Description: When a mission goes wrong, Luke Skywalker crashes on an uninhabited planet. While waiting for rescue, he makes an unexpected discovery.

A/N #1: I do not own Star Wars, but I do so enjoy playing in the Galaxy.

A/N #2: Thank you so much to my beta reader. Her help is immeasurable.

Rating: K+

Setting: Less than a year after ANH

Genre: Adventure/Drama

Primary Characters: Luke/Vader

Secondary Characters: R2D2

Missing In Action

By CWBasset

Chapter 1

It had been a very bad day. Or maybe it the morning after a very bad day, Commander Luke Skywalker wasn't sure. With fuzzy comprehension, he slowly realized that he had been knocked unconscious for quite some time. His head throbbed, his gut roiled, and his body protested every movement. He gently removed his battered flight helmet and rubbed his face tentatively. After allowing himself a moment more to recover, he began to work on assessing his situation. He blinked repeatedly as he looked around trying to focus on the scene surrounding him.

He still sat in the open cockpit of his X-Wing fighter. Somehow they had managed to land in one piece on this sith-forsaken planet, and it was no doubt due entirely to the efforts of his astromech droid, R2D2. He had obviously been in no position to do so. Looking around, he surmised their landing had been rather abrupt, but at least not lethal. The debris of broken trees scattered around them indicated a rather erratic trajectory. The angle in which his ship lay confirmed that there had not been time to complete a normal landing cycle. At least the distant ominous column of black smoke rising high into the atmosphere was a good indication that they had met their targeted objective.

He gingerly leaned back into the padded seat and tightly closed his eyes trying to recall recent events. It was supposed to have been an easy mission, just take out the Empire's new top-secret communications station on an underdeveloped planet. Although the Alliance had vague details regarding the new technology employed at the station, the intelligence was clear that the accompanying defense systems were only to be automated. It ought to have been quick work for his Rogue Squadron, and that assumption alone should have given him a bad feeling about the operation.

The first indication of something amiss was the defense shield itself. It was a bizarre type of diffusion field that caused catastrophic magnetic disruptions. They were unable to use their long range proton missiles as planned since the shield made their guidance systems inoperable. Whatever had been the true purpose for the complex, it had evidently been far more important to the Empire than just simple communications.

Even when the squadron of TIE fighters erupted from the compound to join the foray it had not been too disconcerting. The Rogues were used to being outnumbered; it just meant they had to employ a bit more creativity to their attack. Only with the appearance of the TIE Advanced did the final cloak of deception fall away. Darth Vader had been waiting for them. This had been a well orchestrated Imperial trap, and they had blindly flown right into it.

That sickening realization had only strengthened Luke's resolve to complete the mission, even if it meant that it would be his last. Over the past months, it had become increasingly apparent that the Empire's second-in-command had taken a special interest in the rebel who destroyed the Death Star. Luke somehow knew that he alone was Vader's target; his comrades could probably escape.

After some protest, his second had conceded to his orders and led the rest of his squadron in the hyperspace jump back to the rebel base. Luke stayed to make one last run at the station. He remembered the odd feeling of still having a wingman as several TIE's disintegrated around him on his final approach, but he had been too centered on his objective to give much notice.

As his mentor, Ben Kenobi, had once taught him, he opened his mind and let the Force guide his actions. He felt the ship's vibration as it broke through the magnetic shield. He was vaguely aware when his thumb pressed the trigger to release a rapid succession of blasts from his laser cannons. Then blackness overcame him, until now.

His musings were disturbed by a blast of noise behind him. He listened for a moment at the nervous twittering and electronic whistles of his astromech droid embedded in his fighter.

"I'm alright Artoo," he calmed the droid. His voice was still rather shaky from disuse. "Can you get me a readout on our position?"

Luke looked down at the darkened display on the fighter's console. He waited in silence, hoping that it would soon flicker to life. He was disappointed. With a new burst of rapid chirps and beeps from the astromech, the rebel pilot realized his worst fears, the electrical systems of the fighter had been fried; the ship was completely dead. At least the insulation that protected the small droid had kept him from being in the same condition. He grimaced at the thought of what he would to do if he ever lost Artoo.

"Well," Luke continued as he began extricating himself from the cockpit. "I guess we'll just have to look around for ourselves."

It took very little time to assemble the needed survival equipment from his incapacitated fighter. Everything went into the cumbersome backpack, but it was a tight fit. He certainly wasn't looking forward to trudging around the forest with it. It took much longer to pull Artoo from his snug compartment, but he managed. Despite the throbbing in his head, as well as the protesting muscles of his neck and back, it appeared that the young rebel had come out of his predicament with only a collection of bumps and bruises to show for it. His friend Han Solo would have told him that he was lucky. Luke was no longer sure his continued survival was just due to chance.

If there was any bright spot to his situation, it was the fact that the mission itself had not been that far from the current location of the main rebel base. Luke was sure that when the rest of the squadron made it back to the Alliance, his friends, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca would jump into the Millennium Falcon and race back here to rescue him. That was, of course, counting on the fact that the Falcon was in working order. Luke well knew that this was never a reliable condition. If all went well, he figured he would only be stranded here a few days.

Taking one more look at his surroundings, he noted that the sun was still on the incline, but threatening storm clouds had begun to fill the sky. Although the climate of the planet appeared to be temperate, the surrounding trees would provide little shelter from the elements. He also knew that the bright orange flight suit that he wore would not give him much protection from either enemy imps or any natural predators that may be lurking about. It was best to be on the move.

"We need to find shelter." Luke stated to his mechanized companion. "Can you scan for any structures close by?"

The little cylindrical droid slid a compartment open on its dome and raised a small antenna array. After a few moments, he emitted an excited burst of whistles. Though the young man could not understand the droid's binary language, it was obvious that he had found something.

"Lead the way," Luke lightheartedly ordered. He picked up the heavy survival pack and swung it onto his protesting shoulders as he fell into step behind the trudging little droid.

"Off on another adventure," he muttered softly.

They traveled for several hours in relative silence. Only the rhythmic chirpings from the little droid accented the sound of their passage. They had little difficulty traversing through the sparse underbrush of the forest in which they found themselves. However, the farther they went; a rising level of apprehension grew within the young man.

For as long as he could remember, Luke had been sensitive to feelings, or as he referred to them, hunches. Only after meeting the former Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi, did he realize that those feelings were coming from the Force. He understood so little about what the Force really was, and with his mentor's untimely death nearly a year ago, it appeared that he would not learn much more. But Ben had told him to let the Force guide him, and right now, it was definitely pulling him to an area off to the left of their current path.

Luke stopped and turned toward the calling direction. He could feel both the desire to investigate as well as trepidation about doing so. As if in response to his dilemma, R2D2 turned back and came to a halt in front of the rebel as if to block him. He whistled a pensive warning.

"It's okay, Artoo," Luke assured. "I just need to see what's over there." Luke began to move forward, but the little droid rolled farther into his path. He looked down in consternation at the droid wondering at his seeming protective behavior. Unable to deny the pull he was feeling, Luke placed a reassuring hand on the top of the droid's domed head as he moved around him to continue forward. He heard Artoo give a long mournful tone as the droid spun itself around and dutifully followed his foolish master.

It didn't take long to begin to smell the odors of hot metal, burning wires, and charred wood. Luke recognized the scorched area and the scattered debris he passed as another crash site. The pair soon reached the smoldering broken remains of what appeared to be a TIE fighter.

The craft had landed hard, digging deep into the soft mossy ground on impact. A large tree had fallen over the top hatch of the fighter essentially trapping the unfortunate pilot within. Luke unconsciously felt his right leg for both his holstered blaster as well as the cylindrical shaft of his father's lightsaber that dangled from his utility belt. He cautiously moved forward. The rebel slowed his pace and carefully stepped around damaged hull to the front viewport.

"Kriff!" Luke yelped in surprise.

Luke stumbled back a few steps as he immediately recognized the hulking black figure draped motionless over the controls within the craft. He grabbed his blaster and held it forward with a shaky hand at the sight of his greatest enemy. The young man stood frozen in shock for a moment; only Artoo's frantic whistles broke the natural sounds of their surroundings.

As his initial fright began to dissipate, Luke remembered to start breathing again. He pulled his eyes away from the paralyzing sight of the Emperor's henchman down to his own weapon quivering violently in front of him. He concentrated first on calming his nerves and stilling his trembling pale hand. That mental exercise gave his brain enough time to begin to function at higher levels again.

He looked back into the cockpit of the enemy fighter. Darth Vader's inert form had still not moved. Luke uneasily replaced his blaster into its holster and stepped forward to the craft. He placed his hand on the transpasteel viewport and peered intently inside.

Making a decision he was sure he would regret, he reached for his lightsaber and ignited it. He cautiously began tracing the edge of the viewport. Luke was relatively surprised as to the lack of resistance; the lightsaber cut through the transpasteel like butter. When the circle was complete; Luke stepped back. The heavy covering fell forward and landed on the mossy ground with a muffled thump.

The smell of hot ozone from inside the fighter was overpowering. The only sound emanating from within was the rhythmic rasps of the Dark Lord's respirator. There was still no movement.

Luke boldly held his ignited lightsaber forward. "In the name of the Alliance to Restore the Republic you are under arrest." He proclaimed defiantly.

He had to admit that the moment was rather anticlimactic. Between the nervous cracking of his own voice, the lack of response from his now declared prisoner, and the exasperated squawks coming from his mechanical companion, it all seemed somewhat lacking. At least his irritated glance at Artoo had managed to silence the droid's commentary.

Luke extinguished his lightsaber and re-attached the hilt to his belt. He cautiously stepped forward for a closer examination. He was still uncertain if Vader was alive or dead, but something told him the life-support suite he wore would not be functioning unless it was needed. Either way, Luke knew he had to get him out of there.

It took great effort to extricate the Dark Lord's massive frame from the small cockpit compartment; Darth Vader was far heavier then Luke had thought possible. The black clad menace of a man now lay prone in front of the broken fighter. Luke had already completed a cursory check for injuries, his examination hampered by the Dark Lord's thick leather and heavy armor. Luke had found nothing obvious, but was surprised to discover that all of the Sith's appendages were prosthetics. Old Ben had told him once that Vader was more machine then man, but it was still unsettling to find out how true that description had been. Luke had originally contemplated removing Vader's mask; but after making his other discoveries, he decided that the Dark Lord probably needed it for more than just intimidation.

A low rumble of thunder caused a new concern to cross the rebel's mind. The clouds were thickening; rain would be threatening very soon. The wind was picking up as well, making the surrounding trees sway ominously. They needed to get to shelter.

It was pretty apparent that his captive would not be traveling under his own power any time soon. Luke pensively looked around the forested area for a solution to his dilemma. It didn't take him long to come up with one.