Summary: Fourth in a series where Luke has been raised by Vader on Coruscant. Luke is now on the run with Han and Chewie, while Vader struggles to cope with his son's absence. Luke is caught between his loyalty and love for the man who raised him, and his duties to his own principles.

Background: This fic can be read as a sequel to Force Bond 3, or by itself as an AU where Luke has been raised by Vader, from age 12 on. I finished writing it in December 2002. I've recently completed a revision on it which has actually changed it quite a bit, in addition to just updating it to reflect the Star Wars universe changes introduced by Rogue One (eg the existence of Fortress Vader). There were a number of things I wasn't happy with in the original version, around the role Leia played, and pacing issues in the middle section. So I more or less rewrote the parts of the story where Luke is on the Death Star, with the Rebellion, and on Coruscant. If you've read it before and have any questions about my thoughts behind some of the changes, please feel free to DM me or use my ask box on tumblr.

Last Revision: April 2020

Force Bond 4: Jedi


It was a few minutes before midnight.

Framed by a circular window, the Emperor sat, a black shape hidden in shadows. Anyone who saw the figure would think an old man had died in his chair, leaving only a rotting corpse to the world.

At the far end of the room, two doors slid apart into the wall. Heavy footsteps echoed against the floor, the sound becoming steadily louder as the visitor approached, until they came to a halt.

"So. Lord Vader has finally returned."

There was no response. The Emperor rotated his chair to inspect his apprentice.

"You were missed on Empire Day."

Empire Day. Had it really been so long since Luke had left? His eighteenth birthday should have been a celebration. He should have been formally introduced to the galaxy and started his journey to take his place as their ruler.

"There has been no sign of the boy, then?"

Vader struggled to say the words. It felt so final.

"No, Master."

He had looked everywhere he might have conceivably gone. Alderaan. Naboo. Even Tatooine, although he knew before the journey that was unlikely. He had spent hours and hours in deep meditation on Mustafar, calling to him through the Force. Begging him to come home. Nothing.

"Dare I ask … have you learned anything from this experience?"

Vader was silent. He knew what his master wanted to hear. He wasn't yet ready to say it.

"Perhaps that I was right?" he prompted. "That he should have been dealt with properly at the beginning?"

That conversation felt like yesterday. The Emperor predicting Luke would become dangerous. In his own sheltered bubble of naivety and arrogance, he had insisted he could raise the boy to be a loyal servant.

"I'm afraid I have failed you, my friend," his master said, turning back to the window.

Vader looked up in surprise. "Master?"

"I should have taken care of this situation then. You were too compromised to assess the situation rationally. Too attached. You never did learn to let go. Now your dedication to the Dark Side is faltering."

"No," Vader said, firmly. "It has my total allegiance, as it demands. As do you."

"Then will you go and see to your duties to our Empire and leave the boy to me? Even if he should return?"

Vader tried to suppress the glimmer of hope that stirred at the idea of his son's return.

"Yes, Master. What do you ask of me?"

"Tarkin and Krennic are at each other's throats. You must go and ensure the project is not compromised. Tarkin is useful and capable, but with such power at their fingertips, some may begin to harbor foolish ideas of mutiny."

As always, mention of the "project" only caused his depression to increase. The thought of having to step on board that monstrosity was tiresome, and the task of keeping the ambitious members of the Joint Chiefs in line was like herding womp rats. But this was his life now.

"Meanwhile, expunge all thoughts of the boy from your mind. I will take care of him. The situation will be resolved by the day the Death Star is unveiled to the galaxy."

The words caused a cold chill in his heart. Truly, he had failed as a father in ways too numerous to count.

His son was lost.

"Yes, my master."

"Kid, you are a genius."

Luke grinned, shyly. It was rare to get any praise from Han.

Both of them were on their backs, staring up at a newly fixed cooling regulator. The Falcon had suffered random power surges for months now—it wasn't until Luke thought to check the cooling regulators that he found the source of the problem. The ship's computer indicated it would require a new set of cooling tubes, which might have cost them an entire month's earnings, if it wasn't for Luke's newly designed bypass modification. Even Luke had to admit it was one of his better ideas.

"I don't know where you learned all these crazy skills, but you've sure done wonders for this bucket of bolts," Han said.

Luke shrugged, untangling a wire. "My father taught me, mostly."

"Yeah," Han said, pushing himself out of the access tube and standing up. "Your father. Uh huh."

Luke frowned to himself. "Why do you always use that tone when I mention my father?"

Han laughed. "Sure, I believe you, kid. You had a great home with a loving father who taught you all these wonderful skills. That's why Chewie and I picked you up off Coruscant's streets."

"Han—" Luke started.

"Hey, don't worry, kiddo," Han said, offering him his hand to pull him out of the tube. "We don't care where you came from. As long as you keep this ship running like it is now."

Luke opened his mouth to protest, and then gave up. Let Han think what he wanted. It was probably better this way, anyhow. Neither Han, nor Chewie, knew the truth about who his father was ... and that's how he wanted it to stay. He followed Han down the ship's corridor, towards the cockpit.

"So any word about our next job?" Luke asked.

"My good friend Lando wants us to deliver a barrel of Corellian ale to his new casino."

"Your good friend?" Luke said, with disbelief. "Last time you cheated him and stole a hyperdrive motivator. You think he's forgotten that already?"

"What's cheatin' between friends?"

"Last time you said that, you ended up being detained. I had to break you out. Remember?"

"Hey, we escaped didn't we? Oh, by the way, some encrypted message came through an hour ago. Could have been for you."

Luke stopped short. "What!? Message for me! Why didn't you tell me!? Where is it?!"

Han turned back. "I'm really sorry, Luke. Maybe you should have mentioned you were expecting something important. Chewie thought it was junk mail and deleted it."

Luke couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What!?"

Han laughed. "Gotcha, kid. It's in the main computer bank."

Luke pushed past Han and ran for his quarters. His fingers were shaking with anticipation as he sat down at his computer terminal, and he had to blink several times before he could focus on the display. Once he located the file, he quickly typed in his authorization code. After an agonizingly long wait, the text appeared on the screen. It was long. His eyes darted around the message, before he spotted the name he was looking for.

Sender: Lt. Lev Dorany

It had been incredibly risky to contact Lev. He'd sent an encrypted message last month from a public library on some mid-rim planet where Han had a regular job smuggling unlicensed surveillance systems. It had contained nothing that could have identified his friends, location, or current address, but he hadn't slept for days afterwards, imagining some slicer from ISB keeping a trace of Lev's personal messages. But they'd now established a good system, where a special dummy account forwarded Lev's encrypted messages to the Falcon's comlink frequency. Lev was now a bridge officer on the Star Destroyer Enforcer, currently on Outer Rim patrol duty, so he wasn't often free to reply. So to receive a long message was a special gift.

Dear Luke,

Thank you for your last message confirming you were still safe and well. I've just returned from a week's shore leave where I spent time with one of our mutual friends and received an update on the situation.

The mutual friend was likely Lieutenant Hicks', Lev's ex-roommate who worked in the palace security team.

The screen in my old office finally showed a one the previous week, after reaching a record high streak of zeros. It returned to zero the day after however.

Luke raised an eyebrow. The screen in the assistant's office at the palace showed the number of days his father had been present on Coruscant. If it had been zero for a record number of days, it meant his father hadn't been there in months. Then he must have returned and quickly left.

Our mutual friend warned that you should watch yourself. Your father is not himself and his superior has made arrangements to hire mercenaries to find you. Please, do your best to lay low.

Luke looked away for a moment, struggling with his own emotions. Not himself? That could mean any number of things. But he had a feeling Lev didn't mean he was feeling unusually cheerful and had stopped wearing black.

There are stories of new developments on the horizon that may provide an ideal distraction if you can continue to be evasive. I wish you every piece of luck in the galaxy.

To answer your other questions, yes, I am enjoying my new job. My coworkers are friendly people, and my CO is a friend of Commander Julius. We encountered an unusual species of asteroid scavenger eel yesterday, and remained in the vicinity so the science team could gather data.

Luke skimmed down the remaining paragraphs, until he saw Lev had signed off at the bottom, with another warning to 'lay low and stay safe'. It all felt surreal, somehow. It was only six months ago that he'd been living the relatively normal life of any teenager on Coruscant. Now he couldn't risk making a comlink call to his own father, and the Emperor of the galaxy wanted him dead.

All because of the curse the Force had inflicted on him.

He pushed his chair away roughly then stood up. From now on, as far as he was concerned, there was no such thing as the Force. Without it, his father would never have been lured into the Emperor's servitude, and his mother would never have had her heart broken. They would all be together right now. Perhaps he'd even have some brothers and sisters.

Obi-Wan had said that belief was a very large part of using the Force. Now he would test that theory to its final conclusion.

Chapter 1: Hunted

Luke studied the holographic dejarik board, considering his options. Chewie was winning at the moment ... but all that could change if he made the right move. Artoo and Threepio stood nearby, offering unhelpful and sometimes contradictory advice.

Chewie made a frustrated noise, obviously wanting Luke to hurry up.

"I know, I know, just give me a moment," Luke said.

"Master Luke, may I suggest—"

"Quiet Threepio," Luke said, frowning.

He raised his hand to move a piece, and then glanced up as Han entered the room.

"Good news—we've got a new contract."

"With who?" Luke asked.

"Jabba the Hutt. We're heading for Tatooine as soon as we've finished refuelling."

"Tatooine?!" Luke said. "You're kidding! I used to live there!"

"You used to live on that desert rock, kid?"

Luke nodded. "I haven't been there in years."

Chewie roared again.

"Okay, I'm moving, I'm moving, just give me a chance," Luke said.

Han came closer. He laughed when he saw Luke was losing miserably. "Give it up, kid. Chewie is going to win."

"Thanks for the encouragement."

Artoo beeped.

"Artoo says you have our support, Master Luke."

"What the?" Han said, looking up. "Get those droids out of here, right now!"

Luke sighed. "Artoo, Threepio, why don't you go and wait in my cabin?"

The droids made a quick exit, obviously not wanting to provoke Han further.

"That reminds me," Han said. "There's a Bodgenian who runs a spice mine around here ... I wonder what he'd pay for a couple of droids."

"They're my droids, Han."

"And this is my ship."

Chewie interrupted them, making one last moan for Luke to hurry up.

Luke quickly made a random move. Chewie studied the board, and then roared again, angrily.

"Hey, don't blame me if it was good," Luke said. "It was a fluke!"

Two hours in hyperspace later, the Millennium Falcon arrived at the sandy desert planet known as Tatooine. Luke pressed his face against the window, looking at his old home wistfully. He remembered the last time he had looked out at this particular view. Seeing his entire world spread out before him. Just a single planet, among billions. He'd never felt so small.

He'd been just a kid. Still in shock and disbelief over his aunt and uncle's murder. He hadn't spoken to anyone, not since that horrible night. All his fantasies about travelling the stars hadn't quite coincided with the reality. It had been freezing cold ... that's what he could remember the most. Huddling up with the other children and shivering all the way through hyperspace.

How could he have known what awaited him at the end of his journey? Finding a father he'd long been told was dead. Discovering he'd been hidden here in the first place. Then finally understanding exactly why. Now he'd come full circle, in his ongoing attempt to hide himself.


Luke glanced away.

"Stop day-dreaming and come and help land this crate!"

Luke rubbed his head and then followed Han back to the cockpit.

They landed in Han's usual docking bay, at Mos Eisley spaceport. Luke sat on the side of the boarding ramp, and watched Han and Chewie negotiate a deal with the docking bay attendant. He took a breath, feeling the familiar sensation of the dry air, and rubbed some sand from Artoo's shiny dome. It was amazing how quickly things got dirty here.

"Come on, kid," Han called. "Time to go meet his sliminess."

"Do I have to come?"

"Do you want to learn the business or not, kid?"

"I was just thinking about the safety of the ship," Luke started.

"She'll be safe enough. Tell your droids to look after it ... even if they're good for nothing else, they're good for that. Come on, Chewie."

Luke stood up reluctantly, and followed Han and Chewie down Mos Eisley's crowded streets, until they came to the entrance of the nightclub. It was underneath a spare parts store, and on the outside it looked more like an old warehouse.

The inside was another story. Bands, dancing Twi'leks, bounty hunters ... Luke was overwhelmed by the color and noise. He gazed around slowly, his senses soaking in the room.

Han was discussing something with a male Twi'lek. When he had finished, he turned back to Luke and Chewie.

"You two stay here. His rottenness wants to speak with me alone."

Chewie roared his displeasure.

"I know, pal, but I've got a feeling this is a big one. Come for me if I'm not back in ten minutes. And look after the kid."

Luke frowned as Chewie put a protective paw on his shoulder. Han disappeared down a corridor, following the male Twi'lek he'd been talking to earlier. Luke shrugged off Chewie's paw and gazed around at the club's patrons. There was far more variety than he'd ever seen on Coruscant. Some of those people, he wouldn't know whether they were vegetable or mineral based.

Two Rokdarians shifted apart slightly, and Luke's eye fell on a masked face sitting behind them. He knew that strange outfit from somewhere ...

A second later, the man noticed Luke's staring and met his gaze.

Luke's memory stirred ... Boba Fett, a bounty hunter. He'd met him one day when he'd come to do a job for his father ... his father!

Luke quickly dodged behind Chewie, hoping he hadn't recognized him. Chewie looked at him in surprise and then growled questioningly.

"It's nothing," Luke said. "Can we go outside for some fresh air?"

Chewie gripped him by the shoulder, and led him through the crowds. Luke was glad to get out, but he couldn't shake the feeling that somebody's eyes were watching him.

Han came back right on the ten minute mark. He looked as happy as a potentially rich smuggler could look.

"I've been waiting for this," Han said, rubbing his hands together. "After that Tracko shipment, word got around about us. Now we've really hit it. All we have to do is deliver five crates of spice to Jabba's client on Hagin 6, and we've got ourselves twenty thousand big ones."

"Is that Imperial credits, or Huttese?"

"It's whatever we want, kid. They deliver at dawn tomorrow, and then we're outta here. You two get back to the ship and open something expensive!"

"You know, Han, there's an old farmer's saying around here," Luke said. "Don't eat your crop before it's harvested."

Chewie urfed with laughter.

"Spare us your farmboy sayings, kid. It's bad enough being on this rock without having to listen to—"

Han broke off and whirled around in a fluid movement. His blaster was raised and in his hand, but Luke hadn't seen it get there. He sucked in a breath, nervously. "What is it, Han?"

Han looked left and right, before holstering his blaster. "Nothing. Just thought I saw someone for a moment there."

"Saw who?" Luke pressed.

"Doesn't matter. Whoever they were, they got the message. Come on, kid."

Luke wondered why he wasn't so sure.

It was one thing to tell himself he no longer believed in the Force, but another thing to stop feeling it, especially in the still of the desert night. Han and Chewie had arrived back late, after enjoying the local cantina, and could now be heard snoring in their respective bunks. Luke could only stare at the ceiling, trying to ignore the ghosts of the past swirling in his memory.

The farm was less than an hour away. Even quicker by speeder bike. There was a place hiring out vehicles at the entrance to the docking bays, and he had some credits saved from their last lucrative job. He could go and pay his respects to his aunt and uncle, and be back before Han and Chewie even knew he'd gone.

He considered the plan for another thirty seconds, and then quickly shuffled to the edge of his bunk and dropped down silently to the floor. He was halfway down the ship's boarding ramp before he gave it a second thought, and then went back for a blaster. One thing he did remember about Tatooine. There was no lack of danger, especially for the night time traveller.

But it was a peaceful journey under the glowing constellations, especially after he had left the lights of Mos Eisley behind. Before long, the familiar shapes of the buildings of Anchorhead came into view on the horizon, and Luke found himself wondering if any of the old families were still there. The Darklighters would remember him, and Windy's folks. It was hard to imagine Biggs himself still being here, though. Biggs would have been off to the Imperial academy as soon as he was old enough to enlist. It was a pity it was far too late to visit.

Twenty minutes from Anchorhead, Luke began to feel a strong sense of familiarity in his mind, even before he saw the dome sticking up over the dunes. He swung the speeder bike around intending to approach from the west.

It had occurred to him that someone else might be living here by now, but he didn't give the idea much merit. The moisture farming business was barely making a living when he was here, and it didn't appear to have improved since. And the locals used to talk about curses and ghosts at any house where murder had taken place.

His speculation was proven true when the speeder's scopes detected no security shields surrounding the old farm. He passed a few broken down and stripped vaporators. Leaving the speeder bike near the edge of the pit, he moved down the stairs, cautiously. No people living here—but that didn't rule out the possibility of Tusken Raiders hiding in the darkened rooms.

The buildings had decayed very little. It was hard to believe the place had been deserted for seven years. Luke didn't linger long in the rooms, as there wasn't anything interesting to see. Everything was exactly as it had been left. Dishes still waiting to be washed, clothes still in the closets … even the sheets still on the unmade beds.

All the technology was gone, stripped from the walls by desert scavengers. The old garage where he had spent so much time in his childhood was completely gutted. Somehow, it didn't depress him as much as he thought it should. Maybe because the boy who had spent so much time here had now had so much more taken from him.

He found the back way up to the desert surface, following the old path that led up to the family grave plot. They were still there—except now there were five, instead of the three he'd always known. It disturbed him for a moment until he realized the extra two would be his aunt and uncle. Obi-Wan must have given them a proper burial.

He walked forward slowly, until he stood in front of the headstones, and then kneeled down to trace his fingers through the sand.

Thank you for all you sacrificed for me, Luke thought. You never deserved to have your lives ended like this.

Blinking away tears, his hand reached into the folds of his cloak pocket, and he pulled out a lightsaber. A gift from his father, given to him the night before he ran from Coruscant. Now he was going to bury it, and along with it, everything he did not want to be. It only took a moment to dig a hole with his hands and then quickly cover the object, being careful to leave no evidence of anything valuable buried beneath. A lightsaber was dangerous enough in the right hands.

There. It was done now. Time to leave the past behind and head back to his friends and his new home. He turned away, dusting off his hands and feeling significantly lighter. He even felt a smile creep onto his face as he walked back towards the speeder bike. He had just said goodbye to the Force forever and now he was free. Just another regular person making their way in the galaxy. It felt good.

A sudden thud from behind caused him to halt and glance around curiously. A meter away, a small pink oval ball lay on the sand. Luke glanced upwards, confused. Unless there was an egg-laying creature flying overhead, Luke was at a loss to explain it.

He stepped forward, cautiously. It didn't look threatening, just small and pink. Maybe it was an old toy someone had left lying around. Although, he could have sworn it wasn't there a second ago. As he came within half a meter of it, he heard a loud metallic click.

A bad feeling stirred in his Force sense, and Luke began to run. He accelerated faster and faster, and then leaped up onto a dune, using his momentum to roll over the other side. An ear-shattering bang sounded behind him.

Just above the tip of the dune, Luke could see the edge of a cloud of pink gas rising into the night sky. Whatever that was, it didn't look like laughing gas. He struggled to his feet and found himself face to helmet with Boba Fett.

"You!" Luke said.

The bounty hunter stuck out his right arm, and a whipcord shot forwards. Luke dropped to the sand, but the cord wrapped around his wrists. Fett pulled back and upwards, and Luke was dragged back to his feet. He pulled his hands apart, and the cord fell to the ground.

"Don't move!" Fett said, raising his blaster. The cord retracted back into its socket, causing Luke to stumble forward as it rushed past his feet. Fett leaned forward to disarm him, and Luke soon found there was less than a meter between his head and the business end of the blaster.

Luke studied the bounty hunter, breathing in and out quickly. "You won't kill me," he said, finally.

"What makes you think that?"

"Just a hunch," Luke said, shrugging. He glanced over towards the place where he'd buried his lightsaber. Boy, had that been a stupid idea.

He jumped as Boba Fett fired the blaster, causing a shot to burn the sand less than a hand-span away from his foot. "My ship is over there," he said, gesturing with a gloved hand. "Move quickly!"

"Sure," Luke said, turning and walking where he had been shown. He heard the hunter follow behind.

"So the Emperor sent you?" Luke said, closing his eyes and concentrating carefully. "What am I worth to him?"

Fett didn't reply.

With one final attempt to concentrate, Luke stretched out his hand towards the gravesite. The sand burst into the air, causing Fett to turn and fire at the movement. The second of distraction was all it took. Luke snatched the incoming saber straight out of the air and stretched out his other hand to release a burst of energy. The bounty hunter was pushed backwards, and Luke stepped forward, lightsaber blade extended.

"I guess his highness didn't tell you what you were getting yourself in for," Luke said, smirking at the downed hunter.

Fett glanced at the saber at his chest briefly, and then his rocket pack ignited, sending him shooting into the air. Luke ran for the speeder bike, hoping it had enough fuel to make a very quick getaway.

He was still several meters away when Fett landed in front of him, right arm extended again. Luke was ready for it this time—he flipped backwards, and then slashed the cord straight out of the air. He could feel the Force flowing through him, working with him ... giving him power. The bounty hunter had his blaster pointed at him, and Luke was almost wishing he would fire it, just to see if he could still deflect the bolts. Instead, the hunter began to talk.

"I'm here at your father's request, not the Emperor's. He wants you back."

"I'm not going," Luke said, not dropping his saber. He didn't trust this bounty hunter. He was likely going to try some new tactic now he knew what he was up against.

"Don't you want to be with your father?"

"Sure I do. But I don't want to be a Sith Lord. Remind him about that, would you? And tell him I miss him."

"Sons are supposed to be like their fathers. Why aren't you?"

He sounded genuinely curious. Luke felt a little uncomfortable. Just a trick, he reminded himself. He was trying to manipulate his emotions. "Let's just say I've learned from my father's mistakes."

The hunter dropped his blaster. "I can understand that."

Luke felt it a second before it exploded. Another pink gas bomb. He flipped sideways then used the Force to enhance his speed. He felt the gas touch his right leg just before he began to outrun it. His leg felt cold, soon followed by numbness. That was a close one!

He could hear the sound of the bounty hunter in the air again, and looked up desperately. How many of those nerve bombs did he have? At least now he was sure he was trying to take him unharmed.

The roar of the jetpack became louder and louder, and Luke paused, trying to sense his position. He must be close.

Then he heard a familiar voice. "Luke!"

The Wookiee roar that followed it sounded decidedly angry. He turned around to see the Falcon, blowing up a sandstorm as it hovered above a nearby dune. He sprinted for the boarding ramp, knowing that Fett couldn't be far behind.

He stretched out with his Force sense and could now pinpoint the location of the hunter. Behind him and coming in from the left. He heard another nerve bomb land five meters in front, and he somersaulted over the top, gathering speed. He could no longer hear Han and Chewie's shouts; they had stretched into an incoherent drone. One final leap, and he landed at the top of the boarding ramp.

"What the hell did you think you were doing? Roaming around the desert, playing catch with a bounty hunter? You're even crazier than I thought!"

Chewie roared something, clearly agreeing with Han.

"I'm sorry."

Luke sat in the Falcon's main lounge while Chewie bandaged up a cut on his arm. Han was pacing up and down in front of the hologame board.

"I just wanted to see my old home," Luke explained.

"Well, that's another one you owe me, junior."

"Remember that time I saved you from that crazed Rodian who thought you were his cousin?"

Han chuckled. "Okay, kid, we're even. Just tell us next time before you decide to go on a local scenery tour."

Luke sighed. "Fine."

Chewbacca finished bandaging his arm, and Luke rolled his sleeve back over his handiwork. "Thanks, Chewie."

Chewie then held up Luke's lightsaber, which he'd left on the floor. He roared at Luke, a question clear in his tone.

Han swivelled his chair around. "Jedi? Don't give the kid ideas!"

"It was a present from someone," Luke said, quickly taking it from Chewie. He stood up to leave.

"We could sell that for a good price, kid," Han said. "There's a big market for Jedi relics. I've heard lightsabers go for two hundred thousand in workable condition."

"Why is everything always about money to you?!" Luke snapped. He didn't bother to wait for an answer.

He walked back to his cabin and locked the door. His head hit his pillow shortly afterwards, and Luke gave into his exhaustion. So much for his attempt to bury his Force powers. If anything, they'd grown.

What more was to come? There could be any number of powers out there he didn't know about. The abilities he already had were fairly easy to hide, but what of the new ones to come? Chewie already suspected something ... how long before Han caught on?

Despite his fatigue, it was a long time before he drifted off to sleep.

Vader didn't know what he expected to feel when he pressed the door release. Luke's bedroom on Mustafar hadn't been entered by anyone other than servicing droids in months. Not since that fateful day his son had left his care and chosen to follow his own path in the galaxy. The day that had led to where they were now.

It was still and silent inside. Discarded clothes that hadn't quite made it to the laundry compartment. An old faded podracing flag stuck haphazardly on the wall. Newly delivered boxes sat in a row on the bed, the last of Luke's belongings transferred from Coruscant. He'd resisted moving them here, in a deluded hope his son might return to the Imperial Palace and want to sleep again in his old room.

The top of the first box was sitting slightly open. Vader reached inside and picked up the object that didn't quite fit. Luke's most prized model ship, a T-16 he'd brought with him from Tatooine. Merely touching it caused a rush of memories. His son's presence still hung about the object. He didn't know how long he stood there, basking in what miniscule crumbs the object afforded him, but he was soon interrupted by Vaneé's appearance in the doorway. If the man thought it was pitiful to see him dwelling on the past like this, he was wise enough not to reveal it in his feelings or expression.

"My lord, Boba Fett wishes to speak with you."

He immediately tried to suppress any stirring of hope that threatened to rise at the words. He'd been disappointed too many times, and there was nothing in the Force to indicate they would soon be reunited. But perhaps the bounty hunter had some information for him.

As soon as he entered the comms room, he knew he was right to keep a tight control on his feelings. The hologram of Boba Fett was standing with his arms folded and his head slightly bowed.

"You lost him?" Vader enquired, keeping his tone neutral.

"Unfortunately, I am out of practice when it comes to Jedi," he said.

Vader clenched a fist. "He is no Jedi."

"As you say," the bounty hunter corrected.

Vader forced himself to calm down. If Boba Fett had attempted to capture Luke, it meant he at least had seen the boy and could answer some questions as to his well being.

"Where did you find him? Is he still in the company of the smugglers?"

"Yes, but he left their ship and went off by himself to visit some abandoned moisture farm in the middle of nowhere. I caught up with him there."

The Lars homestead. He'd never offered to take Luke there, and Luke had never asked to go. Too many bad memories, for both of them. Strange that he'd go there now.

"Did he look …" Vader hesitated. Fett would think he was unhinged if he asked if the boy looked like he was eating properly.

"Did he appear in good health?" Vader asked, eventually.

"As far as I could tell." Fett paused, and then added, "He thought I'd been sent by the Emperor, so I corrected his misunderstanding. He said to tell you he missed you."

Vader breathed through three cycles of the respirator, and then said, "If you were wasting your time speaking with him, it isn't surprising he escaped."

"I have an idea that might lure him out. Solo will be easily attracted by the promise of a lucrative job for very little effort. I can arrange for our mutual contacts to feed him false information as bait."

"Do whatever you see fit," Vader said. "But remember. No harm must come to my son."

"I understand, Lord Vader."

After the call had ended, Vader remained in the room, gripping the back of a chair and staring at the empty projector.

Criminals. Despite the bounty hunter's earlier assurances that Han Solo and Chewbacca were no organized crime kingpins, he would almost prefer his son had joined the Rebellion. At least there were some basic standards of civility among the traitors and enemies of the state.

He released a weary breath, imagining Luke returning to his care having learned nothing during his absence but how to swear in new languages.

I can think of much worse things he could be learning right now.

Vader started at the sound of the voice. He reached out with the Force, seeking any sign of a presence.

For example, the Voice continued, how to kill without remorse.

It was familiar. Too familiar.


Ha! You know I'm not Obi-Wan.

Do you know if Luke is all right?

I only know what you know.

Vader walked over to the window, desperately seeking a distraction. Hearing voices in one's head was never a good sign, even for a Sith Lord.

Maybe you should let me try calling him, the Voice suggested. He might respond to me.

Vader ignored the request for as long as he could, before finally giving in. He stretched out, calling to Luke, just as he had done a hundred times since they'd been apart.

He often felt tiny wisps of emotion, in the gap in his mind where Luke's Force signature used to reside. This time, he felt the sensation which he had come to know meant Luke was sleeping. The boy was probably tired after spending the night out in Tatooine's desert.

At least he knew he was safe for now. Perhaps it was time he saw to the Death Star and waited to see if the bounty hunter could make any progress on his own.