Title: Masquerade

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Pairing: None

Summary: The Alliance has a Halloween masquerade and one special person decides to attend

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd and Fox. This is just for fun.

Luke Skywalker stepped into the decorated hangar bay and paused a moment to study the results of his hard work. Fake spider webs dangled from the ceiling and nestled in all the corners, giving the room a spooky air. He had even scrounged up some fake plastic spiders and had attached them to the webs for realism. Black and orange streamers also hung from the ceiling, rustling and swaying in the breeze coming in through the open door. In one corner of the room he had set up an autumn display of bright pumpkins, baskets of colorful leaves, tall cornstalks and a scarecrow. More thick bunches of cornstalks were arranged around the entire room, pressed up against the walls to leave the main floor open. Now the floor was crowded with most of the members of the Rebel Alliance dressed in fantastic costumes. They had taken a day off from the war to celebrate Halloween; sure it would recharge everyone's battery. The ships that were normally kept here had all been moved outside, as the hangar bay was the only room large enough to house all the members of the Alliance at once.

The young Jedi glanced down at his costume, frowning. Everyone else's costume seemed so elaborate and he wondered briefly when they had found the time to make them. But then, they hadn't spent all day yesterday decorating the hangar bay as he had or been dashing around outside gathering the raw materials for the various displays. Truthfully, his costume was simple. He had found a large length of black material and had made a sort of cloak out of it. Working for the Alliance really didn't pat that much, so he visited thrift stores on one of the busier worlds and had found a few extras to jazz up his costume. His fingers skimmed over the bright patch he had sewn onto his new cloak. The patch was roughly square with a big red H in the center surrounded by four animals. For some odd reason it seemed appropriate on the cloak. The warm material hung over his right shoulder and cascaded smoothly all the way to the floor. At least it helped stop the cold drafts that blew in from outside. He supposed it looked elegant, but he felt silly dressed like this. Underneath he wore his normal black tunic, pants and boots. . The other thing he had found was a smooth, carved stick about twelve inches long. This he carried in one hand, but he was unsure what to do with it. Luke allowed the door behind him to close and he bravely trudged forward into the strange gathering of costumes.

His blue eyes scanned the crowd around him for a particular costume. For the last several years Halloween had become his favorite holiday. When he had been a boy, his Uncle had never really celebrated it. It had always been work, work and more work on the moisture farm. Candy, costumes and the like were stupid, frivolous things they didn't need or want. Still, he had envied his friends that lived in town and had gotten to dress up and attend a small party the adults had put on for them. Once they even had been allowed to run around the town in the dark with glow sticks! But living on a moisture farm was a hard life and they didn't have money to waste on Halloween. Not seeing who he was looking for, Luke drifted deeper into the crowded room.

Outside the Rebel Base, a man-shaped lion stepped out of the thick bushes and hurried onto the deserted sidewalk. He had been lurking here in the shrubbery for a half hour as costumed Rebels passed in groups or by themselves towards the hangar bay. Loud thumping music poured forth from the brightly lit building just ahead and he longed to get inside. Still, he didn't want to get caught by some passerby as he snuck out of the bushes. He had hidden his ship well and was certain it wouldn't be discovered. Tonight all the Rebels were busy celebrating Halloween and he would walk among them unnoticed. He paused to slightly adjust the large and bulky lion's head he wore over his regular black breath mask and helmet. The lion's thick red mane, made from luxurious but artificial fur, totally covered his black helmet and trailed over his shoulders and down the center of his back. Before he had put the costume on, he had even spent a few rare moments stroking the soft fur with his hand. He brushed his hand along the tawny length of his costume, shaking off any leaves and dirt that might have stuck to him from hiding in the bushes. Dressed like this, no one would recognize the Sith Lord. Reaching behind him, he gripped his long tail and pulled it forward. Three dried leaves were sticking to it and he pulled them off, crunching them in his tawny hand before dropping them to the ground.

Darth Vader hurried along the dark pathway, one of the streetlights above flickering. Unconcerned, he soon reached the hangar bay and slipped within. Just as Luke had done, he paused in the doorway to take in the amazing sight before him. Most of the Rebels were totally unrecognizable, but this didn't concern the Sith Lord. It was Luke he wanted and the boy was here somewhere. A band had set up in a corner and they were the ones responsible for the loud, blaring music. Reaching outward with the Force, he tried to scan for his son but the place was too jammed with sentient life. Frowning under his double masks, Vader realized he would have to do this the old-fashioned way.

The Rebels had thrown themselves a real party it seemed. Tables piled high with food was along one wall and Vader quickly decided to head that way. He squeezed through the crowd with difficulty, his broad shoulders touching people on either side. Expressions of joy were on those that had bare faces or only wore face make-up. They laughed heartily at jokes, slapped each other on the back and were having a good time. Many waved at him and shouted greetings; unaware that he was an intruder and not really one of them.

/If they would see me with this lion costume off, they'd run in fear./

The dark part of him would have enjoyed the shock on their faces. How little they actually knew! Did they really think he didn't know of their annual autumn festival? Still, he enjoyed the opportunity to walk among people unnoticed too much to spoil their fun. His eyes focused on a lone figure by the food table in a long black cloak with sandy hair.


Hearing the mental call, the young Jedi turned around. Chocolate frosting was on his lips and he held a hunk of cake in one hand, the wand in the other. When he saw the lion approaching him, a broad grin spread across his face and his eyes sparkled with joy. "You made it! I was beginning to worry you couldn't come."

"I can always manage to sneak away for a few hours. Command does have its privileges." The lion's head moved as Vader scanned the room around him. "It always amazes me how clueless they are. Here I am among them and they don't know…"

"And you should be glad they don't. It's the only time of the year we can meet like this." Luke ate more cake and smiled up at his father. They had been meeting in secret at the Alliance's Annual Halloween Masquerade for the past three years without anyone catching on. "So, how do you like my costume? I made it myself."

Vader tilted his head downward and scrutinized the black cloak. "You look like a Sith dressed all in black like that. And the hem is crooked."

Luke laughed. "Well, I'm not a tailor!"

"That you are not." Vader agreed. "I must admit I bought this costume. It was the only one with a head large enough to cover my own. Besides, I like the smooth fur. It's so soft. A pity the real lions had gone extinct. They were magnificent beasts. But perhaps some still exist on a distant world out there…"

"It's sad when beautiful animals go extinct because of man." Luke agreed, his fingers stroking the patch again. He idly wondered out of the four creatures that decorated the patch, how many still existed in the wild on their homeworld. "Man can be so destructive. Just recently the Alliance tried to help a world that was in terrible shape. Practically the whole ecology had been destroyed. It was a terrible sight and you could just feel the Force crying out in agony. The air was so badly polluted you had to wear a facemask at all times or be poisoned. The wildlife and trees were gone; the polar ice caps had melted and flooded most of the cities…it was just so awful."

"Yes, I have seen similar things." Vader hung his head, saddened by the things he had witnessed in his life. "Man's lust and greed has brought us to this. Often advances in technology aren't friendly to the planet itself. Dangerous wastes and pollutants are created and without space flight capability, they don't know how to dispose of the waste safely. That's why Coruscant throws the waste into space where tugs dump it into the sun. But then, Coruscant isn't a very good example."

"Why not?" Luke asked as he reached for a decorated sugar cookie shaped like a pumpkin. "Leia baked these. Did you know? I guess she learned more on Alderaan than just politics."

"No, I wasn't aware that she could bake." Vader knew little of his daughter and had never talked to her the way he could talk to Luke, so he was glad for any little morsel of information his son could provide. He picked up a sugar cookie, wishing he could eat it now. But that would have to wait until he got back in his personal quarters aboard Executor. He just couldn't take off the breath mask without putting himself in danger. His lungs were to weak to breath on their own so he needed the special mask at all times, which could be a pain at times. "Coruscant is so built up that it couldn't exist on its own. All the food and drink is imported. If for some odd reason the imports would stop, most of the planet's citizens would starve to death within a week."

"Now that's scary." Luke imagined the hysteria that would exist under those conditions. There would be mass riots at the supermarkets and in the streets. Gentle people who normally wouldn't hurt anyone might find themselves killing for a hunk of dried bread. And the rich would most likely flee on ships. He had once been on a planet during a winter storm and had witnessed how most people hurried to the supermarket to stock up on food. The lines had been incredibly long with many items quickly selling out, blue milk being the most popular. But on a world like Coruscant, it would be far worst.

"Coruscant also must produce its own oxygen supply with machines." Vader informed Luke as he pulled a sack out from within a concealed pocket in his costume. Picking up a handful of cookies, he carefully wrapped them in napkins and placed them within the sack. Glancing around the room to see if anyone had noticed, he was surprised to see the Rebels dancing. Nor was it the formal dances he sometimes witnessed at Palpatine's Palace. Those were very structured with each step just so. Here it was more akin to hopping and swaying. Truth be told, it looked like fun and he was tempted to try it himself. It had been a long time since he had had any fun at all. Being a Dark Lord meant he was always under scrutiny and he had to be dignified at all times. Darth Vader could not be caught doing some wild dance at a sock hop. It would be scandalous! A smile spread across his lips as he imagined the shock of his crew if they were to catch him doing something like that. But here, no one knew who he was. "The planet is so built up that none of the natural forests exist anymore. Millions of air scrubbers are working constantly to remove carbon dioxide from the air. With such a huge population, that's not easy. The citizens know about the air scrubbers, but I don't think they know machines produce the air itself. If they knew, I think a mass exodus might happen. If those machines were to break down…"

"There would be mass deaths world wide." Luke's eyes widened in realization as the horrible thought sunk in. "I didn't realize Coruscant relied that heavily on technology."

"Many of the buildings are so tall that without technology there wouldn't be air up that high anyway or it would be too thin to breath for very long. But the people don't think about it. To them, it's normal. They don't look at the world around them. They don't realize that something simple like the extinction of a certain insect in a forest can affect the whole ecology of the forest."

"People need to take better care of their worlds." Luke replied sadly as he filled a glass with bright red punch. What many didn't realize is that it's everyone's responsibility. The planet belonged to everyone that lived there and each had to do his or her own part to care for it. "The extinction of smaller species is just a warning sign that something is wrong. And if they just ignore it, it'll sneak up on them one day and then they'll be the ones going extinct."

They were both quite for some time, thinking of the lost and destroyed worlds they had seen. A few had been saved, but most were just lost.

"So, how are things on the ship?" Luke finally asked his father.

"The same, more or less." Vader replied as he eyed the fruit tarts. The food here was certainly better than the stale stuff aboard Executor, that was for certain. "Palpatine is planning to build another Death Star…"

"Not another one!" Luke wailed, then slapped a hand over his mouth. He turned and nervously watched the others at the party to see if anyone had noticed his outburst, but no one paid them the slightest attention. It seemed most of the crowd had surged around his twin, Leia. She had built herself a spectacular costume from scarves and it had a lot of exotic flavor to it. She wore a pair of baggy white pants made from some crinkly material and a skimpy white top that left little to the imagination. The top was lined with gold and golden slippers were on her feet. Her long hair flowed straight down her back and gold hoops flashed at her ears. Then she had tied layers of transparent scarves around herself, one covering her face. Luke had to admit she looked very beautiful and mysterious, which explained the crowd of male Alliance members around her. He could just see Han's head trying to beat them off 'his' girl and Luke had to laugh. "Look's like Han has a lot of competition."

For a slight moment Vader was reminded of Padme when they had been on Naboo. She had worn a flowing dress made of some light fabric that flowed and floated in the air behind her, much like Leia's scarves did. He had been happy those few brief days…

"Yes, another one." Vader repeated. "I don't care for it any more than you do."

"Then why don't you join the Rebellion?" Luke asked his father hopefully. "We could see each other all the time."

"I have to do my duty, Son." Vader replied as he wrapped some of the apple tarts in a napkin and stuck them into his little bag. "I can do more good where I am. Palpatine has grown to trust me over the years and doesn't realize that my fall to the Dark Side was planned years ago. Obi-Wan and I had decided it would be best if I were on the inside. Then, when the right moment comes, I will bring balance to the Force by killing Palpatine. But I must be careful or he'll catch on and kill me."

"That sounds dangerous." Luke admitted, new concern for his father flooding his body.

"It is. But I have managed to not fall totally to the Dark Side." Vader checked the chronometer on his wrist, frowning. The hour was growing late and soon the Rebel's party would end. He would have to leave soon and then this night would be just another memory and a few odd crumbs at the bottom of a sack. "My training bond with Obi-Wan is still in place; although Palpatine doesn't seem to notice. For a Master Sith, you'd be amazed at some of the things he doesn't notice. He is not all knowing as he claims. That bond and now the one we share has kept me from being consumed by the Dark Side. Perhaps soon the Emperor will die and the galaxy can be at peace. As simple as it may sound, I cannot just strike him down with my lightsaber."

"I wish this war never had started…" Luke sighed miserably. He knew his Father would be leaving soon and then it'll be another long year before they could meet again. "Please don't go. Can't you stay a few days?"

"My presence would be missed. You know that, Son. I have explained this to you before." Vader added a few more snacks to his sack, and then turned around to watch the crowd. Already people were starting to break up, a few heading out the door into the night. "It's the curse of being the Chosen One."

"But if you'd only join the Rebellion!" Luke pleaded.

"They'd toss me in jail. You know that." Vader sighed silently. Parting from Luke never was easy. The boy thought the best of everyone and didn't realize how business-like the Alliance leaders could be. Did he really think they'd forgive him his crimes just because he was Luke's father? "No, I have to stay where I am. Only from that position of power can I defeat Palpatine. One day soon we'll be together, Son. You must be patient. If there's one thing I have learned from working under Palpatine, it's patience. His ideas were originally good and I believed in him, but the power had gone through his head and everything was twisted. But I will set things straight."

Darth Vader walked through the thinning crowd and headed for the open door, Luke hot on his trail. The chilly air whipped through his lion's mane and passed through the thin tawny material of his costume. He headed down the dark path, one streetlight ahead flickering. When he reached the correct area of the shrubs, he stopped.

"Please be careful, Father." Luke wrapped his arms around Vader and hugged him tightly, the soft fur of the mane in his face. "I've lost so many and I don't want to loose you, too."

Vader held his bag of bakery out to one side so his son's enthusiastic hugs wouldn't crush it. "I will, Luke. We will see each other soon. The Emperor has been growing more and more careless. I don't think he's right in the mind anymore. I will see what I can do to replace him."

Luke watched his father disappear into the thick bushes and then he was gone, swallowed up by the night. He stood there alone for a few minutes, his long black cloak billowing in the cold wind. A bright light like a falling star in reverse lit up the black sky and Luke knew Vader had reached his hidden ship safely and was now on his way back towards Executor.

/Goodbye, Father. May the Force be with you./

/May the Force be with you, Son./

Alone, Luke headed back towards the hangar bay to see what Han and Leia were doing.