Author's Note: I have decided I wasn't satisfied with the ending of the original chapter (now chapter 1) so I have decided to add a second chapter to this story. The second one will be more Luke/Vader although Palpy will still be involved. It will give Luke a second chance to resist the Dark Side and figure out those annoying puzzles. If you remember, in ROTJ Luke initially did fall before he finally was successful at the end.
Luke stood in the turbolift as it traveled downward, annoyed at himself. He knew that when he had thrown the hated puzzle at Palpatine that he had failed. And not only had he failed himself, he had also failed Master Yoda and Obi-Wan. Both had taught him over and over that anger led to the Dark Side. Yet he had given in to his anger and frustration. "I ... I shouldn't have hit him with the puzzle. That was wrong, even if he is the most evil man in the galaxy. But playing with that thing just made me so ... so frustrated!"
"Palpatine is not as bright as he seems, Son." Vader said as he turned slightly to face his son in the confined space. "He is excellent at politics and at manipulating people, but he is just awful at those puzzles. They really are very simple you know..."
"Simple?" Luke exclaimed, shocked. "That one I had was impossible!"
"Then you are not looking at it correctly." Vader replied. "In front of Palpatine I am forced to pretend I can't figure them out, either. He would grow very jealous and angry if he knew I could solve all three of them in mere moments while he has spent decades trying to solve them. Besides, he seems to enjoy being frustrated by them ... or at least I think he does."
"So you really CAN solve them?" Luke gazed up at his father's black breath mask, curious. He really knew nothing about his father. "How?"
"Of course, Luke. I created them many years ago on Tatooine when I was bored one day, so of course I know the solution." Vader replied honestly.
"You used to live on Tatooine?" Luke quickly asked, eager to learn anything at all about the mysterious man behind the black breath mask. Although he knew Darth Vader really was Anakin Skywalker, somehow he just couldn't imagine a Sith Lord like Darth Vader coming from a nowhere planet like Tatooine. It was too small and rural. What had his father's life on Tatooine been like? What had he done? Certainly not a moisture farmer like his Uncle Owen, no, that slow dull life didn't seem to suit either of them. Luke had tried it all those years living with his Uncle and the dullness had practically driven him mad. But had he really created the puzzles? Somehow he didn't see Sith Lords doing that, either…
"Yes, when I was a slave. I left Tatooine when I was nine-years-old." Darth Vader admitted as he halted the lift between floors. It was the best privacy they could get on the Death Star and no one was near to overhear. Just in case someone was listening, he used the Force to discourage it.
"You were a slave?" Luke asked, truly shocked. Through the long boring hours under the twin suns, Luke had imagined many things about his father but not one of them had involved slavery. Although Uncle Owen had told him Anakin had been the pilot of a freighter, Luke had often pretended his father had been a flashy fighter pilot that had many adventures. To a young boy growing up, that had been a lot more exciting. Often he had hoped that one day his father would magically appear from the dead, alive and healthy, to take him on exciting adventures. It had all been pipedreams, of course, but it had helped past the hours of mindless toil.
"Yes, Gardulla the Hutt used to own my mother and I, but she lost us betting on the Mos Espa podraces. Watto treated us slightly better and I used to work in his junk shop fixing mechanical things for him that he later sold. That's where I got the pieces to make those puzzles…" Darth Vader was silent for a long time, only his loud mechanical breathing filling the tiny compartment.
Stretching his senses outward, Luke could feel the conflict in his father more strongly now than before. Pain and sadness radiated off his father in such large amounts that it almost brought Luke to his knees and he had to lean back against the wall of the lift for support. His own heart broken because his father was in such misery, Luke moved closer to Darth Vader and placed a hand on his shoulder. Luke very much wanted to help his father and that's why he had surrendered to the stormtroopers in the first place. "Why do you throw the puzzles at the Emperor?"
"Because he tricked me!" Darth Vader replied as his black-gloved hands closed into fists. "I had believed his lies for many, many years but then I realized he is the one that caused me to lose your mother. Each time I look at those puzzles I am reminded of the past, of my failures…"
Luke closed his eyes, saddened by his father's words. How could one person have so much pain and misery?
"I can still remember sneaking the parts home from Watto's junk shop. I used to sneak things all the time and Watto never noticed. I made those puzzles in my room and I gave them to my mother to sell so we'd have a few extra credits. I … I tried to save her but I couldn't. I … I always fail."
"Come away with me…" Luke offered again, hoping that this time his father would accept. He had no idea how he would explain Vader's appearance to his Rebel friends or how things would go, but he knew he couldn't stand here and just do nothing. No matter what others believed, he knew there was still goodness in his father and he was determined to save him somehow.
"Things are not that simple, Luke." Vader finally said after a few moments. "Fixing mechanical things like droids or ships is easy. Fixing people and their problems is not. And running away never fixes anything."
"It wouldn't be running away, Father." Luke tried to assure him as he looked up at the black breath mask. "It could be running to a new life, a better life, one where we can be together. I've always dreamed of having a father and now that can be reality. Who don't you forget about Palpatine and just try it?"
"Because he is my Master." Vader simply stated.
Luke sighed. "Look, you're not a failure! I don't believe that and neither do you really. You've just forgotten. I'm sure you've succeeded at a great many things, but you're letting the sad memories weigh you down because you're always thinking of them."
"You don't know my failures, Luke. I couldn't save your mother or your grandmother, although I tried the hardest I could in both cases. I did everything I could…"
Darth Vader fell silent again and Luke knew he was thinking about all of his failures. He never realized that his father was such a negative thinker and he was unsure exactly how to change it around. How do you free someone from the Dark Side when his own thought process was keeping him there? Some people always saw the glass as half full but to others it was always half empty and Vader was one of the half empty crowd obviously. Perhaps he needed to try a different route.
"Do you like having Palpatine as your master?" Luke asked, curious as to what he would say. The young Jedi remembered the offer Vader had made him on Bespin, that the two could rule the galaxy together as father and son. At the time he hadn't paid very much attention to it, as he had been out of his mind with grief, pain and horror. Had he meant it as an offer to get rid of Palpatine?
"No, I would prefer to be the Master…" Darth Vader admitted as he turned to face his son. "But that is highly unlikely, Luke. You do not know how strong Palpatine is. Perhaps he allows me to bonk him on the head with the puzzle, but he would never allow me to hit him with a lightsaber. He is not that foolish. He likes to keep me full of anger and hate, for those belong to the Dark Side. I cannot defeat him by myself and while he lives I can never be free."
"Well, there must be more than one way to defeat him." Luke ever hopeful said. "Perhaps we don't need to best him with lightsabers…"
"Defeating Sith always requires lightsabers, Luke." Vader shook a fist at him. "Both Darth Maul and Count Dooku died by lightsaber. And yes, Palpatine keeps a lightsaber hidden in his robes. Do not believe his lie that he is unarmed."
Luke was silent for a moment, thinking. "You know, Palpatine sure gets worked up over those puzzles…"
"So? A puzzle is not going to kill him no matter how hard you hit him with it. He enjoys the fact that I throw it at him, as it means he won and that I am firmly on the Dark Side as his loyal servant. He probably softens the blow with the Force. He may even be pretending it knocked him out."
"And he is old…." Luke commented.
"He was old when I first came to Coruscant thirty-six years ago."
"He doesn't look very healthy either…" Luke said thoughtfully as he remembered Palpatine's deformed face with the red areas under his eyes, the weird grooves and bumps, the thousands of wrinkles.
"The Sith Lightning does that to him. It drains the life from him I believe."
"What would he do if we both completed the puzzles he gives us and we show him?" Luke asked innocently, unsure if his idea was courting the Dark Side or not. It was clear that Palpatine had to die one way or another. Master Yoda said that as long as he was at peace than it was the Light Side of the Force.
"He would have a truly horrible fit." Vader stated.
"Enough to have a massive coronary?"
"I suppose we could try it, although it seems foolish and impossible." Vader remarked, sure it would be a complete failure. It seemed too simple. The Emperor, die of a heart attack, never! But Luke was right on Palpatine's body being in terrible condition. Reaching out towards the lift's controls, he reversed them and sent the lift back upward. The lights flicked to show the lift's movement and then the door opened smoothly.
Luke's blue eyes shifted around as they did each time he entered Palpatine's throne room. The Imperial Red Guards were at their usual duty post and he could see the Emperor sitting on his throne, apparently awake once more. Even from here he could see the elderly man's fiddling with the puzzle. A dank evilness seemed to live in the large, mostly black room and Luke could practically feel it seeping into his pores and brush against his face like an icy mist. Almost immediately doubt crept into his mind as to the wild scheme he had cooked up. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now…now it just seemed crazy. Still, it was worth a shot, wasn't it?
The young Jedi stepped out of the lift and followed his father's tall figure up the stairs to where Palpatine's chair sat. Luke tried in vain to control the nervousness that bubbled in his stomach, but it stewed there anyway. He had already learned the hard way about Palpatine's power of Sith Lightning and Vader had informed Luke that Palpatine had a lightsaber as well. Luke, however, was totally weaponless, as he still hadn't gotten his lightsaber back yet. Would Palpatine be angry with him for bonking him in the head with the puzzle? Anger would be a normal reaction to something like that, but then the Sith Master had been trying to bring him over to the Dark Side, hadn't he? Apprehensively, Luke gazed at the elderly man.
"So, young Skywalker, you have returned yet again." Palpatine said from where he sat in his chair. The man's mouth spread into a wide smile, revealing bad teeth and empty gaps along his too red gums. "And you have taken your first step to the Dark Side. In time, you'll become more familiar with it."
"I'll never go to the Dark Side." Luke stated calmly, sure that this time it was true.
The Emperor laughed, the evil sound bouncing around the room. "You are just like your father, quick to temper and to throw things! Did you really think you could hurt me by flinging that little puzzle at me? Of course not, for I am Darth Sidious! I have been ruling this galaxy long before you were even born and I know everything you'll do before you do it. You cannot surprise me, young Skywalker."
Amazement flickered to life inside Luke at the Emperor's words. It had never occurred to Luke that Palpatine could see the future in visions as well – he had mistakenly thought that was only for Jedi. Could the evil old man actually read his mind? Did he know of his plans to shock him, the one they had cooked up in the lift? "Can you read my mind?"
"I can feel your feelings and that is enough." Palpatine replied as he swiveled his chair slightly to better see Luke. He then raised one pale, gnarled hand and pointed a finger at him. "You are confident you can defeat me but your doubt is growing. The Jedi have never defeated me and their light has gone out of the galaxy. If you wish to continue breathing, you will become my apprentice."
"I don't want to be on the Dark Side." Luke said truthfully. The Dark Side was cold and lonely. It was anger, hate and despair. Luke remembered how awful he had felt when the frustration had filled him, the burning in his blood and body and then the small victory when he had flung the puzzle at Palpatine. He had felt awful and he certainly didn't want to feel that way all the time.
"There is no true Light and Dark Side. There is just the Force." Palpatine said as he wiggled a finger, motioning Luke to come closer. "Your previous instructors didn't want you to know this, but it is true. The weakling Jedi had only used part of the Force, called the Living Force. I, however, use the entire Force, the Unifying Force. It gives me greater power but as you see I age quicker as well. The Jedi were always vain and cared for their physical appearance you know…"
"I don't believe you. You're lying, trying to confuse me." Luke said as he stayed where he was. He remembered Master Yoda telling him that life created the Force and that it was everywhere. His education may be rudimentary at best, but he wasn't dumb enough to listen to a Sith.
"I have no reason to lie to you." Palpatine stated as he pulled one of the puzzles out of his robe pocket. "It is time for you to have another lesson in going to the Dark Side. I am well pleased with your first session, as your anger was beautiful. I could feel the hate swelling in you."
Luke frowned, truly irritated with himself for walking straight into Palpatine's trap. How could he have been so blind? The puzzle had seemed like such an innocent little item and that was why it had tricked him. Had Palpatine tricked his father years ago in a similar fashion, perhaps whispering seemingly harmless words to him? Luke remembered how his Uncle Owen had once told him that some of the most horrible things had been done with good intentions.
Still, he had his plan and so Luke accepted the puzzle. It was the same one he had before and it looked just as good as new, not a single dent or bump in it. Still, Luke studied it with new eyes, as now he knew the secret about the puzzle's origins. To think that his father had built it decades ago on distant Tatooine while he had been a slave and that his grandmother had held it at one time – that meant a lot to Luke. A warm fuzzy feeling filled him and he tried to hide it less the Sith Master noticed. Turning his head slightly, Luke peered at Palpatine but he saw the old man frowning at his own puzzle.
Why didn't he just give up? Luke knew that was what most people would do in a case like this. People gave up on one thing and started a new thing all the time, as not everyone was good at the same things. "Why do you just admit defeat and that it's impossible to figure out?"
"Because I hate losing!" Palpatine admitted as he sat studying it from this angle and that angle.
"Why don't you cheat then?" Luke asked, truly curious as to what the old man would say. "I mean, you are a Sith…"
"Because cheating would rob me of my satisfaction." Palpatine replied. "My victory would be hollow and I would not enjoy it then."
The answer surprised Luke, as he hadn't expected the Sith Master to have integrity. He would have expected him to cheat and lie at every opportunity…unless his answer was a lie? But he hadn't sensed any deceit coming off him, just the usual inky darkness and chill. The young Jedi then remembered his plan and gazed down at the puzzle in his hand. If he was to shock the Sith Master into a coronary, he needed to solve the thing, but how was he to do that? It still seemed impossible…
His father had said it was simple. Did that mean there was some trick to it, something he hadn't thought of the first time? Unfortunately, Vader hadn't told him what that trick was and apparently expected him to solve it on his own. But could he really do that?
Sighing, Luke walked the short distance to the nearby wall near the window and leaned back against it. The sudden flares of brilliant light in the darkness continued, signaling the space battle was still on and that the clock was still ticking. He needed to be off the Death Star before it was blown up by the Rebel Fleet, but first the Emperor must die.
Once again Luke studied the little puzzle in his hand, carefully examined it from all sides and angles. One by one he tested each piece to see if they'd move or not. When the examination failed to reveal any secrets, the Jedi sighed. He knew it seemed impossible but he had seen Master Yoda do the impossible as well. The little green alien had lifted his X-Wing from the swampy water just by thinking it and waving his three-fingered hand. Could he do the same with the puzzle?
Clearing his mind, Luke calmed himself into a relaxed meditative state and called on the Force. Even here in this arena of evil, the Force replied. The puzzle floated in his mind, a perfect three-dimensional replica of the original. Without thinking, he saw how to slide the rope and the wooden ball through here and there, the puzzle completing itself like magic. When Luke opened his eyes again and looked down into his cupped palms, he was amazed to see that he had actually freed the wooden ball from its prison of metal pipes. Happiness flowed through him and he felt like jumping for joy. "I did it! I did it!"
"Now what foolishness are you uttering, Skywalker?" Palpatine asked, an annoyed tone in his voice. "You're breaking my concentration!"
"Look! I did it!" Luke walked up to the side of Palpatine's throne and dangled the freed wooden ball by its rope in front of his face, the metal base with poles in his other hand. "And to think I solved it on my second try, too! Boy, it was really easy!"
"What?! It can't be!" Palpatine cried, horrified beyond words as his yellow eyes locked on the rope that dangled from Luke's hand. "I've been trying to solve it for decades!"
Then a second rope and wooden ball was thrust before the Emperor's started gaze, this one dangling from the black leather glove of his apprentice.
"Nooooooo!" Palpatine wailed, angry beyond words at the sight. His eyes turned a darker, fiercer yellow than before and his face twisted up in anger. His normally pale complexion took on a definite reddish cast as his anger grew to new heights.
"You've failed, Your Highness. Only Jedi can solve these things. I guess you've been wasting your time all those years…" Luke boldly stated as he stared the evil Sith Master in the eyes. He felt increasingly foolish and brave, a bad combination that night get him killed. Still, he had faced the temptation of the Dark Side and had passed, so now he was a real Jedi. Another surge of happiness traveled through him as he realized he had completed his goal. 'I'm a Jedi, as my father was before me."
"No! No, it can't be! I wanted to solve it first, not you!" Palpatine wailed as his face twisted up more as his anger increased. Then he clutched at his thin chest as a strangled groan escaped from between his lips and he slumped down in his chair, limp. The puzzle fell out of his lifeless hand and clattered onto the shiny floor. Great anger may have given him incredible power, but it had also weakened his heart and had increased the amount of cholesterol flowing through his blood vessels. Getting angry more than doubles the chance of having a heart attack or stroke, a fact that Palpatine had foolishly ignored in his state of ill health.
"Come on, Father, we have to get out of here." Luke called to Darth Vader once he was certain the evil old man was in fact dead and not faking. He called Palpatine's dropped puzzle to his hand and stuck it into his pocket. He very much wanted to keep them, as they were the only thing he had that his father had made as he had lost the lightsaber on Bespin. The two hurried into the lift and soon exited into the main shuttle bay just in time as the red alert klaxons started wailing. Luke knew that Han and Leia must have finally been successful in their mission on Endor's moon to knock out the shield generator. The two Jedi, for with Palpatine dead Anakin was finally free, hurried up the ramp of the awaiting Imperial shuttle. Smoke filled the air and troops ran in all directions. Anakin had the shuttle started even before he sat down in the pilot's seat and the next instant they were flying out into space. And it was not a moment too soon, either, for the Death Star exploded then in the biggest kaboom ever. Fire overtook the shuttle for a moment but then it flew free.
Anakin Skywalker stared down at the little puzzle in his black-gloved hand for a moment. "I cannot believe such a little thing has killed Palpatine. Even Master Yoda had been unable to defeat him. It seems unreal…"
Luke could feel the astonishment coming from his father. And it was hard to believe. Still, he could feel the darkness melting away from the older man as the Light slowly returned. And Luke knew he had to be serene and at peace in order to solve the puzzle or that's how it had worked for him anyway. Getting hot under the collar just made it more difficult and clouded your thinking.
Then the young Jedi turned his thoughts to the near future. He had no idea how he could explain to the Rebel Alliance that Darth Vader was his father. Nor could he allow them to kill him, no matter the horrible crimes he had committed in the past. He had wanted to save his father and he did, but he couldn't lose him now, either. Truthfully, Luke hadn't thought that far ahead as he had been totally focused on facing Palpatine.
Many of the Imperial ships and the Rebel ships had survived the fight, including the Super Star Destroyer, Executor. They had all been out of range when the Death Star had exploded. Dogfights were still going on amongst the two fleets, the brilliant flashes of light blazing in the blackness of space.
"We must stop this pointless fighting, Son, before more people die." Anakin informed his son as he reached for the comlink in the shuttle. With Palpatine dead, he was now in charge of the entire fleet and Empire. In fact, he could even declare himself Emperor if he wished. Still, sitting in a throne and being up to his neck in politicians wasn't exactly his true desire. He enjoyed the command of a ship or a fleet, of being out there where the real action was, visiting planets and exploration. And now he had his son with him as well. With a flick of his finger, he turned the comlink on. "This is Darth Vader. Emperor Palpatine is dead. I command all Imperial ships to stand down and cease-fire. I repeat, stand down and cease-fire."
Luke took the comlink next and repeated the phrase for his side in the battle. "This is Commander Skywalker. I order all Rebel-Alliance ships stand down and cease-fire. I repeat, stand down and cease-fire."
The young Jedi knew he really didn't have the authority to give such an order, but perhaps his special Jedi skills gave him extra authority with the real leaders of the Rebel-Alliance. Still, he knew they'd be very unhappy once his true parentage was made clear. He hoped Han and Leia would come through for him. Still, the fighting slowly drew to a halt and an uncertainty hung in the air. The nervousness and hesitation around Endor was so thick Luke could practically see it. He could imagine the confusion and questions being passed around the two fleets, the bad feelings on both sides. The Rebels hated the Imperials just as much as the Imperials hated the Rebels. That would not be an easy thing to overcome and it would continue to stand in the way for any real chance at peace.
The comlink buzzed then and Mon Mothma voice came over the speaker. "Commander Skywalker, what are you doing giving the fleet orders to stand down?"
"Emperor Palpatine is dead. He died of a heart attack just before the Death Star blew up. I'm here in the Imperial shuttle with Darth Vader. We both want the fighting and dying to stop."
"We should discuss the terms of a peace treaty." Anakin told Mon Mothma in his loud mechanical voice. Even though technically he was Anakin Skywalker now, he would have to continue using the name Darth Vader for some time, as that's what the Imperials knew him by. Now was not the time to confuse them by suddenly switching to a new name. Things were confusing as it was and one trigger-happy pilot could start the fighting all over again.
Only static hissed over the comlink for a few minutes and then Mon Mothma's voice reappeared. "A peace treaty?"
Luke could feel her shock clearly from where he was in the shuttle hanging in space. In fact, that was the common feeling at the moment on both sides. The young Jedi hoped that common sense would prevail over old hatreds. For many people, however, that might be impossible. There were always those that simply loved war and fighting. They would seek ways to restart the fight before it could actually stop. Still, he hoped they could have a true lasting peace somehow.
"Yes, a peace treaty. I am sure we can come to some sort of agreement that both sides could live with." Anakin informed her.
"Very well. Give us some time to arrange this." Mon Mothma said over the comlink. "This is very sudden and unexpected."
The comlink went silent then and Luke sent in the shuttle beside his father. Turning, he looked at the older man. "What happens now?"
"We'll go to my ship." Anakin informed him as he quickly turned the shuttle in a swift arc and headed for Executor. "The shuttle is not as swift or maneuverable as a fighter ship and we are an easy target out here. I also suspect that arranging a peace talk will take several days if not longer."
Luke felt a gentle taping at his arm and turned to find his father offering him his lightsaber back. He had surrendered the weapon when he had gone to meet with Vader on Endor's moon.
"This weapon is your life, Luke. Try not to lose it." Anakin told him as a gentle smile spread across his face under the mask at the familiar words. "Obi-Wan used to tell me that very often. I never listened very well, though, and so we had to keep go to this one planet to get a new lightsaber crystal. It annoyed him very much."
The shuttle flew into Executor's huge landing bay where Luke and Anakin could start their new life together as son and father. For the first time in many decades, the shroud of the Dark Side had lifted allowing the Light to shine through.
Ok, maybe the ending was a tad unrealistic, but intense anger can cause heart attacks so… And I think I like this ending better than the end of Chapter 1. Hopefully you like it better this way, too.