AN: I was never truly happy with this chapter - so I have lightly edited it and changed the last few sentences. I felt that it previously underplayed what I wanted to say about Luke. This is far from perfect, but given that I am rusty after a very long bout of Writer's block, it'll do.
Updated Chapter on 13th October 2019.
Dark Times: Chapter 7
For Darkness Restores
Sometimes he thought he could remember before.
A strange word. One word that said so little, but so much at the same time.
It meant an earlier point in time. It meant previously. It meant formerly. But, to him, it meant the nothing before he opened his eyes. It meant all the seconds, the minutes, the hours, days, weeks and years before…
…before he had started to retain some memory, before he could even recall opening his eyes, before he could remember little snatches of images of seeing her sitting by his bedside, before he could recall that his master had never been far from him, had been with him all along guiding and cajoling him to full wakefulness.
"I am your master!"
He owed the Emperor his life. He owed the Emperor everything because He had raised him from that nothingness, dragged him from the obscure unknown and had given him purpose and focus that the hidden before had taken from him.
Sometimes he wasn't even sure there had been a before, sometimes he believed that waking in that bed was his first memory, but then something would spark an image, sound, or smell…
…sunlight and sand…
…flying… soaring… pulling the flight controls… pushing down on the pedals and banking way…
…the scent of hot metal and oil…
… just little snippets, just little insights into his life before.
His hands gripped the balustrade of the balcony upon which he stood, knuckles white with the effort of controlling his body, of maintaining his stance. He took in a breath to steady himself, his eyes grazing over the view of the city before him; tall gleaming spires reaching up into the atmosphere, criss-crossing lanes and lines of endless traffic, the shadows of low orbiting Star Destroyers casting sections of Imperial Centre into a night-like darkness.
He shouldn't be doing this, he shouldn't be reflecting on what may have come before. His Master would not approve. His Master would…
… cold durasteel beneath his back…. Tight binders on his wrists, across his chest. His head clenched in cold, clawed hands and…
He shuddered at the flash of images, gripped the balustrade tighter.
"My Lord Commander?"
He stiffened in surprise at the sound of her voice, the sudden memory instantly lost and forgotten to the mists of before as irrational anger stirred in his belly. Anger at being caught in moment of reverie, at being lost and unaware of his immediate environment, of her abrupt intrusion.
He took in a breath, allowed a pause, reached out to the Force using it to hold onto that anger, using it to strengthen himself and to concentrate on the words he needed to say in response. It was still so hard, still a struggle to think of words and then to say them; to shape his lips, to move his tongue and force air through his vocal cords. His speech was slow, sometimes slurred and often monotone. "Wha..," he winced at the stutter, annoyed with himself for failing the word. "What… is… it?"
There was a swell of unexpected, momentary panic. A sharp anxiety twisting his belly. Suddenly, he wanted to go back. He wanted to go back to the medical centre where everything was predictable and understandable and small. He had been told that this new place was his home. That he had lived here in the before. He had been advised that his continued recovery would be best served by being somewhere familiar. He would continue with his education, his physiotherapy and training within his own Palace apartments and within close proximity to his master.
But this… this was too large, too big. A skyline filled with towering buildings that barely reached the balcony upon which he stood. The balcony itself was a mere speck on one side of this massive Imperial Palace. The rooms behind him were vast and various and they were all completely alien to him.
If this had been his home, then he remembered none of it. Not the bland, bleak, but rich furnishings, not the datapad sitting unused on the desk in the office, not the large bed that dominated the main bedroom, nor the dark clothes, dark red uniforms and scarlet cloaks that hung ready for him in the closets of his dressing room.
"Is everything all right, sir? You… you've been out there for some time."
Again he had forgotten she was there, her voice dragging him from his thoughts. She must be right. He must have been standing here for a while; his left leg trembled with exertion and he reached out with the Force as his master had taught, using his feelings of embarrassment and anger to overcome the weakness in the limb and to still the tremor of ataxia.
He was a heap on the ground; a bundle of loose, trembling muscles. He heaved in a breath, could feel the sweat on the small of his back trickle to the side. His sodden shirt was sticking to him.
He closed his eyes in defeat, in crushing disappointment and embarrassment; feeling hot and worn and frustrated.
"I told you to get up!" His master's voice was as demanding as ever. Each time he failed his exercise, each time his hands slipped on the parallel support bars, each time his legs fold beneath him and he fell to the floor, his master was right there telling him to rise, giving him no recourse, or rest.
"M… Ma…mas..ter… I…"
"Do not lie there and stutter at me," there was disgust and anger in Palpatine's voice, "When you speak to me you do so fluently, without hesitation or impairment. Now… get up!"
There a flurry of resentment within him, of bitterness and ire at being spoken to in such a manner in front of therapists and medical staff. He could feel his face burn with the humiliation.
"Good," Palpatine praised, his voice had lost its sharpness, had gained the smooth tone of pleasure. "Good… now… use your anger, young one. It gives you strength and focus. Do not forget who did this to you. The Rebellion… the Alliance… They tricked you, did this to you, they robbed you of your health and strength. They have left you broken and worthless… Good…
…reach into the Force, bring to it you, wrap it around your useless limbs and rise."
Listening to his master's voice, hearing the truth in them, he did as commanded. He stretched out into the fire, into the reds and the blacks, into the deep vastness of the Force. He opened himself to the rage and anger he carried at what had been done to him, used his burgeoning hatred for the unknown traitors who had left him in this disabled state, and drew strength. He could feel the tendrils of the Force slither around his body and enclose his limbs within its nurturing warmth.
Beads of sweat popped on his brow and slid down his skin as he concentrated, but gradually he could feel the fatigue leave his body, slowly the trembling of his limbs reduced. He opened his eyes, held a hand up and compelled his fingers to move.
They obeyed and he grinned and closed his fist. Fine motor skills were still beyond him, but it was a start.
"Now, rise, Lord Commander."
He took in a breath and turned onto his belly and, with a grunt of exertion, he pushed up onto his hands and knees. He paused, stretched out with his feelings to steady his exhausted frame and reached for the nearest support bar. His hand clutched it, held tight. Then, still deeply immersed in the Force, he placed one foot on the floor and used it to push upward while his hand pulled at the same time. He hauled his body upright. Planting both feet firmly on the floor, he curled his other hand around the second support bar and glanced over to his master.
He was thrilled to see the Emperor smiling. He could feel his master's satisfaction and pleasure within the Force.
"You have done well, my child," Palpatine commended. "Now, walk…"
He blinked, realised he had lost his place, that he had been quiet again for some time and fought to remember what she had said.
"I'm… fine," he responded, eyes still looking over the city, voice harsh. "…leave… me."
He could hear the shuffle of unease from behind him. "My Lord," her voice was wary, as though able to pick up his emotions, his growing anger and unease with his new surroundings, "we are keeping the Emperor waiting."
He felt himself colour; he had known that. He remembered being told by his escort from the medical centre that his master would see him once he had settled back into his rooms and that she would come for him.
Using the Force for support, to assist his muscles in moving and letting go the balcony, he turned to her. She was standing just inside the living room, silhouetted against the gloom of the chamber behind her. She was small, almost dainty, hair tied back and dressed in the same black, unadorned uniform that she always wore when she was with him and…
… his boots stepped onto the shuttles ramp. Snow flurries billowed in from behind him and suddenly she was there with gun in hand and…
He winced, a trembling hand going to his brow as a piercing pain lanced through his head.
"My Lord," her voice was sharp, sounding suddenly anxious. "Are you in pain?"
"No," he lied, lowering his hand and gathering the Force tighter his body to steady him, using it to secure his stance. It didn't matter what he recalled from the fog of before, for in a short while it would be gone again. "No, it's no… thing."
He could see her doubt, could see her suspicion that he was lying to her. He smiled to disarm her, saw it didn't really work and hoped that she would not tell his master of his lapses. "My a…apologies, Sergeant. I am dis…tracted."
For some reason she paled, her body stiffened in response to his words. She licked her lips, her eyes narrowing at him as she reminded him,"My Lord, I am a Lieutenant Commander."
He frowned, confused for a moment, isn't that what he had just said?
"… and the Emperor is still waiting for you."
Yes, of course, his master. It would be good to leave these strange rooms, perhaps his master would deign to return him to the medical centre where everything was small and known to him, where there were routines and structures he understood that kept his life in order. Here was too big. "Why… didn't you… tell me?"
He could feel her sadness in the Force, her grief and…
"That is why I am here, my Lord, to take you to the Emperor."
He chilled, cold running through his veins, realising that he had forgotten when she had arrived… and the cold was quickly followed by the searing heat of anger; at himself, at the injuries he had sustained that had left him as an empty shell. He clenched his fists, wanting to hit out, wanting to beat them hard against himself as he had in the medical centre when he couldn't remember, when he couldn't complete a given task, when she would crouch or sit beside him and take his fists in her hands and draw him to her and hold him until he was calm whispering to him not to take his anger out on himself but to hold it close within for those who had done this too him and…
Her hands slipped around his, her touch calming. "My Lord, we should go… now."
He licked his lips, taking the time to form his words, feeling his anger disperse with hope as he caught her eyes and asked, "Who… am I?"
There was flicker of hurt behind her eyes, a flash of reproach. Then she pulled herself straight as though she were about to salute him. "You are the Lord Commander Racas, the Emperor's Protector."
He considered her words.
They meant nothing to him.