The jungles of the moon of Endor were different from those Luke had known on Degobah. There was less moisture, more wind, less heat. But there were still trees and plants everywhere, helping him stay hidden. The only trouble was, it helped everyone else hide, too.
Luke's hand rested on the handle of his lightsabre. It was a new one, a better one than the sword that had belonged to his father. But the older blade was still strapped to his belt, on the other side.
Luke was no longer the young, inexperienced Jedi that had left Degobah two years before. He had spent the better part of that time deep in training on his own; he had traveled to worlds across the galaxy, finding old Jedi relics in the ancient ruins of Dantooine and Coruscant, honing his swordsmanship with the best masters of all disciplines he could find.
He never had returned to the rebels, though. He contemplated that fact with only a slight pang of regret. He had been one of their leaders, and he had left them. But then, they never knew he'd just up and abandoned them. Most likely, the Alliance assumed that he had been killed on leaving Hoth, or shortly after. When he didn't return, they should have proceeded with their work as planned.
A sound in the brush—Luke's right hand was on his new lightsabre with lightning speed. Probably a trooper, he thought. They had a base here, guarding the safety of that new menace. Because one deadly space station wasn't enough.
"Who's there?" Luke called out. He'd only heard one person breathing—he could take any one person now. "Show yourself!"
A cautious head rose out of the bush. "And who the hell are you?" it asked, brow furrowing under a short crop of curly black hair.
"I asked you first."
The man stood tall, showing himself to be dressed in camouflage gear, holding what looked like a standard-issue helmet. He didn't put down his blaster, though, instead keeping it level with Luke's chest. "Name's Calrissian. And if you and your empire scum are gonna interfere with my mission, I suggest you stop now before I blast your head off your body."
"Empire? I'm not with the empire," said Luke, also refusing to lay his weapon down.
"Yeah, sure." Lando kept the pistol steady in his hand. "Tell it to the others. I'm takin you back to base."
"Base?" Luke asked, more to himself than to Lando. "Then the alliance is here, too?"
"Sure is. And we aren't gonna be stopped. We paid big time just to get here, and we're not—"
"Did you know Leia Organa?" Luke asked, suddenly. Lando stopped mid-word , letting the point of his blaster fall slightly
"Leia? Yeah, yeah I knew her. What about her?"
"I'm a friend of hers," Luke explained. "Or, I was. I don't know whether she ever mentioned me. I'm—"
"You're Skywalker, aren't you?" asked Lando, finally putting down the weapon. Luke let in a breath for the first time in what felt like an hour, loosening his grip on the lightsabre. "That kid pilot who blew up the first Star and vanished. Han talked about you all the time. Wouldn't shut up about that flight."
Luke fought back both a smile, and a sudden wave of tears. "What's the alliance doing here?" he asked, to focus himself again on the task at hand.
"Heard there's a shield generator down here keeping the new Star safe," Lando explained. "We're here to shut it down."
"Good." Luke gave a salute to the man before him. "Keep it up." And he started to turn back, into the jungle.
"Hey, wait a second! You're not coming back to the base?"
Luke didn't turn around. "I can't."
"You're not even gonna stop by?" Lando rushed through the bushes, stepping back in front of Luke. "They all think you've been dead for years! Biggs keeps a picture of you in his locker, for cryin' out loud!"
Luke's bright eyes stared right into Lando's. "I've got my own job to do." He pushed past Lando, and continued past the trees, making almost no sound. "Don't tell anyone you saw me."
"Ya know, Han was right about you!" This stopped Luke, for a moment. "I was there when he died. He said you didn't even care about him and Leia!"
Luke's fist clenched, and shook. "He...Han said that?"
"And he was right, wasn't he? You just don't give a damn about the people who care about you, do you?"
"I don't have time for this." When Luke started off again, Lando pushed in front of him.
"He said you'd come. He was sure of it. She was, too."
"I should have." Luke's voice was quiet, wavering slightly. His jaw clenched almost as tightly as his fist. When he spoke, his voice seemed to be fighting through something to get out. "I'm going to make up for it. And then I can go back."
"And just how do you think you're gonna make up for them?" asked Lando accusingly.
Luke continued to look straight ahead. "I'm going to kill Vader."
Lando blinked, his breath coming in with a faster hiss than before. He sighed, and put his standard-issue helmet back onto his curly head. "We're working on getting those shields down quick," he said simply. "Just try to get back in one piece and stop by?"
Without saying a word, Luke nodded, and continued on into the jungle.
There he was. The black sheen of his armor did as little to hide him as the gleaming white did to shield the stormtroopers. And Darth Vader was not a man to hide easily. He was too tall, imposing. Too powerful.
Luke could feel his mouth twitching into a sneer. His chest was rising and falling, too rapidly; he forced his body to calm down. He couldn't afford to fight with Vader in anything less than a perfect state. His right hand clenched tightly around the hilt of his new weapon, while his left held on just as fast to the only relic he'd ever had of his father's. Even while trying to keep his mind clear, Luke couldn't resist the thoughts running through his mind.
Aunt Beru...Uncle Owen...Ben...Han...Leia...Father...
His resolve was more set than ever. Vader would pay. He would pay for all of their deaths. And all of the lives he'd ruined, not just the ones he took.
The troopers were leaving the small clearing, but Vader still stood calmly, looking around in the trees. Luke felt his muscles tense without his order; it would take Vader all of two seconds to find him. Now was his chance.
With a mighty leap, Luke sprang from the foliage and flipped the switches on both of his sabres. Before even an instant had passed, the bright glow of Vader's red blade joined the blue and green in Luke's hand, and all three swords collided in a spray of energy discharge and white light.
"So," said the deep, mechanical voice from somewhere inside the black armor. "At last, we meet again. I knew that I would find you here, Skywalker."
Luke pressed against Vader's weapon with all of his might, yet only gained a few inches of space. "You should have wished I'd never find you!"
"I doubt that you've grown that strong since our last encounter." Luke sneered again, unable to detect any hint of anger, or at least annoyance, in that frustratingly level voice. "However," added Vader, dipping his sword out of the tangle and leaving Luke stumbling forward, "I see that you have constructed a new lightsabre. Your skills are complete."
"I've been working on them," Luke growled, his eyes burning into Vader's dark mask.
Darth Vader almost chuckled. "You truly are powerful," he admitted, returning Luke's gaze for only a second; the hatred in those icy blue eyes was strong. "But can you use that power, I wonder?"
Just as Vader had expected, Luke sprang forward again, with even more anger than before. The boy was strong, he could see that. But he was foolish, and had not been properly trained.
Even with Luke's two blades protecting him, it took only a swipe of Darth Vader's lightsabre to remove Luke's left hand.
Luke cried out, his knees buckling under the pain. The blue light flickered out, as the weapon rolled away toward Vader's feet. Electric pain shot through every inch of the boy's body. Where his left hand had been, there was only a clean stump. His right hand unclenched against his will, and the green blade, too, was extinguished. With a look of mingled pain and fury, Luke sank to the ground.
"You were unwise to seek me out," said Vader, in the same controlled tone as always. Luke heard the wheezing voice as though it were coming from all around him, and he could almost see three or four Vaders around him. "Although, the Emperor will be pleased to find you in this condition."
Luke didn't hear any more. As hard as he fought against the pain, he collapsed and passed out.
With Luke eliminated as a threat, Darth Vader called two troopers over to deliver the unconscious boy to the emperor. He then bent down, to collect both of Luke's weapons. The green sword was a fine piece of craftsmanship. But the blue blade, he realized, had been his.
It was an odd feeling, to have his old weapon back. What was once the most familiar weight he'd ever known was now so light, so feeble, compared to his new sabre. Under the black glove, Vader's clawed hand wrapped around the contours of the hilt.
"Inform the Emperor that I will arrive shortly," ordered Vader. The closest Stormtrooper immediately dropped the orders he'd been looking at, and hurried off to deliver the message.
When Luke awoke, he was far from the jungles of Endor's moon.
"Welcome, young Skywalker," came a rasping, croaking voice from somewhere in front of him. "I have been expecting you."
Luke forced his eyes to open, despite the dull, exquisite pain still seeping into his body through the wound. The room was dark, darker than any he'd ever been in, even on a ship.
"Yes," crooned the voice, softly, dangerously. "Everything has proceeded just as I had foreseen."
Wincing, Luke tried to force the pain away, and he looked up. Sitting in a throne in front of him was a man, so old and so decrepit that it was hard to even distinguish him as a man. His face was almost completely covered by the black hood on his black cloak. Through the huge, round windows behind him, Luke could barely make out the beginnings of a firefight.
From somewhere behind him, Luke heard Vader's heavy footsteps, and felt the dark presence. His teeth clenched, and he tried to stand, but only further aggravated his injury.
The mechanical voice growled out above him. "His lightsabres." At the thought of the cold, black-gloved hands around his handiwork, Luke felt another twinge in his stomach. This time, he managed to climb to his knees. No hand or push of Force made any attempt to stop him.
"Ah, yes," breathed the Emperor, standing with such a fluid motion that he seemed to be gliding across the floor, rather than walking. "a Jedi's weapons." His shriveled hand took the sabres from Vader, who bowed his head.
Luke forced himself to his feet, drawing on all of the power he possessed to keep him upright and focused.
The Emperor easily saw the weakness in Luke, and smiled. "I am looking forward to completing your training," he said, in a voice that leaked out of his mouth, rather than being truly spoken.
"I don't need any more training," Luke snarled. He wished he had the energy to shout. But he was growing stronger by the second, focusing his mind on the task at hand. Darth Vader was barely a foot away from him. All he needed now was...
"Yes," hissed the Emperor, his eyes closed. "You want these, don't you?" Luke started as the Sith Lord passed a hand over his weapons. "I can feel the hate swelling in you." The Emperor's eyes opened, and his grin grew wider. "Go ahead," he offered, "take your Jedi weapons. Use them."
For a split second, Luke considered just grabbing the lightsabres and slicing off Vader's head – before he realized that he couldn't hold them both anymore. Only as an afterthought did he wonder what the Emperor would have to gain from his actions.
"You have so much still to learn, young Skywalker," said the Emperor with a low chuckle, "but it is good to see that you have learned already not to trust."
"That's a lie!" Luke burst out, his temper flaring.
If the Emperor had chuckled before, he nearly laughed now. "Good, very good." Luke's bravado shrank back at the Emperor's praise. "Give in to your anger," he hissed. "With each passing moment, you make yourself more my servant."
"You aren't that important." Luke's heart leapt for half a moment, in a twinge of fear. Even as he taunted, he knew exactly how much of a bad idea it was to annoy the Sith. He didn't waste time wondering what the Emperor's wrath would mean for him.
But to Luke's surprise, the Emperor continued to smile his dangerous smile. "You have your own dreams, don't you? Your own goals. You can reach them, my young Jedi." Luke felt a shiver down his back. The Emperor repeated, "Take your weapon. I will not stop you."
From in front of him, Luke could feel a distinct shift in the atmosphere in the room. It took over his concentration, as he struggled to understand what had changed. It was a long moment before Luke recognized the feeling of fear, and by the time he had, the feeling had passed. But Luke was heartened; for whatever reason, Darth Vader had been afraid.
In one quick movement, hoping to catch both Vader and his Master by surprise, Luke called on the power of the Force to draw his hand-made Lightsabre to his hand. But Luke's speed still did not rival Vader's, and the red and green blades materialized at the same time.
Even with only one hand and one sabre, Luke was no worse a match for Vader as he had been earlier in the day. Some store of energy had been tapped inside of Luke's mind, now that his moment had finally come. The story of Darth Vader would end tonight, Luke knew. He did not know how it would end, but this would be their last fight.
Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker fought in silence for some time, the battle only punctured by occasional grunts, and the sounds of heavy breathing. This time, there was fire in Luke's eyes; he could almost taste the satisfaction of finally ending his lifelong battle. But Vader's normally bold strokes were somehow diminished.
"What are you so scared of?" Luke taunted, waiting for some opening to strike.
Vader said nothing.
But something in Luke's words seemed to have hit a mark, and Vader strayed just a fraction of a step too close to the imposing stairway in the middle of the room. With a leap, Luke pushed the red blade away with his own sabre, and landed a kick square in Vader's chest. With a crunch of breaking circuitry, he fell flat on his back down the steps.
In a flash, Luke had his foot on Vader's hand, and the thick, heavy lightsabre of the Sith Lord had rolled out of arm's reach. Luke stood over his greatest enemy, his sword humming with a gently menacing sound and hovering mere inches away from Vader's neck.
Darth Vader thought quickly. It was his last hope, his ace in the hole, but it would be a powerful weapon. And he needed power now.
"Obi-wan has taught you well," rumbled his deep voice, as controlled and calm as ever.
"You're damn right he has," Luke shot back, holding the blade steady. This was his moment, and damned if he wouldn't savor every second of it.
Vader chose his words carefully, needing them to have the right effect. "I would say," he began, in as conversational a tone as he could manage, "that you were taught even better than...your father."
The green sword hit the floor next to Vader's neck, sending up sparks as the metal clashed with energy. "You have some nerve even mentioning him!"
Although the boy's reaction was dangerous, Vader knew that he was about to succeed. After all these years, it was still a weak spot. "Obi-wan never told you what happened to your father, did he?"
Under the black hood, in a throne several feet away, the Emperor's eyes glittered with anticipation.
"He told me enough," Luke growled, bringing the sword even closer to piercing Vader's armor. "He told me you killed him."
"No," said Vader, softly. "I am your father."
Luke nearly dropped his sabre. In that one moment of weakness, Vader pulled his arm away, and regained his weapon. Luke sprang back to avoid the blade as Vader climbed quickly to his feet.
The boy's blue eyes were wide, with some feeling that was not quite terror, or confusion, or sheer disbelief, but some combination of the three. He actually allowed his guard to drop, until Vader began to strike. The blades collided, sending up massive flashes of light and sound. "You are unwise to lower your defenses," Vader said.
Luke's stunned look vanished from his face, replaced with a cold fury. He pounced, striking out at Vader with everything that he had, drawing on his anger for strength. "You LIAR!"
With each attempted strike, Luke's anger grew stronger, and the Emperor's grin grew wider.
"You liar!" yelled Luke again, pressing forward, trying with everything he had to find an opening.
"Search your feelings, Luke. You know it to be true."
Even as Vader said the words, Luke could feel the truth, if only for an instant. Somewhere deep inside his heart and mind, he knew. He was the son of Darth Vader. But he pushed the truth aside, burying it under the doubt, and anger—and the fear that he was right.
"NO!" with a perfectly-timed strike, Luke found the hilt of Vader's weapon, slicing it in two. Snatching his hand away, Vader let the pieces fall.
Behind the battle, Darth Sidious was almost drinking in the hatred that radiated from Luke.
Vader was only left defenseless for a split-second. He reached out with his mind, pushing Luke as hard as he could away from him. The boy couldn't help being forced backward, but did not buckle or fall the way he had wanted. While Luke ran to close the distance and attack again, the blue lightsabre flew off of the arm of the Emperor's throne, and into Vader's outstretched hand.
As the blade light up, so did the strange fire in Luke's eyes. "Don't you DARE use my father's sword! You've got NO right!"
"I have every right to the lightsabre that I constructed," Vader countered.
Luke let out a yell, having no words to express his fury. The hatred he already had for Vader amplified tenfold. The injury that Vader had done him was decades old, since the death of his father before Luke even knew him. To add the insult to Anakin Skywalker's memory was unforgivable.
The fresh outrage was enough to send Luke over the edge. He rushed forward, his green blade whirling too fast for the eye to see. For the first time in many, many years, Darth Vader was fighting for his life.
With each step backward that the Sith Lord took, Luke pressed forward even harder.
"YOU—" Luke struck out, nearly impaling Vader's blade on his own, "ARE—" he parried, forcing away the blue beam of energy, "NOT—" he brought his own weapon down on Vader's gloved fingers, neatly severing them from the sabre, "MY—" another sweep of the green blade sent the rest of the black hand flying, and the lightsabre in another direction, "FATHER!"
One-handed, Luke still moved faster than Vader could react. In the next moment, he was standing above his rival once again, in no mood this time to stretch out his victory.
Darth Sidious stood from his throne, and glided closer to the fight. "Good," he breathed, allowing his eyes to close half-way, the better to feel the intense emotion radiating from Luke's mind. "Very good, young Jedi." With a smile that bared his crooked, yellow teeth, he issued the order: "Kill him."
Beneath the metal mask, Darth Vader turned his eyes toward his Master. In some part of his heart, he was glad that no one could see the fear.
Luke didn't need telling twice. A swipe of light, a shower of sparks, and Darth Vader was dead.
With a nearly triumphant hum, the green light slipped back into its hilt, and Luke let his arms fall. The adrenaline was still coursing through him, masking the dull ache of his missing hand. The boy's breath came quickly, labored, as his lungs tried to suck in air as fast as they could to make up for all that had been spent during the battle.
Luke looked down at the helmet, lying face-down a few feet away, and the cloaked, black metal body lying in front of his feet. He had done it. Darth Vader was dead. The deaths of his family, his friends, his father, had all been avenged. The quest was at an end.
Why did he feel so empty?
The sound of slow, quiet applause rang out across the throne room. Luke turned, to see the Emperor standing behind him, his calloused, pale hands coming together in ovation. "Well done, my young Skywalker."
Luke said nothing, only staring at the old man.
"So then, your journey has reached an end." The Emperor let out a wheezing chuckle, his yellowed eyes glimmering. "And what will you do now?
Luke moved to flip the switch on his lightsabre again, but the weapon betrayed him, flying through the air into the Emperor's hands. "You are no match for me, young Jedi. You may have defeated your father..." he trailed off, watching his words hit Luke. He could pinpoint the moment that the boy understood. "Yes, he was quite right." Another laugh leaked out of his mouth. "You knew that what he said was true."
Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, the anger and the hate that had filled Luke's heart evaporated, to be replaced with icy fear.
It couldn't be true...It couldn't be true...
"Ah, but it is." The Emperor spoke softly, smoothly. If Luke didn't know better, he could swear that the tone was almost gentle, caring. "And I ask you again, Jedi. What will you do, now?"
Luke had forgotten his defiance, now. "I'll...I'll go back to the—"
"The rebel alliance is dead," said the Emperor, with jolting simplicity. "How do you think they were able to obtain the codes for my shield so easily?" Sidious chortled again as Luke started to understand. "A full squadron of my best troops were waiting for them. Whatever is left will be useless."
"Then I'll, I'll go back to Yoda, and—"
Luke stopped himself, nearly taking a step backward as Sidious began to pace. "My young Jedi," he said, with another wicked grin, "Yoda is dead."
Luke's remaining fist clenched. "No..."
"Oh, yes. You see, I knew Yoda long before you were ever born. When your father was a Jedi, like you." Luke felt a now-familiar flash of anger, but had no room to speak around the lump in his throat. "And when the last of the Jedi left this plane, I sensed it. Just as you would have, had you been paying attention."
"He wasn't the last!"
"And you are?" the Emperor mocked. "I can taste the hatred in you, my very young apprentice."
"I'm not your slave!" Luke burst out, clenching his jaw tightly. "I'm a Jedi!"
"No Jedi would abandon his master to satisfy his revenge," countered Sidious. "No Jedi would leave his worthless friends to fend for themselves against my armies. No Jedi would murder his own father."
Luke had no more words. His mind was spinning; his mouth went dry. The throbbing pain in his wrist grew more pronounced, until it began to take over his entire arm. And the Emperor's words swam through his head, making more sense with every pass.
With nothing more than a moan, Luke sank to his knees in front of the Emperor.
Sidious took on another tone, now. His voice was honeyed, oiled, dripping with false care and enticing confidence. "But a Sith would do all those things," he said, in little more than a whisper. "You cannot go back, Apprentice. You've done well to earn the hatred of those you once loved. There is nothing left for you in the life you once knew."
When Luke looked up at the old man in the black cloak, his eyes were wide with desperation. From his view on the ground, Sidious seemed so imposing, so powerful. "What can I do?"
"Join me," hissed Sidious. "Together, we will rule the galaxy as it has been ruled for decades." When Luke didn't reply immediately, the Emperor continued, "You will not be loved, Luke Skywalker. But you will be respected, you will be feared. I have foreseen it."
Luke stared at the cold, smooth floor. He knew, in his heart and mind, that everything the Emperor said was true. He had failed the alliance. He had failed Yoda, and with him, the Jedi.
"Do not let your sacrifices be in vain," crooned Sidious, as he reached out with his mind to subtly manipulate the thoughts in Luke's head. Images of Han, Leia, Ben, and everyone else Vader had killed sprang up in front of Luke's eyes. "Vengeance is the only noble goal. You have done well, very well, my Apprentice."
Still with no words, Luke climbed to his feet, to look the Emperor straight in those clouded, yellow eyes. But after a moment, just a few seconds, he fell back onto one knee, in an unmistakable, surrendering bow.
"Good," said the Emperor again, passing his hands through the air over Luke's head. "From now on, you are no longer Luke Skywalker. From now on, you shall be Darth..." The Emperor thought for a moment, searching to find the right name, "...Perfidas."
The boy looked up, his eyes already glimmering with sickly shades of yellow and red. "Yes...Master."
Hey guys, thanks for reading. I didn't want to ruin the mood before the finale, but I felt like I should say some things. First, the whole idea for this story came out of my disagreeing with Yoda--I couldn't believe for a long time that he'd actually told Luke to let his friends die. So I followed that advice to its conclusion, and came up with this.
second, as usual, nothing belongs to me ;) Please review if you have the time, I'd appreciate any feedback you've got.