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 FB3. Luke's birthday unfortunately coincides with the day his father hates the most: Empire Day.
Completed: This fic was completed and posted on the lukevader yahoo group in October 2007.
Modified: 25 March 2008
Luke Skywalker was tapping his lightpen against the conference room table. It made a satisfying click-click-click noise against the black polished surface. He tapped faster, then slower, and then started tapping out the rhythm of a new popular hit.
He was just getting to the chorus, when an invisible force ripped the pen from his hand, and left it to rest beside his cup of hot milk. He looked across the table, to where his father sat reading over some report or other.
His father didn't acknowledge his apology, and Luke slowly retrieved his pen, trying not to make any more noise. He was concentrating so hard on being quiet, that his elbow bumped against the mug, tipping his drink over the table. In a second, he righted the mug, but it was too late to save a sticky mess.
"Ah! Oh … blast it!"
His chair made a squeaking noise as he pushed it back. To make up for it, he tiptoed quietly over to the holocom terminal. He stared at the controls for a moment, and then found the correct option to summon a kitchen droid. When he returned to the table, he made sure to slip into the seat as quietly as possible.
Five minutes later, the droid arrived. It rattled and clunked as it sucked up the mess.
"Take the cup," Luke said. "I've finished with it."
"Do you require anything else, sir?"
"No, thanks," Luke said. "You've been great."
The droid rolled off, taking the cup with it. Luke glanced over at his father, trying to read his mood. He still hadn't said anything, but one of his hands appeared to be clenched a bit tighter.
To say this wasn't going well was an understatement.
Luke sighed, and picked up his datapad. He had to finish this reading for social studies class by tomorrow, but none of it was sticking in his head. He'd read the first sentence at least ten times, and he still couldn't understand it. Something about some date and some event and -
The datapad slipped from his hand, and bounced on the floor.
Luke fell to his knees, and crawled under the table, looking around. The carpet was pitch black and so was the datapad, meaning it wasn't the easiest thing to see, especially in the semi-darkness under the table. Finally he saw the glow of the power light, and retrieved it.
When he stood up, he found his father was looming over him.
"Uh … yes?"
"Do you need to speak with me about something?"
"I'm just doing homework," Luke said, holding up the datapad.
"You have been sitting here for the last half hour, and you do not appear to have made any progress. If I am making you nervous, then return to your bedroom."
"You don't make me nervous," Luke said. "I'm having a little trouble … concentrating."
"Perhaps I can assist you."
"Aren't you busy?" Luke said, gesturing at the stack of viewscreens on the other side of the table.
"Yes, but I will not make much progress while you continue to distract me."
"Oh," Luke said. "Don't worry. I'll go back to my room. I can do this homework by myself."
Luke walked past his father, heading for the door. He stopped just before leaving.
"Uh … goodnight," he said, looking back.
Luke smiled to himself as he left the conference room. He still liked hearing that word. Son. He'd been living with his father for almost a year now, but the novelty of it hadn't worn off.
There was also something else that hadn't worn off. He hadn't been entirely truthful with his father when he'd told him that he didn't make him nervous. It was true he was far more relaxed around him that he had been a year ago, but sometimes he could still feel that knot in his stomach. Especially when there was something he had to tell his father, but didn't know how to begin.
But there was always tomorrow.
Waking up and realizing it was a school morning wasn't the best start to a day, but it was the usual one for Luke. What made it unusual this morning was the flashing holocom beside his bed. He didn't remember leaving that there last night.
Luke stretched out with a still half-asleep hand, and dragged the holocom under the covers. When he pressed the play switch, it lit up with an image of his father. A pre-recorded message.
"Good morning, Son. I tried to wake you, but you told me to jump into a black hole. I will assume you were dreaming and thus unaware of what you were saying."
Luke groaned and rubbed his forehead. He certainly had no recollection of that.
"Something has come up, and I am about to leave Coruscant. I will be back the day after Empire Day. Contact me if you need anything and stay out of trouble."
The image flickered and died.
"Empire Day?" Luke said, rubbing his eyes, "When is that? Blast it, I knew I should have told you last night! I knew it!"
The holocom didn't answer him. There was a message on the screen asking him if he wanted to replay, delete or save.
Luke sighed in frustration, and then threw off the bedclothes. If this day was going to continue as it had started, then he was probably late for school.
After having a quick shower and throwing on his school clothes, he ran down the corridor, dragging his bag behind him. In the elevator hub, he dodged several guards and stormtroopers before making it down one of the exit corridors. The light of day was within his sight when the two final guards moved into his path. He skidded to a halt in front of them.
"I'm late!" he said, staring up pointedly.
They obliging shifted apart. He took off at a run, weaving his way in and out of the passers-by along the walkways and overpasses of Imperial City. Far above and down below there were speeder lanes clogged with early morning traffic. Luke didn't have time to stop and admire the various models. He took every shortcut he knew, including one unorthodox one that involved entering a hotel lobby and taking the elevator up to one of the exclusive floors. Technically, he wasn't allowed to be here, but there was an overpass that led to the building that housed his school.
When he finally arrived at school, he grinned with relief. There were students everywhere, which meant the signal for the start of class had not yet sounded. He still had time to go to his locker.
Ben was in the locker hall, unloading various databooks.
"Morning," Luke said, waving his locker key over the reader.
"Wake up late?" Ben asked.
"How did you know?"
"You look like you skydived to get here on time."
Luke ran his fingers through his hair, trying to flatten it down. His locker door sprang open, revealing aging snacks, pictures of star fighters, and a flashing holographic calendar. He stared at it for a moment, remembering his father's message.
"Ben, when is Empire Day?"
"It's a week away."
"Okay. What's it about?"
"The day the Empire was founded," Ben said. "It's a holiday everywhere. No school."
"Great," Luke said. He thought for a moment. "Hang on, did you say one week away? Exactly one week?"
"Fourth-day, next week," Ben confirmed. "Why?"
"That's my birthday."
"You were born on Empire Day?" Ben asked.
"I must have been, because my birthday is fourth-day next week."
"You're turning thirteen, right?" Ben asked.
"Wow. That means you were born on exactly the same day that the Empire was founded. They're celebrating thirteen years of the Empire next week. So have you made any plans? Is your father going to take you out someplace?"
Luke closed his locker, and he and Ben began to walk down the corridor, towards their first class.
"My father doesn't know it's my birthday," Luke explained.
"You haven't told him?"
"I tried to last night," Luke said, "but … it didn't happen. Now he's gone and he won't be back until the day after."
"We'll do something," Ben reassured him. "You can come with me to the Empire Day celebrations. They have a huge display in the senate square, with thousands of troops. There are speeches, and parades and lots and lots of fireworks. My father is always involved in the ceremonies, so he can get us good seats."
"Sounds great," Luke said, glad he wouldn't be spending his birthday alone.
They were joined by one of their classmates, Greein, at that point.
"Luke, do you have a minute? I need your advice."
"Sure. What about?" Luke asked, surprised.
"We're doing a presentation at the Empire Day school assembly."
"Ben, I thought you said there was no school?" Luke said, surprised.
"It's the afternoon before," Greein explained. "I'm playing Lord Vader. I need your advice about my line readings." Greein read from a datapad. "I won't let you murder the chancellor. That's treason."
"Did you say you're playing my father?" Luke said, getting more confused by the second.
"Yes. Now, do you think he'd say it 'I won't let you murder the chancellor' or like 'I won't let you murder the chancellor'?"
"You're taking this pretty seriously, Greein," Ben said, hiding a smile.
"Of course - this is going to be in front of the entire school, the visiting junior school and hundreds of parents. I want to get it right."
"You mean you're performing in a play that has my father as a character?" Luke said, starting to catch on.
"They do it every year," Ben explained. "It's a re-enactment of the formation of the Empire."
"We still need more Jedi and stormtroopers if you guys want to be in it," Greein said.
"No way," Ben said, quickly.
"What would I have to do?" Luke asked.
"If you're a Jedi, you get to swing a lightsaber around and be killed by me. If you're a stormtrooper, you get to hold a blaster and help me quell the Jedi uprising."
"So who's the chancellor and why is someone trying to murder him?" Luke asked.
Both Greein and Ben stared at him like he'd just asked what one plus one equaled.
"History isn't my best subject," Luke said. "Besides, we didn't celebrate Empire Day where I grew up."
"The Jedi came to murder Chancellor Palpatine and forcibly take over the government," Ben explained.
"But your father saved him," Greein said.
"Then the Jedi were declared traitors and wiped out."
"And Palpatine declared the government would be known forever more as the Galactic Empire, with safety, security, peace and order reigning supreme."
"Can I play one of the Jedi who comes to murder the future Emperor?" Luke said. "That sounds fun."
"Sure. Be there at today's rehearsal after school. See you in class."
Greein ran on ahead, and Luke looked at Ben.
"Come on, why don't you be a stormtrooper? No one will know it's you under the helmet."
"I was in a play once at junior school," Ben said. "My father came along to watch me. I mixed up one of my lines, and then I fell over on one of the sets! So embarrassing … I'm not risking that again."
Luke laughed. "Please tell me he made a recording of that!"
"No, thank the Force. Maybe I should bring a holo-recorder to your performance and pray that you trip."
After school, Luke wandered into the assembly hall, looking around for Greein. He'd convinced Ben to come along and watch, even if he wasn't going to participate. The stage at the front was filled with a group of students arguing with each other about where to stand. Off in another corner, there was a group constructing scenery backdrops and props.
Mrs Delna, the art teacher, met them a few meters into the hall. She was somewhat eccentric, but completely harmless. She always wore brightly colored outfits with lots of earrings.
"Ah, Luke, Ben … some of my favorite students. You must be here for the play rehearsal."
"Greein said you needed Jedi," Luke explained.
"I'm only here to watch," Ben said.
"I'll get you both a copy of the script," Mrs Delna said. "But be warned, my dears, it can change at any moment."
Ben hastily shifted off to sit in the front row of seats, wary of being roped in to play a part. Luke walked after the teacher, who'd beckoned him to follow. She led him to an area off to the side of the stage, where Greein and Rodni, another boy Luke recognized from the year above them, were practicing lines.
"Luke!" Greein smiled as soon as he saw him. "How does this sound? The clone wars have left the galaxy scarred and wounded."
"Um … perfect, I guess," Luke said. He looked at Rodni. "Who are you playing?"
"This is our star," Mrs Delna said, patting his shoulder. "The Emperor himself."
Luke stopped himself short of saying that Rodni wasn't ugly enough to play the Emperor.
"I keep forgetting this line," Rodni said, sighing. "Imagine a galaxy where every being can live in peace, free from the ravages of war. Free from the ravages of war. And I still haven't started learning the senate speech in the second bit. I'm never going to be ready by next week!"
"Yes, you will," Mrs Delna said. "How about you sit by yourself for a bit and learn those lines, and then we'll have a run-through in about ten minutes?"
"Ask Ben to help you," Luke said, pointing Rodni towards his friend. "He's got a memory like glue."
Rodni nodded and walked off towards the seats.
"So what's my line?" Luke asked.
"We're here to kill the chancellor. The Jedi rule the galaxy now!" Greein read from his datapad. "Then you point your sword at the Emperor's chest. Then I say, 'I won't let you murder the chancellor!', and kill you."
"We're here to kill the chancellor," Luke repeated. "The Jedi rule the galaxy now. Okay, got it. Where's my lightsaber?"
"The props won't be finished for another few days," Greein explained. "Just use that ruler."
Luke picked up the meter long ruler, and waved it in the air. "Maybe I could get some real ones. My father has lots at home."
"That would be great!" Greein said, his eyes shining.
"As dramatic as that would be, boys, severed limbs are not covered by our health and safety regulations," Mrs Delna said.
Luke flexed his own artificial hand, seeing the teacher's point. Plus, he wasn't sure if his father would let him borrow a lightsaber for a school play.
"We're not using them very much, anyway," Greein said. "Basically, I just stab you in the chest and you fall down."
"You mean we don't get to duel?" Luke said. "We should have a duel!" Luke started swinging the ruler around to demonstrate. "Add a bit of action."
"I like the way your creative juices are flowing, Luke," Mrs Delna said. "We need more of that! Why don't you to go and practice your fight, and then we'll start running through the performance. Excuse me, I must tend to the stormtrooper squad."
"This is going to be great," Luke said, pointing the ruler at Greein's chest.
Luke was still swinging the ruler around when he arrived back home. He'd promised Greein he'd figure out a few good moves tonight, ready for rehearsal tomorrow. It was a shame his father wasn't here to give him a few ideas.
His practice was interrupted by his bedroom door-com. Even before he said 'come in' he knew it was Lev.
"Trying to measure something?" Lev asked, stepping into the room. His gaze had fallen immediately on the ruler.
"No, just … long story."
"Is everything okay? You were an hour late home from school."
"I'm in an Empire Day play," Luke explained. "We're having rehearsals after school every afternoon."
"Really? Who are you playing?"
"A Jedi," Luke said. "I'm having a duel with the guy playing my father. I just have to work out some moves."
"A Jedi," Lev repeated, the enthusiasm gone from his voice.
"I also get a dramatic death scene," Luke said, putting his hand on his chest and falling back on the bed. "You can come and watch if you like. It's the afternoon of the day before Empire Day."
"Does your father know about this?" Lev asked, carefully.
"No, I only signed up today. Why?"
"I don't know how he'd feel about you playing a Jedi."
"It's just a play," Luke said. "It's fun. Besides, he gets to kill me."
"I think it would be best if you gave him a call and discussed this."
"Sure," Luke said. "I'll do it right now."
Lev nodded. "Thank you. Speaking of Empire Day, you've reminded me that I still need to go over the schedule. Call me if you need anything."
Luke nodded, and picked up his portable holocom. Once Lev had left, he keyed in his father's personal frequency. It came up immediately with the 'not available' signal, and clicked on to the option to record a message.
"Hi, it's me," Luke said. "I guess you're busy right now. It's not important … I'm just calling because I'm in a play at school, and Lev said I should ask you if that's okay. It's a presentation for Empire Day. We're performing it the day before, so you could come and watch if you were back on time. Parents are invited." Luke paused, thinking. He really wanted to add that it was his birthday on Empire Day, but then he didn't want to pressure his father to come back if he was doing something important. Maybe he should leave it.
"Bye," Luke said. He paused for a few more seconds, and then stopped the recording.
Vader brushed the sand from his sleeve, idly wondering if it were possible to make a sand-resistant fabric. It would be very popular on worlds like this one. But the sand here wasn't like Tatooine sand. The grains were large and almost white. Vegetation was scattered about, and water wasn't scarce, meaning it was far more hospitable than other sandy worlds.
It also meant this was a world worth fighting for. Five days ago, a thousand troops had surrounded the capital city. Now, at last, the fighting had died to all but a few skirmishes with disgruntled residents. Vader stood on the balcony of the tower that had previously housed the planet's government. The population was going about its business as usual, unaffected by the troopers patrolling the streets. Another job well done.
Approaching footsteps caused him to turn away from the view, and look back into the conference room. One of the troop captains was carrying a holocom.
"The Emperor has requested your status report, sir."
"Have communication facilities been restored?"
"Not yet, sir. But this holocom is a secure channel being routed through the flagship."
"Very well. You are dismissed."
The trooper saluted, and left the holocom on the table. Vader walked forward into the projector field, and triggered the controls. The Emperor appeared within a few seconds.
"Lord Vader. How goes your operation on Medisa?"
"Good, master. The population has now been pacified. The regional governor is arriving in a few hours in order to oversee the change of political power."
"Excellent news. I take it you will be on a ship back to Coruscant within the hour?"
Vader paused for a moment. "Master, I … there are still some things requiring my attention."
"There is something requiring your attention here, Lord Vader. A little matter called Empire Day."
"The situation could worsen -"
"It certainly will if you are not on Coruscant for our founding celebration."
Vader was silent, taking the Emperor's point.
"My friend, it seems we have this discussion every year. I realize you prefer action to speeches and ceremonies, but consider how it would appear to the populace. My dedicated enforcer, unable to attend the Empire's biggest celebration because you were seeing to an uprising."
Personally, Vader doubted anyone would miss him. He'd never been interested in public relations.
"Our theme this year is celebrating the future," the Emperor continued. "It would not do for the Empire to appear unstable at such a time."
"You are right, master," Vader said, reluctantly accepting the Emperor's logic. "I will return as soon as possible."
"Also, this will be an important Empire Day for your son. His first on Coruscant."
Vader looked up in surprise. His master rarely mentioned Luke. He seemed more content to pretend he didn't exist. Had something changed?
"I would like him to attend the ceremonies with you," the Emperor explained. "A symbol of the future generations who have known only a government of stability and peace."
"Master, I prefer to keep my son away from the public eye," Vader said, quickly. "He is young and vulnerable to media exploitation. Any exposure could place him in danger."
"How touching," the Emperor said. It sounded sarcastic, even though there was no trace of it in his voice. "But if you intend the boy to serve some purpose in the Empire when he has come of age, then this is for the best. I will see you tomorrow at the dawn ceremony."
The holocom flickered once, and then died. Vader stared at the blank projector, and released a slow, weary breath. Luke would likely find sitting through three hours worth of speeches even more boring than he did. But it wasn't the tiresome ceremonies that made him jump through hoops to avoid Coruscant for this annual celebration. It was a much deeper reason. Something he refused to acknowledge to himself, beyond that it existed.
Not that it made any difference. He had no choice but to get on that ship and return to Coruscant. At least this would all be over in a few days.