After the destruction of the Death Star, Vader begins a crusade to find the boy responsible for it, the pilot by the name of Luke Skywalker. However, he was missing one critical piece of the puzzle; Luke was not actually a boy. Fem!Luke
The problem with trying to find one Rebel out of many was that they had the incorrigible ability of dispersing into thin air in all directions—leaving him to choose which ships to go after. He could sense a flicker of the force, though he knew he could not rely on it to find his missing son. He wondered, not for the first time, if the boy was trained. It would certainly explain how he'd been able to mask his presence up until now.
But Vader had felt it then, in the straits of the Death Star; an overwhelming presence besieging him, burning brighter than the ensuing explosion.
That was his son.
That was Luke Skywalker—the infamous pilot responsible for the destruction of the Emperor's most prized possession.
He knew it was only a matter of time before the Emperor's spies laying in the Alliance would bring the name back to his master; he had to find him before then. He could not imagine what fate Sidious would want for the destroyer of his beloved Death Star, regardless of his potential in the force.
Vader seethed in anger as he eyes the diaspora of x-wings in front of him, weaving through asteroids across the horizon, TIE fighters quick to pursue. He tries the force one more, but it eludes him in his time of need.
Finally, he catches a glint of wings in the sunset—a dark black x-wing barrels across the stratosphere, maneuvering through the TIE fighters as if they were made of stone. He is begrudgingly impressed when the pilot dives his way through the oncoming Imperials, destroying the formation as he does so.
Vader ignites his engine, and speeds after the craft.
It is his son; it must be.
The x-wing weaves through his shots, evading his scopes at every turn. Just when he thinks he may have the chance for a non-lethal shot, the pilot cuts the engine, and suddenly the craft dives into freefall, too fast for Vader to catch up. Angered once more at such a narrow escape, Vader peers down the side of his fighter and sees the pilot—sees Luke—reengage the engine just as he nears the gravitational pull of the planet below, and then dives into the blackness of space.
There are a significant number of similar encounters as the weeks go by.
He is constantly one step behind the rebels; just when they find the base they find it has just recently been deserted. It is too many times to be a simple coincidence—the evidence that his son is trained in the force grows larger by the day. Perhaps he can sense him through the force, and alerts the rebels of the Imperial's impending arrival.
Again, he is begrudgingly impressed; who trained him? Obi-Wan?
He thought back on the death of his old master, felled by his sword in the bowels of the death star. He cannot remember his companions clearly; Princess Leia Organa, of course, and a scruffy looking man. He thinks harder. There was another girl with them, though that is all he can recall.
He sneers in disgust.
That scruffy pilot of that equally scruffy ship was most assuredly not his son.
The last lead he'd had was the rebel they'd captured and tortured for information. He'd finally revealed the name Vader had been waiting to hear, moments before his death. Vader had not felt much at his passing; now, however, he wished fervently that he had not let the rebel go so easily. There was an infinite well of knowledge that he could have used.
In the race to find his son he was running out of time.
Fortunately the Alliance appeared to be doing a marginally acceptable job at keeping their mysterious ace pilot out of the Imperial eye; and the Emperor's servants who did manage to smuggle the information out were quickly felled by Vader's own agents.
However, this temporary solution would not hold for long; he needed to find his son.
Vader should have known by now that the force worked with great irony; he'd spent such a vast amount of time and effort searching for a rebel, and the moment he'd stopped was the moment he found one.
After the rebels led them in a merry chase around Vivenda, they disappeared into hyperspace, leaving the Imperial forces more frustrated than usual.
They'd captured a refueling depot on a diminutive moon in orbit, though it appeared that the inhabitants and customers had nothing to do with the alliance.
Vader hadn't intended to check and affirm this personally, but his wayward servant Wrenga Jixton was supposed to have been off that useless moon half an hour ago, and he had yet to return.
When he lands on the surface—so small that it could barely house the refueling depot—the reason became clear.
No, a girl, really.
For a brief, terrifying moment he thinks he sees Padme, leaning against the side of a starship, bathed in the retrograde light of the planet below. The memory drifts away, leaving him disoriented and confused. This girl does not overtly appear to have any resemblance to the late senator. No, she has dark blonde hair that burns gold in the sunlight, and a set of large blue eyes. Even the coloring is wrong; she is much too tan.
The image refuses to leave, however, though he can not say why. Perhaps there is a resemblance—in the chin, a bit, and the curve of her smile. Maybe even in the shape of her eyes.
He could just be projecting, however.
He can't shake the feeling off, even as he approaches them both, and the girl's eyes grow wide with recognition.
She immediately reaches for her blaster, but he levitates it out of her grip, tossing it aside.
"Whoa!" Jix protests. "What's all this for?"
"She is a rebel." He intones, narrowing his eyes on the ship behind her. A conspicuously black x-wing. X-wings themselves do not inherently mean rebellion, but he remembers this specific craft. It is heavily modified, indicating that the girl is not only an exceptional pilot, but also quite a mechanic. He remembers his pursuit of this particular ship in the upper stratosphere of Sluis Van. He's never thought himself as particularly sexist… It is never wise to underestimate someone based only off their gender—and how could he have, after meeting Padme?—and yet he is still surprised to see that the owner and pilot of this craft is, in fact, a young girl. Mostly though, he is surprised to find the owner is not his son.
She stares up at him defiantly, a certain reckless temerity in her bright eyes.
Jix looks unnecessarily dismayed at this.
She purses her lips. "Are you going to arrest me?"
"I should." Vader returns. "But perhaps I will not. Your fate depends on your cooperation."
"I'm not telling you anything." She refutes in retaliation. Occasionally he is somewhat impressed by the loyalty of the rebels, but mostly it only serves to irritate him. He's not sure which he feels now.
"You will, if you wish to see the end of this day." He promises, chancing a glance at Jix. He is marginally surprised to see that the man looks somewhat disheartened; has he already made a significant attachment to his girl?
She says nothing to this, narrowing her eyes.
"I'm not telling you where they are."
"I am not asking you to." Vader replies. "I am only looking for one rebel."
He senses her confusion.
She blinks rapidly, something like apprehension and recognition flittering through her expressions. Finally, she settles into a vague neutrality. "What… What do you want with Luke?"
"What I want with him is none of your concern." He dismisses. "You need only to tell me his location."
She bites her lip. "… Just Luke?"
"Just Luke." He affirms.
Her blue eyes shift warily to his. "But, why?"
"Must I repeat myself, rebel?" He snaps, quickly losing patience. "It is none of your concern."
"Of course it is!" She shouts. "Luke is—uh… he's my friend! I'm not just going to hand him over to you so you can kill him!"
"I will see that no harm comes to Skywalker." Retorts the dark lord, impatiently.
"How am I to believe that?"
"The location, rebel!" He stalks forward.
Fear lights up in her eyes.
Just as he is about to close the distance, a shadow engulfs the entire depot station. He looks up to see the ugliest, most dilapidated ship he's ever seen; one that looks vaguely familiar.
He doesn't have much time to pinpoint when he's seen it before; not long after the starship begins to hail bullets down on them. He dodges for cover, as does Jix, and in the interim the girl leaps for her x-wing. The top closes in over her, and it immediately shoots off the side of the depot station, blasting off into space.
To make matters worse, the rebels appeared to know as little as he did about Luke's location.
His agents managed to hack into the main server on a rebel base on Anthos. Even their records show that Luke Skywalker was missing. He hadn't clocked in for over seventy-two hours, now officially categorized as MIA. This disturbed him greatly. Was his son picked up by another Imperial star destroyer in the area? Arrested as a rebel? The thought instilled within him a vague sense of alarm. He knew very well what Imperials did to rebel prisoners.
Jix infiltrated the Alliance on his request to confirm it; there was no Luke Skywalker in the Alliance. Most of them didn't even know who he was. They'd heard his name of course—it was infamous now—but they couldn't give Jix any semblance of a legitimate description of his character.
Jix shakes his head, collapsing into the chair across from him. "No dice." He sighs with defeat. That in and of itself was concerning. Jix never admitted defeat.
He drums his fingers lightly on the conference table. "Some say he's a tall brunette who likes to drink; others claim he's blonde and short, and kind of a loner." He shakes his head again. "One of them tried to convince me Luke was an Imperial spy."
Vader made a disgruntled noise. "It appears even the Rebels have no leads."
Jix shrugs. "Should we keep searching?"
"Yes." Vader answers immediately. Hopefully at some point the force will be willing to assist him in this quest. He cannot remember the signature clearly, only a blinding, brilliant light; the brightest signature he'd ever seen.
And he hadn't seen it since.
They meet again on Castell.
Or rather, she and Jix meet again.
He swears it was totally coincidental; he'd been checking up on some informants on the world, and had seen her coming out of a junk shop. They quite clearly must have hit it off prior to his entrance on the Vivenda moon, especially if she's still talking to him after being made aware of his allegiances.
They're in a diner when Jix calls, escaping to the bathroom. "Please don't scare her off; she's not a rebel."
"And you believed her?" He replies, genuinely surprised.
"She's not lying!" Jix insists. "I know a rebel when I see one—she's definitely not it."
It's blatantly obvious that Jix has somehow managed to care deeply for a girl he's just met. Which is rare, for his subordinate. A part of him wants to promise to leave the girl unharmed; he knows it is false, however. He would do anything to find the location of his son. And she is a rebel, despite what Jix may believe. Her starfighter is rather unforgettable.
He almost feels badly when she startles, staring up at his form with terror. For a rebel, she has an awfully naïve and innocent look to her.
The patrons of the diner have long since left in fear, leaving the three of them alone with a plate full of eggs and an unattended, burning kitchen.
Her eyes flicker between the two of them; betrayal is written clear on her face.
"I'm sorry." Jix says; for once, sounding incredibly sincere.
She narrows her eyes at him.
Apology unaccepted, then.
She folds her arms. "What do you want from me?" She directs towards him, flicking stray bangs out of her face. Even that reminds him of Padme. The thought makes him irrevocably angry, for no reason he can discern.
"My deal has not changed." He reminds her.
Her eyes dart past him, towards the kitchen. "Well, can the location?" She returns, and his eyes draw to her fixation. The kitchen is on fire.
He nods. "Out." He commands them both.
Jix is keen to keep a close hold on the girl; she doesn't appear to like it, scowling fiercely at him.
Once they are a safe distance away from the diner—which has now started to burn in earnest—he rounds on her again.
"Luke Skywalker." He repeats.
She hunches in on herself, but does not let her intimidation stop her. "I don't know."
Finally, a flutter in the force. "You lie."
She blinks, startled. "I'm not!" She insists. "Luke isn't with the alliance!"
A deflection. This surprises him. Did someone teach her about the force? He searches it, probing the air around her. It meets him eagerly; a slow shimmer. Force sensitive. He peers down at her again, this time with a more clerical eye. It's surprising, but not indubitably so.
"You're not answering my question." He points out. "If you value your life, you won't make me ask again."
"Naboo." She blurts, suddenly. "I—I heard him talking about it once. He's always wanted to go to Naboo; see the waterfalls in the lake country."
Vader could have groaned if he was a lesser man. As it is, he silently wonders if the force is doing this for a reason, perhaps to punish him for his past mistakes. He cannot even think of the agony that would be; to see the places he held in his memories. He has thought on Padme recently far too often for his liking; guilt and anger threaten to besiege him, but he pulls them down.
"Naboo it is." He says, hating the words. There is only one place in this galaxy he hates more than Tatooine—and it is Naboo.
It's a fitting irony that he would find his son in the place where it all began.
He motions to Jix.
She looks between them both, realization dawning upon her face. "No." Her eyes widen. "No, no. I'm not going with you!"
"You do not have a choice." He reminds. And then, darkly, "And if the boy is not where you say he is, the deal is over."
She looks back towards him, frightened. "But—but I don't know!" She insists. "Its just a guess!"
He looks down at her, unmoved. "Then you should pray you guess well."
Vader doesn't mean to eavesdrop.
It's a long way to Naboo, and throughout it all Jix attempts to win the girl's favor once more. It does not appear to be working.
She's not cuffed, though she is watched at all times. Mostly by Jix, voluntarily. You'd think him a rancor from the way she scowls at him, though.
They are in an open conference room, their voices quiet murmurs in the still air of the corridor outside. He pauses, just before the cusp of the doorway.
"How can you expect me to forgive you?" She hisses, loudly. "You practically guaranteed my death!"
"No! It's not like that!" Jix pleads. "He means what he says—if we find this kid on Naboo he'll let you go!"
Silence. Clearly she doesn't believe him.
There's a moment, before she asks, softly, "What is it about Luke that is so special to Vader?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you've captured me specifically because of Luke—which isn't a legitimately legal reason, by the way—not to mention that you've been snooping around the Alliance, asking for information."
"How do you know that?" Jix gasps. Vader could have smiled. She's much quicker than he'd thought.
"Please." She snorts. "When everyone's talking about some random guy who looks just like you, asking around for Luke Skywalker? You weren't very subtle."
"Huh. Damn, I was that obvious?"
"You were." She affirms.
"Krith spit." He curses. "I'm losing my touch!"
"Anyway, you didn't answer my question! Why Luke?"
"I honestly don't know." Jix replies. "He wants him for something, though."
'Yeah," She returns, acerbic. "I may have noticed that."
"No, but—I mean, you don't understand. I don't think he's out to hurt him, or anything. He's specifically asked all his agents to capture but not injure. You don't get how… how not normal that is. In all my time working for him I've never been commanded to capture someone alive, let alone without injury!"
She is silent for some time. "But.. why?"
"Lou, I don't know." Jix sighs. "But it.. seems important."
She seems to ponder this. "Because of the emperor?"
"Do you think it's because of the emperor? I mean, Luke did destroy the death star. Surely he wants revenge for that."
"No, it's not." Jix answers. "He's been directly countering the emperor in this; he's killed any of the emperor's spies who even know Luke's name."
"Like I said, he's important."
"Yeah." She says, finally. "Yeah, I guess so."
She is odd after that.
The girl—Lou, Jix says—watches him studiously from beneath a curtain of dark lashes, quiet and observant. It is… somewhat unnerving.
They'd stopped in the system before Naboo because of reports of rebels in the vicinity. Vader had gone prowling for them himself, intent on relieving some of his tension. Unfortunately, there were not nearly enough of them for that.
He enters the hangar bay, parking his TIE fighter effortlessly among the wall.
Jix is talking avidly with a stormtrooper nearby, gesticulating wildly on yesterday's water hockey game. They're both keen to keep the girl in their sights, though she does not appear to have any intention of wandering off.
No, instead she is curled up along the shelf running along the wall, level with her x-wing. She stares at it blankly, before her attention drifts to him. If he didn't know any better, he'd say her stare was one of indifference. However, the force has finally deigned to respond to him, and he can sense a tumultuous maelstrom inside her—far too many emotions than he is capable of deciphering.
He walks toward them, ostensibly to talk to Jix, but mostly because he wants a closer look at her fighter.
It is sleek and black, and clearly well taken care of. She demanded it be brought on the ship as well as her—too precious to leave behind. He wouldn't have responded to the request, normally, but he secretly agreed with her. It was a beauty of a ship. There didn't seem to be a single part of that wasn't custom made; he could make out parts from all over the galaxy, some incredibly rare. He'd never actually seen a Doldur turbine in person. And when he caught sight of the compressor—Sluis origin, and a relic of the Old Republic—he could not pass up the opportunity.
"Where did you get this?" He demands, peering over the side to get a better look at the engine. He is surprised to see it is covered only by a plating of dura-glass, leaving all of it open for inspection. Only a mechanic would truly appreciate the beauty of an engine like this; and only a mechanic would make a glass plating to show it off.
She blinks, curiously, before slowly unfolding herself off her seat on the ledge, warily moving closer.
"The compressor." He reiterates. "They do not make these anymore."
"Oh, the Sluis K4?" She replies, with possibly more inflection than he'd ever heard from her. She joined him in looking at the fighter engine.
"I found it." She explains. "In a junk yard on Tatooine."
The name strikes quickly into his heart. He can see clearly the kind of place this compressor had lived; no place for a young girl.
"Tatooine." He repeats.
She looks up at him, hesitantly. "Yes… I'm from there."
He chances another glance at her. Yes, he can see the truth in that. She certainly looks like she's weathered both sun and sand. She looks a little like… he blinks. She looks familiar. And not just because she still illogically reminds him of Padme.
A mechanic from Tatooine.
The irony is not lost on him. The force is clearly at work.
He turns his attention back to the fighter, his eyes drifting towards the wings. He's taken apart more x-wings than he can count, knows them by heart, even, considering he had been alive for their relatively new inception. She must have made the fusial thrusts by hand, for they are not regulation, nor has he ever seen anything like that.
They almost look like…
"TIE fighter thrusts." He remarks, genuinely impressed.
Her eyes flicker up to him shyly, before dropping back down. "Sort of." She fiddles with the ends of her hair. He almost doesn't remember who he's speaking to; the gesture reminds him frighteningly of Padme, winding her dark hair around her fingers, leaning against their balcony—Ani, I want to raise our baby in the lake country—"I modeled them after TIE fighters, but I wanted to keep the acceleration of the x-wings."
He blinks out of his reverie.
"Impressive." He finds himself saying; it is true, of course. He can tell that his praise has greatly surprised her.
"Are you…" She wavers slightly. "Are you a mechanic?"
From the edge of the hangar bay, Jix begins to laugh.
"The best in the galaxy!" He shouts loudly, with a winsome grin.
Vader spares him a baleful glance.
The girl looks up at him curiously.
"I have been known to take apart a machine from time to time." He hedges, ambiguous. He has no desire to sit and talk parts with this girl. Rather, he does, but wishes greatly that he didn't.
Instead, he pivots on his foot without warning, and stalks out of the hangar bay before he does something foolish.
Vader can tell she is frightened of him. And for good reason; he has all but promised her death if Luke Skywalker is not found on Naboo.
However, as rebels go, she is not the worst of company. He has a great dislike for rebels, teenagers, and young impetuous girls. She is all of the above, and yet he does not find any of these traits nearly as repulsive as they normally are. He's starting to wonder if Jix had been right in his prior assessment—this girl seems the farthest thing from a rebel. She has no real interest in politics, no real hatred of the empire, and is in general ambivalent to galactic affairs.
No, not ambivalent, just ignorant. But then again, she is a farm girl from Tatooine; that would make perfect sense. It's that blissful, outer rim ignorance and charm that makes her so irritatingly endearing. Vader wouldn't be surprised to find out her affiliations with the alliance were nothing more than an accident. They probably just walked up to her with a smile and asked for a favor.
She is brave, but tacit. Impulsive, but calculating. Combined with her force sensitivity, she is quite promising. However, there is only one apprentice he wishes to take on, and she is not him.
He directs his gaze back to the windows. Naboo is an illustrious green arc beneath the hull,
They have not even landed and he already wants to leave.
Luke, he reminds himself. He needs to find Luke.
This may be his only chance, and he's running out of time. Quite honestly he's surprised that Palpatine has neither found out about his son's existence, or request for him to return to Coruscant. Perhaps his luck will hold.
The girl, who up until the moment Naboo became visible had been avidly questioning the mechanics of the star destroyer, has gone silent. He can sense her concern, her trepidation, and a rising tension. He does not feel fear, though. Confliction, yes. But no fear.
Jix ambles towards them, throwing a blinding, winsome smile at Lou. She returns it, briefly.
"The shuttles are all set for landing." He informs.
"Good." Vader nods. And then, towards the young girl on the bridge. "Have you ever docked a star destroyer?"
Her eyes grow wide. "No." She replies, in a small voice.
"Then today is your day to learn." He places a hand on the small of her back and thrusts her towards the main control panel. He unfortunately catches Jix's gaze; he is both stunned and ecstatic. Lou is feeling something of the same.
Piloting a star destroyer is far easier than piloting a starfighter, so he had no doubts she would do just fine, and it has the added bonus of relieving all of her heavy emotions. The dark shroud that oppresses the bridge lifts as her attention diverts to the elaborate panels in front of her. The force sings with her delight. She is a quick study; he doesn't have to direct much, as she inherently seems to know the controls. A fantastic mechanic and an excellent pilot. The thought makes him wonder on his son. Is he also a mechanic and pilot? He's clearly a pilot, clearly takes after his father. But what of his personality? His looks? Or… or would he be more like Padme in that regard?
He has the sudden urge to probe the girl for more answers on his son. She is still marveling at the controls, however, and he cannot bring himself to ask. He will know soon enough.
She looks on, enamored, as the Naboo atmosphere looms in the viewport. The peninsula where the city of Theed sits is directly beneath them. A certain sadness blooms in the steel trap that was once his heart, the sight full of pain and sorrow.
She sucks in a breath. "It's beautiful." She breathes.
"Isn't it?" Jix agrees, leaning against the controls and beaming at her. "I've always wanted to vacation here."
There was once a time when he would have agreed with them; it has long since past.
The landing preparations come all too soon. Lou grows wary once more, falling silent even as Jix attempts to keep her spirits.
The moment they enter the hangar bay, they are hailed by the embassy. Vader sighs, unwilling to deal with politics. He almost debates making Jix do it, before ultimately deciding that would do more harm than good.
A party of Naboo ultimately board the ship in orbit. He gets the vague impression they are either stalling for time, or are very terrified with his arrival. Vader prepares himself for a long and tedious circus, and reminds himself that the Emperor would be most displeased to hear he'd murdered an entire diplomatic party from his homeworld.
"Lord Vader." The ambassador speaks. "We were not informed of your arrival."
"I have no need to inform you of every decision I make, ambassador." He reminds, warningly.
It works. "Of course, my lord." He replies, cowed. "But… the Queen is not prepared. I must ask you to wait for an audience with her."
"I am not here for an audience with your Queen." He waves him off. "I am here for…"
He trails off, feeling that something is amiss.
He looks over the party from Naboo, dressed in typical garb of the planet, and then to his men. Jix is with the Commander, discussing options for transport to Lake Country. Lou is…
He whirls around, searching the force. On the far side of the hangar bay, his eyes narrow in on the missing space where her x-wing had been parked. Instead of guarding the hangar bay, those useless stormtroopers are all lined up behind him to greet the landing party. Of all the stupid…
Lou is not here. When he looks out the hangar bay, he can see a faint spark of blue thrusters, heading for the planet below.
"Jix!" He barks.
Jix looks up, suddenly. It only takes him a moment to come to the same conclusion as him, and then the Corellian is calling for the stormtroopers for an explanation.
Vader turns towards the ambassador once more, no longer in any mood to entertain politicians. "If you value your lives," He begins, deceptively calm. "I would suggest a timely departure."
The ambassador swallows, bows once, and then quickly turns for the exit.
Vader is most displeased. He should have known that the girl would run. Regardless of how impressed he was by her knowledge of starships and piloting, he should have never let her out of his sight.
He couldn't bring himself to blame her for leaving; not when he had no intention of letting her live if his son was not on this world. He was, however, quite enraged to find the last link to his son had disappeared into thin air. Typical rebel.
"She's out of range." Jix sighs, though that was a foregone conclusion.
"No matter." Vader boards his own TIE fighter. "She cannot have gone far; and won't be difficult to spot in such an inconspicuous fighter."
Jix appears conflicted. "Is there any way I can—
"No." Vader interrupts, with great finality. "Prepare a fleet for landing. I will go ahead."
Jix sighs again. "Right."
Vader closes the hatch.
The skies over Naboo are clear and almost blindingly blue. He cannot see anything in sight, nor do his specs pick up other ships in the area. He closes his eyes, and prays that the force will actually listen to him this time. It does, and like a burning beacon he can feel her presence light up behind his eyes.
He pitches his TIE Fighter downward, chasing the feeling.
He is not kept waiting for long; he spies a glimmer of black below, and moves to land.
It appears to be some kind of garden.
Vader exits his craft, looking around. He does not remember this garden being here before. But then, he had never paid much attention to the architecture on Naboo. No… his attention had been entirely fixated on one thing on Naboo, and one thing only. He was so caught up in his anger and guilt that he almost walked right past the ship without inspecting it.
A strangely familiar whistle emitted from the back of the x-wing.
To his unending disbelief, a familiar astromech droid emerges from beneath a casing of black dura-steel.
He is so startled he could not speak for some time.
"Artoo?" He says, finally.
The droid lights up with recognition. He begins to whistle and beep happily, lifting himself out of the x-wing and onto the ground.
"What do you mean, we must find her?" He says in reply to the droid's unending slew of commands. "Who is 'her'? Your master?"
He beeps his agreement.
"Follow me, then." Of course, the droid doesn't. He spins and begins to roll in the opposite direction.
Vader would be enraged that a droid was not following his simple command, had the novelty of this particular astromech worn off. As it is, he is still in awe of the fact that he has found one of his long lost droids. How long had he stared at this ship, and never once checked the astromech droid?
Artoo weaves through the garden, turning through flower hedges and rows of elaborate bushes. Naboo mountain flowers, he notes. Padme's favorite flower. The thought makes his mood worsen even more than it had been already, which was saying something. He was already in a foul mood from just being on planet, not to mention tracking down a wayward criminal.
He is so caught up in his thoughts that he completely loses Artoo. He blinks out of his reverie, and follows the whistling through the maze of flowers.
The hedges clear to reveal a large and elaborate water statue, It glitters in the morning sunlight, and through the glare he sees a young girl standing in front of the monument.
Artoo rolls his way over towards her, just as Vader strides over the bridge.
She turns around at the sound, and though he feels trepidation and concern, there is no fear.
"Vader." She greets, and though she holds her chin high her voice is shaking.
"Did you truly expect to evade capture?" He says in reply, drawing closer.
"No." She replies, voice wavering.
"Had you not left, I would have no reason to kill you." He intones. "However, you have not only attempted to run, but have also wasted my time on this foolish goose chase."
She blinks. "Wasted your—
"Luke Skywalker is not on Naboo, is he?" Vader interrupts viciously. "It was all an elaborate ploy—
"No!" She cuts in, stricken. "No, that's not it at all!"
"Then what?" He growls. "A machination of the alliance?"
She shakes her head rapidly.
His anger wants to get the best of him, and he almost lets it. This girl has done nothing but evade him and run him in circles; he would be well within his rights to demand retribution.
"You've got it all wrong!"
He stalks closer. "Have I?" He asks, sarcastically. "As of now I see nothing but a tedious and effectual plot against me—
"It's not!" She insists, looking on the verge of tears.
"Then where is Luke?" He roars. "Or is that a lie as well?"
"I'm not lying!" She scowls. "Luke is here!"
He stills, and searches her feelings. She is telling the truth. Luke is here.
"Where?" He questions, looming over her. "Lake country? Or farther?"
"Neither!" She replies, taking a step back. Her face is flushed and her bottom lip trembles alarmingly. The look in her eyes, the knit to her brows; they remind him so much of what he has lost. "He's here! He's right here!"
For a while, he does not understand. He is so focused on her sorrow—Anakin you're breaking my heart—and the desperation in her eyes that he doesn't process the words.
When he does, finally, he finds even then he cannot say anything, too shocked to even form words.
"But you…" He finds his voice, after some time. "You are not a boy!"
"Obviously." It appears she still retains her impetuousness.
"One would assume," He returns possibly somewhat hysterical, "That the name Luke would infer a boy!"
"Well, I didn't name myself!" She shouts back. And then, inhaling shakily, "My mother named me." She says, softly. "She… she thought I was a boy. But then, when I was born … she didn't have any other name. So she named me Luke."
Padme had… named their daughter Luke. If she had lived long enough to name their child, than it was even less likely that she had died by his hand. Memories from a lifetime ago flutter behind his eyes; a playful argument over their baby. He can't recall if he thought it would be a boy or not. Was it him who had insisted so fervently that it would be a girl? Or was that Padme? He can no longer remember.
But she must have decided it was a boy, to have decided on the name Luke.
"Your mother…" He starts, softly.
She doesn't hear him, sniffling loudly. "I don't care what happens to me—you can take me back, lock me in a dungeon or whatever," She wipes her eyes. Her expression crumples. "I just want to talk to her. Just once."
She looks sadly to the monument behind her. He can barely make out the words, 'Amidala Memorial Gardens', engraved in the center.
"You are Luke," He echoes, as if it is just dawning on him. "You are Luke Skywalker."
She gives him a look of confusion, nodding slowly.
All this time, he had been hunting for his child… and she had been there the whole time. The revelation came slowly, everything falling into place. Of course he thought of Padme when he saw her; she was half of her. The other half was him. That, was quite obvious; the hair, the eyes, the coloring, the love of speeders and fighters and starships, the fascination with machines. No wonder she seemed so familiar. She reminded him of… well, him.
"…Are you going to arrest me?" She interrupts his reverie. Her eyes are still wet, and she sniffles loudly.
Hysteria rises in him. He does not know how to handle young girls. Even less, crying young girls. He had spent so long assuming Luke was his son that he had no idea what to do now that Luke was his daughter. What did one do with a daughter? The same things?
"You can go… and speak with her." He finds himself motioning towards the monument. "I will wait here."
She nods, shuffling hesitantly back towards the memorial.
He cannot hear her words over the tidal rush of water, but he doubts he'd want to, anyway. There is so much that he cannot bear about this whole situation, one more added burden would probably undo him. Artoo whistles sadly, rolling away from the young girl—his young daughter—and over to his side.
"I know, Artoo." He looks down at the droid, when the droid insists that its master is telling the truth. He doesn't need a droid telling him that—he doesn't even need a DNA test. Their uncanny resemblance is more than enough.
She stands for some time in front of the glorious fountain, before eventually she turns back around, trudging back to him slowly, as if facing death row. Well, it would probably seem that way to her.
She opens her mouth, but artoo interrupts her with a flurry of angry beeps.
Vader peers down at his droid—well, her droid now—and frowns. "That is not your place, artoo."
Luke watches him with burning curiosity as he addresses her droid, but he does not offer any explanation. artioo continues to beep rapidly.
"Could you have thought any different?" Vader continues to talk to her droid. Luke blinks. This is getting more and more bizarre by the second.
R2-D2 appears to be arguing avidly with the dark lord of the sith.
His beeps overcome the dark lord's words, and eventually Vader grows silent.
Luke watches this all with varying degrees of disbelief, before finally wondering, mystified, "You can talk to artoo?"
He turns to her. "Yes." Is all he says.
She can't even talk to him. Well, she can talk at him, but not with him. She hadn't even realized his beeps meant anything aside from affirmation.
"Do you know what droid this is?" He asks, on a seemingly different tangent.
She looks down at the familiar figure of R2-D2. She can't remember where she got it—in the alliance, maybe. She thinks it was Leia's droid. Yes, that sounds about right. Well, really it had been Wes's droid, but he had originally gotten it from Leia, who had given it to the rebellion for use, since she had no use for an astromech droid. But then Leia had lent it to her instead for her suicide mission into the death star.
"No?" She hedges.
He rests a hand atop artoos head; the gesture is one of great familiarity. "This is an R2 Astromech droid."
She nods slowly.
"It was your mother's droid."
Luke looks up, stunned.
"My…." She begins, shocked. She whips around to look back at the memorial, before returning her attention to artoo. "My mother's?"
"Yes." He confirms. "She had two. R2-D2 and C3PO."
"Threepio?" Luke echoes, choking, recognition in her voice.
"You know of him?"
"Know of—" She cuts herself off, shaking her head in wonder. "That sack of bolts? Yeah, I do." She snorts. "Whoever made him was short a few wires."
He cannot bring himself to feel anything but humor at this. "I made that droid." He informs her, with great bemusement.
Her shocked features are more than worth it.
"You…" She gathers her words. "You knew my mother?"
"Yes." And then, before she can interrogate him further. "Luke, what do you know of your parents?"
She frowns, pondering, glancing once more to the monument behind her. "Well…" She begins, thoughtful. "My mother was a senator…. And the Queen of Naboo." She frowns deeper. "And my father was that Jedi Knight guy, I think."
That Jedi Knight guy.
He doesn't know whether to be insulted or not.
He settles for neutrality. "You are correct on both parts. Your mother was Padme Naberrie—Amidala was her royal name." She stares at him with large, burning blue eyes, completely and utterly besotted at his words. The color is his—the shape however, is completely from her mother. Normally any mention of her at all would cause a pain like no other, and yet staring down into Luke's features, he cannot bring himself to feel anything but overwhelming nostalgia.
"Your father was Anakin Skywalker."
And then, frowning, "Obi-Wan never told you the truth about your parents?"
"He might've." Her hands drew to the ends of her hair, a familiar gesture. "He told me about my mother. But, not much about my father. He said he was a Jedi." And then, with large, luminous eyes, "He said you killed him."
"A lie." Vader dismissed. "Or perhaps, a metaphor." Obi-wan was always fond of those.
"What do you mean?" She asks, slowly.
"Your father is not a Jedi," He says, "And he is not dead."
There is no discernible reaction to this. The water is loud and overwhelming behind them, but it seems distant and far away. Even ARTOO has grown silent. Finally, she blinks.
"I'm sorry," She says, dazedly, "But did you just say…?"
"I am your father."
For a moment, he thought she wouldn't say anything at all. But she surprises him.
"Yes." He sighs, exasperated. Why would he lie about this? "I am as surprised as you are. I was told your mother had died—and you along with her."
She is still and silent, and the quiet only grows as she continues to stare unnervingly at him.
He is incredulous. "You have no questions?"
She shakes her head. "I do." She murmurs. Sprays of water glitter in the air behind her, caught in the sun like drifting spots of light. He would have thought the place calming and relaxing, had it not been the memorial to his dead wife, and had he not been in the situation he was in now.
"But I just…" She looks away. "Why are you looking for me?"
He tilts his head, confused. "Why would I not?"
She shrugs. "I blew up the Death Star." She points out, in a small voice. "I thought you'd want… revenge for that."
"The Death Star is meaningless," He refutes. "You are of far more value than some hulking metal weapon."
She gives him a skeptical look. "Will the Emperor think that way?"
He ponders this.
"No." He says at length.
"Then it doesn't matter." Luke swallows, shaking her head. "Even if you are my father—I can't go with you! I can't be a part of the Empire."
It is with a heavy heart that he finds she is right; she cannot be part of the Empire. He's not sure why the idea is infinitely less appealing now that he is staring at the child he's been searching for. Had she been a boy, he would not have feared what the Emperor would do to Luke, but unwilling protectiveness rises in him when he looks down upon Padme's likeliness; so unspoiled by the wrath of the Empire. No wonder every movement she makes reminds him so much of her.
"No," He agrees at great length, surprising her. "No, you cannot."
Her eyes are so wide and beguiling—they really are the shape of Padme's, now that he has the chance to study them closely.
He makes a broad motion towards the exit. "Stay with your friends; perhaps there they will offer you some modicum of protection."
She's still watching him, stunned. "…You're going to let me go?"
"Luke," He sighs, wary. It feels… rewarding to finally say the name and know whom it belongs to. "Would you like to face the Emperor?"
She begins to shake her head violently.
He feels himself smiling involuntarily; she is so very expressive. Much like himself at that age—completely unable, or perhaps unwilling, to control his emotions. That unfettered freedom is part of the reason he realizes his plan will never succeed; how could he allow his child to follow in his footsteps? He's told himself time and again that he would give anything to have Padme back, have their child back, and if he could he would do anything to protect them from the fate he has seen at the hands of the Empire. He thought that perhaps he could protect Luke best by training him as a Sith—but looking at her now, the folly of the idea is clear.
Luke would make as good of a Sith as JarJar; which is to say, not at all.
His time with the girl has made him want to shuttle her off to another galaxy entirely, to one without such strife and despair. Much like Padme, she is too good for this galaxy. Too forgiving, even, if she has managed to forgive both he and Jix, regardless of their blatant motives.
Yes, she would be better off in the outer rim, or as far as he could get her from the Empire.
A thought strikes him.
Or perhaps, he must simply rid the galaxy of the Empire.
"Go." He urges, when it becomes clear she's not moving.
She bites her lip, conflicted. "But I—
"Jix will no doubt send troops to find me; leave now, before you must battle your way through them."
Luke takes a step back, though she is still looking wildly between him and her mother's memorial.
"Go!" He shouldn't be surprised at how stubborn she is.
Her expression turns determined. "Okay, but…" She spares a look at artoo. "Can I—can I ask you another question?"
He makes an impatient noise.
She seems to take that as an affirmative. "You said, about artoo and threepio… they were my mother's droids?"
'You're sure?" She repeats, attempting to look serious and missing by a mile. It is impossible to take her seriously when she has a cowlick that sticks straight up and an adorable moue of determination that looks less like a frown and more like a pout.
He stares at her in disbelief. Where is this coming from? It appears she is waiting for a concrete answer. "I am positive." He affirms.
She looks away; her hand comes up to play with the ends of her hair—he's beginning to notice it's something of a nervous gesture. "Well, it's just…" She chances a quick glance back at him. "They're not mine. They belong to a friend of mine. And she said that… that they used to be her mother's droids."
He's not quite connecting the dots,
"Nevermind." She blurts, darting past him.
He turns, caught off guard as he watches her duck under the hedges of flowers. She turns halfway through, shouting, "Goodbye!" And then, quieter, "And, thank you."
She turns again, disappearing into the flowers.
ARTOO looks up at him, and he stares down.
"What is the meaning of that?" He demands from the droid.
He is rewarded with a series of hysterical beeps and whistles. Then the astromech rolls away to its new master; but not without giving him perhaps the fourth greatest shock of his life. They all hit him like a blow to the head with the wrong end of a lightsaber; when he found out he could become a jedi; when Padme announced she was pregnant… when he'd heard that a pilot by the name of Luke Skywalker had blown up the Death Star. And now…
"Leia." He says aloud, wondering why that name sounded so familiar.
Artoo said his current master was his Mistress Leia, who had given him to the rebellion, and then to Mistress Luke to use in her x-wing. And, something about he and threepio being given to Leia by….
"Obi-Wan." He hisses, but for once, it is without any real heat.
That meddling fool.
It's not long before he hears the jet of an x-wing engine take to the sky, and then a streak of blinding steel dives into the atmosphere. He watches it go until it is nothing more than an elaborate tail of jet fuel in the sky, unable to decide how he feels. Leia. Luke and Leia. Princess Leia, even, a girl he actually knows quite well. He's always thought her as rebellious and stubborn, with a likeliness to another reckless, rebellious, stubborn senator he once knew. Now he knows why.
"No, Luke." He says, to the water and the grave. "Thank you."
Jix finds him not too long after, unmoved from his place at the entrance to the memorial.
A file of stormtroopers spread out in his wake, most likely to comb the gardens for his wayward… daughter. That still has yet to sink in, floating about his head with a certain numbness.
"She's gone, isn't she?" Jix greets, looking stupidly upset over this.
He doesn't deign this with an answer, continuing to stare sightlessly as the monument before him. He thinks Padme would have greatly enjoyed it; the glitter of running water, light diffused into a soft gold, a large tumbling of Naboo wildflowers sprawling over the rock that represents her memorial. She would have loved it. She would have loved Luke more.
Jix sighs. "Think we'll find her again?"
Vader finally turns around. "Even if we do," he begins, ominous. "You are staying far, far away from her."
Jix sputters. "What? Why? What's wrong with Lou?"
"There is nothing wrong with Lou." He says with amusement at the name. Even her nickname isn't particularly feminine. Still, it's a better alternative to Luke.
Well that's not entirely true. Now that he isn't burdened with an unending chase for his offspring, he realizes how useful that mechanism is. It had taken him ages to realize that Luke Skywalker was not actually a boy—to realize that he was looking in the entirely wrong direction. Hopefully it will take the Emperor even longer.
"Then—why?" He stalks out of the clearing, Jix hot on his heels. "Is she really a rebel? What happened? Did you find that Skywalker kid?"
This only serves to amuse him more.
"I did." He answers.
"And?" Jix continues, impatient. "Where is he?"
"She is gone."
"She?" Jix sputters. "Wait, so this whole time this Luke Skywalker kid is a girl? Who names their girl Luke?"
Honestly, he's wondering the same. He certainly remembered Leia. He was quite fond of the name; Padme preferred Luke—she also was quite adamant that the baby was a boy. The memory is clearer now, when he thinks on it; he'd always been so sure that it was a girl, and Padme had been just as sure it was a boy. Turns out he'd been right—on both counts.
But Padme had still gotten her 'Luke'.
"My wife." He says, and for once, the memory of her doesn't burn against his soul.
Perhaps he's gone a bit hysterical—twins, for force's sake, who would have guessed twins? But all he can think is that Padme would have adored Luke, and Leia, and though he's never wished she was by his side more than this moment, it almost feels as if she hasn't left. She's still here; in the shape of Luke's eyes and her inability to stay still, in Leia's reckless temerity. And he will not let Palpatine have these precious parts of her—will not let Palpatine near his children.
He still doesn't know what he's going to tell his master, in the same way he still doesn't know what to do about this situation, at all. The only thing he can say for certain is that he knows he must protect them. How to go about that, though, will prove to be difficult.
"You're married?" Jix calls after him; he's definitelygone hysterical. "Wait, Luke Skywalker is your son? I mean, daughter? I mean—wait, what?"
He doesn't deign that with an answer, finding his way out of the maze and back to the entrance, where Luke's x-wing is long gone, and an array of Imperial ships has replaced it.
"How do you know?" Jix jogs up to him, just as he reaches the ramp into the shuttle. "Did you find him—uh, her? So Lou was right?"
"No, Lou was wrong." He replies.
Jix pales beside him. "So what… what happened?"
"Luke arrived the same time we did." He explains, too amused to truly be annoyed with Jix's constant barrage of questions. "And just left. We found it was best if she does not come with me."
"So you met her?" Jix muses. "What was she like?"
"You would know." Vader says, quite mirthful. "You've already met her."
Jix's brow furrows. "I have?" He asks, confused. "When have I—"
His eyes widen.
Vader turns into the cockpit, figuring his work here was done. Jix's shock and disbelief has put him in lighter spirits than usual. He cannot remember the last time he felt this… optimistic about the future.
Jix yelps. "No! Lou?! She's your daughter?" He shouts, running into the cockpit as Vader warms up the engine.
'Yes." He confirms, keeping his eyes on the specs. "So I suggest you watch yourself very carefully, Wrenga Jixton. If I ever see you pawing over my daughter again I'll add your head to my collection."
The man gulps.