Rating: No language, some violence and blood.
I don't own Star Wars, but this story is mine. There are a few snippets of dialogue from the movies; such dialogue is copyright Lucas.
Author's Thanks:
Many many thanks to Kitt for help in the brainstorming department! A lot of the fine details (including the name "Hero of the Sands," which took a while to come by) are due to her great ideas! Thanks also to Sarah, who brainstormed with me on the rescue!
Author's Notes: This was written for the Vader MIA challenge on the LV Yahoo list. Feedback of all shapes and sizes is welcome.
Characters: Luke, Vader, Owen, Beru, and others.

"Everyone needs a hero, even Tatooine."

The moisture farmer scowled. He didn't think Tatooine needed a hero, and he certainly didn't believe pure altruism existed on the desert planet. This "Hero of the Sands" character had to possess some ulterior motive. "We were doing just fine before this hero came along," he stated as he placed his glass on the table.

His nephew shrugged. "Maybe 'just fine' isn't good enough."

Before Owen could reply to Luke, Beru broke in, "I'm thankful for what the Hero of the Sands has done. I think his kindness is just what Tatooine needs."

Her husband grumbled something under his breath before replying. "His kindness could bring Tatooine a lot of trouble. When the Empire finds proof that he's using Jedi powers, we'll have a swarm of Imperials upon our heads. There are enough Stormtroopers walking on the streets as it is."

"The Empire doesn't need proof," Luke said quietly, his voice sounding bitter. "They'd arrest him without proof if they could catch him."

"But fortunately there are a lot of people who appreciate what he's doing," Beru noted gently, smiling at her nephew. "They'd turn themselves in before they'd turn him in."

Owen scowled. "Why is he on Tatooine, anyway? Aren't there more populated planets where he could do more good?"

"Maybe he can't get off Tatooine, or maybe there's something else holding him back," Luke ventured tentatively.

His uncle raised his eyebrows. "Well, don't you be getting any ideas, Luke. The hero career is usually a short one—he'll be caught soon enough, mark my word."

Beru shook her head at her husband. "Hush, Owen...Luke, you look tired. Why don't you go to bed early?"

Luke sighed. "That's a good idea, Aunt Beru." He nodded at his aunt and uncle. "Good night."

An hour later, a figure stood upon a dune, overlooking the city of Mos Eisley. Beside the figure rested a heavily modified airspeeder, a strange mishmash of parts that was able to reach surprising speeds.

A dry desert wind blew, ruffling the figure's black cloak. With sable gloves, the being reached up to pull his hood further over his head, so that all that could be seen of his face was its lower half and a hint of the black mask that covered his eyes.

He was called the Hero of the Sands. From the sands, he would come, and to the sands, he would go. His name, which had been given to him one night by an impressed local, was spoken with both fear and awe. Tatooinian residents might know little about him, but they considered him theirs, and their embracing of the name "Hero of the Sands" was a reflection of that. They did not know that he hated Tatooine.

He walked slowly away from his airspeeder, his cloak trailing in the sand. Few were brave enough to venture near his choice of vehicle, and those who did received a nasty electrical shock. He was one of only two people on-planet that could operate his airspeeder, and he didn't expect that to change any time soon.

When he finally entered Mos Eisley, he walked quietly through the streets, skillfully dodging a few drunk passersby. He reached out with his senses, searching for trouble, and he soon found it.

He was able to hide his presence from the weak-minded, and fortunately there were no strong-minded individuals out on the street. When he leapt up to the top of a building, he remained unseen by any nearby sentients. He jumped from roof to roof, finally landing on the ground on the opposite side of Mos Eisley.

Tusken Raiders were coming. He could feel the presence of both them and their banthas, and he could feel the belligerent aura that surrounded them. They were preparing for an attack.

He concentrated carefully, trying to determine their numbers.

"What are you looking at?" a curious voice asked from behind him.

Cursing his inability to divide his concentration, the Hero of the Sands swiveled around to face the one who had disturbed him.

The human's eyes widened. "It's you!"

He nodded slowly. Then, in a low voice, he told the man, "There are Tusken Raiders coming. I'm going to try to stop them."

He strode forward, ignoring the man's resultant gasp and protestation that he couldn't do it alone. He could have retrieved his airspeeder, but it would be easier to just try to protect himself. Several Tusken projectile rifles shooting at the airspeeder would probably cause some heavy damage.

Kneeling, he touched the sand beneath his feet for a moment in contemplation. This night, he would prove himself worthy of his namesake.

As he walked, sands began to swirl up around him, gaining in intensity each second. He went to the top of a dune, and there the Sand People were.

In single-file, they moved, spread out far beyond what he could see. It didn't take long before the ones near the front saw him and gestured with their gaffi sticks, urging their banthas forward.

He raised his hands, and the Tuskens at the front of the line were able to see that the sand actually responded to his command. Their banthas fidgeted nervously, and as the Hero of the Sands sent the artificial sandstorm towards them, the head Raider shouted and lifted his gaffi stick. Then, miraculously, the Tusken Raiders called off their raid, turning away from Mos Eisley.

A drop of sweat trickled off his chin as he kept the great sandstorm churning as a warning. It was only when he could no longer see the Tusken Raiders that he released the sandstorm.

Out of fatigue, he collapsed onto his hands and knees, panting. That was the greatest effort he had ever made (controlling so many small grains of sand was difficult), and he hadn't been certain it would work. It had, though, and he was glad of it. The citizens of Mos Eisley should be safe for the night.

He wiped his brow with a hand, rubbing the sweat onto his cloak. He was drenched in sweat, and he couldn't wait to change.

Glad he had possessed the foresight to slave-rig his airspeeder, he activated his beckon call and waited for his vehicle to come to him. When he was finally seated in the airspeeder, he drove it towards the abandoned sarlaac pit where he stored it (he knew no one would visit the pit out of fear that a sarlaac might still reside there). Ordinarily, he would drive to several Tatooinian cities and perhaps check out some moisture farms, but he was feeling too tired to help anyone else. Since he always had to be alert in case there were Imperials nearby, fatigue was always very bad for him.

Waiting for him at the abandoned sarlaac pit, however, was a brown-cloaked humanoid who seemed unaffected by the pit's presence. After stashing his ship in the pit, the Hero of the Sands walked over to the figure.

"I felt what you did," the other said as he pulled down his hood, revealing a kind human face. Somehow, he managed to sound both impressed and admonishing. "The effort involved was tremendous."

"I know, Master, I should have been shielding my presence. I'm sorry."

Obi-Wan Kenobi gave a sad smile. "Well, perhaps it does not matter." He shifted, reaching into his robe to grab a datapad. "I thought you might like to look at this."

The offered datapad was taken, its contents reviewed quickly. Apparently, Darth Vader, Military Executor and Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet, had disappeared. The Emperor's representatives had noted that Lord Vader had failed to check in at the designated time and that his communications unit did not seem to be functional. Anyone with details of the Sith Lord's disappearance was to report to the nearest Imperial commander immediately.

"I must search for him," the Hero of the Sands stated quietly. He didn't notice the look of surprise that passed over Obi-Wan's face.

"Why do you feel you must search for him, Luke?"

Luke Skywalker shrugged, fiddling with the hem of his cloak. "With the powers we have been given, you and me are best suited for finding Lord Vader—he must have left behind some trace that we could sense with the Force...I may not agree with the Sith Lord's policies—and if I find him, I will tell him that—but I also do not believe in overthrowing leaders. That is why I must go..." He straightened, his decision solidly made. "Will you go with me, Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan shook his head slowly, his sadness easily evident to Luke. "This is your mission alone, Luke. You have learned all you could from me—you simply need to try to remember it..." He gave a gentle smile. "Hold on to your peace, Luke, and do not reach to anger...Also, do not worry about your aunt and uncle; I will watch over them. As for your passage offworld, well, I have some money for you...It will not be enough for you to buy your own ship, though—I'm afraid you must sell your speeder to make up the rest of that."

Luke stiffened. Trying to collect himself, he closed his eyes. He had been through a lot with the vehicle—he had not only built it, but he had also ridden around in it so much that it was almost like his second skin. With the speeder, he'd chased down bandits, rescued people from Tusken Raiders, and navigated the twists and turns of Beggar's Canyon. Selling it would almost be like selling part of his life—it stood as a symbol of what he had accomplished.

He could feel Obi-Wan watching him carefully, so he slowly opened his eyes. The Jedi were supposed to have no attachments, and that's what he was working towards becoming: a Jedi. "I will sell it," he whispered, trying but failing to keep emotion out of his voice.

Obi-Wan handed the young man a bag of credits—money he'd been saving for years just for this purpose—and reached back into his cloak one last time. "I have one more thing for you, Luke. Your father would have wanted you to have this."

Luke stared at Obi-Wan's outstretched hand, shock written across his face. The Jedi was holding out a lightsaber—a lightsaber!

Luke had practiced with Obi-Wan's lightsaber, so he was well-acquainted with the weapon, and a few times the Jedi had even let him borrow it (its ability to deflect blaster bolts had come in handy a few times). But now, now—he finally had a lightsaber of his own.

Trembling for reasons he was unsure of, Luke took the lightsaber gently from his mentor's hand. He switched it on, listening to it hum as he twisted his wrist. The blue blade was just like Obi-Wan's, and he felt a measure of comfort in that.

"Thank you," Luke said, his voice tight.

"Just remember, Luke...You are never really alone; you will always have the Force."

Luke nodded, clipping the lightsaber to his belt. He gazed at his teacher and friend sorrowfully. "I will miss you, Obi-Wan."

"I know, Luke," the Jedi Master replied softly.