Author's Note: This is a follow-up to my AU story 'One Missed Strike, Part I', which covers the years between Part I and Part II.
"I Found Him"
A small shuttle approached the pastoral world of Naboo, angling for the side of the planet which was currently dark, its intended destination in the middle of local night. The shuttle was nondescript and gray, impossible to associate with its famous pilot, a tall man in his mid-forties with short, severely cut dark blond hair and a grim expression.
Darth Vader, Sith Master and ruler of the galaxy through the Empire, sat alone in the cockpit of his tiny shuttle, which was barely big enough to have a hyperdrive. Though he was the Emperor and often did not have time for himself, he'd managed to get a day away from his responsibilities. This was important, and he would tolerate no disturbances for this visit.
As his small shuttle slipped undetected through Naboo's atmosphere, Vader adjusted the hood of his long black robe, making sure it covered his face. He wanted no one to know he was here; though he was the Emperor and could do virtually whatever he wanted, his reason for coming here was no one's business but his own. Darth Vader had no reason to come to Naboo, at least in the public's understanding, and if he was seen here, it would raise too many questions, especially where he was going.
He landed his ship as close as he could to his destination without arousing suspicion, and then quietly slipped away into the night, knowing the way by heart. In only minutes, he reached the building he sought, its white lines and gentle curves, typical of Naboo architecture, almost shining in the soft moonlight.
The man who had once been known as Anakin Skywalker walked with almost ceremonial slowness up the steps of the mausoleum that housed the body of Padmé Amidala Naberrie Skywalker, though the last name was inscribed nowhere in the building. It held a quiet, understated elegance, and it was obvious much loving care had gone into its construction. Images of the woman whose body it housed were everywhere in the mausoleum; some holograms, some sculptures, and others raised bas-reliefs depicting important events in her life.
Her husband thought to himself that the two most important events were missing, that of her marriage to him and the birth of their child, but only a few people in the galaxy knew of either event besides himself. A thought drifted through his mind then that if not for the Jedi Order, neither event would have had to be secret.
The mausoleum did not have a security system; Padmé was too loved on her homeworld for even the most obnoxious vandal to consider desecrating her tomb. It received visitors at all hours of the day, though not many came by at this time of night. Vader was sure he would be alone. He took a few moments to look through the mausoleum, passing his gaze over the images of his wife and recalling the memories that accompanied each one.
He paused, as he usually did when he came here, at the one image in the entire monument that depicted him and his wife together. It was a very famous image taken from the Battle of Geonosis, showing Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala fighting side by side in the opening battle of the Clone Wars. There was no obvious hint of their attachment, already strong by that point, but Vader could see it, especially in the way his younger self was looking at Padmé with concern, angling his lightsaber to deflect a blaster bolt coming toward her.
"You call this a diplomatic solution?" Anakin said, looking over at Padmé.
"No," she replied, a hint of a mischievous grin quirking her lips. "I call it 'aggressive negotiations.'"
Anakin grinned himself and turned back to the battle, swatting a blaster bolt back at the droid who'd fired it.
He had no idea who had taken the image, but it was regularly featured in documentaries and textbooks, used to illustrate the battle. Vader felt the fingers of his mechanical hand clench as he remembered that he'd lost his arm at that battle, in his duel with Dooku. Padmé had been aghast at the wound, and she'd stayed at his side in the medical center when it had been treated, unable to hold his other hand for fear of revealing their relationship, forbidden under the restrictions of his order. He had known what she was feeling, though, and had drawn strength from her presence.
Vader moved on to another image, which showed Padmé with her family, all of them smiling. Her mother and father were seated, and she and her sister stood behind them with Sola's husband. Sola's daughters sat on their grandparents' laps, beaming at the camera. Unbeknownst to anyone in the picture but Padmé, the Naberries' other grandchild was also present; Vader could see by the time stamp that the picture had been taken while she was pregnant with Luke. He felt a small twinge of sadness, knowing he rightfully deserved to be in the picture with the rest of them, standing next to his wife and the rest of their family. But again, the restrictions of the Jedi had made what should have been a happy time for both of them a time of stress and secrecy, both of them fearful that they would be found out at any moment they were together.
"Something wonderful has happened." Padmé looked up at her husband, happiness in her eyes. "Ani, I'm pregnant."
Anakin paused in shock; he certainly hadn't been expecting this. "That's…" He paused again for a moment. Finally, he smiled. "That's wonderful!"
"What are we going to do?" Padmé said, worry starting to enter both her expression and her tone.
Anakin smiled. "We're not going to worry about anything right now, all right?" He reached up to touch her face with his flesh-and-blood fingers. "This is a happy moment." He looked down into her beautiful brown eyes. "The happiest moment of my life."
She smiled finally, and he leaned down to kiss her as she embraced him.
He quietly crossed to another image, one taken shortly before her first term as Queen of her homeworld. She looked exactly as she had the first time he'd seen her, and he thought back to that time, when he'd asked her if she was an angel.
She was, Vader thought to himself. She had to have been.
Finally, he reached the end of the long entry hall, and he paused at the door to the inner room. He attempted to prepare himself, but he knew it was futile; he had the same reaction every time he came here.
As the man who'd been Padmé's husband stepped inside her tomb, he felt his throat constrict with emotion. She lay in front of him within a transparisteel coffin, rich chestnut hair draped around her as if in sleep. After Obi-Wan had sent her body home, Vader had learned, her parents had had it placed in suspended animation. The government of Naboo had paid for it, as well as this tomb, and so she was forever preserved as she had been on the day that she died. She truly appeared to only be sleeping, exactly the same as every time he'd watched her at night, but he knew she wouldn't smile if she woke up, wouldn't reach for him.
She would recoil in fear, Vader knew, and with good reason.
"I don't believe what I'm hearing," Padmé said, backing away from him. "Obi-Wan was right; you've changed."
Anakin, Vader now, felt his jaw clench at the mention of his teacher. "I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan," he said, waving a hand dismissively. He looked down at Padmé with rising anger. "The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me."
Padmé backed away again, tears starting to form in her eyes. "I don't know you anymore," she said. "Anakin, you're breaking my heart. You're going down a path I can't follow."
Vader looked down at her. "Because of Obi-Wan?" he said.
"Because of what you've done. What you plan to do. Stop," Padmé pleaded, looking up at him. "Stop now. Come back."
But Vader's attention was no longer on his wife. He looked up with growing rage at the figure standing at the top of the ramp of Padmé's starship. Obi-Wan looked back down at him with determination and resignation.
"I love you," Padmé said, taking a step closer.
The implications of what he was seeing were too much for him, and Vader snapped. "Liar!" he shouted at her.
She gasped, looking behind to see Obi-Wan descending the ramp of her ship. "No," she said desperately.
"You're with him!" Vader raged. "You brought him here to kill me!" He raised a hand, clenching his fingers as he seized her neck with the Force.
"No!" she said again, bringing her hands up to her throat. She looked back at him in hurt and disbelief, as if unable to even imagine he would do such a thing.
"Let her go, Anakin," Obi-Wan warned.
"Anakin," Padmé pleaded, unable to say more because of his hold.
"Let her go!" Obi-Wan said firmly, walking towards them.
Vader finally released his grip, and Padmé collapsed, lying motionless on the metal landing pad.
"You turned her against me!" Vader screamed at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan looked back at him with an expression close to disgust. "You have done that yourself."
Vader walked away from Padmé, pulling off his outer robe in preparation to fight his old teacher. "You will not take her from me!"
"Your anger and your lust for power have already done that," Obi-Wan replied, dropping his own outer robe. "You have allowed this dark lord to twist your mind until now…" He looked over at his former friend as the two of them circled one another. "Until now you have become the very thing you swore to destroy."
The look in her eyes, the heart-wrenching look of utter hurt and disbelief as she protested, still woke him at night. Vader was unable to purge the memory from his mind, and every time his subconscious forced him to relive it, it hurt just as much as the first time he'd thought back on that fateful day.
Overcome with emotion, Vader dropped to his knees next to his wife's body. He placed his hands on the coffin, looking in with deep, wrenching remorse. "I'm so sorry," he whispered. "If I could take it back, I would."
For the first time in long, long years, Anakin Skywalker choked back a sob, feeling a tear run down his cheek as he looked at the still body of the woman he'd loved. In her hands was clutched the necklace he'd made her shortly after they'd met, a tiny snippet of japor, which she'd told him once she'd had with her ever since. It had never left her in life, and now it never would leave her in death.
Anakin remained next to his wife for several moments, just looking at her, and finally, he took a deep breath, forcing himself to regain his composure.
"He lived, Padmé," he said to her body. "Our son is alive. I found him." He kept his eyes on her face, one he knew almost better than his own, every detail as perfectly preserved in his memory as it was in the stasis field.
"Luke is alive," he said again. "He's all grown up now, and we both missed it." He had to squeeze his remaining eye shut against the new wave of emotion that swept over him. "Because of me." He felt a slow burn of anger as the events of that day twenty years ago replayed in his mind. "No, because of him."
Vader allowed the rage he'd felt over his wife's death to enhance his still-burning hatred for Palpatine, for the man who'd lied to him and manipulated him into furthering the old man's scheme. If not for Palpatine, he never would have jumped headfirst into the Dark Side, never would have allowed it to control him so thoroughly that he saw deception where there was none, betrayal where there was none, and acted on the lies, costing him the only person who ever just let him be who he was and didn't expect anything from him except love. Vader was sorry he couldn't kill the old wretch again.
"It's all right," he said to her. "I can still fix things. Luke is powerful; just as powerful as me. Together, we can find a way." Vader felt his tears burn away under his determination. "We can still be a family."
Vader fell silent again, continuing to kneel at his wife's side with his hands as close to her as he could manage, not wanting to leave. He spent the next several minutes this way, in silence, until quiet footsteps in the hall beyond the tomb disturbed his peace. Vader stood, pulling his black hood over his face, and drew back into the shadows at the corners of the room, using the Force to make himself nearly invisible in the darkness.
As he watched, irritated at being disturbed, Padmé's sister Sola walked in, looking so much like her that it almost hurt. Sola was in her forties now, the age Padmé would be if she had lived, and she had hints of gray in her long brown hair, so similar to her sister's.
Sola looked around for a moment once she entered the tomb, as if she could sense someone else was there, but she did not see Vader, and stopped at the foot of the transparent coffin. "Hello, Padmé," she said, a sad smile on her face.
She paused for several moments, and Vader was distinctly uncomfortable, but she was between him and the exit; there was no way to leave without her seeing him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Sola said finally. "You know I would have helped you if I could."
Vader was puzzled; what was she talking about?
"I've seen his face on the news reports," Sola said, still looking down at her sister's body. "The Rebellion has a new Jedi, and his name is Luke Skywalker." She paused again for a moment. "He looks like him, you know. That handsome young Jedi you brought home once. But he looks like you, too."
Sola leaned forward slightly, placing her hands gently on her sister's coffin. "I would have helped you," she said again. "You didn't have to hide it from me." She sighed. "With the way he turned out, I can see why you had to hide your boy from Anakin. But why didn't you send him to me? You know I would have been happy to take care of him."
Vader pulled himself further into the shadows, sensing where this was going. He especially didn't want his sister-in-law to see him now.
"What happened to you, Padmé?" Sola asked, her voice full of sadness. "Where did you go after you left Typho behind? Who sent you back to us like this? For twenty years I've wanted to know, but you can't answer me." Sola's expression shifted to one of anger. "Did he do this to you? Did Anakin hurt you?"
Vader forcibly kept himself calm, using all his willpower to keep himself from saying anything.
Sola sighed sadly. "I'll never know," she said finally. "But I can find your son. I'll find him, Padmé. I'll make sure Luke knows his mother. I don't know where he's been, but I'm sure he thinks about you, wonders who you were. I don't know how I'll do it, but I'll do it. I'll tell him all about you."
That was enough; Vader didn't care now. He couldn't allow the boy's aunt to further poison his son against him.
"You will do no such thing," he said, emerging from the shadows so that he was outlined by the beam of light illuminating the transparent coffin.
Sola gasped, backing away in shock. Vader drew back his hood and moved closer to her, glaring balefully at his sister-in-law with his remaining eye. She turned nearly white with fear, backing away until her shoulder met the far wall of the tomb.
"Wh-What are you doing here?" she stammered, frightened.
"You will stay away from my son," Vader said gravely. "If anyone is to tell him about his mother, I will. He is no business of yours."
Sola managed to compose herself, her ire rising through her fear, and she took a step away from the wall, looking up at him determinedly. "Luke is just as much Padmé's son as he is yours," she said, showing the same spirit her sister had on so many occasions. "He has a right to know his mother's family, more right than you have to keep him away from us."
"You will not try to contact my son," Vader warned. "I have left Naboo alone during my reign, but that can quickly change."
Sola blanched again, knowing he meant every word, but again her spirit overcame her fear. "What happened to you, Anakin?" She moved closer, looking up at him. "How did you turn into…" she gestured at his dark clothing and the patch that covered one eye, "this? Is there anything left of the young man I met all those years ago?"
Vader narrowed his eyes, and was silent for a long while. "No," he said finally. "Anakin Skywalker died on the same day as his wife." He leaned in closer. "Their child died with her. Am I making myself clear?"
Sola brought a hand up to her throat, where she felt a slight pressure. She nodded sadly. "Yes, I understand. I'll leave him to you."
Vader straightened. "Good. It would be unfortunate if I had to install a permanent Imperial presence here. I always liked this world; I would hate to see it conquered."
Sola nodded, sighing. "Yes, Anakin is dead, isn't he?"
Vader turned angrily without saying another word and stormed out of Padmé's mausoleum, leaving her sister behind.
Sola turned back to the body of her sister, forever preserved in youth and beauty. "Don't worry," she said quietly. "I'll find a way. I won't let that monster have your son. I won't let him twist Luke the way he was twisted.
"I'll find a way."
Author's Note: This is a bit more angsty than what I usually write, but I decided to test myself to see if I could do it. You'll have to let me know if I succeeded or not. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, this is a follow-up to my story 'One Missed Strike, Part I', which corresponds to 'A New Hope' in my AU. This story, a series of oneshots, bridges the gap between that story and 'OMS: Part II', the 'Empire Strikes Back' equivalent. I'm planning four more short stories:
'Brothers and Sisters': Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa have no idea they are twin siblings, but feel a connection nonetheless. As they continue their struggle against the Empire, Luke and Leia develop a friendship, comparing their histories to find some surprising similarities. Meanwhile, the young Jedi Malysa Kolos, in a reverse of Mara Jade, continues her own mission as an undercover agent within the Sith Order and the Empire, trying to find ways to secretly help Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion. Unbeknownst to her, her older brother Tyraj is a stormtrooper, a loyal part of Lord Vader's elite 501st Legion. Tyraj recognizes his sister aboard the Executor shortly after the Battle of Yavin, and, knowing she was once a Jedi, wonders what her true motives are.
'Starkiller': The history of Darth Vader's Sith Apprentice, Darth Nova, followed by his new mission from his master: Find Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion, by any means necessary, and bring young Skywalker to the Emperor to begin his training in the Dark Side...
'The Emperor's Hand': The history of this universe's Mara Jade, how Darth Vader found her and trained her as a deadly assassin and spy; an Emperor's Hand. Her story is told through flashbacks as she continues her mission as an undercover agent within the Rebellion and attempts to sort through her unexpected feelings for her master's son.
'You Guys Need Some Fun': As the Rebellion searches for a new base, Han Solo decides his friends could use a break from fighting the Empire, so he takes them to Ord Mantell to enter the Millennium Falcon in the Blockade Runner's Derby. But, unbeknownst to them, the deadly bounty hunter Boba Fett is closing in on his prey...
These may be a little while in coming, as my laptop is being repaired right now and I don't know how long it'll be until I get it back. I'm also busily working on 'OMS: Part II', being about halfway through it right now. I'll attempt to work on it and the above stories through my flash drive and the other computers I have access to, but work will go much faster when I get my laptop back. Thanks for reading!