Summary: After Owen and Beru are killed by a mysterious stranger, young Luke ends up as an orphan living on Coruscant. It's a race against time as Obi-Wan struggles to find Luke before Vader realizes the boy is his son.

Background: This is the first of a four part series with Vader and Luke as the two central characters. I first wrote it after The Phantom Menace came out, and before Attack of the Clones, so I've since revised it several times to comply with later movies. This latest revision is to comply with elements introduced by the Rogue One movie, and later official sources. I also took the time to fix some pacing issues with the middle section of this story, so I've compressed it down to 8 chapters. Any questions about the changes, please feel free to send me a DM or use my ask box on Tumblr.

Last Revision: April 2020

Force Bond 1: Orphan

Chapter 1: Nightmare

Beru knew there could be only one reason why she found herself awake. There was only ever one reason why anyone was woken prematurely on the Lars' family farm. The name of that reason was Luke Skywalker. Somewhere in the corridor, a muffled thud was sounding at regular intervals. Footsteps, treading softly against the sandy floor of the homestead. Trying to tread softly, at least, but not succeeding.

She smiled to herself. He must be sneaking out for a midnight snack. She'd left a slice of pie in the cooling unit for precisely that purpose, knowing how hungry young boys could be in the early hours of the morning.

As she turned her head to view the chronometer, she found she had to sit up to see over the snoring body of Owen. Two after midnight—another three hours 'til dawn. Like all farmers, they rose and slept with the twin suns.

Beru was about to roll over and return to her slumber, when the flicker of a shadow caught her eye. She squinted, trying to see through the darkness. It was the wrong shape for Luke—too large for one thing. Perhaps she should go and investigate. The chances of a Tusken Raider actually breaking through their security fence was very slim, but it wouldn't hurt to check.

She listened carefully for another sound, for any other clue that might hint of an intruder. When none was forthcoming, she turned over, dismissing the shadow as a trick of the light. It was better just ... to go back to ... sleep …

Luke looked over his shoulder in terror. There was something coming for him, chasing him! Why couldn't he move? It was five spans away ... two spans away ... screams were echoing around him, hurting his ears, becoming more and more frantic. He desperately struggled against his paralyzed limbs as a large hand reached out, blocking the light—

He sat up quickly, with his heart pounding in his chest. Only a dream, only a dream!

It was eerily silent, save for his rapid breathing.

Until another agonized scream filled Luke's ears.

"Aunt Beru!"

He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Across the courtyard, he could see a red, glowing light shimmering in the windows of his aunt and uncle's bedroom. Suddenly, his aunt's screams stopped. A prickly sensation traveled up Luke's spine and around his neck.

Run, Luke! Hide!

Luke didn't need any strange voices in his head to tell him twice. He made a dash for the door, and then found himself face down in the dust. He struggled back up, rubbing his leg. He had tripped over his model T-16. He grabbed it and crept out into the courtyard.

He made his way to the garage and then hid behind an old, broken droid shell. Across the courtyard was the entrance to his guardian's bedroom. He squinted, trying to see. What was that smoking lump by the doorframe? It almost looked like a body ...

Luke didn't have time to dwell on it. A dark, shadowy figure emerged from the homestead, and the red glowing light extended directly from its hand. It was heading straight for him.

Suddenly, it was just like his dream. He was too scared to move! Where were his aunt and uncle? Why didn't they come?

The dark figure wasn't in any hurry. It calmly reduced the distance between itself and Luke with grim determination. Luke could only stare in wide-eyed terror.

Run, Luke!

Luke looked around in confusion. Who had said that? Besides, where was he going to run to? There was only ... the speeder. He could escape in the landspeeder! But the dark shadow was nearly on top of him, and his legs were frozen. He'd never make it! It was too late ...

A blur of motion obscured Luke's view. Something had come flying off the garage roof and was now standing between Luke and the attacker. Luke found his legs weren't as useless as he thought. He ran, jumped into the old landspeeder, and gunned the engine.

He didn't look back.

The enemy cursed as he heard Luke escape. He made to go after him but instead met Obi-Wan's lightsaber. One quick feint, and Obi-Wan brought the blade around in a circle, slicing straight through the attacker's left arm. The now useless appendage flew in one direction, while the attacker's lightsaber clattered away in the other.

A raspy hissing noise emerged from the depths of the black robes, and the attacker stumbled backwards.

"Who are you?!" Obi-Wan demanded, stepping forward with his blade pointed at the attacker's throat. "Why did you kill the Lars?"

The black-robed figure stepped closer, in defiance of Obi-Wan's blade. Obi-Wan had felt the Dark Side many times in his long career as a Jedi Knight, but at that moment, it took all his effort to avoid shifting away. A damp coldness surrounded him, touching his every sense.

A voice responded to his question in a low whisper. "Why do you protect the son of Vader, Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan reeled at the words. Luke, not the Lars, was this evil being's target.

A clatter from behind caused Obi-Wan to whirl around in surprise. The attacker's lightsaber flew at him from the desert floor.

Obi-Wan swung his lightsaber in defense, batting the blade away. But even as he turned, he knew the attacker's distraction had succeeded. The black figure flew upwards, performing a gravity-defying leap up to the desert surface. Once at the top, he paused to look down at Obi-Wan, silhouetted against the dark blue sky.

Then he disappeared.

Obi-Wan sighed wearily, and he turned off his lightsaber. He faced the spot where he'd last seen Luke, but there was nothing but a cloud of dust, stirred up by a landspeeder.

He crossed the courtyard and entered Owen and Beru's bedroom. All that remained of the Lars were a few smoking remains.

Obi-Wan had witnessed many senseless murders in his life, but it never lost its horror. Although Owen Lars had never made him feel welcome at the farm, Obi-Wan had always respected the gruff and serious farmer. It took determination to forge a living out here. Determination and a strong spirit.

On that point, he and Beru had been a perfect couple. Beru's nature was a counterpoint to Owen's harsh exterior. She was always the peacemaker, always ready to smile in the face of disagreement. Both had loved Luke as dearly as if he had been their own son.

As he set about the grisly task of giving Luke's former guardians a proper burial, Obi-Wan wondered about the identity of the Lars murderer. A Dark Side user, obviously, but not a Sith. Undoubtedly one of the few Jedi who had managed to survive the purge. Many of those survivors had allowed themselves to become consumed by hatred of Vader and Sidious, and they had become slaves to the Dark Side themselves, long before they had an idea what was slowly consuming their souls. Some had even joined them and called themselves inquisitors, hunting down their former brothers and sisters in the Force.

If this one had gone after Luke it meant Vader's true identity was not as secret as Obi-Wan had previously thought.

As the first rays of sunlight lit the dawn sky, Obi-Wan placed two stones at the head of the Lars' grave. Five graves now stood in a line, representing two generations of the Lars family. Perhaps the last two generations.

But one Skywalker still remained. Obi-Wan turned away from the graves and scanned the desert horizon, shielding his eyes from the suns. There was no sign of Luke or his impending return.

He frowned to himself. The desert was no place for an eleven year old boy. However, without transportation, there wasn't much he could do. Going after him on foot in the heat of the day wasn't a prudent idea.

He made his way down into the homestead, searching for something else he could do to assist Luke. Contacting the authorities at Anchorhead was a start. He didn't trust the Hutts or the Imperials, but there was a civilian search and rescue team that would be only too happy to help.

At any rate, he had to report the Lars' death.

He entered the main kitchen, and his gaze fell on the long-distance communicator immediately. It wasn't hard to miss—it was still smoking. Torn wires trailed from it, spreading halfway down the bench.

The Lars' murderer had certainly made a thorough job. An ironic thought stirred in Obi-Wan's mind ... Anakin could have it fixed before he could say 'Blast!'.

But those days were long gone.

Now there was nothing he could do except wait. Wait and trust in the Force to keep Anakin's son safe.

Luke crawled out of the space under the landspeeder's steering controls, still gasping for breath. Tusken bodies lay haphazardly around the speeder. A stormtrooper was walking among them, gathering up their gaffi sticks and rifles.

Luke tried to speak, but he found his throat was dry. He hadn't had anything to drink since leaving the farm. The stormtrooper caught sight of him, and immediately dropped the Tusken's weapons to reach for his own blaster. A split second before he fired, he must have registered Luke's non-threatening appearance, and he lowered the weapon.

"Sir," the stormtrooper said, lowering his blaster. "There's a boy down here."

Luke looked up, seeing another stormtrooper up on the desert surface, mounted on a dewback.

"A boy?"

"A human child."

"Bring him back with you."

The stormtrooper whistled, and a dewback mount came lumbering around the corner of the rocky valley. The trooper loaded the Tusken's weapons into a side pouch and beckoned Luke over.

"Come on, boy."

Luke hesitated. He didn't want to stay here alone, that was for sure. But he didn't want to leave the landspeeder, either.

The stormtrooper then held out a transparent bottle of water. That made up Luke's mind. He opened the speeder door and ran over, clutching his T-16 model tightly. He drunk eagerly from the bottle, letting the cool water run over his mouth and down his neck.

When he had finished, the trooper lifted him onto the dewback and climbed up behind him. With a loud roar that echoed against the rocky walls, the dewback turned its head and began the journey out of the valley.

Its gait was stable and rhythmic, and the gentle rocking lulled Luke into a drowsy state. He leaned forward, resting against the back of the dewback's head. Its skin felt smooth, despite its rough appearance, and it was pleasantly warm. It made him wonder if all the events at the farm that morning had only been a nightmare.

He didn't know how long he lay there, flopping gently back and forth, but it seemed like a long, long time. Eventually, it all came to an end. His journey companion gave him a shake, and he sat up to find they were nearing the center of Anchorhead. There were very few people around, and for that, Luke was grateful, given the fact he was wearing his pajamas. It was nearing the hottest part of the day, and most people would be indoors, cooling down with a cold drink.

The odd street-wanderer who remained didn't bother to stare at them, though. Staring at a stormtrooper was asking for trouble.

Their dewback swerved down a side street, obviously knowing the way to the base without having to be guided. They soon arrived at a courtyard, where several other dewbacks rested in a stable, which was really just a tarpaulin thrown over an arrangement of posts.

The stormtrooper lifted Luke to the ground, and then dismounted himself. He stripped the various pouches hanging from the saddle and draped them over Luke like he was a clotheshorse. Luke frowned in annoyance, until he was handed the water bottle. It must have had a cooling unit attached, because the water was still cold, despite their journey through the desert. He gulped several mouthfuls, and then offered it to the stormtrooper. He ignored it, too busy seeing to the dewback. Luke wondered how he could go so long without water—especially in that suit of armor.

When the trooper returned from tying up the dewback, he relieved Luke of the pouches and pushed him towards the dark entranceway. There was no one guarding the door, and they walked through several rooms before another stormtrooper appeared.

He had a colored patch on his shoulder, which allowed Luke to recognize him as the Anchorhead base commander. There were no Imperials in Anchorhead who were not stormtroopers, as it was not important enough to warrant any higher attention.

Luke felt self-conscious as the man stared at him.

"We found him out in the wastes," his companion explained. "I think his family were killed by Tuskens."

"What is his name?"

"I don't know, sir."

Both troopers looked down at him, obviously expecting him to fill in the gap.

Luke tried to speak, but somehow, he couldn't quite form the words. It was as though he had forgotten how to speak. His mouth opened and closed, but no words were formed.

"I'll put a message on the local HoloNet," the commander said, eventually. "If someone hasn't responded by sundown, we'll transfer him to Mos Eisley."

Luke flinched at the words. Mos Eisley? He didn't want to go there. He wanted to go back home, with his aunt and uncle. He tried to say this, to explain it to the commander, but again, no words left his mouth. He turned away in frustration.

An hour after high noon, Obi-Wan set off across the desert, in the direction of the nearest farm. He had locked up the homestead and left a note stuck to the door, explaining to Luke where he would be, should he come home.

It would have taken a normal being a good three hours to reach the farm, if they were used to the heat, of course, but Obi-Wan managed to do it in half that time. The resident farmer was initially hostile to his presence ... he had gained a somewhat exaggerated reputation among the locals as a crazed sorcerer. The serious nature of his visit soon became apparent though, as he told of the Lars' death and the danger Luke was in.

The farmer immediately launched into detailed speculation about who the Lars had fallen victim to.

"It will be the Tuskens, for sure. Old Owen Lars ... always insisted he could show those monsters a thing or two."

"I must use your long distance comlink," Obi-Wan said, not willing to enlighten the farmer as to the true identity of the Lars murderer.

"I wish you could," the farmer shrugged. "But it's been broken for a month now. Been meaning to get it fixed, but I haven't been able to afford it."

Obi-Wan visibly slumped.

"You can check the local search and rescue HoloNet transmissions, though," the farmer continued, beckoning him down into their garage. "Maybe he's already been found."

"Thank you." Obi-Wan sighed with relief. At least it was something.

The computer terminal was archaic, but it was working. Obi-Wan quickly brought up the data and scanned the archive of news. One short line of text attracted Obi-Wan's attention immediately.

Found, this morning. Human boy, pre-pubescent, blonde hair, blue eyes, dressed in pajamas. Claim at the Anchorhead Imperial base.

"That's him!" Obi-Wan almost laughed with relief. "Thank the Force he is safe." He turned to the farmer. "I must get to Anchorhead immediately. Do you have transport?"

The man gestured at an old, rickety landspeeder. "I'll have you there in no time."

From the looks of it, the farmer's boast was a vast exaggeration, but Obi-Wan had no reason to complain. Within ten minutes, he was on his way to Anchorhead, speeding across the dunes as fast as the old landspeeder could carry them. The farmer sat in the driver's seat, and Obi-Wan was appreciative of his understanding of the urgency of this situation.

The farmer made an attempt at conversation, but Obi-Wan could not afford the distraction. He could sense something. Not anything strong enough to cause him to stop this journey towards Luke, but it was unsettling, none the less.

" ... three generations, all wiped out because of those vile creatures. It's enough to make one wonder why we bother with this place."

Obi-Wan nodded, half-listening. His sense was growing ever stronger.

"When word of the Lars' death gets around, I can guarantee there will be a few people packing up and heading for greener pastures. Empire or no Empire, the core worlds must be safer than this."

"Stop the speeder!" Obi-Wan demanded. He stood up, reaching for his lightsaber.

The farmer complied, and Obi-Wan jumped down onto the sand.

"What is it?" he asked.

But Obi-Wan couldn't spare the time to answer him. He walked a few paces up onto a rise and surveyed the horizon.

A sudden yell behind him caused him to twist around, igniting his lightsaber in the process. He was a millisecond too late. The black-robed figure was already in the speeder's driver's seat, having thrown the farmer onto the ground. He gunned the engine, leaving Obi-Wan and the farmer in a cloud of dust.

Obi-Wan immediately stepped forward to check the farmer for injuries, but he shuffled back in shock. "Get away from me!"

Obi-Wan hastily switched off his lightsaber, realizing it must be scaring him. It was too little too late, though. The man stood up and ran. Obi-Wan called out, urging him to wait, but he soon came to the conclusion it was useless. Luke was his priority now.

He resumed the journey on foot, moving as fast as he could. His adversary may have a speeder, but he was willing to bet he did not know where Luke was. If he did, he would have been in Anchorhead, not skulking around the desert, waiting in shadows to ambush him.

Still, that knowledge did not slow Obi-Wan's pace.

The light was dimming when a near exhausted Obi-Wan arrived in Anchorhead. He did not take a direct route to the Imperial base, due to his painful awareness of his enemy's likely presence among the populace. He shifted with stealth through the streets, keeping his eyes open and his senses heightened.

As he slipped in the doorway of the Imperial base, he became aware that Luke's presence in the Force was nowhere to be sensed.

"Can I help you?" A stormtrooper stepped out of the main office, looking him up and down.

"Yes. I'm looking for a young boy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, by the name of Luke Skywalker. I believe he was taken here after being picked up in the desert."

"You're his guardian?"

"Yes," Obi-Wan said, not wanting to waste time explaining.

"Pity. I just put him on a transport to Mos Eisley ten minutes ago."

"Mos Eisley?" Obi-Wan snapped, his frustration getting the better of him. "Why in the blazes would you send him there?"

"This isn't an orphanage, old man. If you wanted him back, you should have contacted us earlier. We thought his parents were killed by the Tusken raiding party we found him with."

"I didn't ..." Obi-Wan broke off, realizing it was futile. "Where in Mos Eisley has he been sent?"

"To the Child Protection Services building. Go and see them there."

Obi-Wan nodded and turned swiftly, leaving the building. A minor setback, that was all. He would obtain a speeder and go after him. Luke would be safe in his care by morning.

Luke was exhausted. Not from tiredness as much as sheer frustration. It was normally hard to get people to listen to you when you were eleven years old, but near impossible when you struggled to form a coherent sentence.

He didn't want to go to Mos Eisley. He had fought and struggled until the stormtrooper commander had at least agreed to try and contact his aunt and uncle. Luke had entered the frequency himself, just to make sure they got it right. He had sat in the commander's office for almost an hour, waiting for someone to answer that call.

But nobody did.

After that, he had no longer resisted their attempts to put him in a speeder and take him away. Without his aunt and uncle, there was nothing for him there now.

It was getting dark now. Dark and cold. He huddled up in the passenger seat and wrapped the provided blanket tightly around his body. He watched the desert scenery pass by the window, but he didn't really see any of it. There was too much on his mind.

It was funny how quickly things could change. Yesterday, he couldn't have imagined a time when his aunt wouldn't be there to tell him to clean his teeth, or he wouldn't hear his uncle yelling at him to do his chores. Now he was never going to see them again.

Luke wiped away a stray tear as he thought about it. He should have done something ... maybe if he hadn't been so afraid he could have saved them.

The stormtrooper driver, if he heard his quiet sniffs, did not offer any sympathy. "We're here now, kid. Get out."

Luke fumbled for the door release. Once outside, he saw he had been taken to a well-maintained building, near the spaceport center. There was a sign outside, which said 'Child Protection Services'.

The stormtrooper held him tightly by the arm and guided him into the building. Luke looked down at his feet and pulled the blanket closer, clutching his T-16 model tightly while the stormtrooper argued with the caretaker about overcrowding. He must have looked pathetic, because the man spoke to him in a gentler tone after the stormtrooper had made a quick exit.

"Don't worry, we'll find a place for you. Come with me."

Luke shuffled after the man, and he was led down a corridor. Everything was white and clean in here, not dank and dusty like the buildings in Anchorhead. He could hear the yells and shouts of other children coming from distant rooms.

His guide made a sharp left into a room, where a woman was organizing a large group of children. They all had packing cases and extra clothing, and it appeared to Luke as though they were preparing for a long trip.

"Liska, a stormtrooper just turned up with a boy. They said his parents were killed by Tuskens, and they found him in the desert this morning. Is there room for one more upstairs?"

The woman shook her head. "A couple of this lot made a fuss about leaving ... I didn't have the heart to force them."

The man turned back to Luke. "How would you like to go to another planet?"

Luke's heart jumped at the words. That's what he always dreamed of doing! He nodded eagerly.

"Take him with you, then, Liska. He's willing."

Luke found himself pushed into the room and added to the existing group of children. They stared at him curiously, but Luke was too shaken to show them the same attention. Another planet!

The woman in charge, Liska, appeared beside him. "Are those all the clothes you have?" she said, gesturing at his pajamas.

Luke nodded.

"I'll find you some more. It's cold in space."

"Does it snow?" a younger child asked.

Some of the older children laughed and began teasing the younger one. Luke drew away from the group, partially because he was shy, but mostly because he wanted to be alone right now. Presently, Liska returned with a thick poncho, and Luke gratefully slipped it over his head.

"We're going to the speeder bus now," Liska said to the group. "Keep together! We don't want anyone left behind!"

Luke followed the group as they were led onto the waiting vehicle in the back courtyard, and Luke purposely selected a window seat. Perhaps it was because he was staring so intently into the darkness, but just as they rose into the air, he thought he caught a glimpse of a black-cloaked figure, staring at them from the doorway of the building.

He shuddered, looking away.

It was a tired, yet still determined, Obi-Wan who drove up outside the Child Protection Services building in a rented speeder. He jumped out and took one step towards the door, before his Force sense alerted him to danger.

Through the door, the glow of his lightsaber lit up a trail of dust and dirt all the way into an office, where the remains of a receptionist droid lay in still smouldering pieces. The sight made him turn abruptly and rush up the stairs, dreading what he would find. In the first room at the top of the stairs, he pushed the door-release and flattened himself against the wall, lightsaber ready.

Inside, he heard audible gasps, followed by silence. He looked around the edge and found a group of children staring right back at him, with wide-eyed expressions of fear. A couple of adults were in the room as well, holding the younger children.

Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and raised his hands in a universal gesture of peace.

"It's all right. I'm a friend. What happened here?"

A male adult stood up. "Someone dressed in a black robe and holding a laser sword forcibly entered the building."

"He's gone now," Obi-Wan said. Of that, he was certain. "He was looking for a human boy, with blonde hair, blue eyes ... he's eleven years old. It's imperative that I find him. Have you seen him?"

"A stormtrooper brought in a boy of that description just ten minutes ago," the man said. "He's gone to a docking bay with another group of children."

"A docking bay? Why?"

"They're going to the core worlds. We've run out of room for orphans here. There just aren't enough families able to adopt."

"What's the number of the docking bay?" Obi-Wan asked, desperately.


Obi-Wan turned and made a run for the nearest window. He jumped out and landed below in the speeder driver's seat. Within a second, he had disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Luke couldn't believe his eyes as he stepped off the speeder bus. Their ship was huge! Even if he craned his neck all the way back, he still couldn't see the top. Floodlights illuminated it from all sides, in a manifestation of the awe with which he regarded it.

Chains of freight handlers were loading cargo into the exposed storage bays, creating a noisy hive of activity. Luke and the other children were just another shipment of cargo for these workers, and they pointed and pushed, directing them to the passenger's entrance.

Luke lagged behind though, wanting to see the ship's engines. A freight hauler of this size would need some impressive thrust to propel it into orbit. It wouldn't take a minute ... he could take a quick peek around the side, and then run and catch up with the rest.

Obi-Wan abandoned the speeder halfway down the street leading to the docking bay and sprinted the rest of the way. Once he reached the outer wall, he bent his knees and leapt up to the top. The position gave him an immediate advantage. His eyes scanned the brightly lit docking bay, searching for any sign of Luke. Perhaps he was already on board.

No, there he was. Just like his father, he couldn't resist checking out a ship's engines, and he had obviously broken off from the main group. A sudden sense of danger urged Obi-Wan into action. He flipped off the roof and ran full tilt towards Luke, lightsaber ignited in anticipation of an attack.

"Luke! Get down!" he called in warning, fearful he would not reach him in time.

Luke froze for a second, staring at him in fright. His instincts must have kicked in though, because he threw himself on the ground. Just in time. A blaster bolt streaked over the top of him, exploding into the side of the ship.

Then, mass confusion erupted in the docking bay. Maintenance workers panicked, yelling out and pointing in all directions. Obi-Wan had seen the attacker though, concealed on the roof of an observation tower. If he ran, he just might reach him in time, but that would involve leaving Luke, something he never intended to do again.

He stood protectively between Luke and the direction of the blaster shots, lightsaber poised to deflect any further assaults. His concentration shattered when he felt a rumble behind him. He turned, eyes instantly shifting to the spot where he'd last seen Luke. The boy was gone. The ship was taking off.

Obi-Wan sprinted in the direction of the cockpit, ignoring the roaring wind of the repulsorlifts that were pushing him away. He had to stop this ship.

"Wait!" he yelled. "Stop!" He waved desperately at the pilots, but they either could not see him or chose to ignore him.

Within a minute, the ship was simply another moving dot among hundreds in the Mos Eisley sky.

Luke had left Tatooine.

Nearby, on another Outer Rim planet that was even less hospitable than Tatooine, Darth Vader could feel a disturbance in the Force. Falling deeper into his meditative trance, he watched as a swirling blue light began to split and then coalesce into two separate points of light. One of them was moving quickly away from the other. He nudged at it with his own Force presence, seeking knowledge. Perhaps another Jedi had come out of hiding.

"My lord?"

Vader opened his eyes, seeing Vaneé had entered the meditation room. He was carrying a datapad.

"My apologies for the interruption. Senator Denna has arrived. Also, the Grand Vizier has sent this encrypted message."

Vader raised a hand and the datapad flew across the distance between them. The message unlocked in response to his bio-scan. It only had one sentence.

Please, I beg you, kill this man and make it look like an accident.

Interesting. Mas Amedda was used to dealing with annoying politicians. He was one himself, after all, and spoke their language. If Senator Denna had truly broken him, perhaps he shouldn't leave such a unique guest waiting.

He stood up from his cross-legged position on the black, round ottoman and passed the datapad back to Vaneé as he left the room.

"Have that message destroyed."

"Yes, my lord."

The main gate that separated the rest of the fortress from the entrance hall hummed upwards slowly, giving Vader time to observe the Coruscant politician who stood waiting on the lighted circular platform. He had his arms wrapped around his torso, and was looking around as if he couldn't understand why anyone would choose to live here.

He didn't wait for Vader to greet him as he walked down the bridge towards him.

"Lord Vader. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me."

Vader came to a halt a meter in front of him. The senator was dressed in a tailored high-fashion suit with multiple Imperial flag pins. "Senator Denna."

"Did you have a chance to read my proposal? I would very much like the opportunity to present it to the Emperor, as I have no doubt it will have great benefits for our expansion activities in the Monassi sector."

He did have a vague recollection of an assistant mentioning a two-thousand page proposal from a high-ranking senator and offering to have it summarized. The man had hastily changed the subject in response to Vader's pointed suggestion of what might be a better use of his time.

Vader turned away, looking out through the viewport at the distant lava flows.

"Your enthusiasm for this proposal seems to have pushed the Grand Vizier to breaking point, Senator. Are you sure it's wise to pursue it?"

"Ah, yes, well … that was a little misunderstanding. The Monassi senator had some issues, and during the meeting to discuss it, things did become a little heated, and there was some damage to the Grand Vizier's office. I did of course offer to pay for the repairs."

Vader stepped closer to the man, causing him to move back, closer to the edge.

"Tell me about your project. Quickly."

His voice shook slightly as he stumbled over his words. "Monassi has a vast conservation reserve in the southern hemisphere. Surveys show it has many untapped fuel and mineral reserves. My proposal demonstrates how the land would be put to much better use as a prison labour work camp. My constituents have no desire to see another prison built on Coruscant, and it's time we looked further afield."

Vader took another step closer. The senator again took a step back.

"You own shares in the mining guild, do you not?" he said quietly.

A look of confusion shifted across the man's face, before disappearing into a politician's mask.

"I own shares in many organisations but that's nothing to do with—"

"Your proposal is to use Imperial resources to further your own profit."

"No, no, nothing—"

"You are a thieving, lying, scum pond of a politician."

He took one more step forward. The man took his final step backward, tottered precariously on the edge, and then plunged into the depths, filling the cavern with his scream of terror. Vader watched as he sunk into the lava below, disappearing beneath the surface amid a cloud of steam.

Vaneé was waiting by the gate when he returned. His tone was even when he spoke.

"Unfortunate he was so unsteady on his feet, my lord."