"A second Death Star?" repeated Leia in disbelief.
"That is what our Bothan Spynet tells us," Mothma replied evenly. "The Empire has begun shipping massive amounts of supplies and personnel to the Sanctuary Moon of Endor, among them a powerful turbolaser. This turbolaser is nearly identical to the one used in the first Death Star. From these facts – as well as the holos provided by Borsk Fey'la – we can only reach one conlusion – a second Death Star."
It had been three weeks since the Battle of Cloud City, and the Alliance still hadn't established a new base. Until a permanent home for the Alliance headquarters could be found, this cruiser, affectionately dubbed "Home," would have to do. Many of the Rebel leaders were gathered here in the Home's conference room – including Princess Leia and both Rogue Squadron Commanders. A massive viewport admitted the light from a nearby white dwarf, the elderly remains of a star.
"Commander Vader, what do you know of this?" inquired Mothma.
Vader studied the holo of the half-constructed space station. It had been with great reluctance that he had confessed to the Alliance that he was no longer amnesiac, that he had regained the memories of his service to the Empire. He had feared that the Rebellion would consider him dangerous and turn him away.
But Mothma, ever a compassionate and understanding leader, had been surprisingly accepting of that revelation and even saw it as an asset. The information Vader could provide on the inner workings of the Empire – even if it was outdated by three years – could prove invaluable. And though it had damaged Vader's reputation in the eyes of some, the Alliance as a whole still considered him an ally.
"When the first Death Star was built," Vader said at last, "it was regarded as an invincible superweapon. The concept that it could be destroyed was so unthinkable that no plans were made to provide a backup." He snorted. "I never really approved of that technological terror."
"Obviously they've learned their lesson this time around," General Madine put in. "Probably slapped an extra shield over that thermal exhaust port."
"All the more reason to try and destroy it now, before it is completed," Ackbar replied.
"We will need more information before we can organize an attack," Mothma stated. "We have the Bothans keeping an eye on the Sanctuary Moon and Admiral Piett's aid in calculating the movements of the Imperial Fleet. Once we have enough data, we can prepare for battle. Organa, Skywalker, and Vader, can we count on your cooperation once you've returned from Tatooine?"
"Yes, my lady," Luke replied.
"Very well. Good luck in rescuing your friend. May the Force be with you."
Luke and Vader left the conference room together, the latter still limping slightly. Neither of them spoke for a long time.
"Are you sure about this?" Luke said at last.
"If I weren't sure, would I have volunteered?" Vader countered.
"It's just that… well… I know a lot happened to you on Tatooine. You have a lot of memories there."
"That is true. But Han is my friend. I have to help rescue him, even if it means doing what I swore I'd never do – going back to my homeworld."
They reached the hangar, where three ships were being prepped for departure. The first, the Millennium Falcon, would carry Lando and Forenze to Tatooine, where they were planning to integrate themselves among Jabba's entourage as employees. The second, an aged gunmetal-gray Delta starfighter, would serve as Leia's ship as she established herself as an Ubese bounty hunter, quite in contrast with her true persona but the better to find her way in Jabba's employ. The third, the Desert Angel, would take Vader on his own mission, which he still hadn't fully explained to Luke or anyone else. Only Mothma knew the full details, if not the entire reason.
"I wish you'd stop being so secretive," Luke complained.
"If I told you, you'd try to keep me from going," Vader replied cryptically.
"That bad, huh?"
"I have debts of my own to pay, Luke. But I'll be there when you need me. Trust me."
Luke sighed. "I wish I could go with you."
"And I wish you could come." He squeezed Luke's arm affectionately. "We'll send someone for you and Chewie when the time's right."
They stared at each other a long while, gently smiling. Vader couldn't help feeling a rush of pride at seeing his son – Padme's gift – standing before him, a fine young man and a fledgling Jedi. He had his father's strength, his mother's heart… and his own indomitable spirit and optimism that nothing, not even the brutality of the Sith, could destroy.
Someday, he thought, the Alliance would need to know. Someday, they would have to tell about their family bond.
But not now.
"Well," Luke said at last, "take care of yourself, you old Sith you. Forenze isn't going to be around to put you back together again."
Vader laughed. "May the Force be with you, Luke."
"May the Force be with you."
Vader boarded the Desert Angel. "Ready to go, Midnight?"
His new astromech, a jet-black R2 with a distinctly feminine personality, whistled cheerily.
"Let's go, then."
He powered the engines, and the Angel roared out of the hangar.
/Goodbye, son, until we meet again./
Only two new names in this one, which I will handle in order of appearance. Ridge is actually becoming a common name where I live, and Devarra is a derivation of Dev Sibwarra from the Star Wars novel "Truce at Bakura" (it's been years since I've read it, so I apologize if the name is inaccurate). Drache is a German word meaning both "dragon" and "kite."
A few readers on have asked some interesting questions, which I'll answer for them if they're still reading this story.
No, I did not get inspiration for this story from "Knights of the Old Republic." I've never played the game and don't plan to, and I actually had the idea for the story before the game came out – though the story sat on the back burner a long time while I finished "Centaur of Attention" and the two "Eye of the Storm" stories.
No, these stories are not named after Robert Frost's "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience," though I do enjoy the classic poets, especially Frost and Blake. The names come from album titles put out by my favorite music group InsideOut, an a cappella band (they may have gotten their inspiration from Frost, I dunno). I'm not going to continue this practice for the third installment, however, since the band's other album titles – "Reverence," "So It Seems," "Plugged In," and "Primary Colors" – don't fit the story.
Stay tuned for the final installment of the "Reborn" trilogy, "Recompense."