Author's note (do pretend it's a crawl):
It is a new era of X_los. She is older, wiser, and not only because of her nifty 'Vote Gore!' pin! New influences, such as a passion for Zechs, Noin, Draco and The Hessian have been thrown into that suspicious melting pot that is her mind. She has matured practically two years since beginning this story, and for months has allowed it and the promise it holds to gather dust. After rereading what she could stand of it, she saw the need for a great time of revision to smite down the plot bunnies. Thus, she proudly presents ADD Revised!
A Darker Destiny
Leia leaned back agonizingly slowly into her chair as the tractor beam rocked the ship. A small, bitter smile etched itself unwittingly on her young, unmarked face. Life, she thought philosophically, most definitely hates me.
Luke rested his still present arm on Leia's shoulder, vaguely comfortingly. In the moment of his life when he was filled with the most inner turmoil, it was still his nature to cease the suffering of those around them. Don't cry, Leia. He begged. You wouldn't have any reason to cry if not for me. All of this is my burden, given selfishly to you, and it horrifies me. She immediately reached up and cradled it in her own. His flesh tied her to the events her heart insisted could not me happening.
Get me through this, she begged some nameless force of power. And to her mild surprise the beam of light didn't stop winding them to the ship, as a spider entices its catch. It added up, somehow, that not even the god of her mind could be bothered to help this arrogant child.
She took her mind off her predicament by planning, knowing full well how very hopeless and ridiculous she was being.
"Lando," Leia commanded loudly, "Grab a blaster and get to the main entrance. You do the same, Chewie. I'll be there shortly." Lando nodded assent ion and followed Chewie to the weapon's rack. She glanced up at Luke. "There's nothing else you can do. You've fought hard enough." She said, the calm of her tone bizarre to her ears.
I wish you'd never seen my face, Luke Skywalker. Never brought those men who believed in you, who you taught to believe in me. Can't you see you've been hurt for me? Do you not realize that Kenobi died for my involvement, and I never took responsibility? I let it be absorbed it my cause, and taint it. Run now Luke, I think I'm dangerous. You keep testing me, my limits, how will I tarnish you next, foolish innocent?
Part of her acknowledged that she would be taken to Coruscant and tried for treason. The proud Princess would be publicly shammed, interrogated by torture. She'd never cared much for other's foolish opinions. The agony of that couldn't touch her as it had two years ago; it was no longer a novelty. The same went for anguish. Far more haunting was the fact that Han would never be liberated from that forsaken bounty hunter, that Chewie and Lando, not true combatants who swore their lives for the cause knowing the consequences, would be imprisoned, perhaps executed, that the Rebel Alliance would be frantic without her. Your girl queen is dead. She thought blankly. She was dead when you met her, and didn't yet know it. Mourn not the hypocrite. Most heartbreaking of all was that Luke, who she cared about in a deep, strange way she couldn't fully fathom, would twist into something unrecognizable. Something dark. She would loose him to a greater enemy than death, one with the power to violate his soul. He had always been stronger than her, but the weakness in his fair eyes was palpable, and she worried for his very soul. A tear escaped and ran unnoticed down her cheek.
Luke brushed the tear away gently. She was afraid, and that terrified him. He'd never seen her afraid. Not once, and he could feel his own resolve slipping away. His tower of strength crumbled before him, and he lacked the flesh to cradle her, and the courage to console her, place her back in her position of strength. He was torn for her sake. She didn't deserve punishment; she was a crusader of good. What would they do to her? What would his father do to his dearest friend? She could die, as horrific and impossible as that sounded, and this dawned on his to startled denial. He feverishly pushed away the thought, and noticed that he wasn't in combat form either. He would be no match for Vader.
The name brought painful memory. He knew it was true, of course, that the opposing warrior was his father. Less deep than he wanted to admit it was clear, laughably obvious, and he wondered why he'd been so oblivious. He was severely disappointed with himself for falling so readily into the mental call. Vader taunted him with this; it was everything he had ever wanted. He was in no shape to resist. How long would he remain in the light that had once felt so cleansing and true? Days? Weeks? A month? The thought was depressing. He should have been in horrified denial, he should have been afraid. But everything was so calm, so clear, that panic would have seemed out of place. Had Ben been lying all along? The question arrived at no answer, only a question. Why?
An image flashed before his eyes. Leia lay peacefully in front of him, sleeping comfortably by the light of a fire nurtured in a sturdy stone hearth. She was dressed in civilian clothing, a warm set with the look of casual expense. A crown was thrown to the floor across the room, as if of no great significance. Leia dreamed of Han. She was allowed to see him in his heavy surveillance, provided little apartment, where they spoke of subjects that made listeners approve. Luke no longer talked of strategy and politics with his friend, who only lived out of being Luke's ultimatum. She was told nothing of it, at any rate, and simply did not seem to care. Her brown eyes had become docile. Soon he would dine with father, then sleep, Leia, his day guest, returning home to call on him the next day, or whenever he saw fit. She'd be so safe, perhaps happier leading a normal life. But that's not her! He screamed at this insistent security. It was a sad mockery of the Princess, a pathetic caricature of Han. That's not Leia, and it isn't my life.
Suddenly he found himself wanting to tell Leia everything, to hear her opinion and have her tell him that his dark heritage was perfectly forgivable, that it wasn't his fault. It would all be okay, he would see. And he didn't want her hearing the news from his father. It sent shivers through him to think it, to consider those words. He turned to the silent princess.
"Leia," He began timidly, "I have something horrible to tell you."
"Go ahead, Luke." she said softly. "Nothing's worse than this."
"You'd be surprised. " He said glumly, thinking about the irony of his recent revelation. He couldn't bring himself to tell her.
"I- you don't understand! And you'd never forgive me." He turned away and leaned on the panel, not wanting her to fix those eyes on him with such consideration. Save that for your lover, the one my blood stole from you. In any sense, I obviously wasn't good enough. You haven't even told me. It wasn't that he'd even had a true crush on her. He'd felt love and pinned it as merely that. He didn't want her romance, he had claim to a side of her not even Solo could touch. She smiled warmly at him.
"I'll understand. Luke, you know I will. You don't have to tell me now, but I am your friend. You can trust me. " Her bright smile faded. She was slightly hurt. Suddenly there was something that Luke, her other half, barred her from. It shrouded their openness. I'd share anything with you. Came the sullen response. " Now rest." She ordered firmly. He sighed, but complied, and lay down in her shipboard room. She walked to the door and stopped. She would not end it on this. It was possibly the last time they could speak. She would not walk away in awkward silence. "I- I have to go. I don't want to leave you. I may never see you again; the Imperial bastards may execute me. They could hurt you. And I just want to tell you that you're far stronger than you think you are. You can survive this Luke." She fled after that sentiment; embarrassed that she'd worried an injured comrade by letting go of her feelings.
A much-needed sleep immediately claimed the weary fighter. He hadn't the time to ponder her words, blackness dragged at him. Leia locked the door and slid the key into her pocket, pausing to blast the control panel as well. Why ever Vader wanted him, he wouldn't get her Luke without a fight. At least it would slow him down.
She joined Chewie and Lando and hastily explained her intentions. They hid in the overhead smuggling compartments, and waited for what seemed an eternity. Soon they heard the ominous metallic bang that meant they were inside the shuttle bay. Then came the sound of a thousand small clangs, metal on metal. Storm troopers. Leia swore she could hear Vader's slow, tortured breath and heavy footfalls in the long minutes. She'd come to dread those ominous sounds, and she fought down her growing fear. Don't let him come for me. That could kill her in and of itself. It wasn't his size, or his rank, but something about him simply put the fear of god into the impertinent child when he was near. She could not understand him, but knew she needed to. She should not fear him, for pangs of emotion she simply could not reason said it was wrong. But he terrified her more than Palpatine ever had. A dark avenger, who's killed millions in an instant, yet has taken the time to personally make my life a living hell. I should feel honored.
A small squad troopers garbed in slightly lighter ship crew armor boarded the Falcon, and unsuspectingly fell victim to Leia's plan. Hit from above, they had no idea of what was happening until it was to late for their lives. Two more squads met the same fate. Bodies were piling up, and soon the corridor would be rendered impassable. Leia wondered how much longer their good luck would hold.
Lord Vader waited in the shuttle bay, pacing and growing wildly impatient. They had not yet accomplished a simple task. He tested the landscape of the Force worriedly. Yes, Luke was fine. He had not been harmed but if he was, Vader knew his rage would be limitless. His child- but their was no time to muse when Luke was in a breath's distance from his grasp. Tired of wasting time, he cleared his throat.
"Commander, order your troops to withdrawal and send stun energy in waves through the ship." The commander gulped. It had never been done before, but he knew better than to question his orders. He nodded.
"Why have they stopped?" Lando whispered, banging his head on the ceiling. Leia shook her head, both for silence and to demonstrate her lack of knowledge. "They're probably trying something new. If it's successful, I don't know what were going to do." She sighed deeply, a long-suffering, miserable sound, yet somehow beautiful in the same breath. "I-" Then, a wave of energy hit them. Her head was flying, swimming, and then drowning helplessly. She was unconscious before the thought was finished.
With a deep sense of satisfaction, the Dark Lord of the Sith watched as the scanning team boarded the vessel. Soon they trooped out and dutifully reported. "Sir," one addressed Piett, after a sideways glance at Lord Vader. "We've detected three human life forms, two droids, and one-" his lip curled up in a self righteous sneer, "thing. What are our orders?" Vader interrupted. "Take the alien and the dark-skinned human to detention cell 4. Take the others to the infirmary and see to their injuries. Deactivate the droids. They are of no present consequence."
Piett nodded, and the scanners, joined by a squad of troopers, scurried out to do his bidding. Minutes later they returned, bearing with them Calrissian and the alien (with who's weight they were noticeably struggling). Vader ignored them, totally disinterested. Next to be brought out was Princess Leia, looking falsely angelic in her crimson dress and draping white cloak. Her small, fragile hand was cupped around a nonexistent blaster. A fighter to the last, was this child. His thoughts dwelled an inordinate amount of time on the woman she so oddly resembled (You steal my child even now, revolutionary infant with the face of my beloved) before he sternly slapped them back (She's not your to touch, to carry the memory of. She belongs to Anakin, and he is as dead as she.). He couldn't think of any of them (My friends who faced me so bravely as I killed them all. I was responsibly for the ashes of my temple. But they betrayed me, with their deeds and shut, uncaring minds. Did these stern rule makes deserved the uncontrolled beauty of the Force?), and especially not her (not the one who still wakes me from my sleep a night with the dream of her presence, not the one I still and I fear will always love, the weakness the plagues me and I fear loosing). That was forever lost.
The fact remained that the treasonous child was his son's most trusted comrade. It disturbed him that Luke had been drawn to the child of his own former companions, not to mention an almost identical copy of Amidala. Was his son that like him?
He felt a brief pang of sympathy for the girl. Actually, she would be a woman now. Amazingly, he still remembered her as an infant. From a distance, he'd watched this intriguing child grow up, with each memory of her resounding sharper than any other event. There was something about her, that illusive feeling that she was more than she seemed. It hung in the air, the tension heavy and excited. She had been in mental contact, a difficult skill that, without practice, required a huge amount of natural power. He had felt the fuzzy exchange; the desperate call for help- and almost answered him. His child was so young in his heart and training, even his years, and needed him so desperately. His call was intoxicating, irresistible. But this supposedly Force barren princess had done it first, robbed him of that right. Why had Luke even run? Their rule was beautifully inevitable.
Leia was obviously of Jedi blood, evidently a powerful strain with strong natural shields, which meant her parentage was a lie, but for what purpose? He ceased his pondering. The girl had Sith potential, and was valuable as both a bargaining chip with Luke and a Rebellion information source. She was intelligent, intriguing. He would find ways for her to escape death. After all, he was in her detriment for Luke's life. The trade seemed more than fair.
A terrified scanner finally emerged, without Luke. Before Vader could inquire darkly about his reason, he spit out his findings in one long, terrified, and incredibly garbled sentence. "Sir,wefoundtheman,buthe'sdoor's lockedandtheexteriorcontrolsareblasted." With a glare from Vader and the subtle mental command to think of torture droids, the scanner slowed down and repeated himself. "Sir, we found the man, but the door's locked and the exterior controls are blasted." Vader fought the urge to sigh. No one could even manage a single order. When he and Luke ruled the Empire, they could raise the intelligence requirement for entrance into the trooper academy. Until then, idiots would perpetually surround him.
He shook his head, muttering dangerously under his mask. He marched into the freighter. It was an ancient, but honorable craft. He had seen it's full potential, and was actually impressed. The urge to examine it was irresistible. He followed the swirling bands of emotion and power to a small room. The door was fused. After only a moment's hesitation, he drew his light saber. In a brilliant flare of glistening red light the thick door was nonexistent. Inside lay a young man, barley more than a boy. The boy had disorganized, haphazard blond hair, and a grisly arm wound: an unbelievable total severing. He was unconscious, lying in a soundless drug induced sleep. Vader spoke slowly, his voice holding an almost gentle quality as he looked upon his child. "Take him to medical room four, and place him adjacent to the Princess. Place guard detachments outside the door and a stun sweep at the perimeter. If either is harmed, your discipline will be unimaginably serious commander. Do not consider disobeying me for any reason, down to the slightest detail." Their feared leader abruptly left, lost in contemplation.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, the young commander hastened to obey. He wondered at such consideration. Vader had obviously been the victor of the duel, but the fact that this boy was still attached enough to be considered alive, and obviously important to Lord Vader, raised unanswerable questions.
Luke sat up groggily, wincing as his eyes met the familiar contours of a black durasteel mask, all that the world could see of the charred monster that was his father. He remembered that mask so well from the cave of Degobah. I am you. He considered silently. Or perhaps yours. He pushed the pain from his thoughts, looking straight into the deep, impenetrable eyes of Lord Vader. What color did they hide? "It's true, isn't it?" Luke asked slowly.
"Yes." came the honest response. He'd waited by Luke's bedside for hours, hovering over the medical staff as they attached the prosthetic arm that would give his son insight into the twisted half-life his father led. He'd stayed here, examining Luke's strength in the Force as well as his potential. He was shocked. He had known that Luke had the way of the Force, but had never dared to hope that Luke's power would equal his own. That it did was astounding. The boy was all the more precious, he must be shown how to command the power that alienated him from the undeserving the galaxy thronged with, people like his slave masters and Kenobi, the varied masks of villainy. "Yes, " he reaffirmed gently to his promising heir, "It's true." Luke's head rolled back in despair.
"No," he moaned softly, to no one but himself. It was as if someone had marked his death. He was beaten. Part of him didn't want to trust the frightening man, but Vader wasn't lying. Vader would never deceive about something so sacred. Luke somehow knew he couldn't. "Leave me, please? I need time to think." But mostly, my dearest Father, I must consider who lied to me, and why. Luke begged, ending on a bitter note. Vader nodded and left, slightly disappointed. There was no reason to push Luke, though. They'd waited 18 years; a few hours couldn't hurt. On a whim, he had an orderly take a sample of Princess Leia's blood in for genetic testing. There had to be some explanation for her Force abilities, and he refused to let it elude him any longer. He had his suspicions, about her power, her looks, her eerie resemblance to a woman who haunted him despite her death... but it was impossible. Shaking his head, he strode towards his bridge.
Leia awoke with a scream. Luke rushed to his Princess, comforting her softly. Had their been anyone else in the room, they would have noted that in his frantic haste Luke Skywalker said no words, but in her confusion Leia acted as if she heard him. She'd had another nightmare, and her pain was weighing down her almond-brown eyes. She shouldn't have to go through this, Luke bit his lip tentatively, she feels far too much to do her job without remorse. Missions with his friend were sometimes heartbreaking for Luke. He could somehow tell when she was crying, and Luke was the only one Leia would talk to when she broke down. No one else quite understood her regrets, her melancholy, but now not even he could take her pain away. Something was coming, and at the same time she feared and longed for it. She couldn't say that, couldn't find the words. It was just an indescribable notion she doubted he shared. Her every word's meaning was crystal clear to him; she somehow knew he would understand her fears, but not this.
Luke strongly suspected she was having flash backs of Alderan's incineration or her barbaric, inhuman interrogation. He would never forgive his father for scarring Leia's fragile body so horribly, no matter what changed between them. Luke had always felt that he and Leia were connected through some unknown thread-like tendril of a bond. He had given up trying to find its source or meaning, content to let it be and do as it wished until it chose to show him it's illusive purpose. He rejoiced in the fact that he could repay her for her courage and strength, that she needed him in her lonely, desperate hours. Her muffled, tearless sobs wretched at his adoring heart. Leia privately thought of herself as a burden to Skywalker and Solo. Her mother had taught her as a child that crying was painful and useless. She had been the only child that had never cried, not even when she broke her arm, stubbornly going on a battle simulation Alderann's Security Force tested on at far too young an age. The dark, tragic woman who had given birth to her had drilled it into her mind to never cry. It only told your enemies that they were hurting you. This advise, along with never to trust anyone but yourself, had gotten her this far in the war. Despite her current situation, she was confident it could carry her through the end. I trust none of them, save Han, Luke and loyal Chewie. How is it these troops trust me?
She dried her misting eyes and smiled at Luke. "Hey, blue eyes." She choked out the nonchalant words, indulging in the fond pet name. "Sleep okay?" Luke smiled back.
"All right," he lied, "Considering we're in the hull of a Super Star Destroyer." He'd actually slept horribly, reliving his duel thousands of times in his mind, each time reaching the same irrevocable truth and the same deadly fall. "You, angel girl?" He lowed his voice. "Alderan again? I could kill him for what he did to you."
"No, not this time." She murmured quietly. Once had been enough, but many nights she relived it. "And I wish you could, but wishes don't kill Sith, now do they?" How she would love to see him die. How she would kill to have his blood caking her pale hands, how she would give her life to be the one to thrust a dagger through his black heart. "I'll be fine. I just kept having these odd dreams about falling." She admitted nonchalantly, slightly confused by the visions. Luke paled. He'd been unconsciously broadcasting his brooding, but how had she picked it up? Only potential Jedi's could detect the thought of another, and Leia was force-dead, wasn't she?
Luke froze. He sat straight and frigid, barley breathing. Lord Vader swept into the room, carrying a galaxies worth of terror as if it were a child's toy. "Luke." He said, quietly and seemingly emotionlessly acknowledging his son. Didn't I tell you it was the only way? Vader thought with heavy triumph, for he had won back what was rightfully his, the boy he had sired.
"Father." It's too soon! Luke thought desperately. What will she think of me after she knows about you, who I am? Why can't this be simple? Who I am. It rang hollow in his ears. Who he was was a lie, and he wasn't sure he wanted to meet this truth. I'm Luke Skywalker, he'd introduced himself. And for the first time in his life the proud boy wished he wasn't. Vader answered curtly with a barley perceptible nod, pretending not to have heard the mental statement. Leia looked at her comrade, horrified, backing away and drawing herself against the sterile wall. It was dead, and though cold it was not deceiving. Metal could not lie, and had not the warmth of Luke the traitor's hands. Hand, she amended, gazing at him with double horror.
"Luke how could you? How could you do this to me? Were you an Imperial spy? Were you some filthy traitor? I thought I could trust you! I thought you were my friend! You betrayed us! You betrayed me!" She was outraged, shaking in denial. How had she allowed herself to be so taken in?
"Leia, you have to believe me," Luke begged, "I didn't know! I'm not a traitor, I believe in the rebellion! I, I'd die for it! Leia, don't leave me! I can't loose you! You're all I have left!" Leia didn't speak. She seemed unmoved, looking at Luke as if he was worthy of death, having already earned her contempt. "I have nothing, Leia." he pleaded, "No real family, no home, and without you not even a friend." But that wasn't entirely true. He had a grudging respect for the father he'd longed for all his life, and an awe of the power he'd inherited from the man. What he said was what would ease Leia. She was still more important to him than the distant Father who'd taken his hand. "At least you've got your rebellion, and they love you and look up to you. Please, I'm sorry! I never asked for this!" He stammered desperately.
"Oh, Luke." she apologized in a broken voice, "I couldn't leave you, and I won't. I realize it's not your fault." She soothed. She was ashamed of the way she'd hurt him with her assumptions. She would do anything to erase her guilt, even tell the truth. She loved him. Not romantically, not the burning passion she felt when she brushed past Captain Solo, but... she did love him. You couldn't help but like the naive kid, but this was far more. How could she tell him how everyone looked up to him? She'd seen the new pilots thronging to him in the hangar bay. They hung on his every word, doe-eyed admiration flooding their eyes. His leadership was a variable beacon, his modesty an unexpected treasure. His skills made him valuable, but it was his nature that made him beloved. He was everything to her; she only needed to tell him.
"I need you. I and everyone else need you more than we'll know until your flame burns out, dear one, and suddenly you're gone. I do believe the heavens will come crashing down, the suns will collapse impotently when you have left us. Luke, I love you! I look up to you more than you'll ever know." You're my strength, Luke, and I'm sorry I ever thought differently, even for a moment. She thought fervently, knowing only he could hear her. "Together, even through this?" she asked tentatively.
"Together, through this and always." Leia threw herself at him, and sat cradled in her friend's arms, never wanting to leave. She told him everything that happened since their last meeting, pouring out every thought and subtle conflict. He didn't even sound surprised that she and Han were in love. He'd just laughed; said he'd known all along. He welcomed the news inside. She was letting him into her thoughts again, even after she knew the truth. Luke held the person most dear to him, and neither he nor the girl noticed as their watcher left with his dark and turmoil filled thoughts, leaving only the stars to watch the two.
Lord Vader meditated quietly in his office. The telepathic barrage from Medical Room four had disturbed his work for hours. Oddly, the thoughts gave the odd sensation of an echo. Of course he shouldn't care. He sneered. He wasn't 'real family.' Perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps he meant nothing at all to Luke, he was an unwanted burden. Luke doesn't have the luxury of that option. He's mine, and nothing will change all that means. He lifted himself out of the sleek, dramatic black meditation pod and strode out into the bleak corridor. A young officer scurried to his side.
"My lord, these are the blood sample reports you requested. Small data pads, containing the results of a paternity test on the blood of Princess Leia Organa, practically jumped to his eager granulated hand. So much speculation and daring hope rode on their simple contents.
"Good work. Commend the medical team." He ordered with distraction. He proceeded hastily to his computer panel and slid the cards in. The machine hummed as it searched for immediate matches. The screens denied the crucial facts. Leia's parents were not the King and Queen. Once again, he was right. The screen requested a clearance code for the following information. He hastily typed in his own as the computer scrambled to obey. A moment later the data appeared the standard Imperial format for paternity tests. Mother first, Father second.
Mother: Queen Amidala, Naboo
Father: Anakin Skywalker, Rim Territory, Section 14,
Siblings: one, fraternal twin,
Luke Skywalker, Rim Territory, Section 14,
He leaned back in his chair, too dazed to utter a word. Twins? He'd had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this. And, yet, he felt as if it were an obvious fact, a truth he'd always somehow known. Anger began to boil within his chest. How dare she! No matter how much she'd hated the empire, Amidala had had no right to conceal his own children from him! It could take years to mend the wounds and dissolve the prejudices his children had against him and the Empire.
It was solely Amidala's fault, but her plans had failed. He'd train both children in the Sith arts. They would serve the empire and one day rule it, the ultimate failure to his erring yet beloved wife. He would show Amidala how very wrong she had been. A pang of regret flowed effortlessly to him.
If only she'd come with him, when he'd offered her the chance to stay by his side as his Lady. If only she'd been there to raise the children with him. They could have been happy, somehow. They had been in love hadn't they? He sighed, knowing no one could hear him and wishing somehow that she could. He'd learned the day she'd forced him to kill her that love could turn against you and leave you empty and broken, and that only anger could fill the void and mend a soul.
The next day, he had Leia and Luke brought to the bridge. They marched slowly, avoiding the brunt of the storm trooper's sharp blaster butts, and dallied as much as possible, just to be difficult. Vader turned to watch their forced arrival. Leia held her head high, looking regally down at her storm trooper escorts and glaring at the dark lord as they approached. Luke's chin held grim determination as he glanced sideways at Leia. Her brown eyes filled with questions, betraying a nervousness she couldn't hide from her friend. Luke nodded reassuringly, and she felt her meager confidence swell. They proceeded in smooth unison, eyes locked on the pinpoint of blackness in front of them. Lord Vader stood at the tip of, the ship, overlooking the diamond stars as he studied both their faces with intense scrutiny. With her chin held high and her face set in defiance, Leia looked remarkably like her mother. The same liquid brown eyes, identical loose brown hair and tawny skin, and the same look of unabashed furry Amidala reserved for her most hated enemies. How would she accept the truth of her parentage, how would she accept him? Not well, he imagined.
"Princess, Commander." He addressed them, his voice a soft hiss, almost a purr. He spun quickly on his interested troops. They stood, curious about the scene before them and the ripping tension that filled the room. The rebels seemed unafraid of the Dark Lord, though the Imperials themselves, despite serving his interests, were terrified of the mechanical monster. How would their boldness be punished? "Clear the bridge." Vader ordered. The Admiral looked at him with stupid confusion. Vader's eyes narrowed beneath his mask. "Now!" he barked. Piett's feet left the ground with the force of the statement. He quickly ushered his men out the door.
"Regroup on secondary bridge!" Piett called over the din.
Vader turned to face his heirs, their eyes boring into him with their long nurtured hatred. They would eventually trust him, but Amidala was responsible for the setback. Damn her! He inwardly seethed, to be so selfish and without vision, yet so brave and stubborn at the end. It was her way. He cleared his thoughts and focused on the two youths in front of him. He invited them to the adjoining ready room with a slow movement of his hand. Cordiality seemed an adequate middle ground. Leia's eyes narrowed, but Luke placed a hand on her shoulder and nodded towards the door. She sighed, and giving Vader a last venomous look, followed Luke into the ready room. Luke and Leia sat warily, but Vader evidently didn't wish to. With a wave of his hand, the recording equipment hidden in the corners sizzled and died with a dramatic flare. Vader turned to his children and prepared to ask a few trivial questions. Nothing threatening would be voiced, this was merely to gather information and gradually lead up to the real issue being discussed. He knew that the truth must be conveyed with utmost delicacy; otherwise his already tortured daughter could be pushed from the brink of sanity, and Luke, struggling himself, would be left to pick up her pieces. He would not force his son to care for him merely to bridge the gap.
His daughter. His son and his daughter. It was an awing concept, almost too foreign to grasp. He had so much, anything he wanted, but nothing as perfect as the two wondrous people in front of him that were unbelievably his own children. He had been so sure he could do anything, always breaking the record and astounding those around him, until he had found them. He saw now that he had been cocky and over confidant now that Amidala no longer guarded him from those emotions. He simply wasn't prepared. He had never imagined that he would have children to raise and care for. Not in this lifetime anyway. Anakin had wanted a big family, and Anakin had had something this wonderful, his beloved wife, but as Vader joy like this had always alluded him.
After his missions with Mara Jade, he'd seen how alluring a child of his own would be. He had wished that his daughter, if he had one, would be as charming and competent as the beautiful, dedicated young hand. It seemed that fate had granted his wish. This strain of thought led him to a more unsavory issue. The smuggler his daughter had pledged her love to. He had been disgusted by their affections in Cloud City. The man was an unfit consort for a Princess as brilliant and well bred as Leia. He'd chuckled at the mental image of Bail rolling in his grave, wondering what the somewhat prissy monarch would think of the derelict Han Solo. What a disgrace to a father! Now the disgrace was his. He'd have to urge her to select a suitable husband, as well as forbid her or Luke from speaking to any member of the traitorous rebellion. That could be dealt with later. Now was the time to piece together his children's past, to find out what they had been through. It would affect who they were and thus how to best train them, the other side of their rearing that had been so neglected. Besides, as their father he simply wanted to know.
Vader dragged his mind back from his musings. He soaked up the fear and tension in the room and slowly let out waves of familiarity and ease. It was a difficult operation; employing lighter aspects of the Force than he'd used for quite some time, but he wanted them to really talk, not keep up their guards. Surprisingly, it wasn't as hard as he had expected.
"How did you meet the Princess and join the rebels?" he asked his son with genuine interest. Leia relaxed. This was obviously simply a formal, diplomatic interview. Their physical safety was assured. Luke thought the question over carefully and decided to tell the truth. There was no valuable information to be revealed in this.
"Uncle Owen and I were buying a new farm droid and the R2 Aunt Beru wanted for the house, and-"
"Owen and Beru?" Vader boomed, incredulous. "How could your mother leave you to be raised by Owen Lars? That's inhuman, she had no excuse!" Why would Amidala abandon his son, her own child? Luke's brow furrowed. He hated interruption, but he wanted to find the source of his father's outrage. Leia chuckled softly to herself.
You were married? To who, a can of rations? Or perhaps Threepio, Sir robot? No offense to Luke. She would have to be a wonderful person to make up for Vader and explain poor Luke. Perhaps the humanity and kindness genes were recessive in his family. Both men glared at her as they read her thoughts, and the merriment in her eyes died away. Luke cleared his throat and continued.
"What was so wrong with Owen and Beru? They didn't exactly love me, but they weren't monsters. And they certainly didn't deserve to die." He added with a dark look at his father.
"No," Vader admitted, "They deserved slow torture." He'd always hated the brutish, hardheaded Owen, and felt sorry for gentle, not extremely intelligent Beru, forced to put up with the man's erratic moods and temper. His wife must have known he would avoid Tattoine at all costs and manipulated it to her advantage. Leia- he smiled. Hide a thing in plain sight, and it's never found. His wife had been brilliant, despite her foolish ambitions.
"I shall commend the squad that so efficiently barbecued them. I don't expect you to know, but Owen was Obi Wan's half brother. He and Beru must have hidden Obi Wan and Amidala for a while, but..." He trailed off. "Go on."
Amidala was her name? That's beautiful, like some exotic city. I never knew. They didn't tell me. What was she like? He questioned vaguely before answering. "We bought two droids, and the astromech had a hologram of Princess Leia of Alderann begging for help from an individual named Obi Wan Kenobi. She was pearly and magnificent. Like some kind of angel." he reminisced with and fond glance at his friend. She rolled her eyes.
"Please, blue eyes," She muttered so Vader didn't hear, "I looked awful and you know it. I can't stand those buns, I look like a pastry!"
Vader inwardly seethed at his daughter begging for help from that bastard Obi Wan, wishing he could kill the man yet again, just to be even. Didn't she know what Obi Wan had done? How dare Kenobi allow his child to look at his name in friendship, had he no shame? Would Kenobi corrupt his daughter out of vain hopes of continuing this creed? His clenched hands would have drawn blood from his palms, but they were pale and long lifeless. Luke continued, unperturbed by the interruption.
"Anyway, she looked beautiful." He said stubbornly. "I was rescued from the sand people- I tell you later, Leia; it's a long story - by old Ben Kenobi the hermit the next day. I asked Old Ben if he recognized this Obi Wan, and he seemed amused. He told me it was he. He took me to his house and gave me my fath- well, your old light saber." he corrected himself with an uneasy pause. "He told me you hunted down the Jedi and murdered my father." Luke swallowed, continuing on. Another wave of deep hatred washed over Vader. Obi Wan had taught Luke to hat him. He had not suffered near as much as he deserved, and never would.
"He said we must go to Alderann and rescue the Princess, but I didn't really want to run away with this strange old hermit." He chuckled softly. "Then I went home and-" He swallowed again. "No one deserves that. Not even the bastard Owen had always been to me. And Beru was kind, or tried to be. She- The next day, we left with a smuggler named Han Solo and his copilot, Chewbaca." Luke paused to allow comment.
"Nobel race, Wookiees." Vader muttered. He had admired their strong communal ties, their loyalty and bravery in his Wookiee Jedi brethren.
"And how would you know? You seem to spend your time rendering them defenseless and submitting them to death and servitude." Leia spat. "You're probably a supremacist fool, like the rest of the Imperial forces." He gazed at the bold girl sharply.
"How wrong you are, Leia. You've made a serious error in judgment, child. You've underestimated me. I advise you not to do it again." There was a price for such failure, his tone warned. Her eyes narrowed to silent slits, and she nodded for Luke to continue.
"When we reached the Death Star, I was amazed. I could feel the dead's pain running down my spine and freezing my mind. I could feel Leia, and I knew she wasn't dead yet, but her life was flickering like a child lost in a sandstorm. And I could feel you," he said looking up at his father. "Like a presence or someone seen from the corner of my eye. Like a black hole, drawing in the light from your surroundings. Obi Wan was visibly weak and had to strengthen his shields. We rescued Princess Leia from her detention cell."
He smirked, and Leia voiced his thoughts. "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" she whispered, merrily reenacting her own words. "And you know the rest. We got away, the rebellion blew up the Death Star, and that's it. From there on out, we've been together." Luke concluded, sitting back in his chair.
"Don't be so modest." Leia chilled. "You blew up the death star, not the rebellion. And what a shot!" She marveled. Luke blushed.
Vader drank in the narrative and prepared his next, more delicate, question. "Leia," he asked mildly, "Are you aware you're adopted?" She froze, immense fear making her angry.
"No one's supposed to know that!" She practically shouted in furry, "You couldn't prove it unless you had some idea of who to look for as matches! How could you possibly-"
"Apparently, I knew who to look for." He said with an amused superiority that built her rage. A small data pad left on the table flew to the wall and shattered.
"I must have knocked it." Leia said, hastily reaching for the fragments. Vader did not comment. Leia swore to herself. She couldn't let that happen again. Sometimes, when she was especially angry or concentrating very hard, it happened. Things wretched themselves from her grasp, she could hear a thought, and once, she had made someone fall by simply wanting it. She was afraid of it; afraid she would loose control, that someone would find out, afraid that there was something wrong with her, that she would hurt someone... She shook her head, crashing her train of thought. She wouldn't let it happen again. She would have the control, not her mysterious ability. Besides, she probably did just bump it. Sure, she thought wryly, even though it was three feet away from your hand. Vader's next question was worse.
"Did you never ask who you're true parents were?" Leia shook here head. His voice was sickly sweet now, and oddly tempting.
"I knew my mother, though. She was very beautiful, but always sad. She- she died when I was very young, but- "
Leia suddenly stopped. She shouldn't be telling him this. He was a monster. How he could ever create a wonderful person like Luke was a mystery to her. Vader noticed her abrupt silence. She must be stronger then I expected, to notice my manipulation. He thought with respect. He felt he should say something to restart the conversation, especially since he knew so much about the subject.
"You're mother was a wonderful woman, Princess. She truly cared about her people, and was one of the bravest and most intelligent beings I've ever known." He said quietly, risking this brief display of emotion toward his wife. Leia's heart skipped a beat.
"You knew my mother?" she asked, trying not to betray her excitement. "And my father?" "What- what were they like? Who were they, please? I have to know!" No one would ever tell her, and now those who knew were dead. He was, though an enemy, her only window to the past that was so vital. Vader looked into her pleading brown eyes. How could he tell her? It didn't matter. He had to.
"The operative question is who is he, not who was he." he began, "You resemble him in more ways then you know, though I don't expect you to accept that at first. You see my Leia, I am your father." Leia felt shock arch through her. It wasn't possible, it couldn't be. Vader was a monster, a disease. But then, why was her intuition screaming yes? She remembered the Death Star so vividly, the way he had put his hand on her shoulder, holding her back from attacking and killing Tarkin as the man's blood filled her mind. How shocked she'd been when she felt his disapproval of the slaughter through the brief contact, and his somehow comforting sorrow at her adoptive parent's death. The way they had always had the bond, the three of them. Father, Daughter and... Brother.
Luke was her brother, her twin brother. She had known all along, but then again it was a revelation. She remembered the way she moved things by wanting them, even though she wished the ability away. Luke was always practicing calling small objects to him, frequently his beloved light saber. And her father was obviously an expert. She had seen him kill with it in anger. Was she destined to be a soulless murderer? If she was his daughter, all his sins were hers. Guilt and anguish coursed through her, and the overwhelmed girl fainted, swooning her only method of escape.
Luke sat numbly as Leia thought. "My sister," he said with amazement, "my twin sister. How could I have been so blind?" He turned to his father. "How could you possibly know?" Luke turned and saw Leia faint, both men quickly raising their hands to prevent her hard fall. She drifted slowly to the floor.
"Got any ideas of what to do with her? I doubt she'll want to return to the medical bay, she hates it there." Luke asked, hoping Vader would be kind enough to take her wishes into consideration.
"I had one room adjacent to my quarters prepared. I will procure a second bed tomorrow, but for now we must lie her down in yours. She requires rest." Vader assured his worried son. Luke nodded distractedly, and together they carried her to Vader's quarters.
They encountered few troops, but those they saw scurried away in puzzlement and fear. A crude form of treatment, Luke thought, but effective. More than you know. Idiots, all of them idiots. Vader telepathically explained. Luke understood his father's point. He had seen the entrance requirements for the Storm Trooper Academy. They were startlingly low.
They laid Leia carefully on the small bed, Luke venturing a small, unsure kiss on her forehead. He got the distinct impression that this amused his father. They continued to the main room of the chamber and sat on the stairs. Lucky for Luke, Leia didn't weigh a lot. Vader could have toted the girl five times around the super star destroyer without skipping a beat, but even carrying Yoda around Dagobah had not prepared Luke for the distances involved on the Executor. He wiped the sweat from his brow.
"So," Luke asked, unsure of what came next, "Besides scouring the galaxy for Skywalkers and destroying our bases, what do you do with you life? I have little understanding of Imperial procedure."
"I contemplate the Force, lead the men under me, occasionally pilot, take on odd missions, and keep peace and order in a chaotic galaxy, that sort of thing. And avoid Prince Xizor and other unpleasant bureaucrats." Came the amused answer. It was naive of Luke, to think of things as simple, like jobs you could describe in a paragraph, and areas of pure black and white. That would change now that he knew the truth and was exposed to the other side of the war. Luke was confused.
"A fool and an annoyance. No other descriptions fit."
"If you don't mind," Luke said lazily, "I believe I'll cross reference that with Leia." Vader chuckled.
"She'll agree. I remember her disliking him, of course being twelve at that time she may not remember. He runs the crime syndicate Black Sun. He's a true womp rat of an individual, always trying to jockey for the Emperor's favor. He also would like to see me dead, and you as well. Still ready to champion his right?" After a moment's thoughtful silence, the Dark Lord continued the conversation.
"How did you grow up? I want to know every thing. I must understand you." Luke sighed, he didn't really want to discuss it.
"Badly, actually. I hated farming ever since I was a kid. Who wouldn't? I knew that my mother wasn't a farmer's daughter, and that my father was definitely not a navigator on a spice freighter. I got punished and beaten for asking about either of you. Or imagining anything. Or knocking anything without touching it. Or making weird predictions and guessing emotions and thoughts. Now that I think about it, I got beaten a lot." Luke finished quietly, lost in the realms of his mind, where a braided dewback whip still hung by the door of the homestead and no one cared enough to tell Lars to stop. Vader was somewhat horrified. Luke had been treated worse as a blameless child than he had as a slave. His natural abilities had been forbidden, and thus necessarily hidden themselves. No wonder he hadn't been found or identified.
"Go on." He urged his son with a touch of comfort in his voice that Luke so badly needed. "What else did they tell you about your parents?"
"When I asked Beru about my mother, she would burst into tears. When I asked her about you, she became afraid, suddenly busy, and pretended not to hear me. I finally got it out of her that your name was Anakin, but that was about it. When I was fifteen, I finally got a speeder. Sith, I loved it." He spoke with fond dreaminess. "It was a T-16, pretty new. I had to beg for months. I loathe begging. I guess I have too much pride, or so my teacher says. I was always getting grounded for reckless flying, but it was worth it. I did dead man's turn one day in .2 parsecs! Got grounded for two month's though. Biggs laughed his head off. He was a horrible looser."
"Was this Biggs a friend of yours?" Vader asked.
"Yeah." Luke replied softly. "He died at Yavin. You shot him."
"I didn't know. It was war, Luke. War makes few allowances for the hearts of those involved." Vader countered. "I almost shot you, and believe this, I would have regretted it. I also seriously regret torturing Leia. It was a direct order from Palpatine, and the mere thought of her rebellion infuriated me. I did not wish to hurt her, my own daughter though I did not realize it. It was horrible. I've never felt anything quite like it." The telepathic pain had barraged his mind, and the proximity to her raw terror and anguish almost killed the dark lord. "All of us almost died that day. I regret it in general."
Luke nodded and changed the subject tactfully. "And how did you grow up?" Vader smiled, unseen except in their minds.
"Ironically, really. But I do not think your ready to know. You do not yet believe in the autocracies of the Jedi, and you should be farther in your training before I tell you." Luke palled.
"Training? You know I'll never give in to the Dark side. It's not my path, it's wrong!" Vader shrugged. "You can't possibly know yet. Who are you to label right and wrong, not for you fine character but for you extreme youth and inexperience? You've never tried, never been allowed to, so how could you experience such power? And believe me my son, it is your path, as it was mine." Luke pursed his lips.
"At what price?" His father did not respond immediately. After a long silence, the Dark Knight spoke.
"I must report my success to my Emperor. You may wish to rest and recover, the duel's effects are not completely healed." He said casually, as if Luke had played a simple game instead of almost dying at his father's hands. Luke nodded and walked into the large sparring room, wondering at its impressive size before sitting cross-legged to meditate. The young man had much to think of.
Leia didn't leave the room for the rest of the day. She didn't leave it the next day, either. What had she done wrong? All her life she'd strived to be gentle and giving, and she'd only received pain in return. Yet she had never known bitterness like this. Every dark memory caressed her, filling her with blackened emotions, even the urge to end her hopeless life. She laughed at the pathetic notion. She couldn't do such a thing, she was a fighter, an Organa. Or was she? How could she claim that name when she knew the truth of her origins? She was a child of that brave, dark woman, she corrected, who gave her life for her tainted child. And I was caught, what have I done?
She alternately wept in pure pain and anguish or sat, glassy eyed and unmoving. Wretched worthlessness and self-loathing swept over her, as well as memories of all the battles where she'd faced her father, each one giving her a new resolve to hate him. Her mother should have let her die, should have killed her father when he least suspected it for the good of the galaxy. She had to escape these thoughts. In fact, she had to escape this ship. Suicide was too gentle a death for the woman she now knew herself to be, and the only alternative was to find her way back to her cause and fight as never before with the hope that if she righted enough wrongs and purged enough corruption, she could eventually pay for who she was. She had to get off the Executor. She had to get away from her father.
Father. She thought with involuntarily longing. She was his child, a part of him, how could they be so different? What if they weren't? She thought with irrational fear. She felt a far stronger presence permeate her weakened mind. Instead of bleak disinterest or hate, she felt only interest in her well being and a wish, almost a tangible craving, to know and understand her, to eventually have pride in her accomplishments at his side, and the far off hopeful glow, to bright to completely conceal, some day love her? But that couldn't be right! He simply couldn't be capable of those kinds of emotions... or could he? He wasn't, it made everything she protected herself with, the lies she swore inside, come crumbling down. But had there been someone he'd loved once? A parent, a friend, perhaps even a wife? Had he loved the mother she had come to idolize and emulate? Was the dark side not evil emotion but passionate emotion, the contradiction to the serenity of the Jedi code? She couldn't be serene! Though she outwardly appeared so, Leia was a woman of fire and ice. She'd dropped that facade for Han... poor, beloved Han. The first person she'd ever trusted enough to show her turbulent core. She was strong around Luke, but purely because she needed to be. Perhaps Luke didn't require this stately, artificial illusion. Perhaps what he needed- no, what they both needed, was each other's complete honesty and love.
You have complex thoughts, my princess. Her father observed. Princess? Why not daughter? Did he only wish to claim Luke, his male heir, his favored duplicate of himself? Had she again failed? No, she forced herself to control her rage. She sensed he only called her this because he was wary of hurting her by proceeding so quickly. Why did she care? Annoyed with herself for wanting his acknowledgment, she cleared her mind. She could feel him laughing softly.
Complex Indeed. I am sorry for my oversight. Hurting you was not my intention. She paused to select a response. She found it odd that she still thought of him as Lord Vader. Shouldn't it be father, or at least his formal name? Yet didn't deserve the name father, and his title still held an aura of fear and hatred. As a child on Alderan she'd been told that naming evil only gave it a form and power. Him would do for now. Him? Vader thought dryly. How demeaning. Suddenly Leia felt the overwhelming warmth again. It both terrified and thrilled her that he considered her so important, worthy of his sole attention. They were sharing something that even Luke wasn't a privy to. I wish to help you. Please allow me to do so.
Help me? She thought, enraged. The problem is you! I'm abandoned within the ranks of my enemies, my beloved is in pain and at the mercy of some vile creature, my cause left to rot without me, and my brother slowly falling for your lies! And you? You say you aren't a monster, claim to be capable of wishing to ease my pain? Act like a day can make up for twenty years of animosity, or your identify masked in death? Surely you don't dare! You can't care, you want to hurt me more, like you hurt mother. She made the mistake of trusting you.
Leia, he pleaded. Suddenly his patience evaporated, crackling and snapping turning their contact to flames. She dared to accuse him of things she did not understand, wounds that were still open. If you will not see reason, then I will be forced to take the situation into my own hands. He pushed her mental barrier, his strength and experience working against her though he was exerting little Force-energy. Her shields were almost to the point of collapse. Her mind rebelled, summoning her bitterness and determination and reinforcing her shields. His touch clanged against them. Triumph swelled inside her. Success! If that had worked, why not extend her reach and push him away? She gathered all the power she could find. Training would have made it easier, but she knew the raw energy was there, awaiting her use. It was a part of her. She built a pure wall of it and shoved as hard as she could.
Caught by surprise, Vader was thrown out of the contact. The wall remained, a testament to her disgust at him and all he stood for. He stepped back in surprise when her attack had finished. He was furious with himself. He should not have been so temperamental. He should not have let his pride interfere. There was no excuse for the telepathic rape he'd almost committed. Leia deserved the privacy and sanctity of her mind. He could not rush his plans, or the painstaking work of constructing a relationship with his heirs. More than his heirs, they were his children. He deep care for them was without logic or cause.
Logic said that one was expendable, but he would rather die than let either of their futures be destroyed. Was this the love that Amidala had felt? Had this overwhelming devotion been the thing that had caused her to give up her life for those of her children? Would Palpatine see this? What would the punishment be for such weakness? Would he, as Vader suspected, punish the twins instead of his servant to provide him with an even more painful reminder? Still, he thought mildly, no matter how Palpatine hurt them, their strength would eventually prevail. Then they would be free to punish their emperor, something that Vader had looked foreword to for so many long years. With an unseen smile, he turned to continue his work. Soon my arrogant Master, he thought, very soon.
Leia needed Luke's consolation. His warm, bathing light to fill and caress her, someone to hold her hand and tell her that everything would be all right. Someone she trusted enough to believe. Get up, girl, there's work to be done. Mend your breaks and move past them. She dried her eyes, sitting up slowly. The dark mind was far away. She concentrated and cast her thoughts across the ship, trying to find the warm sensation she recognized as Luke. Was he on the bridge with Vader, perhaps? She drew her thoughts there, following the energy she thought to be her brother. She felt her wandering mind slide into a cold, potent presence with the consistency of an ancient stone wall.
Yes? Asked the voice without feeling. Vader smiled to himself as the bridge and its events flowed into being around him. He had no idea that Leia would forgive so easily, or at least be able to put her anger aside to deal with the business at hand. It was unexpected that she was even speaking to him yet. With her pride and passionate emotions, she would be quick realize the advantages of the dark side.
I was looking for Luke. She tried defiantly. Please tell me where he is. His triumph dissipated.
Oh. Of course. Leia was pleased at the disappointment she'd created in his mental tone. He guided her through the ship, and she was surprised at the Executor's sheer size.
Of course, it's the flagship, she thought, it's supposed to be the best. Vader was pleased by Leia's neutral tone.
Impressive, isn't she? He asked with understandable pride.
For a killing machine, yes. Leia said curtly, not wishing to get overly friendly with this agent of the Empire. She feared terming him anything more personal. They traveled in silence from that point on. They found Luke relatively quickly, tending to his battered X-Wing in the Docking Bay. He was a little surprised when both voices entered his mind.
Vader waited briefly for thanks that didn't come, then he slipped out of Luke's thoughts, presumably to continue his duties. What are you doing here? Luke asked his sister with puzzlement. I thought you weren't talking to me. You wouldn't take my consolation earlier, as I recall.
I wasn't, she admitted. But I am now. Listen Luke; I've got to talk to you. I need your help to reason this through, and you're the only one I can count on. Please? He hesitated, unsure of what he could do to help her, and voiced his concerns. Just be there. Please, oh please oh please Lukie? She begged, using her last resort. He chuckled to himself. Lukie? Where in the galaxy had she picked that one up? With a sigh, he put down his hydro spanner, gave the battered ship a last woeful glance, (he would repair the poor thing eventually) and made the trek towards his father's quarters.
She must be starving, he thought with concern. I mean, she hasn't eaten in days, and she's already too thin. I should bring her some food. After a few minutes of wandering, he came upon another young man in a black TIE pilots uniform. Luke swallowed. He'd shot down hundreds of these hated people, but had never met one himself. His instincts told him to turn around and forget about the meal, but Leia's needs overrode his own trite inhibitions.
"Excuse Me," he asked with as much nonchalance as a captured Rebel could muster, "Where's the mess hall?" The TIE pilot grinned,
"You must be one of the new guys." Luke grinned.
"Yeah." Well, it wasn't a total lie...
"Cardia, right?" He asked not waiting for an answer. "Well, I'll walk you down there. You'll need to get a uniform, though, before somebody bigger and more demented than us little guys spots you."
"I wouldn't want that to happen," responded Luke with a saucy grin, "I like my head just as it is, thank you very much. Though a few blaster holes might give it a nice lived-in look, don't you think?" The pilot laughed as he steered the rebel towards the massive dinning hall.
For a room it's size, it was unusually quiet. The timid and disciplined Imperial troops made little sound, and the officers murmured as if conveying secrets. It wasn't at all like the boisterous meals he had enjoyed among his fellow Freedom Fighters. He smiled fondly at the memory of his first night at Yavin. Force, he'd never had such a hangover! Snapping himself back to the present, he tried to address his companion.
"You know, I really should..." he began.
"Nope. You're not getting away so easily. Come and sit down, I'll introduce you to the guys." Not wanting to make an awkward scene, Luke complied and slid down into a chair.
"I'm Jemmis Kimer, by the way. And you are?"
"Luke." he said simply. He avoided mentioning his surname with a casual smile. "How long have you been here?" He asked after being introduced to four other pilots. They launched into the stories of their careers on the Executor. One boy, Lian, had been on board the longest, almost twenty-four months, and would be glad to 'show a new kid the ropes,' as he put it. Luke ate hungrily, wondering silently where the hateful beasts he'd imagined behind the TIEs he targeted had fled. They seemed like normal people behind their black uniforms and fearsome masks, almost like his Rebel friends. Was it possible that he'd been killing more than just nameless horrors?
He finished and suddenly remembered Leia. Oh, Force! He should have been there a half hour ago! She must think he'd forgotten her or was refusing to come!
"I've got to go! I have to bring lunch to a friend of mine- he's down with something- and I forgot all about it." He lied hastily.
"I'll help you carry the tray." Jemmis offered as Luke grabbed one of the self-contained meal packages and headed towards the door.
"No, really. That's not necessary." Luke pleaded.
"Sure it is!" Jemmis insisted. I'll go grab the guy a hydrocarb." Luke was nervous. He liked Jemmis, and he had no idea how his new friend would react if he knew that Luke was delivering lunch to an exiled rebel princess who happened to be his sister and for reasons unknown was sleeping in Lord Vader's quarters. Probably not favorably. Luckily, at that moment a siren rang through the ship.
"Great," Jemmis mumbled, handing Luke the hydrocarb." I've got to be in the shuttle bay in three minutes. Looks like I wont be able to help you after all. I'm really sorry."
"It's fine. Really." Luke said with a smile. "Go on, I'll talk to you tomorrow." With a last farewell, Luke broke into a run and made his way towards his irate sister.
A few minutes later, Leia could hear the door sliding open to admit Luke. He carried a plate of food from the Executor's cafeteria. He entered silently and slid the tray down on the table across the room from her. He began in the gentlest tone possible, not wanting to startle her. "Leia?" he asked with caution.
"I knew you were in the room. Stop worrying about shocking me to death; I'm not that volatile. "Leia snapped. Her response startled him.
"Listen," he began, "I'm really sorry I'm late. I met some guys, they were pretty nice for Imps, and I lost track of time. I didn't mean to ignore or neglect you. Forgiven?" She smiled.
"I'm sorry. I never mean to be that rude, it sometimes just gets out that way. Forgiven. So who were these guys?" she asked, taking her lunch off the table and delicately sitting it on the bed as she sprawled out to talk and eat. Luke explained everything that had transpired between him and the older pilots, and Leia nodded.
"They seemed fine, but their Imps, Luke, and don't forget it. Otherwise, you'll be all chummy and be picking out paint shades for your own TIE." She said with a slight smile. There was silence for a moment, and then Luke looked his twin in the eyes, which glittered like sapphires through the blond haze of his hair.
"Are you all right? You're going to say 'Of Course,' but you're not all right. Your insides must be ripping apart with guilt, and you're so confused. I know I am. There's no lying to ourselves, it's true and we both know it." Leia drew her breath in slowly.
"No I'm not okay. How could I be? He's our father, Luke! It's the cruelest twist of fate imaginable. Oh, Luke, what have I done wrong? What did I do to deserve this? Why did it have to be him? Why did we have to be his children?" Her eruption had passed, and she slowly calmed down. "What will become of us?" She asked bitterly. "Why not just kill us and be done with it, if that is his plan?" Luke shook his head.
"It isn't. He wants us to learn the ways of the Sith and someday rule alongside him, as his apprentices and heirs. We're to join him. It's clear as crystal." Leia's voice shook with rage.
"Never!" She hissed with venom. Luke took her hand in his. He was afraid for his beloved sister. If manipulated, her pride, passion, and power could become pathways for the anger of the dark side. He didn't want to see anyone, especially not his Leia, becoming an agent of such evil. And from deep within him, a small voice uttered Or a reflection of her father. He secretly agreed with whatever part of him had thought of that ominous prediction.
"I can't tell you everything I'm feeling, because there aren't words to express it." she explained, desperate for her brother's acceptance. "I wish there was some way you could know my thoughts." Luke pursed his lips. He finally pierced the silence.
"There is a way." Leia was exuberant.
"How? Oh, Luke, I want to know everything about you. I can't wait. How do we start?"
"Don't get your hopes up." Luke cautioned. "I don't know if we're strong enough, but I think our bond will help." A puzzled frown creased Leia's forehead.
"Bond?" she asked.
"It's a family bond. " Luke said gently. "It gives you flashes of memory, connects you, and allows for easier telepathic communication." Leia tensed, and Luke sighed. "Yes, he has it too. And he's far more experienced than I am. It's possible he could pluck the thoughts right out of your mind. The family connection is that strong." Her jaw dropped. The thought was horrifying.
"He could have information, emotions, even weaknesses... But why hasn't he done it yet?"
"I don't know." he paused. "There's no logical explanation. He's not without scruples, Leia. Perhaps it's a gesture of friendship." Her personal defenses bristled. She calmed herself quickly. She had to learn all she could on the relative safe ground of the Executor, then generate a plan to flee. But... ever since she'd known of her adoption, she'd wondered about her parents. Would they be loving? Would they search out their beloved daughter, take her home and give her a good life? When her real mother had died, it had been a great blow to Leia. She'd asked about her mother countless times. Her adoptive parents had gladly told her everything, omitting her proper name and profession. Her father had been a much more guarded subject. She'd never even been told his name. She smirked. Now, the reasons were obvious. She would have searched the data files for his name, attracting attention, and then... Well, she would have had quite a different childhood, to say the least. Was she prepared to let those dreams slip away?
She'd always been aware of her bonds with her family, if only on a subliminal level. Nevertheless, she carefully searched her mind for the joining threads she knew would await her. The fresh, alive tendril called to her, full of the essence of her beloved Luke. She traced the darker connection as well, letting it lead her away from the room into a colder, more aloof mind. Vader. It was as obvious as if he were in the room.
Vader listened to a droning officer on the bridge. Menial reports such as this did not interest him, but it gave the crew a reason to speak to their Lord and feel fear, lest they forget who commanded the great machine that was the Executor. A slight presence tugged at his mind. Behind his mask, he smiled in satisfaction. It was Leia, guided by Luke. Twice in one day, I'm feeling irresistible. She pulled away, as if frightened by their intrusion. His triumphant smile remained. It didn't matter. She was coming to accept the Force, and he truth of his birth. Their loyalty would come later. Eventually. He was a patient man. He could wait as long as it took for Luke and Leia to decide their path. As long as that path was with him, he could wait as long as necessary.
Could he sense her presence? Quickly Leia pulled away, recoiling instantly form the dark mind of the Sith Lord. She snapped her eyes open, and quickly related to Luke what she had seen. "But," Luke paused, "You should never have been able to enter his mind. Why didn't he intervene?" Leia took this in.
"You mean he could block my probe? Well, why didn't he?" Luke shrugged.
"Another gesture of peace?" He suggested.
"Not likely." Leia retorted stubbornly. Luke let the matter drop. It was no use to try and convince Leia in times like these. Nor was it prudent to attempt discussion. "I want to do it." Leia said with decision, interrupting his thoughts.
"Hmm? Oh yes, the joining. I'm afraid not. It could be dangerous, and you shouldn't jeopardize your safety. You're far too important." Her eyes blazed.
"I'm no more important than you. Don't act like you're indestructible, that's obviously not the case." She continued with a gesture to his hand. "Besides," she continued in a gentler voice. "I can't do this alone. Neither can you. At least we'll bear our pain together."
With an indecipherable shake of his head, he straightened. He placed his hands on hers, and slowly began to meditate. Soon he was one with the Force, that pearly translucent feeling that somehow made up his very core. He felt Leia gasp in shock as the sensation filled her. She'd never known The Force, but now she couldn't imagine not knowing. It made her more, and made her whole. It was natural as breathing, with the sacred quality of a prayer. So this was what she had been missing.
And then she was Luke. Dreaming about a life outside of this sandy hell, with the parents he'd never known and he was convinced could make everything better. Farming and flying- she felt the work but the flying felt so intense. Immediately she itched with the urge to taste the metal of a cockpit, to rocket into space. Names and places flashed by her at an alarming rate. Owen, Biggs, Mos Eisley, Mos Espa, Pod Races and stations flooded her with familiarity. Everything. Then the day he met Obi Wan, his pain at his guardians' death, training, meeting her, loving her, seeing Ben die before his eyes, hating, hating, hating Vader for everything from his Father's death to her nightmares. He was his hatred, the point he had fixed it all too, and that was crumbling away.
It all flashed by in seconds. She saw near death and piloting an X-Wing, Dagobah, her own grisly torture, and the duel that changed everything. Being oh so priceless and broken, having Leia as a sister, and even his own experiences as he simultaneously lived her life. Luke helped her to her feet and smiled.
"I understand." She told him, brushing away a wayward lock of his unruly blonde hair. "I feels so good through all the bad memories, because now I understand everything." They embraced tightly, never wanting to, let go, never wanting each other to be hurt again. It had been exhausting work. He thought as they slumped to the floor in slow faints. A nap sounded wonderful right about now... but why was he so sleepy? He didn't have time to answer before unconsciousness overtook his body.
The lone occupant of the room, a lovely, tragic woman in a grand violet dress clenched at the bodice, full lips and dark brown hair, fell to the ground, sliding off her cold chair. Her head was throbbing, and she could feel her chest wheezing with nonexistent tears. That was the downside of her bond with the rest of her family. She felt whatever they did. When Leia had been tortured on the death star, she felt herself dying, and when Anakin was furious, which was a startlingly large amount of the time, she felt like throttling someone herself. Such was the strength of their bond and their love, and as much as she hated her moments of unpredictability and violence, it was her only connection with Anakin. She wouldn't give it up for her life. Besides, he would feel it if she severed the bond. Not even the largest amounts of emotional control could keep her secret if she made the painful cut.
Besides, its unpredictable nature sparsely chose to give her moments of clarity, and if she concentrated hard enough, she could hear her family's thoughts. She would exploit it, if she could, but these moments were cloudy and sparse, always fleeting away, and there was the danger of being detected. Once she'd lost control and luckily for her, Luke, used to apparitions, took it as such. If it had been Anakin, her masquerade would be at an untimely end.
She concentrated on her daughter's shock, wrath, and horror, sliding into her alike mind. What was so terribly wrong with her baby? Suddenly it hit her with horrific clarity. He knew. And worse, he knew about both of them. She'd felt the same spike of emotion months ago, and again two days ago, but she'd hadn't the clarity to pursue it. Now there was no way of stopping the blood bath that would come of two new, potent Force-users in the corrupt hands of the Empire.
She was furious, as frightening as her lover in his worst moments. Her plans, so lovingly and delicately wrought, had been discovered. Her children, so carefully hidden, had been found at last. There was nothing to do but wait, watch, and pray for an opportunity to intervene. She would deliver the galaxy. She would gain control of the situation. But Amidala had no taste for the manipulations of time.
Vader paused in his doorway, wondering what the twins had done to cause such a disturbance in the Force. Upon entering, he saw the forms of his children sprawled unceremoniously in the corner. They'd obviously overtaxed themselves attempting to explore their considerable power. It was almost endearing. He scoffed at his choice of words. Since when was he so sentimental?
He'd looked at their midichlorian counts again today. No matter how many times he studied the emotionless screen, the numbers still shocked him. He'd thought them to be powerful, but never on par with himself. It was astounding that their power had not been seriously diminished by Amidala's bloodline. She'd had an above average midichlorian count herself, though. He reminded, for he had been careful not to forget anything about her. Not close to Jedi levels, but well above average. His children had been incredibly gifted by the Force. All they needed was his instruction, and he was ready and willing to give it. He smirked to himself, to hide his sorrow from the empty room. Amidala, my darling, what else did you hide form me?
Someone moaned softly. They really should have been in bed. He thought with a concern that surprised him. Easily hefting them both, he careful set them down in the grip of the covers. No doubt the presence of the second bed would surprise them when they awoke. It had not been very difficult to find an identical match to the fine piece he'd chosen for Luke. Not with his admittedly extensive fortunes, at any rate. That being done, he took up a sentry's position at the small chair near the door.
They were each beautiful in their own way. Leia with her shining hair and huge, expressive brown eyes, Luke with his ice blue orbs and tanned complexion. Almost perfect copies of their respective parents. They had the same a sense of rightness together, a clear and honest belonging.
Belatedly checking the aura of the Force in the suite, he determined what they'd done to overload their Force control. A relatively simple mental communication, but lengthy and made difficult by their inexperience. Leia and Luke. His children. His to possess and claim, their abilities, their love, eventually even their precious souls. They were living emblems of a plan that had reigned within the dark lord's heart since Palpatine's rule began. They would help him, for he knew they could, and he could bestow on the grandsires of the Force their birthright: power. Together they would overthrow their unworthy Master and rule in his stead.
He'd had no father to love or teach him. The midichlorians had conceived him and abandoned him. But that wasn't quite correct, they were there at his beck and call, bending and shaping to his unrelenting will. Their power filled him and helped him over any barrier, but it was no substitute for a living, breathing father. His mother had been his only guardian. Shimi brought back a caressing wash of memories.
His pride made him grit his teeth with hatred of his enslavement, but that hadn't been Shimi's fault. She had been an excellent Mother to her peculiar son, too good, perhaps, for him to be taken from while still in his relative infancy. She was certainly too good to have been murdered before his eyes in the naked streets of Tattoine by those jealous of her son's power. At least, for a brief time, he'd known his mother's love.
Amidala's parents had scorned their frighteningly gifted child from the beginning, dying too soon to regret their mistake. Her beloved grandmother, who raised the young Princess and taught her all she knew, had died before Amidala's coronation. They had promised each other to love their children, to give them the love, power, and family they themselves had never enjoyed. She'd promised him a big family, and he would have helped her raise an entire brood of Skywalkers.
Why oh why couldn't she have kept her promise? He'd offered her a place by his side, a chance to be the most powerful woman in the galaxy, but her stubborn values had intervened, and she'd forced him to kill her instead of joining him. Her words twined through his thoughts. Don't dare toy with me and offer me everything. All that I want is you. But I can clearly see it's a little late for the lover I thought I knew. It's me, he'd corrected her with a soft touch of a injured hand trapped in black leather. My Ani, you're dead. This is only what your hate has made you. My Ani's lost control. He had to keep his thoughts of all the guilt and pain that her memories generated. If she had loved him, she would have come to him no matter what state he was in. That was the nature of love, so only his affection had proved true. He held to it. Love was forever. He shook that face, the face of a traitor, from his mind. He had more important things to think about, like the two jewels he would soon present to his master.
Suddenly an impulse hit him. Leia and Luke were the names of mortals, born without the Force and without a sense of their own future or place within the Galaxy. Not the names the proud Amidala would give her Force-born children. He wracked his brain, searching for the Jedi terms for his children's names. In their ancient Jedi forms, some names were relatively easy, like Ben to Obi-Wan. Some required no translation at all, like Anakin. A smile curved his lips as he remembered the information he sought. Leia's name was an easy lengthening, yet it held a profound meaning. Lelian, Daughter of Darkness. Luke would be Lucian, Son of Light. Both came straight out of ancient Jedi prophecy, as legendary as the myth of the Chosen One and the legacy of the Sith. Amidala's choices were fitting and strong, not to mention traditional.
Once again the overwhelming feeling of triumph permeated him. He had managed to find their records within the bowels of the Imperial Communications Network today: and what he saw pleased him. Leia's academic scores were astoundingly high: she had excellent aim (obviously inherited from her mother) and had shown remarkable leadership within the rebellion on several occasions. Luke's transcripts were harder to find, being from an isolated school in the outer rim. What little there was showed an amazing amount of dedication, a quick mind, an a distracting mechanical talent and fondness for piloting that frequently caused him to miss school or neglect his work. Vader smiled beneath his mask. How often his own mother had made similar remarks. Luke was truly his father's son, yet Leia remained a mystery.
More temperamental than her mother, more merciful than her father, She was a child of extremes as well as an uncharted asset waiting for discovery. Her nature would be revealed in time.
Their criminal records were also impressive. Luke had murdered no less than an estimated ten million on the Death Star, several AT-AT's at Hoth had fallen under his instruction, not to mention all the minor casualties he had racked up along his revolutionary way. Plus, he had co-founded and led the Elite Rouge Squadron, an unsavory distinction in and of itself. Leia was guilty of espionage, had led and planned the deadliest of Rebellion attacks, and blasted her way through over a hundred various officers and troops, but all these things were in the past. And what a colorful past. They should excel in the Empire.
What remained was delivering his heirs to Coruscant and overseeing their training. Tomorrow, he would have to take them down to Bespin with him. After all, even Sith Apprentices required clothing. He allowed himself a thought of extreme satisfaction. The Rebel Alliance would be crippled without two of their most efficient leaders, and he could focus on far more important matters, such as the corruption of his children's innocence. He gave them each a last glance. Finally, after over a year of searching and twenty of ignorant separation, they were together. "Welcome home." he said quietly, before turning and retiring to his pod for the night.
It was morning on the Executor. Leia stirred slowly. Finally convincing herself that it was worth the effort, she sat up and swung her feet to the ground. She was momentarily puzzled. Since when were there two beds in the room? But that didn't matter. Luke's bed was already smartly made, his clothing folded spartanly on the small chair. Show off. she thought obliquely.
I try. Countered an amused thought from the doorway. She turned to find Luke watching her.
"Do you ever knock?" she asked, giving him a slight kiss on the cheek before beginning to make her own bed. He smiled, but did not respond.
"Meet me on the bridge when you're done." he advised. He paused slightly, as if considering his next words.
"I believe you have a gift." Luke left immediately, as if fearing some sort of reproach. How vague.
Then she spotted a crisply folded pile. Overcome with curiosity, she made her way towards it and began to inspect. She let out a startled gasp. Oh, Force! It was a calf-length, silken skirt with shining leggings that looked extremely durable (forget durable, it was beautiful!), paired with a long velvety top in pure midnight black. The ensemble was completed with knee-length black boots in leather that practically melted at her tough. Never even as a princess had she worn anything so suited to her. The skirt flowed when she held it to her, admiring her reflection in the floor length mirror. Leia fought an urge to squeal in delight as she studied the outfit more thoroughly. Who had this good of tastes?
A sinking feeling caught her as she realized. Vader. No one else. It was a gift meant to pacify an errant child, and she'd fallen for it like an idiot. She threw the clothing aside with revulsion. She refused to accept any gift of his. It was partially an apology for his behavior earlier. Well, it wasn't good enough. To think she'd been about to wear that- that emblem. Suddenly she realized. It was an emblem of him. It had too many similarities to his own garb, proved her new wealth, station, and status as his daughter; a Princess once again. Violently she kicked the closet door open and threw the gift in the corner. Slowly she sat down on the bed, shaking with rage. She took deep, calming breaths.
This was not the way to behave, and regardless of her distaste for the outfit that had been provided, she needed something to wear. A quick glance in the closet made her grin. Her nicer things from the falcon had been washed and hung neatly in the closet as well. She carefully chose her most innocent, most virginal dress, holding up her father's gift for comparison. When she was thoroughly satisfied, she wadded up the skirt and shirt and buried them, crumpled and tight, once more. She winced involuntarily at the dent the hurled boots had made in the wall. Oops. The dress she'd chosen was the utter opposite of what Vader had provided. He would get the message. I'm not like you, your blood is merely an accident. she told herself over and over. And I'm going to prove it.
A quick trip through to fresher made her presentable. She didn't have time for an extremely elaborate braiding, so she bound it loosely in a braided, coiled bun. She privately considered it one of her best styles, but stooped midway through the job. Why was she trying to look good for Lord Vader? Was it that she wished to seem aloof and impressive, or did she truly want her newfound father's approval? If so, why had she rejected the gift? Was she just not ready for that kind of submissive gesture, to prove her wish to follow his will? Her own mind frequently confused her, but there was nothing to be done. He hair was halfway up, and she didn't have the time to fix it. Putting in the last few pins, she strode toward the door. It was thoroughly locked. How was she supposed to get to the bridge this way?
Need help? asked Luke in her brain.
Yes, actually. she replied. The door jerked once and slid open with a smooth flow. She reminded herself to ask him how he did that when he returned. Thanks. I'm coming. she sent with admiration.
Don't be long. He reminded her before breaking off. Then he was gone again, yet it felt as if he was more with her than he'd ever been.
It's the bonds. she decided. Every time she used them they were easier to manage. She wondered if eventually she'd be as expert as her brother, or General Kenobi had been when he fought Vader. She remembered the slaying. Kenobi had been a good friend of her adopted father. Yet another crime to add to Vader's growing list.
In short order she found the bridge. It was easy to follow the gawking officers to their destination. It was not surprising that they starred, women were rarely, if ever, allowed in the Imperial Military, and her origins were a total mystery. Those who had seen her being brought on board seemed doubly surprised. A Rebel was walking unguarded towards the bridge? Surely not.
When the bridge doors opened to admit her, Luke's head was already turned in her direction. He wore a sleek black uniform that he'd probably changed into after they'd spoken. He didn't want their father's little surprise ruined. Traitor. she thought angrily.
Her brother looked puzzled. What did she mean, and where was her own set of garments? Vader was similarly alerted to her arrival. He took in her white dress, but gave no outward sign of dismay and said nothing. She felt deep waves of disappointment roll over her, which surprisingly made her acutely uncomfortable, but nothing more. Finally he spoke.
"We'll be going down to the surface to purchase whatever you may require. May I trust you not to take advantage of my generosity?" She nodded regally.
"Of course you may. I would hope to defeat you in a more equal arena than that."
Luke's eyes widened with respect. Leia's choice of words was stinging, challenging, and amiable all at once. How could he ever hope to be as excellent of a diplomat as she was?
"We were just looking over the ship's plans. It's really a powerhouse, Leia. You've got to see this." She slowly walked to Luke's side. Information about the ship could prove useful in her escape plans. What she saw made no sense to her. Odd schematics and numbers were everywhere, seemingly crawling across the computer screen. She pointed to the oddest.
"What does that one mean?" she asked quietly.
Luke frowned. "You don't know? But that's pretty basic. I mean, the altitude coordinator is standard on even city planes."
She shook her head. "I've never flown anything, not even a hover car or air taxi. Everyone always said it was too dangerous, that I'd try some daredevil stunt and then where would Alderann be?"
"You mean that you've never flown? Ever?" Vader asked. She'd forgotten he was there, but his voice didn't shock her.
"No, but I've always wanted to do more than man the turret. Luke makes it seem so fun, so easy." She blushed. She'd forgotten whom she was talking to. Luke started rapidly explaining everything, and someone offered her a chair, stammering at the beauty of the unexpected woman and the attention Vader paid her. Eventually the Dark Lord left, the Emperor demanded an update on the mission. The twins had winced. The mission meant Luke's capture, and they thoroughly disliked being referred to as a 'mission.' He'd excused himself and walked back to his quarters to receive the transmission.
What do you mean traitor? Luke asked his sister as they starred at a schematic.
Leia bristled slightly. You know precisely what I mean.
Luke frowned. I'm a telepath, not a sorcerer. You'll have to enlighten me.
Fine. You accepted his gift, and now you're strutting around like an Imperial! Have you already forgotten who you are, or how much the Rebellion needs you?
No, Luke countered indignantly. but you' haven't spent all your life wishing for a Father. You have no idea what it's like. I do, and I'm not so sure I want to give up something I've been dreaming of for twenty years. My teachers have lied to me. How much can I trust them, when they're the ones who want me to kill my own father? Besides, I'm not the one wasting my time with senseless little rebellions.
She paused and sighed. She ignored his last comment. You don't know that I didn't wish for a father too. I've always wanted parents. Wanted it more than anything, because as kind as they were the Organas never really loved me. At least you lived on Tattoine with Ben, and no one ever brought you into things you weren't ready to handle. At least no one pretended to care, bring up your hopes and crashing them down. And I'm not going to give up on Rebellion, or stop hopping for a chance to escape. I need you to think of the good of the rebellion, not what we want. Will you help me?
He didn't respond, just slowly nodded, and together they turned back to the screen. She supposed that was enough.
Vader sighed. At the rate his children were broadcasting their thoughts, he could hear every word of the conversation. Poor misguided, lonely Leia, poor deceived and abandoned Luke. If only he had found them sooner, preferably before his own daughter decided that he was her nemesis. She was certainly worthy competition, but he hadn't wanted this.
Vader knelt reverently before the holoprojector. The Emperor's cracked and ancient face stared down at him, and he was raped of the physical advantages of height he usually enjoyed. He hated going without any advantage almost as much as Emperor Palpatine enjoyed taking one away from him.
"Rise, my servant." commanded a thick, cracked voice. Vader did so, still averting his eyes in respect. The Emperor assumed it to be reverence and fear: let him. It was not in Vader's interest to reveal his contempt for his master and his rule. "Have you corrupted the Son of Skywalker? Is he aboard?" Son of Skywalker? Still his master refused to acknowledge Luke as Vader's own. It was infuriating!
Vader retold the events with brevity. "Yes, my Master, but he is unfrozen. He jumped off a spire rather than submit." Palpatine looked pensive.
"Such perseverance," he muttered, distractedly gesturing for his servant to continue. Vader privately thought it was endearingly so, as was Leia's fiery glance that boldly invited his challenge when he'd frozen his errant child's beloved. Their spirits were qualities that deserved to be used to the benefit of the Empire.
He continued. "The crew of the Millennium Falcon rescued him from a weather vane he was clinging to, but they too were captured." He hesitated, waiting for his Master's reaction.
"Excellent, my friend, but I sense there is something more. Something you are neglecting to tell me, perhaps? Is this so?" Vader hesitated, carefully deciding what to reveal about his daughter.
"There is an unknown benefit of this mission that has been brought to my attention. It greatly aids the Empire, but it will be so much more enjoyable for you if you are surprised by it." Vader purred smoothly. Palpatine leaned foreword with interest.
"I am surprised by very little, Lord Vader." But Vader could see that his ruse was working. Palpatine was intrigued. "I did not mean to imply that you were not, however as I myself just discovered this development, and we have not known of it in all the years this tool has been right before us, I do think that you will enjoy the rarity of a surprise."
Palpatine smiled, a sick gesture that filled his servant with a hidden loathing. "Very well then. I await your arrival and congratulate you on your success." The image flickered, then dissipated. Vader breathed a sigh. He didn't want his master taking over Leia's education while it was still in its volatile stage, or forbidding her training until she was presented before his superior. He'd prefer to be the one to teach his children the ways of the Force, as he needed their assistance to overthrow Palpatine. He would enjoy their training. It would be the first challenge he'd had in years, a task worthy of a dark lord.
Leia and Luke were still at the counsel when he returned. Heads together, they were discussing three-dimensional lift when he cleared his throat. Leia looked like she'd just been told that she was secretly a Wookiee. The bewilderment on her face was as clear to read as a map. Luke beamed with the thrill of being in his element. They looked up and followed him at his gesture. Piett gazed after them with awe. These two Rebels really knew their way with the powers that be. Suddenly they were following Lord Vader like trained pets. But they and his feared commander talked with a measure of equality! He'd never seen anyone manage that! He shook his head. Sometimes one could do nothing but wait for the answers, which he had learned to do to advance this far along the ranks.
In the corridor, Luke praised his sister. She was an especially quick pupil. "We'll finish up later, but you've got a pretty good grasp of taking off." She beamed.
"It's the landing that I'm worried about. I'm much more valuable with a basic grasp of this. I just wish I were as good as you." She admitted with envy.
"Don't worry about it. Until a few years ago I'd only flown in goo. Atmosphere, I mean. Beggar's Canyon was great though. I ought to show you sometime." Luke consoled her.
"You were allowed to go through Beggar's Canyon? Lars the Provincial actually let you off the ground?" Vader intruded into the conversation out of surprise. "Barley." Luke muttered.
"Ever fly in a pod race?" His father asked with genuine interest. "Only once, but it was great. I won! I don't think it was really fair though. The strongest competitor dropped out when he heard I was entering. He came up to me looking like he'd seen a ghost and told me personally that he wouldn't race another one of us slave scum for any amount of prize money."
Vader chuckled. "Let me guess. Subulba. I'm glad that impudent dug finally learned his lesson. What was your time?" He asked, suddenly serious. Luke frowned.
"A little over three kimits. I didn't beat the record." He said sullenly. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm just glad you didn't beat me."
Luke's jaw dropped. "Wait a minute. You raced, you- Did you live on Tattoine?" "Unfortunately. I have only unpleasant memories of that Force forsaken planet. Well, that's not entirely true. I did meet your mother there." Leia piped up. "She was a native too?"
Vader actually laughed at this. "Oh Force no! She and Qui Gon and Obi-" He suddenly stopped, as if in pain, and straightened, as if remembering who he was. Leia sighed. She'd been enjoying the amiability of the conversation, as well as the prospect of learning about her heritage. She'd almost deluded herself into thinking that she could love this embodiment of her dreams, her longed for, needed father, that they could all love each other and be happy together. Father, daughter and son. But it was a lie, and one she'd told to herself.
Vader could hear her thinking, but he didn't outwardly betray it. Luke flinched in pain. Poor child. Poor sweet sister whom I love. She needs us, you know. The last sentiment was directed to his father. She needs to be shown compassion. Luke silently pleaded.
I can do nothing until she expresses these thoughts. Vader thought curtly. Luke nodded and looked down. They were all too wary. It could cost them this second chance at rebuilding their family and knowing each other. Once again he would have to be the mediator, the one who forgot his own pride long enough to see the people and emotions behind the problem, just as he had done for Han and Leia. He smirked to himself. Who would mediate for him?
At the door to their corridors, Vader handed them each a sleek silver card. Luke's eyes exploded and he practically dropped the card. It was more money than the citizens of Mos Eisly made in a decade! He made a gasping, stuttering noise as he regained his composure. Leia looked impressed in spite of herself. It was quite a lot of money for a simple excursion. "It's the daily allowance the Emperor provides his favored servants. I suggest you use it to purchase the clothing and personal items you require, since you obviously do not approve of my choices, Princess." Leia blushed scarlet and looked away, suddenly fascinated by a storm trooper across the hallway. Luke's jaw dropped impossibly farther.
"Da- da- daily? Daily?" He looked about ready to faint. Vader and Leia were straining not to laugh. "Get used to it, farm boy." Leia muttered. "Do NOT call me farm boy! I just hate that and you know it!" Luke said with true anger. The dubbing 'farm boy' always made him feel unimportant and uncultured, far away from Jedi aristocrats like Ben.
"You have the oddest role models, boy." Vader said dryly. "Obi Wan is the last person you should wish to emulate. And no, I will not tell you why." He said as Luke's lips parted to ask. At least I don't call you wormie. Leia thought. Luke turned an alarming pale green. Yes, that was definitely something to be thankful for.
Leia turned arrogantly to Vader. "I refuse to spend your Imperial credits. I will furnish my necessities out of my own account, thus I will not require this." She spoke formally and held out the credit voucher with disdain. "If you insist on being difficult, very well Lelian." Her defiance annoyed him. He had simply attempted to favor his daughter. Why did she so abjectly and blindly refuse him, as well as every small kindness he tried to bestow? Leia frowned. "What?"
"Lelian is your true name. " Vader said smoothly. He had to accustom them to the names and titles they would use in the Imperial Court. It would be untoward for certain people to be overly informed about their family's rather interesting past. "Lelian and Lucian. The names you use are but abbreviations of their traditional forms." He turned to Luke. "And you, do you wish to childishly defy me as well?" Luke looked down.
"I- I don't have any money." He mumbled. "I've never been rich." Leia touched Luke's arm in reassurance, he looked up at her concerned face and nodded, looking his father in the eye and slowly taking the voucher. "Thank you." Luke said quietly. Vader nodded in approval. The boy had been rim-bread and been given only a rim worlder's education, but Beru had managed to instill a basic politeness in his son. Lucian... Luke thought privately. Prince Lucian... I like it!
The idea of ruling the galaxy alongside his father had once been horrifying, but the need for power ran through his veins, thicker than blood and far more potent, as did the omnipresent force. He could see them now, clearer than reality, striking down the Emperor and ending his autocracies. With Leia's inspirational brilliance and his father's strength, they could unite the war torn galaxy and rule. He would finally shine, just as he was meant to. What was he thinking? Killing the Emperor would be useless. Their Empire would be just as cruel and problem riddled. Why had he allowed himself to be so tempted by the lures of the dark side? Still, it couldn't hurt to learn all he could from his father, a far more experienced and immensely better-trained Jedi, obviously stronger than Ben and Yoda. If only he could redeem Vader, call him back to the light of his past. They could base their Empire off the wishes and needs of the people and rule with the wisdom and peace of the light side of the force, avoiding the weakness and corrosion of the Old Republic as well as the pettiness and horror of the Empire. His family could do it. They were wise enough not to abuse a hereditary monarchy. If only he knew how. He sighed.
It would take more than love to save his father from the dark, deadly cloud of agony and regrets that shrouded the man. He worried if he could even summon that emotion, and worried further when he realized that he could already feel it welling up within him.
Leia disappeared into the deep closet and emerged in a simple green dress. Knee length, its charmingly embroidered collars and hems flowed into graceful translucent sleeves. "So?" Leia expectantly twirled and asked her brother. Luke stroked his chin with his right hand. "It's pretty, but it's almost too common. " "I know." She said as she stepped into brown flats. "That's why I picked it. I don't want to stand out and attract unwanted attention, merely to blend in." Luke nodded.
"That'll be hard, considering our company. No offense." He amended himself. His father graciously nodded. "I already considered what I should change into, but I have few options. I can't really wear a rebel flight suit or rim farmer's garb." Luke admitted. "Does this really single me out?" he asked with trepidation. " "Not at all." his father said calmly. Leia nodded in agreement. "It's quite popular on Coruscant," It's Imperial Center now. Vader thought. "Imperial Center, whichever. Vader imitators are really in deman-" She choked on her words, realizing that the man was actually in the room, and seeing the new connotations. She burst out laughing as Vader turned away, visibly displaying an emotion she would almost call sheepish embarrassment.
Luke looked quite confused, then a red shade crept on to his tanned face. He coughed tactfully. "Are you ready to proceed? We can not delay the Emperor long." Vader interrupted, apparently overcoming his embarrassment and ready to end their juvenile behavior. Leia's whoops of mirth subsided, and Luke coughed one more time and slowly returned to normal. "Yes, let's go." he said weakly.
They strolled to the shuttle bay, Luke with his customary alert nonchalance, Leia catching the officers glares of disgust at the thought of a female on board and answering them with nonverbal challenges of her own, Vader didn't so much walk as he prowled. His huge stride was made in the demeanor of a hunting animal. He had always reminded Leia of a deadly jungle cat, a massive predator who had stalked its prey and could feel the impending kill within its dark blood.
When they reached Lord Vader's personal shuttle, the long silver ramp descended with no more than a slight click. Luke cocked an eyebrow at his sister, impressed in spite of herself. No one spoke until the doors slid shut. Luke clenched his fists.
"How dare they stare at you like that?" He asked his sister incredulously. "Half of them wanted to kill you, and the other half were practically drooling on the floor." "It's all right Luke," she reassured him, slightly astonished by his behavior, "You don't have to be so protective." "They should still give you more respect." He grumbled.
Lord Vader rose from the pilot's chair in a steady, fluid motion. "I agree with Luke. You will have to establish dominance over these men and create your own rank. They will not comprehend your station or how they should respond to you." She stiffened and raised her chin defiantly. "I can take care of my self." Leia snapped. Vader advanced towards her deliberately.
"Do not play the princess. I see right through you. For all your command and attitude, you're my princess. I created you, I own you in every way you can imagine. You are yet too young and untrained, practically a child, to do anything of the sort." She straightened her bearing and gave him her haughtiest look. "You're possessive, for one who abandoned us. I've taken care of myself for years, and I've improved greatly since you destroyed my home." Which should have been with me, he thought. "I don't need anyone to tell me what I can and cannot do. And as for owning me? We shall see about that." She pivoted sharply on her heel and stomped deeper into the shuttle. "Lelian..." He called after her. He slumped down into his chair in defeat. She was already out of range.
Luke let out a weary sigh. "You've done it again. She's really furious this time." Vader frowned. "I would think she would be angrier over my lapse earlier." "She doesn't understand telepathic protocol at all." Luke explained. "She sees no rules or limits, so though she was angry she didn't truly understand the implications and meanings of what you tried to do." His eyes shifted from a warm turquoise to an icy shade of blue. "I'm furious about that, by the way. Why did you even try to-"
"I lost my temper." he interrupted. "I couldn't control myself. It's a side effect of harnessing extreme dark side power. You sometimes loose control of your actions." He lightly touched the Imperial prosthetic hand. Luke jerked away on instinct. "Sorry." Luke said lamely. He felt like an idiot for flinching from his own father's touch. " "I understand." His father consoled with a nod. "That was an example of a time when I allowed the dark side to override my self control."
Vader stood. "It will not happen again." He said it with such conviction that Luke was startled. "I better go talk to her." He said with a worried glance towards his sister, not wishing to discuss the subject any further. "I think I'm beginning to see where her extreme temperament comes from." He teased with a smile. Don't blame that on me, Vader thought darkly. Your mother contributed as well.
Luke walked a few steps before turning at the door. "May I ask why you need to harness extreme dark side power?" His tone was that of an inquisitor, but he leaned lazily into he doorframe. His father sounded dryly amused. "I use it to stay alive." Luke looked shocked.
"Force- How bad are your injuries? What's they're extent?" "They're consistent with fighting an extremely harsh light saber battle and being pushed off a precipice into a pit of lava. Without the force, I would have died at Obi Wan's hand." Luke looked deeply troubled. In this rendition, It was Ben that betrayed his father. Oh Ben, thought Luke, why did you lie to me? Can I trust you about anything, even my direction in the force? How many truths did you alter to gain my trust?
"Haven't you ever tried to heal yourself?" Luke asked, his voice awash with concern. His father sighed. "I can not. I need more power than I can use in this weakened state." Our combined strengths. Thought Luke. "Is that why you wanted me? To heal you so you can extract revenge on Palpatine?" Vader stiffened. "Shied your thoughts if you intend on saying something like that, boy! Do you realize how lucky you are that the Emperor wasn't listening? And no, I wanted to claim my child. Does my answer satisfy you, precocious one? I do intend to overthrow my Master. I would not lie to you." Luke cringed. "You're right, I was thoughtless."
He drew upon his power to form a barrier against those outside the cabin. Inwardly, he was overjoyed that he meant something to his imposing father, more than an element in a plan. Vader nodded approval. "You're work could use refining, but it's strong. You don't use all the power you could, though. I doubt you're even aware of it." "I would like to learn, if you're willing to teach me." Luke responded carefully. "Do you abandoned your former mentor's teachings so quickly?" His voice held nothing to guide his answer, so Luke spoke what he considered to be the truth.
"He lied about Leia, indirectly, but I consider neglecting to tell me a lie, and he flat out lied about you. How can I trust someone like that? And as you claim, you would not lie to me." "You trust me?" "No, not yet, but I might learn to. I want to use my power. Explore every facet, reach the full potential of my birthright. To do that, I must learn from you."
"Profound thoughts, for one so young. A wise choice as well. You're so much like me, my son, but perhaps you are wiser. Wise enough to avoid my mistakes and accept your fate. We shall see." Luke shrugged and walked after Leia. Only time will tell. Luke though amiably. Indeed. His father agreed.