Title: Bloodmarrow

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: None

Genre: Horror/drama

Warning: Some violence

Teaser: Set during Episode 4, Luke gets attacked by a strange beast and ends up in a Star Destroyer medical bay. Can Vader save him?

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

Author's Note: This is a reply to the 'ER Challenge' on the Luke/Vader Writer's Group. Also please note that in this story, Darth Vader already has Executor. It was built and finished sooner. Otherwise things are about the same (droids stole DS plans, Owen bought them, etc).

The Star Destroyer Executor hung in space; it's huge length and girth blocking thousands of stars. Lord Darth Vader stood on the bridge and stared out the windows at the sight before him. The reddish-gold sliver of a harsh world was visible before him, the large curve of the planet filling the upper reaches of the windows. The brilliant color was startling when compared to the inky blackness of space, but its stark beauty didn't fool the Sith Lord. Tatooine was a harsh desert world populated by even more harsh people. Years ago, when his mother had been brutally murdered by the Sandpeople, he had vowed never to come back here. Too many bad memories lurked within his brain, memories that threatened to reawaken the deep pain that had stabbed at him for so long. That pain had slept for years now, his feelings deadened somewhat by the all-consuming powers of the Dark Side. Yet the simple act of staring out at that burnt orange globe threatened to reawaken it all.

The Rebellion had led him here. He had been chasing after them for years it seemed and now he had the traitor Princess Leia in his grasp, securely locked within a cell in the ship's brig. And soon, very soon, his crew would find the stolen plans that the traitorous woman had given to droids. The only other thing he had been chasing after longer had been his son…

His son. Vader didn't even know if the boy really existed. Palpatine had told him that Padme had died and he knew that to be true, as his Force vision had shown him the future. But what of the child, had it survived the birthing process or had it died with its mother? He felt torn in half by this issue, as if he couldn't make up his mind. Late at night when the ship had grown silent and he lay in his bunk unable to sleep, he thought himself a fool. The darkness of night made it clear he was chasing an impossible dream and the baby was long dead; nothing but a tiny skeleton buried in the dirt. But at other moments he felt sure the child had survived and that Obi-Wan had spirited him off to some secret location, for his former Master had been in the dream as well. The Jedi would never harm an innocent and would have kept him safe. But where, that was the all important, consuming question and the one he had no answer to. Vader's mechanical breathing was loud in the still and quiet of the bridge as he once again pondered the unknown fate of his only offspring. Although he had not actively searched for the child, he had taken advantage of his duties to the Empire to scan each world he had visited with the Force. He had concluded if the child were out there, he would sense it through the Force. Then and only then would he take the search to the next level, physically searching for him.

Gazing out at the stars and the crescent of burnt orange, Vader ran the numbers through his head. If the child were still out there, he or she would be fully grown by now. Perhaps the search was futile, a pipe dream. Still, searching with the Force at each planet had become a tradition of sorts and although he hated Tatooine with all the fury of the Dark Side, it wouldn't do to not search it. Closing his eyes to block the hated world from his sight, he reached outward with the Force while expecting another dead end.

Vader's eyes snapped open when he recognized a familiar presence somewhere below.

"Obi-Wan." Turning on his heel, Vader strode out of the bridge, his black cape flowing behind him.

Meanwhile, down on Tatooine, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker stood at the edge of a tall cliff that overlooked Mos Eisley. The desert spaceport city spread out before them. It was circular in shape, with the most vital parts secure in the center. The houses were the familiar rounded domes that Luke was used to, although some taller structures did exist. Luke had never been this far from his Uncle's moisture farm and he stared in awe at the sight before him. To a boy used to thinking that Anchorhead was big, this place was huge. "It's … it's so big!"

"And dangerous." Obi-Wan warned as he raised a hand to indicate his point. "We must be cautious. Don't forget the stormtroopers are searching for us. The last thing we want is to be caught by the Empire."

Luke nodded automatically, not really hearing the older Jedi's words. A part of him still couldn't believe he was really here or that the home he had lived in his entire life was gone, destroyed. It was too sudden, too bizarre. And now they were going to find a ship to leave Tatooine, actually leave! And he was going to become a Jedi because his father had been a Jedi. It was like something out of a fairy tale; as if a magical fairy godmother had come and granted his wish to leave the planet. He fingered the ancient silver weapon that hung from his belt; a gift from his long dead father. He wanted to ask Ben more about the man who had been his father but felt it wasn't the best time. No, they were being hunted and the last thing he wanted was to end up dead like his poor relatives. Although Owen had always been strict and gruff with him, Luke knew he hadn't deserved such an awful fate. No one did. And his Aunt certainly didn't. Beru had always treated him kindly, as if he were the son she could never have.

Climbing back into his old T-16 skyhopper, Obi-Wan joining him, he followed a trail down towards the distant city. Although the rational part of his mind knew he should be scared, he wasn't. It was like some grand adventure, the kind he had only read about in books. The little craft flew quickly and Luke steered it expertly. Soon the city of Mos Eisley rose up before them, the domed buildings the same color as the sand. The brilliant white of stormtrooper armor became visible up ahead and Luke's heart gave a little jerk. The soldiers were standing on the road into the city, big rifles cradled in their arms. His eyes widening in alarm, he chanced a quick glance at the Jedi. "What are we going to do? They have a blockade!"

"Relax." Obi-Wan calmly replied. "Let me handle it."

Trying not to bite his lip, Luke brought the skyhopper up even with the stormtroopers and paused, the motor still running. "Is there a problem?"

One of the stormtroopers leaned in closer to the vehicle and spoke. "There is a dangerous animal loose in town. No one can enter or leave until it has been caught and killed. Turn around and go back."

Luke gawked open-mouthed as the stormtrooper made a circling motion with his hand and then pointed the way they had come. "An animal? Why, that's just crazy! Surely it can get in or out anywhere it wants!"

A second stormtrooper stepped forward. "We're also looking for droids. How long did you have these?"

"About five seasons." Obi-Wan replied as he relaxed within the old skyhopper. Looking at the stormtrooper who had asked about the droids, he waved a hand. "These are not the droids you're looking for. We can go into town."

Like a parrot, the stormtrooper repeated his words. "You can go into town. Go on…"

Luke moved the skyhopper forward and passed through the blockade. Once they were safely within the outer part of Mos Eisley, he breathed a sigh of relief. "How did you do that? I thought we'd be caught for sure!"

"The Force can be a powerful ally." Obi-Wan stated as he scanned the streets. Dewbacks carrying stormtroopers on their backs slowly waddled past, big guns resting on their hips. Except for a few extra troopers out and about, the town looked normal enough. Various aliens went about their business and places were open, bright neon lights beckoning for passerby's to stop in. "Many people are weak-minded and you can control them with the Force. With time and training, you'll learn to do it as well."

"Really? Wow! I had no idea you could do stuff like that." Luke glanced around, trying to see everything at once. There were so many exotic aliens around and he very much wanted to see al of them. Then a slight frown creased his young face as he remembered what the first stormtrooper had warned of. "But should we really be here? What about that dangerous animal?"

"Don't worry about it, Luke. I once fell into a nest of Gundarks and survived, completely intact. I doubt if it's anything as dangerous as that…" Obi-Wan shrugged, unconcerned. He was a Jedi, after all and had fought all types of creatures. He spotted the Mos Eisley Cantina and smiled. "Park over there, in that empty space. "We'll go into the Cantina and see if we can find a pilot."

Luke steered the skyhopper into the empty space across the street from the Cantina as directed. Climbing out, he was crossing the street when suddenly the ground began to shake wildly beneath his boots. His blue eyes growing wide in fright, he stumbled backward and then forward, his arms waving wildly. "What is it?"

Obi-Wan was having similar problems keeping his balance as the ground trembled. Tiny stones and pebbles on the road shook and bounced wildly. Then a huge cloud of sand and dust appeared from up ahead, the ground trembling even harder. A horrible trumpeting cry broke the air, the sound vibrating the Jedi's bones in a painful manner, like someone running fingernails down a chalkboard. "MOVE! A ronto is stampeding!"

"What?" Luke cried, unable to hear the older man's words over the racket. The ground seemed to leap downward underneath him and he fell to his seat in the dirt, coughing. The dust cloud closed over him and Luke desperately scrambled to his hands and knees. Lifting his head, he looked just in time to see a dark silhouette appearing out of the cloud of sand. It possessed a towering neck upon a huge, thick body. Something was waving, dangling from a strap under its neck and screaming in an alien tongue. The picture crystallized in the boy's mind and suddenly Luke knew he was in extreme danger. One of the large saurians that were used as beasts of burden on Tatooine had gotten out of control. Rontos were easily startled and if not properly handled, could be very dangerous to their size. A blow from one of the animal's massive feet could crush a skyhopper easily. Luke did not want to think what it could do to a person stuck in its path and yet that's exactly where he was. Then he felt someone grab his arm.

"Come on, Luke!" Obi-Wan cried as he hauled the young man to his feet and made a mad dash for the safety of the Cantina.

Luke stumbled and coughed, the ground shaking worst then ever. The bellow of the ronto split the air again and then Luke felt something strike him from behind and he was flying through the air. Time seemed to stop and he was sure he'll die any moment, stepped and crushed. Then he slammed down into the sand right in front of the Cantina doorway. Sharp pain shot through the front of his face and he moaned weakly. He was dying!

A few moments later he heard Obi-Wan bend over him and flip him over. "Get up, Luke. We still need to find that pilot."

"I'm dying…" Luke moaned, his eyes still closed. Now that he was lying on his back, he could feel the wet blood dripping down his face and across his lips.

"Luke, it's just a bloody nose." The Jedi stated. "It doesn't even look broken. The ronto just brushed us lightly. We're extremely lucky…"

Opening his eyes, Luke sat up and gingerly touched his nose. Pulling his hand away, he was startled to see how red the blood looked. The dust was starting to settle to the ground and the creature's loud bellows had shrunk to a very distant sound. And best of all, the ground was behaving as it should again. Accepting Obi-Wan's hand, Luke slowly climbed to his feet and tested both legs. Thankful that nothing appeared broken, he gazed at his older companion. "Boy, I thought we were both dead! I hope the stormtroopers catch that thing!"

"I'm sure they will, Luke." The Jedi smiled.

"Are you all right?" Luke asked in concern as his eyes shifted from Obi-Wan's head to his dust-covered boots. The old man's dark brown robes were sand-colored now from a thick layer of dust. He looked all right but Luke couldn't be sure with all that sand covering him.

"Yes, I just scraped my palms a bit when I fell." Obi-Wan showed the younger man his scraped palms, the red showing easily through the dust. "It's nothing. I suffered far worst, believe me."

Obi-Wan slapped at his robe and shook most of the dust off, and then he led the other into the bar. "Be careful and try to stay out of trouble."

"I will." Luke promised. He watched Obi-Wan go off in one direction as the Jedi spoke to several weird-looking aliens, including a tall one covered in thick, brown fur. His body still shaking from the too-close encounter with the ronto, Luke claimed a seat at the bar and ordered a drink. He hoped the liquid would calm his nerves and rapidly beating heart. He had wanted adventure, but almost being trampled to death by an out-of-control ronto was too much! Sipping the cool liquid within his glass, he allowed the sights and sounds of the Cantina to soothe his nerves. A band was playing a nice melody in one of the bar's corners and soon Luke felt his toes tapping to the beat as he finally started to unwind. A monitor hung high in a corner up above the bar and Luke idly watched it for several minutes, not really caring that he couldn't hear the voice over the loud music from the band. It was just some human man talking anyway, his mouth moving. The band's song ended and suddenly the voice came through crystal clear.

"…And in the last few days several people have been killed in Mos Eisley, their bodies ripped and torn apart by some unknown creature. If you're in the vicinity, the Empire recommends extreme caution…"

"Let's get out of here!" The man sitting next to Luke exclaimed to his two companions, one of them a many-eyed creature. "They still didn't catch that thing!"

Luke watched the three tough-looking characters leave, the many-eyed thing bobbling along unsteadily on its limbs. An uneasy feeling grew in his gut and he quickly turned back to the screen to learn more, but the band started up a new song and any further information was drowned out by the loud horns. Swirling the contents of his glass, he stared down into the amber liquid. He had thought the ronto had been the creature the stormtrooper had been talking about, but now it sounded as if a second thing was out there. Had it been the second thing that had spooked the big saurian and had caused it to run? Luke didn't know much about animals, but he knew they had a far keener sense of smell than humans. Had it smelled a predator lurking somewhere? In theory, it made sense. And this was a spaceport! Luke's blue eyes widened as he realized the animal killing people may not even be from Tatooine. It could have snuck aboard a ship elsewhere and come here…

He felt something touch his shoulder from behind and Luke practically leaped off the bar stool in fright. Turning, he saw it was just Obi-Wan. Sighing, he relaxed against the bar. "Don't do that! You scared me!"

Obi-Wan smiled sheepishly. "Well, I didn't mean to. You need o learn to be more alert. This is a rough place."

"You're telling me! I just saw part of the news!" Luke exclaimed wide-eyed as he moved closer to the Jedi. "There's some thing running around killing people and it's here, in Mos Eisley!"

"Well, we won't be here much longer." Obi-Wan replied as he placed a soothing hand on Luke's shoulder. "I just booked us a flight on a ship called the Millennium Falcon. But we'll need to sell your skyhopper to pay the fee, I'm afraid."

Luke downed the rest of his drink in a single swallow and loudly slammed the empty glass back on the bar top. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he headed towards the door. "I'll be glad to get off this dust ball of a planet!"

"Things won't be much better in space, I'm afraid." Obi-Wan warned as he followed the younger man out into the brightly lit street. The air was once again clear, all the sand and dust long settled. "You'll be getting yourself involved in a dangerous conflict."

"But she needs help!" Luke insisted as he climbed into his battered skyhopper. He was just glad that it was still here and in one piece. The way that ronto raced through the street, the skyhopper could have been crushed into a pile of twisted metal and then how would they pay the fare? They'd be stuck, that's what! Starting the engine, Luke realized he should just be glad no one was seriously hurt. A bloody nose and scraped palms wasn't a bad price to pay. It was far better then being scraped up by a shovel and being carried to the morgue in a box, that was for sure. As Luke drove down the street in search of the nearest place to sell his T-16, he commented on the situation. "You know, I was so excited to see Mos Eisley from the top of that cliff. It looked so enticing and exciting from up there. But down here you see it's not that way at all. It's dangerous. Not just the ronto and that creature, but I think those guys who left the bar were dangerous, too."

"Most places are that way, Luke." Obi-Wan replied. "They can look beautiful on the outside but be rotten from within. And the same goes for people. Just because a person is beautiful does not mean they're good or if they're ugly that they're bad. Do try and remember that."

Spotting a used airspeeder dealership, Luke parked and bartered with the Jawa that ran the place. Soon he and Obi-Wan were on their way again, the Jedi in the lead. Opening his palm, Luke stared at all the shiny coins. He had never seen so much money in his whole life and certainly not within his hand. To many it may not be a lot, but to him it was a fortune. Even more importantly, it was his ticket off this miserable excuse for a planet. He couldn't wait to get up into space and see the stars, to be free. From now on his life would be better. He'd make something of himself instead of puttering around with his old T-16 and wasting time flying through the canyons at crazy speeds. All of his other friends had already left and by now maybe some of them had careers, careers that meant something. That was far better than struggling to squeeze every drop of water from the sky, as his Aunt and Uncle did. Most times they were lucky if they just broke even, lucky if they didn't starve. Why live that way when there were better worlds out there calling you, better careers to be had? Lifting his head, Luke soon realized he hadn't been paying attention to where he had been going and the Jedi was nowhere in sight.

"How could I have been so careless?" Luke frowned as he bounced up onto his tiptoes to see over the crowd, hoping he could spot the Jedi. A lot of aliens were moving down this street, as it was near the big circular docking bays where the ships were parked. A thick slimy thing made of blubber bumped into him accidentally and Luke stumbled sideways. His back hit the solid wall of a building and one of his precious coins slipped from his grasp. Wide-eyed with worry, Luke watched it roll and bounce down into one of the dark subterranean doorways nearby. Many if not all of the buildings on Tatooine had the majority of the living area underground, the surface being too hot. Fearful that any of the passersby might try to steal his coin, Luke darted after it. His boots slid on the well-used stairs and he lost his balance, sliding the rest of the way to the bottom.

His teeth rattling in his mouth from the bumpy descent, Luke lay still for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. There was a rank smell down here and he wrinkled his nose at it. Moving to his knees, Luke started to feel around on the ground with his free hand, his other hand still clutching the remaining coins. He had been foolish really, as he should have put the money away into his belt pouch as Ben had instructed. But he had never seen so much before and wanted to look at his momentary wealth, as soon someone else would have it. Still, if they couldn't pay that pilot know it would be entirely his fault and guilt burned within him. "I have to find that coin!"

A low, vibrating sound filled the air around him and Luke froze. Slowly he lifted his head and gazed into the darkness before him, his heart pounding madly within his chest. That sound – it could have been a growl…

… And in the last few days several people have been killed in Mos Eisley, their bodies ripped and torn apart by some unknown creature. If you're in the vicinity, the Empire recommends extreme caution…

The words of the news reporter ran through his head and he gulped, his mouth suddenly bone dry. With a crazed beast on the loose, dashing down into a deserted, dark stairwell had not been the best thing to do. The thing might very well be down here with him. Luke continued to stare into the inky blackness, wishing some of the planet's two suns would shine down here. Maybe there was nothing down here with him at all. Maybe it was just his imagination working overtime, excess stress from the ronto.

But something killed those people!

Luke remembered the stormtroopers riding the Dewbacks, their big guns ready for action and doubted if the Empire would send out so many after a few droids, would they? But then, Ben had claimed they were carrying very important information. Still, he could almost sense something down here with him, a dark and evil presence that stank from blood. His nerves were screaming for him to get out of there, sure any minute he would meet instant death if he stayed one second longer.

And then a pair of yellow eyes appeared from the darkness. They fastened themselves onto him and Luke gulped in fear. He wanted to think it was just some harmless alien, but deep inside he knew it was the beast that had done the awful murders. His body shuddered uncontrollably and his mind blanked out, forgetting the ancient weapon that hung from his belt. The thing stepped closer and now Luke could see even more of it.

The beast's glowing yellow eyes were awful, but what grew directly under those eyes was far worst. A long snout stuck out, ugly wrinkles marring the surface. The mouth dropped open to growl and Luke could see dozens upon dozens of sharp teeth. Dark red stains rimmed the creature's mouth and ran haphazardly down its thick neck and onto its chest. The creature possessed no fur on its face that he could see, except for on the tall pointed ears that grew up out of its head. There, long tuffs of white fur grew out of the ears and they moved with the slightest wind current. Sharp claws grew from its large paws and its upper arms looked a bit bizarre, almost human in shape. It opened its mouth again, its upper lip curling in anger as it growled.

Snapping out of his mindless state, Luke turned and scrambled up the well-worn stone steps as quickly as he could. A wild, primeval scream came from his mouth and the sound startled him, as he didn't realize it had been him who had made it. The sun fell on his face and then his body, the heat sinking into his cooled, terrorized flesh. His boots slipped on the smoothed upper lip of the top step and he fell to the hard ground. Hitting the hard surface, his tightly closed hand opened upon impact and his coins rolled in all directions. Rolling over onto his back, he saw the creature flying at him from within the stairwell. He just had enough time to see a blurred image of it, mainly one of sharp teeth, pale skin and ribs. Then it landed on him hard, its heavy weight pushing him into the un-giving sandy surface beneath him. Instinctively he raised his hands to ward it off, to keep the jaws away from his neck. But his puny arm muscles were no match compared to the impressive strength of the creature. Its sharp teeth bit deep into his shoulder and he screamed.

A panic spread throughout the area as more and more people realized what was happening. Shouting, crying and sounds of horror filled the air as they rushed to get away from the awful beast. People didn't care where they ran; they just dashed into the nearest building and shut the door behind them.

The creature shook its head roughly, its teeth still inside Luke's shoulder. Lifting his arms, he pounded on its face as hard as he could. One fist happened to hit it in an eye, just a lucky blow. Letting go, the thing backed up slightly and growled.

Luke pushed himself to his feet and staggered away from the beast, his blue eyes on the nearest closed door. A loud whimpering sound leaked from his lips, although he was unaware of it. The door seemed miles away and he doubted if he'd reach it in time. The pain in his shoulder, it was unlike anything he had felt before and it thumped with every breath he took. Blood ran down his arm and chest, soaking his clothing. Something hit him from behind with such force it might have been an airspeeder. Falling to the hard ground, he felt the sharp teeth lock into his upper arm and then he was being dragged rapidly over the hard, compacted sand. Buildings and parked vehicles flew past as blurred images, the rough sand scraping his skin right through his white clothing. The creature had him and was dragging him off who knows where. His skin burned where the sharp grains of sand bit into it, literally tearing his skin off bit by bit. As he was dragged, he saw startled faces staring at him.

I'm going to die! I'm going to die!

"LUKE!" Obi-Wan cried as the Jedi appeared from within a shocked crowd, rudely shoving people out of his way.

"Help!" Luke cried in terror as the thing continued to drag him through the streets. His arm felt like it was fire now, the pain making him dizzy and light-headed.

The Jedi ran after Luke, his training helping him to catch up to the much faster beast even though he was old. His lightsaber was lit and he leaped into the air, the blade neatly coming down on the thing's neck, severing its entire head. Black blood gushed out of the ugly wound, soaking the dry parched sand of the street and staining it black. Flipping his saber off, Obi-Wan placed it back on his belt and fell to his knees before Luke. An alarming amount of blood was coming out of the boy's shoulder wound and he placed both hands on the wound, applying pressure. Almost instantly blood appeared between his fingers and started to soak the hems of his robe sleeves. "Luke, stay with me!"

The beast's jaws were still clamped on Luke's arm but the Jedi didn't have time to remove it. Besides, it was better to leave an imbedded object in a person's body, as crazy as that sounded, although it was unclear if that applied to a creature's teeth. If one removed said object, the injured person could rapidly bleed to death and Luke was loosing too much blood the way it was. Obi-Wan increased the pressure on the shoulder wound, adding his weight to it. It didn't look good. The boy was going into shock from blood loss. His face was pale and his breathing shallow. What Luke needed now was a hospital and Obi-Wan was worried that the one in Mos Eisley wasn't up to treating such life-and-death injuries. The scum of the galaxy hung out here and no one cared if they tried to kill each other.

The loud clatter of stormtroopers was heard as well as shouted commands for people to clear out of the way. A distant part of his mind knew the Empire would catch him if he stayed, but the Jedi didn't dare take his hands off of Luke now. If he did, the boy would die. Quickly he was surrounded by armored troops and then a new sound joined the rattle of armor.

Loud, mechanical breathing: it was right behind him and Obi-Wan felt the familiar presence of his former apprentice. It was darker, yes, but still Anakin. And whether if he liked it or not, the Sith Lord was now Luke's best and only chance of survival. Wetting his lips slightly, Obi-Wan spoke the words that might very well spell his own doom.

"I'm sorry, Anakin, but your son is bleeding to death. If we act quickly, we could save him."

To be continued…