Torture Times Three
Title: Torture Times Three
Teaser: Palpatine explains to Luke how he keeps his Dark Side powers so strong – not to mention those ugly bumps on his forehead.
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to George Lucas. This is just for fun.
Author's Note: This story is a sequel to "Sparks" and features an AU Return Of the Jedi throne room scene.
"Come, Luke." Darth Vader said to his son as he gently shook him awake. "The Emperor wishes to see you again. This time I suggest you don't infuriate him by calling him stupid. Just do what he wishes."
Luke ran a hand across his face and winched. The Force Lightning had left his skin tender. When he sat up, he grimaced slightly from sore muscles. The Jedi took a moment to examine his real hand and was grateful he hadn't been left with burns all over his body. That truly would have been painful. Sore muscles he could live with. Slowly standing, Luke raised his eyes to his father's black mask. "What does he want this time?"
"He wishes to bring you to the Dark Side." Vader stated as he led his son out of the tiny room Luke had been resting in after Palpatine had fried him. "And I suspect he will tell you another story."
"I won't ever go to the Dark Side." Luke stated boldly. He thought he knew himself very well and was confident that no darkness lurked within his heart. Nor could Palpatine threaten him with the life of his friends, as they were all in different places doing different things. Han and Leia were down on the forest moon trying to knock out the shield generator and Lando would lead the attack in space. Each was willing to give up their life for a cause they believed in: freedom.
"Do not be so certain of that, Son. You should never say 'ever'. The future is always in motion and things change." Darth Vader shook a black-gloved fist at his son and then motioned for him to get into the turbolift. Luke did as he requested and then Vader joined him, the doors closing with a gentle swoosh.
"I hope he doesn't tell me that lame story again. That was just so stupid!" Luke whined, rolling his eyes. He could feel his stomach drop slightly as the lift traveled upward rapidly. All too soon the doors opened and the same dark and immense throne room greeted his eyes. The young Jedi sighed, knowing he'd have to get through this somehow. Truthfully, he'd prefer to avoid it all together. With dread in his gut, he dutifully climbed the steps up to Palpatine's throne.
"Welcome, young Skywalker. We meet again." Palpatine smiled evilly as he locked his yellow eyes onto the young Jedi. "I trust you had a nice rest after our last conversation."
Luke chose to remain silent and made his way to the round window behind the Emperor's throne. Looking out, he saw the flickering lights in space. The battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire was still going on. His friends were out there dying and here he was trapped, useless. Luke's hands tightened into fists, his heart pounding quicker.
"Ah, I feel your frustration and anger, young Skywalker." Palpatine said as he reached into his robe and pulled out a small object. "Frustration and anger are the close companions to the Dark Side. Shall I tell you the secret to my incredible powers?"
A bolt of surprise shot through Luke's body and he turned to face the Emperor once again. "Why would you tell me your secrets?"
"Because I want you to join us on the Dark Side, but I see you need some motivation." Palpatine explained as he turned the strange object about in his hands. "I, too, once had troubles getting my power to its fullest strength. Keeping one's anger at its height is not easy, as it tends to burn down without proper fuel to feed the flames. Back when I was Supreme Chancellor, one of my fellow politicians gave me a gift. It was a set of three puzzles. This is one of them."
Palpatine held the little puzzle out to Luke. "Go on, take it. It will not harm you."
Curiosity gripped the Jedi and so he stepped closer to Palpatine, taking the puzzle out of his dried and withered hand. The object was warm from being in the Emperor's pocket and Luke turned it over and over. Truthfully, he had never seen anything like it before. It had a square metal base, a few smooth metal poles that twisted over to form gentle upside-down 'u' shapes and a long thin rope that twisted itself through the loops. A fat wooden bead was at each end of the rope. The beads were fatter than the gaps between the loops of metal and thus it would never fit through the opening. Truthfully, the strange thing looked more like a bizarre piece of modern art than a puzzle. "This is a puzzle?"
"Yes, Skywalker, it is." Palpatine glowered as he pulled a second similar puzzle from his pocket and handed it wordlessly to Vader. The Sith Lord accepted it silently and began studying it. His black helmet tilted downward so he could see it better and he carefully gripped the tiny rope that hung out one end with his large black-gloved fingers. Gently he tugged on the rope but it only moved so far, the wooden bead stopping it from going any further.
Luke shifted his blue eyes from what his father was doing to his own puzzle and then back to Palpatine. To his surprise, the Emperor had pulled out a third puzzle and was busy peering at it with his yellow eyes. "What am I supposed to do with this puzzle?"
"You need to free the rope from the metal loops." The Emperor explained as he gripped the beaded rope and started to tug on it, his face scrunching up in his effort. The wooden bead banged against the loops and refused to go any further. "And you're not allowed to cut the rope or break it. Nor can you untie the knot from the end of the rope to free the wooden bead."
"But…but that's impossible to free it without doing any of those things!" Luke exclaimed in protest.
"It is possible! You need to figure it out!" Palpatine banged his puzzle against the arm of his chair, each strike creating a loud thunk sound. "Drat thing!"
"And this thing makes your powers stronger?" Luke asked as he cautiously pulled on the rope a bit, seeing what would happen.
"Yes! It builds my anger and frustration up to new heights each day. I was up all night playing with it." Palpatine admitted as he stopped swinging it at the chair and tried yanking the rope out from the center, between two of the metal loops. Of course, the rope only went so far and then it stopped due to the beads. The Emperor's finger, however, got stuck in the bit of rope and then he couldn't free it. The tip of his finger quickly changed from pale white to an angry purple. "Ahhhhh! My finger, my finger!"
Luke stopped playing with his puzzle and stared wide-eyed at Palpatine's antics.
"Lord Vader, do something!"
Darth Vader threw his own puzzle onto the floor, as he was frustrated with the crazy thing and bent over Palpatine, freeing his finger.
"Well, play with that puzzle!" Palpatine snapped at him angrily, his yellow eyes glowing with anger.
Lord Vader quickly made his puzzle fly back into his hands.
"This is so stupid!" Luke exclaimed as he twisted the thing around and around in his hands. He tried pulling the metal loops free of the square base but they refused to move. The rope could only move so far, because of those drat beads! He pulled on the rope this way and that, but nothing he did was the right thing and so the rope stayed trapped inside the metal loops. The young Jedi glared at the contraption, annoyed. He started to pace as he fiddled with it some more and finally sunk down onto the top step, feeling utterly defeated. "This is impossible!"
"I'll kill who ever created this thing!" Palpatine wailed from behind him and Luke saw the hated puzzle sail past his head, just missing him by a few scant inches. It bounced down the steps and almost hit an Imperial Red Guard in the head. It must be a daily activity as the guard didn't even wince.
"Now I know why they were those helmets…" Luke said quietly.
The puzzle rested on the floor for a moment by the unmoving guard's boots and then it came flying back at an incredible speed and Luke had to duck. No doubt Palpatine had called it with the Force.
Luke felt like throwing his own puzzle away as it was driving him nuts. But that's what Palpatine wanted, wasn't it? He wanted him on the Dark Side and by playing with the thing he was giving in to the evil man's wishes. But still, there was something about it and he felt challenged. Surely he was smarter than a few bits of metal, rope and wood? No one wanted to admit they were stupid. Palpatine certainly didn't. And no doubt staying up all night fighting with a puzzle was where he got those horrible red marks under his eyes. Lips forming a tight white line, Luke studied his puzzle again but to his dismay it still looked just as impossible. "Keepuna! I'll never figure this stupid thing out!"
Turning quickly on the smooth metal step, Luke hurled the hated puzzle at Palpatine. The attack came swift and unexpectedly, so it was a complete success. The metal loops struck the Emperor right on his forehead, leaving a few small bloody marks and then bounced off to roll across his lap onto the floor. Luke's chest heaved with the effort, his breath coming fast. He watched as Palpatine's eyes rolled up into his head and he made a little gurgling sound, then he slumped loosely on his throne.
Once his anger had faded somewhat, Luke climbed uncertainly to his feet, his eyes shifting from the unconscious Emperor to his father. Would he get into trouble now for striking Palpatine? "Father?"
"I have done the same countless times, Luke." Darth Vader admitted as he once again threw his hated puzzle onto the floor, abandoning it. "Why else do you think he has those ugly bumps and grooves on his forehead? They are from all the puzzles I threw at him over the years when I couldn't figure them out. By tomorrow he should have a few new bumps forming."
Luke was truly speechless.
"Come, let us leave the throne room while Palpatine takes his nap." Darth Vader put a protective arm about Luke's shoulders and led him back to the turbolift.
Author's Note: This story is based on some real puzzles I saw in a catalogue from "Bits and Pieces". The puzzles belong to them or whoever created them.