was trying to give you an
excuse for your behavior."
asked you to?" Luke grinned at her. "I can think up my own
excuses, thanks anyway."
raised her eyes toward the sky. "Fine. I only came over to say
that it was nice meeting you. I'm leaving for awhile."
rush of anger jolted through him. People appeared in his life and
disappeared almost immediately. There was hardly any point in getting
to know someone. He forced himself to speak calmly. "Where are
to the Senate," she stated evenly, but her cheeks flushed and he
knew she wasn't telling the entire truth.
do anything I wouldn't do," he said shortly, turning away from
her, angry that she was leaving and insulted that she wasn't being
honest with him.
look who's talking about honesty!
a voice called. Luke turned to see a strange officer coming toward
he repeated. Great. She was the Alderaani princess he'd heard about.
It figured that he'd insult someone important. Oh, well, it was
practice for meeting Palpy.
left him without further words, and he watched her walk downhill to
greet the officer. Her behind swished nicely from side to side and
why that didn't move him, he didn't understand. Maybe he was what
Aunt Beru used to refer to as a 'late bloomer'. "Wish I'd bloom
soon," he muttered.
to do, what to do. Apparently he wasn't required to report to work
tonight, so he headed out of the camp and ran up 'his' hill. When he
reached the top, he took advantage of the privacy to exercise his
Force skills‚ńĒleaping up to grab hold of high tree branches,
climbing higher and jumping down, executing cartwheels over and
over‚ńĒin short, he did everything he could think of to wear himself
out. Then he sat down and stared at the lights of the base. From
here, it looked quiet and pretty.
People probably think that about Leia, too!" He laughed at his
cleverness. Lying back in the grass, he relaxed in the cozy feeling
of being surrounded by a mysterious warmth despite the cooling air
and... eww, the grass was wet. Nevertheless, he closed his eyes and
drifted into a pleasant haze.
to see you again," Darth Vader said dryly.
turned his head lazily. "Hi, Dad. Where've you been? I tried to
call a couple times but I didn't get an answer."
this distance, in order to attain mental contact you need to be in a
meditative state... or the state that, for you, passes as meditation:
told me sarcasm isn't polite," he reminded his father. "Hey!"
He sat up suddenly. "Is Jovay your son?"
Darth Vader's mask disappeared and his father's indistinct features
swam in front of him. "Just how old do you think I am?"
I'd have to be a lot older in order to be Jovay's father."
get your pants in a twist," he replied mildly. "He just
said something that made me wonder. So... you're not, right?"
was back, breathing heavily. "I am not."
Just checking." Pleased with the answer, Luke relaxed and yawned
you fall into a deep sleep, we will not be able to talk."
He blinked several times, trying to stay partly awake.
go for a walk." Vader rose.
stood, then looked down at himself still lying on the grass, eyes
waved his hand. "Leave your body there. We'll come back for it."
good." He followed his father. "As long as it won't get
eaten by wild animals. What if somebody finds it... me? Will they
think I'm dead?"
Luke, they'll think you're sleeping. Where do you get such wild
of my head." They were moving into the small clearing. Vader's
black garb kept appearing and fading, and sometimes he looked like a
different man altogether. "So are we like... spirits now? Or
walking and meditating at the same time. Cool." Luke quieted,
content to simply enjoy his dad's company. But the need to talk was
too great and he managed only a few seconds of silence. "I met a
did?" Vader halted, sounding pleased, and his mask shimmered and
disappeared. "What sort of girl?"
usual kind. Two arms, two legs, two‚ńĒyou know."
younger man laughed at him. "I know. Do you like her? What's her
name is Leia Organa and I guess she's a prin‚ńĒ"
Darth Vader shouted triumphantly. "I knew it! The
Princess is more than just a supporter of The Rebellion Against the
Empire, she's a participant! Now I can gather the evidence I need to
can not!" Luke protested. "I'm not a spy! You can't
take advantage of me being here‚ńĒthat's cheating! It's not fair!"
Luke grabbed Vader's arm and yanked on it. "If you arrest her
because of this, I'll never speak to you again. I mean it."
course you will speak to me, you cannot stop yourself from talking,"
his father said smugly.
pressed his lips together and decided to try another tact. "You
need to show some respect for me. What kind of father would betray my
Vader looked down at him, folding his arms. Luke folded his own arms
and glared back. They were both still for several very long seconds.
"All right," Vader finally agreed grudgingly.
then." Luke nodded and they began walking again, ending up in
the small meadow he'd discovered earlier. "What is this place?"
he asked, knowing his father would understand.
of years ago it was the site of a Jedi teaching enclave. Many great
Jedi were taught here, including the Sith Lord, Exar Kun."
For whatever reason, he was vaguely disappointed. "You know,
there's a Dark place in the trees that Leia felt, too. It was...
scary. Maybe that Kun-guy was coming after me."
his father didn't think he needed reassuring or he was simply
ignoring those last words. "Leia Organa felt Force emanations?"
he asked in an odd tone.
shrugged. "How would I know? It was just a creepy place that
neither of us liked. Let's go the other way."
go back to your body."
But we haven't talked in ages."
and days. Nevertheless," his father steered him around, "other
people are approaching and it's best that you be awake when they
What would happen if I wasn't? Hey!" he exclaimed, remembering.
"My lightsaber is broken! How do I fix it?"
dad ignored that. Luke was beginning to figure out that when his
father ignored something, either it was important or he didn't want
to answer for some other reason. Maybe he was embarrassed to have
given Luke a defective lightsaber. Or maybe he wanted Luke to repair
it himself. "I have more things I want to talk to you about. I
miss you. And...." He didn't know how to tell his dad that he
was angry at him, because he wasn't, not really. It was just hard to
understand why he was here instead of with his father.
His dad stopped them in front of Luke's relaxed body. "You must
practice meditation-- without falling asleep. When you have reached
a higher level of skill, we will be able to contact each other more
often, and more frequent communication will become necessary as
events progress. Be mindful of the people around you and of your own
safety. I do not like that you are here with the Rebels."
sent me here," he reminded his father crossly.
as it is, right now the Alliance is a safer place for you than the
Empire." Vader glanced at the pilots heading toward them. "Get
back in your body now."
do I‚ńĒ?" Luke opened his eyes and sat up. His father was
nowhere to be seen, but Wedge and Porkins were approaching. "Hi.
Just copping a snooze," he explained nervously.
sent us to get you," Wedge said. "There are wild animals
roaming around at night. It could be dangerous."
knew it," Luke muttered, hoping his dad could feel his
silent recrimination. They could have eaten my body while we were
sent Wedge," Porkins clarified, "and Wedge was afraid to
come up here alone."
wasn't afraid," Wedge denied sharply. "I just figured you
could use the exercise."
yeah, just what I've always wanted, exercise. Thanks, buddy."
they continued bickering, Luke joined them and headed back toward the
base, casting a longing look over his shoulder.
dad. He sighed heavily, both sorry and relieved. The other two
looked at him and he had to think quickly.
have a tattoo," he said brightly. "Wanna see?"
Wedge repeated, more emphatically.
a TIE fighter," Luke offered.
TIE fighter?" Porkins repeated doubtfully. "Maybe you
shouldn't show that to anyone."
wanted to get an x-wing on the other arm, but I ran out of credits."
bad you didn't get that first," Wedge muttered. "Don't show
Boss. He'll want to scrape it off." He paused, looking at Luke
as they walked. "You really should be in bed, you know. We get
please!" Luke rolled his eyes at the absurd suggestion. Bed at
this hour, like he was a child! "I couldn't possibly fall asleep
this early. Besides, I'm not a morning person, I'll work a later
chuckled. "Good luck with that," he said cheerfully, and
even the serious Wedge smiled.
didn't speak again as they reached the barracks and separated, each
going to his own cubicle. Wedge seemed to be about his own age, but
was so grim and... adult. If that's what it was like to grow up, Luke
vowed never to let it happen to him. Turning out to be boring was one
of his great worries. Not that Wedge was boring... well, who could
tell, he was so serious.
sat on the edge of his bunk and fished the lightsaber out of his
pack. He pressed the control again, but sure enough, it was still
broken. He hoped he could fix it, but maybe he shouldn't do it yet.
What if someone stole it? He didn't know these people; they could be
thieves. It's not like they were his friends.... What was the point
in being friends with them? They'd be gone soon. They'd die in combat
or he'd leave because his dad decided that he should go live with the
Wookiees or some other dumb idea. Luke frowned and mentally scowled
at his dad, then immediately stopped, just in case he was
broadcasting through the Force. I'm really not mad at you, he
sent, though he sort of was.
lights went out. Luke sat there for a moment, snarling silently at
the stupidity of an army that decided its troops should be in bed by
2200, as if they weren't adults and couldn't decide for themselves.
wait," he muttered, "I'm not an adult and never will
be. Gotta remember that."
remained sitting upright on his bunk, vowing not to cave in to The
Man and go to sleep. But in a few minutes, he tilted sideways and
relaxed against the surprisingly soft pillow. He wouldn't sleep, but
he could rest for awhile before going to bed.
next thing he knew, lights were blinding him and a loud buzzing was
sounding in the barracks. Luke pried open one eye when there was a
tap on his door before it was flung open.
and shine, tattoo-boy," Porkins called happily. "It's time
for the early shift! Don't say you weren't warned!"
Luke groused, pushing himself into a sitting position. He wasn't even
getting paid for being abused like this! Something was definitely
wrong in the galaxy, and it looked like the Rebels were part of the
hooked on the edge of the low table, Luke slouched in the chair and
closed his eyes, listening to "The Fall of the Senate". It
seemed an appropriate topic to study, given that he had been
ensconced for weeks with a group that wanted to restore the Republic
and the Senate. Granted, the audio didn't have anything nice to say
about the Republic, but he suspected all educational datatapes were
Palpy-Approved and not to be totally believed. There was probably
some truth to them, but he tried to balance that with what he heard
from his new compatriots.
opened his eyes and studied the people who relaxed in the rec area.
Red Squad was larger than he'd thought at first. Pilots came and went
on various assignments ‚ńď guarding troop carriers, sniping at the
Imps, even ferrying supply ships. One young pilot whom Luke had met
briefly and liked had not returned from his last mission, and Luke
had been surprised at the lack of regret from the other pilots. There
had been no talk, no reminiscing, no sorry-he's-gone, just a quiet
that had lasted a few hours and more drinking than usual that night.
wouldn't like to die unmourned. At least his dad would miss him.
looked over to see Porkins standing at the open storage room door,
one fist planted on his waist, the other clutching electronic darts,
glaring at the room in general.
Wedge asked, glancing up from his zukodu puzzle.
Porkins grabbed the edge of the door and swung it to and fro. "Vader
is missing! Who took my Vader poster?"
put it under my pillow so I can dream about him at night," Luke
said mildly‚ńĒand truthfully‚ńĒ earning a round of chuckles from the
other two, plus a couple snorts from invisible pilots somewhere in
Lord Vader," Wedge recited in a high-pitched adolescent voice,
"My name is Oz and I'm your biggest fan. Can I have your
autograph? Or maybe a share of your estate? I will tell all the other
boys what a wonderful person you really are, somewhere deep, deep,
really deep inside."
blushed as everyone roared, then grinned. "You won't be laughing
when he writes back and gives me part of his estate! After all, how
many fans can he have?"
few, I should imagine, in the Imperial camp," a voice behind him
said. Garven Dreis joined the group and pulled a chair alongside
Luke. "What're you studying, Oz?"
unplugged the audio and held it up. "It's about the fall of the
Senate," he said helpfully, just in case Boss couldn't read, and
recited: "Corrupt senators dedicated only to winning benefits
for their own planets, susceptible to bribery and blackmail, versus
power-mad Jedi determined to take over the galaxy, blee blee blee."
shook his head. "The crap they give you kids to read! I don't
know how you learn anything."
there were no corrupt senators?" Luke asked innocently.
course there were, a few, as there would be in any body the size of
the Senate. But they were far outnumbered by sincere beings dedicated
to the welfare of the galaxy and all its sentient life. Unlike the
Imperials, whose hostility toward-- "
had to get him started," Porkins grumbled. "Tell him
about the Jedi, Boss."
stifled laughter told Luke that this was a favorite topic of
Garven's. "What was so great about Jedi?" he asked,
feigning disinterest. "Were they really trying to take over the
Senate and control the galaxy like it says here?"
Boss exploded, much to the delight of a few pilots who staggered
away, struggling to cover their laughter. "The Jedi were amazing
fighters, risking their lives every day. Seeing them use lightsabers
was awe-inspiring! They were brilliant flyers, too. No one could
pilot like a Jedi, and they could fly anything. I knew one‚ńĒwell,
knew of him‚ńĒ He was the greatest pilot who ever lived, at
least in my lifetime. I saw him make a landing on Coruscant with a
ship that was being torn apart by explosions, losing huge sections
piece by piece. Yet somehow he brought it in, saving the life of
Chancellor Palpatine, who was onboard. As it turned out, that was a
life not worth saving. Still.... They called him the Hero Without
Fear." Garven's enthusiasm faded. "I'm sure he died that
way, too... without fear. What a waste."
Skywalker," Luke said softly.
Boss looked up, surprise flashing across his face. "That's on
I just... heard stories."
Garven stood and looked down on him. "Tomorrow you'll start
working on x-wings."
He sat up straight, blinking.
about time!" Porkins crowed.
thanks," Luke mumbled, staring at Garven. Sure, x-wings were
more exciting than transports and ground vehicles, but he'd be
working on something that might try to shoot down his dad. Or Captain
if you'd like‚ńĒI'm not pressuring you," Boss said in a tone
that meant he was, "I think you're ready to try the
make a flyboy out of you yet," Wedge said unhelpfully.
from Tattoo-ine becomes Fly-Boy," Porkins intoned. "This
calls for a celebration. Break out the drinks‚ńĒjuice, of course,"
he added with a grin for Garven.
not your mother," Boss answered, shaking his head in
disapproval. "If you can drink and be sharp in the morning, go
ahead. Not you, Oz, you're too young. You neither, Wedge."
said you weren't our mother," Luke protested, though he didn't
truly care. Drinking reminded him of Tatooine, and he could do
without memories of that life.
I were your mother, you'd all be drinking milk," the older pilot
dad makes me drink milk, Luke thought wistfully. He was getting
better at the mind-talk business, but it wasn't enough. He wanted to
spend real time with his dad, live and in person! Which he
kept saying and Darth Vader kept ignoring. "I like milk."
Oz wants his milky!" Jek Porkins singsonged.
can be quite juvenile and annoying," Luke said loftily. "I
suggest you act your age. Which I assume to be around... fifty?"
very funny," Porkins responded good-naturedly. "It's almost
bedtime, Baby Oz. You should turn in so you can dream about your hero
and be well rested for your important new job tomorrow."
rolled his eyes. "Who's his hero?" Boss asked.
sleeps with my poster of Vader under his pillow."
he does." Garven sighed. "And I thought you were
going to be the obnoxious one," he said to Luke.
Oz is a good boy," Jek called across the room.
terrific. Luke Lars Skywalker Vader, An Example For Others. "I'm
going to bed," he said shortly. "G'night."
Baby Oz. Sweet dreams about your hero!"
dreams." He turned and gave Porkins the most evil look he could
manage. "I'm going to meditate," he said in a spooky tone,
"and see if I can contact him through the Force."
the moment of silence that followed, he went into his cubicle and
closed the door firmly behind him.
you hafta to do to get a promotion?" Jord Slari sneered. "Or
should I say 'who'?"
wanted to ignore his fellow mechanic, but it was impossible. Jord was
older, tougher, and with a rotten attitude. Bitter, too, because he
was a good mechanic who had been stuck working on ground vehicles for
over a year with little chance of promotion because of his
work hard and keep my mouth shut," he muttered, climbing off the
ladder to hang over the fighter's engine compartment. If he could
have fit completely inside, he would have jumped in where Jord
couldn't see him.
such a goody-goody. Boss's little prince, Mr. Perfect."
me, perfection personified." The spanner was just out of reach,
but with a little Force nudging, it slid across the top of the
battery compartment and into his hand. The best thing about working
on fighters was that he was high enough for his actions to remain out
of sight from those on the ground.
take a break," Jord suggested, staring up at him.
sighed. Jord wasn't his idea of pleasant companionship, but he'd been
working all morning in cramped conditions and it would feel good to
get out. "Okay." If Jord hadn't been standing right there,
Luke could have jumped and used the Force to soften his landing.
Instead, he had to climb down the ladder. Jord was already heading
behind a row of groundrovers parked along the back wall of the
hangar, so Luke followed.
sprawled on the cold floor and leaned against a 'rover. "Wanna
Luke twisted and stretched a few times, shaking out his arms before
squatting opposite him, watching uneasily as the other mechanic lit a
deathstick. "You can't smoke spice here."
gonna stop me‚ńĒyou?" Jord tossed his long hair away from the
burning stick. "You need to loosen up, have some fun. Have you
always been this prissy?"
sank back and sat, uncertain how to respond. Sure, he was the son of
a queen and a lord (Lord of the Sith, true, but hey, Vader was still
a lord) but he'd never been called prissy or a prince until he got
here. It seemed like years ago that his life had revolved around
spice and stealing and creating as much havoc as he could manage.
Now... well, he was busy, he didn't have time for screwing around.
in a way, seemed like quite a pity.
take a hit." Jord held out the spice stick.
Luke said, but took it and stood. "They'll throw you out if they
catch you." His head spun a little as the familiar, compelling
odor wrapped itself around him. For a moment, he hesitated‚ńĒ
his dad would kill him! Anyway, spice just wasn't him anymore.
No one would ever accuse him of being an addict again! Luke dropped
the stick to the floor and raised his foot to stomp on it.
pushed him aside. "Too little, too late," Commander Narra
snapped. "Both of you, come with me."
krit. Luke sent a foul look at Jord, who promptly declared, "Hey,
it's not mine! I'm just sittin' here mindin' my own business. It
belongs to Oz!"
does not!" He was nearly speechless with anger. "It's
not mine, Commander!"
just appeared by magic, eh?" Narra stubbed the stick against the
wall, but kept the butt in his hand. "Follow me."
just great. If they kicked him out, where would he go? It was pretty
obvious that his dad didn't want him back on the Devastator.
Maybe it was time for Oz to strike out on his own again and to hell
with everybody else‚ńĒhis dad, this stupid Alliance, all of them.
for the moment, he followed Narra back to headquarters, subdued and
more than a little worried.
seemed like forever that he and Jord sat in silence in the corner of
commander's office. Narra ignored them, seemingly busy with the com
and computer panels. The smashed stub of the deathstick perched on
the edge of his desk. Luke saw Jord eye it a few times and wondered
if they were having the same thought: grab it, eat it, and get rid of
sighed and slouched. "How long are we gonna sit here?" He
heard the insolence in his voice and it sounded very familiar. "If
you're gonna kick us out, just do it." Then he could go back to
his dad and to hell with worrying about Palpy.
or you'll wait in the brig."
there, done that," Luke quipped, unable to stop himself.
gave him the Look that Luke associated with his father, even though
he had never actually seen it on Vader's face. He glanced away and
stared at the window, counting the dead gnats that lay on the sill.
door opened and in marched Boss and Wedge, looking grim and‚ńĒoh,
Narra rose and joined the other two, creating a solid wall of three
between the door and the mechanics. "Our Alliance depends on
volunteers," he began. "They are the heart and soul of our
cause, the glue that holds our coalition together. Without
volunteers, those who enlist and those who serve in a less formal
capacity, we would not be able to continue. It is an ongoing struggle
to feed, clothe and house everyone, so we can only retain those
volunteers who are sincere in their commitment to our cause. We
cannot tolerate drug use or excessive alcohol consumption for many
reasons‚ńĒmost of which should be obvious to you."
yada, yada," Jord drawled, and yawned.
winced. If that was the way he appeared to his dad, no wonder Vader
didn't want him around! The Perfect Son idea hadn't worked, but maybe
A Slightly Better Son was called for. "Yes, sir," he said
Boss said, taking a few steps in his direction, "is the
you used spice since you've been here?"
sir." He couldn't help but sigh. He sounded exactly like Jord
had described: prissy. It was pretty obvious that he was losing his
personality. Or worse, growing up.
right." Garven nodded at Narra, who walked around and opened the
door. Luke saw two security officers posted outside.
this isn't your first offense," Narra began. "We've given
you every chance, but apparently you haven't learned your lesson.
Since you know our location, we can't allow you to leave. You'll be
locked in the brig for as long as we remain on Dantooine. At such
time we depart, you will be transported to the nearest habited
can't do that," Jord protested.
done." The guards responded to Narra's gesture and cuffed Jord,
hauling him away still arguing and cursing.
door banged shut, leaving the room in sudden quiet. Luke grinned
nervously at the other men. Wedge and Boss sat down, which meant this
wasn't over. What else could they possibly want from him? Oh, please,
not an awful lecture like Jord got! "Uh... thanks for believing
time, choose better friends," Wedge said quietly, and Luke bit
back the obvious retort that he hadn't chosen this one.
Narra returned to the desk and settled behind it. "Trust is
important to the Alliance." He picked up a datapad and studied
it. "Laze Loneozner.... 'Oz' is your nickname?"
nodded, feeling uneasy for no reason he could pinpoint.
Narra continued. "Just when did you stop calling yourself
question took a moment to register. Luke's mouth dropped open and he
tried to think, but all that filled his brain was:
his lips shut, Luke smiled and shoved his hands in his pockets.
"Oh... it's been awhile."
returned his smile pleasantly, but his eyes were cold. "How long
was not good. "Uh... I started using 'Oz' after my guardians
were killed and, uh..." The truth and nothing but! "...I
was hiding from the Imps."
before that you were called 'Fixer'?" Boss asked from behind
turned and looked at him. Just the fact that they were asking that
question meant they already knew the answer. "Well... not
exactly. I just sorta... borrowed it."
would explain the discrepancies in your background check," Narra
said mildly, from over his other shoulder.
turned again, edging to the side of the room so he could see them all
and not feel ambushed. "I guess," he answered cautiously,
not really wanting to hear the discrepancies itemized.
you are Laze Loneozner?" the Commander added.
gave him a sickly grin. He hated such direct questions. They made it
harder to lie. "Uh... that's what my ID says, right?"
choked and looked down. Luke hoped‚ńĒwithout much hope‚ńĒthat he was
laughing, which would mean Luke wasn't in a great deal of trouble.
what it says," Narra agreed skeptically. "Fortunately for
my peace of mind, there is someone here who knows Laze Loneozner and
can help us clear up the discrepancies."
Luke said with a cheeky grin that hid the sudden flaring of his
nerves. "Discrepancies can be such a drag."
sighed. "Wedge, would you...?"
watched until the pilot left, then asked: "So who is this guy?"
A thought occurred to him: maybe it was Fixer! Maybe Fixer had run
away to join the Alliance! That would be great, they'd be together
pilot who recently joined us."
Fixer could fly, but not well enough to be accepted as a real pilot.
hope you're not going to disappoint me... Oz," Boss said
quietly. "You have a future with us. I'd hate to see it ruined
for any reason."
as espionage," Narra added.
felt his eyes widen. "You mean spying?" he asked
incredulously. "I'm not a spy!" I don't think.
last," Narra said to Boss, "a definitive statement. Let's
hope it's an honest one."
too young and immature to be a spy," Luke observed helpfully.
"And I don't lie well."
head bent low over his datapad and he didn't answer. Luke looked at
Garven, but he was studying his hands intently. Neither of them
spoke, and Luke decided maybe he should quit talking, too, and stared
at his toes.
waited in silence for a few more minutes before the door banged open.
back," Wedge announced unnecessarily. "This is‚ńĒ"
an incredulous voice exclaimed.
tilted his head sideways to take a cautious peek at the new arrival,
then straightened. "Biggs?!" Biggs Darklighter, the last
person he'd expect to defect from the Imps! "I thought you were
at the Academy!"
know this boy?" Narra interrupted. "Is he or is he not Laze
you calling 'boy'?" Luke demanded indignantly.
looked first at Narra, then Luke, then back to the commander. "This
is Luke Lars. He's Fixer's‚ńĒLaze Loneozner's best friend. Luke,
what's going on? Why are you calling yourself Fixer?"
get it?" Luke grinned. "Well, I couldn't call myself Laze
Loneozner, could I? I mean, really!"
carrying Loneozner's identity chip," Boss stated.
Biggs scolded. "You stole Fixer's ID?"
was on the tip of his tongue, which he almost bit off in his effort
to keep quiet. "Yes," he said reluctantly, because he
didn't want to get Fixer in trouble.
More likely he gave it to you."
rolled his eyes. "Why bother to ask me if you're
going to answer?"
as I dislike interrupting this reunion," Commander Narra began,
interrupting anyway, "Darklighter, are you vouching for this
Biggs confirmed. "Yes, sir. He was my neighbor on Tatooine. He's
just a kid."
me a little more," Luke offered. "Please, give them all the
Narra interrupted yet again, "your body scan is showing a metal
hand. Is it a prosthetic?"
I was born that way," Luke quipped brightly, earning a scowl
from Narra but a hastily smothered giggle from Wedge. "Yeah,
it's a prosthetic. I lost my hand in a farming accident."
farming accident?" Biggs asked with surprise. "Since when?
I never heard about that."
was after you left," he muttered, glaring at his unhelpful
did it happen?"
just did, okay?!" Luke shouted. "Krit, why the third
Boss said before Biggs could respond with something stupid, "if
it's a false prosthetic, it could container a tracker or detonator."
Fine!" Furious, Luke punch open the maintenance panel on the top
of his right hand. "There! Satisfied?! Kritpeth! Can't a guy
have any privacy?!"
Biggs said sheepishly. "Did Owen‚ńĒ" He shut up when Luke
rounded on him, ready to fight. "Okay, okay, sorry!"
it wasn't Owen! he wanted to scream. It was my dad! My dad
chopped off my hand! Happy now?
stuck his hand under Boss's nose and glowered, daring him to say one
more thing. "That's fine, Oz‚ńĒLuke. You can get your hand out
of my face now. You understand that we had to be certain."
you don't trust me, just say so!" he declared defensively.
a second, he thought Boss or Narra might say exactly that, but after
a hesitation the moment passed safely.
both dismissed. No‚ńĒyou're all dismissed. I have work to do."
Narra waved them off, then called: "Lars! I don't want to hear
another lie out of your mouth."
Lars Skywalker Vader sighed. "How about if I just don't talk to
grabbed his arm and dragged him outside. "You never know when to
stop, do you?"
be surprised," Luke replied darkly.
go somewhere and talk," Biggs said. "I have to tell you
what happened to me. And I want to hear about you. I can't believe
you're a pilot! I can't even believe you're here! I heard the Larses
were killed and that you got away! What the hell happened?"
tuned out Biggs's questions since they seemed never-ending. Maybe he
could just go to sleep and wake up with everything resolved. He could
be Luke Lars again, forget the entire Skywalker-Vader fiasco. Life
would be so much easier.
was easier as it turned out‚ńĒuntil that evening, after work
was done and his reunion with Biggs was interrupted by Commander
Narra. Luke was getting tired of seeing him. "Now what?" he
Biggs said, leaping to his feet and throwing a snappy salute. Luke
sighed and shared an amused glance with Wedge.
ease, pilot. You're not with the Imperials any longer," Narra
sorry, sir!" Biggs stood at parade rest, hands clasped behind
down," Narra snapped before turning to Luke. "You have a
visitor?" he asked blankly. He couldn't imagine why anyone would
come looking for him‚ńĒexcept his dad, and there was no chance of
that‚ńĒand why the commander would be acting like a houseboy.
"That's, uh... nice." Maybe Princess Leia was back.
believe 'interesting' would be a better word." Narra pushed open
the exterior door. "Or 'highly suspicious'. Bring him in."
handful of security officers entered, pushing before them a cuffed,
bruised, and very familiar man.
Imperial lieutenant gave him an exasperated look. Luke clamped his
mouth shut, too late.
another voice said, "you know Karas's true identity." The
security men parted to admit Commander Willard. "Lieutenant
Karas Jovay of the Imperial Navy." The gray-haired man studied
him. "You're Luke Lars? Very young to cause so much chaos."
it's my specialty." Luke gave him a disarming grin, but Willard
didn't appear disarmed.
of the security officers headed for his tiny room. "You won't
find anything interesting," Luke called, projecting all the
Force persuasion he could into his voice. He felt a gaze focused on
him, and turned to meet Garven's eyes. Boss looked... well, he looked
like he recognized the Force when he heard it. That wasn't possible!
Luke glanced away.
didn't find anything interesting," the officers chorused,
thankfully not in unison, when they returned.
lightsaber, no poster of Darth Vader‚ńĒand his identi-chip that was
still tucked safely in a sewn pocket in his boot. There wasn't
anything more to find except a very colorful wardrobe and a bag full
of educational datatapes.
sighed. He was under suspicion, Jovay was arrested as an Imperial
spy‚ńĒwhich maybe he was! With any luck, this was as bad as it would
get. What more could possibly go wrong?
Lars, you're under arrest for suspicion of espionage," Commander
them separated," Narra ordered as they reached the temporary hut
that served as a brig.
not a spy," Luke whined for the sixth time to the few pilots who
tagged along on his walk to prison. "Honest!"
Biggs and Wedge both began, but were cut off.
be the one to determine that," Narra said grimly, gesturing to
the guards to march Luke and Jovay inside. The door clanked shut,
cutting off the last light of evening, leaving them with three guards
and the sound of everyone else arguing as they walked away.
prisoners should be together in one room," Luke declared
confidently, projecting his best Force persuasion talent.
a chance," one guard said, pushing him into a tiny cell while
Jovay was shoved into similar accommodations across the narrow hall.
Resigned, he bent over and took a close look at the bunk. He poked
it. It was just a hard plank, with a none-too-clean rolled blanket
and an unnaturally gray pillow. "It's dirty in here!" he
called. "This is not acceptable!"
heard the exterior door close.
the point of separating us if we can still talk?"
are you asking me?"
was a rhetorical question, you don't have to get cranky. I suppose
we're being monitored." He paused. "Do you think they'll
kid, that's about the last thing I'm concerned about."
food was important to Luke, but he supposed he saw Jovay's point. "So
why are you here anyway?"
came to get you, Big Mouth!" Jovay snapped. "And now
I may be executed!"
Mouth!?" he exclaimed, outraged. "Don't blame me, you were
already caught before I called you 'Jovay'!" There was no
defense to that obvious observation. "Why were you coming to get
do you think?"
paced to the tiny slit of a window. The sill was filthy. He folded
his arms. "You're trying my patience."
a bark of laughter came from the other cell. "Big improvement in
vocabulary, smaller improvements in attitude. Still, I'd give you a
sighed and rested his forehead against the bars on the door, then
drew back quickly, brushing off his hair. "Would you just
voice lowered so Luke had to strain to hear him. "Your...guardian
is worried about you. He wanted to see you."
Darth Vader, worried? "Huh." That was pretty impressive.
And his dad was so worried that he couldn't talk to Luke in their
heads but wanted to see him in person?
second thought, that was frightening rather than impressive. Just the
idea of Vader being worried.... "How did they find out you're an
don't know." Jovay sounded vexed, as if the answer to that
question was more important than being accused of espionage.
stood in the middle of the cell, unwilling to lean against a wall or
sit on that awful bunk. "Are you a spy?" he asked in a
Jovay heard him or anticipated the question. "No more than you
I'm not!" Luke hugged himself. There was no heat and only
one dinky light in the hall. "Whose side are you on?" Again
he didn't receive a reply. "Why don't people give me straight
answers? I'm getting tired of all the deceit."
snort sounded from Jovay's cell. "You're a fine one to talk
about straight answers. When was the last time you gave one to
and cold, Luke paced around the cell that was barely wide enough for
him to take three steps in any direction.
might as well settle down. We're here for the night... at the very
he were ten years younger, he could cry. "I'm cold."
you have a blanket?" Remarkably, Jovay sounded slightly
not touching that filthy thing!" Luke exclaimed. "It
probably has... lice! Or worse!"
happened to the little Mos Eisley street urchin?"
was never an urchin! And I was as clean as possible, considering."
He edged closer to the door. "Did you see you-know-who?"
He just sent a message."
your head?" Could his dad communicate with Jovay that way? Luke
didn't like that idea at all. He frowned.
Of course not. By com." Jovay muttered a few curses. "I
can't believe this," he grumbled. "Damn, damn, damn."
sorry you're...arrested." He heard a rustling noise. "I
think there's... vermin... in here."
sighed loudly. "That's me, lying down, covering myself up, and
going to sleep. I suggest you overcome your aversion to filth and do
the same, or it will be a very long night."
it's going to be a very long night," Luke grumbled.
stood in silence for what seemed like hours, wondering if he could
fall asleep standing up. Then Jovay began to snore, and he knew there
was no chance of sleeping. Dad? he called in his mind. We
need to talk.
spread out all around him, black and infinite, sprinkled with dots
that winked at him. Luke swung his legs casually, slouching over to
study the twinkling rings they were sitting on. He glanced back at
the giant planet. "This is pretty cool. Thanks for meeting me
your creation, not mine," his father said easily, swinging his
own legs that for once were not, Luke noted with interest, clad in
armored black leather. His dad was wearing a casual outfit consisting
of a plain shirt, pants, and very good boots.
looked up curiously. "Your face is like a fuzzball," he
chuckled. "Your mother called those dustbaas. After some
remarkably stupid creatures that reside on Naboo," he added,
responding to Luke's quizzical expression.
That made no sense, but Luke didn't much care. He picked up a handful
of the material that composed the huge ring and let it trickle off
his palm. "If we were really here, could we sit on this?"
he asked hesitantly, wondering if it was a stupid question.
dad picked at the stuff. "It does not appear to be solid. What
do you think it is?"
Ice. Maybe pieces of space debris, broken-up planets, stuff like
nodded. "Correct. It does not appear to be capable of holding
our weight, does it."
felt better about having asking the question. "No," he
agreed. They were quiet for a few moments, until he could no longer
ignore the reason he'd called this 'meeting'. "I'm in trouble."
you are," his father agreed, then spoiled everything by
continuing, "although at this point, I'm more concerned about
Jovay than you."
hurt. Luke looked away, not trusting his voice to remain steady. He
blinked several times.
He drew a long breath to steady himself. "If I'm not executed as
was a pause, then: "Do you really believe I would allow such a
thing to happen?" his dad asked with unfamiliar gentleness.
shrugged, but felt placated. "I guess not."
is in the greatest danger. Alliance spies have been unusually
successful of late, and I fear they will learn that he is a captain
in the Intelligence Division."
I forgot about that," Luke admitted. "So... would you let
him be executed?"
father sighed. "Are you determined to be contentious?"
not being contentious!" He made a mental note to check the
language tapes for that word, but he figured it was close to
'obnoxious'. "I'm just wondering what he‚ńĒ how important he is
does that bother you?"
doesn't bother me!" Although, of course, it did, but it
wasn't something he was prepared to admit. "What is he to you?"
has already told you," his dad stated calmly, unruffled in
comparison to his agitation. "Shall we talk about what really
all ears," Luke muttered resentfully.
sighed again. "The Rebels know you are not a spy."
why did they arrest me?!"
father held up one ungloved hand. "You said you would be all
ears, not all mouth."
rolled his eyes and folded his arms. "Fine. Go ahead."
am confident that they will see you are too open and impetuous to be
that an insult?"
his dad shouted, sounding like Darth Vader even without the mask.
okay. Don't pop a gasket."
father cleared his throat. "They are already inclined to believe
in your innocence. When you speak to them, use the Force to project
sincerity. It will‚ńĒ"
last time I tried to use Force persuasion, it didn't work." When
his dad froze and glared at him, Luke added, "Oh, c'mon! That's
important! You're telling me to do something that doesn't work."
dad gazed upward, obviously searching for patience... as if it could
be found in the depths of space. For the first time, Luke could see
that his eyes were shining blue out of that gauzy, fuzzy face. "You
will not be persuading someone to do something against his or her
will. You will be speaking the truth. With the Force behind that,
your words will become even more powerful."
He looked warily at his dad, wondering if he could ask another
question without his old man blowing up. Vader looked back at him.
"Um... so should I try to use the Force to say Jovay isn't a spy
you believe he is not a spy?"
didn't need to consider it. "He told me he isn't. I believe
I be?" he snapped, irritated that instead of being reassuring,
his dad was being... contentious.
father laid a hand on his shoulder. "I will not let anything
happen to you, son. Trust me. And if I can save Jovay, I will. But if
circumstances force me to choose between the two of you, I will
choose you. Always."
He felt his eyes getting a little misty, so he opened them wide and
blinked a few times.
Vader continued, and Luke hoped he wasn't going to mess up his
comforting words, "I believe you will be able to get out of this
predicament without my help. You are both clever and innocent."
He grinned, relieved that his dad believed in him. "I won't let
know." Vader paused. "I also know that if I had said that I
knew you wouldn't let me down, you would have been annoyed."
made a face. At times, his dad understood him a little too well.
need to go back now."
didn't ask why. Instead he flashed another smile at his father.
"Let's get together again sometime." He leaned over and
looked down. "Can I jump?"
right ahead," Vader answered, amused. "Spread your wings
and fly, my son."
words sent a strange, pleasant shiver through him. His smile softened
as he stared his father. He could almost see his face... almost.
Maybe one day his dad would let him see who he really was. "Bye,"
he said quietly and pushed himself off the ring.
the first hint of dawn began to filter through the bars on the door,
Luke rose from the squatting position he'd held for the last few
hours, eyes closed, trying to pretend he wasn't locked in a tiny,
dark box from which he might never escape. He groaned, bending over
to stretch his back, and rubbing his knees while he was down there.
"I'm getting too old for this."
was a large covered pot in the corner of the cell, and he forced
himself to use it‚ńĒeyes closed again, so he wouldn't have to see how
dirty it was. Unfortunately, he couldn't close his nose to the smell,
so he held his breath and finished quickly, then rubbed his sleeve
against the bars on the door. He'd rather see the light than have
clean clothes. Spending the night in this awful confinement had been
an experience he never wanted to repeat.
Are you awake?"
didn't hear anything. Maybe Jovay was dead. "Jovay!" he
called anxiously, louder. "Are you okay? Are you there?"
muffled groan answered him.
only the second time since he'd known him, a string of inventive
curses came from the other man. Jovay's vocabulary was larger than
Luke had credited. When the epithets ended, the Imp muttered, "I
was asleep! What the hell do you want?"
just wanted to be sure you were okay," he replied sheepishly.
"Sorry. I'm not scared or anything."
sighed. "Sorry I snapped at you. Did you get any sleep?"
Meditation was just as good as sleep‚ńĒor so his dad had told him.
Luke didn't quite believe it.
should have slept," Jovay scolded. "You'll need your wits
wits are always about me." He stretched from side to side. "Do
you think they're going to feed us soon?"
think about food a lot, don't you?" There was another big sigh.
"I suppose it's better than the alternative."
the alternative, starvation?"
Luke. Our predicament."
that." He pushed his nose through the bars and flattened his
face against them until he could almost see Jovay in his cell. "I
hope they believe us that we're not spies."
hope," Jovay echoed, not sounding optimistic.
was gradually growing lighter. Luke slid his arms through the bars.
They didn't go very far, but he knew if he just pushed a little
harder, he could‚ńĒ
vision of the ductwork in a certain ship rose in his memory, and he
pulled his arms back through the bars. He settled for curling his
fingers around the chilly durasteel and leaning his forehead on his
hands. He'd felt pretty good after talking to his dad, but in the
cold reality of prison, his confidence evaporated.
meant to ask his dad if they could just stay there-- not sitting on
the rings of an imaginary planet, but stay in their heads. Being
there with his dad was much better than reality. "Reality
groaned. "I hate that group. Their music is the worst."
What group? 'Reality Sucks' is a group? A music group?"
mind," Jovay said in a patronizing adult tone.
opened his mouth to argue, but rattling at the door stopped him.
it's breakfast," Jovay teased, and Luke had to smile.
he saw that it wasn't breakfast. It was a strange man in an Alliance
uniform. He looked at Luke with an expression that was unreadable
except for banked hostility in the gray eyes.
held the cool gaze. "Who are you?" he asked bravely.
man folded his arms and planted his legs wide apart. "I am
Lieutenant Nikran," he announced, making the words sound more
important than they actually were. "I'm in charge of Security on
pulse fluttered nervously, but he didn't want to appear intimidated.
"Well, you're doing a terrible job," Luke retorted,
"because I'm not feeling very secure!"
man's jaw hardened. He opened Luke's cell. "Come with me,"
he said harshly, fastening binders around Luke's wrists.
hope you're taking me to breakfast."
shut up!" Jovay called, exasperated. "You‚ńĒLieutenant‚ńĒwhere
are you taking him?"
of your business, spy!"
cast a worried look backward as Nikran led him away. Maybe he was
going to be blindfolded and executed. Maybe shot. Maybe decapitated.
a minute! He could use the Force! They couldn't do anything to him.
Besides, his dad wouldn't allow it.
better‚ńĒeven a little cocky since he was out of that prison‚ńĒLuke
marched alongside the head of security. He was taken to another
building, another office, a bigger one this time. It was full of
people. There was‚ńĒ
did a double-take. For a second, he thought the old man with the
white beard was Ben Kenobi back from the dead. But no, that was
impossible. Anyway, this man looked harder, tougher... weary.
tensed, studying the rest of the room. There were Garvin, Biggs‚ńĒwas
he in trouble for vouching for Luke?-- Narra, Willard, and a few
people he didn't know. "The gang's all here," he said in an
attempt at bravado.
up, smart mouth!" Nikran snarled, raising one hand as if to
Narra intervened, "thank you for your assistance. You may have a
seat." The commander studied Luke. "Are you all right?"
kind of question was that? "Well, other than being arrested for
spying, stuck in a filthy cell all night, not able to lie down, and
starved half to death ‚ńĒyeah, I'm just super."
several people muttered.
man," the Kenobi look-alike said, "this is a very serious
matter. I suggest you conduct yourself appropriately."
am General Dodonna," he said smoothly, anticipating Luke's
question. "I'm primarily here to observe. This is not a formal
trial, but rather an interview to determine if there is a need to
prosecute you further."
not a spy," Luke offered. "Really. And neither is
Jovay," Willard said, making Luke wince, "is already
scheduled to be tried for espionage."
not a spy!"
Narra said quietly, "we know he holds the rank of captain in
Imperial Intelligence. He is out of uniform and on an Alliance base."
was beginning to be seriously worrisome. "He just came to see
me. He... watches out for me. He wasn't spying."
would you need to be 'watched out for'?" Narra frowned when
someone snickered. "Gentlemen, this is a serious proceeding."
watched out for me on Tatooine." Luke searched for something
more redeeming to say. "He‚ńĒhe even helped me avoid being
captured by the Imps. Really, he's a nice guy!"
Garven said from the audience, "I don't know why you're trying
to protect him or what relationship the two of you have, but I
suggest you sever ties now. You're in enough trouble; you don't need
to link his fate to yours."
a brilliant idea! Luke straightened and faced Narra. He concentrated
on the Force, trying to lace it through his voice the way his dad had
taught him. "That's exactly what I want to do. We're both
innocent. Talk to us together. Bring him here for an inquiry before
you go through with a trial."
was a pause while the three command officers looked at each other. "I
don't have a problem with that," Narra said after a moment. "Are
you sure that's what you want?"
Luke said firmly. "Bring Jovay here." He paused. "Maybe
we could have breakfast before the hearing? I'm really hungry!"
his lack of confidence at the end, the hearing was indeed adjourned
for breakfast, though he and Jovay remained in the office under
can't believe you did this."
us breakfast?" Luke asked as he finished the last of his juice,
holding the cup awkwardly between his bound hands.
Luke!" Exasperated, Jovay leaned across the desk. "I
understood the risk I was taking, and this wasn't part of it! You're
more important than I am, don't you get that? I'll risk my life for
you‚ńĒbut it doesn't work the other way around! Why were you so
foolish?" He subsided when the others began to file into the
room and take their seats.
ready to begin," Narra said.
I may," Nikran interrupted. "The spy has just indicated
that this one‚ńĒ" he gestured toward Luke "‚ńĒis of more
importance than he is. I'd like to know why. Particularly
General Dodonna interrupted with ill-concealed impatience, "Commander
Narra is in charge. Stand down."
sir," Nikran replied unhappily. He retaliated by dragging Luke's
chair and separating him from Jovay by the width of the table. "Turn
around and face the commander," he ordered.
Luke and Jovay were resettled, Narra stared down at a datapad. "I'm
very sorry to say that we've received additional information that
truly disappoints me. You are still being untruthful, Luke."
room stilled. Krit, Luke thought, scowling, bracing himself
for an announcement about 'Son-of-a-Sith'.
kept staring at the datapad. Luke wondered if he was just trying to
string out the tension or if he was really upset. Maybe it was a
combination of the two. "The Galactic Database," Narra
continued, "has no record of anyone named Luke Lars on
Tatooine... or anywhere else."
were audible behind him. "What?" Biggs exclaimed loudly,
and was shushed by someone.
doesn't?" Luke asked weakly, still wondering how far they'd
traced his identity.
is your real name?"
was raised as Luke Lars," he tried. "That was always my
a voice warned in his head, and he nearly jumped.
gestured to the door. A security guard opened it to admit a man
dressed in the scrubs of a medic. "I had wanted to avoid running
a blood test through the Imperial Database, but‚ńĒ"
Luke leaped to his feet. "No, you can't! They'll find me-- he'll
find me! No!" A sweep of fire flared through his fear, like it
was trying to burn him up from the inside.
Control your anger. Do not repeat my mistake.
tried to slow his heart rate and calm his breathing. Everything
around him was relaxing‚ńĒeven, it seemed, the very air-- and he
realized that he barely understood the potential of the power that
slumbered within him.
happened to my father will not happen to me. Belatedly, he added:
opened his eyes, unaware at what point he had closed them. Of
everyone in the room, only Jovay appeared to understand what had
nearly happened to him, and his concern gradually and visibly faded.
Luke nodded to him, then addressed Narra. "I refuse a blood
test. I had one on Tatooine; that's how this whole mess started.
Before that, I was Luke Lars. Afterwards, I was... in trouble."
white-knuckled hands freed the datapad. "Who are you?" he
had to be a way to avoid telling them he was Vader's kid. But how to‚ńĒ
What should I do?
must do what you think is right, Son.
Okay, the truth then. He drew a breath to steady his voice. "The
blood test showed that my father was a Jedi. That's why the Imps were
Dodonna declared sharply, but his eyes betrayed his uncertainty. "The
Jedi were celibate."
least one of them wasn't," Luke said dryly. He added quickly,
just so they didn't get the wrong idea, "My parents were married
was a stunned silence as if no one could figure out what to say. "So
that's why the Imps killed Owen and Beru?" Biggs finally
murmured. "Because they were looking for you?"
glanced at Dodonna, then back at Luke. "Who was your alleged
Skywalker," he replied simply, because it was the truth.
leaped to his feet, unable to control his excitement. "That's
how you knew his name! The Hero Without Fear!"
is feeding him answers!" Lieutenant Nikran shouted, irritated.
"This is ridiculous! This boy is no more a Jedi's child than I
have the results of my blood test," Luke said to the commanders.
He slid down the fastener on his boot and used his nail to slit open
the pocket. "Here."
took the datachip and handed it to Commander Narra. It was scanned
into the datapad and the result passed to the three leaders. "Anakin
Skywalker and Padme Naberrie. Skywalker...." General Dodonna
repeated in a perplexed tone. There was something in his voice that
made Luke wonder if he knew. But no... no, he couldn't
possibly. "Still, we should do a blood test to confirm‚ńĒ"
can't!" Luke exclaimed again. "If you run it through
the database, Palpatine will know where I am. He'll know where you
are. He'll send troops here!"
shook his head wonderingly. "Are you a Jedi, too?" he
asked, and Luke couldn't tell if that was hope or dismay in his
really. I can do some things." He raised his hands and let the
binders fall to the floor‚ńĒa simple trick that shouldn't alarm
anyone too much. "I had no Jedi teacher."
the table, the three leaders leaned back in their chairs and
whispered between themselves. Luke stared down at his feet. Dad?
You still here?
You are doing well... as I expected.
But a few hints wouldn't hurt!
don't need them.
this is true," Narra said, interrupting Luke's silent
communication with his father, "how do you come to know a
captain of Imperial Intelligence?"
let me go when the Imps almost caught me on Tatooine." He hoped
he wasn't carrying things too far. "And he's sorta watched out
for me since then."
Dodonna frowned. "I cannot imagine a scenario that would make an
Imperial officer take such a chance for a strange boy-- especially a
not that strange," Luke muttered.
not precisely a stranger to me," Jovay intervened smoothly.
"When I was a youngster, his father saved my life. I was never
able to repay that debt to Anakin Skywalker‚ńĒ"
Dad, this truth stuff is working out great!
when I heard the Imperials were after him, I intervened."
didn't intervene enough to prevent Vader from capturing him!"
Narra said sharply.
did they know everything? "I got away!" Luke
protested. "I was rescued by some Falleen!"
have uncommonly good luck," Willard snapped.
you." Luke smiled blithely.
Captain Jovay," Narra continued, "you are saying that you
risked your career, and possibly your life to repay a debt? I am
having difficulty accepting that as a feasible action for an Imperial
officer. Exactly where do your loyalties lie?"
smiled slightly, but without humor. "Are you truly so naive,"
he drawled, making Luke wince at his arrogance, "that you
believe there can be only two sides? Only black or white, no shades
Dodonna pounded his fist on the table and rose. "You talk in
riddles, sir! Speak plainly, or we will judge you now."
c'mon!" Luke snapped irritably. "Give him a chance! He's a
Narra pointed at him, "sit down. Nikran, get those binders back
the point?" Luke backed away from the security chief. "Krit,
what'd I ever do to any of you? What did Jovay do? Nothing!
You liked both of us just fine, now all of a sudden you don't! What a
bunch of hypocrites!"
now would be a good time to sit down.
okay, if his dad suggested it. Luke sat. Nikran approached, picked up
the binders, then looked at the command table.
mind," Narra said wearily. "Captain Jovay... continue."
green eyes flickered. "I can't say a great deal. But surely you
know that among billions of Imperial citizens, there are a great many
who do not agree with the Emperor's policies. Their number is far
larger than the members of your Alliance or the Imperial armed
forces‚ńĒfor, indeed, they are parts of both and neither. The galaxy
is not divided in two; rather there are two declared sides with the
vast majority of beings caught between them." He paused.
"Neither Rebel sympathizers nor Imperial supporters.... Should
they not have a voice, too?"
command staff members were quiet for a few moments. Luke shifted in
his chair. General Dodonna looked at Jovay. "What exactly are
you saying, Captain?"
saying there's a third side," Luke interpreted freely. "What
part of that didn't you get?"
his mind, his father laughed before he scolded: Luke!
you for that explanation, young Jedi," Narra murmured.
Wannabe," Luke corrected with a cheeky grin. "Can we go
now?!" all three officers exclaimed in unison. "Are you
insane?" Willard added incredulously.
Luke spread his hands to show how reasonable he was being. "Jovay
hasn't done anything to hurt you. You said he was a good friend to
the Alliance, and he has been. If he wasn't, the Imps would have
attacked a long time ago. He's just watching out for me‚ńĒokay, and
maybe doing a little side plotting of his own, but nothing that hurts
sighed. Luke ignored that and continued, "As I recall, he came
here to take me somewhere‚ńĒwell, we might as well tell them‚ńĒhe
came to take me to see a relative who's worried about me. Is that so
awful?" Oh, krit! He was forgetting to use the Force! He
concentrated, lowering his voice in case that made the Force work
has not and will not betray the Alliance. Neither will I. Letting us
go will only help your cause, because we have a mutual enemy‚ńĒthe
Emperor. Let us go."
his Force was in working order, because the commanders looked
mesmerized. Even Jovay appeared a bit dazed. "Jovay and I will
leave now," Luke added in a softer voice. "You will let us
go. We will return when our work is done."
few seconds of silence. He was feeling confident, but Dodonna blinked
and shook his head vigorously. "For a moment‚ńĒ" the
general began, then stopped.
seems reasonable," Willard said, puzzled. "But...."
not.... No, I don't think so," Narra added uncertainly. "You
need to... stay here. But... confined to barracks. For Luke. Jovay,
back to the brig."
it's so dirty there!" Luke murmured-- Forcefully. "There is
somewhere cleaner he could stay."
suppose we could put him in an empty officer's quarters,"
Willard offered. "Under guard, of course."
course," Narra echoed. He blinked a few times. "This
hearing is over." He stood, shaking his head. He looked at Luke
curiously, then shook his head again. "Dismissed."
bad for your first time, his dad commented.
I was hoping for better.
did well. We will talk shortly.
Over and out! He smiled at Nikran's befuddlement and leaned back
in his chair, hands clasped behind his head.
was going to be interesting.
do you think we are?"
sighed heavily and shot a martyred look at his father. "Can't
you just tell me?"
dad shook his head.
He looked around. They were standing on vividly green grass. The sky
was nearly as blue as Tatooine's, with puffy white clouds, and across
the field a waterfall thundered, sending a faint mist to gray the
air. "It's like a fairy tale‚ńĒ I mean, it's idyllic. Is this a
real place?" Before his dad could answer‚ńĒor not answer,
which was far more likely‚ńĒLuke blurted, "Is this Naboo?"
said a very un-Vader-like voice.
turned his head quickly and was rewarded with a glimpse of the young
man his father had been. He had time to see golden brown curls and a
tall, slim build before the vision became hazy and again he was
standing next to someone he couldn't quite see.
you ever here?" he asked curiously. "Or am I making this
is a real place." His father pointed across the waterfall. "In
the distance is the country home that belonged to your mother's
they still there?" he asked wistfully, though he noticed the
They chose to live in the city after-- Later."
we see them?"
His father shook his head. "That is not possible. We are not
traveling in an astral sense, able to observe people and events. All
this is in our minds‚ńĒin this case, it is a manifestation from my
know, but...." He bent over and ran his fingers through the
grass. It sure felt real, sun-warmed and a little damp.
Inhaling deeply, he decided he couldn't smell anything, which was
weird. "Maybe we can come here someday. When the war is over."
his dad replied, but Luke knew that 'maybe' meant 'no'. His father's
voice softened a bit when he added, "Your mother and I were wed
in that house." Abruptly he changed the subject. "It is
most unfortunate that we were not able to meet in person. I trust we
will not be interrupted?"
confined to my cube, who's going to interrupt? What's the big topic
of conversation? How to get me out of there in one piece? That would
be a good start!"
and more," his dad said grimly. "It is time to discuss your
it was again, Destiny-with-a-capital-D. "What do you mean, my
destiny? Do you really believe that sort of thing?"
good question," Vader said dryly as they walked farther from the
distracting sound created by torrents of cascading water. "My
destiny did not turn out as it was foretold by the Jedi. Destiny, it
seems, is subject to interpretation."
Who foretold it? What was it? What happened instead?"
you stop asking questions until I tell you to ask questions?"
his dad snapped in exasperation. "Listen to me!"
all ears," Luke said with an innocent smile.
father heaved one of those familiar sighs. "Your destiny,"
he began, pausing as if waiting for Luke to interrupt.
continued to smile sweetly. But instead of the expected irritated and
long-suffering look he usually got, his dad's figure blurred even
further until the black-garbed image of Vader assembled out of
nothing, as if the clear sky had been full of cinders that decided to
cling together. "We will destroy the Death Star."
Sure. Okay." Luke blinked a couple times. "What's a 'Death
most significant achievement in modern warfare." Vader's
breathing grew raspier. "It is a moon-sized battle station that
can destroy an entire planet with a single blast from its laser
winced. "That doesn't sound good. Why anybody would want to do
that? So... where is it and why haven't I heard of it before? That's
a big thing to hide."
a distance, it appears to be another dead moon. The construction
installation is in a desolate, heavily guarded region of space, so it
remained undiscovered for many years. Those who accidentally strayed
into that space did not live to repeat their stories." Vader
paused. "Now, however, its construction is complete. It must be
does not compute, Dad. Why do you want to destroy an Imperial
satisfied smile was nearly visible through the mask. "Palpatine
will be aboard," he hissed. "Finally... he will be gone!"
Suddenly Vader appeared to grow, getting taller, wider, bigger-- so
big that Luke had to lean back to see his helmet. A huge fist shook
at the darkening sky. "Together we are strong enough to defeat
him. Then we will rule the Empire as father and son!"
Thunder rolled across a sky that had turned from serene clarity to
towering storm clouds in the space of seconds. A cold wind whipped
around them, snapping Vader's cloak against Luke's face. He barely
will put an end to this destructive conflict and bring peace to the
galaxy! Finally-- everything will be as I envisioned!"
stared, mesmerized. This was the Darth Vader he'd seen in holos,
giving speeches, rousing the troops. This being was impressive,
intimidating-- terrifying. This was a superhuman figure, a total
Vader is my father.
of a puzzle fell from the clouds instead of the hailstones that
threatened to form inside the icy rain. For the first time, Luke
understood what he'd always known. He shook his head, trying
to shift the puzzle pieces into another pattern, one that was benign,
even a little happy, but he couldn't make them move. Yes, Vader was
his father, he'd known that since he was a child. But today, right
now-- it was more than a bare fact. This was real. This man was Vader
the representative of Evil, Vader the military leader, the
politician, the ruthless enforcer... Vader the lover, husband,
father. Luke had always understood... but until now, he had never
completely accepted the truth.
father was... Vader. His father was....
His father had been locked in a prison for nearly eighteen years.
Luke had been in a prison for one night and had felt claustrophobic,
nervous, worried-- okay, even scared. His father's prison didn't
allow him to touch his face, or see his own eyes when he looked in a
mirror. His father wore his prison. No wonder he was the way he was!
Luke dared to think something he had repressed once before. Had
Vader's prison driven him into madness? Or....
closed his eyes, searching inward, stripping away his dreams and
wishes. Was he looking for ways to excuse his dad's actions? Insanity
was a hell of an excuse, and maybe it was a possibility. But he also
remembered their long talks, his father's flashes of humor, the many
ways he understood and supported his son, and he understood that it
was not insanity that ate at Darth Vader. It was something quite
opened his eyes.
is deluded-- so proud and confident that his monstrous machine will
end the Rebellion. One great victory will feed his arrogance, and he
will need to be present for the final blow." The smile
behind the mask turned wolfish. "Then I will have him. He will
die, and there will be no one to stop us!"
we're going to destroy the Death Star so you can take over the
Empire?" Luke asked, raising his voice to be heard over the
constant rumble of thunder that pounded against his ears.
Vader corrected. "It will require our combined power to
destroy the Emperor. I cannot do it alone. I need you."
see," he replied numbly. He pushed back the strands of hair that
fell across his cheek, blown there by a wind that didn't exist, no
matter how real it seemed. He felt like he was far, far away,
watching this scene unfold in a holomovie, understanding all his
cues: when to laugh, when to cry, when to applaud. Watching actors
play the roles of Vader and Luke. Actors knew what to do and say;
actors had a script of someone else's words. But Luke only had
himself, and the right words had never come easily to him. Darth
Vader was a tyrant who wanted to take what Palpatine had built, who
wanted the galaxy to bend to his will... and who expected Luke to
bend, too. For another man, the choices might be simple: join the
tyrant or defy him. But this tyrant was his father, and that made his
choice unbearably difficult. Maybe even impossible.
frowned in confusion. "What would you expect me to do?"
storm over their heads dissipated gradually, though his father
remained in his Vader guise. "I am sending someone more
competent to 'rescue' you from Dantooine."
Jovay," he added nervously. "I'm sure you mean to rescue
paused. "Of course," he replied flatly. "The rest of
the details can wait until we are together."
folded his arms and walked away a short distance, conscious that his
father was following him. He sensed that his dad was telling the
truth about the Death Star, that it was a planet-killer. And wouldn't
Vader be a better ruler than Palpy? Especially with Luke there to
monitor him. Assuming they could pull off such a surprise attack.
"How could we destroy the Death Star? It's huge! I wouldn't even
know where to aim-- or what to use. Krit, how can I even fly? I've
flown a TIE once, and only an x-wing simulator, not even the real
thing! I can't-- "
will know," Vader said confidently. "And I will be with
just wish we had more time together," he whispered, though the
words didn't adequately express his real need or the deep anguish he
felt. "I'm not trained, I can't do enough Force stuff. What if I
was a chuckle, and he turned to see the younger man again, the one
whose blue eyes pierced through the mist that blurred his face. The
one who used to be a great Jedi. "You won't." Anakin
Skywalker sobered. "Still, I wish that, too. I wish Palpatine
hadn't learned about you. I wish I could train you. But...." He
looked at Luke, and the veil lifted further until Luke could almost
see his features. "There is another."
who could train you, if he will agree." His father's mouth
tightened into a scowl. "A Jedi master."
do you know a Jedi master!" Luke half-shouted. "You're a
Sith! You killed the Jedi! What's going on?!"
never know when you might have use for a Jedi master," his dad
said smugly. Then his posture tightened, his fists clenching. "I
knew he lived. And every day that he lived, he mourned for the lost
ones. That was my revenge for the years he scorned me."
shivered, hugging himself harder. "You're creepin' me out!"
he protested jokingly, though in truth his father was
frightening him. Sure, all his life he'd heard about Vader's anger
when he was crossed, but to see it in person, to be part of
this was his father and Luke loved him. Nothing Darth Vader said or
did would change that fact.
it didn't mean Luke had to agree with him.
head swiveled away as if he was listening to something Luke couldn't
hear. "I have duties. Go now."
he could finish his protest, he was sitting on his bunk, his back
pressed into the joining of the walls, knees drawn to his chest, arms
wrapped tightly around them. His face was wet. "Krit." He
hated this... waking up to find that he'd been crying in his
sleep. This hadn't happened since he was a kid, and he was damned if
he would let it start again now. Fiercely, he rubbed his face on his
sleeve. He was an adult, he could figure out everything, he just
needed time to think and it would all become clear... wouldn't it?
was a rap on his door. The guard opened it without waiting for his
response. "Visitor," he announced gruffly.
sniffled, rubbed his nose on his sleeve, and looked up, struggling to
grin. Failing. "Hey, Boss," he mumbled to Garven Dreis.
Garven gave Luke a searching look but didn't comment on whatever he
saw. Instead, he bent over and put the tray he was carrying on the
bed. "Brought you something to eat. I know you're always
He wasn't hungry now, but maybe later the sandwich would look good.
After all, he had to keep his wits about him, right? Or maybe that
just meant he should take a nap. Were his wits linked to sleep or
food? Luke uncapped the beverage container, unnerved to see his hands
shake, and tried to hide that weakness by taking a sip. "Milk?"
a growing boy," Boss said sternly.
doubt it." He sighed. "I think I'm getting a taste for this
There was an awkward silence. "Not hungry?"
right now. Later." He attempted another tremulous smile. Part of
him wanted to make Boss leave so he could think about his father, but
another part wanted Boss to stay forever so he never had to
think about Vader. Maybe he should tell Boss that he was a spy so
they would execute him and he didn't have to face reality.
father was a true hero," Garven said quietly. "I saw him
use his lightsaber-- in a vid, of course-- and it was amazing. Too
bad yours is broken." Boss paused. "Was that... his...
took a great effort not to roll his eyes. He couldn't shatter
Garven's hero worship, but oh, how he wanted to tell the truth!
"Yeah," he replied shortly.
nodded and waited, as if he expected Luke to produce it. Luke folded
saw him once, making an emergency landing-- but I told you that
already. I was so impressed that I studied his career, followed the
news stories about him. He was a great Jedi, a true protector of
a tribe of Tuskens, even the children...
and Kenobi were always rushing off to settle planetary disputes,
stopping wars before they starteed, saving entire populations."
an entire metropolis on Falleen...
Palpatine lied about the Jedi attempting a coup, Anakin knew it
wasn't true. He rushed to the temple..."
thousands of clone troopers...
defend the Jedi inside..."
murder the Jedi...
there he died heroically, protecting the younglings."
squeezed his eyes closed, trying to erase the scene his father had so
vividly, viciously, described: tiny younglings cut down just as they
began to understand that their trusted savior was their executioner.
sorry, I didn't mean to upset you." Dreis touched his arm
briefly. "I just wanted you to know how much I admired him, and
that... some things worth dying for. Protecting others, protecting
your beliefs... even when it seems futile at the time, the
repercussions last through the ages. Anakin is gone, but he left
behind a son to follow his path and finish the mission he started--
to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy."
opened his eyes and studied the earnest, painfully sincere face of
Garven Dreis. Luke nodded. "Thanks."
Boss stood. "I have to go now," he said, but made no move
toward the door. He looked around pointlessly, then shoved his hand
in his pocket, bringing out a chunky wad of folded paper. "Some
say...." He cleared his throat. "There were rumors that
Anakin didn't die in the temple, because there was no trace of him.
No body was ever found, either in the temple or anywhere else."
Boss shrugged and handed Luke the paper. "I found this when we
were searching your room. Thought you might want it." He gave
Luke an intense look, then nodded curtly and whirled, walking out the
door before Luke could say anything.
soon as he began to unfold the paper, he knew what it was. He'd
thought it still hidden safely between his bunk and the wall.
flattened the paper. The poster of Darth Vader looked back at him.
stared at the closed door. Boss knew? And he still considered
Anakin Skywalker a great hero? If Boss knew, did the rest of the
command staff know? If they did... what would they do with him?
was a lot to figure out-- and probably a lot more that he would never
figure out. He only hoped he had the time to grasp the basic truths.
* * * *
right. As usual, the luxury of time was denied him. It ended abruptly
with the arrival of the smuggler Han Solo later that day, as Luke and
Jovay discovered when they were hauled into HQ to confront Solo, his
Wookiee copilot, and-- big surprise!-- Princess Leia.
Luke exclaimed, unreasonably happy to see her again. "Where have
you-- Oof!" Chewbacca squeezed him in a tight hug, growling
that he was glad to see the cub. "Okay, okay! I'm glad to see
you, too. Now lemme go!"
fists balled on her waist and her eyes widened in an incredulous
response. "First you're a spy, then you're a Jedi-- and now
Vader has traded me for you?!" She whirled on Narra. "We
can't give this boy to Vader! Commander, what's going on?"
you calling a 'boy'?" Luke grumbled, accepting his backpack from
a guard and shouldering it. Trading him? His dad had captured
Leia and was letting her go? Luke was willing to bet that Dad Vader
was not happy about that!
really don't know," Narra replied grimly, presumably to Leia,
"but we have something more serious than Luke to worry about."
He nodded to the security guards. "Take them to Solo's ship.
With any luck, if we keep our word, Vader will keep his." He
paused as if he would add more, but shook his head. "Solo, you
need to get out of here-- now. Get Luke to Vader before he
Leia protested. "Commander--"
problem," Solo interrupted. "I got paid up front. Let's go,
my Imp friends."
not an Imp," Luke mumbled under his breath as he and Jovay were
escorted outside by guards and the two smugglers. He wished there'd
been a moment to talk to Leia alone. Not that he had any idea what he
would have said to her. He looked back over his shoulder, but since
he hadn't perfected the skill of seeing through walls, he couldn't
catch a final glimpse of her.
matter to me one way or the other," Solo gave him a careless
shove. "Get moving, kid! We haven't got all day."
the big hurry?" he complained as Solo hustled them up the ramp
and into his old ship.
Vader's got some big Imp weapon headed this way-- and we're gettin'
out of the way before the shooting starts!"
weapon?" Luke came to such a sudden stop in the hatchway that
Jovay ran into him. He looked at the Imperial. "The Death Star?"
he asked flatly.
face was unreadable. "Get inside, Luke."
shook his head, responding both to Jovay and to what his own mind was
asking: Did my dad lie to me?
that wasn't possible. His dad hadn't said anything about the Death
Star coming here, where all these people were, where his
friends-- and Leia-- were. His dad hadn't said--
great victory will feed his arrogance....
krit!" A victory over the Alliance's ground troops! His dad
meant for the Death Star to destroy Dantooine, then move on to finish
off the rest of the Rebel fleet where they hid. That was when
Palpatine would come, hovering and spying like a carrion bird to
watch the death of the Alliance. And if Luke and his dad couldn't
destroy the Death Star, if the rebellion was defeated, there would be
no one was left to oppose Palpy, not even Darth Vader. The galaxy
would live in fear of the Emperor's displeasure. After Palpatine
died, there would be another tyrant to take his place... maybe Vader,
maybe someone else.
things are worth dying for.
said it, kid," Solo muttered nervously, glancing upward as
though he might be able to see the Death Star in space. "It's
one hell of a monster. Let's get a move on."
He pushed past Jovay and broke free when the officer grabbed his arm.
Racing down the ramp, he set out toward the base's HQ at a dead run.
wait!" he heard Jovay call, then add quietly, "Take off and
you're a dead man, Solo. I'll bring him back!"
you won't!" he shouted into the rushing wind, barreling downhill
to his Rebel friends.
they were his friends, and he'd be damned if he'd zip safely
into space while they were being slaughtered. Anyway, after
Dantooine, no planet would be safe! His dad said he could
destroy the Death Star-- all right, then he'd do it! He didn't know
how, but his dad said there was--
faltered and his frantic race stopped. His dad had said there was a
way and that Luke would know. But he didn't have a clue. Oh, krit,
why hadn't he paid more attention?!
fine, he'd protect the Rebels in whatever way he could, even if his
efforts were futile, like Garven said. Luke tore off his backpack
just as Jovay reached him.
on, that's an order."
not the boss of me!" Flinging open the pack, he began searching
through it, pulling out the clothes and throwing them aside until he
found what he wanted. "I'm going to stop the Death Star."
yeah? With what?"
the only thing I have-- this." He stood and waved the lightsaber
in Jovay's face.
officer gave a disgusted grunt. "Don't be childish. We don't
have time for games. That thing doesn't even work. We've got to
not going!" His dad wouldn't let this place be blown up if he
stayed here. No way! That was the answer! All Luke had to do was
contact his father and-- No, then the Death Star would still be a
threat. In that case-- "Hey, hold on a minute!" he
exclaimed suspiciously. "How do you know my lightsaber
told me," Jovay said easily-- too easily.
did not." His eyes narrowed. "Are you in on my father's
plotting, too? What else do you know?"
stared at Jovay, then at the non-functioning lightsaber. His dad had
said there was a way and Luke would know. And, quite suddenly, he did
Sith!" He looked into green eyes that reflected his own
agitation. "We're going to stop the Death Star here, today. Or
are you really prepared to stand by and let the Rebellion die? That
would put an end to your 'third side', too, wouldn't it?" Luke
stopped and caught his breath. "Or is that part of your plan? Do
you think the destruction of a planet will rouse the 'third side'
into action?" He shook his head. "There'll be no stopping
Palpatine after he uses the Death Star, no matter what my father
thinks. He knows he can't do it alone. He needs me. And I'm not
cool exterior was cracking. He put his hands on his hips, shook his
head and looked around. The indecisiveness on his face changed
abruptly, first to frustration, then decision. "Damn it, Luke!"
His arms shot out, fists clenched. "All right! But if we live
won't let you be in hot water with my dad." He grinned. "Let's
- - - -
was damn good. It was momentarily disconcerting to see the swiftness
with which he disposed of the security guards. Luke blinked, then
pushed inside the hangar, running toward the group in the center-- as
fast as he could, though it appeared no one even noticed, let alone
cared to stop him.
it was an accident or sabotage, I thought we'd seen the last of the
Death Star a decade ago," Willard was saying bitterly, "but
he's built another one. How did he find us? It's over. Everything is
For a second, the room became distant, and he could see his father
clearly. Had there been another Death Star? And his father had--? The
vision faded before he could interpret what he had seen.
the hell is he doing here?" Willard snapped.
Carefully, Luke laid his lightsaber on the table. While the others
watched in a silence born of desperation, he removed the protective
caps and unscrewed the pins, carefully disassembling it until he
reached the activator. There, blocking the connection, was what he
suspected he would find: a tiny silver cube. He pried it out and held
I'm not mistaken, this contains the technical readouts for the Death
- - - - Epilogue - - - - -
were all dead behind him-- Boss, Porkins... even Biggs. Only Wedge
escaped, his fighter crippled and useless. Now all that could stop
Luke from firing the torpedo that would destroy this vile
battlestation was one very persistent TIE fighter piloted by the most
persistent man in Luke's personal universe.
Luke! It's too soon! Palpatine is safe on Coruscant. If you destroy
the Star, he will build another. And another and another! Pull up,
you must pull up!
tried to focus on his unfamiliar targeting computer, struggling to
ignore the voice in his head that alternately raged, reasoned and
You're making everything worse! Pull up now! It's not too late!
is too late! he lashed back. I won't let everyone on
this base be killed!
on the base?! Vader shouted in his head. If you're so
worried about killing, what about everyone on the Death Star?
willing to sacrifice them anyway! he shot back. The only way
to stop me is to shoot me down-- are you willing to sacrifice me?
was a terrible silence. It lasted only seconds, but to Luke it felt
like hours. Then: So.... You will betray me, too?
tone was heavy, lethal. He felt the blood rush out of his head,
leaving him nauseous and dizzy. She betrayed me and I killed her.
No, no, no--
no! I'm not betraying you! I love you! We can still destroy
Palpatine, but I can't let all these people die. This isn't right-- I
can feel it's not right!
one, you are a fool! Vader answered bitterly. A blind fool! If
you think I'm going to allow you to ruin everything I have--
nowhere, two TIE fighters swooped toward him, lasers slicing
brilliant lines across his vision, aiming for Luke with frightening
accuracy. Even before he could take evasive action, his father blew
them into sparkling bits that vanished from his vision as he
continued speeding toward his goal.
smiled tightly. He had his father's answer. Thanks, Dad. Look...
let's get together later and re-think this plot of yours, okay? Maybe
you could help me target this thing, back me up? I can't get a lock
on the exhaust port and it's coming up--
coming up now, young one! Damnit! We won't get another chance
now that they know we can penetrate its defenses! Luke, your
targeting computer is unnecessary, it only hinders you-- use the
Force! Remember what I taught you. Clear your mind. Focus!
closed his eyes, seeing the port through his mind. It was simple,
then, to find the target, to aim his torpedo, to wait for the right
millisecond to fire the--
head echoed with a mental shout of rage that jolted his
concentration. Over his headset, he heard another voice. "Okay,
kid, you're clear! Now let's blow this thing and get out of here!"
wasn't until the torpedo was speeding on its way and he had pulled
out of the trench that he realized what had happened. Solo, of all
people, had come back to help him and had attacked his father--
Luke called frantically, wincing as the repercussions from the
horrific explosion hit his x-wing. He held tightly to the controls,
riding out the waves of turbulence as he tried to out-race the
hurtling debris. Dad, are you okay? Where are you?
didn't relax until he heard the slightly dazed reply. Damned
pirate. I appear to be intact, as does my fighter.
flooded him. Father....
Come with me. I will hide you, teach you, and when you are ready....
relief faltered. This wasn't a decision he could put off or avoid
entirely. In an instant he had to weigh his alternatives: his
lifelong desire to be with his father against his awareness that his
father's path might not be his path. Darth Vader was walking
somewhere that Luke didn't want to go... somewhere Luke didn't
can't, he sent, hoping his dad could hear his regret. You're
going somewhere I can't follow. I'm not
Luke Vader. I'm Luke Skywalker. I want to learn about the Force and
become a Jedi... like my father.
his great sadness, there was no reply, not as he followed the
Millennium Falcon back to the base on Dantooine, not as he
landed the x-wing on a bare strip of ground that led to a hanger.
People rushed out to meet him, shouting, grinning, yelling his name.
He popped open the canopy, tossed aside his helmet, and jumped down
without the aid of a ladder. He was hugged and patted and both his
hands were shaken by Rebels he'd never met. Apparently he'd achieved
the goal that he'd once selected so frivolously: he was a hero.
didn't feel as good as he'd thought it would.
a familiar voice called, and he looked up to see Karas Jovay climbing
down from the Millennium Falcon along with Solo and Chewbacca.
He smiled faintly as the Imperial officer pushed through the crowd.
reached him, clapped his shoulder and grinned, then sobered as he
studied Luke's expression. "You're a lot like your father, you
know," he offered quietly, and Luke's heart sank.
think so?" he asked dully.
Stubborn." The corner of Jovay's mouth quirked. "Determined
to do what you think is right. That's all he ever did, you know."
din of congratulatory shouts was ringing in his mind as well as in
his ears. "That's supposed to make me feel better?" he
asked angrily, hissing under the cover of the noisy celebration. "I'm
exactly like him, is that what you're saying? That I'll become what
he is-- do what he did?"
tilted his head and shrugged. "I guess that depends on what you
believe is right," he answered softly.
stared, feeling a warm wash of understanding fill him. That was it,
the difference between him and his father. The truth was, what he and
Vader believed was completely different. His father needed power and
possessions-- people, planets, even an entire galaxy; he thought
ownership would make him feel safe, but Luke doubted that anything
could ever do that for Darth Vader. Luke didn't need safety; he
believed there were causes more important than his personal needs,
even more important than his life. That was why he could walk away
from his father, abandon the one person in the galaxy who understood.
He finally accepted that part of himself, and that self-knowledge
dad would never understand. They would be enemies now, not by their
choice. Sorrow erupted in his heart, and he bowed his head. He
couldn't expect Vader to accept his decision. He knew he could never
see his father again, and a great hole grew inside him, bigger and
in the midst of the non-stop yelling and talking, a voice rang clear
and crisp in his head.
well. Since you insist on being foolish and disobedient, you must be
properly trained. You will go to Dagobah. There you will find Yoda,
the Jedi master who refused to train me. He will not repeat that
mistake, for he knows you are the last hope for the galaxy. When you
are trained, remember my words: return to me, my son, and we will
conquer the Emperor together.
like a plan," he answered, both aloud and in his head, but
didn't share his misgivings with his dad. That wouldn't be fair,
because mixed with the misgivings was a growing hope that the Jedi
Vader had once been was still alive inside him, waiting for someone
to set him free. Someone like his son.
to yourself, kid?" Solo asked, coming up behind him and slapping
his back so hard that he staggered.
recovered and shook his head. "No. To my father." He met
Jovay's understanding gaze and smiled. "I think he's proud of me
- - End - - -