1: The Fall

Part 1

At the moment of decision Luke had turned away from his father lying defenceless at his feet and gone, instead, for the Emperor. But the old, seemingly frail creature in the hooded cape had reached out through the Force and battered him down with humiliating ease. He'd thought, as the darkness claimed him, that it was the dark of death. But it had been more - and less - than that. Unconsciousness, and the first steps down a shadowed path to his future.

He woke in a small, grey-walled cell with one exit and no windows, sterile and empty. With no way of gauging the passage of time it was difficult to know how long he was left alone; the light was irritatingly bright and was never lowered to differentiate between day and night.

He tried meditating, looking for his centre of calm, but it seemed to have deserted him out there on the narrow bridge facing his fallen father. Fear gave way to resignation, which gave way to anger. And then the fear came back, finally, when he wondered over and over again what he should have done.

I should have died, should have been prepared to fall the way I did at Bespin. That would have solved all my problems. But the chance to reject the Dark had passed and he finally found some understanding in that empty bright room. Ignoring what he was would not make the bad things go away. He had to master them, and his fear, if he was to survive. And he realised, after hours of restless pacing, that he did want to live.

He'd given in to his rage and fear when he'd attacked Vader and although that fire had died down in him he could sense the stain on his spirit, a stain he suspected would grow with time. It would be harder in future to ignore the siren call of dark power.

Yoda was right. It comes so easy. Anger or fear, hatred, any strong feeling and there it is. If I got mad enough I could probably punch a hole right through the side of this ship....

Although he saw no-one during that tedious time he could sense his father and Palpatine near him on board the ship. No living guards were allowed near him - he guessed they were concerned he would manipulate the weak- minded crew, which he certainly would have tried. Robots brought his meals, leaving them in a separate room which opened to him only when the droids had left. He had a bed, a fresher stall and toilet, some personal toiletries and changes of clothes and nothing else.

Finally, he sensed a growing presence of power as the door opened and Vader entered. Luke sat on the bunk and looked up into the black mask, realising suddenly that he could sense far more about his father than he had before he'd boarded the Death Star. Darkness spoke to Darkness, it seemed.

Determined not to react, Luke sat motionless and the two men studied each other in silence. Vader finally spoke, still standing in the open doorway.

"The Emperor commands your presence."

As Luke continued to sit in silence he could sense Vader's growing anger. He enjoyed the feel of it, the fact that he could cause the Dark Lord to react. But there was power there, older and deeply set in the bone, the kind of power he had no experience of. It stirred him to prod at his father's ego.

"And you obey him in everything. Come here. Go there. Destroy a planet. Kill your son. I'm impressed."

He watched Vader's gloved hands clench slowly into fists, noted absently that the hand he'd cut off was back again. As if it had never gone. Vader spoke in a calm, rigidly controlled tone.

"He is the Master. I respect his abilities, his power. As you should respect mine."

"I seem to recall," Luke said softly, "a duel."

Vader didn't move but Luke's sense of intimidation grew. "I have not forgotten. I gave in to a moment of weakness which I will not repeat. Now, I will only ask this once more - do I have your obedience, or must I enforce it?"

Luke stood slowly, unfolding himself, sudden recklessness making him dizzy. "By all means. Enforce it...if you can..."

Vader moved fast for a big man; he was in front of Luke in a flash, his right hand moving up to grab Luke around the throat, lifting him from the floor. Luke kicked and struggled, drawing on his power to attack and Vader squeezed tighter. "One flicker," his father whispered, shaking him, "one suggestion of your striking out at me, and I'll crush you. Son or no, I will accept no disobedience. Do - you - understand?" He shook Luke like a doll with each word.

Holding onto the gloved fist with both hands, Luke felt his vision swim as the air was cut from his brain. Finally, he agreed, mouthing a yes, unable to speak. Vader let him drop and he staggered back against the wall, gasping in huge, painful lungfuls of air.

Luke straightened and swallowed through a constricted throat; it hurt, yet in all honesty he knew he'd earned only what he'd asked for when he'd issued the challenge. But it was harder still to be calm. "Very well. Lead on."

They walked together through the corridors of Vader's Star Destroyer. Luke's natural curiosity momentarily overcome his other concerns. "May I ask what your plans are for me?" "I am commanded to take you to the Emperor. I have no plans beyond that."

"I see." Luke didn't look at the tall figure walking beside him, and though Vader's shields were impenetrable, he thought that might be a lie. "And what are his plans for me?"

"The Emperor knows that you have the potential of being a very powerful Force user. He cannot allow you to become a Jedi."

"Have you considered," Luke said softly, "that I may prefer death to becoming like you, like him? After all, I can't really see myself being a Dark Lord." He gave a small smile. "I'm not very intimidating."

Vader led him to a door and flicked it open, motioning Luke to enter. The room was large and poorly lit, full of shadows. "Size and appearance mean nothing. Power, ability, they are what matter. You have within you the power of a great Dark Lord. To deny that is to deny yourself."

He felt his father stop beside him in the gloom and wondered where his fear had gone. Perhaps, like the loneliness, it would come later.