In a hastily organized ceremony on the remote planet of Dantooine, the heroes of the Battle of Yavin were honored. The personnel who had been at Yavin and the soldiers in Ackbar's fleet gathered on one of the wide, grassy plains, where, as local legend held, a Jedi academy had been thousands of years ago. Little more than overgrown rubble remained on the site now, but there had definitely been a building there once.
Dressed in their finest clothes, the Rebels gathered in two huge columns beneath a magnificent blue sky, looking up as a squadron of fighters flew overhead in formation. A long, wide aisle bisected the crowd of freedom fighters, providing a path for those being honored.
At the signal provided by triumphant fanfare, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca walked down the wide aisle, preceded by Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter. The four men and the Wookiee walked in two groups, heads held high as their fellow soldiers in the fight for freedom from the Empire watched.
Luke wore his Jedi robes, lightsaber at his belt, polished and gleaming in the gentle sunlight. Han wore what he usually did, a white shirt under a black vest and blue trousers tucked into knee-length boots, but his shirt had been pressed and he had closed his collar and combed his hair, about the only concession the smuggler was willing to make. Chewbacca was simply furry.
At the end of the aisle waited Leia Organa, her father and mother, Winter, General Dodonna, and Admiral Ackbar. Each also wore their finest clothes, but Leia, who stood at the center of their group, stood out from the others, radiantly beautiful in an elegant white gown with her rich brown hair worked into a long braid down her back. She maintained a calmly dignified expression as the heroes approached, but her eyes showed the pride she felt.
Biggs and Wedge were the first to be honored, commended for their part in the pitched battle, and the two pilots, dressed in their best uniforms, each received medals for their bravery. They beamed as they stepped aside to let Luke and Han through, and the smuggler and the Jedi moved to stand in front of the princess.
She looked at each of them in turn, smiling slightly, and she turned to General Dodonna as he handed her another medal. Han leaned forward slightly, and Leia placed the medal around his neck. He winked at her as their eyes met when he straightened, and she smiled back, amused at his irreverence.
Next, the princess placed a medal on Luke, and she smiled at him also. The young Jedi's reaction was a little more dignified, and he smiled back at her as well as the other leading members of the Rebellion behind her.
Han and Luke turned to face the crowd of Rebels, and the gathered men and women cheered and applauded, praising the men who'd effectively saved their lives from Darth Vader and his forces.
Luke looked out into the crowd and spied Mara grinning at him from the front row, clapping along with the others. He smiled back at her, feeling pretty good about himself.
Han, of course, saw this, and nudged the young Jedi's arm with his elbow, murmuring out of the corner of his mouth. "Got yourself a medal, kid. You'll be beating the cute redheads off with a lightsaber now."
Luke had to grin. "Shut up, Han," he murmured good-naturedly.
As the Alliance cheered for him and the other men, Luke suddenly found himself thinking of his teacher, and a brief image of a proud smile on Obi-Wan Kenobi's bearded face flashed through his mind for a moment.
You have done well, Luke, the old Jedi Master's voice said in his mind. But your struggle does not end here. Be mindful of the future.
Your father still remains to be confronted.
Darth Vader stalked through the halls of the massive stone ziggurat on Yavin IV that had housed the Rebel base, his long black cloak flaring out behind him. A simple black eyepatch covered his injury for the time being; the doctors on his flagship were even now designing a mechanical replacement from exacting specifications prepared by the Sith Master.
He was alone; he'd ordered his stormtrooper escort to search the rest of the base on their own while he listened to the report from his agent.
The Sith Master finally located the beacon, and when he entered the room it was housed in, what looked like a dormitory, he sealed the door behind himself. He called the hidden message recorder to himself with a tug of the Force, sensing the presence left behind by his agent.
He placed the small message unit on the bed -the only furniture in the tiny, cell-like room- and activated it, standing back as the small sphere unfolded itself to reveal a holo-emitter.
A miniature hologram of his agent appeared, a young woman with thick red hair and vibrant green eyes, her image tinted blue. Mara Jade looked directly into the camera and made brief eye contact with him before dropping to one knee, head bowed in respect before she looked back up.
"My master," the prerecorded message began, "I hope you find this message, for I have news of monumental importance. Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi apprentice is a young man named Luke Skywalker. He claims to be your son."
Jade paused for a long moment, no doubt anticipating her master's need to process this information.
Vader stared at the recording, pausing it as Jade began to speak again. He had a son? How was that possible? How had he not sensed him before now? True, he'd sensed the boy's incredible power, but how had he not realized that Luke was his son? He knew it was true, though; he recognized enough of himself in the boy that there was no other possibility as to his origin.
Anakin was momentarily shaken as he realized how close he'd come to killing his own son in the battle above the Executor, and he thanked the Force that he'd missed that final shot. An eye was a small price to pay for sparing his only link to his angel.
Padmé must have survived Mustafar at least long enough to have Luke, Anakin realized. She'd lived at least long enough to bring their child into the world, and then had entrusted him to Obi-Wan.
Darth Vader scowled. What lies had Obi-Wan filled the boy's head with? He'd obviously trained Luke in the ways of the Force, and since he'd lied to Vader in the message he'd sent him after Padmé's funeral, he'd probably spent the better part of the boy's life poisoning him against his father. Who knew what the boy thought of him?
But, Vader realized, he could overcome this. The link between flesh and blood was stronger than any lies the Jedi might have told the boy. With his son at his side, Vader knew he would have the power to shape the galaxy in any way he wanted. With Luke's powers combined with his own and his other legions of followers, Darth Vader knew he could finally achieve the goal he'd been striving toward for the last twenty years: somehow finding a way to bring back his beloved Padmé. The ability Palpatine had tempted him to the Dark Side with had to be real; even if it wasn't, he would find a way to do what the old Sith had described, with his son to help him.
His new determination set firmly in his mind, Vader played the rest of Jade's message.
"I do not know if this is true," her image continued, starting up again from motionlessness, "but he believes it to be. Unfortunately, he has also expressed hatred for you, claiming that Anakin Skywalker died in the Cleansing in his mind."
Jade's image glanced off to the side before looking back up and continuing. "The Rebels are planning a defense against the Executor even now, and to maintain my cover, I must aid them in this. No one suspects anything, and I believe I have earned the trust of most of their leadership, as well as Skywalker. I cannot risk breaking cover to communicate directly with you, and so do not know when I will be able to contact you with more information."
She paused momentarily. "I will continue to maintain cover as an agent of the Rebellion, and I will provide you with any information I can. If I can arrange an opportunity for you to capture Skywalker, I will do so." Jade paused again, glancing off to the side at a sound off-camera. "Long live the Empire," she said quickly, and the message ended.
Plans were already swirling within Vader's head as he destroyed the message capsule and left the small room, resuming his pretense of a search. His determination further strengthened as he thought about all he could accomplish with his son at his side.
He would find Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader resolved, and together nothing could stop them, even death.
End Part I
Author's Note: The line about Chewbacca's appearance in the medal scene comes from one of Darth Marrs' fics; I included it as both an homage and because it was funny. I highly recommend you check out his stories, especially the 'Legacy of the Red Sun' series, since I have enjoyed them quite a bit. They're in my Favorites section if you want to take a look.
Now, about the story itself: I wrote this very quickly by my usual standards; most of the time it takes me months to finish a multiple-chapter story, since I usually post chapters as soon as I finish them and it can take me a while to find enough free time to write sometimes. In contrast, it was about two weeks from the time I first had the idea to the day I finished typing this chapter. I almost never write that fast, but when inspiration strikes you like that, the words come shooting out of your fingers almost, as I'm sure a few of you know.
As for the other two parts of the trilogy, I'm writing a couple other stories that I put on hold to write this one, so I'll finish those before I start Empire Strikes Back. I have an outline for the rest of the trilogy and two bridging stories, but I have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now, including college classes, so it may be a little while. Hopefully it'll prove worth the wait.
UPDATE: If you haven't found it already, the story continues in 'One Missed Strike: Tales From the Rebellion', a bridging story between this and Part II.
Thanks for reading,
(Revision Note: I noticed a typo in one of the chapters when I was looking over this recently, so I decided to go through the entire story and polish things up a little. Relax. I made only minor changes; correcting typos, improving descriptions, fixing the sentence structure in certain places, that kind of thing. Nothing Special Edition-level. ;) )