The Protege'Author :
jedinemoRating and disclaimer :
Rated PG-13. The Star Wars Universe belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd, and I have gained nothing but satisfaction from this fanfic.Summary :
Darth Vader has an unsettling encounter within the Imperial Palace that changes the course of Galactic history.Timeline :
A few years before the events of ANH
Darth Vader thumbed his lightsaber to life. How many times had he dreamt of this moment, of having Obi-Wan at his mercy, about to pay for everything he'd done? He sensed Obi-Wan's pity, and it only enraged him more. He didn't want Obi-Wan's pity, he wanted Obi-Wan to suffer as he had suffered. He waved his lightsaber at Obi-Wan's chest. "Defend yourself!"
Obi-Wan extended his hand, as if to call his lightsaber, but then hesitated and his hand dropped back to his side.
"Defend yourself!" he roared. What kind of game was Obi-Wan playing? Vader would not be denied the satisfaction of seeing his old master humbled. He wanted to see the defeat in Obi-Wan's eyes when he realized that Vader was now the master. And he couldn't have that unless Obi-Wan would fight back. Obi-Wan's face was expressionless, but his eyes held that hint of sadness that told Vader he'd disappointed him. Again. He hated that look.
"I won't fight you," Obi-Wan said quietly.
The ridiculousness of the statement threatened to douse his anger, but he nurtured it until its fire grew bright again. He would have his revenge. "Then this is the end for you," he said, raising his lightsaber.
"Ben! No! Don't kill him!"
Vader paused, lightsaber ready to strike, as Luke came rushing past him. However quiet and reserved Luke had seemed earlier, he was now fully engaged, eyes blazing, and Vader decided he had never really seen his son's true nature before. He stared pointedly at Luke. "You know him?"
"He's my old neighbor," Luke said, standing protectively in front of Obi-Wan. "You know him?"
"He is my old master," he said, lowering his still lit saber. So, it wasn't a coincidence that Luke had been raised on Tatooine. Obi-Wan had
to have engineered Luke's disappearance, yet another reason Obi-Wan should die.
"Step aside, Luke," Obi-Wan said. "This doesn't involve you."
"Yes it does," Luke said, not budging a centimeter.
Vader's hand clenched around his lightsaber. Luke's face expressed a durasteel resolve. If only his relationship with his son was closer, then Luke would understand. But there hadn't been time yet. If he killed Obi-Wan here, Luke might see him as a murderer, not an avenger. As much as he hated to deny himself the pleasure, it was probably better to leave Obi-Wan alive. For now. He powered down his saber. "All right. But he is a prisoner."
Just as the hum of his saber faded, another one sprang to life, and a second blur of motion sprinted past Vader towards Obi-Wan's unprotected flank. "If you're not going to kill this Jedi scum, then I will," Anakin shouted.
Luke leapt from a standing position and tackled Anakin. The impact sent Anakin flat on his back, and his lightsaber skittering across the duracrete. Luke went to get up, but Anakin grabbed his leg and pulled him back down. Luke jabbed an elbow into Anakin's side and suddenly it was a tangle of arms and legs as the two boys wrestled on the walkway.
Vader could scarcely believe his eyes. He didn't allow his crew to conduct themselves in this manner, let alone his son and his apprentice. On the front plaza of the Imperial Palace no less, for the entire Galaxy to see. He reached one black gloved hand down to the scruff of each boy's tunic and pulled them apart, setting them on their feet. "Enough!" he growled, glancing between Luke and Anakin, who glared at each other as they caught their breath.
Behind him, Obi-Wan chuckled, and he spun around. "What are you laughing at old man?"
"You, as a father," Obi-Wan said.
"What, you didn't think I had the capacity?" he said, his rage springing anew. "Is that why you stole my son from me?"
The amused expression faded from Obi-Wan's face, replaced by one of great weariness. "The last time I saw you, you were not yourself."
He certainly had been a different man the last time they were together. Young, whole, filled with a desperate hope that he'd finally freed himself and ensured the safety of his family. But also naive and gullible; he'd fallen for all of Palpatine's tricks and had yet to realize that what he'd done was for naught. Thank the Force he was no longer that boy
. He noticed Luke listening attentively, no doubt trying to make sense of the exchange between Obi-Wan and himself. It was time to take Obi-Wan inside before the public spectacle got any bigger. "Anakin, check the prisoner for weapons."
Anakin retrieved his lightsaber before approaching Obi-Wan. Luke stepped forward, but Obi-Wan stopped him with a quick shake of his head, and held open the sides of his cloak to grant Anakin access. Vader frowned at the sight: Luke had obeyed Obi-Wan without a second thought. Anakin gave Obi-Wan a quick pat-down, removing the lightsaber that hung at Obi-Wan's left side, and then reached further back to unclip a second saber.
"He came prepared, that's for sure," Anakin said, holding a hilt in each hand.
"Let me see that," Vader said, and snatched the second saber from Anakin's grip. The design, the feel, the wear marks: he had no doubt that this was the one he'd lost on Mustafar. He turned to Luke, who was watching the whole process grim-faced and silent. "The prisoner will be held for possession of stolen property."
"Ben is not a thief," Luke said with a hint of anger.
Vader shook the saber hilt at Luke. "He stole this from me. Among other things."
Obi-Wan retied his sash and secured his cloak. Vader hadn't expected his old master to be so passive, and it made him wonder what Obi-Wan was doing. Was it all a ploy to get into the Palace and to Luke? If so, the sooner he had Obi-Wan secured in a cell, the better. He handed his old saber back to Anakin. "The two of you are to return to your quarters and wait for me while I escort the prisoner. And no
"Move," Vader said to Obi-Wan, and motioned open the tall doors of the Palace entrance. He ushered Obi-Wan past the line of stormtroopers who waited inside, declining their offer of assistance. "I will handle this myself."
Anakin and Luke headed towards the turbolifts, leaving Vader alone to take Obi-Wan to the detention area. As the two of them made their way through the Palace, their boots clacked against the marble floor in a steady rhythm. Somehow, they had fallen in step together. Vader glanced at Obi-Wan, who seemed unaware, and purposefully altered his stride until they were out of sync.
"I have to say, I was a bit surprised to come across your younger version," Obi-Wan said.
"Then you can imagine mine," he said.
"I thought I sensed Palpatine's handiwork," Obi-Wan said. "Is that why you killed him?"
"I didn't," he said. "Anakin did."
Obi-Wan seemed astonished. "Really? Why?"
"Ask him yourself," he said. This casual conversation annoyed him, and he didn't want Obi-Wan getting the wrong impression. He stopped and grabbed his old master by the shoulder, turning him until they were facing. "Look, you're only alive because of Luke. Don't think I've forgiven you."
Obi-Wan knocked away Vader's hand and drew himself up. "Don't think I've forgiven you
He stared for a moment, startled by the flash of shame that ran through him. It had been a long time since anyone had viewed his actions at the Temple as anything but a heroic defense of the Empire. He'd hidden his own feelings behind Palpatine's version of events, and buried his conscience. But Obi-Wan's words stirred an inner voice he didn't like hearing.
He swallowed and resumed walking down the corridor leading to the detention area. To his dismay, fragments of memories were drifting forward, as vivid now as they were then. The acrid smell of smoke as the Temple burned. The shouts and cries of the wounded and dying. The utter detachment, as perfect as the Jedi had always wanted him to have, that had been required to send his lightsaber through the smallest younglings. His stomach churned with disgust, as it had then. His head pounded with uncharacteristic headache, and he looked to Obi-Wan, afraid his weakness had been detected by his old master.
Instead he saw Obi-Wan had stopped several paces back, and was leaning heavily against the wall. Obi-Wan placed a hand to his forehead, and grimaced in pain. It was then that Vader realized the nausea and discomfort he was feeling were not entirely from his memories, but from something happening now. The Force itself seemed to be weeping in anguish, a more massive disturbance than anything he'd ever experienced. He moved closer to Obi-Wan, their differences seeming smaller in light of the horrendous rent in the Force. "What is that?"
"A great disturbance in the Force," Obi-Wan said. "As if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
what it felt like. Unfortunately, Vader thought he knew how that could have happened.
Bail Organa squinted at the flickering blue image. Even though he knew holotransmissions were a necessity, there were times when he absolutely hated them, and this was one of them. On the encrypted channel he was using, facial expression and tone of voice tended to get lost, and he just couldn't understand what Garm Bel Iblis was saying. "You mean Mon is not available?" he said into the transmitter.
"No, I mean I can't find her," came Garm's reply.
"Well, surely one of her aides can find her," Bail said. "Mon should be waiting for this call."
"Don't you hear me?" Garm said, his own frustration showing. "I can't raise anyone
on Chandrila. It's like the whole planet is gone."
Luke followed Anakin up the turbolifts and through the Palace corridors towards their top level quarters. Anakin hadn't said a word since their altercation on the plaza, though he had handed Luke the weapon Vader had identified as his. Luke took that to mean he wasn't completely angry with him, but maybe it was only because Anakin didn't want three of the cylinders clanking at his side.
Luke decided he didn't understand Anakin at all. He looked like just another teenage boy, but the friends Luke had back home didn't try to kill people in cold blood. And it wasn't as though they were soft on Tatooine, either. They'd all faced danger from the Tuskens and from the robbers who roamed the desert in search of the unwary. They all grew up knowing how to defend themselves. But defending yourself wasn't the same as striking down an old man for no reason. His outrage bubbled inside of him until he had to let it out. "What's wrong with you?"
Anakin paused, a decidedly unfriendly look on his face. "What do you mean?"
"Back there, you were going to kill Ben," he said.
"Of course. He's a Jedi," Anakin said, crossing his arms.
"That's your only reason?" Luke said.
"He'd kill me for being a Sith," Anakin said.
"You're mistaken," Luke said, a little bewildered. Ben had always seemed a bit eccentric, but definitely harmless. "You don't know him like I do."
"You're the one who doesn't know him very well," Anakin snorted. "The Jedi suppressed the Sith for more than a thousand years. We're mortal enemies."
"I don't know," Luke said, trying to absorb what Anakin was saying. "I just can't imagine Ben wanting to hurt you."
"Fine. Don't believe me," Anakin said angrily. "Then ask Vader. The reason he can't take off his helmet is because of what the Jedi did to him."
Luke stared at Anakin. None of this made any sense. Someone like Ben had hurt his father? And what about the accusation his father had made back on the plaza? Was the reason Luke had never known his father really because Ben had stolen
him? Luke felt like he'd stumbled into the middle of a great war, one which he knew nothing about. He only hoped he was not expected to pick sides between his father and Ben. He opened his mouth to reply, but found he didn't know what to say. Anakin shook his head and turned away, heading towards his quarters. He was almost to the door of his room when his long stride faltered and he sank to his knees.
Luke rushed to Anakin's side. "Are you all right?"
"It's a disturbance in the Force," Anakin said, leaning back against the wall. "A big one."
Luke frowned. Everything Anakin had shown him so far had to do with controlling the Force, but apparently there were times when it was overpowering. He reached a hand down. "Here, let me help you."
Anakin waved him off and slowly pushed himself to his feet. "I'm okay."
"So what does that mean, a disturbance in the Force?" Luke said, walking next to Anakin in case he fell again.
"A change," Anakin said, motioning open the door to his quarters. He crossed the threshold and gestured for Luke to follow him. "It could be a person, or an event that changes the course of the future. This was something bad."
Luke walked in, taking a quick survey of the room. The front half held a a dark brown couch and a matching chair, and in the back was a glass table littered with computer components and multi-testers. Anakin eased himself onto the couch and unclipped the lightsaber he'd taken from Ben, tossing it onto the carpeted floor. Luke slid into the side chair and glanced down at the hilt he still clutched in one hand, his father's lightsaber. "Is the Force dangerous?"
"The Force is power," Anakin said.
Luke considered that answer. "Is that why the Jedi and the Sith are enemies?"
"I suppose," Anakin shrugged. "The Jedi are afraid of the dark side of the Force, and they want to destroy us because we use it."
"But you're not afraid?" Luke asked.
"No," Anakin said, tipping his head up proudly. "The Force is my servant."
Luke wasn't sure he believed that after what happened in the hallway. "Then why are the Jedi afraid?"
"Because they're cowards," Anakin sneered. "They fear emotion, but emotion feeds the Force. Think of how mad you were that time I hit you with the wrench. Channel that anger into the Force and you're unstoppable."
"My Uncle Owen always said being that angry makes it easy for you to do something you'll regret," Luke said. Actually his uncle had cautioned him more than a few times about his temper.
"A Sith regrets nothing that brings greater power," Anakin said.
Luke shook his head. He couldn't agree with anything Anakin was saying. "Did my father teach you all this?"
"No, my mentor did. I only met Vader a short time ago."
"You're his clone and you just met?"
"My mentor kept us apart," Anakin said, a troubled look appearing on his face. "I was supposed to defeat Vader and take his place. I killed my mentor instead."
Luke was stunned. He couldn't believe he'd ever been jealous of Anakin's upbringing. All he could think of now was how grateful he was for his aunt and uncle, for Tatooine's wilderness and all the lessons he'd learned there. "Don't you talk about anything but enemies and schemes and killing people?"
"Treachery is the way of the Sith," Anakin said, sounding less convinced than he had earlier. "What else is there?"
Luke leaned forward. "What about friendship and loyalty? What about doing what's right?"
Whatever was left of Anakin's assured manner slipped away. His gaze dropped downward, and when he raised his head again he looked lost. "I've never known any of that."
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin's face appeared as crystal clear on the HoloNet transmission as if he were broadcasting from a studio on Imperial Center. That had better not be the case
, Darth Vader thought, because if it were he was going to personally tear Tarkin limb from limb for daring to be so bold. Tarkin didn't even have the courtesy to keep this battle private, instead making Vader watch his pronouncements in real time with the rest of the Galaxy as if he were an ordinary citizen and not the Emperor.
Tarkin's eyes seemed to bore right though the screen as he spoke. "I have begun taking the steps necessary to rid the Empire of the dangerous insurgent elements which threaten us all. Palpatine knew which systems harbored the key leaders of the Rebellion, but his supposed enforcer, Darth Vader, didn't have the courage to deal with these leaders, not even after he appointed himself Emperor. As the true heir to Palpatine's regime, I on the other hand, have no such weakness."
Vader clenched his fist, fighting the impulse to shatter the Holonet screen into a million pieces. Both Luke and Anakin were with him in the Palace strategy room, and he couldn't allow the two of them to think this piece of propaganda was affecting him. He'd retrieved the boys after securing Obi-Wan, but he would have never have brought them to watch the message if he had known its content beforehand. Someone in the Imperial Security Bureau better be tracing this transmission right now, or heads would roll.
Tarkin continued. "Today, I have eliminated the planet of Chandrila, home to the traitorous Senator Mon Mothma. Her open opposition to Palpatine's New Order was well documented, and I can only blame the imposter who sits on the throne for the way she was allowed to conduct acts of treason without punishment."
Of course he knew about Mothma's actions. How many times had he told Palpatine she should be removed, only to have his master still his hand? He'd grown so accustomed to Palpatine's machinations that he'd let the issue go to save himself grief. But explaining that to the citizenry now would appear as a weak excuse in comparison to Tarkin's decisive action.
"As a Grand Moff, I have access to much of the same information Vader does. The difference is, I am willing to put it to use to ensure the safety of the Empire. You have my word that I will protect the integrity of the Empire at all costs," Tarkin said. He leaned into the transmitter, his skeletal face looming larger in the screen. "And for those systems who harbor agents of the Rebellion, know that your turn is coming."
The screen blacked out for a moment, and then two brightly dressed humans spouting inane chatter and waving oversized mugs of caf appeared. Vader waved the screen off, and Anakin was instantly in his face.
"Are you going to let him talk about you like that?" Anakin said, his blue eyes flashing.
"Of course not," he said through gritted teeth. "This traitor will be dealt with immediately."
"He had to have hacked into the main Holonet relay to get that image quality," Anakin said. "They must have at least a ship nearby."
Luke shouldered his way in next to Anakin. "Did he really destroy an entire planet? We have to stop him."
"I know, I know," he said, holding up a gloved hand to defuse the intensity of the two pairs of eyes staring at him. There was no other choice but to take Devastator
in search of Tarkin and the Death Star. "Luke, you will come with me. Anakin, you will remain here."
Anakin's face darkened. "But I'm your apprentice."
"Exactly. I need you here to watch over the Senate and keep me advised of their activities," he said. "But more importantly, I need you to guard the prisoner. Whatever you do, don't let him out."
A Star Destroyer held a crew of nearly forty thousand, a city unto itself. Darth Vader was reminded of that fact as Devastator
grew larger in the viewscreen of his shuttle. In all his years as a commander, he'd never placed any of his crew in a position of danger without putting himself on the front line first. But he'd allowed Chandrila to be blown to bits because he'd dismissed Tarkin too quickly. Even though Mothma had been a traitor, Chandrila had been part of his
Empire, and he'd failed them. He would not let that happen again.
He looked over at Luke, beside him in the co-pilot's seat. At least this trip in the shuttle was a step forward from their last. Then, Luke had been in his service uniform, their true relationship still hidden. Now Luke was with him as his son, dressed like Anakin in dark trousers and a high necked tunic, down to the lightsaber hanging at his belt. Wait. A lightsaber? He focused on it long enough to see it was the one he'd recovered from Obi-Wan. He was pleased that Luke wanted to carry it, but the saber was extraordinarily dangerous in novice hands. "You should be careful with that until you know how to use it."
Luke glanced at him, and put his left hand on the hilt. "Anakin showed me how the controls work."
"Anakin?" he said, with more than a touch of alarm.
"Yeah. I teach him about piloting, and he teaches me about the Force."
He groaned inside his helmet. Who knew what might come out of his apprentice's mouth? "Don't believe everything he tells you."
"Why not? He's you, isn't he?"
He prickled at his son's defiance, but found his irritation quickly replaced by admiration. The automatic deference Luke had accorded him when they were Emperor and crew member had vanished in the dispute over Obi-Wan, and was apparently not going to return. Such confidence deserved an honest answer. "He is me, but he was raised by a very manipulative and deceitful man."
"So you don't believe the same things he does?" Luke said eagerily, turning in his seat. "You're not a Sith?"
"I didn't say that," he said, wishing Anakin hadn't opened the subject. "I carry the title of Dark Lord of the Sith."
"Oh. I was hoping you were different," Luke said, sinking back down. "Anakin says a Sith uses anger and treachery as weapons."
"They are paths to the dark side, and great power," he said cautiously. From somewhere within him echoed another voice: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering
. Of all the things the Jedi had taught him, it was possible that one was true. Maybe he didn't want his son learning that particular lesson.
"Well, I don't think I can do that," Luke said. "No, I know
I can't do that."
His eyes jerked reflexively to Luke's face. There was something so absolutely certain in his son's tone, something familiar, and then he realized why. Luke looked similar to Anakin with his blond hair and dark clothes, but his inner strength came not from his father, but from his mother. A chill ran through Vader's scarred and damaged body as he remembered Padme's words: You're going down a path I can't follow
. He could feel her staring at him through Luke's blue eyes, and he had to turn away.
"What else has Anakin been discussing with you?" he said into the viewscreen.
"He told me how the Jedi and the Sith are enemies," Luke said, pausing. "Is that why you wanted to kill Ben?"
It was a good thing Anakin wasn't here right now, because Vader felt like throttling him. He had planned to approach these sensitive topics carefully
, so that Luke would understand. He pointed a finger at Luke. "I don't want you talking to Anakin about any of this again."
"How else am I supposed to learn?" Luke said, throwing his hands up. "You haven't told me anything."
He stared into Luke's searching eyes. He did want to teach his son, there just hadn't yet been an opportunity. "What do you want to know?"
"He also said you were a Jedi once and that your name was Anakin Skywalker."
On the other hand, his apprentice seemed to have found plenty of opportunity. "Yes."
Luke nodded and took in a deep breath. He hesitated, his eyes flickering over Vader's armor. "So why did you....What happened that made the Jedi..."
He clenched his jaw, his mind filling in the blanks. So why did you turn against them? What happened to make the Jedi Order extinct?
Anakin must have told Luke everything, including about the destruction of the Temple. He finished the question his son was afraid to ask. "So why did I kill them all?"
Luke retreated in his chair, blinking. If it hadn't been for the sound of the ventilator, the cabin would have been as silent as deep space. "No, I was going to ask, what made the Jedi attack you?" Luke said. "But I guess you answered that."
Once again he'd been too quick. Too quick to dismiss Tarkin, too quick to judge his son. He'd expected accusations out of Luke's mouth, but the boy had only been concerned. Just like his mother. Amidst the sulphurous fumes of Mustafar, she'd come to say: I was so worried about you
. Apparently he was going to have to get used to Padme' looking at him through their son's eyes. Luke was tight-lipped and quiet now, his gaze focused somewhere on Devastator's
approaching form. Chandrila had paid the ultimate price for Vader's lack of vision; he could only hope his relationship with his son had not suffered an equally disasterous blow.