AU set at the end of TESB.
Darth Vader captures the passengers of the Millenium Falcon after their attempted escape over Bespin, sure that Luke will convert to his father's cause and aid him in overthrowing the Emperor. When his plan is rebuffed he falls back on more desperate measures, with devastating consequences for himself, his son, the Empire and the Alliance, as events cascade beyond anyone's control.
This is a completed trilogy, featuring Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Palpatine, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, Crix Madine and Mara Jade.
To anyone coming back to this story: This is a re-beta'd version of the original story which was the first thing I posted on FF.N. It's always bothered me that at the time I had no real grasp of how to format for posting, and grammar and POV was always sketchy! A newly-beta'd version was done a while ago to smooth it out, and I've been meaning to post it for a while, though this is the first time I've gotten round to it.
So nothing new, I'm afraid, just a polish of the original.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS THE FIRST PART OF THE SON OF SUNS TRILOGY.
Part One:- Into the Storm
Part Two:- In Shadows and Darkness
Part Three:- At the Brink of the Dawn and the Darkness
As per usual, I should point out that not surprisingly, I own no part of star Wars. It's all owned and run by George and The Mouse.
Into the Storm
'New beginnings are bought at the cost of an end'
Fragment from the Son of Suns Prophesy,(Jedi Master Egorin Dovas translation; 3/ 14,159 -minus.)
Engraved into the Sunburst Throne (The Seat of Prophesy) circa 23,711 -minus.
Choices made. Paths taken.
Is the future an immutable event, preordained and inevitable?
Or can it be changed by a single act, the split of an instant fracturing all that comes after,
shattering it like glass against stone.
Can destiny be changed?
The wind whipped at him, buffeting his body as he tried to turn, howling like a banshee as he edged backwards over the precipice on the narrowest of beams, struggling for handholds against the smooth plasteel outcrop which counterbalanced precariously over an endless drop.
He was tired and battered and bruised, and he hurt like hell. And he had no idea where he was going to go next...because there was simply no-where else to go. And still his adversary harried him…
"Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training...with our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."
Battered and bruised, but not beaten. "I'll never join you!" Luke twisted about, straining to reach the supporting pipes, his tattered arm clutched to him, the pain making his breath come short and fast.
"If you only knew the power of the Dark Side…"
Luke didn't look, didn't listen. What could Darth Vader possibly have to say that he wanted to hear?
"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father…"
That brought his head up, knowing resentment in his eyes. "He told me enough."
Grabbing the pipe, he swung himself onto the slim instrument vane which hung over nothing, pausing, heart in his throat as the fine plasteel veins rocked precariously, adjusting to a weight they were never meant to take. And still the winds howled, calling him on. Lifting his head, Luke threw the accusation at Vader, every fiber of his being hating him in that moment. "He told me you killed him!"
This was his truth, his mantra. This knowledge gave him the strength to fight, the spirit to resist. It was the very essence of his cause, the single most significant happening in his life. The frame around which all other beliefs were built. He was alone in this galaxy, and he had been alone his whole life. Because of this…man. Could he even be called that? He was everything that Luke hated, everything he fought against. He was darkness and death personified.
All that Luke believed was distilled down to this moment, to these two combatants; he would never give in—not to this…
"No… I am your father!"
The words were an emotional body-blow with the power to knock the air from his lungs, so great was his shock in that moment.
Everything else—everything—simply fell away… Every strength, every conviction…every lie.
Already he was shaking his head, denying it even as he knew it was true—he knew. But still the words fell from his lips, desperate and breathless… "No…that's not true. That's impossible."
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true!"
Everything…everything was lost to him, the weight pressing in against his ribs so great he could scarcely breathe, his legs buckling as he leaned against the vein. If it were not there he would have fallen, would have simply collapsed, so great was the anguish.
He had lost his father. Lost him all over again in the cruelest way possible. The man he had worshipped ripped to shreds…by the man he really was. The grief fell from him in a cry, unstoppable, uncontainable. "No-o…No!"
What was left? What was left of his beliefs? What was left of him?
"Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny."
Vader's words brought Luke's face up, though in that moment he did not truly hear them. All he heard was the gale howling about him, the blood rushing in his ears. He watched Vader close his hand into a fist as he voiced shapeless words, watched him stretch out over the precipice, willing Luke to reach out, to take the hand offered.
"Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son."
Luke faltered, lost…and as he looked down, he saw release. Freedom. Calm from the storm which burned through him now, searing his soul, fiery and caustic. Bitter truth. Too much to bear.
The void beckoned, promising serenity...and with it came a strange elation, a burst of adrenaline which gave faultless clarity. Time slowed as his heart beat fast, mind and soul committed now. He looked up to the creature who had so effortlessly ripped his heart from his chest, aware that he was smiling at it.
He would steal victory from its hands, even as it reached out to grasp it.
"Come with me. It is the only way."
Calm, euphoria, pacific tranquility filled his soul with effortless acceptance. In that moment, death was easy—living was too hard to bear. He released his hold…
Falling away to infinity.
Vader sensed it as the boy fell back; the stillness of spirit, the complex twist of choice and surrender, a Jedi's soul at peace with fate. For a moment he was absolutely still, lost in the moment, respectful and resentful.
Then reality closed and in a scarlet burst of horror one fact cried out in his mind: My son!
He reached out through the Force, hoping to slow the fall, to save the opportunity he had found and lost. But the distance was too great, panic clouding his perceptions…then the boy was gone.
For long seconds Vader stood at the rail, absolutely still, mind reaching out…searching….
Far below…too far to reach. Then with a flare of shock the sense was lost, vanishing again in a flurry of movement.
But alive. Falling away still…
Fate had not yet finished with his son, Vader knew…nor himself, he felt.
Twisting away, he headed for his shuttle with new purpose in his stride.
"They'll be in range of our tractor beam in moments, My Lord." Admiral Piett hovered nearby, anxious to reprieve himself following his last debacle with this dilapidated Rebel freighter.
Vader did not bother to acknowledge the words, eyes trained out into the umbra of Bespin's atmosphere, senses straining, searching for the boy. That this damn freighter was here again to plague him was beyond belief—particularly since he had dispatched its cocksure pilot.
But he had heard his son call out through the Force, and as his Destroyer had come about the freighter had appeared on the forward scopes, racing through the thin atmosphere of the gas giant toward the underside of the city. Powering through open space just beyond Bespin's gravity, the Star Destroyer was slow and cumbersome to turn so that the tiny, maneuverable freighter had reached the city and blasted off for deep space before the Executor had even leveled its huge bulk up.
But Vader was not concerned; he'd prepared for every eventuality. There was just too much at stake to take risks.
"Did your men deactivate the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon?" If they hadn't…
"Yes, My Lord," Piett acknowledged sharply.
He smiled—Vader smiled beneath his mask. "Good. Prepare the boarding party…and set your weapons for stun."
"Yes, My Lord." Piett turned away to the young lieutenant nearby, who fairly blasted out his nervousness in the Force. "Lieutenant…"
"Yes, Sir," the young man said smartly, and Vader could sense his fear, his eagerness to get away.
Weak. All weak. Which of them possessed the strength of spirit to be prepared to die for their convictions? A whole ship of their worthless hides could not equal the soul of one Jedi. Of his son…
Luke lay alone in absolute desolation, pain slicing up his arm with the staccato beat of his heart, his spine burning from the impact of the fall. Not one coherent thought could form in the chaotic jumble of his bewildered mind, the once-secure surroundings of the Falcon's hold a distant blur about him. He stared sightlessly, absolutely still, unable to process the enormity of this revelation...
—Luke— The word coalesced from nothing in the centre of his mind, strangely compelling in that moment.
"Father?" Had he said that? Had he spoken that name out loud?
—Son… come with me—
Luke shook his head as he shrank back onto the bunk, broken and lost. "Ben…why didn't you tell me?"
Two huge impacts shook the Falcon and Luke rose, dragging himself up against fatigue and pain, unable to stand the voice in the quiet hush of his solitude; unwilling to think of the consequences.
He walked in silence past the irate Chewie, half-hidden beneath deck plates, yelling back into the jabbering comm. Light-headed, reality a distant whisper, he reached the cockpit, strangely calm in the bedlam which seemed to boil all about him without ever touching him. The simple act of walking, of remaining upright, seemed to require such total concentration as to block out all other considerations.
Leia turned—where was Han? The stranger who had helped him into the Falcon paused to touch his arm, glancing down at the sterile unit which protected it now, concern in his eyes. Luke nodded once, wondering whether he should know the man—in that second he had absolutely no idea—then glanced up.
The Star Destroyer completely enveloped one side of the skies, the Falcon tiny, a flea on a bantha as it struggled to outrun its imposing foe.
Luke sighed, exhausted past any sense of anxiety, only blank resignation remaining. How could they fight this? How had he ever thought they could win?
"It's Vader." He heard his own voice, low and hoarse, aware of Leia's eyes on him.
—Luke…it is your destiny—
Luke's breath caught and stilled as he shrank back, unable to block out the words which burned through his thoughts. Darkness swirled, but now it was different, strangely familiar; both repulsive and reassuring…calling him on, drawing him in.
He shook his head slowly against the pull, weary and empty and crushed. Why had they lied? Why? Why had they trained him to face his enemy yet left him with this huge, desperate, debilitating weakness?
Betrayed, by those he had trusted most. "Ben…why didn't you tell me?"
The Falcon shook as TIE's harried her to destruction, and Chewie howled his frustration at recalcitrant machinery.
Threepio balanced against the bulkhead, severed foot in his hand as Artoo clanked uneasily across the deck towards the mainframe, ignoring his counterpart's alternate scolding and pleading.
Artoo, who had been in the back corridor onboard the Tantive IV three years earlier, when Leia had needed to hide the Death Star plans. Artoo, who had carried the message to Kenobi. Artoo, who had shown Luke Skywalker the fragment, and changed his life forever.
"Artoo! Come back at once, you haven't finished with me yet! You don't know how to fix the hyperdrive—Chewbacca can do it. I'm standing here in pieces…"
Artoo tracked determinedly across the hold, indifferent to his counterpart's alternate pleading and demands. Another heavy bolt wrenched at the Falcon, careening her to one side faster than the artificial gravity could hope to counter. Threepio scrabbled momentarily, his metal hand slipping against the smooth pad of the bulkhead before he fell back in a flurry of noise. "Artooo!"
Distracted, Artoo paused on his way to the hyperdrive link-breaker, his intention to reconnect the hyperdrive at the point that Bespin's central computer had listed it as disengaged momentarily forgotten as his domed head spun back…
-:The universe tilted:-
... Onboard the Star Destroyer, the Pit Officer lifted his hand in acknowledgement, searching for confirmation. "We have a lock. Admiral?"
"Engage," Piett ordered, not taking his eyes from the tiny freighter as it accelerated away from them…
Silence stretched for long seconds, the atmosphere tense and expectant.
"Positive lock, sir. Establishing back-up..."
Caught in the invisible beam which held it stationary as the Destroyer powered toward it, a moment's optical illusion occurred as the Rebel ship seemed to Piett to reverse course, speeding backwards to them whilst they remained stationary.
"Confirming secondary lock. Tractoring it into forward bay nine."
The words were spoken automatically now, everything in hand, procedure being followed. Still, Piett waited until the Pit Officer confirmed that the ship was aboard before he dared turn away...
"We have acknowledgement. The ship's in F-nine, sir, full lock-down. Boarding parties are on the deck."
Piett turned and hurried after Lord Vader, relieved; his job was done now. Anything which happened from here on in was on General Veer's head.
"Son of a…"
Luke had watched, helpless, as the Destroyer loomed about them, the Falcon pulled inexorably closer.
A lurching jolt had yanked them all from their seats and brought reality snapping in about him, harsh and unyielding. And seconds—just seconds too late—all hyperdrive functions came back on-line, status lights momentarily illuminating green before they flashed red, unable to operate against the pull of a tractor beam.
Adrenaline pumping, galvanized into action, Luke spun round and set off from the cockpit at full tilt, his wounded arm still clutched to his chest. He was halfway down the corridor, Chewie rushing towards him from the opposite direction, when the pain exploded up his spine, dropping his legs beneath him as he fell to the ground with a yelp.
Chewie dashed forward, howling as Luke doubled up on the deck, beyond words. Distantly he heard Leia call his name, but in that moment he couldn't even turn his head against the wracking waves of pain which burst through him. Chewie gathered him up, the burning agony which knifed into Luke's spine unbearable at this, making him call out before blackness narrowed his vision to nothing.
The last thing he felt was the touch of Vader's mind as the darkness closed in…
"Luke…Luke, can…hear me?"
He opened his eyes slowly, not daring to move. Leia crouched over him in the med-bay, hand to his cheek, and Chewie whuffed in the background, leaning in past the dark stranger who…
It occurred belatedly to Luke that Han was still not there. Previously, he'd simply assumed he was elsewhere on the Falcon, but the realization burst through his thoughts now as he automatically reached out with the Force, searching for his friend.
"Han?" he managed, "where's…?"
Leia looked away, avoiding his eyes, so he turned to Chewie, who threw his head back and keened a long cry. It needed no further explanation.
Taking hold of the edge of the bunk Luke hauled himself upright, gasping against the pain that lanced down his back. Leia pushed against him. "No, Luke. The fall's injured your spine, you have to rest. Stay…"
The heavy double-clang of the Falcon's landing gear setting roughly down was all the further encouragement he needed.
"Like hell." He was already on the edge of the bunk, biting back the fireworks which burst at every movement. "Chewie, I need a blaster."
Chewie turned without argument, almost throwing the stranger aside in his haste.
From the main hold, the sound of cutters engaging whistled a low note, turning everyone's head.
"Three minutes. Probably less," the stranger guessed, sharp, dark eyes searching the corridor. He turned the other way, shouting loudly, "Chewie, make it two!"
"Three!" Leia added, voice like steel.
She turned as Luke stood, shaky and nauseous, his maimed arm still pressed to him. Burning now, throbbing in time to his heartbeat at the effort of standing.
"Vader," she murmured, searching eyes on Luke. "What does he want?"
"Where's Han?" Luke avoided.
"Vader…tested Cloud City's industrial carbon-freeze unit on him. To use on you."
"He's alive?" Somehow, that one thought displaced so much misery in that moment. The crafty old Corellian was alive—he'd live to fight another day.
Leia nodded, though her voice was small. "Vader gave him to a bounty hunter, to take to Jabba the Hutt."
The Hutt; Han owed him, Luke knew. He'd kept threatening to leave to pay the debt off, but there was always one more repair to make on the Falcon.
Luke glanced again at the well-dressed stranger as Chewie rushed back in, bowcaster over his shoulder, an armful of blasters weighing him down.
The first sparks lit the bay behind them in an actinic glow. Threepio came barreling through, heading in the opposite direction, not even slowing in that moment.
Luke took the blaster, steadying himself against the bulkhead just out of the entrance's direct line of fire. He felt desperately weak, his head spinning just from the strain of standing. Tiny floating spots lit his vision, and he wasn't sure whether they came from the cutter in the bay or his own frail state. He hoped the former, but suspected the latter. His body was screaming out to rest now, so much so that he feared he might simply keel over at any moment.
Ignore it, there'll be time to rest when this is over.
He was dimly aware somewhere in the back of his mind that this wouldn't be over for a long time…
Movement caught his eye, pulling him back into the moment as a stray thought occurred. "Chewie, deactivate the droids. They'll leave them in the ship."
As if all this was a momentary complication, as if they'd be back in an hour or so, when they'd dealt with it. As if.
Still, Chewie whuffed assent as he turned and headed after Artoo and Threepio.
Leia took position against the far wall, her gaze tight and pinched as she glanced up to Luke. "What does he want?" she repeated.
"Me," Luke said simply.
The door exploded inwards through a flaring shower of sparks, the pressure change popping Luke's ears as he ducked back from the shrapnel. They must have used charges.
He glanced to Leia to make sure she was alright, back to the others…
Then he turned and opened fire.
Vader stood in the bay, General Veers beside him, as stormtroopers poured into the freighter.
Blaster fire ensued, intensified…
Their forward progress thwarted, the stormtroopers faltered, unwilling to risk the path through the bottleneck of the ship's narrow entry ramp when it was so effectively defended. Vader scowled, turning slightly to Veers, who pressed the headset to his ear, frowning against the cacophony of noise.
"Lieutenant, fall back. Use shock grenades…no, no, set them to stun."
"Send them in," Vader said simply, causing Veers to glance up sharply.
"Send them in. I want to see what he does." Vader turned back to the freighter, feeling no need to validate his order further.
He could sense Luke now, feel his resentment, his frustration, his betrayal. Could it be pushed over into fury?
His own anger was simmering too. Frustration at the boy's stubborn refusal on CloudCity, at his defiance here. He had offered the boy everything—everything—and he had turned it down, turned away. Had made his choice very clear. Foolish—to give up so much for simple sentiment.
Vader frowned at that consideration… Had it been a refusal of his offer—or of him? That thought hurt; that the boy had acted out of repulsion. It stung as it had never done before, that someone would judge him and find him wanting. It bit deep.
And fury rose against it; that his own son would do this, his own blood.
How dare he judge…
Vader strode forward, stormtroopers falling instantly back to give him room.
The noise within the Falcon's hold was incredible, a low cloud of acrid smoke billowing at roof-level, burning the back of Luke's throat. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he recognized the futility of his action—they all did. It gained them nothing save to exercise their defiance; given the numbers of troopers available to throw at them, the status-quo remained exactly as before.
Several white-clad troopers had fallen just inside the hold, slowing others who tried to make their way through, the bulkhead about Luke and Leia pockmarked with smoldering blast-holes. Luke's blaster was running hot in his hand now, probably close to exhausting its charge. Stupidly, he reflected that it couldn't possibly get any worse—
Then the troopers fell back in a flurry…and a huge, dark form strode purposefully into the ship, the dense black smoke swirling in perfect eddies about him.
Leia backstepped as Chewie threw out a howling challenge.
For long seconds all the blasters stopped, the silence ringing in Luke's ears…
Loud and heavy, Vader's breathing dragged through the air... Then Luke took two long steps forward and fired.
And again…and again…and again.
He knew of course that it wouldn't stop Vader. It didn't even slow him, as he lifted his black-gloved hand to deflect the bolts; simply batted them aside to burst into showers of incandescent sparks against the walls.
But it didn't stop Luke firing.
And it didn't stop Vader stalking forward.
Leia watched the surreal vision unfold, swirled about with heavy smoke and bright, flaring flashes as Vader stepped closer, unstoppable, and Luke kept on firing. Just…kept on firing, like a man possessed.
Finally Vader stood level with Luke, towering over him as Luke held his blaster at arm's length with his one good arm, pointed squarely at the Dark Lord, the tip of the barrel almost resting against his chestplate.
For long moments they remained frozen like that, silence screaming in her ears after the battery of noise.
"Shoot," Vader rumbled deeply, his voice laced with barely-controlled anger.
Leia could see Luke's arm trembling, his whole body tensed against the need to act.
Yet he stood—he just stood stock still.
She wanted to yell, to shout out that he should shoot. Kill him. He won't be able to deflect a point-blank shot. Shoot! Pull the trigger!
And still Luke hesitated, though he must know this, somehow unable in that moment to act, though she couldn't conceive of why. Luke had fought against this nemesis for all the time she had known him—against Vader; his father's murderer, the Emperor's henchman. Pull the trigger!
They remained still, Luke's finger on the trigger, Vader staring down in still silence, the moment stretching for eons…
The movement, when it came, was shocking in its speed.
Vader's hand whipped around, violently knocking the blaster from Luke's grip to clatter away to the deck, though he didn't respond at all, his eyes remaining locked on that dark mask, as if he could somehow see past to the man hidden within.
Still they stood, frozen, immersed in some private battle.
With the speed of a viper, Vader brought his arm back in a massively powerful swing. The backhand blow connected with Luke's face to snap his head to the side, the strike so strong as to throw him backward into the bulkhead though he remained somehow upright, as Leia cried out in shock.
"Never point a weapon at me again," Vader growled, cold fury in his voice.
Slowly, very slowly, Luke pulled his wits about him then turned, taking a single step to stand in exactly the same spot, arms down, eyes unyielding.
Without hesitation Vader landed a second blow, no punch pulled, the motion combining all the considerable strength of his shoulder and arm to power Luke back into the bulkhead.
Leia cried out his name, stepping forward to be caught by Lando's grip tight on her arm, everyone's eyes locked on the bizarre scene playing out before them. Luke remained leaning against the bulkhead, head lowered for long seconds, breathing heavily. Several drops of deep, viscous scarlet dripped to the deck plates at his feet, the silence dragging like a bowstring across Leia's fraught nerves, taut with anticipation and shock.
Finally Luke hauled himself straight again and paused, wavering dangerously, his hand to the bulkhead. Then he turned to face Vader, his chin lifted in resolute defiance, the blood from a deep cut which split his lip trailing a crimson line down his chin to bloom in a spreading stain on his tattered jacket.
They faced each other, the stillness brittle, stretched to breaking…
Vader's arm wheeled back again.
Luke tensed for the blow—but he would not blink.
Vader's hand stopped inches from his face, the blow stayed, though Leia couldn't imagine why; the Sith Lord was not known for his mercy—nor his compassion.
For several seconds they remained like this, that same private battle of wills being fought out…
Slowly Vader's hand lowered…and Luke's shoulders slumped just slightly. Leia stared in shocked silence, unable to even begin to reason what was taking place, knowing only what this must be costing Luke.
Knowing he couldn't maintain it…but knowing he wouldn't back down.
Finally, with a shallow sigh Luke's head rolled slightly…then he pitched forward, unconscious.
Vader stepped in, arms stretching out—for what, Leia couldn't guess…
Then he caught Luke gently, one hand to his chest, the other about his arm, and lowered him softly to the ground, taking his weight as he fell and crouching to one knee beside him, one huge black-gloved hand beneath Luke's head.
"Luke…" he said quietly, his voice wracked with feeling in that moment; genuine, human emotion.
Leia could only watch in bewildered confusion as Darth Vader twisted back to the officer at the Falcon's hatch, voice tight with warring emotions.
"Where are the medics!" he hissed harshly, making the officer pale as he turned to shout out onto the deck.
They were there in an instant, three of them crowding about Luke as Vader stepped back. In an instant…had they been waiting? If so, for whom…for Luke? Why would Vader bother to summon medics to tend to a Rebel? Everything was happening too fast, spinning away from Leia's comprehension with dizzying speed. Stormtroopers came rushing in now, crowding about Leia, Chewie and Lando to bind their hands and push them forwards past the medics in the hold, still gathered about Luke's unconscious form.
"Luke!" Leia finally found her voice at the realization that they would be separated.
Vader looked up, faceless mask swiveling to her.
She yanked at the trooper who held her, dragging him to a momentary halt. "Where are you taking him!"
"Away from you," Vader rumbled, turning back dismissively.
The trooper wrenched at Leia, hauling her forward again, shocked into silence by the accusing venom in Vader's voice.
To be continued...