Summary: What if the Threepio and Artoo had come to Tatooine a couple years earlier, their memories of the past several decades fully intact? Young Luke Skywalker is about to learn more of his father than he had ever hoped to or, perhaps, even wanted to. And, while he listens to a droid's story about what had to be the strangest Jedi in the history of the galaxy, the Empire draws ever closer, desperate to reclaim their secret plans before the young Rebel Alliance can pull together the strength to topple the fragile Imperial power.
Rating: T (PG-13) for mild, albeit imaginary, swearing and mentions of death, violence, and murder.
Warnings: All right, I love classic Vader as much as anyone but, for the purposes of this story, he's a little more Anakin-y than anything else. Just because he's a Dark Lord of the Sith doesn't mean he's any less impulsive or prone to getting into trouble than before. The suit means making adjustments, but it doesn't change who he is on the inside.
And as for Palpatine, well… he was an expert manipulator, but you don't spring an all-powerful Empire up overnight. He's a little old, his face's been melted, and even the best plans tend to go wrong.
Fate was fickle, Chance was capricious and, if some of the ancient Jawa legends were true, they were mischievous siblings. Chance, being easily amused, flipped coins. And Fate, loving irony, used those coins to change the course of history. Eons sometimes went by without their interference, but other times they flipped so many coins that a sentient being could barely eat a meal without an ethereal clank to decide what sort of meat would be dined upon. Sometimes Fate was subtle in his workings, steering gently in order to achieve the appropriate flip's outcome, and sometimes he was not, achieving such improbable situations that it had led to their worship. Sometimes Chance was kind, and flipped a coin to choose between only good possibilities, and sometimes she was not, flipping only between the worst ideas she could think of.
All these thoughts zipped through the back of Owen Lars's head as he stared at two hauntingly familiar droids. Of course, protocol and astromech droids were popular designs, and he couldn't quite remember the call numbers of the droids he had known all those years ago but, all the same, he had the uneasy feeling that, despite the overwhelming odds against such a chance occurrence, he was looking at the selfsame units. He could practically smell the metallic tang of an ancient coin; Fate and Chance were laughing their asses off at his expense.
A small twinge warned him not to do it—perhaps it was the Force that crazy old Kenobi was always harping on about—warned him not to buy the droids from this Jawa caravan, but he needed an R2 unit to help with repairs around the farm and Beru was desperate for a droid that could translate. He could let these two go by, but who knew when the next caravan would visit? Things were getting tight at the farm; vaporators were breaking down left and right, faster than he or his nephew Luke could fix them. No, he couldn't do it; no matter how bad a feeling it left him with, Owen knew he had to buy these two units.
"They look pretty beat up, Uncle Owen," Luke commented when the older man finally managed to herd the droids over to an outbuilding.
"I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle," Owen said with a tight smile. And it was true; despite only being nine, Luke could fix anything he set his mind and hands to. It was natural for the boy know about vaporators, having grown up around them, but Luke had an uncanny knowledge for machinery, like he somehow just knew what was going on behind all that metal plating.
And that was a kick in the gut, more than anything else. Every time Owen saw Luke bent over some contraption that the boy had pieced together from scraps, his blond hair glinting like white fire in the twin suns and his blue eyes focused with a knowledge and cunning that belied his short years, he couldn't help but be reminded of another boy. Granted, he hadn't known Anakin Skywalker very well, but he'd heard stories of the amazing escapades of an uncommonly gifted slave, and he had seen the man enough to know that Luke held much of his father within himself. And that worried him, no matter how many times Kenobi had assured them that everything would work out for the best. Did Luke have so much of his father in him at he would turn as Anakin had? Owen didn't know how to raise a Force-sensitive child, how was he supposed to know what was good and what was bad for someone of Luke's talents? He had toyed for a while with the idea of banning Luke from tinkering with the machines, of trying to temper out this frighteningly coincidental hobby, but Owen had dismissed it quickly because he knew that Luke would only turn his attention to something else that would remind him of Anakin—perhaps even something dangerous, like racing.
Luke ignored his suddenly silent guardian. Uncle Owen did that a lot, seemed to look to a far away and sad or frightening place, and Luke had learned that his Uncle only got upset when he was interrupted, so he left the older man alone.
Luke turned his attention to the new droids—although nothing was ever really new on Tatooine, just unfamiliar. And it was the same with these droids; they weren't new at all if the scuffing and scorch-marks on their plating was anything to go by, but they were unfamiliar to Luke, so that made them exciting. Too bad it looked like they really only needed a good cleaning, he thought disappointedly; still, he perked up, you never knew what you might find on the inside.
"I want those droids ready to be put to work by tomorrow," his Uncle suddenly said.
"Yes, Uncle Owen," he replied, more out of habit than acknowledgement, as the older man left. He'd tried several times already to impress upon his Uncle that these things could not be rushed, because rushing made you miss stuff that you would only end up repairing later when it finally became a big problem, but no one ever listened to a nine year old. The droids would be ready when he was finished, and he wouldn't be finished until he knew that every last inch of both units were in the best condition possible.
"So, what's your name?" Luke asked conversationally as he began to inspect the taller of the two droids. He found that it was often easier to repair something if he talked to it, even if the machine in question had no way of responding.
"I am C3P0, human-cyborg relations, and this," he indicated the other droid with a stiff jerk of his arm, "is my counterpart, R2D2."
The cylindrical astromech droid swiveled his dome-shaped head and gave a hooting-chirp that Luke could only assume was a greeting; either that, or the cheeky little unit was cursing at him.
"I'm Luke Skywalker," he introduced distractedly, noting that the protocol droid seemed to only need an oil bath to clean the sand out of his joints.
"How very curious," the gold colored droid responded in that strangely accented voice of his.
Luke looked up from his inspection of the droid's back control panel. "What's curious?" he asked, moving away to start preparing the oil bath.
Threepio cocked his head to the side as much as the rotating motor-joints in his neck would allow—which admittedly wasn't much. "Well you see, sir, I was built on this planet by a boy named Skywalker."
That stopped Luke in his tracks. "Anakin Skywalker?" he asked, holding his breath. Was this it, he though; was this that elusive connection to his father that he'd been seeking for so many years?
"That's the very name!" Threepio agreed.
Luke felt his heart jerk, his pulse race; slowly he turned around. "That was my father's name."
The Force… giggled. That was the only way to describe it, Darth Vader thought; it didn't shudder or ripple, it exploded in peals of bubbling delight. It was something he had felt before, when the Jedi Temple had been filled with untrained and easily excited youths, but to feel it here, above the cruel and desolate planet of Tatooine, was disconcerting. No one was that happy in those deserts, except for the Hutts, but most of them weren't Force-sensitive. Who in the nine-krething-hells could be so joyful down there and have such a strong presence in the Force?
Darth Vader sighed again, thinking how this mission was getting worse by the minute. It had all started when he'd had to call upon an Alderaanian Senator on a slight matter of treason, only to find out that Bail Organa had been more bewildered than terrified. Yes, he'd confirmed, they did have a pilot and two droids in their employ that matched the descriptions of who Vader was looking for. But, when Vader had asked to see them, Organa had, quite confusedly, responded that they had left Alderaan on an unauthorized mission. That had frustrated Vader more than anything else but, seeing as Senator Organa hadn't seemed to have the slightest clue as to what was going on, Vader had let the man go.
Thus had begun his chase of the elusive Captain Antilles and the two droids that were harboring stolen plans of the newest Imperial menace, the Death Star. The project was far from over, it would take several more years to complete, and it was imperative that the Empire reclaim those plans if it had any hope crushing the young Rebel Alliance before it became a greater threat. It hadn't taken much to catch up with Captain Antilles, but the story the man had revealed left him feeling beyond foolish.
They'd all been outsmarted by a nine year old. Leia Organa—the dark haired and dark eyed daughter of Bail, who reminded him so much of his long-lost Padmé—had orchestrated the whole thing with all the impulsive aplomb that only a child could achieve. In some senses he'd been quite impressed—it took nearly a Skywalker-level of talent and luck to pull off something like that—but he had also been annoyed as well. Were the people of Alderaan so blindly devoted to rebellion that no one thought to question the dubious orders of a nine year old? Oh, she'd been sneaky about it, certainly—relaying messages that had supposedly been given to her by her father—but had no one thought to double-check with Bail himself? It was a little ego bruising to know that he'd lost the Death Star schematics to the whims of a pre-pubescent schemer; not that he'd been guarding them all that closely, but it still smarted.
The final, stinging blow to his ego had been her forethought. For as hasty as little Leia's plan had seemed, she had obviously thought certain things through quite well, like the fact that the Empire would be looking to get the stolen plans back. By the time Vader had caught up to Captain Antilles the droids had already been long gone, dropped off somewhere by Leia's orders. Their trail wasn't particularly hard to follow, but it had been nearly impossible to guess where they were going next, hoping from one planet to another, and Vader had grown sorely tired of continually being one step behind a pair of droids—as if playing cosmic chess with Leia Organa wasn't embarrassing enough.
And now he was here, at the end of intergalactic goose-chase leading to one of the worst Outer Rim planets Vader had ever had the misfortune of being acquainted with, and being assaulted by the most annoyingly ecstatic Force-presence he'd ever come across. The little princess was going to be hearing from him when this was all over with—the fact that he wanted to have a strong talk with the girl rather than throttle her simply confirmed what he'd suspected for quite some time now: things had not turned out as he had expected.
Of course, the first time he'd awakened to the mechanical hiss of his own breathing, he'd been consumed by rage—Damn you, Obi-Wan, look what you've turned me into!—and grief—Padmé, his little space angel, was gone!—and he had given in to the darkness within him in almost all respects. But there had been a bleakness there that he had refused to succumb to because if there was anything a Skywalker knew how to be, it was resilient. Though he mourned for life as he'd known it, he knew that there was hope somewhere—there was always hope somewhere, the Force made sure of that. Belatedly, it occurred to him that that wasn't exactly a though befitting a Sith Lord, but why deny what he knew to be true?
Knew to be true… his thoughts whirled in a different direction. Palpatine had used him, had used everyone around him to create a new order within the galaxy. Ironic how that had backfired on everyone, aside from those who openly opposed the Emperor. The Empire was fragile, powerful in and of itself, but mired down by inefficiency and incompetence; Palpatine was desperately trying to pull his little strings of manipulation, hoping to create an Empire that was more fearsome than it was comically inept; Vader was riddled with regrets and second thoughts, stuck somewhere between being a Dark Lord of the Sith and maybe just being a ticked off Anakin Skywalker stuck in an annoyingly restrictive suit; and the young Rebel Alliance was positively drowning in support to bring back the Old Republic—including a young mischievous princess.
Old Republic… they should have never started calling it that, for once something was termed Old, it was inevitable that it would seek a counterpart in something New. And the Empire was not it; perhaps the Empire had been doomed from the very start, because it seemed painfully logical that now there had been an Old Republic, there had to be a New Republic. The Empire was only nine years old, and it already had an expiration date.
Vader may have been a dark Jedi, but he was not a fool: Palpatine had clearly not thought this far in advance. For all his cunning and trickery, the former Senator had had years to create and set into motion a plan to overthrow the Republic, but he obviously hadn't spared much thought to what would happen afterward. An Empire had been created, certainly, but Palpatine didn't seem to have a clue what to do with it, or even how to run it. His lust for power had been great, but his achievement of power had obviously bewildered him. The Sith Master who had seemed so wickedly crafty was suddenly like a blind old man trying to find his way through an unfamiliar city. And perhaps that was part of the problem: Palpatine was old. Even when Anakin had first met the Senator he had been in his twilight years, and time had certainly not been kind to the older man. Though the face-melting escapade with Mace Windu did make the Emperor appear more ancient than he truly was, it was clear that the passage of time had wreaked havoc on his intellect and health, making him perhaps the only Sith Master who was in danger of dying from old age.
He was no long so foolish as to believe that the Emperor knew of some mystic way to stave off death. Palpatine had simply known what bait to dangle in front of Anakin's eyes, and now that the point was irrelevant he was left wondering why he was still following the lying old man.
Because, for all his shortcomings, Palpatine was still strong and it would take more power than Vader had alone to destroy him. It wasn't impossible though—Anakin Skywalker had fought disastrously grim odds before and had still survived—but it would take time and careful planning, which was certainly not one of his strong points but he would learn if he had to. Funny how one of the men who had been instrumental in creating the Empire was now determined to be the man that would tear it apart.
He was, after all, the Chosen One; he had to restore balance where he could, even if it was his fault that things had swung so badly out of balance in the first place.
But those were thoughts for another time, Vader shook himself; right now he needed to focus on finding the two renegade droids hiding somewhere on the planet below him. As he ordered the closest officer to prepare his personal shuttle, Vader couldn't help but think how trivial this all suddenly seemed—he hated Tatooine and he didn't care if he actually got the Death Star plans back—but that giggle in the Force, he thought disgustedly, merited some sort of attention, even if it was only to find out what sort of strange masochist could achieve that level of pure joy in the burning sands of this backwater planet.
Obi-Wan Kenobi—the Jedi Master and Clone Wars General who had once been highly regarded across countless star systems for his fearless cunning and calm intellect—had just come to the realization that he was playing cards against himself. Tatooine could do that to you; the heat invaded every part of your being until you'd forgotten who you were, until the noon hours came filled with insanity and half-forgotten memories.
No, he thought with a frown, trying to shake away the haze that still enshrouded him, he'd been playing cards with Ben— but when had he stared to think of Ben as a different person?
Living alone on a planet like Tatooine had been an adjustment, and Obi-Wan was fairly certain he hadn't done it successfully. He'd come, of course, to keep an eye on young Luke, so the sacrifice had been well worth it, but… well, the planet held so few happy memories, and none of them were his. In some vain attempt to distance himself from the past—not completely to hide his identity, as he'd told Owen Lars—he had changed his name to Ben Kenobi. And, for the most part, he was Ben—the peculiar hermit who lived off in the wastes on his own—but every time the noon hours' madness stirred in his veins, he went back to being Obi-Wan. The identity of Ben had begun to take on shades of the unreal to Obi-Wan; who was this strange man he was pretending to be? Ben hid from the world, pretending he knew nothing of its cruelties, knew nothing of the truth, but Obi-Wan knew better.
The Jedi in him cried out with intuition borne of the Force: sitting out in the desert with his head buried in the sand, praying that the Empire would never turn its far-reaching eyes to this part of the galaxy was helping no one. He should be teaching Luke, he thought, telling the boy about his father, training him to understand the ways of the Force and, if nothing else, introducing Luke and Leia to one another. He had seen what a lack of blood-ties had driven Anakin to, time and again; how could Obi-Wan suffer to put his friend's children through the same ordeal? Granted, they were both living somewhat peacefully within their respective foster families, but the Force had to be screaming at them that something was wrong, something was missing.
He had helped perpetuate one of the biggest lies in the universe and, with a sudden, startling clarity, he knew it would only hurt everyone involved if he allowed it to continue. The Skywalker children had a right to know what had happened, a right to know their heritage. But it wasn't safe, another part of him—fearful Ben—whispered. Their lives would be turned upside down, Vader would come tearing out of the sky if he ever caught word of the truth, and even if he didn't hurt the twins, Palpatine would. Ben knew the importance of silence, and sometimes things had be sacrificed for the greater good—
Something pinwheeled through the Forces, hitting him like an unexpected sandstorm. It was a sense of joy and satisfaction so pure that it shook Ben right out of Obi-Wan's thoughts. Tentatively, he stretched out with his senses, but he already knew what he would find—Luke's unique signature in the Force was too similar to his father's for Obi-Wan not to recognize it. But there was something else out there too, he realized with a frown, something that had felt the boy's sudden happiness and had taken a morbid curiosity in it. Concentrating, he pursued that Other, stretching out through the Force until he was nearly off Tatooine altogether.
The Other turned greedily upon him before breaking the connection abruptly. Obi-Wan shuddered as a chill raced through him; he knew that mind so very well, yet it had seemed more divided than ever. Darth Vader was orbiting around Tatooine, preparing to land on the planet, but there was something about him that seemed more… Skywalker than Vader. That made Obi-Wan pause but, despite his sudden hope, Vader still posed a danger, especially now that he'd felt and taken an interest in Luke. If he found the boy, he'd know what Luke meant to him on sight, he would know that he had a son. And if Vader figured that much out, what would be to stop him from finally seeing Leia for what she truly was?
Sithspit! It looked like Fate had taken any choice of what to do with the twins out of his hands.
A/N: Welcome to another edition of Ergott Writes Something Completely Cliched! I haven't tried my hand at Star Wars before (that I will willingly acknowledge), so this ought to be fun.
But there's something you all should know before we delve any further into this madness: like most people my age, I was just the tiniest bit bewildered by the Prequels. I mean, I was born at the tail end of the 80's, so I grew up with the Original Trilogy until I was bombarded by the Prequels in Junior High and High School. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed them for the most part, but I already had the classic story firmly in mind, and the prequels just weren't up to snuff. This story is sort of my own way of reconciling one with the other, of smoothing over the discrepancies that bothered me; it's also my sorry, sorry attempt at satire, but you are more than welcome to ignore that if you'd like. That being said, I'd like to point out that I've only seen the Prequels about once each (except for The Phantom Menace, which I've seen several times), I have not watched any of the cartoons, or read any of the comics or novels. Most of my knowledge just comes from an obsessive ritual of watching the Original Trilogy whenever I get sick—facts are going to be wrong or misunderstood and I beg your patience on that score. Also, both in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Trilogies and to write an AU, a lot of the characters here may appear out-of-character (as I've already warned you with Vader and Palpatine).
Disclaimer: My intro was a little Diskworld-esque, so credit goes to Terry Pratchett for inspiration. Also, I own nothing from the Star Wars Universe.