Vader's Mask.

I have made many choices in my life. There are many things I understand. Power, anger, revenge. These are things I know well, things that some naturally to me. I deal with these things on a daily basis, and am all the stronger for them. But there is one thing I do not understand, that I can not understand.

The feelings I have for Skywalker.

I had thought that I left this behind long ago. That I had severed any bonds that tied me to my past. For years, I functioned as a loyal servant to my Master, obeying his every will, dedicating myself to him body and soul. I was his student, his slave, and even in some rare, unmentionable moments, his friend.

Until Skywalker. It was supposed to be simply another mission. Simply a routine defense mission to stop the rebels blowing up the Emperor's latest toy, his new plaything. There I was, simply going on my merry way, destroying the ships as they went for their attack runs when yet another group of fighters began their descent into the battle.

And there he was. A single pilot among the masses of those who were dying at my hands. Force strong, of course, but that is nothing unusual. What was strange about this one was that I sensed some measure of control about him. Almost as though he had been trained, which everyone knew was impossible. There were no Jedi left to train anyone. Except Kenobi, and that geriatric was incapable of training a Wookie to rip a person's arms off.

It was not until the captured rebel pilot that I found out who the youngster was. And it was Kenobi who had trained him. My own son! I was furious. How dare he keep my own son from me? My own flesh and blood. The only link I had to...the only link I had to her.

It is painful to think about Padmé. My despair consumes me every time I bring her to mind. What happened...I didn't wish it to happen, did everything I could to stop it...but still it is there. The memory of her, lying in my arms, her life force slowly draining away...

I can not bear to think of it. I can not bear to let the image of those beautiful eyes, filled with pain, looking deep into mine...But even as I try to forget, I find myself remembering. It is him, I know. My son, who looks so much like her and acts so much like me...

It is the same, I know. The recklessness, the impatience, the barely controlled temper...the stories of Commander Skywalker were legendary, and I have every one of them committed to memory...committed to heart...

I stand at the window, watching the Tie Fighters fly past. I hear voices behind me. They have found something. I can feel their nervousness. They are afraid to upset me, to anger me. It is unnecessary. If they do as they are instructed, I find no fault with them...The old platitude rings through my mind. "As long as you try your best..." But sometimes that isn't true, is it? After all, I tried so hard to become a Jedi, but it wasn't good enough for anyone. I squash the thought out of my mind. I am much more powerful than any Jedi in the Old Republic.

I stride over to them. They obviously have absolutely no intention of actually TELLING me what is happening. Sometimes I have to wonder on the effectiveness of the Empire that I am so dedicated to. If this is the kind of leader that they were coming out with, then perhaps we were not going about this the right way after all.

"You found something?"

They had damned well better have found something, I am beginning to get angry at this incompetence...

"Yes my Lord."

They show me a screen of moving snow.

**Ooh, this is informative. Thank you for that gentlemen, we have found a white screen! Lets sound the alarms, call the news channels, inform the Emperor, we officially have a white screen!**

I should have known, though. Hoth would be the perfect place to hide. Who in their right minds would WILLING freeze their asses off for months at a time, other than a bunch of incompetent rebels? It is a comfort to me - no matter how stupid the Imperial Commanders can get, it is eclipsed by the sheer intelligence shown by the rebels. For Force's sake...Hoth?

"That's it. The rebels are there." There is something about my son. Point me in a certain direction, and I can tell where he is. It would have been a useful talent if I had been the person raising him. And I could have been if it wasn't for that Sith-forsaken Kenobi...

It all comes back to him, doesn't it? He took everything from me, everything that I ever held dear. My wife, my son...he made my son into a member of the rebellion, the very thing that I am trying so hard to destroy.

I do not blame Luke. I can not. It was Kenobi's fault, all of it. He brainwashed the boy into thinking that he was right, into believing that the Empire was evil. I can forgive him this small indiscretion. He is just a boy, only now beginning to blossom into a man. He can form his own opinions now, and he will soon see...he will soon realize that the Dark Side of the Force is so much more powerful. He will see how it frees a person from the constraints of the Light Side. I was more of a slave to the Jedi than I ever was to Watto.

"My Lord. There are so many uncharted settlements. It could be smugglers, it could be..." Does this infidel DARE to question my judgment?

"That is the system. And I am sure Skywalker is with them. Set your course for the Hoth system. General Veers*, prepare your men."

Finally! I will finally be able to reach my son. At last, we will be able to rule the Galaxy...Father and son...side by side...

My son...the emotions run rampant through me, ones that I thought I had long forgotten. Joy, love...

A thought occurs to me. Did Kenobi tell Luke that Darth Vader was his Father? Or did he 'forget' that part and simply mention the name of Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi slave that ceased to exist so long ago...

Never mind. I shall simply have to tell the boy myself. He will accept it I'm sure. He must be just as anxious to have a family as I am...

"What is it General?" I open the doors of my bubble, knowing how intimidating it looks. Fear is always a good emotion to instill in the minds of the people under you. As long as they are afraid of you, they will do their jobs more efficiently. The threat of invoking my wrath is what keeps a large portion of the Empire under my Master's control.

"My Lord, the fleet has moved out of lightspeed. Com-scan has detected an energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment." I am furious. The incompetents! How dare they come to me with this kind of news?

"The rebels are alert to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of lightspeed too close to the system."

"He felt surprised, was wiser..."

"He is as clumsy as he is stupid. General, prepare your troops for a surface attack." He is humble. He had damned well better be. If he and that ridiculously stupid Ozzel have cost me the only chance I have to capture my son, I swear there will be hell to pay.

The admiral leaves and I turn to face the viewscreen on the other side of my little bubble. The Admiral is going to get a piece of my mind along with a little lesson on why a person does not wish to make me angry. He will escape now, I know it. After all these months of searching, my son will slip through my fingers. Just as he did after he blew up the Death Star. One thing I must say for the boy - he has inherited his piloting skills from me...The Admiral appears on the screen.

"Lord Vader. The fleet has moved out of lightspeed and we're preparing-" He says no more, a hand reaching to his throat as though he could simply brush aside the hand that is crushing his windpipe. I can feel my anger flowing through me, stronger than it has been in a long time. As strong as it was when...

I will not think of her now, I can not. This disaster with Luke has nothing to do with her, and how she died. Luke is not going to die. He is going to stand by my side, as we rule the Galaxy together. I will not let anyone, especially not this snot of an Admiral ruin this dream for me. Not when is so close that I can almost feel my hands close around it...

"You have failed me for the last time Admiral." I turn my address to his cohort. "Captain Piett."

"Yes, my Lord?" Hopefully this one will do a little better than the last one.

"Make ready to land our troops beyond their energy field, and deploy the fleet so that nothing gets off the system. You are in control now, Admiral Piett."

"Thank you, Lord Vader." Thank you, indeed. There is no need to sense your fear, Admiral, your face tells the story well enough. It pleases me, to see such fear in a person. The call of the Dark Side is strong, and I answer its call once more, hear its voice telling me... spread these emotions...this is the path to more power...and I so desperately crave power...

I stride through the empty base, hot on the trail of one of my greatest threats. The Princess was here recently, I know it. She was with that smuggler, the one that helped my son free her from the Death Star. I feel a sinking in my heart, knowing that Luke has escaped.

All is not lost. One thing I have learnt from my Master is that one must always have a back-up plan. I will capture the Princess and the smuggler, and I will torture then, knowing full well that my son will hear their cries and come running. I especially enjoy the thought of getting my hands on the smuggler. There is something about him that gets on my nerves...

But for some reason my heart aches at the thought of torturing Leia. I am certain that it is her that my son will try the hardest to save, her that Luke loves the most...

**Loves so much more than you**

I can almost hear my Masters voice in my mind, whispering these words, and I feel a wave of sheer fury sweep over me. Luke is mine! I will not allow anyone else to get in the way. Not now, and not ever.

Still my heart burns at the thought of torturing the beautiful spitfire that reminds me so much of my dear Padmé...I have to capture them...if only to get to Leia. If I can achieve nothing else by this, I must have her in my grasp again...

I sense the presence of the Admiral before he comes to tell me the bad news. Or rather, I sense his terror. It is quite palpable.

**Look, everybody. Behind door number two, we have the Admiral's fear. Ooh, and following right behind we have the Admiral himself. Nice of you to show your face, you incompetent moron.**

I hurry to put my mask back on, but know that he sees anyway. It is this act more than any other that angers me. No one has the right to look behind this mask. It is a sign of weakness that must not be shown to anyone.

"Yes, Admiral?"

"Our ships have sighted the Millennium Falcon, Lord, but it has entered an asteroid field and we can not risk..." No asteroid field is going to get in the way of this. My anger would burn its way through a black hole if it needed to. I will not allow ANYTHING to stand in my way!

"Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship. Not excuses."

"Yes, Lord."

A hologram stands in front of me, trying to explain its failure. As though simply being small and transparent will save you. The Force knows no limits.

"And that, Lord Vader is the last time they appeared in any of our scopes. Considering the amount of damage we have sustained, they must have been destroyed."

I strongly doubt this. Leia's presence is like Luke's. It calls out to me. It is strange this, a puzzle that I have no answer to. I know that if I reach out and grasp it, the pieces will all fall into place, but it seems that every time I stretch out my arm, it dissolves, reforming out of my reach.

"No Captain, they're alive. I want every ship available to sweep the asteroid field until they are found." He bows and disappears while I make my way out of the room. Before I make it to the door, however, I am intercepted.

"Lord Vader."

The man is afraid. I make my voice as gentle as I know how. This man has not wronged me yet, and until he does, he deserves some kind of courtesy.

"Yes, Admiral? What is it?"

"The Emperor commands you to make contact with him." My Master. As childish as it may seem, the first thought that runs through my head is 'what have I done this time?'. An instinctive reaction, one back from when a summons from a Master usually meant nothing short of a beating...

"Move the ship out of the asteroid field so we can send a clear transmission."

"Yes, my Lord."

I kneel, waiting for the appearance of the great Emperor.

"What is thy bidding, my Master?"

"There is a great disturbance in the Force."

**Ooh, it takes you this long to notice that? You're supposed to be the Master around here.**

"I have felt it."

"We have a new enemy - Luke Skywalker."

**And we all know what you do to your enemies, don't we? Touch my son, Master, and I shall show you the true meaning of the phrase 'hate leads to suffering.**

"Yes, my Master."

"He could destroy us." He could destroy you, I'm sure, but I have no intention of letting him destroy me. No orphan would strike down his Father.

"He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him."

**Obi-Wan can no longer help anyone, really, can he?**

"The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi." Of course not. No son of mine is going to become a Jedi.

**Now a Sith on the other hand, that is a solid career choice: opportunities for advancement, little competition - only one apprentice at a time, you will eventually rule the galaxy...**

"If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally."

"Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?"

"He will join us or die, Master."

The Captain falls to his feet, hand to throat. This scene seems familiar somehow...that's right, it only happened to another one of these twerps, a little while ago. Why is it that none of them can learn their lesson well enough to actually do their job?

"Apology accepted Captain Needa..." After all, why not accept an apology once suitable punishment has been handed out?

I gesture for the guards to take him away. Why look at him any more than I have to?

"Lord Vader, our ships have completed their scans of the area and found nothing. If the Millennium Falcon went into lightspeed, it could be on the other side of the galaxy by now."

"Alert all commands. Calculate every possible destination along their last known trajectory."

"Yes, my Lord, we'll find them."

"Don't fail me again. Admiral." I have little hope of this, however. Failing me seems to have become a trend these days.

I sit in a small dining room on Cloud City, waiting for the Princess and that...thing to arrive. I don't know exactly what it is about that Solo person that annoys me so much, but the way he acts around Leia, the way I can feel his love for her...I suppose I will never understand why I feel this way about him...about them...

The doors open and I stand, feeling their shock. I hear the wookie roar, and that ingrate Solo draws his blaster. It is a small matter to deflect the shots using the Force. I pull his blaster to me, tiring of that particular game.

"We would be honored if you would join us." The stormtroopers I brought with me make themselves visible, along with the bounty hunter who was after Solo. At least I won't have to dispose of him myself. Somehow, I think it would make a mess that would take months to clean up.

There is a short argument between Solo, Calrissian and the Princess. I understand their point. It was a weak act for him to sell them out like he did, an action far below that of a real man.

The door closes.

The torturing of Solo was an enjoyable experience, and his screams will echo in my mind for a long time to come. It gave me great pleasure to see him in pain, although my logical mind gave me no reason for it.

**That'll teach you to stay away from my daughter, you smuggler scum.**

Once I am sure I have done enough to ensure the arrival of my son, I head outside. I am confronted almost immediately by Calrissian. It seems that perhaps someone isn't as ambivalent to all of this as he claimed to be earlier. Perhaps I can still have some fun with this poor excuse for a man.

"Lord Vader." I ignore him, and turn to the bounty hunter.

"You may take Captain Solo to Jabba the Hutt after I have Skywalker."

"He's no good to me dead."

"He will not be permanently damaged." Shame, that.

"Lord Vader? What about Leia and the wookie?" They will do whatever I wish them to, you annoying parasite.

"They must never again leave this city."

"That was never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this bounty hunter!"

"Perhaps you think you are being treated unfairly?"

"No."

"Good. It would be unfortunate if I had to leave a garrison here." That should shut him up for now. I have a feeling that I haven't heard the last from Mr. Calrissian.

I inspect the carbon freezing facilities of Cloud City with a feeling of disdain. They are hardly state-of-the-art technology.

"This facility is crude but it should be adequate to freeze Skywalker for his journey to the Emperor."

"Lord Vader! Ship approaching, X-Wing class." I feel a thrill go through me. He is here!

"Good. Monitor Skywalker and allow him to land."

"Lord Vader, we only use this facility for carbon freezing. You put him in there, it might kill him."

"I do not want the Emperor's prize damages. We will test it. On Captain Solo."

"What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me."

"The Empire will compensate you if he dies. Put him in." The stormtroopers move to comply and I feel regret. Everyone seems so upset. Solo must be quite a man to inspire such devotion in so many people. He and Leia kiss, driving a stake through my heart. Its not as though I am in love with the girl for Force sake, so why is it that it hurts so much to see her sad?

"I love you."

"I know."

I know? I know? Those are not the words I wanted to hear from him. I do not want to see him and the Princess together, and yet I want him to love her. What is happening to me? What has happened to all my hard-won calm, and my well-earned control? Why is it that two children, leaders of the rebellion that I so detest can pull at my heart strings so? Luke, there is a reason for, but Leia? What is it about her that makes me feel so overprotective. Holding her on the Death Star while her whole life was destroyed was one thing, but this is most definitely another.

"Well, Calrissian. Did he survive?"

"Yes, he's alive. And in perfect hibernation." I feel relief at this, for Leia's sake. I know, however, that I can not break the deal I have made, and so with a heavy heart, I turn to Boba Fett.

"He's all yours, bounty hunter. Reset the chamber for Skywalker." I can only hope this works as well for him, as I know that he will not come willingly.

"Skywalker has just landed, My lord."

"Good. See to it that he finds his way in here. Calrissian, take the Princess and the wookie to my ship."

"You said they'd be left in the city under my supervision!"

"I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."

"The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet." I feel it necessary to announce my presence as the child does not seem to realize that I am in fact standing behind him. He certainly has a lot of training needed before he becomes one of them. Perhaps it is not too late to turn him. He starts toward me, and my breath catches for a moment. Force how he looks like Padmé.

We stand still, looking at each other for a moment, and I study him carefully. The fine bone structure, the air of calm detachment, the careful consideration he puts into his actions...the boys every move screams of his mother, and I have to wonder what kind of a person he would of become if he had known her. He draws his lightsabre. Quick to attack without provocation...perhaps he does have a lot of me in him as I had originally thought.

He attacks first, and the duel is slow, hesitant. He gets angrier with every stroke, and our fight escalates.

"You have learnt much, young one."

"You'll find I'm full of surprises." Will I now? That's interesting to know."

I easily knock his lightsabre from his hand and send him rolling down the stairs. It won't be long now before I have him firmly under my control.

"Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker. Obi-Wan knew this to be true." Why else would it have been that he hid you away from me for so long? Why else would it be that he never revealed to you my true identity? Because he knew that either way we would find each other, and that with our combined power, bring order to the galaxy, just as I had always dreamed.

"All too easy." I had expected little else, so when he fell in the hole, I was not at all surprised.

"Perhaps you are not as strong as the Emperor thought." With a little more specialized training, that could be remedied. I see a movement above me and turn to realize that my son has escaped from the little prison I built him, and is now holding on to the cables for dear life.

"Impressive." I state, a wave of pride consuming every part of me. "Most impressive."

He grabs hold of one of the cables that I accidentally severed trying to get to him, and turns it on me. That little brat!

**Still wishing you had been the one to raise him? It would be like this all day, every day, you know...**

"Obi-Wan has taught you well. You have controlled your fear. Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me." I clench my teeth behind the safety of my mask. I would never want him to hate me, but to drive him far enough to the dark side, I must make him furious before I reveal the truth to him.

After an intense battle, he managed to knock me off the platform. It seems that one little Skywalker has gotten a bit more training than I had originally thought. No matter. I am older, and much more experienced. There is no way my own son will beat me.

I finally manage to corner him, after a long and pointless battle. We are on the edge of a long platform, high above anything a ' person could hope to land on.

"You are beaten. It is useless to resist. Don't let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did."

He surges up to match me, and the fight resumes. He manages a glancing blow on my arm, and in fury, I attack. I swing at him, expecting him to block it, as he had all the others, but instead he misses, his hand taking the hit instead.

I feel his pain, remembering the loss of my own hand, one of the turning points of my own life. Oh, how I hate to do this to you Luke, but if it has the same effect on you that it did on me, then everything will work out fine. Nothing will be able to stop us.

"There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you." An idle threat, but perhaps it will be enough.

"Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." Behind my mask, I am practically throwing myself at his feet, begging him to join me. Can't he feel it, this desperate yearning that I have, wanting him to be by my side?

"I'll never join you." Oh, please, Luke.

"If you only knew the power of the Dark Side..." Power I can so easily teach you Luke, what more could you want? He is unresponsive, and I know that it is time to tell him the truth. It is the only card I have left to play.

"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."

"He told me enough. He told me YOU killed him." I am shocked. Oh, by the power of the Force, anything but that. You had to make him hate me, didn't you? You could leave me with the only true piece of light I had left in my life. You had to twist that, too, didn't you. DAMN YOU KENOBI!

"No. I am your Father." He couldn't have reacted worse if I had dressed in high-heels, pink fish-net tights and a feather boa, dancing around doing the can-can. His agonized screams told me all I needed to know and it became obvious he would never join me.

"No. No. That's not true. That's impossible!"

"Search your feelings, you know it to be true." One last chance, Luke, please. Join me. Save me.

"Nooo! Noooo!" There has to be something he wants, something I can give him...

"Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as Father and son!" I hold my breath, hopefully. He doesn't answer.

"Come with me. It is the only way." It has to be. You are all I have left. I reach out but it is not in time. He jumps, taking the last of my hopes with him.

It is in that moment that the last fragment of my heart breaks into a thousand different pieces.

Epilogue.

I leave the room on autopilot, my fuzzy brain knowing that there is nothing left more me there.

"Prepare my shuttle." I snap at the troops I brought with me. I must get back to my ship, and report to my master. There is still the matter of the princess to attend to. Known rebels can not be set free on the galaxy.

"They will be in range of our tractor beam within moments, m'lord."

"Did your men deactivate the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Good. Prepare the boarding party, and set your weapons for stun."

"Yes my Lord. Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir."

"Luke."

"Father."

"Son. Come with me."

"Luke. It is your destiny." I say, expecting no response. It is over, even I realize that. There is nothing left. Of me, my hopes, my dreams.

Anakin Skywalker is dead. All that is left is Vader.

Long live the Empire.

The End.

*I am not sure of the spelling of this.

Authors notes.

The parts marked with ** are Anakin's thoughts, piercing through Vader's armor as it were.

I do have some ideas for a sequel, but I will only write it if I get... well somebody who wants it. There's no point otherwise, right?

All feedback to melanie_wood@optusnet.com.au. Encouragement is always nice and constructive criticism is welcome.