Summary: Third in the series of an AU where Luke is raised by Vader on Coruscant. Luke is getting older and struggling to come to terms with what awaits in the future.

Description: This is an AU, the third of a four part series with Vader and Luke as the two central characters. It is a sequel to Force Bond 2, but it can be read as a story complete unto itself.

Modified: 26 March 2008 (scene dividers)

Chapter 1: An Emerging Future

Captain Piett paced the length of the conference room, mentally repeating his carefully articulated report. It was a spacious, comfortable room, and Piett would have been relaxed, if it wasn't for the fact he was in the depths of the rancor's den itself: Lord Vader's palace. An aide had politely informed him that Lord Vader would be with him shortly, and then abandoned him. Now, he had to wait.

He rubbed his temples, reminding himself of the rumors suggesting Lord Vader had mellowed out in recent years. Although, in a Sith Lord's case, 'mellowed out' meant killing nine a day instead of ten, they still sounded ridiculous, even to his eager-to-believe ears.

His ship, the SD Indestructible, had just returned from an extended patrol assignment in the outer rim, so mercifully his recent contact with Lord Vader had been non-existent, but his brutal reputation permeated throughout the ranks of the Imperial navy. Piett couldn't even begin to imagine what could crack the Dark Lord's tough armored shell -

The doors to the conference room hissed open, and Piett straightened in anticipation. However, it wasn't the tall black form of Lord Vader that entered. Instead, it was a short, blonde-haired, unassuming teenager. He was dressed in mechanics coveralls, and a varied array of tools hung off his belt. He looked at Piett in surprise, as though Piett was the one who was out of place.

"Hello," he said, looking the captain up and down. "I guess you're waiting for my father."

Piett didn't know what to think, never mind say. He blinked at the boy in surprise, who stared right back with bright blue eyes.

"You're a Captain, right?" the boy asked, peering at his uniform. "I'm trying to learn the rank bars, but I keep getting confused. People seem to wear the wrong one sometimes."

Piett found his voice. "Yes, I'm Captain Piett. Pleased to meet you, uh ... "

"I'm Luke," the boy said. "I'm trying to find a hydrospanner, which just keeps losing itself! This is the last place I'm checking, then I give up. Seen it?"

Piett took a quick glance around; the room looked spotless to him. He shook his head. "Sorry I can't be of service."

Luke started to pull out the chairs noisily, and crawl underneath. Piett watched him curiously.

"So you are Lord Vader's son?"

Luke's reply came from under the table. "Yes - unfortunately!" He stood up, and grinned at Piett, showing he didn't really mean the 'unfortunately' part.

"Is something wrong?" Luke asked, his smile fading.

Piett realized he was staring. "No, no. I just wasn't aware Lord Vader had any children."

Luke shrugged and scanned the room once more. "Well - I guess it's not here." He frowned in frustration. "Too bad, that's the fourth one lost this week. We're running out."

He started walking briskly towards the exit, but just before he reached the doors, they slid open and Lord Vader entered with the same determined stride. They smacked headlong into each other. Piett struggled not to smile.

"Ah! Whoops!" Luke said. He stepped back, grinning up at Vader. "Hi!"

Vader gave Piett an appraising glance, and then turned back to Luke. "Son," he said, conveying the question 'what are you doing in here?' within the word.

"I've nearly got the shuttle fixed," Luke said, "but I can't find a hydrospanner -"

"You managed to locate the block in the cooling mechanism, then?" Vader asked.

"Yes, that was the easy part. It was in the upper left coil, it just took a bit of testing ..."

Piett watched them, disbelievingly, as they continued their casual conversation. He'd never seen anyone address Vader with such familiarity ... he never imagined it would be possible to do so. Was he allowed to be witnessing this?

A sudden glint of metal on the floor caught his eye. There, by his boot, was the missing hydrospanner. He bent down, picking it up and placing it on the table. Both father and son turned from their discussion, attention caught by the movement.

"You found it!" Luke said, jubilant.

It was a simple movement. Luke took a step forward, stretching out his hand, perhaps to reach across the table to retrieve the spanner, or perhaps just to step closer so Piett could hand it to him. Which of the two it was, Piett would never find out. As Luke made the movement, the spanner came flying off the table, turning end over end through the three-meter distance between them, and ending up in the palm of Luke's outstretched hand.

Luke's face turned ashen. He stared at the spanner as though it was a deadly slug that had latched onto his skin.

"W-what?" he said, half to himself.

With a clatter, the spanner fell from his hand, and Luke rushed from the room.

Piett swallowed, and glanced at Vader. The dark lord was staring at the doors, looking as thoughtful as someone wearing a mask could look.

Abruptly, he turned, all business. "Your report, Captain?"

Piett obliged, despite the fact he couldn't keep his eyes off the spanner, resting unassuming on the tabletop.

After dismissing the captain, Vader remained in the conference room, idly tapping the hydrospanner against the glossy table surface. This was a delicate situation. If the Emperor became aware of this, he would assume his thus far loyal apprentice had been secretly training his son in a bid to overthrow his master. Luke's life could be at risk.

However, as luck would have it, the Emperor was not on Coruscant. As their founding project neared its final stages of completion, his master had departed on a personal tour of inspection. It would seem his timing couldn't have been better.

Vader turned and walked quickly towards the exit. He needed to seek Luke out and reassure him. His distress was clear over their empathic link, and was far out of proportion to the nature of this incident. This was serious, it was true, but hardly the end of the galaxy. It was typically adolescent of his son to overreact to such a degree.

His sense of Luke's presence led him to the balcony in their personal wing. Luke's hands were draped over the edge, and his shoulders were slumped.

For a moment, Vader hesitated in the doorway, idly thinking that Luke almost looked like a full-grown man. The idea disturbed him, and he pushed the thought away. It was true that he didn't need to look down so far to address his son, but the boy was still just that - a boy. It was only the fading light that caused him to look like anything else.


No response. Vader moved forward until he was standing beside him. It was a fine afternoon, and the sun was glinting off the corners of Coruscant's impossibly crowded skyline. Despite the distant buzz of traffic, it was almost peaceful.

Suddenly, Luke turned to him, a pleading expression on his face. "It won't happen again, I promise. I'm sorry ... I ... I don't know what happened in there -"

"There is no need to apologize," Vader interrupted.

"But ... but what about the Emperor, what if he -?"

"The Emperor is not here."

"But what if he finds out?" Luke said, his voice shaking slightly.

"That is not your concern," Vader said, quietly. "I will deal with the Emperor."

Luke was silent, but Vader felt him become calmer. Still, some vestiges of fear remained. Vader probed his mind gently, seeking the cause. Luke's fears weren't connected to the Emperor, despite his words. Instead, they centered around a violent image ... a faceless person impaled with a lightsaber. This began to morph back into Luke's memory of the spanner in his hand.

"Your Force potential frightens you," Vader observed.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," Luke sighed.

"It is better that you discuss these feelings, rather than conceal them."

"People are already scared of me for having you as a father," Luke explained. "Having strange powers ... that would really make me a freak."

"A freak," Vader repeated, turning his masked gaze on his son. "I see."

"Ah, no offense," Luke said, quickly.

Vader was silent, somewhat amused.

"It's not only that. I worry about what I would do with these powers."

"The possibilities are endless," Vader said.

"I know, but I'm scared I might ... hurt someone." He glanced quickly at Vader.

Vader considered how to answer. Almost everything Luke had seen of the Force so far had been violence. His fears were unnecessary, yet understandable. It was likely he believed the sole purpose of developing Force abilities was to kill people. Eventually, he would understand that killing was simply a means to a greater end, but that wasn't what he needed to hear right now.

"The Force may control your actions," Vader explained, "but only when you allow it. It also obeys your commands. You have a choice about what you use your power for."

"I don't know if I want to use it at all," Luke said, staring at his boots. He paused for a moment. "Is that bad?" he enquired.

"You cannot escape your destiny, Son," Vader said, surprised at the thought that Luke would not want to realize his potential. "You are what you are. As we have seen today, your Force potential cannot be suppressed for long. You are far too powerful for that."

Luke looked away, frowning about something. He obviously wasn't happy with the idea.

"You may find you will change your mind when you are older, young one," Vader said.

"Will you please stop calling me that?" Luke said, straightening up. "Do you realize how old I am? I already am older."

"Seventeen is not older," Vader said. "Seventeen is younger."

"I'm leaving school in six months," Luke pointed out.

"Why do I sense we have had this conversation before?" Vader asked.

"Because we had it last week," Luke sighed.

"Yes, now I recall," Vader said, glancing at Luke. "Because you wanted to take my newest prototype shuttle for - how did you put it? A joyride around the solar system?"

"For a test flight!" Luke protested. "Honestly, I still don't understand it. You let me fly all over Coruscant in a speeder by myself. Why not in a shuttle? It's not like I'm going to head into hyperspace and get lost."

"When you are old enough to understand why I do not want you flying alone, you will be old enough to fly in space by yourself," Vader said.

Luke made a noise of frustration, and gripped the railing.

"And why this rush to grow up so fast?" Vader enquired. "You have plenty of life ahead of you."

"I already am grown up, that's the whole point," Luke said. "Everyone knows it, except you. Sometimes I think you still think of me as the kid you used to tuck into bed after bailing out of some crazy adventure gone awry."

Vader considered pointing out that he had to tuck Luke in just last night, after he'd found his son fast asleep over his homework. But it was true that the adventures had fallen by the wayside recently, as Luke's time was taken up with study towards his final exams. His academic schedule was crammed with galactic history, politics, economics, diplomacy, science and languages.

It had concerned Vader at one point, as he well remembered how taxing intense study could be from his own temple days. Academic pursuits certainly had their place, but he personally felt Luke would learn the most from the actual experience of the ways of the galaxy. But Luke had insisted he could handle it, and he wanted to do his best.

"I know you are no longer a child," Vader said, "but you are not ready to rule the galaxy yet. You still haven't learnt to keep tools in the hangar bay." He tapped Luke lightly with the hydrospanner, and his son broke into a grin.

"I don't know. Ruling the galaxy doesn't seem so hard. You're doing it right now."

"Not quite."

"The Emperor's not here," Luke said. "You're in charge. Why aren't you sitting around at the palace letting other people do all the work?"

"Because being a father is a fulltime job," Vader said, glancing at Luke. "Or, in your case, two fulltime jobs."

Luke grinned, looking away. "When is the old corpse getting back?"

Vader sighed to himself. He had long since given up correcting his son's shocking lack of respect. "Tomorrow."

"Then we've still got today to relax."

"I need to complete a prisoner inspection aboard a star destroyer," Vader said. "If you can finish preparing the shuttle, we can take it for a test flight."

"Can I pilot?" Luke asked, quickly. "Can I, please?"

"Very well."

"I better get to work," Luke said, appearing much happier. "By the way, I thought up a name for it. Dunesea. What do you think?"

"Deathsea, perhaps," Vader suggested.

"Too late. I've already programmed the ship's registry and made a nameplate."

"Dunesea it is, then."

"See you later."

Luke left the balcony whistling, leaving Vader alone. Vader turned back to the vast expanse of the city, deep in thought. His son was easily reassured; the same could not be said of the Emperor. For now, however, Luke was the last thing to occupy the Emperor's mind. The vast Death Star project was entering its final stages of completion ... it would be ready for its first test before the year was out. The Emperor was filled with a dark, cold pleasure whenever he thought of it, but Vader's own feelings on the matter were anything but clear.

He had his own ideas about how to maintain order in the galaxy, and they didn't involve vast technological terrors. No, he would like to see the galaxy return to a more traditional rule ... in which a new order of Sith ensured an end to rebellion. An order of which he hoped his son to be a member.

Only time would tell. Between the Death Star's completion, and Luke's growing maturity, the future was going to be interesting. To put it mildly.

There were few things Luke loved more than tinkering around with ships. Especially when he had a lot on his mind. There was something therapeutic about occupying his hands while his mind was still mulling over his father's words. His reassurance had gone a long way towards allaying his fears, as it always did.

Luke paused from sealing an access panel back into place, wondering how he would have coped with the last six months, if not for his father's support. No matter how busy he was, he was always willing to help him with any homework question, no matter how boring. And he always seemed to know what he needed before he even realized it himself, whether it was an encouraging word, or an unexpected trip into space.

Luke grinned, and resumed his work on the ship. He'd been suffering piloting deprivation all day, without even realizing it. That's probably what caused the lapse in the conference room.

Familiar bootsteps and artificial breathing entered the hangar, and Luke looked up in surprise. Time always slipped by so fast when he was doing something fun. It only seemed like ten minutes ago that they were talking on the balcony together.

"We're all set," Luke called, as his father approached. "Just give me another ten seconds."

"The ship is more than adequate," his father said. "You, however, need an overhaul."

Luke glanced down at his clothes, about to protest that there was nothing wrong with his appearance. But even he had to admit that oil stained mechanic's coveralls wouldn't be the best look on a ship full of elitist uniformed officers.

"I will get her warmed up," his father said, relieving him of the tools.

Luke ran for the elevators, half worried his father would leave without him. After he sprinted across the building, dodging droids at every corner, he pulled himself into the first clean thing he found on his bedroom floor. By the time he arrived back in the hangar bay, he was still trying to comb his hair and pull on his left boot.

Fortunately, the Dunesea was still there. He ran up the boarding ramp, only to find his father was sitting in the pilot's seat.


"Calm down," his father said, standing up. "I was only checking the fuel."

"The fuel is fine," Luke said, slipping into the seat before his father had any ideas. "I filled her up earlier. Come on, let's go!"

He pushed the button to retract the boarding ramp, and then studied the computer screen. The pre-flight warm-up switch glowed green, indicating they were ready to depart.

"Make sure it is not in reverse," his father said, sitting down in the co-pilot's seat.

Luke pushed the throttle, raising the shuttle off the hangar floor. "I did that once," Luke said, indignant. "Once! And now you mention it every single time. It was an accident!"

"An accident which resulted in a month of repair work on the wall," his father said.

Luke rolled his eyes. He guided the shuttle smoothly out into the open air, careful not to snag the wings on the hangar exit. Down below, a thousand buildings streamed past, blending into a dull grey mass as they rose into the sky. The afternoon sun cast an orange glow over the steady stream of traffic heading for orbit.

Luke accelerated, and merged into the heavy traffic flow. They flew steadily for a few kilometres, and then Luke was forced to slow as the ship in front came to a halt. The traffic had become a crawl.

"We would get there faster by walking," Luke sighed, creeping forward a few centimeters.

"Patience, young one," his father said, distantly.

He was staring out the window, probably meditating if Luke knew anything. He tapped the controls impatiently as they started to move, only to come to a halt a few meters later. In frustration, he gripped the trigger. "How about we shoot all these ships out of the way?"

"Do not handle the trigger when not in a combat situation!"

"Stars, I was just joking," Luke mumbled. He nudged the throttle, pushing them another span forward.

"I am not amused," his father said.

"When are you ever?" Luke enquired.

His father didn't respond. Luke smirked to himself, and brightened up as he saw the jam was at last beginning to clear.

Entering orbit was still an exciting novelty. The atmosphere became thinner and thinner, and faded from blue to white as they entered the upper stratosphere. Then, everything turned a deep and beautiful black, and thousands of stars burst into view.

The traffic thinned out as individual ships departed for separate destinations, and Luke accelerated, relieved to have more freedom. There were thousands of ships in orbit around Coruscant and many navy docking stations. Their destination was located on the dark side of Coruscant's most distant moon. His father pointed it out on the in-flight map and Luke set the shuttle on a course towards it.

When it finally appeared in visual range, a green light began flashing on Luke's panel.

"What's that?" he asked, confused. It appeared to be a comm signal.

"They are hailing. Accept the message and read the viewscreen."

Luke did as his father suggested, then scanned the text. "It says 'transmit identification code'."

"I will send the code. You have drifted off course."

Luke looked up, seeing his father was right. "Whoops." They had swerved to the right of the huge docking station, and were currently in the path of an approaching freighter.

Luke veered back on course, as the docking platform grew larger. Two TIE Fighters had left the docking bay of one of the resident star destroyers.

"Escort," Vader explained. "We are expected."

Luke nodded. He looked back at the oncoming freighter. According to his scopes, it was accelerating. He shifted further left to avoid it, and was annoyed to see the freighter adjust its own course to match. The distance between them was shrinking quickly, and Luke began to feel nervous.

"That freighter's coming pretty close," he remarked.

His father looked up.

Luke jumped as his father's gloved hand swept over to his panel, and quickly keyed in a command.

"What -?" Luke started.

Suddenly, he was thrown against his seat restraints as red beams of laser fire struck the cockpit. The panels shook with the roar of the freighter passing overhead, and then with the whine of the escort TIE Fighters rushing to defend the shuttle.

Luke gripped the controls, breathing heavily. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead.

"My fault," his father said, calmly. "I should have reminded you to put up the shields earlier."

"What ...? Who?" Luke started, his voice shaking.

"Rebels, most likely." His father was studying the readouts. "They have been disabled."

"Why were they shooting at us?!" Luke gasped, wondering why his father was so calm.

"Shuttles are common targets for cowardly hit and run attacks." He glanced at Luke. "Do you wish me to take over?"

Luke pushed the throttle forward, wishing his heart would stop pounding. "No, it's okay."

"A smooth entry into the Indestructible's hangar bay will require complete concentration. Are you sure you are up to the task?"

"I'm fine," Luke said, angry.

The comlink crackled to life. "Shuttle Dunesea, this is TIE Pilot Escort One. The enemy has been disabled. Did you sustain any damage?"

Luke switched on the transmitter. "Of course not," he snapped, then shut off the channel.

There was silence as they continued towards the star destroyer. Luke slowed, determined to impress his father by not making a single error in the docking.

The comlink crackled again, and an urgent voice filled the air: "Dunesea, a squadron of Y-wings has just come out of hyperspace! The Indestructible will lock on a tractor beam and pull you to the safety of the hangar!"

Luke slammed his hands against the controls in frustration.

Luke sat back, with his arms folded in an exaggerated manner, as the shuttle set down gently in the star destroyer's hangar bay. He casually switched off the engines and looked out the window, where an honor guard of stormtroopers had gathered.

"I'll stay here," Luke said, nervous at the thought of having to walk past all that pristine white armor. Next to his father, he didn't think they'd be impressed with him.

"This incident means I will be staying here considerably longer than I first anticipated. I can arrange for someone to give you a tour of the ship. This is a good opportunity for you to learn more about the daily activities on a star destroyer."

As interesting as that sounded, Luke didn't want to be stuck with a babysitter. "I'll be fine here," he said. "I uploaded some homework into the ship's computer. If I get bored later, I might go for a walk. How long are you going to be?"

"I will be joining the effort to destroy the Rebel fighters, and then I will be interrogating the captured pilots of the freighter. I estimate I will be ready to leave in four hours."

Luke was surprised. "You're going out dogfighting? Can't the ship's pilots handle it?"

"They are docked and understaffed. And I need to keep in practice," his father said.

He turned and left the shuttle, leaving Luke alone with his thoughts. After a few minutes, he slowly unbuckled his seat restraints and stood up for a stretch. Despite his talk of homework, he wasn't in the mood for doing it, not after the run-in with the freighter.

He waited until the stormtroopers had left, and then wandered down the exit ramp, gazing around in awe at the sheer size of the room. He'd been on many star destroyers, but few as large as this. By the time he reached the elevators, he was almost ready to sit down and rest. No chance of that, however. As he began to enter a lift, he found himself jumping back to avoid being run flat by a fully masked and flight-suited TIE Pilot.

Luke stared after him, impressed. Could that be him one day? He daydreamed for a moment about being his father's wingman, flying into hair-raising situations without fear ... single-handedly saving the galaxy.

A few moments later, he realized he hadn't yet pressed a button in the elevator, and so was going nowhere very fast. He scanned the rows and rows of buttons, before finally settling on one that read 'cafeteria'. You could never go wrong with food.

The doors were about to close, when two junior officers came running up. Luke held the door, and they stepped in. One of them leaned over and pushed the button for the bridge. Luke studied them curiously - they were only a few years older than him. His interest wasn't returned, however.

"Just heard Lord Vader's on board," one said.

The other one nodded. "That's one thing I haven't missed in the Outer Rim. Blasted government officials, coming on board and telling us how to do our job."

"From what I've heard, telling you how to do your job would be the least of your worries with Lord Vader."

"You're not telling me you believe all that Force rubbish!?" The other one snorted derisively. He waved his hand in the air. "Ooooo I can strangle you without even touching you! Feel the all-powerful Force!"

Luke stared in shock. Lucky his father wasn't around to hear this! The other officer appeared just as uncomfortable.

"It's all very well for you, you've never served on one of the ships he frequents -"

"Come on! All those rumours are scientifically impossible - everyone knows that. I'm not falling for every story like some Outer Rim farmboy. Besides, Vader's just the Emperor's puppet."

Luke felt his temper rise, wondering if he should say anything. But the officer wasn't likely to care, even if he did.

The elevator stopped, breaking off the conversation. The doors slid open and waiting on the other side was a familiar face. Captain Piett. The two junior officers straightened, and quickly saluted. The captain returned the salute, and stepped in beside them. He then noticed Luke.

"Ah, young Mr Vader. Pleasure to see you again." He turned to the junior officers. "Ensigns, have you met Lord Vader's son?"

Luke couldn't help but smirk at the officers, as they both turned pale. He'd never felt pleased to be addressed as 'Vader' before. One of them pressed the button to get off at the next floor, and they jumped out of the elevator like it was about to explode.

"They're certainly in a hurry," the captain remarked, as the doors slid closed.

"Yeah," Luke agreed.

"Your father mentioned you were the one piloting on your journey up here," the captain continued. "I am sorry we didn't anticipate the attack. You must have a very cool head to be able to fly under such pressure."

Luke shrugged. "Just a freighter firing a few shots. No big deal. I could handle it. By the way, sir, my name is Luke Skywalker. Vader is my father's Sith name. But please just call me Luke."

"I can hardly call you Luke if you're going to call me sir," the captain said, with a half smile.

Luke grinned. "I won't, then."

The elevator doors slid open at that point, and Luke saw a sign in the distance, pointing to the cafeteria.

"Where are you heading?" Captain Piett asked.

"I was hoping to get some food," Luke explained.

"I'm going to the bridge to monitor the situation with the Rebels," Piett said. "They'll likely have all been destroyed by the time I get there - especially with your father taking care of things. Perhaps you'd care to join me after you've finished eating?"

"Scratch the food, I'm there," Luke said, grinning. He closed the doors again, and the elevator resumed its upward journey.

The captain stared at him looking a little surprised. Luke realized he probably hadn't answered entirely appropriately.

"I'd love to join you on the bridge," he amended. "Thanks for offering."

"You're always welcome," the captain said.

When the doors opened once again, Luke stepped out into a vast oval space, divided into two crewpits by a catwalk. At the front end were several vast viewing windows. For a moment, he was unsure where to go first, but the captain gestured for him to follow. They walked up to a row of terminals, and another officer turned to report to the captain.

"Sir, the Rebels are retreating into hyperspace. Three have been destroyed."

Luke studied the holographic displays, seeing red and green blips moving about in a cube.

"Have any of the TIE fighters been destroyed?" he asked.

The officer glanced at Luke in curiosity, and the captain proceeded to introduce him.

"Commander, this is Luke Skywalker, Lord Vader's son. Luke, this is Commander Neem, first officer of the Indestructible."

"An honor," the commander said, "and to answer your question, we've sustained minimal losses. Y-Wings are a poor match for TIEs. These craft appear to be on a reconnaissance mission only."

"The Indestructible recently captured some of their leaders in the Outer Rim," Captain Piett explained. "They are looking to stage a rescue mission."

"Foolish, to think they'd have a chance this close to Coruscant," the commander added.

Luke nodded, taking it all in. The idea of anyone fighting the Empire's navy always seemed crazy to him. How could anyone stand up against thousands of TIEs and a fleet of star destroyers? He'd never heard of anyone, Rebel or not, defeating the Empire in combat.

He supposed it was an indication of how desperately the Rebels wanted the prisoners back. Imagined images of torture and interrogation entered Luke's mind, and he quickly pushed them aside. There was nothing he could do about it right now.

After seeing to the last of his business on board the star destroyer, Vader returned to the ship hangar, only to find his son was no longer on board the Dunesea. It didn't take Vader long to guess where he would be. His suspicions were confirmed when he stepped onto the bridge, only to find his son chatting away with Captain Piett. As he approached, Luke turned to face him.


Vader gave him a disapproving glance, before turning to the captain.

"Lord Vader," Captain Piett said, coming to attention.

"Captain," Vader replied, handing him a datapad, "I have compiled a list of prisoners that must be transferred to Coruscant. The others are worthless, have them executed."

"Yes, sir."

"If they're worthless, why not let them go?" Luke suggested.

"Luke, go and wait by the elevator," Vader said, firmly.

Luke hesitated for a brief instant, and then turned to the captain.

"Thanks for everything."

"You're welcome."

He then walked away, leaving Vader alone with the captain.

"I trust his presence did not interfere with the normal operation of the ship," he said.

"Not at all, sir," the captain said, quickly. "His knowledge of the mechanics and specs was very impressive."

If only he paid as much attention to proper behavior, Vader thought. There was no harm done, however. The captain doubtless understood that Luke was young and just beginning to become part of a very adult world.

"Have the prisoners transferred as soon as possible," Vader said, "lest the Rebels think to stage another foolish attempt at rescuing them. I am returning to Coruscant."

"Yes, sir."

Luke felt uncomfortable as he watched his father approach. Judging by his mood, they were going to have words in the elevator. Luke sighed, and pushed the down button, hoping it would move quickly. His father had never said he couldn't visit the bridge. He'd even encouraged him to leave the shuttle in the first place, so it was difficult to know exactly what his problem was.

He entered the elevator beside Luke, and pushed the button for the hangar bay. When he didn't say anything, Luke spoke up, not wanting to stand in awkward silence.

"I thought you wanted me to learn about the ship?"

"I did. I have no problem with your presence on the bridge."

"Then why that look of death?!"

"Because your greeting was inappropriate."

"I say hi to you all the time. You've never complained before."

"At home, yes. On the bridge of a star destroyer - no. Not only that, you questioned my orders in front of the captain."

"I wasn't questioning your orders," Luke protested. "I was just asking a question ... about your orders. Look, I'm trying, okay?"

They had arrived at the hangar at this point, and his father gestured for Luke to exit first.

"I know, Son. It has been a long day. I will pilot on the way home."

Luke didn't argue. It wasn't worth it. He remained silent as they boarded the shuttle, thinking over everything. His father was right. It had been a long day.

Once they were safely bound for Coruscant, Luke remembered the freighter.

"Did you find out why that ship attacked us?"

"They were not allied with the Rebels," his father said, accelerating towards the planet. "They were intoxicated smugglers. Their timing with the Y-wings was coincidental."

"Oh. So I guess you let them go," Luke said, stifling a yawn.

"They are dead."

Luke felt sick. "Is that even legal?! Don't they get a trial?"

"I gave them a trial. I found them guilty."

As they entered the atmosphere, Luke decided to change the subject. "So what do you think of this shuttle? Are they going to make more?"

"Perhaps. The four winged design adds much stability when flying in atmosphere, yet does not hinder speed when in space."

"I noticed that too," Luke said, staring out the window as they approached their home. The Imperial Palace dominated the horizon, the tallest among many towering buildings.

There was silence until they set down in the hangar. His father switched off the engines, and looked over at Luke.

"You should go to bed. It is getting late, and you have school tomorrow."

Luke shook his head. "I have to finish off some homework for my politics class. We have to have the first draft of an essay in tomorrow."

"That reminds me," his father said, "I have arranged for one of the Emperor's senior political advisors to give you practical lessons in senate procedures. The Emperor requested this for you several months ago."

"Why does he care what I know about politics?" Luke said, frowning. The classes at school were bad enough, never mind being forced to give up his free time over it.

"Consider it a vested interest."

"He's not thinking I'm going to graduate school and become a politician, is he?" Luke said, aghast. "Because that's not going to happen. It's bad enough learning about it. I know my mother was a senator, but when it comes to politics, I'll freely admit that I take after you."

"What makes you think I don't like politics?" his father said, sitting back down. He sounded very amused.

"Oh, I don't know," Luke said, grinning. "Maybe it's the never ending death threats you make when talking about senators."

"One can dislike certain politicians, yet enjoy politics, Son. But you are right - it is not my favorite subject. I slept through many classes when I was your age."

Luke grinned, trying to imagine his disciplined father sleeping through a class about anything.

"I came to understand it far better after having practical lessons. As will you."

"So I have to hang around with a stuffy old political advisor?" Luke said. "Can he write my essay for me?"

"I never said he was old," his father said, "and even if he was, you shouldn't judge people by their age. I will make arrangements with your school to reduce your workload while you are taking part in these lessons."

"I don't really have a choice about this, do I?" Luke enquired.

"Astutely observed."

Luke stared at his father in silence for a moment, wondering why didn't put up more of a fight. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe he already knew he was beaten. Or maybe he'd do anything to make his father proud of him.

"I have always been proud of you, Son," his father said, sounding concerned.

Luke cringed, embarrassed at having such a personal thought exposed.

"Is this about my remarks about your behavior on the ship? Luke, you should not interpret my every correction as a grand statement of overall disappointment."

"It's not about that," Luke said, rubbing his head. "I just don't know if I can live up to it all. I don't think I'm going to be ready to help you run the galaxy after I leave school, no matter how many classes I take."

Luke stood up, running his hands through his hair. "I don't know if I'll ever be ready. Maybe I could just be a pilot ... I'm ready for that now. I could still help you ... just not with anything large or important."

"I'll keep that in mind," his father said, standing up beside him.

"I'm serious!"

"Son ..."

Luke met his gaze, somewhat reluctantly.

"I have every confidence that you will fulfil all my expectations, and more besides. But if you should not, I will still be your proud father. Understood?"

"Even if I renounce this whole thing and retire on Tatooine?" Luke asked. The idea had crossed his mind on more than one occasion lately.

"Are you planning on that?" his father asked, sounding worried.

"No," Luke said. "I'd miss your ships too much. Maybe I'd even miss you a little sometimes."

"And you would no doubt die of boredom, if Tatooine hasn't changed since I was last there."

"True," Luke agreed. "All right. Political lessons, here comes Luke Skywalker." Luke smiled at his father, enjoying the moment. They had so few together, given his father's schedule. It was during moments like these that he wanted to fulfil his father's expectations. He wanted him to know his confidence in him wasn't misplaced. That, more than anything, drove him to succeed in all he did. He would attend these political lessons without another complaint.

"Good. Now, forget your homework, and go to sleep, my son. Don't make me use a mind trick on you."

"You know they don't work on me."

"Goodnight, Son."