Governor Wilhuff Tarkin took a menacing step to loom over the tiny princess of Alderaan.
"I grow tired of asking, so it will be for the last time … where is the main Rebel base?"
Leia Organa lowered her head in defeat, "Dantooine. They're on Dantooine."
"There, you see, Lord Vader?" Tarkin said with a supercilious smirk. "I told you she could be reasonable. Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready."
"What?!" the princess gasped.
Darth Vader sighed softly. This whole interaction was too tedious. Tarkin had lied to Organa, Leia Organa had lied (about the base location) to Tarkin, and the end result was the same. Alderaan would be destroyed, and he, Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, would have to find another way to determine the true location of the Rebel base.
"You're far too trusting," Tarkin stated, "Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration but don't worry; we will deal with your Rebel friends soon enough."
"No!" Organa cried out as she took a step forward. Vader reached a hand out to clasp the woman's slight shoulder and yanked her close to him.
A moment, a second, a fraction of a second later, the young woman twisted around in his grip and lifted her suddenly unbound hands towards him. He found himself, to his complete astonishment, hurling through the air from the hardest Force push he'd experienced in more than a decade.
He crashed into a wall, denting it dramatically, before bouncing back to his feet in disbelief. What was that?
Tarkin was standing in the middle of the room now, his hands around his throat, his face convulsing with a desperate need for oxygen. Leia Organa stood with her hands outstretched toward the desiccated form of the startled governor. To one side were a series of technicians with their mouths hanging open; to the other, four stormtroopers stood in confusion, waiting for an order to fire, but Tarkin couldn't and Vader wouldn't. Organa was obviously a powerful and trained Force user, and he would deal with her personally.
Vader lit his lightsaber and charged toward the girl just as …
Just as the door slid open and two humans rushed in. One, an older man, bearded, bearing a blue lightsaber.
The other was a young man of about 20 standard years, his hair blond, his clothing tan and shaggy, and in his hand he carried a glowing white lightsaber.
Vader snarled with rage and bewilderment and raced toward his old master. Kenobi blocked his old student with ease, then riposted rapidly, forcing Vader to focus on not losing a limb.
Not that he had any doubt that he could defeat the aged Jedi. Obi-Wan looked old, and decrepit, and weathered, and … and … rather grimy, even. But it would take some time to take the man's head off and in the meantime ...
In the meantime, the unknown youth had tossed a lightsaber to the princess of Alderaan, and she had lit it to display another blue blade, which she proceeded to use to tear through the stormtroopers like so much saltnut butter.
The young man was obviously also trained, because he deflected a few shots from the Imperial troopers to help the princess before turning his attention back to Vader and Kenobi. He stepped forward in support of the old man. Vader knocked the youth back but failed to deliver a killing blow, then swung around in time to land a series of blows on Kenobi's saber. His old master staggered back and Vader pressed forward, only to lurch to one side as the Force screamed a warning.
Now Organa had joined the fight, having killed all the troopers and technicians, plus Tarkin whose life had ended not from lack of oxygen, but from losing a head. Indeed, it was one against three and while Vader was the most powerful Force user of his generation save Palpatine, he might well be in trouble here …
"Leia!" The youth cried out. "What did he do to you?"
Vader retreated toward a control panel and drew the power of Darkness toward himself. If his adversaries were fool enough to discuss the princess's unpleasant experiences, it would give him time to make plans.
Organa narrowed her eyes though she kept them fixed on the Dark Lord, "What do you think he did? Murdered my shipmates on the Tantive IV, dragged me here, and spent hours torturing me in a feeble attempt to find the location of the Rebel base."
Feeble? His interrogation had hardly been feeble.
He opened his mouth in vague protest only to be nearly knocked over by a sudden wave of horror and anger and … and hurt emanating from the young man.
The boy was strong! And what was that emotion? Dismay? Bewilderment? He was a Sith Lord. What did the young man expect?
"He ... he tortured you, Leia? I … I didn't imagine that even he, as evil as he is, would do something so ... so …"
"I told you, Luke," Kenobi said. Why did the man sound positively smug? "I told you, he is more machine now than man …"
"Twisted and evil!" The princess and 'Luke' chimed simultaneously, sounding both irritated and sarcastic.
"Honestly, Obi-Wan, I am going to buy a holoframe for you and put it on your wall," Luke said irritably. "It will say, He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil. You can wake up to its blinking words every morning."
"You really do say it a lot, Obi-Wan," the princess said in a regal tone. "It gets dull."
"My apologies to you both," the old Jedi said with a twist of his lips. "I would hate to bore you. But regardless of the words, I believe the message is true enough. He obviously has no fragment of Anakin Skywalker left in him …"
Vader flinched in spite of himself.
"That name no longer has any meaning for me," he snarled coldly.
The young man, Luke (Luke, Luke, why was that name familiar?) gazed at him with oddly familiar, and very reproachful, eyes.
"I guess it doesn't, huh?" he said quietly. "If you could do such a thing to Leia, of all people, there really is nothing left of your former self."
To the princess, of all people? Why would he care about the well being of the princess?
"I didn't tell him," Leia Organa suddenly announced in a rather defiant tone.
There was another wave of astonishment from the young man, and the blue eyes (again, so familiar!) shot a quick glance at the girl.
"You didn't tell him? Are you crazy?"
"Tell me what?" Vader wondered.
"No," the girl replied, standing up straight, her brown eyes flashing. "I had no idea you would show up here and I kept silent for you, to protect you. What was I supposed to say?"
"How about the truth?" the boy answered in a snarky tone. "Lord Vader, I'm your biological daughter so can you please not torture me?"
"What?" Vader sputtered out, though his wobbly incredulity was masked by the bass of the vocoder.
"That would have been a bad idea," Organa replied without acknowledging the Sith's bewildered utterance, "He would have said something like 'No, Amidala died on Mustafar.'"
Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, took a shaky step backward and his sword hand dropped briefly. The princess knew about … about Padme? What was this?
"He wouldn't call her Amidala," the young man stated indignantly, his eyes on Vader's black mask. "He would call her Padme. They were married, after all."
"There is nothing left in this broken down husk of the man that was once Anakin Skywalker," Leia Organa retorted angrily, "Nothing."
"He's more machine now than man," Kenobi pontificated again.
"Twisted and evil!" both young people chorused sarcastically.
The princess continued irascibly, "I wasn't just protecting Mother. Vader would have asked, 'What about your twin, Princess? If you are really whom you claim you are, where is your twin?"
The boy shook his head, "He didn't know his wife was carrying twins, Leia."
Now the girl rolled her eyes dramatically, "That is ridiculous, Luke. Ridiculous! There is no way in all the star systems and nebula that Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader, the most powerful Force user of his generation, would not have spent two seconds scanning his wife's pregnant torso to learn that she was carrying twins. It is impossible he could have been that clueless. He knew there were twins."
The Sith Lord felt his damaged eyes bugging out, and his voice was barely above a whisper, "Padme was carrying twins?"
Leia Organa's jaw dropped in disbelief for a long moment. Then she shook her head, "I stand corrected. You truly were that clueless."
Luke groaned aloud and lowered his saber slightly, "Let's start from the beginning. Lord Vader, my name is Luke Skywalker and I am your son. Leia Organa is my twin sister and therefore she is your daughter. Mom survived Mustafar, had a rough time giving birth, spent 9 years in a coma, has been steadily recovering since then and is now alive and well and full of vim and vigor."
There was a long frozen moment as Darth Vader stood, shaking visibly, his saber wobbling in his hand, his gaze shifting from dark haired girl to blond youth to his old master, ragged and old.
"Padme … Padme died on Mustafar, didn't she, Obi-Wan?" he finally asked tremulously. His vocoder didn't know what to do with the tone and his words stopped and started, but he managed to convey the message.
"No," Kenobi said gravely, his eyes narrowed with … what was that, confusion? "No, she survived, as Luke said, and gave birth to the twins the next day."
"She's … she's alive?" he asked, and found himself leaning against a convenient wall for support, his lightsaber dropping to the ground. "Padme is alive? Where … where is she?"
Luke tilted his head toward the transparisteel window where Alderaan floated serenely in space, "She's on Alderaan with Leia's adoptive parents, the Organas."
Darth Vader slumped farther and beat his mask slowly and methodically against the wall. He could sense the truth in the young man's words, and in his old master's as well. His wife was alive, his (twin!) children were alive, and if the Death Star had destroyed Alderaan, he would have lost his precious Padme (again) without even knowing it.
He heard the familiar sound of a lightsaber but didn't bother looking up. If they wanted to kill him, that was fine, except … except …
He leaped to his feet, his saber skittering into his hand, and then watched in astonishment as his daughter, her own blue blade dancing to and fro, proceeded to destroy the panels and technical readouts which controlled the Death Star superlaser.
"That is but a temporary solution," he pointed out.
"I know," the princess, his daughter, said with a flash of her brown eyes, "but it's a start. Luke and Master Kenobi, let's chop off his arms and legs and get off the space station so we can figure out how to blow up this monstrosity. Or we can kill him, but I suppose you won't go for that, Luke."
"Absolutely not," Luke replied indignantly. "And you know Mom would be upset too. She believes there is still good in him."
"We would be fools to leave him alive," Kenobi replied, his aged eyes a mixture of sorrow and determination. "He's more machine …"
"Don't even say it!" yelped Leia. "Just don't!
Three pairs of eyes fixed on Vader and three lightsabers rose to the first position, and three pairs of feet stepped closer and Darth Vader lifted his own saber.
"Take me with you," the deep voice requested plaintively.
Kenobi stopped, his brow furrowed in bewilderment, "What?"
"Take me with you," the Sith repeated. "Please. I must see Padme with my … with my own eyes."
"Do you think that after what you did to me that we're going to trust you?" the princess demanded incredulously.
"No," Vader replied blankly, humbly. "No. I do not … I do not expect you to trust me. But … but I must see her. I must. And I can … I can help you. I can help you destroy the Death Star, and it must be destroyed to keep you all safe. And I can help you get off this space station. Please."
His former master and his twin children exchanged doubtful glances and then young Luke Skywalker shrugged, "I like it. Let's bring him."
"It's not safe, Luke," Obi-Wan began. "He is more …"
He trailed off as Leia jabbed the old man in the stomach with her left elbow.
"What if he tries to kill us all?" she demanded harshly.
"I won't," Vader replied as sincerely as possible.
The princess stared at him fiercely and he sensed her probing him powerfully with the Force. She shielded … so well. So incredibly well. How had he missed her Force sensitivity?
The girl's beautiful face relaxed.
She gazed at her twin (her twin!) and smiled, "Ok, I'm with you. Let's do this!"
The Palace Roof (Docking Bay #3)
45 minutes later
Padme Amidala Naberrie Skywalker waited until the ramp of the Millennium Falcon hit the ground, and half a second later she was racing up the ramp.
She was met at the entrance of the ship by Obi-Wan Kenobi. The old Jedi, usually so calm, was nearly wild eyed and he promptly began babbling.
"This is a terrible idea, Padme, but the twins wouldn't be convinced. He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil!"
She strode past him and found Captain Solo emerging from the cockpit. She had rather taken to the young man on their trip from Tatooine to Alderaan. He seemed like a good man in a fight.
"This is going to cost you, Naberrie," the man said with an irritable growl. "I didn't get paid to let the likes of him on my ship."
At the Corellian's side stood the giant Wookiee Chewbacca. He too was obviously distressed and was muttering away in Shyriiwook.
She flung them both a startled look and picked up her pace, entering the main cabin of the Falcon a moment later.
Leia stood to one side of the door and Padme threw her arms around her daughter, "Oh Leia, Leia! Are you all right?"
She stepped back slightly and gazed fiercely into her daughter's brown eyes, "Did he hurt you?"
Her daughter tossed her chin up in a gesture all too similar to that of Anakin Skywalker in his youth, "He did hurt me, Mother, but I'm fine."
There was a sound to her right and Padme turned just as Darth Vader, two meters tall, dark and ominous, rose slowly to his feet from a chair. At his side was the slight form of her beloved son.
"And Luke," she asked tremulously, studiously avoiding looking directly into the black mask of the Sith Lord. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," the young man assured her with a shaky smile. "Just fine. Vader … Father insisted on coming with us to see you."
The former queen of Naboo sucked in a breath and turned her direct gaze on the cyborg. She had seen images of Vader on the holonet; indeed, she had identified her former husband by his typical movements and tells though they were somewhat disguised by the heavy armor. But only now, in his presence, did she truly understand how much he had changed. He was taller, and huge, and menacing, and …
Vader spoke, and again his deep voice was nothing like that of his former identity, "Padme."
"Anakin?" she whispered back.
He took a step forward, and she straightened her body, determined not to flinch or show fear before the man who had been her best friend and lover and husband and father of her children and was now … this.
The Sith stared at her for another long moment, and she noted his body was trembling noticeably.
"It is true," the deep voice murmured. "You're alive, Padme. You're alive."
"Of course I am," she began, then broke off as the giant fell to his knees before her, as the great gloved hands lifted up and, to the shock of all present, lifted off the mask to reveal a horribly disfigured face.
Padme's eyes filled with tears and she felt the liquid drip down her cheeks as she stared into the blue eyes which were set in a heavily scarred visage. His eyebrows were gone, she noted abstractly, and the nose had been reshaped by fire. She stepped closer and knelt down next to him and this close, she could hear the horrible wheezes from the damaged lungs.
"I can die in peace," the ragged voice stated now, this one similar to the young man who had won her heart long ago, "because I have seen your face again with my own eyes, dear Padme."
She was crying hard now. She leaned forward to clasp the armored chest and she planted a fierce kiss on the damaged forehead and then, with the strength forged from assassination attempts and war and battles and lava and childbirth, she dug deep inside for that most fragile of all things: hope.
Firmly, Padme Skywalker reached for the mask which lay at the Sith Lord's side.
"Help me put this back on, Ani," she ordered. "And then let's talk about how we can destroy that horrifying monstrosity hanging out there in space."
Author Note: I could seriously go so much farther with this, obviously. BUT I have 2 other fanfics I'm working on. So for now, a one shot. My editor is suspicious, though, as I'm notorious for making one shots, two shots, and then three shots…we'll see, won't we?