Title: Coruscant Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK?
Teaser: Someone is running a sweepstakes!
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd and Fox Studios. I'm only borrowing them for fun. No money is being made.
Author's Note: This story starts near the end of Return of the Jedi, when Vader takes Luke to see the Emperor on the Death Star.
Luke stood next to his father in the rising turbolift, the flickering oblong lights signaling levels were sweeping by rapidly. His rash plan wasn't going as he had hoped. In a few moments he would have to face the Emperor himself and he had no idea what to expect. In reality, he knew very little about the man who was the most powerful person in the galaxy. No doubt Palpatine would try to convert him to the Dark Side, but how would he do it? Luke had no idea. But he needed all the bravery he could muster. He breathed deeply and reached for the calm center of himself, the Jedi serenity. All he would have to do is keep Palpatine on the Death Star long enough for Han to knock out the shield generator. That should be easy enough to do.
The doors silently slid open as the lift came to a stop and Luke followed his father out into the Emperor's throne room. The room was huge; an elaborate waste of space but Palpatine was so filthy rich he didn't care. Done in shades of black and gray, the only real highlights were on the edges of the steep stairs that led up to the Emperor's throne. Behind the throne, a window looked out onto space. His hands cuffed together, Luke climbed the stairs alongside his father. Reaching the top, they came to a stop.
"Welcome, young Skywalker. I have been expecting you." Emperor Palpatine said from his throne. The man who was terrorizing the galaxy was dressed in dark Jedi robes, the cowl covering his head. The skin on his face and hands was wrinkled and decayed from long use of dark side powers. His eyes glowed an eerie red. All in all, the man looked like a corpse that had forgot to die. Palpatine's thin lips curled up in a smile as he continued to speak. "Your talents with the force has come along nicely but now it is time you had a master. I will be that master."
"Never. I'll never join the dark side." Luke said, his voice strong as he watched the Emperor closely. He dare not take his eyes off him, the warning from Yoda fresh in his mind. He watched his father walk to stand next to the Emperor's throne. "I'd rather die than join you."
Palpatine waved his hand and Luke's handcuffs fell to the floor. "Brave words, boy, but unnecessary. Soon your training will begin and you will learn to show respect for your master. You may think your feeble powers great but you're nothing more than a youngling with a swelled head. I will show you the true meaning of power."
"I'll never call you master." Luke vowed fearlessly. Could the Emperor force him to the dark side? He didn't think so, but he could be tricked. Coerced. He had to stay on his toes. Things were bound to get worse than this verbal sparring. "You can't force me to call you master."
"Oh, but I can, Young Skywalker." Palpatine rose from his chair and pointed a gnarled hand with crooked fingers at Luke. A sneer crept across his hideous face revealing yellow teeth. "In fact, your training will begin now."
Luke gulped nervously, his pale blue eyes flickering from the Emperor to Vader and back again. He had no idea what to expect but his father seemed calm enough, if calm was the correct word for a Sith Lord. As far as he could tell, the Emperor didn't have a lightsaber on his belt but perhaps he didn't need one.
Without warning, tightness pressed his arms against his sides so he couldn't move them. Luke quickly realized the Emperor was using the force to hold him immobile, well, his arms at least. Luke took a cautious step backward and discovered he could still move his legs.
"I could kill you easily, boy." Palpatine threatened as he moved closer to Luke. He gripped Luke's chin with his gnarled fingers as he peered into the young man's eyes. His touch was ice and his breath blowing into the young Jedi's face was the foul stench of the grave. "Your father was once like you; young and wild and undisciplined. But he soon learned his proper place, as will you. Now come along and you'll begin your first lesson."
Luke had little choice but to follow Palpatine back down the stairs towards the turbolift. The pressure of the force was still wrapped around his arms, chest and back as it dragged him along after the evil man. He had little choice but to move his feet forward or risk breaking his neck by falling down the stairs. Behind him, he could hear Vader's footsteps coming after him.
"You'll never get away with this!" Luke shouted at Palpatine with bravado.
"It is unwise and foolish to resist, my son." Darth Vader said as he squeezed into the lift with Luke and Palpatine.
The Emperor laughed evilly. "I have already gotten away with it. When will you learn, boy? I can foresee the future. I already know what will happen before it does. You can't win."
"The future is always in motion. You can't know for sure." Luke countered. This meeting wasn't going the way he had hoped at all. He had been counting on his father to run away with him somewhere, counting that his father cared about him enough so he would never take him to see the Emperor. But here he was now, stuck in the turbolift with an old coot that looked like a long-dead body mummified by Tatoonie's heat. Actually, now that he was sealed in a tight space with the man he realized that he smelled like the dead, too! Luke prayed to whatever Gods that were out there that they would reach their destination soon and the doors would open so he could get some fresh air. It was almost enough to make him envy his father's breath mask and helmet. At least HE had fresh air! "And I won't do whatever it is you have planned."
The red light blinked on and Luke burst out of the lift the instant the steel doors parted. Stale ship's air had never smelled so good in his entire life. He just hoped he never had to ride in a turbolift with Palpatine again. No wonder his red-cloaked Imperial Guards wore helmets over their heads. Anyone who thought it was for their protection from the enemy was crazy, it was against their own Emperor!
Breathing in a big lungful of the recycled air, Luke glanced around curiously. He was in a narrow corridor guarded by more of the Emperor's private bodyguards. Their red clothing and force pikes were clearly visible against the gray walls. A single door waited just ahead at the end of the hallway. Silently he trailed behind the Emperor and the three of them soon passed through the door.
"Welcome to my private quarters, young one." The Emperor pointed at a chair pulled up to a desk. "You will sit."
Confusion swirled through Luke's mind. He had been brought to the Emperor's private quarters? Why in the force had he been brought here? It made no sense! He had been expecting the brig or some torture room, perhaps some training room for lightsaber practice. But here? The force grip pushed him in the direction of the chair and then vanished. Not knowing what else to do, Luke sat. "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't understand, young Skywalker. That is why I am the master and you are the apprentice." The Emperor moved closer to the desk, pointing one twisted finger at the large stack of papers on it. "You're first assignment will be to fill out those forms for me."
For the first time Luke noticed the tall stack of papers. He took the risk of taking his eyes off Palpatine for a moment to focus on the papers. Picking one off the top, he realized it actually was paper. Real paper. Who in the whole galaxy still used paper? Why, it hadn't been used for thousands of years! It was a miracle that he even recognized it or knew the archaic term. It was smooth and cool in his hands and possessed a faint smell. This particular one was blue and had writing on the front. Luke saw Palpatine's name and an address on Coruscant. Then there were the words "YOU ARE A WINNER!!!".
"It's an envelope." Luke stated in surprise.
"Yes, yes, yes! I know it's an envelope!" Palpatine complained grumpily. "Open it up and fill it out! Hurry up now."
"But it's addressed to you. I can't open your mail." Luke turned the envelope over to find even more writing on the back. "100 BRAND NEW AIRSPEEDERS TO BE GIVEN AWAY! DON'T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!!!!!!! ENTER TODAY!!!".
"You fool! I'm ordering you to open the mail and fill it out!" Palpatine raised his twisted cane and knocked Luke on the head with it. "I'm not going to miss out on the 100,000,000,000,000,000 credit prize because you're too stupid to do what you're told! And use that ink pen there, that narrow thing with the blue cap. You need it to make markings on the paper. It won't mark by itself, you know. How do you think your father ended up with mechanical parts?"
"Ummm, from lightsaber duels?" Luke asked as he rubbed his sore head.
"No, from filling out all those forms, you fool!" The Emperor whacked Luke again with the cane. "All that writing leads to carpal tunnel syndrome and the limbs need to be replaced! Now get busy! I expect that stack to be finished before supper."
"This is absolutely crazy!" Luke muttered to himself as the Emperor walked away cackling.