Chapter I – Tools of the Force
"I'm not so sure about this, princess. Tell you the truth, I think we're walking straight into a trap." Han sounded unusually grim, and Leia could but nod reluctantly. They were headed for Mon Mothma's office aboard the Rebel command ship, and Han was walking so quickly that she almost had to run to keep up with him.
"I agree. Mon Mothma is right, though. We must choose the diplomatic way, if it is at all possible."
"We must, huh? What do you think, kid?" Han looked at Luke, walking next to Leia, but the young man just shrugged. He had returned from his mysterious trip to 'see an old friend' just in time to catch the Emperor's call. Leia gave him a worried glance. He had had an odd look on his face when he hugged her, and he hadn't said one single word during the heated debate following Palpatine's invitation.
"Luke, are you fine?"
He gave her an absent-minded look. "Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine."
Han grinned, and winked at Chewie, who was lumbering just behind them. "C'mon, kid. You're just planning how you're gonna lung for Vader as soon as you set eyes upon him."
Luke stiffened. "What? You think he'll be there? He's not much of a... diplomat, is he?"
"Understatement of the year. But he'll be there, standing behind ol' Palpy like a giant bat, breathing down on everyone. And you are coming, too, aren't you0? What with you being the great hero of the Rebellion and all that... "
"We're all going", Leia said sharply, slightly unnerved by the though of seeing Darth Vader again. The memory of what he had done to them, to Han, on Bespin still haunted her dreams.
Chewie grunted and Han nodded. "I agree, Chewie. This whole thing stinks, big time."
Leia was about to reply when she suddenly... felt something.
Felt what? It was like... She furrowed her brow, concentrated, and -
- and it was gone. She looked up, puzzled, and found Luke staring out into nothingness. Apparently he had felt it, too, whatever it was.
"Luke", she whispered. "What was that?"
"I..." He seemed to be very far away, as if searching for something with his mind. Then he stiffened, and his eyes grew wide. Without another word, he turned on his heels and ran down the corrridor, back to where they came from.
"Hey, what..." Han started to say, but Leia did not stick around to hear the rest. She raced after Luke, finally catching up with him just outside the conference room. "Luke, will you tell me why..."
Before she would finish the sentence he pushed the controls and the door slid open with a low hiss. He stepped into the room and Leia quickly followed. And quickly bumped into him as he suddenly froze. "What is it?" she hissed. He did not answer. Quite an annoying habit that he seemed to have developed in the last few hours. Determined, she pushed him aside. Stared in disbelief at the scene before her.
Three robed beings stood in front of her, one of them quite familiar. The trio was looking just as shocked as Leia felt. A quick glance at Luke's startled face confirmed that those persons, whoever they were, was not – absolutely not – supposed to be there.
"Who are they, Luke?" she whispered. Because the man she recognized could not be who she thought it was. Could not. But the resemblance was uncanny -
Before anyone could say anthing, Han stormed into the room, blaster in his hand. Just as Luke had, he stopped dead as he spotted the strangers. His eyes locked on the man who could not be the man Leia thought he was -
"Hey!", he blurted out, pointing his blaster at the bearded man. "Aren't you supposed to be dead?"
"I am", Obi-Wan confirmed grimly. He glanced at his two companions. "It appears we have returned to life. Let me introduce master Yoda and master Qui-Gon."
Darth Vader was pacing the bridge of his Star Destroyer. It would take them about two days to reach Coruscant. The Dark Lord frowned. He still had doubts about this whole idea.
The sudden Force wave hit him with full power.
It felt wrong... completely wrong. It was the Force, all these sudden impressions that washed over him, but it... was as if it was twisted. Or turned inside out.
If flowed through him, took over his body, and he lost consciousness -
He awoke after what seemed like an eternity. Even though he realized it couldn't have been more than a few seconds.
He was lying on the hard floor.
Dazed, he tried to rise. Failed. He was feeling... weak. Weak as a newborn baby.
He managed to lift his head, and found Piett staring at him. That made him frown. Sure, he'd passed out, but that didn't ought to warrant such a horrified look -
Something was different. He closed his eyes, opened them again. Almost passed out again from the shock when he realized what it was.
He wasn't wearing the mask.
He almost panicked then, but he wasn't dying. He was still breathing.
Without the mask.
With trembling hands he reached out and touched his head. The skin was smooth and the skull covered with thick hair.
Vader looked down at his legs. Knew beyond any doubt that they were flesh and blood.
What in the name of the Force...!
Stunned as he was, it took him another minute to realize that not only was he healed, but completely naked as well.
Rigth. So this explained Piett's stare. Blushing, Vader quickly sat up and crouched into a somewhat more modest position, feeling utterly embarrassed. A quick survey assured him that the bridge was more or less empty and the none of the present crew members seemed to have notice the... interesting situation. Thank the Force for that.
So. What to do now? Stand up and dramatically stalk away in search of some clothes? He dismissed that idea, before it had even finished forming itself in his brain. Not a chance.
The Dark Lord sighed. Piett had already seen him, so he might as well make good use of the man. "Admiral", he began harshly.
Piett swallowed, but managed to keep his composure quite well as he stepped forward to stand before his superior.
"Yes, my lord?" he said, his eyes firmly set on the wall above Vader's head.
"Get me some clothes. Fast. I'll be..." - he let his gaze sweep over the room - "waiting here."
Piett's training, extensive as it had been, had not prepared him for situations like this, but it had taguht him to always obey orders. So he gave a military nod, hastily turned around and marched away.
Vader watched him all but run away, and suddenly realized he was grinning.
Well, yeah, grinning. It was wonderful - more so than he could ever express - to be himself again. The pain was gone, that pain that had been with him for so long that it had become a part of him. He had not remember how good it felt not to be in pain. And finally he was free of that damn sound of heavy breathing. For years it had plauged him, making sleep all but impossible, until he finallly got used to it. But now it was gone. So yes, he could allow himself one tiny smile.
As long as it didn't become a habit.
He looked around the bridge again. Better move to some place where he wasn't so easy to spot. So far, no one had noticed him, and he would really rather keep it that way.
Might prove difficult, though. If he rose, someone would see it. Or would they? These Imperials were supposed to mind their own business – that was a good way to stay alive on Darth Vader's personal Star Destroyer. Perhaps they wouldn't look up.
Well, he could stand up and walk, or he could crawling. Or he could just stay where he was. Not really an option, though.
With a sight, surrendering to the inevitable, Vader rose and crossed the distance to a control desk as quickly and casually as he could. Relieved he sank down into the empty chair behind it and crossed his legs. He ought to be safe here until Piett returned with something for him to wear.
And then he would figure out what the hell had just happened.
The shock had finally faded – probably it had died of pure exhaustion – but Luke was still feeling rather dazed. He had seen Obi-Wan Kenobi be cut down by Darth Vader, and he had sat next to master Yoda as he passed away. And apparently the third Jedi, by the name of Qui-Gon, had died long before Luke was even born.
Yet here they were, seated around a big white table. Three Jedi returned from the dead. It should not be possible.
To the Force, nothing impossible is.
Maybe not. Still, this was too much even for a Jedi to accept easily.
"I didn't think this sort of thing happened ", he offered meekly.
Obi-Wan smiled. "We are as surprised as you are, Luke. We did not know this was possible. And we did nothing to make it happen, either. It just... occurred."
At the other side of the table, Han scratched his head. "So, uh, what happened? You were just dead, and then all by a sudden you were alive?" he asked.
The tall man with the long hair Obi-Wan had introduced as Qui-Gon gave him a gentle smile. "Pretty much, yes. We all felt a very strange twist in the Force. And were alive."
Luke frowned. "Why... What could have caused it? I mean, how...?"
The Jedi looked at each other, before Master Yoda answered. "Know that, we do not. Happened something like this never has."
"We will try to find out ", Qui-Gon added. "Now, about that peace negotiations... "
Leia, who up to that point had remained silent, started. "You know about that?"
Obi-Wan chuckled gently. "We've been trying to keep an eye on what is going on in the world of the living. "
She nodded, somewhat uncertainly. "Very well. " She rose from her chair. "We need to inform Mon Mothma about this. And I am sure we would all like for you to accompany us to Jord."
"And we would be pleased to join you, Your Highness. " Qui-Gon's eyes glittered suddenly. "I am quite looking forward to Sith's reaction to our presence."