Vader's twisted consciousness catches up to him as he discovers Kenobi's final betrayal.
DATE: December 2004 - January 2005
CATEGORY: Vignette: Drama, Angst
CHARACTERS: Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Shmi Skywalker (minor), PadmÃ© Amidala (minor), Obi-Wan Kenobi (minor)
TIMEFRAME: Saga: Classic Series: post-ANH
CONTENT WARNING: graphic violence
SUMMARY: Vader's twisted consciousness catches up to him as he discovers Kenobi's final betrayal.
DISCLAIMER: I willingly and willfully use characters and situations copyrighted by Twentieth Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd. without permission, and without monetary gain. Additional characters and situations are copyright 2005 Lisa D. Jenkins.
"If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
He was strapped to his podracer, his heart thumping wildly in his little frame. The lights had changed, and the announcer shouted the start of the race, but Anakin's pod hadn't budged. Oh, no, his mind swirled, Not again! He reached back to find the motivator broken. His pudgy fingers found a way to slap it back together, then he hugged the thruster controls and kicked the injector wires. This time he zoomed off into the golden orange landscape, leaving the roaring spectators behind.
He felt his body melt into the vibrating roar of the engine, the penetrating heat of the twin suns glowing on his back. He felt every curve in the sand, every rock hidden beneath. He was one with his pod again.
Happiness he hadn't known for a long time overwhelmed him. Anakin didn't notice any other racers, and didn't care. He was going to move like this forever.
Suddenly the sand scoop at the front of his podracer came off as if something had cut it clean away, sending both him and his pod's body tumbling at terrifying speeds into a dune. Anakin should have felt the thousands of pin-pricks of sand blasting his skin at the speed he struck the ground. Instead, it felt like a soft pillow made of baak baak feathers.
Anakin stood and realized he was no longer a stout boy of nine, but a gangly teenager. His dark Padawan robes were spotless, as if he hadn't fallen into the dune at all. He was wielding his sabre, its energy throbbing in his hand as he gave the blade a practice swing through the air.
A Tusken Raider rushed at him, waving the end of Anakin's podracer scoop over its head like a Gaffi stick. Instinctively, Anakin slashed through the metal of the weapon, slicing the scoop in half. The Tusken seemed to have anticipated the move and thrust forward the point of the scoop. Anakin gasped and clasped his chest with a free hand.
But Anakin's chest had not been pierced. Instead, a woman's cry startled Anakin from behind. He turned to see the desperate plea in the eyes of his mother. Why didn't you come home sooner, Ani? The plea reverberated in his heart as her life's blood slowly stained the yellow sands beneath her.
With a growl, Anakin turned back to face his opponent, intending to strike his lighted sabre at the Tusken, but he found his hands just empty fists. The Tusken stood far enough away, its hands on hips, silently laughing at Anakin's futility. Try as he might, Anakin could come no closer to the vile creature, swinging in vain to strike his prey.
Suddenly the Tusken did an uncharacteristic thing-it removed its mask. No human alive had ever seen a Tusken without its protective coverings before. A cold shudder washed over Anakin's body as dark tresses fell from the head wrappings. They were soft and carefully curled, framing an angelic face of flawless perfection. Her eyes blinked slowly in the sunlight, revealing a reflection of himself in her sable orbs.
A drowning wave of water crashed down on Anakin, washing away the sand, the desert, his mother, the pseudo-Tusken. Instead, Anakin found himself swimming beside the Gungan Jar Jar who waved his flippered hands and made a wide arc into the deep waters. Anakin paddled after him, and soon the great Gungan city revealed itself, its lights dazzling in the dark waters.
Stepping through the bubble barrier between the waters and the city, Anakin discovered hundreds of Jedi-robbed peoples wandering the streets. Anakin felt the bile in this throat rise as-now an adult-he realized the Jedi had deceived him yet again. The remains of the Order thrived under water in the Gungan city.
It irked him further to find a number of Jedi he knew personally sitting around a table, laughing and talking as if they had no care in the world. Anakin found himself inexplicably drawn closer. A heated game of sabacc ensued. A loud bellow of a laugh burst forth from Mace Windu who apparently won the current round, his cloak in tatters, but his body seemingly no worse for wear from his last duel with Anakin's new master, the Emperor, Darth Sidious.
Master Yoda levitated across the table, scowling as he always did when he didn't get his way, and beat his gimmer stick on the table, demanding a new hand to play.
Standing beside the table was his former master, Obi-Wan. He nodded and smiled at the player whose back faced Anakin. When Anakin approached, Obi-Wan's eyes drew upward and gave his former Padawan a sly and knowing look.
Circling around the table to get a better look at the player who, despite losing the last hand, was obviously winning the game. A delicate hand tugged at a firestick in her luscious lips of red.
"/YOU!/" Anakin bellowed down at her. Of course. It had to be her. She was the one who confided in Obi-Wan. She was the one who gave away their secrets. Certainly she was the one harbouring the last of the Jedi Knights.
Sable eyes shaded, she peered up at him through dark lashes. There was no fear in her eyes like there was the last time he looked upon his wife PadmÃ©. This time her eyes were filled with vengeance.
Instantly, Anakin's sabre grew to life, its energy buzzing in his ears. PadmÃ© leapt to action, the table tossed away, the sabacc chips scattered across the floor as the rest of the Jedi bled away from the scene.
Anakin lunged, and she dodged. He swung wide, and she ducked. He batted the air beneath her as she jumped and tumbled gracefully in the air.
Landing beside him, PadmÃ© pressed her sensual body against his, taunting him. Her hand placed on his hand which held the hilt of his lightsabre, she hissed, "You think you can kill me again, Sithspawn?"
With a scream of tortured despair, Anakin pulled himself away from her presence and swung his sabre in the killing blow.
Instead of cutting off her head, Anakin's sabre dipped low and cut across PadmÃ©'s swollen abdomen. She clasped her wound as the blood poured out of her body. No trace of pain crossed her face, only shock danced in her glistened eyes as she said, "The children, Anakin! What about the dream?"
Children? . . .The dream!
Anakin tossed aside his sabre and fell to his knees, pressing his forehead against her, feeling her life's blood stain his soul. "I love you," he whispered as he willed for the blood to stop. "I would do anything for you. Just don't die. Please, don't die!"
"She hates you, Anakin," an unfeeling voice taunted him from behind.
Anakin stood and pivoted to face his old master. "You will never have her!" he growled.
"But I already do," Obi-Wan purred with a sly quirk in the corner of his mouth. "And your children, too."
Anakin spun to face PadmÃ© again. She, too, was smiling, but not in her sweet way, not in the way that was meant only for him. "He took them away. You'll never find them."
Reaching out his left hand, Anakin clasped air, twisting his fist. PadmÃ©'s face registered surprise, her hands flinging to her neck as she struggled to breathe.
"Tell me!" he demanded.
"I . . . will never . . .tell . . . you . . . !" she rasped between gasps.
Anakin's hand darkened like black leather, Force-wind swirling around him, threatening to engulf them all. The harsh cold sound of a breather mask grew louder, filling his ears, his senses, his endless miserable existence. The sound of the breather mask obliterated PadmÃ©'s final gasp, and the swirling sands blotted out Anakin's-now Vader's-vision of her tortured angelic frame.
Vader awoke with a start. The nav computer rang plaintively waiting for new coordinates. His X1 TIE Interceptor had just broken out of its short jump from hyperdrive. He thanked the Force that his modified prototype had escaped the fiery destruction of the /Death Star/. Blast those Imperial engineers for foolishly designing a monstrous station with no defenses against small one-man fighters. If the Emperor had trusted in him, the whole fiasco could have been avoided. He had been a Clone War general and master strategist, after all.
Checking instruments, he noted his ship was in a decaying orbit around Plaatoo II, an Imperial listening post just inside the border of the Mid-Rim sector. Systems in the Outer Rim foolishly thought the Empire didn't take notice of their goings-on. Vader was certain his starfighter's arrival was likely already registered by the Imperial Star Destroyer on the dark side of the planet.
His communications board crackled to life.
"Star Destroyer /Rancor to unidentified vessel: identify yourself."/
"TIE Interceptor X1. Security code Omega 7-7-1 Alpha. I require your assistance."
For a moment, communications were silent as the officer dutifully checked Vader's security clearance. When he responded, his voice quivered just enough to be picked up by the audio relays, "L . . . Lord Vader. Confirmed. /Rancor will rendezvous to your position in 15 clicks."/
Switching off his communications, Vader leaned back and pondered the strange dream from which he awoke. Obviously, memories of the past were brought on by seeing his old master again. Vader's hollow triumph over the old Jedi left a bitter taste in his mouth. He continued to ponder the meaning of Kenobi's disappearance. Another Jedi trick?
Opening a secret compartment in his lower torso, Vader pulled out Obi-Wan's sabre. Who had been the pilot of that rebel X-wing that struck the final blow? Surely not Obi-Wan. Although he had become a more than competent pilot during the Clone Wars, Kenobi was never that good. It was obvious that his old master had taken a new Padawan, a futile attempt to keep the failing Jedi Order alive. He had to give credit to the old man. Not only had they both miraculously survived the duel of Mustafar, Kenobi had somehow raised another boy to the Force without Vader or his Sith master sensing it.
Under his helmet, Vader frowned. His Force-dream mentioned children. He had nearly forgotten the Force-dream that had set him down this path of darkness so many years ago. Just like the premonitory dream about his mother, Anakin dreamed that the birth of his child would bring PadmÃ©'s life to a close.
Thinking of those names again, Vader's powerful hydraulic arm squeezed the sabre shaft tightly, almost to the point of crushing the casing. He had been betrayed by the Jedi, then PadmÃ©, and finally Obi-Wan. But none of those betrayals were as horrific as the one he faced every day as he bowed beneath the weight of the oppressive Emperor. "My master," Vader's breathing mask hissed aloud.
Yes, Vader thought, the master who promised him the secret of life, to bring back the dead, save his loved ones. Only it was a lie. The lie fueled the anger in his belly, the hate that burned within. Nothing would quench this dark fire.
His TIE shuddered as a tractor beam took over the controls and guided him into the Star Destroyer. Vader glanced up at it, his dark reverie distracted for a moment. Seeing that proper procedures were in place to take his damaged ship on board, Vader returned to studying the old Jedi weapon in his gloved hand.
Children . . . Vader mused. So concerned over losing PadmÃ©, never had he thought about the survival of his offspring. What if . . . .
Suddenly Vader's back snapped straight in the flight chair. The fighter pilot. Obi-Wan's smug look as Vader delivered the final blow. Before the blast doors cut him off from the escaping Rebel spies, Vader noted the young boy blasting stormtroopers blindly in his rage.
A sneer spread across Vader's scarred face. Obi-Wan's failure was complete. The boy, the fighter pilot, Obi-Wan's last Padawan-his son!
Vader's artificial heart quickened in response to the rush of adrenaline pouring into his system. The Force had finally seen fit to give Vader a second chance. PadmÃ© may have rejected the idea of ruling the galaxy together with him, but surely his son wouldn't. His son would know the power of the Force.
Vader's dark lenses stared out the portal as his ship docked gracefully in the hanger of the Star Destroyer. Troopers and Imperial officers scrambled to form a proper welcoming party to the Dark Lord's arrival. But his thoughts weren't with them or his duties to his Emperor master.
I will find you, son, Vader vowed. I will show you the true ways of the Force. You will be the most powerful Force-user the galaxy has ever known. And together . . . we will destroy the last of those who betrayed us . . . .