The Mind Trap
Vader reached for his lightsaber, but it was no longer hooked to his waist. He looked to the Jedi Master and saw him holding the black and silver weapon in his other hand. "Lost something, you have it would seem." The Sith attempted to pull his weapon out of Yoda's small hand with a small Force manipulation, but either the other's physical grasp was incredibly strong, or Vader couldn't command the Force at the moment.
Yoda chuckled and said, "Give it back to you, I will. But, first, we must eat. Come."
Confused, the Sith Lord only stared quizzically at the old Jedi Master from behind his mask. Vader's personal chamber suddenly dematerialized. What looked to be a mud hut in the middle of a dense swamp slowly came into focus. Candles lit the interior, and the small Jedi Master was already inside.
"Come in, come in," beckoned Yoda. "Good food, come."
Vader, annoyed that the old Jedi was continuing to play his little mind games, sent a focused blast of the Force that slammed into the side of the mud hut. This effectively knocked a gaping hole in its wall. Satisfied that his powers seemed to be intact after all, he bent low and stepped through, but, instead of being greeted by a hostile host, Yoda was offering him a small wooden bowl of what looked to be a kind of stew.
"You have gone mad in your years of solitude," Vader growled. He was forced to squat unceremoniously to fit within Yoda's tiny hut. "I am here to fight you, not dine with you. Besides...as I currently am...I cannot eat this."
Yoda threw the other a sideways glance. "Yes, yes, mad, I have become." He took a test sip from the bowl when Vader wouldn't accept it, nodded, and offered it once more. "Your reason for being here, to fight me, it is not. No...one final lesson to teach you, I have."
Vader knocked the bowl of stew from Yoda's hands in disgust, spilling its unidentifiable contents upon the dusty hut floor. "You claimed before that you would stop me, and now you wish to teach me."
Yoda waved his hand and the hut interior faded away; the swampy background, however, remained. The most notable new feature was the gaping entrance to a dark cavern. Vader could feel a familiar, tantalizing sensation emanating deep from within.
"That place," muttered Yoda. "Strong it is in the dark side of the Force. In you must go."
Suddenly, a chill crept down Vader's bio-mechanical spine. In that instant, the Dark Side was unsettling and foreboding. "My lightsaber," uttered Vader, looking from the cave entrance back to Yoda. "Give it to me."
The Jedi Master handed him the smooth metal cylinder but kept hold of it as Vader reached to grab it. "Your weapon," Yoda said softly, shaking his head. "You will not need it."
Vader wrenched his weapon from the Jedi's grasp and almost immediately thought to activate it and drive the hot blade through the small figure. However, his main focus was elsewhere, and the tantalizing call of the powers within the cave stayed his hand. He hung his lightsaber back on its belt hook. "I will be the judge of that," the Sith finally replied. He turned from Yoda and boldly marched straight into the forbidding cave.
As he descended the murky depths of the ancient swamp cavern, he could feel the sensations of the Dark Side growing ever stronger. Eventually he came to a hallway unnaturally carved out of the deep bedrock. Here, the Dark Side of the Force seemed to be centralized, emanating from something unseen, but more evil and dreadful than even the Sith Master that trained him. He strode cautiously down the length of the stone hall. Though there was no observable danger, he still grabbed for his lightsaber. He held it deactivated but ready.
As if out of nowhere, a figure appeared at the far end of the corridor. He had barely walked halfway through the hall, but the Sith Lord knew exactly who the mysterious entity was.
"Luke," breathed Vader. The feeling he had rediscovered at the start of his Jedi Trance returned, and it caused him a moment's hesitation. His thumb resting lightly upon his weapon's activation switch, but he kept it turned off.
"Father," Luke replied mockingly, a devilish grin apparent on the youth's scarred face. He held a newly-constructed lightsaber in a mechanical hand. "Nice of you to drop in."
"Why are you here?" queried the Sith Lord.
Luke cocked his head to the side. "Don't you realize it yet, father? It is our destiny to fight, and I shall be the victor, to take your place by the side of the emperor." Luke activated his lightsaber, a green glowing blade springing forth from the handle's emitter, and he charged towards Vader with a blood-curdling yell. The Sith thumbed on his own blade and ran forth to meet his son's advance.
Their lightsabers met with a crackle, but the fierce contact they made was very brief. The force of Vader's blade connecting with Luke's caused the latter to fly from the young man's grasp, spinning it wildly down the hall from whence he had come. Luke continued to smile fiendishly and just stood there in front of his father, hands to his sides with palms facing outwards in defeat.
"Kill me," rasped Luke. "I am unarmed. Strike me down and fulfill your destiny; only one Skywalker can serve the Emperor!"
Vader raised his lightsaber in preparation to slay Luke, but the boy's diabolical grin made the Sith's blood run cold. He made a quick decision and kicked his son square in the chest, knocking him onto his back.
"Kill me!" howled Luke, rising up slightly on his elbows. "Kill me! Kill me! Do it! Kill me now!"
Vader continued his hesitation. He walked slowly up to the youth, but he held his weapon down at his side instead of poised for attack. As he neared his son, a maniacal laugh began to escape the young man's lips, mildly at first, barely noticeable as even a chuckle, but it soon grew to a loud, wild cackle.
"You can't do it," mocked Luke, cutting off his laughter with a sneer. "You can't kill your own son. How can you call yourself a Sith Lord?"
Vader deactivated his lightsaber and hung his helmeted head. He dropped heavily to his knees, breathing haggardly. "Luke," he said softly, "I will not kill you." With that, Luke's image faded from Vader's view, as did the cave around him. The swamp disappeared entirely, and the Sith Lord found himself back in the Jedi Council Chamber.
"Granted your true form, you are." Yoda stood before him, walking stick in hand again. The Jedi Master nodded solemnly then gestured in his direction.
Vader took Yoda's cue and looked down at himself. He was as he had been long ago: his hands were bare and flesh-colored, no longer replaced by the machines that had served as limbs for the past twenty-one years; his hair had returned, shoulder length and full; he was also wearing the traditional brown robes of a Jedi.
"Passed the test, you have," Yoda announced with a smile. "Free, you are, to denounce your Sith title. No longer Darth Vader, need you be. Welcome back, Anakin."
"How...how is this possible?" queried Anakin, fighting emotions long thought foreign to him. "What does this all mean?"
"Broken free, you have. The love you have for your son, turned you it has. Now, one obstacle remains. Only to me, this day, have you proven yourself. But one person remains...to him, it is, that you must show your true self."
"Lord Vader. Lord Vader, are you there? Please respond."
Darth Vader came abruptly out of the Jedi trance and was instantly aware that Admiral Piett was attempting to reach him on his personal comm. Once again, he was in the pod in his chambers. He pushed the release switch to allow it to partially open up. Just outside the pod, the large screen turned on and revealed the visage of the middle-aged Imperial Admiral, waiting expectantly for Vader's response.
"Ah, good," continued Piett, relieved. "I have called to inform you that we have come out of hyperspace, and we will make our scheduled rendezvous shortly."
"Very good, Admiral. Is my shuttle prepared?"
"Yes, Lord Vader. The engines are on standby at this very moment. I wish you luck on your stay aboard the Death Star."
Vader almost caught himself saying "thank you" in return, but he quickly shut down the comm system before delivering this uncharacteristic social convention.
He was keenly aware that the experience with Yoda had shaken him, and his resolve to remain a Sith Lord had clearly been thrown into question. He realized that this change had not been instantaneous. Indeed, the seed of light had been planted during his brief encounter with his son in the depths of Cloud City, but it had fully blossomed since, his trial in the swamp cavern fully attesting to this fact. He wasn't exactly sure who it was he had actually faced in there, but the experience was undoubtedly a sign of things to shortly come.
Still, he was trapped in his accursed half-mechanical body, which was, if anything, a prison much worse than the one imposed on him moments earlier by Yoda. For a little longer, the name Darth Vader would be his, but the time to relinquish his title of Sith Lord was quickly coming to its close. He longed to be Anakin once more.
Vader would have plenty of time to ponder these recent events as he oversaw the tedious construction of the Empire's second Death Star.