Summary: This is part of the Force Bond series, an AU where Vader raises Luke, but is a complete story unto itself. It is set between FB2 and 3, and after Social Trials, when Luke is fourteen. Luke is on summer vacation ... and also on a crusade to drive his father to insanity. In Vader's opinion, at least. In Luke's opinion, it's all just a string of accidents.
Completed: This fic was completed and posted on the lukevader yahoo group in May 2005.
Modified: 26 March 2008 (scene dividers)
"Ground control to Black 2. Come in Black 2. Do you read me?"
Luke grinned. Black 2 was often the designation given to his father's wingman.
"Hi Lev," he said, not looking away from his hand-held starfighter sim game. He'd only started playing this an hour ago, and already he was addicted. It had been a fourteenth birthday present from his father. Luke had begged him for a flying lesson, but instead he'd come up with this. Since then, it had gathered dust in his closet for a few weeks while the disappointment had worn off. He'd found it this afternoon, and he'd been playing it ever since. It was surprisingly good. "What's up?"
"The ceiling, last time I checked," Lev said, coming to look over Luke's shoulder.
"That joke is so old," Luke groaned, reaching into a nearby bowl of snack food.
"Your father wants to see you," Lev explained.
"Then why doesn't he come and see me?" Luke asked, not bothering to pause the game. He was just about to trump his last high score. "Unlike him, I don't have an appointment schedule."
"I think he intended for you to come to his location, Luke."
"Let me get this straight," Luke said, pressing the controls rapidly. "He wants to see me, so I have to get up off my bed and walk across half the building? Forget it! Tell him I'm trying to play the game he gave me."
Lev's normally unshakeable good temper was starting to sound a little stretched. "You can discuss that with him yourself. He's in conference room 2B."
"I'm not going," Luke said, stubbornly, focusing on the viewscreen.
"Luke, please don't deliberately put your father in a worse mood. Perhaps you can avoid him, but the rest of us aren't so lucky."
Luke sighed. "Guilt, huh?" he said, taking a moment to look up.
Lev grinned. "I prefer 'appealing to your sense of good judgment'."
A sad noise emanated from the game, and Luke looked back to find he'd been blown away by an enemy starfighter. "No! Oh, blast it, I suppose I have to go now."
Luke tossed the game on his bedside table, and struggled to his feet. So much for a lazy afternoon.
"It shouldn't take long," Lev said. "You'll be back shooting down x-wings before you know it."
"What does he want, anyway?" Luke asked, following Lev out into the corridor.
"It has something to do with a remote controlled rocket," Lev explained, walking ahead of Luke towards the elevator.
"What about it?"
"And a broken window."
"Am I in trouble?" Luke asked, turning to Lev in surprise. "Why didn't you tell me? I could've made a break for it, and you could have told him I wasn't home."
Lev chuckled. "Come on, Luke. You have nothing to fear from your father."
There was silence until they stepped out of the elevator, and Luke took the time to try and think up some good excuses. The doors to the conference room loomed large, just a few meters down the corridor.
"Good luck," Lev said, patting him on the back.
"Thanks." Luke swallowed, and ventured onwards.
As he walked through the doors, the occupants immediately turned towards him. His father was standing opposite an elaborately dressed man, who was flanked by a couple of stormtroopers. The stranger was looking at Luke with a mix of indignation and surprise.
"Luke, this Administrator Tennan," his father said, gesturing at the man. "He is the executive director of the Imperial Tax Department. Their office is located in one of the neighboring buildings."
"Hello," Luke said, walking forward and offering him his hand. It wasn't accepted. Luke let it fall back by his side.
"He claims this rocket -" his father held up the offending item, which now resembled a charred cylinder more than it did a rocket, "- smashed through his office window and disrupted a management meeting." His father placed the sorry remains on the conference table. "Were you responsible for this?" he asked.
Luke swallowed, staring at what was left of his toy. He could try denying the whole thing, but his father had an annoying habit of seeing straight through any lies. Besides, it was an accident.
"I ... I was flying it around on the balcony, and then it disappeared," Luke admitted. "I thought it had smashed into a wall and fallen into the traffic lanes. I didn't know it had gone through a window!"
The administrator made an odd snorting noise. "I don't believe it."
"What is it you do not believe, Administrator?" his father enquired, sounding halfway between boredom and annoyance.
"With all due respect, Lord Vader, I do not believe that your son would normally spend his time playing with toy rockets. This was a deliberate act of vandalism."
"I don't even know which window is your office," Luke insisted. He glanced up at his father, wondering if he doubted his story himself. He seemed more impatient than angry, however. His earlier tone suggested he considered this whole incident to be beneath his notice.
"I want an apology," the administrator demanded.
"I'm sorry," Luke said, immediately.
"At our next management meeting," he added.
"I suppose you would also like some silence money," Vader suggested, with a hint of sarcasm.
Luke smirked at the tone, but it went over the administrator's head.
"That would not be an unreasonable request. I, of course, would never run to the media, but I cannot vouch for every worker in my department."
"And what will you do if I do not oblige?" his father said. His tone had taken on a cold, dangerous edge that quickly wiped the smirk off Luke's face.
The man started to open his mouth, but then paused, clearly thinking better of it.
"You are a fortunate man, Administrator," his father said, stepping closer to him. "I will let you live today due to the presence of my son. But if you ever accuse him of anything again, you will not be so lucky."
There was a second or two of tense silence, and then his father made a gesture to the stormtroopers. Luke hastily moved away from the exit, anticipating they were about to show him out. He didn't need the encouragement though. As soon as he saw the stormtroopers raise their blasters, he disappeared quickly out the doors.
The stormtroopers followed, clearly intending to make sure he wasn't coming back.
When they were alone in the room, Luke looked up at his father, wondering what he was going to say. Maybe he should say something first. Anything he said might only make his father angrier, and he was already at the stage of making death threats.
Eventually, his father turned to him.
"Why aren't you at school?"
"Huh?" Luke said, surprised.
"School. It is not the weekend and you appear in good health. Why are you here?"
"It's the summer break," Luke said, relaxing. His father no longer sounded angry. "Didn't you read the school newsletter?"
"How long is this holiday?"
His father didn't reply for a good three breathing cycles. Luke smiled, looking at the floor.
"Six ... weeks," he repeated.
"And what are you planning to do with yourself for the next six weeks? Is this what I have to look forward to?" His father gestured at the broken rocket.
Luke frowned. "That's not fair. Okay, so I broke the window - it was an accident! I wasn't deliberately causing havoc. Besides, that rocket cost me my entire week's allowance. I should take it back and ask for a refund."
"Next time you break anything, come and tell me immediately. And if I am not here, tell one of the officers."
"Okay," Luke said.
"And the balcony is not an appropriate place to be playing with a remote controlled toy. What is wrong with the garden or a local park?"
"I tried in the garden, but I wanted to see how high it could go," Luke explained. "The sky barrier got in the way. And it's boring going to the park by myself. Ben is on some vacation planet with his father."
"When is he due to return?"
"This is sounding worse by the second," his father said, staring at the ceiling as if sensing a disturbance in the Force.
"Hey, I'm not that bad," Luke protested. "You won't even notice I'm home. Besides, it's only six weeks. Well, six and a half to be exact."
His father was walking towards the exit.
"Where are you going?" Luke asked.
"To meditate," his father said, sounding weary.
A long break from school was a relatively new experience for Luke. On Tatooine, school had always been arranged around the farming seasons. There had been no school during the harvest, but it certainly didn't feel like a holiday. Last year, his father had been away during most of his summer break, and he had gone on vacation with Ben and his father. They had invited him to join them this year, but Luke had decided he'd rather spend the time at home.
Today, two weeks after the start of his holiday, he was seriously beginning to regret that decision.
"It's not fair," he said, staring miserably at Artoo. He was sitting on an upturned crate in a hangar bay tech room, so his astromech droid was at eye-level. "He just doesn't understand."
Artoo whistled in agreement.
"We heard about the accident in the garden," Threepio said, walking forward to hand Luke a hydrospanner. Luke accepted it, and began to tighten the bolts on the droid he was building. "You have mine and Artoo's sympathy, Master Luke."
"See, even you can see it was an accident," Luke said, resorting to using the hydrospanner to punch holes in a piece of rusted metal. "He doesn't know the meaning of the word accident."
Beside him, Artoo made some comforting beeps.
"I say I'm sorry, but he just doesn't listen. He doesn't even know how to listen."
"Your father is very ... irascible, Master Luke."
Luke stared at the ceiling, putting the spanner aside.
"He hasn't even finished yelling at me yet. He just walked off and said he needed to calm down. He's probably going to come down here any minute now and -"
Artoo's wheels suddenly whirred into life, and he began to reverse away.
"Master Luke, Artoo and I are needed down at the other end of the building," Threepio said, quickly. "Come along, Artoo."
"Wait!" Luke called. "I need your help -"
He broke off, realizing his droids had already gone.
Luke sighed, and stared at the half-built droid in front of him. "Some pals they are. At least you can't run away." He tightened another bolt, getting an odd idea. He hadn't decided on what type of droid this was going to be, but Artoo and Threepio's hasty departure deserved a little playful revenge.
Vader raised his gloved hand and pressed the button for Luke's door-com. After a short wait, the doors slid open and Luke stepped out.
"Luke, we need to talk."
His son only grinned in response. "I'm not Luke."
"Then who are you?" he asked, with a mixture of impatience and sarcasm.
He wasn't answered. Instead, another Luke stepped out of the room to join the first. Now there were two of them, identical in every way.
"I'm Luke," the second one said. "This is my brother."
"You don't have a brother," Vader said, staring at the second 'Luke' in disbelief.
"I do now! They were doing free cloning at the university and I decided to try it out."
"What?! You cloned yourself? Without my permission?"
More 'Lukes' began to join them in the corridor. They clustered around him, and began to talk loudly.
"Give me some attention!"
One of them reached up and tugged on his cape. "Are you my father?"
"No!" Vader said, shifting away. "Luke, how many clones are there?"
But his real son had disappeared, blending into the ever-growing crowd.
"I need attention!"
"No!" Vader said, feeling on the verge of panic.
He backed into the wall, then sat up quickly. The voices of the clones had disappeared, and now he could only hear his respirator, working overtime. His vision cleared, and he found himself surrounded by the white inner walls of his meditation chamber. No Lukes. No Luke, either.
Vader clenched his fists against the armrests, realizing he must have fallen asleep during his meditation. It was no surprise he was having nightmarish visions involving Luke. It had been one thing after another since this summer break horror had begun.
An hour ago, he'd been trying to read over the latest reports on Rebel fleet movements. The sound of something exploding put an end to that, and he had arrived in the garden only to find Luke surrounded by five stormtroopers, three security guards, the palace fire safety squad, and a hazardous waste disposal unit. In the center of all this was the burnt out remains of expired fuel cartridges. Apparently his son thought it could be fun to set them alight.
His fingers clenched tighter around the armrests at the memory. He'd come in here to try and calm down before facing Luke again, but it wasn't helping. He'd very nearly lost his temper in the garden, after Luke had proclaimed, in his best innocent voice, that it was just an accident.
Vader swiveled his chair to face his computer, deciding it was time he went and finished his earlier conversation with his son. The monitor was filled with a document he'd promised to present to Luke this morning. It was a list of all the mishaps his son had caused over the last two weeks - at least, all the ones he could remember off hand.
His eye browsed the list, making sure there was nothing he'd forgotten.
breaking a window with a toy rocket
overloading a power socket for no good reason
blowing out four rooms' worth of lights
using a hover-board in the corridors
taking a speeder comlink apart
not putting it back together
giving stormtroopers ridiculous orders
laughing when they carried them out
setting off explosives in the garden
claiming that you didn't know they were explosives
Vader reached up to finish it off, flinching slightly with the memory.
claiming everything was 'just an accident'
Vader pressed a button and collected a hardcopy printout. It was time to go and present his case to Luke. It would be difficult for his son to argue with the raw evidence right in front of him.
As he left the chamber and headed for the ship hangar, he silently hoped that Luke was actually down there doing something constructive, and not somewhere else causing more trouble. Although, being in the ship hangar wasn't any guarantee of not causing trouble, either, as this list was testament to.
He was trying to be patient with Luke, but it was growing more difficult by the day. Earlier in the week, he had taken his son to the medical center to get his wrist examined, after he'd careened into a wall on his hover-board. Doctor Leeson had suggested that Luke's behavior was simply the result of boredom and restlessness. It was something he could readily identify with. Faded memories from his youth told of a time when he felt much the same way. But hover-boarding in the Jedi temple had never even crossed his mind.
None of the doctor's advice had given him any idea of how to deal with this. Simply lecturing Luke wasn't helping. And he couldn't ground him, or take away his holovid access. That would only increase his son's boredom. Perhaps he should try assigning Luke a permanent stormtrooper babysitter. But that could be construed as a worse punishment for the unlucky stormtrooper.
When the elevator doors slid open, Vader walked across to Luke's favorite tech-room. Inside, he found his son sitting on an upturned crate, tinkering with a half-completed droid. He looked up at his entrance, and quickly stood up. His expression was apprehensive.
Vader didn't say anything. He simply presented the list. It was read quickly, and then put aside.
"I said I was sorry for all those things."
"If only your apologies meant you would not repeat the same behavior an hour later," Vader suggested.
Luke turned away, and began fidgeting with the tools on the bench. "I do try. Some things just seem like nothing could go wrong ..."
"Is that what you thought about the explosives?!" Vader enquired, stepping forward and placing a hand on Luke's shoulder. He turned his son back around so they were facing each other. "That nothing could go wrong?"
"I told you they weren't explosives," Luke insisted, looking up with pleading blue eyes. "They were just expired fuel cartridges. I didn't know they were going to explode. I thought they'd just pop."
"I am not going to dignify that with a response," Vader said, annoyed.
Luke's shoulders slumped, and he dropped his gaze as if anticipating the start of another lecture. He'd certainly had enough of those over the past week. Vader was getting sick of delivering them as much as Luke was sick of hearing them.
"I am not here to reiterate the stupidity of playing with fire," Vader said, to Luke's visible relief. "I believe I made my point earlier."
Luke cringed at the reminder. "You didn't have to yell at me in front of everyone like that," he mumbled. "It was embarrassing."
"You were embarassed? How do you think your behavior makes me feel?" Vader asked.
Luke sighed, heavily. "I didn't mean to make you angry," he said, sounding genuinely sorry.
Vader had to resist the urge to sigh himself. For all his son's expertise at being reckless, he was also equally good at being contrite. Despite himself, he spoke his next words in a slightly gentler tone.
"Son, I know it can be difficult to find ways to occupy yourself. However, I also know that you can do a lot better than the items on that list."
"I worry that you are going to hurt yourself far worse than a sprained wrist before this holiday is over."
"It's actually a lot better now," Luke said, rubbing it.
"I want you to understand my point of view. You may think I would prefer you to sit in your bedroom and not have any fun, but that is not the case. I want you to occupy your time constructively. I want you to be happy. But, most important of all, I want you to be safe."
"I know," Luke said, sounding touched. He looked up and met Vader's gaze once again. "Well, I have some good news. Ben came back tonight. He's coming over with a new holo-game tomorrow."
Thank the Force, Vader thought. Perhaps he could start employing Ben to keep his son out of trouble.
"Do you think you can avoid any accidents between now and then?" Vader enquired. "Or do I need to assign someone to watch you?"
Luke held up his hands. "I'm building a droid. See?"
Vader glanced at it. "What type of droid?"
"It's a secret ... I don't want Artoo and Threepio to know."
"You need to realign the maneuvering circuits," Vader said, gesturing at the shell.
"I know, but I got stuck. I was looking for some larger capacitors, but instead I found -" Luke paused.
"The fuel canisters?" Vader suggested.
Luke nodded, looking aside.
Vader walked over to the bench, and spread out the rough blueprints Luke had drawn up. He gestured for his son to join him. "Show me where you are having trouble."
"You're going to help me?!" Luke said, as he came to stand beside him.
"I do know a few things about building droids," Vader said.
"I know, but ... I thought we were ... you know, uh ... not on good terms."
"Yesterday you said you were thinking about freezing me in carbonite for the rest of the summer."
"Is that really something you wish to remind me of?" Vader asked.
"This morning you said I was driving you to insanity."
"Perhaps, my son, I am simply more forgiving than you give me credit for," Vader suggested.
Luke stared at him for a moment, and then broke into a grin. "I'm stuck right here," he said, pointing at the center of a circuit diagram.
Vader was about to start discussing the droid, but something made him hesitate.
"Speaking of my sanity," he said, finally. "If any organization were to offer to clone you, please tell me you would say no."
Building the droid together turned out to be an excellent idea. Luke had stayed out of trouble for two days - something he hadn't managed to do since the start of this wretched summer break. Vader had even felt comfortable enough to spend a few hours at the Imperial Palace, having left Luke to finish off some soldering. It seemed these ideas about 'parental attention' and 'quality time' Luke's doctor was so fond of had some merit after all.
At the palace, he saw to a number of long overdue tasks, before seeking out an audience with the Emperor. Something was stirring in the Mathalar region ... something which required his attention.
The Emperor seemed almost amused when he entered the throne room.
"Lord Vader. I am surprised to see you, considering the circumstances. I understood your son had been causing some difficulties as of late."
Vader had to fight to avoid sighing as he came to a halt in front of the throne. Privacy seemed to be a non-existent concept in the Imperial Court.
"My duty to the Empire always comes first, Master. I understand we have a traitor in the Mathalar regional fleet."
"Captain Flenn," the Emperor agreed. "You wish to go and pay him a visit?"
"I suspect he will go into hiding as soon as I leave the capital," Vader said. "He already knows his tendency to 'lose' the ships in his care has been brought to my attention. He may have already disappeared."
"It is his family ties with the regional governor that have allowed him to avoid notice for so long," the Emperor said, leaning back in the throne. "I may have the governor executed, just to make an example to the rest of the Grand Moffs." He shook his head. "I can't abide people who get sentimental about their family."
"With your permission, I will send someone else to take care of Captain Flenn," Vader said, quickly trying to keep the conversation on track. "I will have him brought back alive, so I can interrogate him as to the whereabouts of our missing ships."
"Who do you propose to send?"
Vader considered it. A resourceful, yet traitorous officer like Captain Flenn required expert attention. Any regular Imperial field agent would likely make a mess of the situation. An independent for hire would be the best choice. As luck would have it, Boba Fett was supposedly on Coruscant, dealing with a former business associate of Jabba the Hutt.
On the other hand, inviting Fett over to meet with him while Luke was around wasn't a good idea. Curse this never-ending summer break.
"I will give it some thought, Master."
"Very well. See to it, my friend."
Vader bowed and turned to leave, but the Emperor added an afterthought.
"And if you require any assistance in keeping your young offspring in line, I would be happy to take him off your hands for a few days." He raised his hands slightly. "Electrocution goes a long way towards teaching discipline and obedience."
Vader stared blankly for a few seconds, wondering how in the galaxy he was going to respond.
"Thank you for the offer, Master," Vader said, finally, hoping he sounded sincere. "I will give it ... due consideration."
The Emperor didn't add anything further, and Vader made a swift exit.
Luke found himself smiling as he carefully soldered a circuit into place. Building this droid had been thoroughly captivating, from poring over the hastily drawn blueprints to rummaging through one last container of spare droid parts. And, as an added bonus, he and his father had actually spent some time together which didn't involve him being in trouble. A miracle unto itself.
"There," Luke said, flicking the droid's access panel shut. "That's the last circuit. You're all finished now."
No response was forthcoming from the robot, and Luke frowned in annoyance. "Or maybe not ..."
"Perhaps you should try switching it on," a voice rumbled behind him.
"Oh, right!" Luke said, startled. He'd been so focused on this project, he had been unaware of his father's arrival. He did as his father suggested, and the barrel-like droid lit up, and began to whir.
"Greetings," it said. "I am REQ-Less-1, astromech-protocol hybrid automaton. If you need something repaired or translated, I can assist you."
"REQ-Less-1!?" Luke said, annoyed. "Reckless one?"
"I programmed in its name yesterday," his father explained, walking forward to stand beside Luke.
"Not funny! I'm going to fix that right now," Luke said, reaching for the access panel again. "By the way, don't let Artoo or Threepio see this droid yet. I need to introduce them slowly, or it might end up in pieces. Ben is coming over soon to see it, and I want it to still be here."
"Good timing. I have a reward for you - something you can share with your friend."
Luke instantly shot back up, all annoyance over the droid's name forgotten. "A reward? Why?"
"Because you have gone two days without having any 'accidents'."
"A reward for being good?" Luke said, smirking. "I haven't got one of those since I was six years old."
"You are too old for it, then?" his father asked.
"I didn't say that," Luke said, hastily. "What is it?"
His father handed him a datachip. Luke turned it over and read the description on the back.
"VIP double pass to Extreme Thrillzone, Imperial City's newest and most extreme amusement park!" Luke glanced up at his father. "Wow! Where did you get ...? Never mind! Thanks!"
Luke ran for the elevators, not bothering to look back.
Vader watched until Luke had disappeared, and then glanced at the droid. It had arms and a head much like Threepio's, but its body and wheels were modified astromech parts. It was currently twisting around in circles and waving its arms as if it didn't know what to do with them. Part of him was hoping to be here when Artoo and Threepio caught sight of it. The other part was annoyed that he'd find something so childish entertaining.
His holocom began to beep, shifting his attention away from the droid. It lit up with the image of an aide.
"Sir, we've managed to locate Boba Fett. He will be here within the hour."
"Good. Ensure security is informed of his pending arrival."
Vader switched it off, and walked out of the tech room. He was so busy thinking about what information Fett would need that he almost bumped into Luke. He glanced down, surprised to find his son had returned so soon. Hopefully he hadn't heard anything.
"Did you forget something?" Vader asked.
"I forgot to turn the droid off," Luke said, folding his arms.
Vader waved a hand in the direction of the room, and a clicking noise followed. "Done," Vader said. "Now make yourself scarce."
"Why?" Luke said, his voice dripping with suspicion. "Is someone coming to visit?"
"You should know better than to eavesdrop," Vader said, pointing at Luke's chest.
"You tricked me!"
"As much as I would like to hear your flawed reasoning as to why that is the case, I have matters of importance to attend to." Vader started to walk away, but Luke spoke again.
"I should have known you would never do anything nice without having an ulterior motive."
Vader glanced back at Luke, wondering why he was letting himself be dragged into this conversation.
"Luke, I require some privacy this afternoon. Now, I could have made you stay in your room with a databook, but I was kind enough to make other arrangements."
"So you bribed me to get rid of me and pretended it was a reward?" Luke tossed the datachip back. "Keep it. I'll just stay in here and work on the droid. Tell your guest I'm a technican." Luke turned and stomped off back into the workroom.
Vader stared briefly at the ceiling, wondering why these adolescent moods were so incomprehensible. A moment ago his son had been excited about the amusement park, and now he was throwing a childish tantrum. He walked after Luke, hoping the security guards were not watching this conversation.
"Luke, I will give you two choices. You can go to an amusement park with your friend, or you can spend the time in your bedroom with stormtroopers to guard you. Which would you prefer?"
"You're being completely unfair!" Luke protested.
"I do not recall that being one of the choices."
"I'm staying right here," Luke said, stubbornly. He sat down on the bench and folded his arms in a smaller reflection of Vader's posture.
"Are you disobeying your father?" Vader asked, trying not to lose his patience.
"What kind of father tries to bribe his son because he's so ashamed that he doesn't want to let a guest see him?"
"Who said anything about being ashamed?" Vader said. "Now, you have five seconds to make your choice, or I will choose for you."
"You're going to force me to go to an amusement park?"
"That wasn't the choice I was going to make. And you have two seconds left."
Luke sat back further on the bench, and looked aside. Vader remained silent for a few breathing cycles, wondering why Luke always made things so difficult. Finally, he shifted into the doorway, and beckoned to a couple of stormtroopers guarding the elevators.
They ran over immediately, and he stood back to allow them to enter.
"Escort my son to his private room," Vader said, gesturing at Luke, "and guard the door. He is not allowed to leave until I come to release him."
"What?! Oh boy, this is low!" Luke protested, as the troopers came to stand on either side of him. "Even for you! The least you could have done was drag me there yourself!!"
Vader gestured for the troopers to leave. One made to grab Luke's arm, but Luke shook it off and trudged towards the door.
As he walked past, he paused and glanced up at Vader. "Um ... can I have those tickets back?"
"I would not want to offend your morality by offering you a bribe," Vader said, turning away.