Come With MeAuthor :
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 :
On a landing platform on the moon of Endor, a decision is made. AU. Some events referenced are detailed in The Vader Chronicles
Using both hands he ripped his lightsaber through the door in a freehand approximation of a rectangle. As the last centimeters of durasteel gave way to the glowing blade, he held the free piece with his mind to keep it from falling into the outside corridor. Gently he lowered it to the deck and peered out through the hole. While the hallway in front of him was empty, the adjacent corridor carried heavy traffic.
He pulled his head back inside the room and reached out with the Force for Leia. Though he didn't recall the exact path, as best he could remember he had remained on the same level. Perhaps she had not been taken far from the original cabin, either, or was even still there. To find her all he had to do was take a jaunt down Executor's
hallways and not get caught. Simple.
A second look out the hole in the door revealed the main corridor to be still just as busy. Darting from doorway to doorway without being noticed seemed highly unlikely.He watched the parade of crew members go by and realized that amongst the grey uniforms and stormtrooper armor were also black uniforms that from a distance looked similar to his own clothing. Maybe if he acted as if he belonged here, he'd draw less attention. And really, in a way he did belong here, had a right
to be here, being that it was his father's ship.
He held that confidence in his mind as he stepped through the door and slipped into the line of foot traffic. To the crew members that turned to him with startled looks he gave a low wave of his hand. You don't need to report this.
Matching the cadence of the men ahead of him, he walked close enough behind them to appear to be part of their group. When the Force pulled him in a new direction, he carefully attached himself to another group and continued on. He turned down a side passage when he detected Leia's presence. As he made his way towards her, he reflected on how easy it had been to find her. Almost too easy, as if the Emperor had wanted them to be reunited.
He stopped in front of an unmarked door. "Leia. Leia are you in there?"
Her excitement carried through the door."Luke! Can you unlock the door?"
One way or another he would, but swinging a lightsaber in the middle of the hallway was likely to draw attention. He thought for a moment, then placed his hand over the control panel and used the Force to feel inside.The magnetic field of the lock made his fingertips tingle as the Force helped him to turn the mechanism. Abruptly the door slid open and he stepped inside.
Leia's arms were around him so quickly he didn't even have time to marvel at his new skill."Oww. Not so tight."
She let go of him immediately and her eyes swept over him. "Sorry. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Just a little sore," he said, putting a hand to her shoulder."What about you? The Emperor didn't hurt you, did he?"
"No. Just gave me the creeps," she said. "He must be powerful, or somebody else would have killed him by now."
He sighed."I need to talk to you about that. What would you think if we gave up this mission?"
"If you mean we get off this ship right now, I'm all for it," she said."What changed your mind?"
He looked into her eyes."What if I'm wrong about him? About Father, I mean."
"I thought you could sense his feelings, could tell that he wasn't such a bad guy," she said.
"I can. But..." he said, his gaze dropping to the floor. He ran a hand over his face."I never told you this, but at Bespin he made me an offer. To rule the Galaxy as father and son."
"One which you obviously declined," she said, a small furrow appearing in her brow. "Are you having second thoughts about that?"
"No!" he said emphatically."That's the whole point. I don't want to take over the Galaxy. But if I...we... help him in this, isn't that where it ends up? I wanted him to come with me but instead we're following him. And I don't know that we believe the same things, regardless of what we feel for each other."
She gave a soft smile and put her hand on his arm. "I do think it's for the best that we leave. But are you sure you'll be able to live with that? Afterall, you took a lot of risks to come after him."
He frowned for a moment. "I have to believe it's not the end. If he is who I think he is, he'll come to me. And if he's not, then at least we won't have fought for the wrong side."
She exhaled deeply."You have no idea how much better that makes me feel. What about the Emperor?"
"We trust that the Alliance will succeed," he said. "Which it will have a better chance of doing if we go back to help them."
"Okay, so what's our next move?" she asked.
"We head for the hangar," he said, a grin spreading across his face, "and take Father's shuttle. I saw where he activated the transponder. I'm sure it'll get us past any Imperial checkpoint."
She laughed. "Just like every other kid, sneaking off in the family speeder. And how will we get to the hangar without being noticed?"
"Don't worry," he said."I've got the technique down."
It was cold, triumph. Not hot, not searing like anger. Rather it was anger transformed, anger made righteous so that it took wing and soared to that thin edge where the atmosphere yielded to the icy grip of space. A coldness that forged his intention into indestructable will. Though the deed was not yet accomplished, the cool certainty of triumph was already his.
Palpatine would die. He could feel it in the Force, the way it surged through his muscles, the way it showed him the path that Luke had taken. Or been taken on. Come this way
, it whispered. Turn here. Now straight on. Keep going
. Even the throngs of passing crew members could not conceal its trail.
He increased his pace, though he was already walking fast enough that the sound of his boots was not sufficient notice for the crew ahead of him to clear the way, and more than a few of them received a push from his hand. He could waste no time getting to Luke's side.
Against the unbreachable shield of his determination came thoughts that did burn. Like water on a magnesium fire they ignited flares of white hot rage that coursed through his body. Thoughts that Palpatine might have harmed Luke. That he might have tormented the boy with lies. That he might have found the correct leverage to make Luke submit. And sometimes the fire roared back on himself, for ever having left the boy alone.
But the intensity of these thoughts made them burn out quickly, serving only to temper his resolve. Anger was impotent, a passive protest against that which could not be changed. This, this cold sense of purpose, was so much better.
He turned down a new corridor and this time he didn't need the Force to tell him he was in the right place. In the middle of the deck was a large piece of durasteel that matched a gaping hole in the door above it. A hole obviously created by a lightsaber.
He bent down to ease himself through the opening in the door, then rose to survey the interior.The conference room appeared empty, but his son's presence was everywhere. "Luke!"
At the head of the table, a dark robe which blended almost invisibly into a black leather chair shifted, revealing its owner. "I'm afraid he's not here."
A ripple of unease spread through his mind."What have you done with him?"
"Nothing," Palpatine said with a smile." But really, Lord Vader, if you're going to be a parent, you'll have to learn to keep better track of your children."
A thousand other jabs echoed in his head, the legacy of decades of servitude."I am tired of your games. Where is he?"
"Oh, the Empire has never been a game to me," Palpatine said, his smile gone and his voice hard. "It is you who does not take it seriously enough.You give your loyalty in exchange for insubstantial emotion. Even now you would throw this all away for the affections of that boy."
He felt the heat of rising anger, a creeping indignation begging to be released. "You should talk of loyalty. You think I do not know that you would dispose of me as readily as you did Dooku? But I will not allow you to take Luke as my replacement."
Palpatine rose from his seat. "Interesting you should mention that. The boy does have many fine qualities, and he's far more disciplined than you could ever hope to be. But it would be difficult to turn him away from his Jedi training. No, of the two, I think I'd rather have the girl."
He blinked inside the helmet. "What?"
The Emperor walked slowly around the curve of the table, the fingers of one hand trailing across the top. "Your daughter, Lord Vader. I think she'll make a better apprentice than your son."
Had Palpatine lost his mind? "What did you say?"
"At least I'm not the last to know," the Emperor said, a thin smile returning to his face. "Leia Organa is your daughter."
The word echoed in his head.Daughter
.He thought of the graceful oval of her face. The fire in her dark brown eyes. The way she stood toe to toe with him, unyielding. Recognition drained his anger from him, leaving him hollow.
"I berated myself as well for not seeing the obvious," Palpatine said. "Her resemblance to Padme' is remarkable."
"Don't you say her name," he said, fury rushing in to fill his emptiness. Words held captive for too long broke free at last . "You never had the power to save her.I should have killed you then for your lies."
"Lord Vader, you should know by now that I rarely lie," Palpatine said slowly. "It's just not necessary. People hear what they want to hear. Even you."
Maybe it was the smirk in Palpatine's voice. Or the sense of superiority that permeated the words. He was reminded of insults swallowed and of thoughts supressed, of conversations begun while on his knees. And though he had suffered those indignities with only gritted teeth, this last was intolerable. That he had changed the course of the Galaxy for a vow that Palpatine viewed not as broken but as a mere matter of semantics tore through the last of his self-control.
He didn't remember calling his lightsaber to his outstretched hand, but there it was, and he thumbed it to life. The blade flared crimson, its hum and glow carrying its own promise, a promise to fulfill his dream of killing his Master. To free himself, and to ensure that Luke, and now Leia, would never suffer as he had.
He strode forward until the red glow of the lightsaber reflected on Palpatine's face. And then the Emperor smiled.
"Are you really going to try this alone, Lord Vader?" Palpatine said.
No. No, it wasn't supposed to be this way. His outrage cooled and reason returned to him. Luke was supposed to be here. They would do it together, that was the plan. But there was no retreat from this position. This wasn't like their verbal spars, in which words couched in careful terms could hold double meanings. The intent of an ignited lightsaber could not be made innocent.
He dropped his hand to angle his lightsaber defensively across his torso. When Palpatine's lip twitched, he prepared himself for the coming onslaught. The brunt power of a Force-push knocked him backwards and he let the Force guide his hand in time for the lightsaber to intercept an arc of lightning from the Emperor's fingers. As he regained his footing he raised the saber blade to deflect the blazing energy back onto Palpatine.
The forks of Force lightning vanished, and he allowed himself a moment of hope. Perhaps the Emperor's powers had faded with age. He picked up a chair with his mind, sent it hurling against Palpatine's back. When the Emperor flew forward off his feet, he slashed the saber downward, but was rewarded only with the smell of burning cloth as Palpatine dodged under the table. With a two handed grip he brought the saber crashing into the tabletop, slicing it neatly, but the supports held and the table remained upright.
Palpatine chuckled as he crawled up from the other side of the table. "Don't you think we're both a little old for this sort of thing?"
"Speak for yourself," he answered, starting to round the table towards the Emperor.
Palpatine moved around the other way, maintaining the distance between them."Maybe you're right. One's never too old for some things."
He reversed direction in an attempt to close ground on his opponent.
"Such as the appreciation of young beauty," Palpatine said."I think I shall truly enjoy making Organa my apprentice."
He stopped in his tracks as rage flooded his mind. "You will not touch her!"
"Oh, it's too late for that. I already have," the Emperor said.
He leapt to the top of the table and charged towards Palpatine, lightsaber outstretched. As he saw Palpatine extend his fingers in preparation, he swung the saber towards the Emperor's neck. The blade fell short, and he felt the agonizing grip of Force lightning surround his legs. The electronic circuits in his protheses overloaded, causing his knees to buckle underneath him. His momentum carried him off the end of the table and he tumbled to the floor, landing on his back.
Palpatine's face appeared above him and he sent a desperate shove with the Force, sending the Emperor flying. He sat up, but his lower limbs would not respond and he couldn't stand. With the strength of his upper body he pushed himself to his knees and brought his lightsaber in front of him.
"Good to see you in the proper position, Lord Vader," Palpatine said. "I've grown weary of your insolence."
He could do nothing but block the fierce torrent of energy that flew from Palpatine's fingertips. This time the Emperor did not avoid the lightning that reflected back from his lightsaber, and there was no relief from the roaring assault . He could feel the power of it slowly pushing his lightsaber towards his chest and with great effort he extended his arms out from his body. Abruptly the lightning ceased and with the sudden loss of resistance he fell forward. In the next instant a web of searing energy grabbed hold of his body and he was drenched in pain.
"Still run by your emotions," Palpatine said from above him."You've learned nothing in all these years. That is why I will always be the Master."
He felt the intensity of the Force lightning increase and a wisp of smoke drifted up from the chest plate on the suit. He was no stranger to pain, but this continued assault was almost more than he could stand.He squeezed his eyes shut against the agony. This wasn't the solitary bolt he had received from Dooku, meant only to disable him. No, this was meant to kill him. His muscles contracted into complete rigidity, and he felt a tightness in his chest as his heartbeat became irregular.
When at last Palpatine relented in his attack, his muscles went soft and he sank to the floor.He opened his eyes and discovered the display in the helmet had gone out, leaving him in total darkness.He gulped in air but it was stale and left him wanting more. Despite what Palpatine had said, he had
learned something in the past twenty three years, and that was that his ventilator cycled without fail every six seconds.Sometimes faster, but never slower. Except now. It was a rhythm imprinted in his mind and each second that passed without it activating left his body shouting now
Palpatine's voice sounded very far away. "Your time is over, Lord Vader. But I thank you for providing me with a choice of replacements."
He tried to sit up, but the effort almost made him vomit, and he laid back down. A blast of air came at last from the ventilator and he thought it the sweetest thing he had ever smelled. In the aftermath of that one breath, he found he could think again.Luke's face came to him, and Leia's. So many things he wanted to tell them.
The ventilator remained silent, leaving him only his own exhaled breath, and consciousness began to ebb from him . Dimly he felt another soothing burst of air and his mind stumbled towards wakefulness. Can't let Palpatine have them
But he felt so tired, so very tired. His eyes closed and he surrendered himself to the sleep that beckoned.
The shuttle was so close that she could imagine herself walking up the treads of its ramp. Forget walking, she imagined running. She'd be running now, across the open plain of the hangar, except that Luke said they would be less conspicuous this way.
It took everything she had to keep that impulse under control, though, her nerves already on edge from the trip through Executor's
hallways. With all the eyes that focused on them, she was sure someone would stop to question them. But whenever anyone seemed too interested, Luke mumbled something, and their interest faded away. He seemed unfazed by the pressure, but it made her stomach churn.
Her first thought, then, when he stumbled in front of her was that the tension had finally gotten to him. When he dropped to his knees, she knew it was something more.
She quickly surveyed the hangar before kneeling down to put a hand on his back. "Luke, what's the matter?"
He held one hand pressed to his chest and it was a moment before he spoke. "Something's terribly wrong with Father. He's in pain, he's injured. I don't really feel his presence anymore."
That didn't bode well for them. Vader was their only defense from the tens of thousands of troops on board Executor
.She looped one arm around his and tried to pull him up. "Luke, then we've got to get out of here."
He twisted from her grip and staggered to his feet. "No. I've got to go to him. I have to help him."
"But Luke, if he's gone, it's you and me against the Empire."
His blue eyes looked like ice."You can stay here if you want, but I've got to find him."
And after that she was
running, because it was all she could do to keep up with Luke. They covered the span of the hangar in half the time it taken them to walk in. Ominously, she could see a formation of stormtroopers near where they had originally entered the hangar. She knew Luke had to see them too, but he didn't slow his pace.
As they drew close to the armored troops she fell to a walk, breathing heavily, and Luke finally slowed down enough for her to catch up to him. To get back into the main levels of the ship they would have to cross the line of stormtroopers. That not a one of them had their weapon drawn was small comfort.
A grey haired officer, one she remembered seeing before, walked from behind the troopers. Luke unfastened his lightsaber and she watched the officer stare at it for a moment.
"Skywalker, there's no need for your weapon," the officer said."Your father has entrusted me with your safety. Please come along peacefully."
Luke's head jerked visibly at the words."You know where my father is?"
"Well, not at the moment," the officer said, "but I'm sure he'll be here shortly."
Luke shook his head as he reattached the lightsaber to his belt. "I think something terrible has happened to him. I can feel it."
The officer gave Luke an appraising look, then took the comlink from his belt. He pushed the activator several times."He's not answering his com, but that may not mean anything."
"But you can help me find him?" Luke said, walking to within arms length of the officer.
"He'll certainly want to know that we've found you, so my next step would be to contact him," the officer said. "We can check his signal in the central computer. Follow me."
Luke looked back at her before proceeding into the interior hallway. She heard the clack of armor as the stormtroopers fell in line behind her. The scene had an aura of deja-vu', except this time she had the sense that the troops were here for her protection, rather than to escort a prisoner.
The officer stopped at a computer console in the hallway." Yes, Lord Vader is in conference room twelve fifty seven. He may have his comlink silenced for a meeting. It's not far from here. We'll go to him."
They continued down the corridor, veering to the left at the second intersection. Abruptly Luke stopped in front of her and drew his lightsaber. She peered around him to see a pair of guards, helmeted and dressed in scarlet robes.
Luke turned to the officer, anger seething in his voice."You led us into a trap."
The officer shook his head almost imperceptibly and he spoke in a whisper. "No. But stay quiet."
The Emperor walked slowly towards then from between the Royal guards. "Admiral Piett, I want to thank you for capturing these fugitives."
The admiral's face had gone deathly pale."Yes, I'm taking them to the detention center."
The Emperor came closer, a predatory look in his eyes. "I will take custody of them now."
Piett cleared his throat before replying. "It's Lord Vader's command that they be taken to the high security block in the detention center."
The yellow eyes locked on to Piett and a sneer twisted the Emperor's face. "That order is void. Forgetting the fact that I'm overturning it, Lord Vader is dead."Chapter Seven