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 independence. Luke is caught between his loyalty and love for the man who raised him, and his duties to his own principles.

Author's Note: 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.

Completed: December 2002

Modified: 25 March 2008


Prologue


It was 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 footsteps approached, until they were silenced by the visitor coming to a halt.

The only movement made by the Emperor was that of his lips. "So," he said, softly, "Lord Vader has returned."

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

The man wasn't even looking at him.

He could remember the day when Vader regarded him as the star his world revolved around. The savior who had rescued him from his previous, futile existence and nourished his gift for the Force. The one who had crafted and molded him until he had reached his true potential.

Then the boy had shown up.

Leaving without permission for an entire month was only the most recent insult.

"I knew you would," the Emperor stated. "Your spirit cannot live without me."

It was a cold hard fact, as true as any statement could be, but there was no reply, either in agreement or objection.

"So what conclusions did you reach?" the Emperor asked, curiously.

Finally, the Dark Lord spoke. "I failed you, my master. He should have been killed at the beginning."

The Emperor leaned forward, and spoke with disdain. "It took you a month to realize that?"

"Emotional attachment is a supreme weakness. The light will tempt the weak into the shackles of personal attachment, then, once ensnared, will leave the victim abandoned in grief and pain."

The Emperor was pleased. It seemed his servant's month of absence had not been in vain after all.

"What if the boy were to return?" the Emperor asked, testing him.

Now, he faltered. "He has returned?"

On the surface it was merely curious. But within his servant's armored shell, the Emperor could detect a small glimmer of hope. A small, but dangerous glimmer.

It was a threat to him.

It couldn't go on like this ... Vader's faltering dedication was causing a grave imbalance in the energy of the force. The Dark Side required - and demanded - complete and utter allegiance, not half-hearted lip service.

He turned away. "You have learned nothing!" he spat.

"I am truly sorry, my master."

"You have no son!"

"I have no son, my master."

"Your singular purpose in life is to do my bidding."

"Yes, my master."

The Emperor nodded. "Good. You will go to the Death Star. Observe Grand Moff Tarkin, and the infidels under him, and make sure they behave themselves. With such power at their fingertips, they may begin to harbor foolish ideas of mutiny."

"Yes, my master."

"Meanwhile, I will deal with the boy. I will extinguish his threat, one way or another, by the day the Death Star is unveiled to the galaxy."

"Yes, my master."

His servant bowed, then left the room to execute his commands.

The Emperor turned back to continue his contemplation of the stars. The boy would be removed. Then he would reclaim his servant's soul and the Dark Side would once again become complete.

That day couldn't come soon enough.


"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 learnt 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? Don't you believe me?"

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 if you're crazy. As long as you keep this ship running like it is now."

Luke opened his mouth to protest, then gave up. Let Han think what he wanted. It was probably better that 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 where are we heading now?" Luke asked.

"My good friend Lando wants us to deliver a barrel of Correllian 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, we ended up being detained," Luke said. "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. "Gee, 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 sender.

Origin: Coruscant

Sender: Lev Dorany

Luke couldn't help feel a slight disappointment that it wasn't his father, but he was excited nonetheless. Just to hear from anyone was reassurance that his entire life on Coruscant hadn't been merely a dream. He began to read the message.

Dear Luke,

I hope you are well. I am sorry I haven't contacted you earlier, but this is the first safe opportunity I have had.

Firstly, I better update you concerning the situation here. After your father discovered you had gone, he entered a deep depression and disappeared for a month. The Emperor covered up the entire thing, so I am one of the rare few who know the truth.

Your father came back one night and went straight to the Emperor. After that, he was a changed man. I don't know what the Emperor said to him, or what went on between them, but something has definitely changed. I would have considered him a work-a-holic before, now he is work obsessed. And he has taken to killing people for the slightest error, much like he used to do before you showed up.

Luke looked away a moment, struggling with his own emotions. He could pick up on the veiled accusation behind Lev's words, and he couldn't blame him. But he didn't understand. He would never understand - no Force-blind person would. He turned back and continued reading.

I am only telling you this because I believe you are now in great danger. The Emperor has sent Lord Vader to the Death Star and has taken over the job of finding you himself. Do not contact me unless it is urgent, as the Emperor's spies are resourceful and ever present.

Luke, I don't know where you are ... or whom you are with, but I do know that no one has ever evaded the Emperor for long. I would recommend going to your father, but in his current state, I don't think you would find him very receptive.

There is one small hope, however. The Death Star. If you lay low and stay out of trouble, the Emperor will likely forget about you once his precious Death Star is operational and unveiled to the galaxy. Knowing you, lying low is nearly an impossible task, but please, please try.

Will update you whenever I can.

Luke closed the message, and stared at the blank screen, contemplating what he'd just read. It all felt surreal, somehow. A mere eight weeks ago, he had been living the normal life of any teenager on Coruscant. Now it seemed his own father wanted nothing to do with him, 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. He didn't want anything more to do with these strange powers ... what was the point of them, anyway? Without them, he and his father would still be together. Maybe if he pretended they didn't exist, they would go away. His father had always said that belief was a very large part of using the Force.

Now he would test that theory to its final conclusion.


Part 1


Chapter 1: Capture


Lord Darth Vader stepped onto the Devastator's bridge, and every officer fell silent. He began to walk towards the captain, feeling the man's fear increase exponentially in proportion to Vader's distance from him.

"Report, Captain?" Vader demanded, immediately.

"Lord Vader, a ship has just entered the system. They have identified themselves as a consular ship on a diplomatic mission, and claim to be making repairs. Scans show there is an astromech unit attached to the ship's hull."

Vader stretched out with the Force, searching for deceit. His search was not in vain. Rebel fools.

"Order them to prepare for a boarding party -" he began.

"Captain!" A man yelled from his station. "The ship is receiving an illegal transmission from the base!"

"Hail them," the captain ordered, turning to the comm station. "Tell them to heave-to and prepare for inspection immediately."

The communications officer complied, and was answered with a static-ridden message. Vader listened to the nervous and strained voice.

"Devastator, we are on a diplomatic mission and are not to be detained or diverted!"

"They're powering their engines," the scan officer noted. "They're going to make a run for hyperspace!"

"Open fire!" the captain ordered.

As the Star Destroyer turned, its deadly forward batteries spat laser fire towards the smaller vessel. Vader watched the assault out the side window. The ship was already too far away; it was obvious to him, even without a computer. A flash of light marked their disappearance into hyperspace.

Half the bridge crew looked fearfully at Vader. You could have cut the tension with a lightsaber. However, Vader ignored the nervous crew and the waiting captain, and instead approached the comm officer.

"Lieutenant, check the communications logs on the high band frequency. You should have received an encoded transmission from that ship before it entered hyperspace."

The lieutenant hastily carried out his orders then audibly sighed with relief when he brought up the data.

"Here, sir."

"Decode it. Captain?" The man stepped forward. "Set your course for the co-ordinates encoded in that transmission."

"Yes, my lord."


Shortly afterwards, Vader strode through the corridors of the newly captured Tantive IV, somewhat satisfied. At least something in this galaxy appeared to be going right. After their mole on board had given them the co-ordinates, they had followed the ship through hyperspace. One brief fire-fight later, and the Alderaanian ship was locked safely in the star destroyer's boarding lock. An officer rushed out of a doorway, and then came forward to report.

"Lord Vader, we have located the stolen Death Star plans."

He held out the round data disc and Vader relieved him of it.

"Good work. Where did you find them?"

"The Rebel fools had hidden them in a droid, of all things. Crazy, to imagine a droid would be capable of subterfuge."

"Such desperate behavior is no surprise to me, Commander," Vader said. "Now where is the ambassador?"

Both he and the commander turned at the sound of clattering bootsteps, and a squadron of stormtroopers marched up to them. They parted to reveal Princess Leia, who was looking angrier than Vader had even seen her, and that was certainly saying something.

"Lord Vader, how dare you attack this diplomatic mission!"

"Do all your diplomatic missions involve acts of treason, your highness?" Vader asked, quietly.

"I don't know what you're talking about -" the princess started.

Vader held up the disk. "Your ill advised 'diplomatic mission' as you called it, was a dismal failure, your highness. This disc makes it perfectly legal for me to have you and all your crew and passengers publicly executed as Rebel traitors."

The princess glanced at the disk, only her eyes betraying her fear.

Vader stepped closer. "Or perhaps I could be persuaded to a more lenient course of action ... perhaps if I was provided with the location of the Rebel base."

"You have proof of nothing, Vader," she said, defiantly. "And kill me if you wish - you'll only stir up more Rebellion. I'd die a thousand times over if it meant bringing your Empire down."

"Rest assured, I have no desire to turn you into a martyr for the Rebel traitors. I only wish the location of the rebel base."

She glared at him, every line in her face stubbornly set. "I'll die first!"

Vader had seen that look before. On Padmé whenever she had insisted on endangering her life, and, in more recent times, on Luke, whenever he'd told his son to do just about anything. Funny, he'd never thought looks could be catching.

With a sudden realization of where his thoughts were straying, he raised a finger menacingly, signaling an end to the conversation.

"We will see, soon enough."

Vader turned away, leaving the threat of interrogation hanging heavy in the air.


Luke studied the holographic dejaick board, thinking about 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 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, 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, 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," Luke said.

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, then roared again, angrily.

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


Seven hours of 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 ...

He'd been just a kid. Still in shock over his aunt and uncle's deaths ... he hadn't spoken to anyone, not since that horrible night.

He'd spent less than an hour at the Mos Eisley orphanage, after being picked up by a stormtrooper desert patrol. When he and five other children had been escorted to a giant passenger freighter, he'd been overwhelmed with excitement. They were going into space! He'd dreamed about doing this, every night since he could remember.

His fantasies about travelling the stars hadn't quite coincided with the reality, however. It had been freezing cold ... that's what he could remember the most. Huddling up with the other orphans and shivering all the way through hyperspace.

But he did remember the view out the window. After the rough take off, he'd unbuckled his seat restraints for a moment, then walked over to the viewport. And there, he had seen his entire world spread out before him. A single planet, among billions. He'd never felt so small.

"Kid!"

Luke glanced away.

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

Luke rubbed his head, 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, sandy air, then 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 slimyness."

"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 things, he wouldn't know whether they were vegetable or mineral.

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 few seconds later, the man noticed Luke's staring and met his gaze.

Luke's memory stirred ... Boba Fett, the 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 Boba Fett hadn't recognized him. Chewie looked at him in surprise, 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, 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.


Vader was watching the Death Star grow larger and larger in the Devastator's main bridge window. He'd seen it before, of course. The view actually bored him.

"Lord Vader. We have arrived at the Death Star."

Really, Vader thought. I'd never have known.

"A shuttle has been prepared for your departure."

Vader didn't reply. He didn't want to go to the Death Star, and he considered telling the captain as much. He wanted to be out hunting his son. The boy was his responsibility, not his master's.

This machine of mass destruction wasn't even worth his time.

"Sir?" the captain said, sounding nervous.

Vader turned, suddenly, causing the man to visibly flinch.

"Very well, Captain."

He left the bridge, and made his way down to the shuttle bay. When the elevator doors opened, the first thing he saw was Princess Leia, arguing with an officer and two stormtroopers.

She didn't stop, even as he came up behind her.

"I demand access to proper legal proceedings! You have no right to treat me in this manner! You just wait until the royal house of Alderaan hears about this ... I'll make sure to mention you personally!"

The officer glanced up at Vader's approach, and he actually looked relieved. It was one of the few times one of his officers had been relieved to see him.

"Lord Vader! This prisoner has been -"

"Prisoner! I am not your prisoner!"

"Escort her on board," Vader ordered. He then proceeded up the ramp ahead of them. At the top, he glanced back down in time to see the princess kick a stormtrooper in the groin. The officer stepped back in fear, mumbling something about ordering backup.

Vader let out a weary breath and made his way to the cockpit. He couldn't stand to watch any more ineptitude.

As he entered the room, one of the pilots stood to attention.

"Lord Vader, sir, the Devastator just received an encoded transmission for you. They re-routed it here."

"Very well, I will take it in the passenger lounge. Take off as soon as they have the prisoner safely on board."

"Yes, sir."

Vader left the cockpit, feeling curious. The Emperor had no reason to contact him ... he'd made a full report less than an hour ago. Unless ... unless his master had captured Luke. His pace quickened, and he entered his personal security codes at the nearest available terminal.

The message surprised him. It wasn't from the Emperor at all; instead it was from one bounty hunter, Boba Fett. He had requested an audience at the earliest possible opportunity.

Feeling the shuttle's engines engage, he moved into the nearest holocam field, deciding now was as good a time as any. Probably far safer contacting the bounty hunter here than on the Death Star. Agents had reported the climate on the Death Star was a near epidemic of backstabbing and triple crossing.

After a few seconds wait, the bounty hunter answered his call. He was sitting in the cockpit of his ship.

"Fett."

"Lord Vader. I have just laid eyes on your son."

Vader almost stopped breathing. "Are you are sure it was him?" Vader demanded, not caring that he may sound desperate.

"Absolutely. He was in the company of two second-rate smugglers, one a Corellian by the name of Han Solo, and the other a wookiee."

A smuggler? His son was running around in the company of criminals?! He struggled to keep his emotions under control. He wasn't supposed to care what the boy was doing ... it was merely an emotional trap. Of course the boy would hurt him, he had known it from the day he had taken him in ...

"Did he look .." Vader hesitated.

He shouldn't care. He was merely setting himself up to be hurt again ... why this constant cycle of self-inflicted pain? But the desire for reassurance was too strong. He had to ask.

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

"As far as I could tell."

The hunter, for his part, was remarkably calm. He leaned his masked head closer to the holocam field. "Do you want me to bring him to you?"

Vader silently clenched his hands together, thoughts continuing to roll past in a whirl of confusion. If he had the bounty hunter bring Luke directly to him, he would expect the same payment, perhaps even more, than the Emperor was currently offering for his son. But if he didn't make the demand, Fett would capture Luke anyway and take him straight to the Emperor.

Vader didn't want that.

He needed to talk some sense into the boy before he faced the Emperor. If he didn't, that fateful meeting would either result in his son's immediate death, or a long, slow torturous process of mind games and manipulation, until the boy either went mad or gave in to the Dark Side.

No, he needed one last chance sit down with his son, and have a serious discussion.

"Very well, hunter. But do not harm him. If he is returned to me with so much as a hair missing, I will be most displeased."

"I understand completely, Lord Vader. I trust also, that you are offering a more generous amount than the Emperor?"

"If my condition is met, then I will make it very worth your while, bounty hunter."

"I will deliver him in three days."