Premise: Some time after Bespin and before Endor, Vader discovers that Luke and Leia are twins. But what really shocks him is the latest Imperial Intelligence report on the nature of the relationship between Skywalker and Organa…
A/N: Believe it or not, this baby is actually finished and polished up nice and shiny. There will be eight chapters, of which this is the shortest. I plan to post them steadily, a few days apart. A great many thanks are due to my longsuffering beta, Mathematica, who assisted me in kicking my plot into shape, provided lots of inspiration and ideas, and left me with no excuses for anything that may still be shoddy. I hope you all enjoy. ;P Without further ado…
The bridge of the Executor was the most exemplary achievement of efficiency to be found in the whole Empire. The Senate had been a quagmire at best, the Imperial Court was a sluggish morass, the bureaucracy was procrastination incarnated, and the planetary governors couldn't shoot a Rebel with a holocam—but the Executor was the personal territory of Darth Vader. He who did not pull his own weight could expect it to be pulled for him—out the hatch by the boot heels. Around the Sith Lord, "dead weight" was no metaphorical term.
Few things could inspire a man like the threat of expiring, should he prove himself less than wholly dedicated to the expeditious performance of his duty. Caf breaks and 'fresher runs did not exist aboard the Executor. If you wanted to live to see your next assignment, you worked attentively at your console through the last second of your shift. If you were out of work, you invented more work. And if you were a junior information systems officer who only got new updates to process once every two hours—like Ensign Kyler Mespa—you invented most of your work. After all, plugging data into the ship's information banks didn't take terribly long. Most of the time Ensign Mespa just sat at his console and read the intelligence files. At least that way, he felt that he was doing something educational, and every now and then he would discover a helpful fact about an elusive Rebel hidden someplace nobody would have thought to look, like a news article about a Corellian nightclub singing contest or something.
Today—the lunchtime scuttlebutt asserted that Vader had killed another of his agents for returning to the Executor empty-handed—Mespa found himself searching through the data banks for any and all mention of one Skywalker, Luke. He reasoned that he ought to know something about the Rebel whom his commanding officer was so obsessively hunting, even if Imperial Intelligence's dossier on Skywalker was classified. After all, it wasn't like he was hacking into the classified files in order to sell the Rebels information, was it?
He was shocked to find that Imperial Intelligence knew practically nothing about the man who'd blown up the Death Star. They didn't know his date of birth. They didn't know where he had been born. They didn't know who his parents were. They didn't know if he had any siblings or other relatives.
They did have his genetic data.
Mespa sat back in his chair. He really shouldn't. This was plainly Intel's responsibility…and it was probably illegal to copy information from the data bank for his own use…especially classified information…
But the data was right there. And just last week his cousin Vern the spice dealer had sent him that brand-new University of Coruscant biometric program, capable of analyzing a genetic sample and uncovering possible relationships with any other being in the galactic registry. He'd discovered several relatives of his own that he'd never known existed. Okay, so maybe he'd have lived a happier life not knowing about dear old Cousin-on-his-mother's-side's-great-uncle-twice-removed Bartemius Kilroy, presently serving sixteen consecutive life sentences on Naboo for murder and grand theft (plus an extra five weeks for public urination), but that wasn't the point.
Oh, what the nine hells.
Careful to pretend that he wasn't doing anything even remotely exciting, Mespa copied Skywalker's data onto his personal memory chip. When his shift ended three hours later, he hustled back to his cabin and plugged the chip into his own terminal, bringing up the program with a shifty glance to make sure nobody had somehow sneaked in behind him.
He was quite surprised when the display turned up the closest match.
Vader was standing in the Executor's observation bay, regarding the glistening specks of the Fondor Shipyards through the broad transparisteel viewports, when one of his aides approached. "Beg your pardon, my lord, but you asked to be notified immediately of any new information regarding the Rebel Skywalker?"
Vader whirled, the vista of the planet Kuat and its shipyards forgotten instantly. "You have his location?" he demanded.
"No, my lord," the aide swallowed, "but one of our information systems lieutenants did turn up a rather, um, momentous piece of data regarding Skywalker's family."
Vader tensed, wondering how anybody could have uncovered the truth of the relationship between the two of them, and even more pertinently, why any of his crew would dare admit to knowing something so dangerous—
"It appears he has a sibling, my lord," the aide whimpered.
The universe froze in place.
It took something that felt a great deal like eternity before Vader's brain could catch up with this information. "You have…confirmed this?"
"Yes, my lord. It—it seems the lieutenant used a biometric program recently developed by a university. Our intelligence officers have independently confirmed the genetic match."
He had two children. Two. Not one.
"A twin," he said distantly.
The aide, oblivious as to how Vader could have known that, was suitably terrified by his superior's powers of omniscience. "Y-yes, my lord," he stammered. "F-fraternal twin."
Vader was silent a moment before asking, "Female?"
He felt strangely vindicated when his aide nodded violently. He'd been right after all when he'd told Padmé that they were having a girl.
"Do you have a name?"
"Y-yes, my lord—in fact, that's the really interesting p-part of it," the aide said. "Well—in a d-disturbing sort of way—you see, th-the thing is—"
"Spit it out while you are still capable of speech!" Vader thundered, raising his hand threateningly.
"It's Princess Leia Organa!" squeaked the aide.
The universe did not merely stop spinning this time—Vader distinctly felt it reverse direction altogether.
"Impossible," he croaked.
The aide shrugged helplessly. "Intelligence has v-verified it separately. M-medical ran its own analysis and c-came up with the same results." He held up a flimsy. Vader snatched it from him and scoured the information, as though the aide could possibly have mistaken the meaning of the giant green-highlighted message at the top that read MATCH CONFIRMED, or the smaller text just beneath that read Estimated Likelihood of Fraternal Relationship: 99.9883%, or—failing that—the holos of Luke (grainy, sand-blurred and five years outdated) and the Princess (scowling from her latest mug shot) that decorated the bottom half of the page, both enclosed in a luminescent green circle with a thick green line connecting them.
"We, ah, w-we were surprised as w-well, my lord," the aide ventured. "I mean, after that report came in c-covering Skywalker's relationships with his k-known companions…"
Vader felt his stomach—what was left of it—plunge through his bootsoles. He had instructed his agents to uncover whatever they could about his son's relationships with Solo, Organa, and the others with whom he had been frequently seen in hopes of discovering some sort of leverage, anything that might make the boy more vulnerable to his persuasions. Their recent conclusions about the intimate nature of the relationship between Luke and the Princess had just become much more…interesting.
Not to mention violently disturbing.
"I suppose you c-can't expect superior ethics in subversive vandals," the agent was babbling, "but still, I hadn't realized R-rebels would sink quite th-that low—"
He doesn't know, Vader thought, shoving the flimsy back into the agent's chest and wandering out of the solarium in a zombie-like daze. He didn't know about me—Kenobi must not have told him this, either—CURSE that decrepit old man—this is all his fault—screwing up my poor son's psyche—hiding my daughter from me—
But there was no time to waste on rage. This was an unqualified crisis. Forget the Jedi, forget the Sith, forget the whole thrice-damned war—he had to find his son and/or daughter immediately, before this situation could degenerate any further—before, Force forbid, they could marry each other or—
No! He couldn't dwell on that! Perhaps—just perhaps—they had never acted on their obvious attraction to each other—
He snorted, remembering what he'd been like as a young twenty-something. Fat chance of that, Anakin, a voice that sounded eerily like Obi-Wan Kenobi laughed in his head.
Well, maybe—yes, that was it! The agent must have been mistaken! Surely the man had misinterpreted the dynamics between Luke and the Princess—misread the subtleties of body language—
Arriving in his quarters, he retrieved the report and flicked to the section covering the Princess. There was some footage from a security camera that he hadn't examined, having been distracted by an underperforming officer—undoubtedly, knowing Luke as he did, he would understand it differently than the agent had—
The projector lit, displaying a small medical room. His son could be seen laid out on the bed, recuperating from some ordeal or other. Nearby stood Solo, the Princess, and the Wookiee.
"You didn't see us alone in the south passage," Solo was saying snidely. "She expressed her true feelings for me."
Vader clenched a triumphant fist. He'd known it all along!
"My!—why you stuck-up—half-witted—scruffy-looking—nerfherder!" the Princess exploded. Vader was amused, but not fooled for a second. After all, he had witnessed that melodramatic scene in the carbon freezing chamber on Bespin. Disgusting as the prospect of Solo laying hands on his daughter was, it was far less repulsive than—
No! He wasn't even going to contemplateit!
"Who's scruffy-looking?" Solo demanded. "I must have hit her pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?"
For a moment, Vader thought the feisty Princess might self-destruct of ire. He consoled himself with the reassurance that even if she was somewhat attracted to the raggedy ex-smuggler, the relationship obviously had no chance of lasting.
"Well," she retorted, "I guess you don't know everything about women yet."
Whereupon, right before the horrorstruck eyes of her father, she leaned over and planted a resounding kiss on her unsuspecting brother.
Vader hastily switched off the projector.
Subtleties of body language indeed, the Obi-Wan-voice in his head snorted.
Vader made a laudable attempt to evade the obvious. Doggedly he viewed the hologram again and again, tilting the unfortunate projection on all its axes, leaving no contortions untried in his efforts to prove that he was not seeing what he thought he was. But history stubbornly refused to be altered. Ultimately, there was only one course of action he could take to rid himself of the spectacle.
After calling the cleaning droid to dispose of the sparking, mysteriously crushed remnants of a holoprojection unit (as well as several other random technological casualties that had had the misfortune of being within the blast radius of a Force-charged temper tantrum), Vader felt calm enough to consider possible courses of action. He paced circles around the outside of his hyperbaric chamber, evaluating the situation.
The problem, of course, was obvious—his son and daughter, unaware of their relationship, were on the verge of supplying him with a horde of inbred grandchildren. Such a cruel twist of fate must be prevented at any cost. All that was quite clear.
The difficulty was—how in the nine hells did he stop them?
After all, he couldn't very well pop on over to Luke's place and invite him out to caf for a nice fatherly chat on the finer points of human genetics. He had been hunting his son for months now without success, and the Princess had proven herself equally elusive since Bespin. Even if he did manage to corner a twin long enough to get in a sentence or two of conversation, precedent offered no hope that either of them would believe a word. Luke would fling himself into the most convenient bottomless chasm, while Leia would attack him with any weapon available—her bare hands, if necessary.
It's hopeless, he realized.
After a second temper tantrum, which saw the demise of most of his office console, he decided that he would simply have to be creative and take whatever opening he had. It was always possible that the agent had overestimated the degree of affection between the two; one kiss did not an incestuous marriage make. He must move gradually, non-threateningly.
Why not start with a safely distanced method, then—say, a message? Yes! A simple, harmless, but potentially effective tactic: Vader gratefully seized on it. He ordered an intelligence agent to hunt up some of their Rebel contacts and discover the best way to transmit a message to Alliance High Command, and then called up a mechanic to repair the console. After witnessing ten minutes of undiluted ineptitude, he strangled the first mechanic and summoned a second, who proved just as unsatisfactory. Disgusted, he toted both corpses out into the hallway and finished repairing it himself. Then, in preparation for composing what might be the most significant message of his life, he spent twelve hours meditating before beginning to write…