Come With MeAuthor :
jedinemoRating and disclaimer :
Rated PG.The Star Wars Universe belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd, and I have gained nothing but satisfaction from this fanfic.Summary :
On a landing platform on the moon of Endor, a decision is made. AU. Some events referenced are detailed in The Vader Chronicles
. Chapter Three
Light filtered through the overlapping branches of the towering trees that housed the Ewok village, splashing on the wooden floor of the hut. Even though she was surrounded by noise from the everpresent chatter of the Ewoks and the creaking of the wooden suspension bridges that linked the village, her ear caught something disturbing.
"Did you hear that ?" she said, looking up from the rations she had been busily stuffing in her pack.
Han's eyes never left his pile of supplies. "Yeah, sounds like just another Imperial ship. They've been coming and going since sun-up."
"But this one sounds closer," she insisted."And look at the Ewoks. They're really going on about something."
He frowned and shook his head. "Just keep packing. All we have to worry about is getting to that shield generator."
"We'll never get there if we walk into the arms of Imperial troops," she said.
He sighed and rolled his eyes."Okay, you win. Threepio, what's all the commotion about ?"
The droid turned his golden head."If you are referring to the vocalizations of our hosts, I believe thay are saying that a ship has landed on the other side of the village."
"Why didn't you say so before?" Han said, rising to his feet in one swift motion."Chewie, give me those binoculars."
She trotted down the walkway leading away from the village and peered into the dense forest below.Han joined her at the vantage point,leaning his shoulder against hers and she tried to ignore the warmth that radiated from his body.
"Do you see anything?" she said.
He lowered the binoculars."No.But that's the problem with this place. Too many trees."
Chewie barked in response.
"I know it reminds you of home, pal," Han said, "but it makes surveillance pretty tough."
A flash of movement caught her eye."Look, over there. Someone's coming up that path."
She moved further down the bridge to a place where a giant trunk concealed her from the lower pathway. She looked over at Han, who had taken cover behind a similar tree, and knew that his expression of deadly earnest matched her own.He gave her a nod and she unholstered her blaster and peered around the tree.
She aimed her blaster at the point where the bridge walkway emerged from the deep woods, both hands on the weapon and her eyes focused straight down the sights.She held her breath when the bridge began to sway in response to weight placed on its far end. Her fingers had depressed the blaster trigger halfway when she caught sight of a shock of blond hair.
"Luke!" she exclaimed, abandoning her sniper's stance, and holstering her blaster.
"See, you got your wish afterall," Han said, moving close enough to put an arm around her shoulder."But why does he have that weird look on his face ?"
She didn't have an answer for that, nor did she understand why Luke kept looking back, unless it was because he was hearing the same repeating rush of air that she was.
"Something's not right," Han said."I know that sound."
She knew that sound, too.It wasn't possible, was it? Could Luke have actually accomplished what he had set out to do? She moved out of Han's embrace and headed to meet Luke.Her position on the walkway allowed her to see the flashing lights on the chest plate a moment before Han did. While she stood in disbelief, Han's response was more immediate.
"Luke, behind you!" Han shouted, bringing his blaster back up to eye level.
"No, Han, you might hit Luke," she cried, watching him squeeze off shots at the approaching black armored figure. Her worries were made moot when Han's blaster flew out of his hand.
"Damn it," Han said, staring at his empty hand."Chewie, you've got a better position. You can get off a clean shot, can't you?"
Chewie shook his shaggy head as he replied."Rrawwrr aarr rggwrr."
"What do you mean, you can't shoot him because he saved your life?" Han said. "Am I the only sane one around here?"
His eyes were boring into her as he said that, but she couldn't stop to explain why she wasn't helping him. She was more worried about what she was going to say to Luke when he arrived with his guest in tow.
As the pair made the last turn on the walkway before it headed directly into the village, she noticed how they seemed to be so together
.It was more than the fact they were both dressed all in black ,each with a lightsaber swinging from a hip. Now that Vader had caught up to Luke they were walking awfully close to one another. She couldn't hear what they were saying, but every now and then one head would turn towards the other as if they were in conversation. And as she watched Vader casually hand Han's blaster to Luke, she detected a measure of trust between them.
Somewhere in the last few meters of the walkway Vader sped up and took the lead from Luke. She found herself automatically moving back from the approaching black figure, the figure who seemed completely unconcerned about walking into an enemy camp. The trio of brave Ewoks who rushed to make a defense of their village evoked no more than a slight backhand wave from Vader, a wave that knocked all three furred warriors off their feet into a groaning heap.
"Are you mentally deficient, Solo," Vader said,"or do you just have a short memory?"
Han's eyes narrowed, but he otherwise ignored Vader and instead turned to Luke."What's he
doing here?" he said, jerking a thumb towards the helmet.
"Han, it's all right," Luke said gently. "He's my father."
For a moment Han's face took on the blank, open-mouthed expression that was permanently affixed to Threepio. For herself the shock was not in the revelation, but in how much more confidently Luke was able to say those words than when he had first said them to her.
Han shook his head rapidly as if to clear his mind."Kid, I knew you had problems, but I didn't know it was this bad."
"Han, don't be so hard on him," she said, knowing that someday she would have to reveal to him that she and Luke shared that same problem.
Han's gaze turned to her, and it wasn't friendly."You knew about this, didn't you?"
"I couldn't..." she began, averting her eyes.
He strode over to her and stood so close that they were almost touching." And just when were you going to let me in on your little secret?"
Vader's deep rumbling voice filled the air."There is no time for pointless bickering. We need to get off this moon immediately."
There was something dismissive in Vader's tone that tweaked her the wrong way.She turned her face from Han's angry brown eyes and looked up into the black mask."I don't know what kind of deal you and Luke made, but I'm sure it doesn't involve me taking orders from you. And I'll thank you to keep your nose out of our business."
"Then perhaps you should change your habit of displaying your personal life in public," Vader said.
"I'd hardly call this public," she started to say, and then Luke stepped between her and Vader, and she held her tongue.
"Enough, enough," Luke said, raising his hands in the air." Everyone just stop. Father's right ; we need to leave right away."
She blinked twice at Luke's words. He wasn't just accepting that reality, he was embracing
it. "But Luke, the mission...?"
"The shield generator is of little importance," Vader said.
She felt her eyes widen."Luke, just what exactly have you told him?"
"He has given away no secrets," Vader said. "The Empire was already aware of the Rebel fleet gathered at Sullust."
She considered the statement carefully. It was probably the truth. But the shield generator ? Everything was riding on its deactivation. The destruction of the new Death Star. The elimination of the Emperor. All the hopes of the Alliance. She put a hand on Luke's shoulder, looked him straight in the eye. "Luke, what have you done?"
He gave a small smile."It's okay. He's going to help us defeat the Emperor."
"Him?" she said, sending an incredulous look to Vader."My father...my father always said Vader had to ask the Emperor for permission to get up every morning."
Luke's expression hardened and he looked away from her. She gradually became aware that Vader had become silent. Not speechless, but silent, the eternal sound of his breathing having ceased. When she turned towards him she saw that his hands were slowly clenching into fists and she had the distinct impression that she had pushed the situation too far. A wave of unease made her feel cold and she was never so glad to hear a sound as when the ventilator sucked in a great gulp of air and began cycling again.
"I gave you forewarning only because my son values your lives.I consider my obligation to you fulfilled," Vader said." Luke, we must leave."
Luke nodded."Han, Leia, I know this isn't making sense to you, but just trust me even if you can't trust him.Please come with us. We could all die if we stay here."
Han stepped forward, sending a sideways glance towards Vader. "Luke, we've risked death on almost every mission. Give me one good reason why I should abandon my command."
Vader's deep mechanical voice was the one that answered. "Because the Death Star is fully operational and the Emperor will likely target this moon trying to eliminate me when he learns that I have disobeyed him."
She had thought it impossible for her to be surprised by anything else, but that
piece of information certainly had to be classified."It's operational? And the Empire knows our fleet is assembled? Then the Emperor is just waiting for the Alliance to arrive."
"Now you see," Luke said."That's why we have to go now. It's our only chance."
"Wait, wait," Han said, shaking his head,"I'm not buying any of this. How's the Emperor going to know what's going on down here? Vader's just here to make sure we don't get that shield down in time."
"You underestimate the abilities of the Emperor," Vader said. "He sees the future as easily as you read an instrument panel."
"That didn't stop us from blowing up the first one," Han said.
"That was only because he could not see Luke in the Force then," Vader said."He does now."
Han's face took on the tight lipped, uneasy expression it always did when the Force was mentioned. "All I know is I'm not getting on any ship with you
"Then take the other shuttle, Han," Luke said,"but get everyone off this moon. He's telling the truth."
Her brow wrinkled in concentration. Maybe Luke was right. It seemed an outrageous risk on Vader's part to let slip the Death Star's status if he wasn't working with them. And if Vader was correct, then the whole fleet was going to fly into a trap.She couldn't let that happen. But if Luke was wrong about Vader, he was about to walk into a dangerous situation completely enthralled by the concept of "father". Somebody had to watch out for him. Right or wrong, it seemed that she had to go with Luke.
"I'm taking the droids with us," Luke said."Artoo, Threepio, come on."
"Fine," Han replied, backing towards the Ewok village, as if to emphasize that he wasn't coming with them.
She watched Artoo roll down the walkway, moving fast enough to stay ahead of Threepio. She expected him to stop at Luke's side, but instead he went right on past until he was at the tip of Vader's boots. The astromech droid's photoreceptor swiveled upward towards the mask, and he gave a questioning whistle.
To her surprise Vader seemed to listen to the little droid. A gloved finger traced a scrape in Artoo's paint and then Vader's hand came to rest gently atop the dome. Artoo began beeping and whistling wildly,his whole body vibrating, and he continued on as if he had a great deal to say. When Vader became aware that she was watching, he snatched his hand away from the droid, turning silently on his heel. Artoo followed along without hesitation, as did Luke. When Threepio passed her by, she knew it was time to follow through on her decision.
She knew Han wouldn't understand, but she couldn't shake the strange feeling that this was what she was supposed to do. He had obviously made his own decision on the matter, having retreated even farther into the village.She looked up towards the hut where he stood alongside Chewie.
"Leia," Han called. "Leia, get over here."
She shook her head. "I can't. But please listen to Luke. Find the others and get out of here. Warn Lando about the Death Star."
She didn't turn around when he called her name again, his tone now pleading instead of demanding.When she caught up to the droids she could hear that they were talking to each other.
After a series of whistles from Artoo, Threepio answered."The Maker, Artoo? Are you sure?"
Artoo's response was short.
"Well, I just don't remember that," Threepio said.
The seat was just like the one in the Tydirium
, just like it except that the leather was thicker and softer, and so pristine that she had the impression that she might be the first person to sit in it. The pilot's and copilot's seats bore the creases and patina of use, but not her seat immediately behind them.
Maybe it was seeing the viewscreen through the small area between the headrests of the forward seats, but somehow she was reminded of riding in her father's speeder on Alderaan.It was one of her early, early memories, with her mother and her father in the front of the speeder, and she with the entire back seat to herself. The sky was perfectly clear, the mountains crisp in the foreground, and the air rushing so fast through the open speeder that it stung her cheeks. But she loved the feel of speed, the way her stomach sank when her father dipped the speeder, and how she was pushed back into the seat when he accelerated.
It was such a happy memory that it made her smile even now, even though she knew it had all been an illusion. An illusion because she shouldn't have been in a speeder with Bail and Breha Organa; she should have been with the two men who were with her now. The three of them together in this shuttle, they were blood and should have been family in some reality that never came to pass.
She thought of the father she had grown up with, how dearly she loved him, how not once had he ever let on that she was not his own. She had modeled herself to be just like him, a strong and principled Senator who never gave up fighting for his ideals. She missed him so much, wished he was still here so that she could ask his advice and make sure she was doing the right thing. But he was gone along with the rest of her homeworld, due in some part to the man in the pilot's seat, the man her brother wanted her to accept. Life was so much simpler even a day ago.
"Leia, what's the matter?" Luke asked.
His voice startled her and brought her out of her thoughts.To her dismay Vader's mask was turned to her as well as Luke's face. "Nothing, Luke. I'm fine."
He gave a frown. "I can sense your feelings, Leia. You're sad about something."
Those Jedi abilities could be damned inconvenient at times. "It's nothing, really. Just thinking about Han."
"You were thinking of your father," Vader said.
She froze.He'd been inside her mind and she hadn't felt anything. What else had he taken with him? "How did you know?"
"I saw an image of Bail Organa in a speeder," Vader said.
So he thought Bail was her father, too. Luke must have kept some things to himself, though she wasn't sure why.Did he not trust Vader as fully as it appeared? She drew back against the seat and tried hard to think of nothing at all.Luke was still facing her, but she avoided his gaze, afraid all the questions she wanted to ask him would coming storming to the front of her mind.
"You must be careful to guard your thoughts from the Emperor as well," Vader said."Whatever it is that you fear most, he will find that and use it against you.He appears old and feeble, but he is never as weak or defenseless as he would have you believe."
Luke turned his attention back to Vader."The Emperor can use the Force?"
"I have encountered no one as skilled at detecting the thoughts of another than he," Vader said."Nor as accurate in seeing the future."
"Then if he knows what you're thinking, and he knows what will happen, how will we beat him?" Luke said.
There was a pause. "I don't know yet."
That wasn't the answer she was expecting. By all reports and her own limited experience Vader didn't hesitate about anything. If someone as powerful as Vader was afraid to take on the Emperor, where did that leave her and Luke? "You're telling me that we're about to face the man who is probably the most formidable opponent in the Galaxy, and you don't have a plan?"
"That's never stopped me before."
His answer sounded like something Han would say, and she smiled in spite of herself.
"After we board Executor
it will be extremely important that you follow my orders," Vader said."That applies doubly to you, Organa."
She bristled at the insult."Executor
? I guess you Imperials wouldn't have a Freedom
or a Justice
He seemed to ignore her comment. "Both of you will be recognizable to the more astute members of the crew. It must appear that you are in my personal custody to avoid questions about why you are not being held in detention. And I like Executor
. It denotes action
She caught herself smiling again.She rid herself of the expression and took a deep breath. She was here to be Luke's advocate; to make sure he wasn't being suckered by Vader. It would be no good at all if she was the one who was taken in instead. Still, she was a known Rebel leader about to openly enter the hostile environment of a Imperial command ship and her safety was dependent not only on Luke but on the protection of Vader. As the Executor
grew steadily larger in the viewscreen of the shuttle, she realized that while she had always been irritated by his absolute confidence and afraid of his unrelenting ferocity, those traits seemed very useful now that she was relying on him. Chapter Four