AN: So many people wanted a follow-up to Relief, so here's a prequel for you. I'm not intending to continue this in any way, so unless you guys give me ideas, this is where it ends.
A thank you to all who reviewed Relief. Relief officially has more reviews than the whole of "You Already Will." Wow. I guess there are just a lot of people out there who like to see Luke hurt. There are too many of you to thank you all personally, but I'll try to e-mail those who send signed reviews in this time.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Will never be mine. George thank you for coming up with it!
Lord Vader was waiting when the prisoner was brought in. Stunned and with a paralyzing cocktail of drugs meandering through his veins, the captive did not react when the stormtrooper threw him down the few steps into the cell. Unable to break his fall in any way, the young man landed with bruising impact on his face. Pinpricks of blood sprang from burst vessels speckling the black floor at the Dark Lord's feet with hints of red.
Angrily, Vader caught the trooper in a choke hold via the Force. The man gasped and sank to his knees as oxygen deserted his body. "You are lucky you did not break his neck," Vader coolly informed the soldier, tightening the choke hold to almost crushing force to demonstrate what would have happened otherwise. "The Rebels are not so easily caught that we can afford to eliminate the one we have."
Abruptly, he released the trooper who rasped a "yes, sir" before scrambling to get as far away from the Dark Lord as possible. Vader had already forgotten the man. The prisoner sprawled at his feet was of more concern. Ruthlessly, Vader's mental probe tore through the inert body, searching for anything serious. The cracked ribs, bruises and lacerations of capture were of no concern, but it wouldn't be the first time a lone Rebel sacrificed himself to introduce pathogens aboard an Imperial ship. He found nothing. The Rebel would not enjoy waking up, but Vader was hardly there for his comfort, was he?
Tugging on the binders that snugged his victim's wrists, Vader hauled the unresisting body to its useless legs. He secured the binders above the Rebel's head on the far wall of the cell, then with a jolt of the Force drove the toxins that kept his prey motionless from the Rebel's body.
Luke came to in a blaze of pain and motion. He was dodging the anticipated blows before he was even aware of another in the room. Or at least he was trying to dodge. He didn't even get half a step before the bindings on his arms refused to allow it. Looking up, he saw the binders clutching his wrists. They were welded to the wall. He tugged at them desperately earning a few drops of blood seeping down his arms for his efforts. The cobwebs still clearing from his brain, he froze as his ears finally registered the sound, like something out of a nightmare. For almost a full minute, the suck-hiss of the respirator filled Luke's mind, denying him the comfort of any other thought. He kept his face turned and his eyes downcast in the irrational hope that ignoring the monster would make him go away.
A steel grip on his chin shot that hope into the Unknown Regions along with his confidence and a good portion of his self-control. With inescapable pressure Luke was forced to look into the face of the enemy. An impersonal mask stared back at him unchanging even as he quivered like an animal frozen in the hunter's floodlights.
"You are young." Luke was sure he must have imagined the note of surprise in the voice that issued from the mask, as black as the casings and heart of its owner. "How young? Eighteen? Nineteen? No more than twenty." The grip on his jaw lessened and Luke jerked his head free of the hateful touch. Surprisingly, the black form looming above him did nothing in response. Or so he thought until the titan stepped closer. "At your age, I, too, was a warrior." The voice now was distant, echoing through the hollow space of the helmet and picking up more resonances as it meandered its way to the young Jedi's ears. The strange harmonics and the close proximity of the monster caused something in Luke to give. Drawing on the training a year in the Alliance had given him, the foolhardy Rebel kicked at Vader's stomach hoping to at least damage the impenetrable black armor that encased his adversary.
Something in Luke's right leg snapped like a dry twig as the Dark Lord brushed aside the attack with too little effort. The Jedi leaned against the wall, biting his tongue to contain the scream that begged to be released. A gesture from the demon before his face pulled Luke's left leg out from under him, bringing his body weight crashing down on the calcified fragments that should have been his lower leg. The inside of his cheek bled where he bit through it.
"You did not answer my question, boy." The cold, hard edge was back in the voice, matching the angles and planes of the mask with haunting perfection.
"I heard no question worth answering," Luke replied willing the fiery defiance he so admired in Leia to make itself known in him.
Supple black leather hid the iron grip as Lord Vader grabbed a handful of tousled blonde hair and forced the captured Rebel to stare at him. "How old are you?" he growled the question and Luke knew that an answer, any answer must be forthcoming.
"Old enough," Luke ground the words out through gritted teeth and glared challenges at the creature that now had him in its claws.
"Old enough for what?" Vader was no fool, any bit of information he could gather from this Rebel would help bring the others in.
"Old enough to recognize an abominable coward when I see one." The accusation tore into Vader's self, collapsing mental structures that should have been able to hold through much worse. A bewildered Anakin Skywalker surveyed the wreckage of his cage with stunned awe until Vader managed to rebuild the mental cell that trapped his former self. With the cold exactitude of retaliation, Vader spun a tendril of the Force to his enemy intent on causing equal damage to the fool's psyche.
Lord Vader felt his probe enter the Rebel mind, only to encounter a thick blanket of shielding the likes of which he had not seen since Obi-Wan died. The shields gave slightly under his concerted effort, and with a sense of triumph, Vader jabbed at them with a pinprick of awareness. Barely trained and uncontrolled strength shoved the Dark Lord back into his own mind, the shock wave from the impact threatening to crumble his mental foundations.
"Pedunkl!" Vader dealt the Rebel a vicious back hand, cursing the boy in his native Huttese, all other language being beyond him at the moment. Anakin Skywalker took that opportunity to escape his mental prison and secret himself in the labyrinthine mind of the Sith he'd become. Vader could not spare the attention to pursue and persecute the wayward Jedi Knight. He had an untrained Force-sensitive standing before him and needed to concentrate on the boy.
"Who taught you to do that? What is your name?" Vader demanded. When no answer came, the Dark Lord took a step back and slashed at Luke with his lightsaber. A line of fire drew itself across the young Jedi's chest, skirting the line between serious injury and painful burn.
Luke shunted the pain away, and answered viciously. "Why do you care? You killed them both." In his mind he called out to the ghosts of those he still mourned. Father, Obi-Wan, forgive me.
AN: For those wondering about the title, the rationale goes like this. Anakin is the one who gained Relief the last time, so this time, Anakin gains Freedom. Ya see?