This is the rest of the story "Runaway" which was co-authored by
Rebecca Thomson --- rthomson@fribergassociates.com
and
Valerie Vancollie --- valeriev84@hotmail.com




Looking at the datapad in his hand Vader sighed as he ordered the last section of the report to appear on the screen, the casualty list. Looking down at the list he felt his anger rise, more men had died uselessly and all because the Emperor had demanded another brutal attack on a rebellious people. Crushing the datapad in his right hand he watched as small rivulets of blood ran down his gloved hand from where the shards of the datapad had cut him. Seeing the blood drip from his hand to the floor he was reminded of his son, of the only person alive who shared his blood.

Leaning back in the chair in his pod he thought of the boy. It had been a little over eighteen years ago that he had learned of his wife's pregnancy meaning that his son had to be about eighteen years of age. Eighteen and he probably didn't know a single thing about the Force yet. Feeling a boiling rage rise inside of him he clenched his fists. His son should be with him, standing at his side and ruling the galaxy with him, not living on some planet completely ignorant of his heritage, of who he truly was.

Letting his anger wash through him he suddenly had another vision, another of the visions that had allowed him to see glimpses of his son in the past. Concentrating on the image as it swam into view he was surprised to see the inside of what had to be an Imperial building with all the storm troopers walking around. It took him a little longer to realize that he had to be seeing one of the buildings on Caridia as there seemed to be a lot of young men clad in the black uniforms of Imperial recruits.

His son was a storm trooper? His anger rose as the vision narrowed until he was seeing a group of boys. Studying them he saw only two that could be his son as only two of them were blond haired and blue eyed as he knew his son was from previous visions he had seen. Watching the group he saw them laugh before one of the blond, blue eyed, boys looked at his chronometer, said something to the group, before they broke into two groups each heading in separate directions.

Smiling behind his mask Vader was pleased to see that only one of the two blond, blue eyed, boys was in the group the vision followed. Studying his son he nodded his head in approval as he noted how his son carried himself, there was clearly pride in the boy.

Instantly the smile on his face broadened as he saw the group approach and climb into the TIE fighters waiting in their racks on a landing pad. So, the boy was a pilot and not a storm trooper, this proved that he had inherited his father's skill for flying. When the vision finally faded he didn't curse as he normally did, he now knew where to find his son. He would collect the boy, train him, and then see to getting the Imperial throne for himself.

"Admiral Dern," he said as he activated the com next to him.

"Lord Vader," Admiral Dern replied.

"Set course for Rauz, immediately," Vader ordered.

"As you wish my Lord," Admiral Dern responded as he wondered why they were heading for the Imperial Flight Academy.





The morning shone bright and sunny on the Storm Trooper Academy the next morning. Late last night Green Squadron had shown up in their TIEs and had gotten the nasty surprise of Ghost Squadron pouncing on their tails after the long flight. Gray Squadron sat around eating breakfast with the Greens. The banter was flying back and forth between the two squads, on who had been more surprised.

"Ha, I bet if we look at the computer readouts, half your guys froze for the first second." A greenie was defending their performance.

"Yeah, but at least we knew that it was a war game." That was Wlanke, he had always been a little defensive about anyone knocking the Grays.

Luke's mind wandered, he had returned the copy of the Rebel Manual to Commander Scagg that morning. Commander Riggs had been in Scagg's room, they had been discussing last night's exercise. Skywalker had been surprised when he had been told to pull up a chair, Riggs and Scagg had proceeded to go over the computer readouts with Luke. Riggs had given Luke a brief lesson on how to interpret the readings, how they pinpointed a pilot's weaknesses. Riggs had hinted that Luke would need to start motivating the squad members to improve. "They won't be in the Academy forever. Squad leaders coach their teammates constantly. It's their job." Riggs had then stated what some of the members of Gray Squadron needed to work on, and what Luke should do about it.

"Yeah, well, we ain't Stormies. Least I don't need to write home to my dad with that news." Everyone laughed. Luke snapped back to the present, and checked his chronometer.

"But we may end up staying here if we don't get to our ships, come on guys." The two squads parted ways, each headed for their TIEs.

Luke smiled as he marched back to his craft. He wasn't going to be a Storm Trooper. He was a pilot, and he if he had anything to do with it, he was going to be the best pilot in the whole Imperial Navy. 'Father, I wish you could see me now. I think you'd be proud,' Luke thought as he climbed the rack to his TIE fighter.

The next morning, back at Rauz, the air was filled with a light fog as a thin mist settled on the ground. As Gray Squadron marched from the barracks to the classroom building, Luke could hear the mournful wails of the jungle beasts.

A distinct 'WHUMP' was heard in the morning gloom. The squad paused, another 'WHUMP' sounded, closer this time, and sirens began to wail. The shrieking clamor spread across the Academy, tearing at the ears. The orange glow of fire began to burn against the foggy sky, down near the repair sheds.

Commander Riggs' com-link beeped a signal, and he suddenly looked grim. "Get to your ships boys! Its a rebel attack!"

Gray Squadron began hurling themselves across the parade ground as the barracks they had just exited exploded into flames. The concussion wave of the explosion pushing them onward towards the racks of TIEs. Luke was barely aware of tossing his flightsuit on, clambering up the rack to his TIE, and punching the warm-up sequence.

'Oh Sith, this is real.' His mind screamed with adrenaline, Luke swallowed hard. 'Calm it, focus, stick together, just like yesterday.'

Commander Riggs' voice cracked on the comm. "Same groups as yesterday. Stick together, boys. Time to show what you've learned."

Suddenly, they were ready, ships surging into the sky. Arching upward, Riggs cracked "We have to get the bombers, chase 'em out of the system. They'll be protected by X-wings, most likely. Ah, here they come. Trust your sensors."

Scanners showed ships approaching fast, the foggy mist obscuring vision. Luke's mind whirled, his ship clinging close to the Commander's. The X-wing squad appeared, surrounding the bombing craft. The X-wings spotted the TIEs, and dove for the squad, lasers blazing. Luke barrel rolled under the Commander, twisting his ship around. 'We've got to get out of this soup. I can't see a damn thing.' Luke thought furiously.

Two of the TIEs exploded into flames. Luke felt momentarily stunned. This was it. This was real. No mistakes, or you'd never make it back. Luke checked the screen. Daol's wingmates were gone. "Daol, with us." Luke fumed, 'Damn fool never watched anyone's back.'

The X-wings were arching back. Riggs snapped "Scatter Play 4." The three groups of TIEs bunched up and charged in different directions, intending to circle around the back of the X-wings. The X-wings stayed together, lunging at Commander Riggs ship. Luke had a sudden sinking feeling, 'They know he's the Commander. I've got to cover-' Luke had sprang ahead, hoping to pull off the attack, but it was too late. Commander Riggs ship went up in a muted ball of flame. Luke had instinctively shot at the leading X-wing. Flipping around, he continued to 'tag' that ship, till it flamed into shards.

The other elements of the squad had caught up, picking out the orange ships and hitting them hard. Shields held, as each TIE hit a different ship. Luke smacked the all-squad comm. "Try to target one ship per element, we need to get through their shields."

Luke tried the all comm channel, it should connect him with Academy Command. Recruits were not suppose to even call the Academy base, but this was different. No response. 'With the bombing runs, the communications tower could be slagged by now. We're on our own.' Luke didn't like the thought, he felt worse than blind in this mist.

A flurry of twisting dives and rolls followed, while each squad tried to vape the other. Luke had a hard time orienting himself in the gray soup, and rest of his squad kept drifting apart. Neither side could see through thick mist of the clouds, but the well-seasoned X-wing pilots were more accustomed to relying on their scanners. Luke felt like screaming in frustration when he lost another TIE. Daol wasn't sticking close, either.

An idea flashed across his mind- "Daol, I want you to go after the bomber." A quick check of the remaining ships, "Ausly, Frand, I'm with you. Blann, follow us, we're covering Daol." Luke hoped this would work. 'If he can't watch his wingman's back, I don't want him to have the respons-' Luke shoved his ship down, laser's flying over his head. Ausly's ship twisted, returning fire. Luke spun around, joining his friend, and the X-wing blazed apart.

The two elements continued to hound the X-wings, while the X-wings harried them back. Daol became single-minded in nailing the Bomber, the rest of Gray Squadron became hard-pressed to keep his tail clear when the X-wings figured out Luke's tactic. Daol got another round of hits into its hide. It suddenly arched for space, sides streaming smoke.

"Grays- follow. We got to chase them all the way out of the system." Luke was elated, they were going to win this thing...

Breaking free from the clouds and hurling ever upward, the TIEs and X-wings braided the paths of their ships like a Nanterra weaving. Lasers highlighting the curves and turns, the two battling squads popped up into the blackness of space. Luke suddenly realized that the skies above Rauz were thick with Rebel ships. Only a scattering of TIEs graced the battlefield. Two of the Alliance's capitol ships glided through the maelstrom, gunning at the remaining TIEs. Looping around, Luke centered on another X-wing and hit it with his lasers. Ausly and Frand were following right behind, each hitting the ship in turn. It flamed apart.

Luke hit the all comm button- he needed to know who was in charge of the Imperial force up here. "Gray 2 reporting. Gray 2 reporting."

Silence.

"Red 3. Red 3."

"Blue 7. Blue 7."

A bare handful of TIEs rose out of the clouds below. "Green 5. Gre-" The leading TIE exploded as an X-wing leapt out of the clouds, spitting fire.

"Gray 2, this is Red 3. They took out our Commander first. Got any ideas?"

Skywalker looked at his screen as he lunged left, almost feeling the hot breath of the blast that flicked past his cockpit. They were outnumbered, outgunned, and doomed.

'Well, this was not a good day for the Empire.' Luke accepted his fate. Months of training calmed his mind, he would fight to the end. He always had.

He calmly flipped the all comm switch again. "This is Gray 2. I want Red and Green to work together to take out the returning bombers on the solar north half. Blue, with us. I want to cover the south half while we can. Watch your tails, avoid the large ships."

Luke flipped the squad comm. "Okay, Daol, pick a group and stick with it. Nobody fights alone up here. Blann, you okay?"

Blann's ship took a turning dive, avoiding the hungry shots from his trailing X-wing. "Get this off my tail!" Wlanke obliged, tracing fire over the X-wings cockpit till it burst.

Gray Squad fought on. Looping curve, to twisting roll, they scrambled across Rauz's skies. Luke scored a hit on a returning bomber, slicing through its hull as his ship screamed past. Barreling around and curving underneath a group of charging X-wings, his squad pulled up under their bellies, fire flashing at exposed undersides. Two X-wings disintegrated in the airless void as Gray Squadron tore through the remaining formation.

'Two down, eighty to go.' Luke twisted around, sending his ship in a tight upward spiral as returning fire flew past his hull. 'I guess Uncle Owen was right, this is going to get me killed.'

Suddenly, a huge eight kilometer long white spear dropped out of hyperspace. Behind Luke, the chasing fire stopped. X-wings tore off, heading for their capital ships before turning around again, drawing a line of defense.

The Executor had arrived.






Looking out the huge viewport on the Executor's bridge, Vader took in the battle scene almost instantly.

"Lord Vader," Admiral Dern said as he approached. "We are unable to contact the Academy, their communications tower musty have been hit."

Hearing this Vader half turned to look at the Admiral before he cast another glance out the window. His son was probably out there, fighting for his life. He would know if the boy were dead, he would have felt a disturbance in the Force, and he hadn't.

"Get our TIEs out there," Vader ordered. "And have the techs prepare my fighter."

"As you wish my Lord," Admiral Dern replied as he rushed to carry out his orders while wondering how Vader could have known that they would be needed here.


***


A smile appeared on Luke's face as he recognized the ship that had appeared out of hyperspace. Quickly he turned his attention back to his piloting, just in time to avoid fire from an approaching X-wing.

"I've got a tail," Luke said as he pulled his TIE into a spiral dive.

"I've got him," Wlanke stated seconds before the X-wing firing on Luke exploded into a brilliant ball of flames.

"Thanks," Luke replied as he watched more TIE fighters appear out of the Executor's docking bays. "All right, we're going to pull back, make it look like we're retreating. Red, Green, when I give the signal you guys turn back and attack the X-wings from the left; Blue, Gray, we'll turn back and attack them from the right. If we do this correctly we'll be blocking their escape from one side and the Executor's TIEs will block their escape on the other side."

"Lets get them!" Ausly's voice said over the com, his excitement evident.

In his own TIE Luke couldn't help but smiling as well, the odds were now definitely in their favor. But then he remembered something Commander Riggs had told him: excitement often made a pilot reckless.

"Keep focused," he ordered. "Begin retreat now."

Instantly all the Academy TIE fighters began turning around and heading back to Rauz. For a moment the X-wings remained where they were, frozen in space, before they pursued the fleeing TIEs.


***


Looking at the retreating Academy TIE fighters Vader's eyes narrowed, he had activated his com unit just in time to hear the leader give the retreat order. When all the TIEs had turned he had instantly known that most of the leaders were dead as there were supposed to be four squads at the Academy at all times, not one.

Leaning forward he opened a com channel and was about to order the TIEs back when their leader spoke again.

"Split now."

Seeing the TIEs break into two groups Vader instantly knew what was happening.

"Block the Rebel's path," he ordered as he reached out with the Force.

Sweeping the battle scene he quickly felt the disturbance in the Force created by an untrained Force sensitive individual. Knowing that he couldn't hope to find his son unless he had idea of what the boy's mind was like he quickly turned his attention back to his flying. Once this was over he'd find his son.


***


"Ausly," Luke said as he saw his friend flying alone. "Where's your wingman?"

"X-wing got him," Ausly replied as he peeled off from the group to follow a lone X-wing.

"Ausly get back here," Luke ordered. "Wlanke, cover him."

"I can't," Wlanke replied and Luke looked at his radar to see Wlanke and Blann busy with another X-wing.

Seeing everyone was busy Luke quickly peeled away from the group, heading after Ausly.

"You should have told me your wingman got destroyed," he said as he neared his friend's TIE.

"It happened seconds before you asked about it," Ausly replied and then gave a startled cry as a second X-wing appeared on his tail. "Luke, help!"

Feeling his heart start to pound faster in his chest Luke watched helplessly as the X-wing started to chase his friend. He was still too far away to fire at the Rebel attacking his friend. Then, as he watched, the X-wing spat red laser right at Ausly before Ausly's TIE disappeared in a brilliant red flower of flame.

"Nooooooo!" Luke cried out as a boiling rage the likes of which he had never felt rushed through his veins.

Narrowing his eyes he gripped the controls tightly as the X-wing that had just killed his friend turned around and headed towards him. Before he realized what he was doing he found himself speeding towards the X-wing. Part of him screamed at his brain, telling him to turn away, saying that he'd only get himself killed going head-on with an X-wing. But his brain wasn't listening to that part of him, it was only listening to his blossoming anger, to his need for revenge. Then, at the last moment, he turned his TIE to the left and the X-wing overshot him. The next minute he found himself on the X-wings tail and quickly fired, pleased to see the ship explode.


***


Watching as yet another X-wing was destroyed from his fire Vader froze as he felt a strong ripple in the Force. Grasping for it he was pleased to feel the anger that had to be coming from his son. Tracing the disturbance back to its owner he was extremely pleased to see that his son was flying the Academy TIE fighter that was leading the others. So, his child was both an outstanding pilot and a leader, this was perfect, especially considering the fact that the boy would be ruling the galaxy at his side in the future.

Briefly he wondered how the boy had managed to get into the Imperial Flight Academy considering the fact that Obi-Wan would have made sure his son would never have ended up with him, but then he pushed the thought aside. He'd ask the boy later when he told him who he was and what his future would be. Finally, after all those years of searching, his son was as good as his.


***


Calming down Luke looked at the radar and was pleased to see the last X-wing jump into hyperspace. They had done it! They had driven the Rebels away! But at what cost? Turning his TIE fighter around he felt his heart sink as he saw that of the four Academy TIE squadrons that had started the fight only two squadrons were left.

"Lets head back," he ordered as he looked at the Super Star Destroyer hanging in space.

If it hadn't appeared when it did they would all have died here. Following the others back he forced back the tears that threatened to overtake him, Ausly was dead! The one true friend he had known since he had left Tatooine was dead! It was a good thing Biggs would be arriving soon, he didn't know what he'd do if Biggs weren't to show up.

As he landed his TIE fighter in it's rack he thought about the rage he had felt after Ausly's death. He hadn't known that he was capable of hating someone as much as he had hated that X-wing pilot. The pleasure he had felt upon the pilot's death was also something that greatly disturbed him. How could he take so much pleasure in someone's death? Shaking his head he took off his breathing mask and got out of his TIE fighter.







Vader felt surprise at the immense curiosity he had on finally meeting his son. He steered his customized TIE towards the surface, secretly pleased that the communications tower at the Academy had been taken out by the Rebels. He now had an excuse to land.

'I don't know what they've told him. I don't know what he knows about me. He's here- so he hasn't been completely brainwashed about the Empire. He's untrained, so the Jedi haven't gotten to him.' Vader's mind ran in circles, feeling out everything he could reason or guess about his son. 'I don't even know what his name is. Force only knows what they came up with for his name. But he's strong. So strong. That instinctive grasping at the Force, the power of it... The Emperor will feel it. I'll tell him something, mislead him.' Darth Vader gently landed his ship, not even a wobble betrayed the fact that the ship had connected to the ground. Effortlessly lifting himself out of the cockpit, he steeled himself to show no emotion.

Skywalker stood on the walkway under the rack that held his TIE. He felt like he was trembling. 'Ausly. Damn, I'm so sorry. Everything went crazy. I tried to get that X-wing off your tail, I did.' Leaning against the strut of the TIE's rack, Skywalker stared at the bright shinning sky, the warm beautiful day. The mist had burned off, the warm breezes blowing away the last trace of smoke. 'Ausly, I still don't know what I did next. It's like I could see where everyone was. Must be like what Commander Riggs said about situational awareness of your squad. I should ask him- Damn. He's dead too.' Skywalker looked up at his squad's TIEs, huge gaps in the ranks where ships had not returned.

Blann was walking up, glancing at the empty places above. "Skywalker.
Thank the Empire you held together. Heard we lost the entire Green squad." Blann looked at Ausly's blank space. "I'm sorry." Blann swallowed. "At least the Executor showed up. I don't think we would have made it without Darth Vader's men." The remainder of Gray Squadron came walking up. Daol, Frand, and Wlanke- they could hardly be called a squad anymore.

"Not your fault Blann- the rebels killed him. We'll get even..." Luke heard his own words, they felt like someone else had said them.

"Yeah. It's personal now." Blann looked angry.

Daol cut in, "Did you see that strange TIE? I think it was a TIE Advance- do you think Lord Vader was out there?"

Blann replied offhandedly, "I dunno. I heard he does that sometimes..." Blann's voice trailed off, Luke noticing simultaneously that all the color had drained from Blann's face and that very distinct mechanical breathing could be heard behind him.

Luke turned on one heel. A huge black form stood about ten paces away. A scull-like mask and helmet covered its towering head, black armor and cape cloaked its body. A chill stilled the wind as the Dark Lord's form seemed to reject the light of the sun above. Luke forced a salute, not knowing what else to do. Was this who he thought it was? It had to be Lord Vader.

"What's your name?" Mechanical voice cracked in the space between them.

"Luke Skywalker, my lord." Luke, at the moment, was extremely proud that his voice came out clearly.

There were few moments in his life were Darth Vader was thankful for his mask. This was one of them. 'That name? They actually gave him my old name?' Vader was furious. He felt like the Jedi had been mocking him, his old weak past. Clamping down hard on all his mind's thoughts, Vader turned to the Academy officer behind him.

"I need replacement pilots for my ship. Have Commander Skywalker and his squad transferred." Turning, Vader continued, "Now, Lieutenant, we need to discuss why, exactly, this rebel raid was so successful." He strode off, Vader would have plenty of time to talk to his son later. It was hard to concentrate on the Lieutenant's babbling however, thoughts of his son kept interfering.

'He has absolutely no idea who I am to him. None at all. It even took him a second to recognize me as Lord Vader.' Vader walked on to the office buildings of the Academy, officers in tow. 'He's built like his mother, but the hair and eyes are definitely mine. And he can change his name.'

One of the lower officers had held back for just a moment, to give Skywalker's squad further instructions.

"You have two hours to gather your personal effects. Return to the shuttle landing pad at the end of that time." The officer then scurried after the retreating form of Lord Vader.

"Speak of the Sith." Blann nervously whispered. "Did I hear that right? We got transferred to the Executor?"

"Sounds like it." Daol was equally stunned.

"I don't believe this Skywalker- the Dark Lord spoke to you." Wlanke looked at Luke in awe.

"I wouldn't really call that a conversation." Luke replied ruefully.

"No, but, he did promote you." Frand looked just as impressed. "That's got to mean something, Commander."

"Come on, we have to get our stuff" Luke wanted to end the discussion. He felt funny- he had gotten the distinct impression that the Sith Lord had looked him up and down almost expectantly before asking his name. And then he had been furious. Not at Luke, just about something. Luke brushed it off. He doubted that the Dark Lord really cared one way or another about a simple TIE pilot.

The trainees- no, pilots- turned to the remainder of the barracks. The rebel bombing had taken out the half the building.

"Do you think our stuff's okay?" Daol looked at the wreckage hopefully.

"Yeah, our rooms are on the side still standing. Let's see what we can salvage."

"Damn terrorists." Wlanke looked furious.

Luke's mind was a blur with all that had to be done before he left. 'Get Ausly's home address, I need to write his parents. His father deserves that much. Biggs- Damn. Biggs. I won't get to talk to him. So close. I hope he makes it to the academy okay. Oh well, we'll met in the skies.' Luke trudged to his room, throwing everything he owned into a bag. Once again, everything in his life was shifting.






Three months later Luke tossed in his sleep as he heard that strange voice in his head that he had been hearing for the past few weeks.

'How did you get to the Academy Luke?' it asked him softly, but there was something about the voice that made him reply.

"I ran away from home," Luke murmured as he started waking up.

'Why?' the voice demanded.

"I wanted to get off of Tatooine, to fly like my father once did," Luke replied.

'Your father?' the voice asked, suddenly interested.

"Yes, he flew, was a navigator on a..." Luke trailed off as he awoke with a start as his chronometer alarm went off.

Sitting up he shook his head as he tried to remember with whom he had been speaking to. Then he remembered, that strange voice that visited him every morning, a voice which seemed to want to know everything about him. At first he had been scared by it, wondering if he was suffering from some kind of medical problem and was going nuts, but since then he had had his monthly check up and he'd passed with a perfect bill of health so he hadn't said anything to the doctors. The last thing he wanted was to be kicked off of the Executor because they thought he was going mad.

However he had to admit to himself that he sometimes wondered if he was going mad. At first he had tried asking the voice what it was and why it was asking him all those questions, but whenever he did so he felt a cold chill seep through his body and the voice always disappeared. He had considered telling the voice that if it didn't answer his questions he wouldn't answer any of the voice's questions anymore, but he had decided against it. He felt some kind of strange connection to the voice and had finally agreed to obeying it when it asked him something.

Sighing he quickly got up and got dressed. He liked to get up earlier and have time to actually enjoy breakfast instead of rushing through it, besides as Commander he had to be the first of the squad at either the simulator room or in the docking bay. He had quickly learned that being Commander brought on a whole lot of other changes as well, it meant that he had to punish the members in his squad who misbehaved or didn't do as they were meant to do during a battle or practice, a duty which nearly cost him his fragile friendships with Daol, Blann, and Wlanke. Frand had remained extremely friendly to him, but he had died in a recent battle.

Other then the four other surviving members of Gray squad he had gotten seven pilots who had been part of a squad on board the Executor which had taken heavy loses during an earlier battle. Those pilots had given him a rough time at first, testing him as they despised being under a pilot who had just come from the Academy. They had quickly calmed down when Frand had told them he had been promoted by Lord Vader.

Lord Vader. He shivered as he remembered how the man had killed Admiral Dern after the Rebel attack in which Frand had died in. He and his squad, minus two TIE fighters, had just climbed out of their TIEs when he had turned around to see the Admiral talking to the Dark Lord. Then, without even touching the Admiral, Vader had choked the man to death. He had stood frozen in shock until Vader had looked in his direction at which he had instantly spun around and given a few orders to his squad before dismissing them and leaving the docking bay himself. The Dark Lord made him feel uneasy. He felt like there was something he should know, something important, every time he saw the man. It was a nagging feeling inside of him which he just couldn't understand.

Exiting his room he walked over to the cafeteria and quickly got his breakfast. Sitting down at an empty table he nodded his head at one of the other TIE fighter Commanders. That was another thing that made him uneasy, he was the youngest Commander on board the ship and the others weren't making it any easier for him to adjust. He always felt out of place at meetings all the TIE fighter Commanders had to attend to make reports on their squads.

Eating his breakfast he thought of Biggs. He had sent him a message when he had sent Ausly's father word of his son's death, but he hadn't gotten a reply. Suppressing a frustrated sigh he finished his breakfast as fast as possible, there were times when he felt so lonely. At the worst of times he couldn't wait to go to sleep knowing that the voice, whether real or imagined, would talk to him come dawn.

Getting up he put his tray away before heading towards the docking bay. As the Executor was momentarily in orbit above the water world of Mon Calamari he had been able to get permission to take his squad out for a practice run instead of using the simulators. Entering the Super Star Destroyer's enormous docking bay he quickly walked over to the racks containing his squad's TIEs. Climbing onto the rack he went around to the back of his TIE and started looking it over for, although the techs checked the ships each time they came back in, he liked to reassure himself that his fighter was in top condition. He was after all the one whose life depended on the fact that it was in perfect condition.

Several minutes later he got off the rack and was just checking his chronometer when he felt a funny prickling sensation in the back of his mind. Recognizing it he could feel his muscles stiffen. He had felt the sensation several times before in the past, and every time he turned around he always found Lord Vader somewhere nearby, watching him, or so it seemed. Feeling his whole body tense with fear and curiosity he slowly turned around and, just as he had expected, saw Vader standing at the entrance of the docking bay, looking in his direction. Then, as he watched in surprise, the Dark Lord started walking towards him.

He was just wondering what to do when, suddenly, deafening sirens went off. Recognizing the sound he turned around and looked to see his squad members running towards him. Climbing up the rack to his TIE Luke felt his heart start to beat faster in his chest, the sirens indicated a Rebel attack nearby.






The Mon Calamari waterworld hosted Imperial shipyards. In the days of the Old Republic, the Mon Calamari had a thriving shipbuilding industry. With the change in government, the shipyards and the planet had fallen to Imperial command. Imperial rule ran heavy on the Mon Calamari as they were forced to produce the ships for the Emperor's war machine. It was well-known that the Mon Calamari hated the Imperials for taking their freedom. Many Mon Calamari had joined the Rebel Alliance, and that fraction of the Rebellion had made itself felt today.

The fighting had been fierce. The rebels had used X-wings, A-wings, and B-wings. They had targeted the Executor, swarming around the huge ship like so many gnats. Then, to add injury to the insult, several of the Rebel Alliance's capitol ships had dropped out of hyperspace. They had fired repeatedly at the shipyards, and slipped back out again. The squads of rebel snub fighters had then broken off, fleeing into hyperspace.

It shouldn't have done much damage to the yards, the quick barrage of firepower. Except for the fact that the rebels had sent in an undercover commando team to take down the shipyard shields. Defenseless, thousands of Imperial lives had been lost.

Vader was furious.

The rebels were getting bolder. They were attacking military sites, surgically targeting buildings, complexes, and shipyards. The Emperor's bloody tactics were alienating neutral worlds. To add to the fire, Imperial military personnel, with all their training and knowledge of procedures, were starting to turn traitor in droves. The unnecessary purges were revolting to these more honorable men. The added influx of well-trained personnel was growing the insignificant rebellion into a monster the Dark Lord could fear.

And he needed his son closer to him. Training him would take time and energy, and Luke would need to have more regular contact with him. But the next step had made itself available today...

***

Luke crashed to his bunk. He had just left the Squad Commander debriefing. He and his men had fought courageously against the swarming rebels. They had done well, all things considered. 'Out numbered. Why do I always end up in battles outnumbered? Those rebels are cowards. Didn't even stick around. Just vaped what they could and left. Then that stupid brass- coming down out of his secure bridge to tell us we could have done better. It was us in those little shieldless ships, not him from his comfy bridge chair. Actually, with Vader, the bridge probably isn't that safe right now.' Luke rubbed his temples.

Luke mussed on the thought. Maybe that's why he choked Admiral Dern- that man's screw-up had cost a lot of pilot's lives. Maybe Vader was just tying an officer's survival with that of his men.

Then there was the other issue. Black 2 had died in the battle. Black 2 was Vader's wingman. Lord Vader had not been out in his ship, but his wingman would occasionally go out together as an element to 'keep in practice'. Somehow, a lucky rebel had got in a shot and killed him. It had to be a lucky shot, being Vader's wingman was reserved for the best two pilots in the whole Imperial fleet. Sometime in the next few days Lord Vader would pick a replacement.

Every pilot on the Executor was waiting with baited breath. Everyone except Luke. There was no way, he hadn't been out of the Academy three months yet- he wasn't concerned.

Luke dozed off...

'Your father was a navigator?' the soft voice whispered.

'Yeah. On a spice freighter. He died out there. When I was very little.' Luke suddenly wanted to talk, to talk to anyone.

'Died?' The voice sounded surprised.

'That's what Uncle Owen told me.'

'What else did he tell you? About your father?'

'Not much of anything. I wasn't suppose to ask. He'd punish me for it. Uncle Owen once made me scrub the trash bin for asking.'

'I suppose he wanted to raise you as his own.'

'No, not really. He didn't want to be my father. I don't think he even wanted to be my guardian.' Luke's sleepy mind wandered, his memories flicking over scenes of a fatherless child ridiculed by his peers. 'Its lonely to grow up without a father, without parents.'

'I understand.' And Luke knew that the voice did understand, it understood loneliness.

Luke felt gratitude towards the voice. 'Thanks. Most of this is probably in my file.'

'Not all. You should wake up, you have to eat dinner.'

Luke lifted his groggy head, snapping awake when he read the time. He had to hustle to get to the cafeteria.

'Great, now I'm hearing voices in the afternoon.'






Sitting in the cafeteria Luke ate his dinner as fast as he could manage, if he didn't hurry the others would be in the simulator room before him and that would look bad. Still chewing the last of his food he got to his feet and put the tray with the empty dishes away. Rushing down the hall he checked his chronometer. Seeing the time he breathed a sigh of relief, he should be the first one in the simulator room.

Entering the room he missed a step as he saw Nack standing next to one of the simulators. Unconsciously he flexed the hand he had sprained when Nack had tripped him back at the Academy. Looking at the man who had only recently been transferred to the Executor he noticed that he was wearing the uniform of a commander instead of the uniform TIE fighters wore.

"Skywalker," Nack said as an unpleasant smile spread across his face.

"What are you doing here?" Luke asked, keeping the sudden nervousness he felt out of his voice.

Something was about to happen, something big. He didn't know how he knew, he just knew. Forcing a neutral expression on his face he looked at Nack expectantly.

"I've come to replace you as commander of your squad," Nack replied just as Blann, Wlanke, Daol and the other pilots of the squad entered the room.

They all froze in their tracks as they heard Nack's statement. Daol's eyes quickly flashed between Luke and Nack, remembering what had happened the last time those two had met.

"Excuse me?" Luke asked, astonished.

"I'm here to take your place," Nack stated joyfully as he extended his arm. "Give me your rank plaque."

Looking down at Nack's uniform Luke saw that the man had everything but the rank plaque. Feeling his anger rise Luke was tempted not to do as the Nack said, after all Nack couldn't order him around, he wasn't a superior officer, indeed, if anything, Nack was inferior to him. Perhaps Nack just wanted to make a fool of him, there was no way for him to know if Nack had really been ordered to replace him or not.

Slowly he felt his heart sink as he realized that he could tell Nack had been ordered to do this, how else would he have gotten hold of a commander's uniform? But why? Had he done something wrong? Confusion and boiling rage rushed through him, confusion as to why this was happening and rage because Nack was making him look bad before his entire squad. Reluctantly he reach up and undid the rank plaque hanging on the left side of his chest. As he handed it to Nack he saw that his hand was trembling with anger.

Taking the rank plaque, Nack's smile grew as he pinned it to his own tunic before he looked past Luke to his new squad.

"Get ready for the simulation," Nack ordered harshly.

Instantly the squad members rushed to their normal simulators casting looks at Luke. Blann, Wlanke, and Daol's looks were confused and slightly sympathetic, the looks of the others were gleeful and Luke knew that if they got the chance they would repay him for the when he had punished them after a failure.

"Who gave you your orders?" Luke suddenly demanded before he could stop himself.

Even the fact that he was now inferior to Nack couldn't stop the rage boiling inside of him, ready to explode. He wanted to know what he had done to be replaced, he wanted to know who had ordered it. He was surprised to find that his anger went beyond being embarrassed before his squad, he was also angry that his power had been taken from him. Feeling confusion and revulsion at the realization he struggled to keep his face straight.

"I am now a superior officer and you will address me as such in the future," Nack replied. "Admiral Koas ordered me to replace you, he also said you are to report to Lord Vader."

Looking up at Nack with ill concealed astonishment Luke caught the joyful smile on the other man's face. Lord Vader? What had he done wrong? Instantly his mind went over the events of the last few days, looking for a mistake big enough for the Dark Lord to de-promote him and call him to his presence.

"Lord Vader waits in his quarters," Nack added before he turned his back to Luke.

Feeling his anger rise at Nack's behavior Luke clenched his fists as he exited the room and headed for the Dark Lord's quarters. Entering the area where only the highest officers had their quarters Luke noticed the looks those officers were giving him. Approaching the doors to Vader's quarters he hesitated and slowed down, what was he to do? Knock? Stopping before the door he looked down the hall and was about to raise his hand to knock on the door when it suddenly opened.

"Come in Skywalker," Vader's deep, rich, voice ordered.

Swallowing Luke entered the room. Nervously he walked forward and stopped before the strange pod-like structure, looking at the seated form of Imperial Dark Lord before he respectfully lowered his eyes.

Studying his son Vader smiled unseen behind his mask. The boy's nervousness at being summoned by him was crystal clear to him through the Force, as was his anger at the way he had been replaced by another commander. This was exactly the result he had hoped for, the more often the boy got angry the easier his anger would come to him. Probing his son's undefended mind he marveled once more at the potential the boy held. He had always known his son would be powerful, but Luke held more potential then he had dared hope. Indeed, once trained the boy would be almost as powerful as he himself was, almost, but not quite.

"You know the outcome of the recent battle, no?" Vader asked, wanting to see if his son would physically betray his nervousness.

"Yes my lord," Luke replied and was thankful to hear his voice was steady.

"Then you know I need a replacement for Black 2," Vader said and waited a couple of seconds, watching as Luke nodded his head. "You."

Luke's head snapped up at the single word.

"What?!" he exclaimed before he could stop himself.

Had he heard correctly? The Dark Lord wanted him to be his wingman? But he wasn't that good, was he? No, there were others on board the Executor who were far better pilots then he was, then why had the Sith Lord chosen him? Did it have anything to do with the way Vader had always been watching him?

As the questions flashed across his mind like lightening he realized he was staring at Vader with his mouth open in shock. Quickly he closed his mouth and lowered his eyes.

"You will be the new Black 2," Vader repeated, amused with his son's reaction.

Hearing Vader say it again Luke couldn't help but feel a wave of joy wash through him. This was better then he'd ever dreamt, he was going to be Lord Darth Vader's wingman! Wait until Nack heard this! The corners of his mouth rose as he thought of what he could do to Nack. Realizing what he was thinking he quickly shoved the thoughts aside, what was coming over him? He'd never felt like this before.

Feeling his son's instinctive lust for revenge Vader smiled again, despite the boy's upbringing he was definitely his father's son. Reaching over he pressed a button on the control panel next to him. Instantly the door to his room opened and a storm trooper entered.

"Show Black 2 to his quarters," Vader ordered.

Watching Luke salute before he left Vader leaned back in his chair. He had been tempted to tell the boy everything now, but he knew that it was best to do one thing at a time. At least now he'd have Luke close to him on a regular basis, the next step was to start Luke's training and then tell him about their relationship. But he wouldn't move to the next phase for a couple of days, the boy needed to get used to being Black 2 first.






Black 2's quarters were huge. Luke had a living room with a desk, couch, low table and two lounging chairs. He had a bedroom, whose bed was much larger than the bunk he had been sleeping in. He even had a fair sized bathroom, with a real hydroshower. There even was a completely empty room off to one side.

Skywalker had woken early, the new surroundings disorienting him. He had dressed quickly, but now he sat in one of his chairs, feet propped up on the table. He wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about his promotion. Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes.

"I got promoted."

'You did. Why?'

"I don't know. I've got to learn to fly even better now, I have to protect our lord."

'Yes. You shall. How do you feel about Nack taking your squad?' The voice was questioning.

Luke's anger flashed. "That fool? He'll probably wreck it, he's too impulsive." Luke continued gleefully, "Can't wait till he hears about my promotion."

'Yes. Use your anger, focus your rage, control the hate, do not let it control you.' The voice paused. 'And, plot your revenge. But don't be afraid to take advantage of situations that arise.'

Luke mulled over what the voice said. It had never mentioned anything like this before. Compelled by the soft tones of the disembodied voice, Luke pulled up the rage he felt for Nack. What would he do about it?

The shadowy presence behind the voice dissipated, Luke went to breakfast.

***

Skywalker sat off to one side, eating his breakfast in the large pilot cafeteria. He didn't really want to eat with the commanders right now- he had gotten enough strange looks as it was. Last night, Storm Troopers had gone to his old quarters to collect his gear. The rumors had spread fast, and half the pilots in the room were surprised to see him alive after visiting Lord Vader last night.

Apparently, Lord Vader hadn't bothered to tell anyone about his new wingman.

Squad Commander Nack was busy dumping his tray, his new squad following him to morning simulation. Nack had been surprised to see Skywalker this morning. Well, Skywalker would just have to give him another nasty surprise. Luke smiled wickedly, and assumed a look of pleasant friendliness. He leaned forward, elbows on the table, chin on hand, and arms concealing his new rank pin.

"Good morning, Nack." No title, no 'Commander', Nack was sure to notice.

Nack spun. His face flashed rage. He stalked back to Skywalker, his squad following cautiously. "You should learn your place Skywalker. I warned you last night..."

Luke tuned him out. His anger rose. This man was an idiot! Didn't he notice that he still wore his commander uniform? Luke grabbed his rage- focus. Focus. Luke smiled. Use the opportunity...

Nack was incensed at Skywalker's reaction. "You need to learn respect of your superior officers, report for level 2 discipline." The squad behind him grinned in anticipation, except Blann, Wlanke, and Daol. Skywalker wasn't this stupid, what was he up to?

Luke raised his eyebrows as he dropped his arms. "I don't think so."

Nack, still glaring at his face, didn't see Luke's new rank plaque. Blann and
Daol flinched in shock as Nack grated out "Why you little.." Nack raised his arm, but Daol leaned forward and grabbed it.

"Don't hit him." Daol's voice was an urgent whisper, his eyes glued to Luke's chest. Nack ripped his arm free and followed Daol's eyes.

Nack's eyes got big, he swallowed. Skywalker took on a bored tone. "I am now a superior officer and you will address me as such in the future. I accept your recommendation on discipline. See to it." Luke made a little dismissive gesture with one hand.

Nack stomped out of the cafeteria, squad following. He would get even.

Wlanke, Blann and Daol held back. Wlanke whispered "He did it again? He promoted you?" Luke nodded. The three exchanged glances, then they took off after the rest of their squad.

Luke watched them go. He had never done anything so ruthless in his entire life. He hadn't really meant to, all he wanted to do was give Nack a rude shock. But Nack had been so stupid, Luke couldn't have stopped him if he had tried. Maybe the idiot would learn something before he got his whole squad killed.

***

The weeks had flow by. Skywalker had not hit it off with Black 3, the man was infuriated that he had to 'baby-sit some greenie', but that wasn't important. The other commanders barely respected him, but that wasn't important. Every morning Luke woke up early, got dressed, and listened to the voice before breakfast.

The voice was important. Each day was a lesson, on how to focus his rage, on how to use it to fly better. There was so much knowledge there, but Luke felt like the voice was holding back. There had to be more to this ability he had. His flying skills had jumped, surprising Black 3 with the rate of his improvement, but better flying wasn't enough anymore.

Luke sat on his chair early in the morning.

'Are you ready to begin?'

"Yes. But..."

'But what?'

"Is there more? More than just flying?"

The voice smiled. 'Just flying? Of course. Are you ready?' The tone was serious. Luke would be getting in further. Somehow he knew that there would be no turning back. He barely hesitated.

"Yes."

'Good. Focus your rage.' Skywalker did. It was easier now. The other commanders' disrespect made it easier, the isolation gave him plenty of time to practice. 'Use your rage, let it swell out of you, let it fill your room.' Luke did.

It was strange. He could feel the furniture in the room, 'see' the datacards he had left on the table, the pillow on the floor. "My rage senses this?"

'No. Your rage lets you connect to the Force. The Force surrounds your room, this ship, the galaxy. It connects to everything, and your rage connects you to it.'

'The Force?' Luke's mind raced, where had he heard that term before?

'The Force is an energy field that binds the universe together. The Jedi,' Luke could hear the rage packed into that one word, 'The Jedi would tell you that the Force is created by life. This is only partially correct. Hate, fear, anger, and death also make it grow. Now, see how far around the ship you can sense.'

Luke pulled his mind along the ship. He could faintly make out people, sleeping, around the ship. A few were awake and working. It was odd, the images fleeting, the people ghosts, it was like a dream.

'Now up, to the command center.' Luke didn't really want to go up there. His suspicion on who the voice was had grown over the last few weeks, and he'd rather avoid confirmation. But he did as he was told.

He was there. The Dark Lord. Luke gulped, he forced his wavering sense to steady. The Dark Lord's form looked pure black, solid, and ordered. Not like Luke's wavering probe. Lord Vader's form was awake, it looked at Luke.

'Good.' The dark form said. There was no doubt now. Skywalker knew he had been talking to Darth Vader. Luke forced himself to maintain contact, through his fear. The Dark Lord noticed Luke's struggle, watched his success. This was better than he had hoped. His boy had control. Not as much as he needed, but he had the strength of will required. The rest could be trained.

'Very Good. I knew you were strong in the Force.'

'Thank you, my lord.'

'No, don't call me that. Not here. In public, yes, but in private, no. Call me 'Master'. You are my apprentice.'

'Yes, Master.' Apprentice? Apprentice to what? Luke felt way over his head, but held on.

'Apprentice to becoming a Sith Lord.' The Dark Lord paused, feeling Luke's astonishment, his struggle to maintain this connection despite the shocks he had received. Darth Vader was pleased at Luke's strength. 'Go to breakfast, we will talk later.' Vader reached out, tearing the connection, gently letting Luke come back to himself. He watched from a distance.

Luke sat in his chair, sides heaving, face sweating. He got up, washed his face. He stared at his face in the mirror. The Dark Lord had been watching him a long time. He had chosen. Luke blinked, he didn't look different, but he felt different. 'Do I want this? Do I have a choice?' Luke snorted. No he didn't. 'But. Not a word. Not to anybody. This isn't official. Don't hint, don't insinuate.' Luke wondered why the Dark Lord kept this secret, then decided he would just wait to find out.





Sitting in the cafeteria Luke tried to eat his breakfast. Darth Vader, he'd been speaking to Darth Vader all that time! Although he'd had his suspicions it was still a shock. That and the fact that he was being trained as a Sith Lord. Why him? Did that mean he'd become like Vader? Would he be as powerful? Although he pretended that he hoped not, he knew in his heart he hoped that it was true. Confused and slightly revolted by the sudden lust for power he felt inside of him he ate another bite of his food.

Looking around the cafeteria he caught sight of Nack making his way to the table with the Commanders, his tray in his hands. Seeing the man Luke felt his anger rise within him, two days ago Wlanke had died because of Nack. They had attacked a Rebel outpost and, during the battle, Nack had left Wlanke's back undefended when he had gone after an X-wing by himself. One of the other X-wings had noticed this and had quickly fired at Wlanke, destroying the TIE fighter.

He had been out there himself, but he had been unable to do anything as he had to watch Black 3's back at the time. Letting his rage rise within him Luke stared at Nack, wishing he knew more of this Force Vader had described. It was probably with the Force that Vader had killed Admiral Dern. It wasn't that he wanted to kill Nack, but if the Force had the power to chock somebody to death, then it definitely had the power to trip someone.

How he longed to be able to release his anger on Nack, if only to trip him. He could see it in his head, Nack would be approaching the table with the other, older, commanders and then he would trip, his tray flying out of his hands either onto the table or onto one of the commanders. Nack would be so embarrassed that he'd never be able to look the others in the eye again. Smiling Luke closed his eyes so that he could see a mental image of it happening in his head.

Suddenly he was pulled from his thoughts as he heard a startled cry. Opening his eyes he looked up to see Nack falling down and his tray flying to land on the lap of the commander sitting at the end of the table. Staring at Nack, his mouth hanging open, Luke wondered what had just happened. Had he done that? Looking around the cafeteria he saw that everyone had stopped talking and that all eyes were on Nack.

'What did you just do?' Vader demanded angrily.

"I don't know my lord, I mean master," Luke whispered softly so that no one else could hear him. "One minute I'm visualizing Nack tripping and falling and the next minute he does it."

Looking back to Nack he saw the man was slowly getting to his feet, his face bright red with embarrassment. Keeping his eyes lowered Nack avoid making eye contact with anyone as he spoke to the commander on whom his breakfast tray had fallen.

"I'm sorry," Nack apologized. "I....I must have tripped."

"Next time watch where you're going boy," the Commander growled threateningly.

Nodding his head Nack quickly turned around and exited the cafeteria, unable to take the humiliation anymore.

'You used the Force,' Vader stated, some of his anger evaporating. 'Come to my quarters as soon as you're done.'

"As you wish master," Luke replied before he was left alone again.

Looking at his food he began to wonder how he had gotten this strange ability to touch the Force. Was it a chance occurrence? Or had he inherited it? And if so why hadn't his uncle and aunt said anything about it?

Shaking his head in frustration he continued eating his breakfast. The only way he might get some answers to all the questions he had was if Lord Vader was willing to give them to him, he definitely wasn't going to ask the questions. Finishing his breakfast he picked up his tray, put it away, and left the cafeteria.

Swallowing he stopped in front of the door to Vader's quarters. And then, just like the last time he had been here, the doors opened by themselves.

"Enter Black 2," Vader's voice ordered.

Doing as he was told Luke entered the room and walked over to stand next to an astonished Admiral Koas. The Admiral quickly looked at him before turning back to Lord Vader.

"And that was when the Avenger lost track of the Rebels my lord," Admiral Koas finished.

"Tell them to search the area," Vader ordered.

"As you wish," the Admiral replied before bowing, looking at Luke, and then leaving the room.

Vader waited until the Admiral was gone before he turned to his waiting son. Reaching out he entered the boy's mind finding confusion, fear, and curiosity about both him and the Force. Probing deeper he came across the boy's lust for power and his feelings about it, he nearly laughed aloud when he saw that his son was disgusted by it. Soon his boy would learn to accept it. And once he did then he'd be able to tell the boy his full plan, tell him that together they would overthrow the Emperor, but not before. Indeed, now the boy wouldn't understand, but by the time he got far enough into his training he'd also have seen just how badly Palpatine mishandled the Empire.

"Now we shall continue your training my apprentice," he stated and watched Luke hesitate before nodding his head. "Do as you did before breakfast."

Letting his anger fill first him and then the room Luke reached out as he had done earlier.


***


Two months later, Luke gently landed his TIE fighter in its rack in the docking bay of the Executor. They had just attacked another Rebel outpost, a battle they had won with almost no losses. Taking off his mask he quickly got out of his TIE fighter.

"Not bad Skywalker," Black 3 said as he walked up to Luke. "Not bad."

"Thanks," Luke replied knowing that 'not bad' from Black 3 was a major compliment.

"You coming down to the gym?" Black 3 asked.

"No," Luke replied nervously. "Lord Vader told me to see him once I came back."

"Okay," Black 3 replied icily before he turned around and left.

Shaking his head Luke headed for Vader's quarters, although he was coming to like learning about the Force more and more he disliked the consequences of the training. The other pilots had quickly become aware of the fact that he was spending a lot of time with Lord Vader and they were staying away from him because of it. Approaching Vader's quarters he felt the Dark Lord's mind reach out and touch his.

That was another thing that bothered him, being this close to Vader. There were times when he'd be eating or relaxing and that he'd suddenly feel the Dark Lord's touch in his mind. And, since he knew that Vader could hide his presence from him, he was sure that the man was in his mind more often then he'd like. And then there was this strange connection he felt to Vader, he couldn't describe the feeling, but the more he was with him the stronger the feeling would get.

Entering Vader's quarters as the door opened he quietly walked to stand before his master.

"We shall continue working on your mental shields today my apprentice," Vader stated.

Nodding his head Luke sat down in the chair that he always used when he and his master worked on a part of the training that didn't require any physical actions. His master seemed to put a heavy emphasis on the shielding of his mind although he didn't know why, there was no one else on board the Executor who had the ability to touch the Force so he wasn't in danger of having his thoughts read. Suppressing a sigh he raised he mental shields and waited to see where Vader would a find a weakness.

A couple of minutes later Vader pierced his shields and then, before his master pulled out of his mind, he felt the strange bond again. Biting his lower lip he wondered what it was, what it meant.

"You have a question," Vader stated as he got up and walked over to his son who immediately rose to his own feet.

"Yes master," Luke began, knowing that he couldn't lie. "Whenever you enter my mind I feel something......I can't really explain it, but......it feels almost like a......"

"Like a bond?" Vader finished for him.

"Yes," Luke replied looking up. "Master," he added hastily.

"I was wondering when you'd ask," Vader said as he raised a hand. "You see your foster parents lied to you, your father didn't die and he wasn't a navigator."

"What?" Luke asked astonished, but sensing the truth in the Dark Lord's words. "Why would they lie about him to me?"

"Because they disagreed with what your father stood for and they didn't want you to be with him," Vader stated as he felt anger rise within his son at the words. "You see Luke, I am your father."

Luke froze at the words as Vader briefly stroked his bloodless cheek with the back of his hand before he turned around and walked back to his pod.

"Why...how..." Luke stuttered as he tried to process what he'd just heard.

Vader was his father? Reaching out with the Force he hesitated before he touched Vader's mind, surprised to find all the Sith Lord's shields down. The moment he touched the Dark Lord's mind he was certain that the man was telling the truth, he could feel it.

"Why was I raised on Tatooine?" Luke finally asked, looking at his newly found father.

"The Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi disagreed with my beliefs and stole your mother from me while I was recovering from the accident which confined me to this armor and respirator," Vader explained as he felt the flame of anger inside his son grow. "When I later found out that she was pregnant I searched for you whenever I could, but I had no idea where to look."

Luke felt anger rise in him at what this Obi-Wan had done to him, the man had stolen him from his father and from the life he should have had. But at the same time he felt joy, joy at the fact that he wasn't an orphan, joy that his childhood dreams and hopes had come true; he had a father!






Skywalker tested his mental shields. His father had instructed him to maintain them at all times. Luke had even learned the skill to shield in his sleep. The shield was firm, unbroken covering against mental intrusion.
It wasn't perfect, his shield. The thickness varied, the form shifted, but it surrounded him. Except for the wire thin bond that snaked off to his father. Luke wondered at that, the bond. He could feel his father brush mental fingers against the bond occasionally, almost subconsciously testing to see if it still held.

His father. That had taken some getting used to, that Darth Vader, the Dark Lord, was his father. He still wondered at it, that a man so imposing, so sinister, would even bother to reclaim his farmboy son. His father showed almost no affection for Luke, shared little praise, but he was extremely jealous of Luke's time. It was as if the Dark Lord was driving Luke towards some goal. Luke just didn't know what that goal was, and that bothered him.

Luke sat at his desk, picking up the datacard that held the report about a rebel uprising on the other side of the Empire. An Admiral Tarkin had responded to a minor uprising with a series of vicious planetary bombardments. He had been following the Emperor's direct orders, but had followed them with such enthusiasm and thoroughness that revolted Skywalker. Sure, the rebels had to be put down, but how many loyal Imperial citizens had been killed, or their lives destroyed? Luke noted with disgust that the Admiral had been promoted for his actions.

Luke sighed. This Emperor he served had an unquenchable blood lust for revenge. Luke tossed the datacard on the pile on the table. His father had given him a whole group of reports to read in his spare time. Each status report was on a different part of the Empire, the uncensored versions held accounts of Imperial activities that the standard citizen would be appalled to learn. Luke didn't even flinch at this latest Imperial atrocity. The pile of datacards was full of them, and they all had one thing in common.

The Emperor had ordered them. Mass executions, Planetary purges, it was the standard order of events for any rebel activity in an area. Luke shook his head. This overactive 'discipline' stirred up more trouble than it put down. What was wrong with the Emperor? Even Luke, with his limited experience, could determine that the Emperor was almost driving his subjects to rebellion. Luke could even sense that Darth Vader didn't approve of all the Emperor's actions, he went too far for the Dark Lord. Vader wanted order, strict controlled order, not some blood soaked chaos labeled an Empire.

He stared at the pile of datacards again. Nothing he learned was without purpose. This was another riddle he had to figure out. Luke marshaled what he did know: the Emperor was starting to tear his Empire apart, Luke was being trained in secret, and Darth Vader did not approve of the extent of the retributions brought against the people.

Which wasn't to say that the Dark Lord didn't approve of violence as a solution. Just yesterday they had attacked a rebel outpost and slaughtered the occupants down to the last sentient creature. Darth Vader was more than efficient when it came to removing his opposition, permanently. It made Luke wonder why his father hadn't done anything about the problem, even Luke was beginning to see the necessity of a violent solution to the leadership problem in the current situation.

Luke definitely wanted to fix the ailing Empire. It was a beautiful thing, the Empire. Warring worlds brought to peace. A vessel by which to purge the rotting Old Republic of its corruption. A place for Luke to stand in glory.

Luke let that last thought roll around in his head. He hadn't really given his path in life much thought before, he had run off to the Academy to follow his childhood dream of becoming like his father. He was becoming like his father now, but what should he do with his power? The more he thought about it, the more he realized he was meant for better things than remaining Darth Vader's wingman. He didn't mind standing behind his father, the Dark Lord. It felt right, following him. But Luke didn't like standing in his shadow, unseen. The more he learned, the harder it was to pretend he was just another pilot. No one believed he was just another pilot anymore, but everyone continued the charade.

Luke was sick of it. He wanted to drop the play-acting. Showing up to inspections, drills, and junior officer meetings was a waste of time. The senior officer of the Executor's TIE fighter squads, Wing Commander Jamerson, took pleasure in watching Luke go through the motions of being his junior officer. Worse, Luke felt he could command the squads better than the Wing Commander. He certainly wouldn't have kept that idiot Squad Commander Nack around.

Nack's impulsiveness continued to endanger his squad. His short-sighted orders in the last battle had exposed his squad to unnecessary risks, which had resulted in the death of four members of his squad. Luke pulled the datacard off his desk with the computer readouts of the last battle.

'Nack's dangerous, he should be removed.' Luke looked up at the pile of datacards outlining the Emperor's mistakes. 'If he's so dangerous, why hasn't he been removed?' Luke wasn't thinking about Nack. Why hadn't his father taken care of the Emperor? Skywalker knew that the Dark Lord wouldn't have any moral problems killing anybody that threatened his beloved Empire. So what was holding him back?

Luke leaned back in his chair, pondering. He absently checked his shields. 'Still holding, for whomever out there can actually use the Force. Not that they're on this ship...' Luke came up short, cursing himself. Sometimes he could be so blind to the obvious.

Luke gently probed out. He could ask his father right now. He had a right to know, this was important. Lord Vader was flipping through yesterday's battle report, it was safe to interrupt him.

'Father....'

'Yes, my son?' Luke got the eerie feeling Vader knew the question Luke was going to ask.

'Father, how powerful in the Force is the Emperor?' Darth Vader smiled behind a mental shield. His son sure got to the point fast.

'More powerful than I am.' Vader's tone was dry. Would his son finish this line of the conversation?

'More powerful than both of us?'

'Meet me on the bridge.'

Luke stood, straightened his uniform, and set off for the bridge. He had never been there before. After a long ride, the lift doors opened, revealing an oval room, the sides filled with officers at terminals. The Dark Lord stood at the far side at the viewport, back to the room, overlooking the stars.

Admiral Koas looked up, recognition flashing across his face at the unexpected visitor. He glanced at the Dark Lord. Admiral Koas wished that Darth Vader would give him some clue as to how he was to respond to the young man's presence. Koas didn't become an Admiral under Darth Vader without realizing that the Dark Lord did many things that were completely unexplainable, and that he was never to question a single one of the Sith Lord's actions. It wasn't healthy.

"Black 2, come here." The mechanical voice rasped, carried across the bridge. As Luke strode across the room, he noticed the glances of surprise from the officers around the bridge. TIE fighter pilots did not come on the bridge. As he neared Vader, he noticed that the Dark Lord had modified his personal shields, letting a dark cloud of fear out, keeping his private thoughts in. Darth Vader used the Force to instill absolute terror in his subordinates. The Dark Lord deliberately took a step to the side, making room for Black 2.

Luke stepped up to the viewport, glanced at his father, and then joined him in staring at the stars.

Vader began to silently talk to his son, through the Force. 'There are thousands of worlds in the Empire. The Emperor would destroy that. He would create a bunch of warring factions- warlords and the Rebellion, at each other's throats for centuries. His lust for absolute power is driving him insane, he has become unable to rule well. But he is powerful in the Force. More powerful than me, more powerful than you, more powerful than us. For now. When you have learned all that you need, we will strike. He will fall, I will be Emperor. Order will be restored.'

'And what of your wingman?' Luke wanted to know. He had to know, did his father really care, or was he just a tool? What was his place in this future order?

Luke felt a ripple of dark amusement from his father. 'What of my son? He shall rule with me. My prince, my heir. I will introduce him to the galaxy, change his name. No one will doubt your place.'

Luke stared at the stars. Rule the Empire, the galaxy. He felt a growing dark joy at the idea. He would stand beside his father, and everyone would know. He liked the picture in his mind.

He let his father feel his acceptance of the plan. Vader knew his son had embraced his heart's desires as his own. Luke turned to Darth Vader and bowed, "Yes, my Lord." Vader dismissed him with a nod, and Black 2 walked off the bridge.

Admiral Koas watched the seemingly insignificant TIE fighter pilot leave the bridge. That pilot had shown absolutely no fear of the Dark Lord. Darth Vader had practically treated the young man as an equal. Koas began to feel afraid. Something was going on, but he couldn't even try to find out what.







Looking out the window of the shuttle he was in Luke sighed as Pekft grew smaller and smaller. Every now and then when the Executor was above what was considered a 'safe' planet, namely a planet completely loyal to the Empire, a selected few TIE fighter pilots and officers were allowed to go down to the planet. This morning his father had given him permission to go. As soon as he had heard the news he had quickly gone to his room and changed into the jumpsuit all TIE fighter pilots had to wear when off their ship. The jumpsuit closely resembled that of the Imperial recruits with the exception that on the left side of their chest the jumpsuit had the name of the pilot on it. Just the name, no rank.

Turning away from the window Luke leaned back in his seat and checked his mental shields again. While on Pekft he had reached out with the Force and probed some of the different people there while being sure to shield his actions with his mental shields. Over the weeks since his father had told him of his plan he had grown to like the idea of being Prince of the galaxy more and more and he had worked harder then ever on his shields, not wanting Palpatine to learn of his training.

The moment the shuttle set down in the Executor's docking bay Luke rose and walked down its ramp. Checking his chronometer he saw that he'd have to go to the cafeteria before he went to his quarters to change if he wanted to have lunch. Entering the cafeteria he quickly got his lunch before he sat down at an empty table.

Several minutes later, having finished his lunch and just put his tray away, he was just about to return to his quarters when he felt a hand on his shoulder. For a moment he just stood there, frozen in astonishment that someone had actually just touched him, before he turned around and found a young man wearing a recruit's jumpsuit.

"Hey," the man said. "Are you new too? I saw you sitting alone and was wondering if you want to come with me and the others."

"New?" Luke asked as he raised an eyebrow, before he realized that the man before him thought the jumpsuit he was wearing was a recruits jumpsuit too. "No, I've been here for quite a while."

"Ow," the young man said. "I'm sorry it's just you seemed to be wearing a recruits uniform, so I thought...."

As the young man shrugged his eyes feel on Luke's nametag and widened.

"Skywalker?" he said aloud. "You Darklighter's friend?"

"Biggs?" Luke asked, instantly interested. "You know him?"

"Sure," the young man said, visibly relaxing. "We came aboard together, we were in the same squad at the Academy."

"Where is he?" Luke demanded.

"This way," the man replied leading the way out of the cafeteria.

Quietly Luke followed the man. As they neared the pilots rooms he quickly checked his chronometer and saw that he had five minutes before he'd have to go change and go to his father's quarters for his training.

"He should be in here with the others," the man said as he opened a door and entered the room. "Hey Darklighter, look what I found."

Luke felt his anger rise at the way the pilot had spoken about him, but for once he shoved it aside as his eyes fell on his best friend.

"Luke!" Biggs exclaimed as he got to his feet and embraced his friend. "Good to see you! What happened? I get to the Academy only to learn that you and your squad left early."

"Biggs," Luke said as he returned his friend's embrace before pulling out of it and looking at the others all squashed into the small room.

"These are the other pilots in my squad," Biggs said as he saw Luke eyeing them. "Now tell me why you and your squad left the Academy early."

"Well you couldn't really call us a squad anymore after that Rebel attack on the Academy, there were only five of us left including myself," Luke replied. "If the Executor hadn't shown up when it had we'd have been totally wiped out. Anyway the Executor needed pilots to replace those killed in the battle, so we were transferred here."

"So you've been on the Executor for over half a Standard year now?" one of the pilots in the room asked.

"Yes," Luke replied as he thought of how long it had been since he had left Tatooine. "How's everything back home?"

"Your uncle was furious when he came home and found you and your T-16 gone," Biggs informed his younger friend as he offered Luke the chair he had been sitting in earlier. "He came straight to our house to see if you were with us or out with me. It wasn't until the next day that he began to realize that you hadn't just gone out to have some fun. Your aunt started calling everyone she knew to ask if they had seen you."

"You didn't tell them anything, did you?" Luke demanded and then winced at the tone he had used.

"No, of course not," Biggs replied. "I promised you I wouldn't."

"Thanks," Luke said. "So, who's your squad leader now?"

"Commander Hreso," one of the other pilots replied.

"Okay," Luke said remembering the commander. "He's okay, as long as you do as you're told. Just try to stay away from Commander Nack if you can and don't let him know you know me, otherwise you'll get trouble from him."

"Why?" Biggs asked, slightly concerned with the way Luke was talking about one of the commanders in front of the others, if any of them wanted to get Luke into trouble.......

"Lets just say we didn't hit it of too well in the Academy," Luke replied before his com started to beep.

"What's that?" one of the pilots asked.

"My com, I wonder why," Luke said as he checked his chronometer and saw to his horror that he was already supposed to be with his father. "Sith!"

"What?" Biggs asked, surprised to hear his friend swear.

"Shhh," Luke replied and then turned on the com when the room was quiet. "Commander Skywalker."

Looking to his friend Luke saw the surprise written all over Biggs's face.

"You are to report to Lord Vader's quarter's immediately Black 2," Admiral Koas's voice stated over the com.

"Yes Admiral," Luke said before he turned off the com and got to his feet.

"Commander? Vader? Black 2? Admiral?" Biggs asked, shocked. "Luke what?"

"I'll explain everything later," Luke said as the door opened for him. "But right now I'm in trouble."

"If you're alive later," one of the pilots remarked.

"I will be," Luke said as he stepped out into the hall, knowing that the pilot was referring to the fact that he had to see Vader. "He wouldn't kill me."

Hurrying towards his father's quarters he wondered why his father had had the Admiral call him while he could have done it mentally, it would have been a lot faster. Entering his father's quarters he walked forward to stand before the open pod.

"You're late and you haven't changed back into your proper uniform yet," Vader said as he glanced at Luke's clothes.

"I'm sorry master," Luke replied. "I was....busy."

"With what?" Vader demanded.

"My friend Biggs is among the new TIE fighter pilots we got today and I was with him and his friends," Luke explained.

"Darklighter?" Vader asked, remembering the name Luke had once told 'the voice.'

"Yes master."

So, Luke's best friend was now on board the Executor. No doubt the boy would want to spend time with him which would take away from his training, but perhaps this could be made to serve his own ends as well.






Luke walked quietly down the ship corridors. The pilot's sleep cycle had just began, and Luke technically wasn't supposed to be out of his quarters, unless on official business. But he was an officer, so no one would give him any trouble. If they could even see him. Luke ducked into a niche as two storm troopers marched by on patrol. Luke fuzzed their senses with the Force as they passed by in front of him, then he continued on his way.

He paused in front of Darklighter's squad quarters. Luke brushed his senses out, Biggs and his squad were supposed to be asleep. Of course they weren't, it was their first few days on the Executor and the whispered conversations were flying around on the other side of the door. However, no one was out of their bed, so Luke wouldn't have to discipline anyone as long as they pretended to be asleep. He remembered this part of commanding his own squad well.

The door opened with a brush of the Force on the controls. Luke walked in, door sliding shut behind him. The room suddenly went deathly quiet. An officer had entered, probably checking that they were all asleep, per regulations. Luke walked around the room, till he came to Biggs, pretending to doze.

"Biggs, you can't fool me." Luke's voice was quiet.

"Luke?" His friend sat up as the tension drained out of the entire room. "Shesh, you sure fooled me. What you doing running around at night?"

"Whatever I want. Tomorrow, after morning sims, hang back at the door. We can go talk till lunch."

"Okay. So, did you get in any trouble?" Biggs was dying to know what had happened to his friend. Luke sensed that the entire squad was quietly listening, they wanted to know why Lord Vader had wanted to speak to Biggs' friend.

"Not really. I better go, it's not polite to be messing around with other Wing Commander's squads." Luke turned to leave, then clearly whispered over his shoulder "Oh Biggs, by the way, I was never here. Be sure that your squadmates remember that. I wasn't here. And I sure didn't tell you about that surprise inspection tomorrow morning."

Luke walked out. Biggs and squad quietly groaning and starting to silently clean their uniforms to perfection for tomorrow's review. Thoughts of Lord Vader had evaporated under the more immediate threat of unhappy Commanders. As Biggs reached for his boots and glowrod, he briefly wondered how his friend found him in the pitch black room.

***

Biggs sat in Luke's living room. He was still amazed at the shear size of Luke's quarters. Biggs had been on the Executor for four weeks now, and he still hadn't really gotten to speak to Luke yet.

The kid was always busy. An hour here, a few minutes there, that was all that his best friend could give him. Between sims, meals, and officer meetings, Luke didn't have a lot of time left. Plus, he spent a good deal of time with Lord Vader. Biggs had learned that much from the rumor mill. It had quickly become apparent that half the TIE fighter commanders were extremely jealous about Luke's apparent favor in the Dark Lord's eyes. They hated him for it. The other half just plain ignored him.

Biggs wondered what was going on between his friend and the Dark Lord. Every time he asked, Luke would evade the question. It had quickly become apparent that the subject was taboo.

Biggs reached over to pick up some fresh fruit in the basket on the table. 'Fresh fruit, you don't see that in the cafeteria. I'm not even sure the rest of the officers get this.' Biggs' fingers squeezed through the soft skin. The fruit had rotted. 'Huh. I was here yesterday, it was fresh then. It shouldn't have gone bad this fast...' Biggs got up and went to the fresher to get a towel.

Luke popped out of his bedroom, tossing a datacard on the table. He looked at Biggs.

"You're fruit's gone bad." Biggs was wiping his hands.

"Oh yeah. Forgot to put it up." Luke went over and picked up the basket, tossing the wet globs in the recycler. Luke's anger at himself flashed, little things could give him away. His darkside meditations would promote decay in the objects round him, regardless of his shields.

Biggs noticed Luke's anger. His friend had changed, Luke was angry all the time. And he was calculating. Luke hadn't really done anything to anyone since Biggs had gotten here, but Biggs noticed that Luke was extremely careful about what he did where. If it weren't for the fact that Biggs' squadmates knew when Biggs wasn't with them, absolutely no one would know that Biggs was Luke's friend. As it was, his squad had kept the secret. Luke had almost used bribery to keep them quiet, what with telling Biggs when most of the surprise inspections were. Biggs knew that he was better off without anyone knowing he was close to 'Black 2', but it was strange to see his friend be so plotting.

It was even stranger to Biggs that the other Commanders didn't like Luke. He remembered the likable younger friend from his youth. Even if they were jealous of him, Biggs thought that the other commanders would at least pretend to be nice to Skywalker.

But the strangest thing to Biggs was how much Luke looked up to the Dark Lord. Luke idolized him. Skywalker wasn't very communicative about his relationship with Lord Vader, but Darklighter could tell that Luke hung on his every word. And that scared Biggs, because he had to talk to Luke, and soon. He owed it to his friend.

"So, when are you getting leave on Pekft? The Executor has circled around to it again. Heard Commander Hreso talking about it."

"I don't know if I'll get leave."

"Yeah right. I thought all you'd have to do is tell the shuttle crew when you want your ride." Biggs tone was teasing.

"It's not that easy. I have things to do."

Biggs was tempted to ask 'What things?', but he didn't think Luke would answer. "Well, if you're too busy, why don't you get me leave? Or better yet, do your stuff later, and get us both leave."

"I wish. But-"

"But-" Biggs tone was mockingly whinny. "Come on Luke, you're no fun anymore."


"Okay, Okay, I'll ask."

***

Darth Vader's mind silently brushed over the shuttle headed down to the planet. Young Darklighter was sitting nervously in his seat. The Dark Lord knew exactly what the TIE fighter pilot was up to, but it furthered Luke's training to let it continue. His son had to learn that you couldn't trust 'friends'...

***

Biggs, Luke, and some of Biggs' squad sat around the table at the open air cantina. Biggs and his friends had sat around, drinking, talking, and laughing for the better part of the evening. Luke had been content to sit in the back and watch. The waiter droid rolled up, and produced the bill. Sighing, the pilots reached for their credits.

"I'll get it." Luke pulled out an Imperial credit voucher and dropped it in the droids claws. Biggs looked at his friend. "I sold my T-16 Biggs, can't very well use the credits on the ship."

Biggs laughed at himself, he was used to his friend being poor. "Yeah, you owe me about 50 more to make up for all the times I paid on Tatooine." Biggs grabbed his friend, "Let's go walk, see you guys on the ship."

They had wandered around as the sun set. They had ended up walking through a deserted park, moon shadows dancing as a soft wind rustled the trees.

"Luke, are you happy here?" Biggs whispered suddenly.

"Yes. It's pretty." Luke stood under a wide branching tree, invisible in his black clothes.

"No, I mean on the Executor."

Luke turned. Shadows hid Luke's figure, but Biggs could feel Luke's eyes boring into him. Luke was probing his friend. He hadn't bothered before, the idea of Biggs not following him hadn't even crossed his mind. What he found made him stiffen his shields.

"Yes, I am happy on the Executor." His tone was brief.

"Are you really? You're always too busy to see straight. You're different Luke. You don't seem happy to me. You're always angry."

"So?"

"Luke, I can't stand it here anymore. What we do, it's wrong. Putting down whole worlds for a few people's dissension. We kill innocents. Every time I fly, I'm ashamed of what I'm doing."

"The Empire isn't unredeemable. Reform can happen, things will change." Luke felt strange. He had never spoken out loud about this before. But he knew he was loosing Biggs fast. He just had to get Biggs to stop, to hold off for a few more months.

"Change? Why? The Empire hasn't changed in twenty years, since it was born. Why would it change now?" Luke cursed himself. He had to be more careful.

"Come on Biggs, does it really matter? We fly, we do our part, everything will be fine."

"You sound like a propaganda film. Luke," Biggs took a deep breath and plunged on, "Luke, I'm leaving. I can't be an Imperial anymore."

"So what do you think you can be?" Luke knew what Biggs was thinking, but he needed to confront him.

"I don't know. Maybe join the Alliance, like we talked about back home. And- and, I think you should come with me."

Luke was stunned. He hadn't expected the last part. But it was ludicrous- "I can't leave. I don't want to-"

"Why not?"

"Everything's here. My life, my family, my... "

"Family? Now you really sound like those propaganda films they make us watch. You should come with me."

"No." Luke was thinking furiously, he couldn't tell Biggs everything. 'Oh yeah, I've got family here. Stick around, I'm going to be a Prince. You'll like it.' He couldn't tell Biggs anything. He wished Biggs would just trust him.

"Luke-"

"No. If you ask again, I'm telling Darth Vader."

Biggs stopped short. Luke wouldn't tell Vader, would he? Biggs couldn't decide, his friend had been acting so strange lately. Biggs shivered at the idea. He wasn't the only one leaving, he had to protect the group. He had taken a terrible risk as it was, but he owed Luke that much.

"Okay, I won't say another word."

"And if your smart, you won't leave. Just hold on Biggs, leaving would be far worse, trust me." Twigs crunched. Luke was walking off. "You only have a half hour of leave left, don't miss your shuttle."

Biggs never made the shuttle, he hadn't intended to.







Luke looked at the twelve empty seats on the shuttle before he shook his head. So, it had been a whole squad that had agreed to desert. Had Biggs talked them into this foolishness, into treason? His anger rose at the way his friend had left, he had told him to wait, that things would get better, but Biggs hadn't listened, he hadn't trusted him!

Suddenly he brought up his hands to his forehead, what was he doing? Biggs was his best friend, the only true friend he'd ever had on Tatooine, how could he be this angry with him? Biggs would realize his mistake sooner or later and drop out of the Alliance. And, although he wouldn't be able to get back into the Empire, he could at least make a life for himself somewhere within the Empire.

Feeling the shuttle set down in the Executor's docking bay Luke rose to his feet. He stopped short however as the officer who had checked to see if everyone was on board entered the passenger area.

"Sit down," he ordered looking at everyone who had risen. "Admiral Koas will be here shortly.

Luke stiffened at being ordered around, but quietly sat down, knowing that he had no choice. Besides he wouldn't get into trouble, indeed everyone who knew Biggs had been his friend had gone, everyone except his father. Suddenly he felt the beginning of fear in his gut, would his father be angry? He had seen what had happened to Admiral Dern and a few lower officers when they had failed his father, would this be considered failure? That was ridiculous, what could he have done? If Biggs had come back to the Executor to desert later, then he could have done something, but not now.

And yet he couldn't completely push the fear aside.


***


Feeling Luke approach Vader turned away from the window in his bedroom and entered the room containing the pod-like structure. Luke had, just as he had expected, let his friend go. He had let him desert his post, not thinking of the consequences. Well now he would learn to pay the price for his actions, he would learn to hate the people he had formerly called friends. And then, once he had learned that lesson, he could begin constructing his own lightsaber.

Sitting down in the chair in the pod he picked up the Corsuca gem lying on the chair's arm. The jewel was the most crucial part of a lightsaber, without it a lightsaber would be totally useless. Once the boy had constructed his own lightsaber he'd train the boy how to use it.

Putting the gem away he used the Force to open the door to his chambers and let his son enter. The boy walked up to the pod and waited, trying to conceal the fear he was beginning to feel within himself.

"So, you let them go," Vader stated as he got to his feet.

"You knew?" Luke asked, surprise evident in his voice.

"Yes," Vader replied as he looked at his son.

"Then why--" Luke began.

"A test," Vader stated and noticed Luke wince. "A test you failed."

"What?" Luke asked. "But I didn't do anything wrong, he asked me to go with him and I didn't."

"Didn't do anything wrong?" Vader demanded as his right hand fell on his lightsaber hilt which was hanging from his belt. "You let him go. As a loyal servant to the Empire you should have brought him back for an execution."

"He's my friend!" Luke declared, taking a step forward. "I couldn't do that!"

Suddenly, before Luke could react, Vader's blood-red lightsaber sprang to life and arced around towards him. Quickly he jumped back, trying but failing to avoid the blade. Instantly he cried out as his father's lightsaber cut right through his right arm just above the wrist. He cried out in pain and surprise as he feel to his knees, before bringing his right arm under his left shoulder, trying to stop the pain.

"You should have done it," Vader replied as he brought the tip of his lightsaber near his son's chin. "That or you should have killed him yourself."

Luke moved his head away from the lightsaber as he tried to register what had just happened to him. Looking next to him he saw his hand on the floor. Pulling his arm from under his shoulder he looked at the stump in surprise, shock, pain, and anger. How could his father have done this to him? Why had he done it?

Looking up at his father as the lightsaber was turned off he could feel the anger rising within himself.

"By letting Darklighter and his companions go you committed treason," Vader stated as he looked down at his son, seeing the boy flinch at the words. "Had you been anyone else you'd be dead now, consider yourself lucky you only lost your hand. How many Imperials will die because of what you did? If you had stopped your so-called friend he and his companions would have died, true, but how many Imperial deaths will they cause while flying with the Alliance? Think about it and know that you'll be responsible for all those deaths."

Looking away from his father Luke felt his heart sink. What Vader said was true, but how could he have turned Biggs in knowing that he'd be killed? But had the price he had paid been worth it? Looking at his arm he felt his anger grow and turn into a boiling rage the likes of which he had never felt before. Because of his friend's treason he had lost his hand! Why couldn't Biggs just have taken his word and stayed? Why hadn't he trusted him?

"Never trust 'friends'," Vader said, reading his son's thoughts. "Look what your friend brought upon you. And look at me, Obi-Wan was once my best friend, until he betrayed me. First he pushed me into a pit full of cooling lava and then, while I was recovering from that, he stole my wife from who was pregnant with you at the time. And all because he was jealous of my power."

Luke looked up at his father. What hadn't he just told him that? Why had he taken his hand?

"Because you won't have believed it," Vader stated, pleased to see his son's anger rise at having his thoughts read. "And, should you ever have met that 'friend' again, you would have given him another chance, a second chance which could have lead to worse consequences."

Quietly Luke looked away, realizing that what his father said was true: He would have trusted Biggs if he'd come across him again, but not now, no. Looking at his hand on the floor he felt his anger rise again, anger he longed to release on Biggs. He wanted revenge.

Smiling behind his mask as he saw that he had succeeded in destroying Luke's friendship with Darklighter, Vader used to Force to push one of the buttons on the control panel inside the pod.

"My lord," a storm trooper said as he entered the room and snapped to attention.

"Take him to the medical center," Vader ordered as he gestured towards his son.

"As you wish my lord," the storm trooper replied as Luke rose to his feet before following the storm trooper out of the room.

Now that Luke no longer cared about Darklighter the boy was completely his.






Luke looked down at the metallic cylinder in front of him on his desk. He picked up one of the many tools spread around him and made a slight adjustment. Putting the tool down, he absently rubbed his prosthetic fingers together. He concentrated through the Force, letting his sense slide over the circuits within. It was perfect. The black ebony body and handgrip was highlighted with a delicate maze of silver and gold circuitry. Luke picked it up, thumbed it on.

SNAP- Hisss.....

The meter long blood red blade illuminated his quarters with its muted glow. Luke smiled, a long slow smile that never reached his eyes. He switched the blade off.

Luke reached out, his father was awake... 'Father. It works.'

'Of course. Bring it here.'

Luke got up, he headed for his father's quarters. It was the middle of the night, and most of the ship was asleep. Ducking into doorways and fuzzing the Storm trooper patrol's senses, no one saw him enter the Dark Lord's chambers.

No one ever saw him enter anymore. They held the training during the middle of the night, the Dark Lord never mentioning his favored 'Black 2'. The TIE fighter commanders firmly believed that Skywalker was still in disgrace from whatever had caused Darth Vader to cut off his hand weeks ago. One of the pilots had been in the medical center when Skywalker had entered, and the news had spread through the squads like wildfire. It was rumored to have something to do with that squad that had gone AWOL, but there was no proof.

Luke walked up to his father, and bowing low he presented his lightsaber. The Dark Lord took it, turning it in his hands. Each blade was different, the style and form a reflection of the maker's hand. Luke's blade was elegant, simple, and misleading. It looked almost too elegant, almost weak, but held a strong dark core. A perfect reflection of the double life his son led.

"Now, I will teach you how to use this blade."

***

Luke stepped away from his TIE fighter, he had been checking it over. He always rechecked the techs work, it was his life in that ship. He nodded at a passing commander, who just ignored him. According to popular knowledge, Skywalker was still in disgrace. Luke buried his disgust. He really didn't want anyone close to him now. His training was almost done, and it was getting harder and harder to pass without notice.

He walked across the docking bay, eyes flicking around. They came to rest on the strange sight that currently perched on the docking bay floor.

X-wings. Twelve of them, painted Imperial gray. Ghost Squadron was currently enroute to another training location, and the Executor was providing transportation. They would have been dropped off already, but the Lord Vader had been called upon to root out a Rebel base in the nearby system.

Normally, the Imperial Military would send out probe droids, locate the base, and come in, guns blaring. But the Drilli System was different. It didn't have any planets, just three wide bands of large asteroids and planetoids. The rock had high metallic content, which made scanners next to useless. The large asteroids kept the Executor at bay, leaving only the small TIE fighters and bombers to make the attack. Attacking without the covering fire from the capitol ship was suicide. So they sat, waiting out the blockaded rebels.

Skywalker walked past Ghost Squadron. Most TIE fighter pilots hated X-wings, and therefore avoided Ghost Squadron like the space plague. Commander Scagg was sitting on a crate, playing cards with some of his squad.

"Commander Scagg." Luke put a smile on his face.

"Commander..." The grizzled man looked up.

"Skywalker. I met you on Caridia, before the rebel attack on Rauz."

"Oh yeah. I remember. Commander Riggs always said you'd go far." Scagg smiled at Luke.

"I'm surprised that they don't have you out there for training our pilots. You're much better than a sim."

"I wouldn't mind, but the scanners can't tell us apart from the real thing. I wouldn't want an over-eager gunner taking us out."

"Indeed." Skywalker looked at the clustered X-wings, tone thoughtful.

"Want us to deal you in?" Commander's tone was friendly, almost taking Skywalker by surprise. Luke locked eyes with the Commander, lightly probing his mind. He didn't sense any manipulation, so he looked away.

"No thank you. I'm busy." Skywalker turned to go.

Scagg felt an indescribable chill climb his spine. Something about how Skywalker had looked at him, it reminded him of something... "Maybe next time." Scagg watched the retreating figure.

One of Scagg's squad leaned over. "Commander, you're nuts. That was 'Black 2', Darth Vader himself is supposed to be very 'displeased' with him right now."

"I doubt that, if Darth Vader was really upset at him for letting a whole squad desert, he wouldn't have just lost a hand, he would have lost a head."

***

An idea rolled around in Luke's head as he left the docking bay. Consumed by his own thoughts, he nearly missed the presence of Commander Nack.

"Skywalker, you ought to watch who you hang out with better." Nack was leering, the TIE pilots all thought Ghost Squadron was one step away from traitors. Nack's squad trailed behind him, following their Commander's lead in holding Skywalker in contempt. Except Blann and Daol, they still held back from sneering at Skywalker. It could be considered misplaced loyalty, but they still remembered that Skywalker was a better Commander than Nack would ever be.

Skywalker ignored them all. They weren't worth his time. He might try to do something for Blann and Daol, if the opportunity arose, but he had better things to worry about. He left the docking bay, tentatively reaching out for his father. He had an idea on how to break the stalemate.

***

Admiral Koas was reporting to Lord Vader on the projected casualty figures for a frontal attack on the Rebel Base. The probe droids had located the base, but the rebels had a strong defensive position. Most of the pilots aboard the Executor would be lost.

Vader told the Admiral what he wanted done. Admiral Koas was pleased. Intelligence had said that the rebels weren't sure what Imperial ships were out here, so the plan had a good chance of working.

"Yes, my lord. I will implement your orders immediately."

Vader's reply was soft. "Oh no, Admiral. It's not my idea. A little black bird came and whispered in my ear." Vader waved dismissal. It was very possible that his son would be commanding this ship in a few short months, it would be best if the Admiral was ... prepared ... to take orders from his son.

The Admiral bowed, hiding his surprise. 'Black 2' was apparently back in favor. The Admiral wondered how 'Black 2' had managed to regain his position. The Admiral further wondered how 'Black 2' had managed to survive in the first place.

***
The Executor hung in space, her bays empty. The TIEs and bombers had left her hours ago, to take up position.

A squad of X-wings ran through the Drilli system, two squads of TIE fighters hot on their tails. They twisted and turned, dodging rocks and each other's lasers. Once in sensor range of the base, the lead X-wing hit his comm, which had been tuned to rebel frequencies.

"Gray 1, this is Gray 1, is anyone out there?"

A pause. "Gray 1, this is base, what are you doing here?"

"Sorry to drop in unannounced. An indidicor cruiser grabbed my squad out of hyperspace between two sets of TIEs." Commander Scagg grinned. 'Come here little fishy. Grab the bait. Save me from the big bad Empire.'

"Any other Imperials out there?"

"None that I saw. Can you guys lend a hand?"

Another pause. Commander Scagg could just visualize the Rebel Commanders' hurried debate. "Base to Gray 1, assistance is coming."

"Thanks. We'll try to hold on till you get here." Commander Scagg almost laughed. 'Stupid Rebels. You're sensors say 'X-wing' so I have to be one of yours.' Ghost Squadron was anything but a Rebel Squad. Scagg nailed another TIE with his stun bolts. The TIE whipped behind an asteroid, cut power, and played dead. The metallic rock hid its continued existence. Commander Scagg had never felt so proud to be an Imperial.

Suddenly, four squads of X-wings hurled out from the hidden Rebel Base. They had broken their own defenses to save their comrades in arms. But as soon as they approached visual range of the dogfight, the whole Gray Squadron turned tail and ran. The two attacking TIE squads, ignoring the fleeing Grays, charged at the approaching X-wings.

It wasn't a fair fight, two squads of TIEs against four squads of X-wings, but the whole goal for the TIEs was to hold the X-wings till the reinforcements arrived.

Commander Nack gritted his teeth as he plunged into battle. He had been given the 'honor' of commanding these squads in this suicidal mission. The worst part was the feeling that he had gotten during the briefing meeting, that Commander Skywalker was laughing at him. Having Blann and Daol transferred from his squad immediately prior to the meeting had only raised his suspicions. But when he got back, he would make Skywalker pay. He would... The X-wings' lasers cut through Nack's ship, blowing him apart.

The remaining ten squads arrived, tearing from the large planetoid they had hidden behind. The tables had turned.

Some of the rebels had tried to flee. Thinking that the TIEs had come from their capitol ship, they had run off in the opposite direction- straight into the waiting guns of the Executor.

***
The storm troopers were still down on the base, mopping up. They were using stun weapons to take the Rebel Troops, and then processing the prisoners for interrogation.

Luke sat on a crate in the docking bay, eyes scanning the rebels who were tied hand and foot between Storm Trooper guards. He had a funny feeling that he should be down here....

His eyes landed on one of the Rebels. He was unmistakable. Luke rubbed the fingers of his right hand together, the rage building inside him.





Walking through the Executor's docking bay Biggs lifted his head and looked around. It had been several weeks since he had last been here. Feeling a strange need to look to his right he did so and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Luke sitting on a crate at the other side of the docking bay, looking directly at him. Meeting his friend's gaze he saw something there that he couldn't understand, it was almost as if Luke was...... Instantly he gave a short cry of pain as a storm trooper savagely slammed his blaster into him.

"Keep moving Rebel scum," the storm trooper ordered before pushing him out of the docking bay.

Doing as he was told Biggs quietly followed the others as he thought about Luke. So, Luke was still on board the Executor, still an Imperial. But why? The Luke he had known while growing up would never have been able to do this, he would never have been able to stay and watch the Empire slaughter innocent people. Then how come Luke had stayed? Was it because of Vader? And if so what was it about Vader that Luke liked?

At least Luke was still alive. That had been his only fear while flying for the Alliance: that he would end up flying against Luke. Every time he had heard a report of X-wings fighting the Executor's TIE fighters he had held his breath, knowing that if Black 2 had been killed it would have been in the report as it would have been considered a small victory. Luckily he had never heard the words he had dreaded to hear.

Briefly his mind went back to what Luke had said before he had left him alone in the park: 'Just hold on Biggs, leaving would be far worse, trust me.' His friend would say that he had been right, but Biggs knew in his heart that, even if he were to die here, he had been right. He had been sure of that the moment he had first climbed into an X-wing and had started to fight for all that the Alliance stood for.


***


Watching Biggs 'escorted' out of the docking bay Luke instantly got to his feet, his rage still growing along with his need for revenge.

'Father,' he called out.

'Son,' came Vader's voice. 'Good work.'

Luke briefly smiled at the compliment, his father must really be pleased with him as he hardly ever gave praise.

'What is it?' Vader inquired as he sensed Luke's growing rage.

'Darklighter is here,' Luke replied as he walked out of the docking bay, heading towards the detention area.

'Ah yes, your friend,' Vader replied mockingly and was pleased to feel his son's rage increase at the reminder of his previous folly. 'I shall be there in a couple of moments.'

'Yes father,' Luke replied as he stepped into the turbolift leading to the detention area.

Stepping out of the turbolift he looked around at the Rebels waiting to be assigned to a detention cell and stopped as his eyes fell on the young man who had lead him to Biggs the day his former friend had first boarded the Executor.

"Now you pay the price for your treason," he stated in a cold, hard, voice as he stepped closer to the man.

Realizing that he was being spoken to the man looked up and was unable to prevent a startled gasp as he recognized Luke. They looked at each other for a moment before the young man looked away. Turning in the direction of the officer in charge of processing the prisoners Luke stepped towards him.

"In what cell is Darklighter?" he demanded, knowing that he could find out himself, but not wanting to give himself away.

"May I see your permission to speak with the prisoner?" the officer demanded as he looked up at Luke.

"What cell?" Luke demanded as he reached out with the Force to convince the man to tell him.

"Cell number 2689," the officer replied obediently as he indicated one of the halls leading away from the room they were in. "Down that hall."

Nodding his head he cast one last look at the young man watching him then he motioned for one of the storm troopers to follow him before he headed down the indicated hall and stopped before cell 2689.

"Wait here and open the door when I knock," Luke ordered and waited until the storm trooper had nodded before he opened the door and stepped into the cell.

Looking up from where he was sitting on the cell's hard metal bunk Biggs nearly gasped as he saw Luke step into the cell before the door closed behind him.

"Luke!" he said as he got to his feet.

He froze as Luke's cold, ice-blue, eyes just started at him. Several minutes passed in silence during which Biggs began to shift uncomfortably. He had thought things had changed when he had last boarded the Executor, but that seemed like a grain of sand compared with the way Luke had changed since then and now.

"I told you things would be worse if you left," Luke stated coldly as he flexed and relaxed the fingers of his right hand, his prosthetic hand.

"No," Biggs replied, trying to determine what Luke was feeling.

"Indeed, for you it makes little difference," Luke replied, his white-hot anger beginning to seep into his voice. "As either path leads you to death. For me on the other hand," Luke winced at his own choice of wording. "It makes a great difference, I could have avoided punishment for your treason."

"Punishment?" Biggs inquired, concern suddenly entering his voice.

Despite the fact that Luke had changed, and despite the fact that he had chosen to stay with the Empire, he couldn't just toss aside his feelings for the boy that had once been his best friend.

"You didn't tell them you knew that it was going to happen, did you?" Biggs asked.

"I didn't need to," Luke replied as he felt his father approach. "Vader already knew. And, since I committed treason myself by not turning you in, I was punished."

"What?!" Biggs exclaimed astonished. "But.... What did he do to you?"

Looking at Biggs Luke brought up his right hand, letting the boiling rage and hate he felt seep into his voice.

"I lost my right hand."

Biggs flinched at the venom, wondering if it was directed at himself or at Vader. Suddenly his whole body stiffened as the door to his cell opened again and Darth Vader stepped into the room.

"It was directed at you," Vader answered Biggs's unspoken question as he stepped forward and possessively placed a hand on Luke's shoulder.

Biggs took a step back, not knowing whether he did so out of surprise, shock, or fear. Surprise at having his thoughts read, shock at the possessive manner in which Vader had placed his hand on Luke's shoulder, and fear of the Dark Lord in general. Letting his eyes flicker between Luke and Vader he stood rooted to the spot, wondering what it was about the Dark Lord that made Luke stay and what was going to happen next.

Vader smiled behind his mask as he felt Luke's muscles begin to tremble under his hand with the anger his boy felt inside of himself. He had reached a critical point in Luke's training, the training itself was all but done, all that remained were a few final touches and Luke would be ready to face the Emperor at his side. However, before he could do that, he had to be sure he had the boy's complete loyalty. Reaching down with his free hand he unhooked his lightsaber from his belt and saw Darklighter stiffen even more as he saw this. His smile broadened before he changed his grip on the lightsaber hilt so that he was holding the end where the blade came out of in his hand. Then he reached over and offered the weapon to his son who instantly accept it, tightly wrapping his fingers around the hilt.

"It is now time for you to prove your loyalty, my son," Vader stated ripping a surprised gasp from Darklighter's throat.

"Son?!" Biggs exclaimed, both shocked and horrified at once. "Luke........ He's your father?!"

A smile slide across Luke's face at his friend's shock and finally realization as the meaning of the words sunk in.

"That's why you wouldn't leave," Biggs stated needlessly.

"Exactly," Luke replied as he simultaneously activated his father's lightsaber and let his boiling rage fill the room. "Now you pay for your treason."

"Luke!" Biggs said desperately as he eyed the lightsaber. "He isn't the father you always wanted, I mean what kind of father cuts off his son's hand?"

Losing control at the reminder of his prosthetic hand Luke lunged forward and listened with delight as Biggs screamed as he lost his own right hand. Watching his former friend until he looked up at him, Luke smiled.

"I've been waiting to do that since the day you left," he stated. "Since the day you left me to die for your treason."

Biggs just looked from his former best friend to the Dark Lord standing behind him. Luke's father! He still couldn't believe it, even though it made sense. The way Luke had changed, the favor he had seemed to have, the fact that he had become Black 2. He could see that Vader was Luke's father, what he couldn't see was how Luke had changed from the friendly, innocent, and open farmboy into this cruel, angry, and bitter Imperial.

Feeling his rage grow and knowing what his father wanted Luke brought up the lightsaber and then brought it down on his former best friend. Deactivating the lightsaber he turned to face his father.

Eyeing his son Vader nodded his head. It wouldn't take long to finish the boy's training, the moment the troops were finished with the Rebel base it would be time for the Executor to head for Coruscant and for him and his son to claim the Imperial throne, the galactic throne.






Striding down the detention area corridor behind his father, Luke marveled at the strength behind his rage. It was so sweet, it flowed around him like sticky syrup, clinging to his soul. As they entered the turbolift, the waiting rebel prisoners flinched at the bloody footprints they left behind.

'Watch your shields.' Vader sent. Luke immediately clamped down. They were too close for him to screw up now. Luke felt his father's pride running across their bond. 'Now, you did well with the attack plan. You have learned punishing for treason. What else is there?' Luke was puzzled, his mind trying to change track.

'Rewarding for loyalty. Loyalty isn't the same as friendship. Loyalty follows blindly. Admiral Koas is loyal to me, he never questions. Who is loyal to you?' His son needed to know all aspects of command, this was just another face of control.

The lift doors swished open as Luke thought. The question was not to be answered, the Dark Lord would trust his son to do the proper thing. He could be trusted now, his son was completely loyal.

'Ah... Here comes Admiral Koas. I think we should let him start guessing about you. It will make it ... easier ... later.'

Admiral Koas was walking up the corridor, followed by two of his officers. "Lord Vader, I have the preliminary report of our recent battle." The Admiral's voice was clipped. He noticed Black 2 standing behind the Dark Lord. Before he could even think about the implications, Vader spoke.

The mechanical hiss of Lord Vader's breath gave even measure to his rumbling voice. "Good. Give your report to Black 2, I have to contact the Emperor. There has been... developments... in the situation." Vader walked past the stunned Admiral.

Report to Black 2? But he was the Admiral of this ship, he shouldn't have to report to some pilot, no matter how favored he was. Inwardly seething, he turned to glare at the young man. This was ridiculous.

His eyes locked with the pilot, his mind stopped cold. He couldn't think, he could only stand there. His knees knocked, his heart thumped in his chest, his tongue turned to stone. Admiral Koas felt like a hessel-deer caught in a landspeeder's headlights.

"Your report?" His voice was soft, a brittle edge sheathed beneath.

Wordlessly, the Admiral handed over the datapad, noticing the blood on the back of the pilot's right hand. 'Blood? It can't be his, that hand will never bleed again.'

"It's not, Admiral." Absently, Black 2 flipped the datapad into his pocket. "And your summery?" The ice-pits of his eyes picking at the Admiral's brain, demanding respect.

"Uh.. Yes.... sir. We received only minimal losses, besides the two sacrificial squadrons. Those will need to be replaced. I recommend promoting two pilots to squad commander and re-dividing the squads until we get reinforcements. We managed to capture quite a few rebels alive, and are awaiting the results from Interrogation to see if we learn anything useful. Sir." Koas noticed a dark chill in the air, a feeling of fear permeating the corridor.

Black 2 nodded. "Thank you, Admiral. I will take care of the promotions." Silently, Luke called the fear back to himself. He rewove his shields with the Force. The corridor warmed, fear dissipating like a shadow. It was difficult, letting the darkness out only as far as the corridor. The Emperor couldn't hear a whisper.

A normal man stood in the corridor. He gave a jaunty smile to the Admiral. Turned, and walked away. Every movement seemingly that of a indistinguishable pilot. A bridge officer came out of the lift, and the pilot turned and saluted, per regulations, before continuing on his way.

One of the officers behind Koas whispered- "What was that about?"

The Admiral cleared his throat. "A warning. That man is a blood-drake in bantha clothing. But I don't think it would be wise for the whole crew to know. So keep this to yourselves."

***

"My Master." Darth Vader kneeled at the hologram. Inward heart strongly shielded. Outward mind portraying the emotions he wished the Emperor to read.

"Yes, my servant?" The voice crackled with age.

"We have rooted out the Rebels in the Drilli system."

"Good." The ancient form nodded approval.

"And there is an interesting development, master."

"Yes?"

"One of the captured rebels, sire. He is Force Sensitive. It was discovered during interrogation."

"Oh. And what of it?"

"He is untrained. And very angry."

The wizened form paused in thought. "As soon as you are done there, bring
him to me. We may have use of him."

"Yes master." The Emperor cut the connection, and Vader smiled.

***

Skywalker adjusted the collar on the Rebel flight suit he wore. It was a good fit. Squad Commander Daol had gotten it from the detention block, Squad Commander Blann had delivered it last night. Both curious, both unquestioning, both silent. No one else had known of their errands. Loyalty should be rewarded.

Luke looked in his mirror, dragging his hands through his hair, messing it up. His face took on a sullen look. Glancing at his reflection, he smiled inwardly. He could easily pass for a rebel. After all, wasn't killing the Emperor rebellion?

Suddenly, the room lost focus, his vision began to sway. It was a vision from the Force, he would ride the wave, learn what he could.

People swam into view. A beautiful young woman in white, others he didn't know. They were living in cramped quarters, desperately fighting something. He saw himself, in a flight suit like what he now wore, running for an X-wing. Then shooting down TIEs. He saw that grungy freighter that had taken him on his first leg to the Academy. Its furry copilot giving him a bearhug. Him, sitting around, in a group of people, laughing. Just a pilot having fun with friends. Him yelling a friendly greeting at Biggs-

Darklighter. His anger tore him from the vision. His sides heaved, he shook his head. He stared at the flightsuit. Force visions told possible futures, the past, or alternative lives. He could have ended up a rebel. Fighting a doomed cause. Unaware how shallow those friendships really were. He would have never known his father. He grimaced. A smelly Wookiee was not a fair trade for a father. Nor were friends a fair trade for ruling the galaxy.

He sat in his chair, gathering his thoughts, strengthening his shields. The
Executor dropped out of hyperspace above Coruscant.





Sitting in his chair Luke waited for his father to come to his quarters. It would be close to suicide for him to leave his quarters without his father next to him as any storm trooper that saw him in the Rebel uniform he was wearing would shoot first and ask questions later. Nervously he shifted in his seat before he jumped to his feet and began pacing the room. He hated sitting around and doing nothing.

Pacing past the table he bent down and picked up his lightsaber, remembering what his father had said about it. And, even though he hadn't had his lightsaber for more then a couple of weeks, it already felt like it belonged in his hand. Silently he pushed the button and watched the ruby-red blade jump to live with a humming sound. Studying the blade he felt pride well up inside of himself, not just at the fact that he had constructed this lightsaber, but also at what he had become since he had left Tatooine well over a year ago.

Who would have guessed that he'd become a Sith Lord and the Prince of the galaxy when he was only nineteen years old? No one save his father. If his 'friends' on Tatooine had heard this even over a year ago they would have laughed. But wait, perhaps Owen and Beru hadn't guessed it, perhaps they had feared it! Thinking of all that his 'aunt' and 'uncle' had done to prevent his reunion with his father he felt his anger rise. No wonder Owen Lars had gotten so mad when he had caught his 'nephew' with the datapad containing Imperial information, he had wanted to keep him from reaching his full potential, from learning who he truly was!

Knowing that he couldn't be distracted now Luke quickly shoved the thought out of his mind, he would deal with those issues after Palpatine's death. Feeling his father approach he turned around, facing the door.

Walking into his son's quarters Vader stopped as his eyes fell on his boy. With the tussled hair, the uniform, and the sullen look Luke looked exactly like a captured Rebel, except for the fact that he held a lightsaber in his hands.

"Good," he said aloud as he reached out with his hand. "I'll take your lightsaber now."

Placing his weapon in his father's hand Luke looked up into the mask, smiling with anticipation.

"Are my shields okay?" he asked.

Quickly probing his son with the Force Vader nodded his head before he motioned for Luke to follow him as he exited the room.

'Palpatine will most likely probe you as soon as we enter to the Imperial throne room,' Vader sent.

Nodding his head in reply Luke ignored the looks he was receiving from the officers they passed. Sensing Blann he looked up, acknowledging the man's existence. Blann in response saluted him.

Catching the silent communication between the two Vader smiled behind his mask. As he had known Luke had done the right thing and he was sure that when he came on board the Executor in the future that he'd see this Blann and Daol holding positions far higher then that of Wing Commanders.

Entering the docking bay Luke picked up on the surprise radiating from the Admiral and the other Wing Commanders.

"Admiral Koas," Vader said, instantly summoning the Admiral to his side. "We shall be here for a while, you may issue leave to some of the pilots."

"As you wish my lord," Admiral Koas replied as he eyed Luke, before nodding at the boy.

Although he didn't know why, he knew that the boy was special and that he would be better off respecting him. He saw the boy raise an eyebrow at his gesture before nodding his head in approval after which he walked past him. Looking at the retreating back of 'Black 2' he suppressed a sigh, wondering when and how he'd learn the boy's secret. It wasn't every pilot who got the Dark Lord's attention and favor. Then there was also the fact that he was wearing a Rebel uniform while boarding a shuttle headed down to Coruscant. A thing that would normally be considered suicide, but then, losing the Dark Lord's favor was also considered suicide, and yet the boy had survived that.

Boarding his father's shuttle Luke walked back to the passenger area and sat down. Concentrating he started creating an illusion in his mind so that the Emperor would see the mind of an untrained Force sensitive individual when he probed him. He just thought that he'd finished when his father's mind reached out, entered his, and made a few small adjustments.

"There," Vader stated as the shuttle lifted off. "You're ready. Remember all you have to do is act angry and fearful about your position and be defiant, distract him, but be ready to defend yourself."

"Yes father," Luke replied as he thought about the Force lightning his father had told him the Emperor always used to punish people who had greatly displeased him.

Leaning back in his seat he looked out the window to the planet below. Coruscant was the center of the Empire as well as the galaxy and had once been the center of the Old Republic before the Empire for as long as anyone could remember. Looking at the city planet Luke noticed that it lay against the black backdrop of space like a silver colored jewel on a black velvet cushion.

He kept his eyes glued to the window until he felt his father's hands on his wrists. Looking down he watched as his father put his hands into a set of binders before closing them.

"Now remember, no sudden movements," Vader warned. "The instant you make one the binders will open and fall away as they're made to do."

Luke just nodded his head as he brought his bound hands up to his face to inspect the binders. Several minutes later he lowered his hands, the binders he wore looked exactly like the real thing, nobody would be able to tell that they were fake. Sitting silently in his seat for the rest of the ride Luke thought about the future, wondering what it would be like to be like to walk around without hiding who he truly was, to be instantly obeyed by everyone save his father.

A smile came to his face and he felt his father's amusement flow over their bond, before his father reached over and carefully severed the bond. He had known that it would happen, as the Emperor would have picked up on the bond almost instantly if it hadn't been cut, but that knowledge hadn't prepared him for the sudden wave of loneliness and desperation that washed over him.

Quickly he reached out and harnessed his emotions, allowing just the right mixture of anger and fear to seep into the illusion he had created around his mental shields. Now, when Palpatine probed him, he would find an untrained Force sensitive Rebel who was angry at what was happening to him and yet fearful for his life at the same time.

Feeling the small jolt of the landing Vader rose to his feet and headed towards the shuttle's ramp. Stopping just out of sight of the two red robed Royal Guards that had approached the shuttle as soon as it had landed he reached back and took hold of Luke's upper arm, making it look like he was forcing an unwilling prisoner off of his shuttle.

"The Emperor awaits," one of the two Royal Guards stated as Vader reached the bottom of the ramp.

Nodding his head he shoved Luke ahead of him and used the back halls of the Imperial Palace to approach the second entrance to the throne room. This entrance was known only to a few high ranking individuals and was rarely used. At the doors he stopped and waited while the Royal Guards double checked to make sure Luke had no weapons. Then, gesturing for the guards to wait outside, he opened the door and pushed Luke into the room.

Pretending to stumble as he entered the room Luke felt Palpatine reach out and enter his mind. As he quickly scanned the room Luke allowed some of the anger in the illusion to drain away and replaced it with more fear, making it look like he was truly frightened of the Emperor. Walking forward he felt the Galactic Ruler probe his mind a little more before retreating. As he reached the top of the stairs he swallowed, knowing the Emperor would catch it.

"Lord Vader," Palpatine said as he looked at his servant before letting his eyes drift to the binded Rebel, no more than a boy really, before him. "What a nice gift you bring me."

Luke narrowed his eyes at the comment, knowing that any Rebel would be outraged to be considered a gift for the Emperor. Quickly he let more anger seep into the illusion before speaking:

"A cold-blooded monster like you doesn't deserve any gifts," Luke stated, adding a hint of arrogance to his voice.

Vader smiled behind his mask, his son played his part extremely well. However, knowing that if he didn't punish the 'Rebel' for the remark his master would, he lashed out with his hand and hit Luke on the side of his face, knocking the boy off his feet.

"Watch your mouth boy," he ordered as he stepped in-between Luke and Palpatine to yank the 'Rebel' to his feet.

Allowing his father to pull him to his feet Luke quietly took his lightsaber from his father and pushed it up his right sleeve until it couldn't be seen before he stared defiantly into the mask and then at Palpatine as he was shoved towards the Emperor.

"In time you will learn obedience," Palpatine stated as Vader walked over to stand at his side.

"Never! I'll never bow to your wishes!" Luke declared as he meet the Emperor's gaze.

For a split second piercing yellow drilled into ice-blue before Palpatine rose to his feet, enraged. Taking a step towards the defiant Rebel Palpatine raised his hands, preparing to use Force lightning on the boy, to teach him his place.

Recognizing the gesture from what his father had told him Luke instantly jerked his hands apart, feeling the binder open and fall away, before he let his lightsaber slid out of his sleeve and into the palm of his right hand. Bringing his hands together he activated his ruby-red lightsaber just in time to block the blue-white Force lightning aimed at him.

Realizing what was happening Palpatine spun around with an angry snarl, raising his hands to use his Force lightning on Vader.

Having ignited his own lightsaber seconds after Luke had Vader swung it in a wide arch, cutting Palpatine in half as he was still turning towards him. Watching his Master's body fall to floor in two pieces he smiled behind his mask. Finally, after all those years, the Imperial throne was his.

Raising his head he looked at his son as he reached out and rebuilt their bond.






Luke stood, gasping from the brief struggle, as he looked at the bleeding corpse of the Emperor. Blood oozed from the fatal wound, dripping down the stairs. He glanced up, locking eyes with his father. Their bond was rebuilding under Vader's willing hand. Joining his father in strengthening it, Luke felt the returning companionship with more relief than he had expected. The bond would allow no lies between them, he would never be alone. That by itself was worth the Emperor's death, ruling the galaxy just doubled the return.

Luke spoke first, "So, my Emperor, what next?" He looked at the doors by which they had entered. "And what do we tell them?"

Vader walked over, sat on the throne. Its huge form fitting him like a glove. "First, we tell them that I rule. We have them give allegiance to my throne."

"And those that won't?" The punishment was clear, the method was not.

"I am going to have to send you out. I'll give you my ship, The Executor. You will teach the dissidents the error of their ways. But only the traitors, no innocents. I'm not stupid, like our fallen friend. I have no use for stirring up rebellion against me. You will need to bring our over-eager commanders in line as well."

"Yes father."

"But, before you go- I will be proclaimed Emperor, and you will be introduced as my heir and hand, Prince Vader. After all, there is no one else who I can trust." The spark of dark humor, the surge of victory rippled along the bond, tying the two together.

"And father, what of the people? They will need to be pacified. They will not understand the necessity of our actions."

Darth Vader smiled, his son always got to the point. "I will reinstate several 'rights' that the previous Emperor had taken away. I will explain that I did this for them, the people. I will loosen the binds on commerce. The people will prosper, they will see us as heroes." Vader shifted. "The people can be led like stupid animals. You make them think they can determine their own fate, and they chose to follow you."

"Then father, let us begin." Luke bowed, Vader got up from the throne.

'First things first, my son.' Vader sent to his son. 'We need to kill all the royal guards. We can't trust their loyalties. The conditioning they go under is very strong.' Vader hefted his weapon, Luke did the same.

***
It had been quick work. The guards were good, but they did not have the Force. Vader and Luke returned to the throne room. Vader used his com to call the Executor.

"Admiral Koas."

"Yes, my lord."

"I need you to send a message to every Admiral and above in the Empire. The message shall read 'The Emperor Palpatine is dead. Come to the Imperial Palace and swear allegiance to me, or die.' sign it 'Emperor Vader'."

A pause. But the reply was firm: "Yes, my Emperor."





Epilogue:
~~~~~~~~~

Deep within Smugglers Run on the first settled asteroid known as Skip I Han Solo cursed under his breath. Quickly he got to his feet and walked to where Chewie was working on the Falcon.

"No," he said, beginning to lose his patience as he pointed to some of the wires. "That one goes there and that one goes there."

*This would be a lot easier if we had simply gotten a replacement,* Chewie growled.

"A replacement costs too much," Han replied as he walked back to the landing strut he had been working on. "Especially if we can repair the old one."

Chewie opened his mouth to reply when Sinewy Ana Blue came running up to the ship.

"What's wrong Blue?" Han asked, using the nickname the female smuggler got from the blue crystal tooth she had. "Decided you want me after all?"

"Dream on Solo," Blue shot back. "I think you'd better come to the entry chamber, there's going to be some big Imperial announcement."

"I'm not with the Empire anymore Blue," Han replied remembering the time he had spent as an Imperial TIE fighter pilot. "I don't care about any Imperial announcements."

"This is different," Blue insisted as she stepped forward and grabbed Han's arm. "All every channel shows at the moment is a big Imperial symbol, even the channels not controlled by the Empire. Whatever it is, it's big and Kid thinks that we had better listen to it, just so that we know what's going on."

"All right," Han said as he motioned for Chewie to follow him.

If Kid DXo'ln said he should see it, then he would. Kid was after all the one who had first taken him through the Kessel Run, an invaluable experience as far as he was concerned. Following Blue into the entry chamber he looked around to see that most of the smugglers on the asteroid where in the room. Quickly he glanced at the holo at the far end of the room and saw the Imperial symbol just as the Imperial anthem began playing.

"Wonder what all the fuss is about," Han stated.

*Probably something small that the Empire is just pulling out of proportions,* Chewie roared softly.

"True," Han whispered just as the Imperial symbol faded from the holo and was replaced by a scene inside what seemed to be the Imperial throne room.

"Loyal citizens of the Empire, people of the galaxy," Grand Admiral Skuzo began.

"This is big," Kid said as he came to stand next to Han, Chewie, and Blue. "Why else would the Empire's third in command be on a galaxy wide holo transmission? This hasn't happened since Palpatine declared himself Emperor!"

"Indeed," Blue replied.

"We have come together today to celebrate a glorious event, we have come together to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Vader," Grand Admiral Skuzo said.

"What?!" Kid exclaimed. "Emperor Vader? What happened to Palpatine?"

"Loyal citizens of the Empire, people of the galaxy I present you the Emperor Vader," Grand Admiral Skuzo stated as an applause could be heard in the background from the selected individuals who had been allowed into the throne room for this historic event.

Suddenly the holo shifted and everyone watching could suddenly see Darth Vader sitting on the Imperial throne. Standing to the right of the throne stood a young man wearing flowing black robes and, attached to his belt, was a black lightsaber hilt.

"That's him!" Han exclaimed as he recognized Luke. "What's he doing there?"

"Who? What?" Blue asked, completely confused.

"The kid standing next to the throne, I know him," Han explained as he looked to Chewie. "We transported him in the Falcon from Tatooine to the Imperial outpost on Goblonia."

"Why didn't you say anything before?" Blue asked as she took a step closer to Han. "Why didn't you tell us you had transported someone so powerful?"

"I didn't know," Han replied. "He was just a farmboy on his way to join the Empire."

"Obviously he's more then that," Kid stated.

"People of the galaxy," Emperor Vader said. "In light of Palpatine's sudden death there will be several major changes in the Empire other then just the leadership. One such change will be a reduction in taxes, another will be the loosening of the binds on commerce."

Han groaned as he heard this, the loosening of the binds on commerce meant that people would be able to get that which they wanted easier meaning that they wouldn't need smugglers as much as they used too. Looking to his right he saw an angry scowl appear on Blue's face.

"Standing to my right is my son and heir, Imperial Prince Luke Vader," Emperor Vader continued as he gestured towards Luke. "He shall take my former place and carry out my orders."

"What?!" Han shouted, startling everyone in the room.

Vader's son? That naive, idealistic, farmboy he had transported to Goblonia was Darth Vader's son?! Looking at Chewie's face he saw his own surprise and shock mirrored there.

*He'd be just be another face in a crowd full of nameless people, wouldn't he?* Chewie asked, throwing Han's own words back at him.


***


Walking down the ramp of the shuttle which had just landed in the Executor's docking bay Admiral Koas shook his head in disbelief. He had known that there was more to 'Black 2' then had met the eye, but Vader's son? He still couldn't believe it.

When he had gone to pledge his allegiance to Emperor Vader yesterday he had entered the throne room to find the boy standing to Vader's right, still wearing the Rebel uniform. However he had instantly noticed the lightsaber hilt hanging from his belt and had known that the boy had helped in killing Palpatine. Knowing this he had thought that the boy was simply someone whom had had the right talents to help Vader reach his goal, but his son? The thought hadn't crossed his mind.

But now that he thought about it, it all made sense. The favor he had had, his quick promotion, all the time he had spent with Vader, the fact that he was still alive after he had supposedly fallen from favor. Now he also knew why Vader had made him report to 'Black 2' after the battle in the Drilli system: the Sith Lord had wanted him to get used to obeying his son.

"Have Prince Vader's belongings moved to Emperor Vader's former quarters," he ordered one of the officers who had been with him when he had made his report to 'Black 2.'

"Yes Sir," the officer replied before he hesitated. "Is Prince Vader taking over command of the Executor?"

"Yes," Admiral Koas replied.

"Then we shall need a new Black 2, again."

"I'm sure Prince Vader will take care of that when he returns," Admiral Koas stated without a moments hesitation, completely confident of the young Prince's abilities, and ready to give him his complete loyalty.




End

July 1999