Sequel to "Everything's Relative"
Rated PG for violence
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The reader is strongly encouraged to read "Everything's Relative" before reading this story; otherwise you probably won't have any idea what's going on.
I know many readers felt cheated by the ending of "Everything's Relative," and for good reason – the story was short and left a whole lot of loose ends. I've decided to see what I can do about those loose ends by creating a sequel, picking up the morning after the events of the prequel…Chapter I
It was never truly night on Corusant. The sun couldn't shine on both hemispheres of the planet at once, of course, but that didn't make it true night. The planet remained aglow with color and light, alive with activity… perhaps even more alive than during the day. Every spire and tower glittered with lights, every thoroughfare glowed with advertising holos and cantina and shop signs. And in every dim corner of the city-planet, from the filthiest back alley to the most opulent palace chamber, illicit transactions and clandestine alliances took place under the ruse of "night."
This particular "night," just such a secret dealing was taking place.
Or was scheduled to, at any rate.
Grand Moff Tarkin made one more circuit of the room, arms clasped behind his back. Normally a calm, unflappable man, the prospect of meeting with the Emperor for any matter was enough to unsettle him slightly. Then again, standing before the ghastly-visaged monarch, being scrutinized by those eerie yellow eyes, with the foreboding bulk of Vader looming slightly behind his twisted master, would be enough to make anyone nervous.
Tarkin glanced up at the chrono, frowning. Where was the Emperor anyhow? He should have been here an hour ago. The Death Star project was of utmost importance to the Empire; what could have possibly been more important?
The door hissed open, and three scarlet-robed guards strode into the room. Tarkin drew himself straight, expecting the stooped form of the Emperor to enter behind them. Instead, the doors clanged shut behind the guards.
/Odd/ Tarkin thought. /The Emperor isn't the type to use his guards as message couriers…/
"Governor Tarkin," the guard in the center barked, "come with us."
"Is the meeting to take place elsewhere?"
"The meeting will not be taking place," the guard answered shortly. He sounded awfully young to be serving as a guard. The Emperor handpicked his bodyguards from the troops of the Empire, and normally he selected older, more experienced men to protect him. This one must be something special, he decided.
"What do you mean, not taking place?" Tarkin demanded.
"Exactly what I said, Governor." The guard raised one scarlet-gloved hand and motioned for Tarkin to follow. "Outside."
"Not until you explain to me what is going on!"
The guard gestured sharply, and the other two guards left the room. "This information is given on a strictly need-to-know basis," he explained. "And at the moment, the fewer, the better."
Tarkin nodded sharply. /Get on with it/ he thought. His time was precious. He had his hands full with the Outer Rim governorship, the Death Star project, and a multitude of other ventures, most not really needing the attention of the Emperor…
"Zevul Lodestar, captain of the Imperial Royal Guard," the guard introduced, saluting. "And since you insist, the Emperor will not be meeting with you because he has not yet returned from Tatooine."
Tarkin raised an eyebrow. "Tatooine? What in blazes is he doing there?"
"No one is sure," Captain Lodestar answered. "All we know is that he ordered a shuttle prepared and left three days ago. No one accompanied him except for two guards. They, too, are missing."
The Emperor gone? Missing? Now THAT was shocking news. The Emperor was known for being extremely reclusive, but he wouldn't simply vanish, would he?
"Is Lord Vader taking charge of the Empire in his absence, then?" Tarkin ventured carefully. The thought of that mad cyborg having control of the entire galaxy made his stomach lurch.
Lodestar drew a little straighter, as if bracing himself for the Moff's reaction. "Lord Vader is missing as well."
Tarkin felt his jaw drop. "Vader is missing?"
"From our records, it appears Lord Vader departed for Tatooine a week ago aboard the Stardestroyer Apocalypse. The shuttle's commanding officer reports that Vader went planetside alone, and he has made no move to contact the Apocalypse since. The Apocalypse remains in the system, awaiting further orders."
Tarkin drew in a deep breath. "It seems to me that the Emperor is seeking out his wayward right-hand-man." Though that didn't explain why Vader had gone AWOL as well. "That makes the Council of Moffs in charge of the Empire's affairs until the Emperor is found."
Lodestar didn't reply.
"You're excused, Captain," Tarkin told the man. "A scout team will be dispatched to Tatooine to investigate the matter."
The guard bowed from the waist and left.
A slight smile crept across Tarkin's face. A scout team would indeed be sent – eventually. But in the meantime, there was no hurry to seek out the Emperor and Vader. After all, he would be a fool to pass up this incredible opportunity. As the head of the Council of Moffs, he was now, suddenly and providentially, the most powerful man in the Empire. Would he really be so stupid as to find the Emperor and relinquish his newfound power to him?
He strode out of the chamber, laughing to himself. It was time to assemble the Council of Moffs and the Galactic Senate to make this announcement.Break…
"Good morning, Luke."
Luke moaned and rolled over, burying his face in the soft pillows. Why did he have to get up now? He was having the greatest dream – that he'd found his father and watched him kill the evil Emperor, that he'd just had a great adventure…
"Don't wanna get up, Aunt Beru," he moaned.
"Your Aunt Beru's in the waiting room, Luke," the voice corrected. "Now up and at 'em, it's time to look at that head of yours and take your medicine."
He opened his eyes. Medicine? Waiting room? Where was he? Blinking a few times to adjust his eyes to the sudden light, he turned his head. He wasn't in his bed at the farm, but in a white-sheeted cot surrounded by curtains, a thick bandage over his head and a monitor hooked up to his arm. And standing beside him was a young female doctor, with the blue skin and black hair of a Chiss and a friendly smile that reminded Luke of… someone, though he couldn't quite grasp the name or any other details.
So it WASN'T a dream! This was the medical center of Anchorhead, where his uncle had taken him a year ago when he'd broken his leg playing around with the family speeder. The bandage over his head had to be from knocking himself out on a rock during the fight with the Tuskens. And medicine… for treating the electrocution, maybe, from where the Emperor tried to kill him? It had been real, all of it. At least, he hoped it was real…
"How's my dad?" he asked anxiously. He'd been hurt badly by the Emperor too. He'd surely be here too if…
The nurse laughed slightly. "Your father is a very brave man, Luke," she said lightly, as if having a Dark Lord of the Sith in the medical center was an everyday occurrence. "And very lucky, too. If he'd been exposed to the electrical field any longer, he would have been beyond recovery. As it is, we weren't sure he'd make it through the night. But he's just fine now."
"Can I see him?" pleaded Luke. "I want to see… ow!"
"There we go," she said brightly, removing the needle from his arm and applying a syntheflesh bandage over the prick. "Now how's the head?"
"Just fine, I want to see my dad!" That had been a dirty trick, giving him an injection while he was distracted…
She sighed. "You really don't have to worry, Luke. We have some very good doctors here, and he's in good hands. But if you're really that concerned…" She turned around and pulled back the curtains.
Darth Vader was lying in the next bed, propped up in a sitting-up position, his armor scorched in places, his breathing still slightly labored – well, more labored than usual. His hands were clasped over his stomach, and they rose and fell ever so slightly in rhythm with his breaths. He didn't seem to notice the presence of Luke or the doctor, but stared off into space as if in deep thought or meditation.
"Maybe you two can talk a little while I'm gone," the doctor said cheerfully. "If you need me, just ring the buzzer – once, mind, not twenty-seven times." Evidently she'd treated kids before.
As soon as the doctor had bustled out of the room, Luke wriggled out of bed, wincing at the pain still lingering deep in his muscles, as if he'd spent all day yesterday hauling scrap metal. He slipped over to the side of Vader's bed and just watched him for the longest time.
His father… he'd wondered about him, even searched for him. And he'd always thought it odd that Uncle Owen would never talk about him. Then again, if this was his father, maybe there was a good reason…
Darth Vader his father… it was still so strange. He'd heard horror stories about him – that he could kill someone without even lifting a finger, that he had slaughtered Jedi by the dozens, that he was a remorseless and emotionless killer. It had never occurred to Luke that someone like Vader could get married, or have children. Or that someone like Vader could feel enough empathy toward his child to turn against and destroy his own master.
But Vader had done all that. He had rescued Luke not once, but twice, first from the bumbling impersonator Jax Pavan, then from the twisted psycho Emperor. He had acted heroically, as Luke had always pictured his father.
And deep down, Luke KNEW. He knew with a surety that Vader had to be his father. He didn't know how he knew; all that mattered was that his confidence in the matter could never be broken.
"Dad?" Luke whispered. He didn't know if Vader slept or not… or maybe he slept during the day, like those Byss vampires he'd heard spooky stories about…
Vader's helmet stirred slightly, as if he were just waking up. He turned his head slowly to lock eyes with Luke.
Luke held his gaze, unafraid. Behind that mask, he imagined what his father might look like. Blue eyes, like his own, of course, and maybe blond hair to match. A strong jaw that could just as easily smile in amusement as it could set itself in resolution, and arched brows that gave him a daredevil look. Add a few scars, perhaps, to attest of his prowess in battle…
"Luke." The voice – harshly electronic, resonant, as if a demon had spoken – was nonetheless suffused with emotion. "My son…"
Luke climbed onto the bed and lay beside his father, resting his head on his chest. "Dad, I missed you so much."
A black gauntlet raised, a gesture that struck terror in many a heart, for that hand almost always raised only to kill or summon troops. But this time it did neither, but came to rest on Luke's head.
"My son," Vader repeated. "I thought I would never see you."
Luke felt tears spilling from his eyes, and he hastily wiped them away on his sleeve. "Where were you? I was hoping you'd come back and take me home with you. I always thought you'd take me to meet Mom and we could… we could be a family."
Silence. Luke looked up and almost imagined he could see Vader frowning behind his mask. But it wasn't a frown of disapproval or anger. He seemed… sad.
"Your mother died long ago," Vader said slowly. "I never came for you because I did not know you lived. I thought you had died with her."
That was a good enough explanation for him. "But now that you're here, we're still a family, right? You and me and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru…"
A strange staccato sound came out of Vader's mask, and Luke wondered if he was choking. It took him a few seconds to recognize the weird noise as laughter.
"Luke," he replied, "your innocence is so refreshing." He removed his hand from Luke's head and cupped the boy's chin fondly. "If only Padme could see you now."
"Padme? She's my mom, right?"
"I want to hear all about her. And about you. I'm sure you've had some awesome adventures…"
"Perhaps another time," Vader deferred. "But first, tell me about yourself."
Uncle Owen scowled, only half-listening to what the doctor was telling him. Continued medication for the next three months, watch for bone damage, specialized equipment for tending to Vader's cyborg parts, blah blah blah… He shouldn't be listening to this. He should be out in the fields, preparing the crop, not here in the med center receiving a lecture on how to take care of an invalid houseguest he didn't want in the first place.
"Any questions, Mr. Lars?"
"No," he said shortly. "Can we take Luke home now?"
"He's clear to go," she replied. "But we'd like to keep his father a few more days. I want to make sure he's completely stable before he goes home."
His father. Luke's father. Anakin Skywalker…
"Thank you," Beru told the doctor sweetly, shooting Owen a glare that meant he'd be receiving an earful as soon as the doctor left. "We'll let you know if we have any questions."
The doctor nodded and left.
Beru turned to face her husband. "Owen…"
"Don't say anything, Beru." He sat down and scrubbed at his face, three days' worth of stubble scratching his hands. "Don't say a word. I'm not ready to face him again."
"You knew this day would come sooner or later," Beru replied. "Maybe not in these exact circumstances, true…"
"Beru, he's not who he used to be. Look at him! He's a monster! And Luke idolizes him! Who in their right mind lets their kids idolize Darth Vader? Doesn't he know just what his father…"
"It's only natural for children to look up to their parents…"
"Even when their parents are mass murderers?"
"Luke doesn't see that when he looks at Vader. He sees a father he's been missing all his life, a father everyone's kept hidden from him…"
"For his own safety!"
"He doesn't know that!"
"What was I supposed to say? 'By the way, Luke, your father's a psychotic Dark Lord who strangles people for fun, now go wash up for supper?' How do you tell a boy his father's a monster?"
Beru sat down beside Owen and placed a hand on his arm. "Owen, I know you have some hard feelings against Anakin. And I know he's done some terrible things. But he's Luke's father, and we need to take that into account." She squeezed his arm. "Besides, Vader has killed the Emperor. I doubt the Empire will let him stay in power now that he's done that. He has nowhere to go, and Luke will never forgive you if you don't do something to help him."
Owen sighed deeply. He had hoped this day would never come. He had procrastinated in telling Luke, hoping he'd give up and let it go. And now…
"I don't know, Beru," he said at last. "I don't know what to do. I just don't. I mean… I love Luke. I want what's best for him. And in my gut, I just feel that… having his father around… it will just do a lot more harm than good."
Beru leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "We have a few days to think about it, Owen. In the meantime…" She stood. "I'm going to head back home. We have a couple of dewbacks that need fed and watered."
Owen looked up, puzzled. "Dewbacks?"
"Oh yes, didn't I tell you? Obi-wan brought those dewbacks by that Luke and that Jedi had with them. Apparently Luke's quite attached to them, especially since the one saved his life."
Kenobi on his property, Vader a houseguest, and two dewbacks as Luke's latest pets… and Owen thought he'd had problems before.