The Dark Lord looked out of the spacious window of the vast room. An immense garden, lush and green, extended
before his eyes.
At least, he reckoned it was green. As years went by, he had forgotten about what true colours really were
and felt like.
A nasty smile formed on his lips. Who cared about colours, anyway? His special vision was much better. It
provided him with sharper and infinitely more distinctive and defined images than human eyes could ever manage.
Human eyes. Human. Something he wasn’t anymore. Never mind that over 50% of his body was mechanical
now. There was no trace of humanity left in him. He had successfully purged it from him. And once again, he vowed never to
surrender to weaknesses such as love, affection, or caring. Those feelings were people’s undoing.
But not his own. Not anymore.
There was nothing but greed and power, domination and control, and obeying his master’s wishes that
were also his own.
It was all he had left. All that mattered.
It was enough.
It was everything.
‘I am Death. Fear me, for I will destroy you all if you oppose me!’ he cried out in his mind,
inebriated with the knowledge of his own invincibility.
There was nothing better than having an entire galaxy at your feet, terrified at the mere mention of your
‘I am Darth Vader. Dark Lord of the Sith. This is my Destiny. This is what I was meant to be.’
Dark. So Dark. Too Dark.
The humming sound of his ignited lightsaber distracted him from the strange turn his thoughts had taken.
Turning about, his eyes settled on the dead body on the carpeted floor.
Another life he had taken.
How many by now?
What was the name of the man lying before him?
A spy. A minuscule threat to his master’s plan.
‘I am my own master! No one commands me but myself! No one will ever command me again!’
One day, he would be looking down at the galaxy he would rule, from his rightful place as the greatest Sith
Vader took a fast deep breath to suffocate the wave of pain in the centre of his chest.
The buzzing sound of his lightsaber being turned off, brought him out of the tiny place inside him that still
ached every time an unwelcome memory of his past resurfaced.
‘Damm you all for betraying me! May you all rot in Sith Hell! I will prevail!’
‘Who cares about company?’
People were small-minded, petty, untrustworthy.
He didn’t need anyone.
Trust led to betrayal. Betrayal led to hatred. Hatred led to ruthlessness. Ruthlessness led to inhumanity.
The nasty smile on his lips turned to sheer venom at the unintended familiar ring of those thoughts.
‘You all made me what I am, and I thank you for it. I finally succeeded in freeing myself from all
emotion. Nothing will stand in my way now. I am free from every moral restraint that held me back. I am unstoppable.’
He clipped the lightsaber from his belt and turned about, exiting the room in long strides.
People moved aside in fear the moment they saw him. Since the birth of Darth Vader, his presence was an announcement
of Death. Every time he landed on a planet and headed for a particular building alone, someone would inevitably leave the
place in a bag a few hours later. Sometimes more than one.
In just a few years, the Empire had become a reality. Very few systems within the inner sectors dared to
oppose Palpatine anymore. More than half the galaxy was the Emperor’s willing subject now.
Fear indeed was the key. Nothing made people more obedient and respectful of the Law than fear of punishment.
And the bigger the punishment, the more compliant they were. The moment you started granting rights and giving people freedom
of choice, speech or thought, their little meanness began surfacing, until you were tangled in an endless web of petty squabbles
and demands that ended up making coexistence unbearable. Exactly what life in the Old Republic had been like.
People were essentially egotistical and childish. Fear was the only way to keep them in line.
And the moment a dissident word arose, Darth Vader was the cure.
He walked a lonely path, but he didn’t care. Ultimately, we’re all alone. With our miseries,
our hopes, our fears, our loneliness. We live our lives desperate to connect with others. But in the end, that fleeting feeling
of connection with another is only an illusion.
We are born alone, and we die alone.
He had awakened from that illusion, and no sweet words of love and promises of a life of peace and belonging
would fool him again.
He was above and beyond those pathetic, sickly imperfections. He was meant to rule, and by all the Lords
of the Sith past and future, he would rule! The galaxy would remember his name for as long as the Universe existed!
He was dimly aware of the chambers and corridors he walked through. The immense building seemed to be a combination
of a small menagerie and a museum. But he paid no attention to it. This mission had taken him far too close to the Outer Rim,
far too close to...
Shaking his head metaphorically against the name of the planet before it formed in his mind, his innate curiosity
and his analytical mind allowed him to feel a small degree of surprise at the fact that this planet, Ando, was so lush and
fertile. Amazing, considering its relative nearness to...
Grinding his teeth, furious with himself and with his occasionally mawkish thoughts that served no practical
purpose, Vader’s strides became even longer as he headed for the exit.
Standing close to the outside door, a fairly large group of people consisting mostly of children, had gathered
around a fish pond.
The moment he settled his gaze on them, Vader realized this was a group of physically and mentally handicapped
The beast in him felt a sudden, uncontrollable wave of hatred and disgust. There was nothing more useless
in the Universe than these type of beings. They were a burden to everybody, from their families to the system, that was forced
to expend a tremendous amount of resources on therapy, rehabilitation, treatment... and all for what? For a bunch of unproductive
parasites that would never contribute anything, and would only suck from the Empire’s Treasury until the day their worthless
If it depended on him...
His hand reached for his lightsaber instinctively. It wouldn’t be the first time...
That small gesture was enough for most of the children to turn their heads and see him coming.
The reaction was immediate and predictable. It varied from the classic scream of terror, to expressions of
sheer panic as they stepped aside and gathered close, seeking protection from the group and their monitors.
Holding back a barked laugh, Vader headed for the doors, not deigning to look at that group of losers.
As he strode past them, his legs stopped walking out of the blue and brought him to a sudden halt. Before
he knew, he had turned about, to find himself face to face with a tiny boy who couldn’t be more than four years old.
Despite his respirator, Vader felt as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs. In less than a heartbeat,
his body felt alternately hot and cold. Chills ran up and down his spine.
He had never seen a child so beautiful. He couldn’t make out the colour of his hair and his eyes, but
his features were smooth and perfectly proportioned. The eyes were big and full of curiosity, and Vader detected a keen intelligence
lurking in them. The little nose was upturned, and the lips were full and luscious. The hair was straight and maybe a bit
too long, with the tips sticking out.
But what stunned him the most was how the boy looked up at him, showing no fear. His big eyes were riveted
on him, full of curiosity and awe.
"Who are you, child?" he asked, before the words fully formed in his mind.
The boy smiled softly at him and tilted his head to one side, in an endearing gesture.
"I said what is your name!" Vader’s voice echoed all over the hall, making everybody start.
"H-he-he can’t talk, sir. He’s mute." A young woman, obviously one of the monitors, stepped ahead
and answered for the boy. Her body trembled from head to foot and she swallowed convulsively.
Vader’s head moved from the young woman to the little boy, who hadn’t moved his eyes away from
Everything in Vader screamed at him to turn about and leave. But his eyes almost popped out of their sockets
when he felt the presence of the Force lingering around the boy like a protective blanket.
Recoiling from it physically, Vader found himself walking away from the child as a final order left his lips,
thrown in the monitor’s direction.
The doors closed after the young woman and the Sith Lord.
It was a nice, comfortable office, full of plants and wooden carvings. The medium-sized table faced the windows
and the garden outside, in an obvious attempt to make the most of the daylight hours.
Vader headed directly for the windows and looked out of them, momentarily ignoring the shaking woman. Her
feelings were of no interest to him. He just wanted information, and he would get it from her, willingly or otherwise.
He gave them both some time to collect their thoughts, and when he was ready to begin his questioning, he
did so, without bothering to look back at her.
"What is the matter with him?"
Not bothering to pretend she didn’t know who the Dark Lord was talking about, the young woman took
some time to answer. She didn’t want to endanger the boy’s safety with too much information. She had no idea what
Darth Vader had seen in the poor child, but she would protect him with everything she had.
For a second, it crossed her mind that she was in the same room with Darth Vader. The situation was
surreal in itself, but the danger it posed to herself didn’t go unnoticed. Very few had been alone in a room with the
Sith Lord, and lived to tell.
"Nobody knows," she aswered carefully.
"Do not attempt to fool me, young lady." Vader turned and faced her, overwhelming her with his immense black
height framed against the sunlight. "I could rip the information from you in a most painful way, but I feel like having a
nice, friendly conversation with you. Whether it will remain friendly or not, is entirely up to you."
Sighing in defeat, the young woman yielded.
"He’s been subjected to every possible test for the last two years. The results have been the same.
No brain damage. His speech organs are normal and perfectly developed. He has suffered no physical or emotional trauma to
justify his inability to speak. As far as we know, he’s a perfectly normal child, who simply won’t talk."
Vader nodded to himself.
"He’s also an orphan. He’s being raised by his aunt and uncle, who love him dearly and give him
everything they can with their scarce resources." She winced and looked down at her hands in shame, berating herself for her
big mouth. She pursed her lips and clenched her fists in anger.
"How old is he?" Vader asked.
"He turned four recently."
Inside the mask, Vader squeezed his eyes shut. That was exactly the age his child would have been if...
"And how do you know he is not suffering from some small degree of mental retardation? Those minor disabilities
are undetectable in a 3-D brain scan," he muttered in a clipped voice.
"That’s true, but..."
Feeling the subtle, sudden change to the lower tones in her voice, Vader took one step forward.
"There’s just something about him... something that..."
Vader gave her time to find the right words.
"When you’re alone with him and he looks at you, it’s as if... as if he could see right
through you. As if he could read your soul." She looked up into the empty sockets, suddenly trying hard to make herself be
understood. "All my colleagues who have examined him felt the same, so I know it’s not just me. He seems older than
his years. Wiser." She smiled self-deprecatingly. "I know how it sounds, but that’s how I feel around him. There’s
peace in his presence. Utter peace and calm, within and without."
Suddenly uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken, Vader cut her off.
"Has he communicated by any other means? Through drawings, by manipulating toys or other objects?"
"That’s even more strange. We’ve put him in rooms full of toys, colouring books and a million
other items to stimulate his creativity, and encourage him to open up and tell us what’s going on inside him. He simply
picks up a cuddly toy and lies down with it, hugging it close, cradling it, loving it. He ignores tools, complex toys
and technology in general. That’s why he’s not developing at the same rate as the other children anymore. Most
mute children find a way to compensate for their disability. They’re faster learners in many areas. They learn to sign
and write sooner to be able to communicate. They go to the same schools as ‘normal’ kids and make friends, but
that’s not his case. He’s very kind and loving with people, but he... he doesn’t seem to need, really need
anything. Or anyone."
"Maybe he is more retarded than you think," Vader stated disdainfully.
"We suspected there could be some kind of autism involved. But he doesn’t shut himself off from the
world. He’s always aware of where he is and with whom. When you call his name, he immediately acknowledges you and smiles
at you. He reaches out to you spontaneously. As a matter of fact, he’s a very touchy-feely little guy," she smiled to
herself, unable to keep her deep affection for the boy from showing. "You should see him with his cuddly toys. He’s
got dozens of them. The way he communicates with them and takes care of them. This child’s... starved for love.
All the hugs, kisses and caresses in the world don’t seem nearly enough. It’s as if... as if he had withdrawn
into himself from birth, waiting for something or someone. Waiting for that special person to unlock him from his self-imposed
prison, and set him free."
"How can you know that, if he has never said a word or let you know in any way?"
"It’s a gut feeling based on two years of close observation."
"A very unprofessional observation."
The young woman just shrugged, knowing better than to dare to argue with Darth Vader.
Vader retreated into himself, considering the facts. Why was he doing this, anyway? Taking a personal interest
in a mentally handicapped child, who happened to be extremely Force-sensitive?
Although that was still to be confirmed. Certainly, the Light lingered around him like a protective aura,
but that didn’t mean the boy could wield it, or was even consciously aware of it. Maybe nature had compensated for the
child’s disability, by giving him a special awareness of other people’s feelings, so it could enable him to make
his needs known to them.
A part of his mind remembered Palpatine’s orders to dispose of every Force-sensitive he came across
during his missions, and whereas he had already gotten rid of more men, women and children than he cared to count, this child
Why was he suddenly so reluctant to carry out his orders? Mere minutes ago, he would have performed his duty
and disposed of each and every one of those ‘parasites’ without second thoughts.
Vader’s respiration accelerated all of a sudden, in foreboding.
Right then, the doors slid open and an agitated little boy burst into the room.
On seeing Vader, he stopped.
Vader’s body straightened up threateningly.
But the child simply studied him with big, all-encompassing eyes, and Vader felt like falling into those
awesome depths. He felt himself being read inside out and embraced, accepted. The Light around the boy reached out to him
like an old friend. Forgiving, inviting, warm and beauti—
Hissing, Vader jerked back, just as an older woman hurried into the room.
"Here you are, little rascal. You’ve been driving us..." at the sight of the Sith Lord a few metres
in front of her, the woman could barely hold back a scream and she froze on the spot, unable to move a muscle.
The scene seemed to stretch into eternity, until the boy’s face illuminated with the most breathtaking
smile, directed entirely at Vader. His left arm reached out to him entreatingly.
Knowing he had to escape there before he lost his sanity, or worse, Vader’s legs obeyed him at last.
He left the room, avoiding the child’s nearness in an exaggerated detour around his tiny form. His cape billowed behind
him, and the child’s outstretched hand brushed the heavy but incredibly soft material as it passed him. A shudder ran
through his little body and he turned about, watching Vader go through misted eyes.
The young monitor stood up at once and rushed to the little boy’s side, dropping to one knee and wrapping
an arm around him. He was trembling.
"It is all right, Luke. It’s all right, sweetheart," she tried to soothe him. ‘What the devil
did he see in that monster?’ she wondered in awe.
Luke’s face turned to hers, and the young woman gave a start at the sight of the reddened eyes and
the heartbreaking expression of anguish and despair in them.
Luke hadn’t expressed so much emotion in the two years she had known him, and from what his aunt and
uncle said, he had never shown this level of emotion before.
Why now? Why Vader?
Luke looked down at the palm of his left hand, brought it up to his cheek and caressed himself with it. He
closed his eyes and sighed.
The two women looked at each other, speechless.
When the shuttle landed in the Executor’s docking bay, Vader walked down the ramp with long, heavy
strides, and headed for the lift, an air of barely restrained violence wrapped around him like a black cloak. Technicians
and officers moved out of his way instinctively, exchanging knowing looks.
Someone would die today.
Vader entered the bridge and headed directly for the navigation console.
"Set a course for the Byss system," he ordered the navigator.
The young man looked up at him with a puzzled expression on his face.
"The Byss system, sir? B-but I thought..." his neck twisted to an impossible angle with a loud snap and he
collapsed on his console like a rag doll.
"Anyone else is interested in asking irrelevant questions?" Vader asked of no one in particular.
A deadly silence followed.
"Good," Vader approved. "Now, will you obey my orders this time?" he asked the man sitting next to the dead
The Chiss swallowed hard and paled like a ghost.
"We received new orders, milord," Captain Kyle, his second-in-command explained, walking up to the Dark Lord
with his hands behind his back. "We were ordered to join the Fleet posted in the Vortex system after picking you up."
"In that case, plot a course for the Vortex system after cleaning this up," Vader rejoined nonchalantly.
"Weaklings have no place in this galaxy, let alone under my command."
The hatred and contempt in the last sentence lingered in the air long after the Sith Lord left the bridge.
Vader made himself comfortable in his egg-shaped pod, preparing himself for his few hours of nightly sleep.
When the top half descended slowly and closed, he was able to take off his mask and helmet and start breathing on his own.
He contemplated his reflection in the polished surface of the chamber’s inner wall, and his scarred visage twisted in
‘27 years old, and I look like I’m twice that age.’ He closed his eyes at the grotesque
face that looked back at him. This was the price he had to pay for serving the Darkness. So be it. ‘I wonder what
that retarded boy would do if he saw me.’ He wondered, a nasty smile crossing his features. ‘I bet one
single look would wipe that stupid, beatific smile off his face,’ he snarled.
But his nasty smile was short-lived, as the memory of the child triggered the memory of the way he had left
the building. He had practically fled from the room.
His blood boiled with anger. ‘No child makes me nervous or uncomfortable, and certainly not a mentally
handicapped one!’ But it had, and his nostrils flared, shame fuelling his anger.
It took him some time to calm down, and when the anger abated enough to allow him to think rationally again,
he realized that for the first time, he had disobeyed Palpatine’s orders and not killed a Force-sensitive.
Why didn’t he do it? Maybe he was too busy escaping the boy?
His nostrils flared again, and he inhaled the pure oxygen in the chamber until he felt light-headed.
Being logical, such a boy represented no threat to him and his master, never mind how strong in the Force
he was. At most, he would use it to levitate his cuddly toys to his hand. That is, if he ever figured out what the Force was,
and what he could do with it; which he strongly doubted.
‘When you’re alone with him and he looks at you, it’s as if... as if he could see right
through you. As if he could read your soul.’
He couldn’t deny that truth. He had experienced it firsthand. That little boy had seen right
through his mask, right through his barriers, and read him like an open book.
And smiled at him.
Vader’s head swayed in disgust.
That was the proof that the boy was no threat. His monitor had implied that he was more in touch with feelings
and emotions than material things. He would probably spend the rest of his life in the company of cuddly toys and smiling
at everyone he passed.
It would be a waste of time to retrace his steps and finish his job. Anyone stupid enough to see right through
him and not see him as a threat, wasn’t worth considering a menace.
It was warm. Soft. Welcoming. Right on the edge of his consciousness, and getting closer. Calling out to
him wordlessly. The most compelling smile lit up his soul, making it ache with need. A need he had renounced, crushed and
thrown away years ago.
‘It is you. It is you. Please, come to me. I need you. I need you too. I need you so! I’ve
been waiting for you all my life. Come to me...’
Vader was thrown out of sleep violently. All his senses became instantly alert.
There was an intruder in his quarters.
Using the Force to lower the mask and the helmet and lock them around his head, he opened the pod. He stepped
out of it carefully, drawing out his lightsaber.
Whoever it was, they would pay dearly for this. Daring to get to him in his own quarters, in his own ship!
He bared his teeth in outrage, and his hand tightened on the saber’s handle.
He walked stealthily, hoping to take the intruder by surprise, until the sound of his respirator awakened
him to the fact that he was announcing his presence with every breath he took. Grinding his teeth, he ignited his lightsaber.
One more noise wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Reaching out with the Force, he detected a presence in his office.
Maybe it was a spy looking for some kind of information.
That would be even more satisfying. If it was indeed a spy, he would relish drawing information out of them.
He took a peek into his office.
There was no one.
But there had to be! He could feel their presence even now, a few metres in front of him!
Turning on the lights through the Force to blind the intruder, he barged into the room, his lightsaber ready
And froze on the spot.
The boy he had met on Ando stood in the middle of his office, looking up at him, an angelic smile illuminating
"YOU?!" Vader exclaimed in shock.
The child’s smile broadened.
"What in Sith hell are you doing here, boy?!" The Dark Lord couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
The child blinked innocently.
"How did you get in the ship? I didn’t feel you in my shuttle when I came on board."
The boy let out an enigmatic little smile and took a step forward.
Not knowing why, Vader took a step back.
Sith Lord and child looked at each other for a long moment.
Finally, seeing there was no point in standing in his office with an ignited lightsaber in front of a four
year old, Vader turned it off and attached it to his belt.
He had never been so puzzled. How had the boy made it to his ship? Why had no one detected his presence aboard?
One thing was clear, he would get no answers from the source.
He was at a loss what to do next. For a moment, he considered taking the boy to sickbay and having the doctors
and medical droids take care of him. But he didn’t want anyone to know he had been in contact with a child.
His eyes studied the child intently, looking for the answers he wouldn’t get verbally.
The boy returned his stare just as intently.
‘How does he know I’m studying him if he can’t see my face?’ Vader wondered.
Maybe he could. Through the Force.
It would be interesting to find out how a handicapped child made use of such power.
The moment that thought coalesced in his mind, the boy got deadly serious.
And Vader knew the boy didn’t approve of such an idea.
Letting out a snort, the Dark Lord turned away.
In a sudden flash of insight, Vader realized what had happened just meant.
That boy could read his thoughts.
He spun round, his cape describing an arc around him.
"Stay out of my mind if you don’t want me to kill you right here and now!!" he cried out. "Do you hear
The child observed him with a blending of amusement and indifference, obviously unimpressed by his outburst.
He turned about and began walking around the Dark Lord’s office, much like a boss inspecting his subordinate’s
Beneath his mask, Vader frowned. He had to admit it. This boy was the most extraordinary creature he had
ever encountered. He should be terrified, and yet, he seemed interested in anything but him.
Satisfied with his inspection, shaking his head at most of the things he saw, the boy climbed up a chair
and sat there, swinging his short legs back and forth, his eyes turning to Vader. He raised his hand and waved at him with
The Sith Lord walked up to him. He wasn’t in the mood for childish games. His anger was rising again.
"Look, child, I do not feel like engaging in idle chit-chat with you, which in your case would be a total
waste of time and effort. I will allow you to stay here for the night. Tomorrow, someone else will take care of you. Is that
The boy tilted his head to one side, a blank expression on his face.
Giving up, Vader turned about and returned to his pod without looking back.
Taking a deep breath, the little boy turned to the table, rested his crossed arms on it, and settled his
head on them. He closed his eyes with a sigh.
Once inside the chamber and out of his mask and helmet, Vader realized his heart was pounding. He had released
an unusual amount of adrenalin in the boy’s presence. Only now he was aware of it.
That child was a walking enigma. At first sight, he had detected a keen intelligence hiding behind his eyes,
and yet, the monitor’s words and the child’s own behaviour belied that first impression.
Not to mention the fact that there had to be an explanation for his presence aboard the Executor. He would
find that explanation, never mind if he had to turn the boy’s brain inside out. There could be an important breach of
security, and the child had somehow slipped through it.
Whatever it was, it would never happen again.
Vader woke up exactly four hours later.
He never slept longer than that.
Stretching his neck’s muscles and setting himself to face another day, Vader lowered his mask and helmet
and locked them.
He exited the chamber and headed directly for his office, a part of him bracing itself to deal with a boy
that unsettled him as nothing and no one ever had before.
He entered his office and stopped dead in his tracks.
The child was gone.
For the first time in four years, Darth Vader was left aghast. He couldn’t feel the boy’s presence
anywhere in his quarters, anywhere in the ship.
He had vanished into thin air.
Five minutes later, the Dark Lord still stood in the same spot, trying to grasp what had happened there a
few hours before.
Had it really happened? Had that boy really been in his quarters, or had his mind played a trick on him?
No. The boy had been there. Everything he was told him so. It had been no dream, no delusion. It had
But that didn’t change the fact that the mysterious child wasn’t there anymore.
There had to be a logical answer to this, and by all the Lords of Sith, he would find it!
Vader turned about and strode out of his quarters.
The lift doors opened and the Dark Lord stepped onto the bridge.
The level of tension and disquiet raised noticeably and behind his mask, Vader smiled viciously. He found
that fear invigorating.
"Good morning, Lord Vader," Captain Kyle greeted him formally.
"Captain, I have reasons to believe there could have been an intruder on board," Vader didn’t waste
any time on formalities. "I want every piping system checked, every nook and cranny of this ship turned inside out and inspected
"Certainly, milord," the Captain acknowledged with a nod, a somewhat bewildered expression on his face. "May
I ask why you used the words ‘could have been’?"
Vader withdrew into himself for a moment, considering his next words carefully.
"I felt their presence last night, but this morning it had disappeared."
It didn’t take a genius to guess what thoughts crossed the Captain’s mind at the Sith Lord’s
words. But Kyle was wise enough not to utter them.
"I want a special thorough search of my quarters. Look for any small hideouts, narrow passages, any place
where a child could go into hiding."
"A child, Lord Vader?" Kyle’s eyebrows skyrocketed.
"Or a small body," Vader’s voice left no room for questioning his perceptions.
There was a short pause.
"As you wish, milord. The search will start immediately," the Captain acquiesced, turning about and beginning
to issue orders.
Vader walked up to the window and looked out at the immense blackness of space. An uncomfortable feeling
had settled in his chest. A strange feeling of foreboding. The knowledge of something he always should have known, and yet,
even now, it was a billion light-years away.
Eight hours of search with no positive results passed, with Vader’s still figure looking out the window,
deep in thought.
"Lord Vader, we’re entering the Vortex system," Captain Kyle’s voice drew the Dark Lord out of
"Is my shuttle ready?" Vader’s voice seemed to come from far away.
"Yes, sir; it is."
Vader turned about, the empty sockets of his mask seeming to bore into the Captain’s eyes.
"Nothing so far, milord," Kyle replied, swallowing a sudden lump in his throat.
"Keep searching. There must be a trace of the intruder’s presence somewhere. And you’d
better find it."
Kyle felt the little hairs on the back of his neck standing on end at the sound of the final sentence. He
could only nod sharply before the Dark Lord’s cape turned its back on him.
Vader had come to hate these missions to cross every corner of the galaxy, eliminating every little source
of resistance against Palpatine. He agreed it was necessary to maintain the reign of terror at first, but after a time, it
He was tired of killing helpless people who were no match for him. It had become pathetic over time. Also,
it was a waste of his abilities.
At least, this time, after taking care of that tedious job, the Executor and the rest of the Fleet were assigned
to perform some full-scale drills that would be broadcast all over the galaxy, in a blatant display of power – and firepower
– clearly intended to dissuade anyone who harboured any ideas against the Empire.
It was late evening when Vader retired. Captain Kyle and a young lieutenant waited for him at the entrance
of his quarters, the first one with a datapad in hand. The Dark Lord made a gesture with his hand, indicating them to follow
Once in Vader’s office, Kyle squared his shoulders and began his report.
"After ten hours of intensive search, the result has been negative, sir," he informed, a slight tremor in
"However," the Captain hurried to finish, "in the process of searching your quarters, we found this." He
nodded to the lieutenant, who handed to the Sith Lord something he had been holding in his hand all the time.
Vader took it and stared at it.
A small cuddly toy. A ten centimetres long cross between a teddy bear and a frog, wearing a short top with
the words ‘HUG ME’ on the front.
"Your suspicion about a child on board was correct, sir," Kyle summarized needlessly.
Vader’s hand closed on the toy, almost crushing it.
"If that is so, Captain, would you mind telling me why you found the toy, but not its owner?"
"It doesn’t make sense, milord," Kyle agreed. "We used three-dimensional scanners. There are no niches,
no false walls or ceilings behind your walls. Nothing. And the same goes for the rest of the ship. There’s no place
for anyone, child or adult, to hide."
Vader remained silent.
"We taped all the readings for you to examine if you so wish. We double-checked every corner of the ship."
Vader became absent for an endless minute. Kyle and his lieutenant were beginning to fidget when the Dark
Lord returned from wherever he had retreated into.
"I do not doubt your readings, Captain. They are correct. The child is not aboard anymore."
"Then, how did the kid get in... or leave, for that matter?" Kyle asked, nonplussed.
"I have no answer to that question... yet," Vader said. "But I will. And soon. Very soon." He walked past
the two men and put the toy on the table. He looked down at it, as if willing it to answer. "You may leave now."
Vader was entering the first stages of sleep when something awakened him with a start. Recognizing it immediately,
he opened the pod and stepped out of it, not bothering to draw out his lightsaber this time.
When he reached his office, his legs came to a dead stop.
There, sitting on the table, the boy waited, his eyes already settled on him.
"You seem to have developed quite an attachment to me," Vader observed dryly.
The child raised an ironical eyebrow.
The Dark Lord walked up to the boy until he was directly in front of him.
"I want you to tell me where have you been all day, and how you managed to hide your presence, not only from
the scanners, but from my senses, as well."
The boy smiled, but otherwise, the expression on his face didn’t change.
"I know you are Force-sensitive. I can feel the Light lingering around you. Did you use the Force to shield
your presence from us?" Vader insisted.
The boy’s smile grew bigger.
The Sith Lord turned about and walked away from the child, facing the doors. Anger and frustration began
welling up in his chest, and something in him snapped. He turned to the boy.
"Get down from there and follow me," he ordered in a chilly voice.
The child obeyed and walked up to Vader.
"I am taking you to sickbay. I will not play babysitter for you a moment more."
Sheer panic appeared on the boy’s face. He reached out and grabbed Vader’s hand with both of
his, trying to hold him back.
A feeling whose intensity he had forgotten a long time ago, sliced through Vader like a knife at the touch
of those tiny hands. The sensors on his mechanical hand seemed to short-circuit and instinctively, he shook the little hands
off with a sharp movement.
"Do not ever dare to touch me, little worm, or I will..."
The moment their eyes made contact, Vader swayed on his feet. The fear and helplessness in the child broke
something inside the Sith Lord.
The boy didn’t try to touch Vader again, but his eyes pinned Vader under the torrent of emotion they
rained on him. For some reason, he didn’t want to leave his quarters. He truly feared for his life.
Vader closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to regain control of his emotions.
"All... right, boy. All right," he uttered through gritted teeth. "For the life of me, I cannot understand
what are you doing here and why you insist on staying."
The fear in the child’s eyes abated, and he contemplated the Dark Lord gratefully.
Puzzlement didn’t even begin to describe Vader’s feelings. But another feeling soon took over.
"Never mind. I have my means. This situation will be over soon. I have duties and responsibilities, and you will never be
one of them." He turned about and headed back to his chamber.
He felt the boy beginning to follow him, and he faced him again, determined to shatter that unwanted attachment.
The child had already stopped. He wrapped his arms around himself and began turning his upper body from side
And Vader knew he was asking about his cuddly toy.
"No, I do not intend to hold you," he deliberately misunderstood. "And since there is no bed in here, you
will have to make yourself comfortable in any way you can, as you did yesterday. Good night." He turned again, an evil smile
on his lips, leaving the boy alone in the darkness of the room.
In the safety of his pod and alone with himself and his thoughts, Vader’s mood darkened when he realized
his inner voice was nagging at him for his cruel treatment of the child.
He could have given him back his cuddly toy and provided him with, if not a bed, at least some improvised
arrangement for him to sleep as comfortably as possible.
Since when did Darth Vader care about a little boy’s comfort?
‘I did it to make him feel unwelcome here. That way, he will eventually ask to be returned home, wherever
it is,’ the Dark Lord reasoned.
But he couldn’t just sit and wait for the child to want to return home. This was a most unpleasant
disturbance in his life. The boy had to leave.
He settled himself to sleep, and once out of his mask and helmet, it hit him that he was staring at his right
The hand the boy had grabbed and held on to.
He flexed his fingers, looking at them as if they weren’t a part of him anymore.
Why did that child affect him so? Why did his touch move him as only...?
‘Do not go that route.’
He hadn’t been touched since... since before...
Maybe that was it. Maybe it was the fact of this being his first human touch in four years.
Vader cleared his mind of disquieting thoughts. His mind was wandering to places he hadn’t visited
in years, and he didn’t feel like visiting again.
The Dark Lord closed his eyes and let go.
The next morning, as soon as he opened his eyes, Vader knew the boy was gone again.
But gone where?
Once again, Vader stood in the middle of his office, more confused than he had ever been. There had to be
an explanation for this.
He decided to remain in his chamber and run the ship from there. He had done it before and he knew there
would be no problems. He needed the solitude to meditate.
When he had taken care of the ship’s daily business and all his subordinates had their orders to carry
out, Vader locked himself in his pod, and let his thoughts wander wherever they wanted to go.
Was the child a threat? Could someone be manipulating him in some way? Using the boy to get to him somehow?
Vader’s lips twisted in a lopsided grin. That was next to impossible. Get to him in what way? With
a bomb inside his cuddly toy?
To play a mind trick on him, perhaps?
That one was more likely. But so far, leaving aside the mystery of the boy’s strange appearances and
disappearances, he wasn’t playing any mind tricks on him. He simply reacted to Vader’s thoughts and actions, either
smiling, getting serious, or showing fear or contentment.
The child was Force-sensitive and a telepath. Or an empath. Or something in between. But he was no threat.
Everything in him could feel it. He was no more than a mentally impaired boy who had probably spent most of his life in medical
centres, undergoing test after test, overprotected by his family, and whose only ‘big adventure’ had been that
trip to Ando to visit its famous menagerie. Somehow, meeting him had opened his damaged mind to a whole new world of possibilities
out there, and he had proceeded in the only way his brain and young age allowed him to.
Still, there was something else. Not dangerous, but...
The day passed before the Dark Lord’s eyes, deep in a sea of useless speculation.
At last, seeing that his mind was moving in circles and getting nowhere, he gave up his ruminations and decided
to sleep on it.
Just like the two previous nights, his eyes opened in the middle of the night when he felt the presence of
the boy in his office, waiting. His finger froze when he was about to open his egg-shaped pod.
‘Keep waiting,’ he thought. ‘Maybe you will get the hint that way.’
Vader adopted his sleeping posture again, sitting up and with his legs crossed, and drifted off.
As expected, the boy had disappeared for the third time the morning after.
Resolved to keep the child from his thoughts, Vader spent most of the day in his fighter, rehearsing the
next day’s routine with the rest of the Fleet. As the Empire’s best pilot and the Emperor’s right hand,
he would lead the performance.
The galaxy would get the message, he had no doubt about it.
That night, Vader retreated earlier than usual. Even if he never slept for more than four hours, he wanted
to get as much rest as possible. Tomorrow would be a very important day for the Empire and his master. Nothing could be allowed
His eyes opened on their own at midnight when he felt the boy’s presence in his quarters for the fourth
time in a row.
‘Suit yourself, child,’ he thought, closing his eyes and falling asleep almost immediately.
The next day was a glorious one for the Empire. Coruscant dawned sunny and bright. The Fleet showed off its
most imposing display of force, and Vader’s flag team of pilots entertained their followers with the most stunning extravaganza
of acrobatic flying.
The Dark Lord only felt truly free when he became one with his ship and focused his every sense on piloting.
Just him and his fighter, manoeuvering, spiralling amongst the stars in the sky.
So often, a pang of bitter nostalgia threatened to break through his barriers, but as time went by, he had
learnt to crush that feeling and focus solely on his one-man dream of ruling the galaxy and making of it the place it should
His time would come. He only had to be patient and wait. Patience was something he had come to master in
the last few years.
He only had his ambitions and his greed to live for now. More practical and rewarding goals than setting
all his hopes on fallible people and their volatile feelings and morals. People were tools to use and dispose of when they
had outlived their purpose. People were no concern of his.
Except for that little annoyance that insisted on becoming a part of his life. That was his concern.
Against his will.
He was no fool. He could see right through those big, expressive eyes as easily as they seemed to see through
‘You stand no chance, boy. You are too late, for everything.’
He would find a way to return the boy home. If he had to take drastic measures, he would.
And that’s when it occurred to him.
That night, back in the Executor, Vader was totally absorbed in his search. Sitting at his computer, he introduced
the child’s parameters, trying to find out if someone across the galaxy had reported him missing.
Vader was puzzled. At this stage, there should be a report for the child’s disappearance. It had been
five days already.
He extended the search from Ando’s system and the surrounding ones to a galaxywide search. A four year
old human boy, mute, orphan, living with his aunt and uncle.
No lost child matched the boy’s description.
Vader leaned back in his seat.
A funny tickling in his mind awakened him to the soothing warmth that always accompanied the child’s
Vader closed his eyes when he checked the time. It was quite late already, but still, sooner than any of
the boy’s other previous appearances in his quarters.
He rose to his feet and turned about. The child was three metres in front of him, a radiant smile on his
face. Vader thought he detected some... impishness there, too?
‘Where in hell did you come from, boy?’ Vader wondered, his surprise and frustration one
second away from melting into unleashed anger.
The boy’s smile grew bigger and he cocked his head to one side, looking up at him.
Vader took a step forward.
"Do not play games with me, little runt. I will remove the information from your brain and leave it like..."
The child looked away and his eyes settled on a spot on the wall, above Vader’s head.
The Sith Lord saw red.
"Don’t you dare to ignore me, you...!"
It was then that Vader realized the boy was frowning, while staring at something over his head.
A sudden feeling of foreboding made Vader turn about sharply.
The first thing he saw, was the infrared shaft aimed directly at him. Second, the long metallic tube that
disappeared up a small hole in the wall, next to the ceiling.
And for the first time in his life, Vader froze. His mind and his body simply stopped functioning. He became
a helpless witness to what was happening, as if seeing it from outside himself.
Knowing he was about to be murdered.
He heard the noise of the dart being fired. As if in slow motion, he saw it heading directly for his chest...
and stopping in the air twenty centimetres away from him.
The surrealism of the scene shook Vader out of his trance, and he turned his head.
The child stood exactly where he was the last time he had seen him. He had reached out his left arm, and
his small forefinger was pointing straight at the dart.
Vader looked back at the frozen dart, realizing what had happened there. He looked at the boy again, just
when he was lowering his arm.
The dart fell to the floor the moment the child stopped pointing at it.
The soft noise the dart made when it hit the floor spurred Vader into action. He dropped to one knee and
took the dart in his hand.
The tip was sharp, clearly designed to pierce his armour. Once inside him, the small charge it carried would
have detonated, causing massive damage and more than likely, his death.
Vader’s respiration accelerated as adrenalin pumped in his veins. Rage as he had never known before
exploded within him. He looked up, in time to see the weapon disappearing up the hole.
That meant the assassin had to be very close, probably in the adjacent room.
He sprinted for the door, barking an order to the child beside him.
Vader burst into the room next to his own. At first sight, he knew it was empty. Only a few metallic boxes
and pieces from a hundred different machines lay scattered on the floor, since they used that place as a storage room.
He found no trace of the weapon just used against him, so that meant the killer had escaped somewhere else.
His heart skipped a beat. What if the killer had waited for him to leave his quarters, to escape?
Vader returned to his quarters like a charging beast, one single thought in mind. The child.
He stopped dead in his tracks.
The boy was gone.
All rational thought deserted him, and he headed for his sleeping alcove breathlessly.
When he caught his breath and his heart stopped hammering in his chest, his legs led him back to his office.
Now that calm was settling once more, he noticed that the warmth was still there.
The chair where he had been sitting swivelled, revealing the boy sitting cross-legged on it, a playful smile
on his face. He raised his hand and waved at Vader.
The Dark Lord’s heart swelled with something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Gratitude.
That child had saved his life. That worthless, dumb, retarded parasite had reacted when the great Sith Lord
Something within Vader ached. It was a feeling he had sworn never to experience again, and a part of him
rebelled against the weakness it represented.
And another part didn’t give a damn.
He took a step forward, just as the boy jumped from the chair and observed him in that characteristic way
of his, his head tilted to one side.
"I..." Vader began, suddenly experiencing another feeling just as foreign. Self-consciousness. He quickly
shook it off. He was a Sith Lord! "You..." What was the matter with him?! "You saved my life. I want you to know that what
you did today will never be forgotten." There, that sounded more Darth Vader.
The boy looked at him with something akin to fond amusement, and his features softened even more.
Determined to pull himself together, Vader crushed the feelings the boy was arousing, and approached him.
The child craned his neck almost to breaking point, looking up at him.
"As you can see, my life can be a very dangerous one. Not the right place for a child to live. Your relatives
have to be extremely worried about you. I know you cannot speak, but if you could tell me somehow where you live, I would
take you there." His voice sounded shockingly soft and kind. Maybe kindness would work where harshness and threats had failed
The little boy smiled knowingly and stared at him with a teasing expression on his face.
And Vader knew what that expression meant.
‘You won’t get rid of me that easily.’
Vader turned around and started pacing the room like a caged animal. The boy looked at him patiently, his
eyes infinitely soft.
Finally, Vader faced him, the living expression of frustration.
"What are you doing here?! What do you want?!" he demanded.
His only answer was the most dazzling smile that anyone had ever given him. Vader felt light-headed. The
strangest peace suffused his being and for a second, he...
No. NO! No more weakness. Never again!
"I do not know what it is you want, but whatever it is, you will not get it from me. The sooner you accept
it the better it will be for you." His voice sounded as cold as ice. "I am in your debt, and I hope to pay that debt one day,
but do not push me or you will be pushing your luck, boy."
Vader turned about and headed for the room connecting with his office. He entered his pod and sat down. His
hands closed into fists and he shut his eyes, striving for control.
The effect this child had on him defied all logic. He should be kicking him out of his ship, out of his life,
and getting him home; or at the very least, reporting him to child care so they took care of him until they found his family;
and yet, he was sheltering him in his quarters, where any of his officers could step at any moment.
‘What am I doing? What is happening to me?’ he asked himself for the umpteenth time. ‘I
cannot seem to think straight when I am close to him.’
But not even now that he was away from the boy did he have an answer to his aberrant behaviour.
He remained like that for a very long time, until it dawned on him that he had forgotten to close the pod.
Grunting, Vader stood up and stepped out of it.
Slowly, warily, he entered his office.
The child was curled up into a ball in his chair, sound asleep. He was so tiny that he looked like a little
island in the centre of the seat. He looked lonely and bereft, with his arms wrapped around himself.
Vader winced beneath his mask at the needful sight.
‘This child’s... starved for love. All the hugs, kisses and caresses in the world don’t
seem nearly enough.’
The Dark Lord closed his eyes and looked away.
‘It’s as if... as if he had withdrawn into himself from birth, waiting for something or someone.’
Vader turned around and walked away.
‘Waiting for that special person to unlock him from his self-imposed prison, and set him free.’
Vader took out the boy’s cuddly toy from the drawer where he had put it away, and stared at it.
‘Starved for love. Starved for love...’
The Sith Lord returned to his office and watched the child sleeping until he lost track of time. He only
snapped out of his trance when he saw his hand reaching out and almost settling on the blond head.
Blond? How could he tell it was blond? Certainly, he could tell the boy was light-haired, but he had no way
to know he was blond.
‘You would like for him to be blond, wouldn’t you? Like a mirror image of you at his age. Like
you would wish your child to be if...’
Vader’s nostrils flared when he realized the direction his thoughts were taking. He could feel the
heat of the searing wave of anger and pain moving up his neck, and spreading all over his face.
Still, he placed the cuddly toy on the child’s lap.
‘Starved for love. Starved for love...’
"Not me, boy. Not me," he muttered, turning on his heels and returning to his chamber in long strides.
The pod closed with a definite clank.
The morning after, just like the previous mornings, Vader knew the child was gone the moment he opened his
Brushing the matter aside, Vader exited his chamber and stood beside it for some time, feeling strange.
Frowning, he checked the temperature of the room, and verified it was the same he had set months before.
But he still felt cold.
His gaze was drawn to something settled on the outside of his pod. Something that could only be seen once
the chamber was open.
The cuddly toy.
Vader took it in his hand and looked at it. And for the first time in years, an amused little grin covered
Shaking his head, the Sith Lord put the toy away and sat at his computer.
He hadn’t forgotten his attempted murder. He had been thinking about it all night, and he knew where
The dart and the weapon.
Five minutes later, his screen flashed with the words "Match Found."
Vader bent forward and started reading.
"Interesting," Vader mused, leaning back in his seat. The weapon used against him was a latest model, and
there were very few licences for such weaponry. They required a special dexterity, since they were very difficult to handle.
By their very nature, they were weapons perfect for mercenaries and hired assassins. They allowed you to kill someone from
the other side of a house, or ship, thanks to their extendable barrel, that could be as long as necessary, to fit the
assassin’s needs. The barrel was made of a special alloy of metals and other substances that made it flexible, so it
could move through pipes and twisted narrow passages, in search of its target.
A second search revealed that only two members of his crew had a licence for such weapons.
Of course, that didn’t mean that either of those two men was responsible. Anyone could have smuggled
the assassin on board.
But he trusted his instinct. If he was wrong, that would only delay the culprits’ deaths a little bit.
Suddenly, he remembered the upcoming morning meet with his chiefs of staff. Coincidentally, his two suspects
were to attend the meet.
Vader’s lips twisted into a nasty grin. That was simply perfect.
It was the first time the Dark Lord was late for a meet with his higher rank officers. Darth Vader could
be accused of many things, but unpunctuality wasn’t one of them.
Within ten minutes, almost everyone was fidgeting.
"He’s never late for anything. Do you think that...?" Commander Ralek voiced everyone’s thoughts.
"Maybe we should contact him upon some pretext," Captain Kyle suggested.
"And have our windpipes crushed? Count me out," Commander Philos adamantly refused.
"You seem pretty calm, Jaffey," Captain Ozba observed to his silent partner, who watched them with his arms
"I’m doing my duty. I have nothing to fear."
"Everyone in this ship has got something to fear," Ralek pointed out.
"Maybe. Maybe not," Jaffey replied enigmatically.
Five more minutes passed in complete silence and ever-increasing nervousness.
"I have a meet with my subordinates in five minutes," Jaffey announced, starting out for the door, "and I
don’t intend to be late because my superior officer overslept."
Right then, the doors opened and the Sith Lord entered, advancing toward them in long strides.
"I never oversleep, Commander."
Immediately, the four innocent officers stood at attention, whereas Commander Jaffey froze on the spot, his
"L-Lord Vader!" he gasped.
"It is no wonder you are so shocked to see me, since you didn’t expect to see me at all for the rest
of your life. Am I wrong?" Vader walked past the petrified man.
"W-what do you m-mean, m-m-milord?" Jaffey stuttered.
"On my way here, I stopped to search your quarters, and I found something... disquieting," Vader went on
as if nothing was the matter. "A receipt for the purchase of a KDF-101."
"KDF-101?" Jaffey swallowed hard.
"Of course, anyone could have planted the receipt there to incriminate you," Vader continued, "but your face
is all the proof I need." The Dark Lord raised his hand, signalling to the Security guards behind him. "Take him to the brig."
In a daze and plagued by questions, Jaffey started to follow the guards. How could he miss his shot? According
to the weapon’s readings, he had hit Vader almost point-blank! And how could he forget about getting rid of the receipt
when the weapon itself had ceased to exist hours ago?
That was as far as he could go with his musings before hearing a strange buzzing sound, and feeling a dull,
burning pain in his back and chest. He looked down and his eyes opened wide at the sight of the red tip of Vader’s lightsaber
sticking out from the centre of his chest.
His legs stopped supporting him and he fell to his knees. He could barely turn his head and utter his last
His dead body collapsed to the floor.
Vader drew back the impaling blade and turned off his lightsaber.
"After you," he countered coldly.
A deadly silence followed the gruesome scene. The four horrified officers did their best to maintain their
composure, as the Security guards dragged Commander Jaffey out of the room.
"So," Vader proceeded casually, attaching the lightsaber to his belt and turning to his men, "let us start."
The meet was tense and the fear so thick you could cut it with a knife. Vader was surprised to actually feel
uncomfortable, and he was relieved when the awkward meet came to an end.
As he looked out of the massive windows of his ship into the farthest reaches of space, the Sith Lord was
in as close to a state of mental turmoil as he had been in four years.
Certainly, he didn’t regret killing Jaffey. After all, he had tried to kill him first. He had stopped
justifying morally his actions long ago. They were either wise or unwise, either practical or unpractical. The only thing
that mattered was the final outcome.
Not even during his years as a Jedi, defending the Old Republic, had he regretted killing someone when it
was necessary, and his fellow Jedi didn’t hesitate either to terminate a life when push came to shove.
Being a Dark Lord only added a different perspective on things. Essentially, he was the same he had always
been. He only had a different goal now. If he had to kill one, two, a dozen or a million to get it, he would. It was irrelevant.
There is a difference.
Vader cringed at the sound of a voice he had thought muted forever.
There is a difference and you know it.
Vader ground his teeth and looked away from the windows.
Maybe there was a difference, but those considerations were of no consequence anymore. He was too far gone
to change. His soul was already forfeit. The only thing that mattered was the here and now, what he got in this realm, because
the moment he ceased to exist, the Dark Side would consume his spirit, as it consumed his body, his lifeforce, day by day,
year after year.
He only lived to fulfil his ambitions, his thirst for power. There was nothing else for him anymore.
Vader was swept away by an unexpected wave of melancholy. The weight of his losses was a burden that occasionally,
still raised its stubborn head.
He felt homesick. But for what, he couldn’t tell. He had never belonged anywhere. He had belonged with
someone at a certain moment in time. But those days were gone for good.
He was what he was, and he had to admit he had made the most of it. He was a survivor and one day, he would
prove that his resilience and constancy had paid off.
Shaking off all the memories and moral disquisitions that led him nowhere, Vader started walking the bridge,
paying no attention to the soft gasps and the growing level of tension that permeated the place.
It was boring. Worse than that. It was pathetic. He felt like a reek walking among fleas. None of these people
were his equals.
Disgusted, Vader left the bridge. It was late enough, so he could as well retire.
On his way to his quarters he stopped by the supplies department, and grabbed a small blanket.
It was very late, and still no sign of the boy. Vader tapped his fingers on his chair, as he checked the
time once more.
Finally, he stood up and headed for his sleeping alcove. It was ridiculous for a Sith Lord to be at the whim
of a four year old. Wherever he was, he was all right. He could feel it. The child’s capacity to take care of himself
and go unnoticed in the confined and unfamiliar environment of an Imperial Star Destroyer, truly amazed him.
He opened the pod and for once, didn’t wait for it to open all the way to get in. He already had one
leg inside when something hit it softly. Drawing it back immediately, he took a look and his eyes almost popped out of their
sockets when he saw the child sprawled there, looking up at him with a mischievous smile on his face.
Vader stood beside the pod until it opened fully, displaying as dignified a stance as he could manage. The
two observed each other in silence.
"You are really strange, boy," Vader said at last.
The child seemed to giggle, and another long pause followed.
"This is my sleeping chamber," the Dark Lord hinted.
The child sat up, but otherwise, he made no attempt to move.
"Which means I sleep in here," Vader felt a most unseemly urge to sigh out loud.
The boy’s face broke into a full smile, and obeying the implicit suggestion, he stood up and exited
Vader stared at the child inquisitively.
"I gave up trying to guess where you hide during the day, but I am most curious to know why you choose to
spend the nights with me."
The boy flashed him a blinding smile and shrugged, as if he himself didn’t know why he did it. He looked
at Vader’s pod for a brief moment and turned about, walking up to Vader’s big chair in his office. He climbed
it and made himself comfortable.
Vader followed him, too puzzled to speak.
The child’s eyes turned to him and regarded him openly, unafraid.
"Why aren’t you afraid of me?" There was no malice in Vader’s question. Quite the contrary, the
honesty in his own words shocked the Sith Lord.
The boy shrugged again, his face going all soft and calm.
Drawn to the child’s soothing aura, Vader squatted down in front of the chair and studied him unashamedly.
‘I wish I could see your face without the mask.’
The thought came to him unbidden, and Vader nearly recoiled from it.
The Light around the boy pulsed strongly and started to reach out to him. But just as quickly, as if remembering,
it drew back.
Vader’s eyes bored into the child’s from behind his mask. Their shape was perfect, and the long
lashes fluttered like the wings of a butterfly as they blinked and returned his stare.
Unquestionably, the boy had light eyes. Liquid water seemed to ripple in them back and forth, like a comforting,
‘Who are you? Why can’t I harm you? Why do you affect me so?’ Vader wondered, almost
The child smiled tenderly, as if reading his mind, and his little hand reached out, lingering a few centimetres
away from his mask, as if reassuring him that he meant no harm.
‘You wield the Force like a shield around you. You are the Light personified. I should destroy you
and yet...’ Vader’s eyes roamed the beautiful face with a hunger and need to know such as he had never experienced
The breathtaking smile was irresistible. It called out to him intimately, as if it had always been a part
The little fingers crossed the distance separating them.
He shouldn’t feel anything, but the delicate touch of small fingertips on his burned cheek felt devastating
in their intensity.
His own gloved hand reached up, and, in awe, Vader watched it getting closer and closer to the boy’s
cheek in return, until his fingertips brushed the soft face in a light, almost fearful, and awkward caress.
Vader jumped to his feet and turned his back to the boy. His hands clenched into fists as everything crystallized
in his mind.
He was projecting his feelings for his unborn child onto that boy. He had been doing it subconsciously since
they had first laid eyes on each other. Everything fell into place now. A four year old human boy, light-haired, light-eyed,
Force sensitive... How could he haven been so blind?
He stood in the middle of the room, petrified. Ashamed of his weakness, but unable to change the way he felt.
His fists unclenched and the Sith Lord looked up at the ceiling, shaking his head self-deprecatingly.
Soft steps approached him, but Vader was too far away to notice.
Then, a little hand slipped into his, holding onto him like a whisper.
Vader’s heart started pounding savagely, as he looked down at the tiny hand in his own. So light, so
soft, so warm, so right. As if it belonged there.
He had to stop this before it was too late. There was no place in his life for a child. Those days were gone
forever, with her and their baby.
Calling upon the Darkness fiercely, he let go of the little hand in a final gesture.
"I told you not to ask for what I cannot give. You keep on pushing your luck, boy. There is no place for
compassion and love in my life. Not now. Not ever. I have a destiny to fulfil, and you are not a part of it. Get it into your
thick skull once and for all, and leave me alone." He turned about and faced the child, his boiling anger feeding him the
strength he needed. "You understand?! Alone!"
The child paled when the onslaught of Vader’s hatred and rage washed over him. His face reflected an
infinite sadness and his big eyes stared at Vader pleadingly, but at the same time with a dignity that felt strangely out
of place for someone so young.
Unable to brave the pain in that lovely countenance, the Sith Lord turned his back to the boy and headed
for the safety of his sleeping alcove.
How ironical. He was always the one to walk away. To escape.
He seethed with anger.
It was improper. It was humiliating.
And yet... he ached inside. He felt as if he had just rejected the best part of himself. The remaining, infinitesimal
part of himself that still belonged to her and their unborn child, and always would.
He had failed them both by hurting an innocent little boy.
‘I have killed hundreds of innocent children before. Why should this one make a difference?’
He just admitted he had murdered innocents!
Vader felt a stabbing pain behind his eyes. A whirlpool of images and memories flashed in his mind. Images
and memories that had belonged to another. To another life. But not anymore. The idealistic young man he had been once, burned
to death four years ago. He had died and been born again in a crucible of Darkness that had given him a new purpose.
There was no turning back. No turning back from his decisions. From his choices. There was no questioning
them, because if he did...
‘Damn you. Damn you, boy! What are you doing to me?!’
Vader squeezed his eyes shut when the pain increased to a point where he thought his eyeballs would burst.
When he opened them again, he was panting and leaning on the console below the huge screen up the wall, holding
in his hands the small blanket and the cuddly toy.
His legs led him back to his office automatically, but he knew the boy wasn’t there before seeing it
with his own eyes.
The warmth was gone.
Darth Vader let out a blood-curdling scream.
The following day, the Sith Lord walked the bridge like a black ghost. He answered in monosyllables, and
seemed more withdrawn into himself than ever. Finally, he assumed his usual position of looking out of the massive windows
and didn’t move a muscle for hours.
Vader’s mind moved in circles helplessly. Concentrating desperately on not thinking about anything
at all. But there was no stopping the endless stream of images flashing in his mind, reminding him of past deeds, past values,
past feelings, past love.
He bared his teeth. It didn’t matter. His anger was strong enough to sustain him.
‘No!’ he cried out mentally. ‘I am stronger than all the pitiful dreams I harboured
once about love, peace and justice. The galaxy is a place filled with petty creatures who only care about themselves
and their selfish interests. No one is fully innocent. The Empire rules through fear. Fear is the key. It always was. I was
simply too young and naive to see it.’
He straightened up, more certain of himself now.
‘I must strengthen my shields around the boy. If I can’t prevent him from coming to me, I can
prevent his presence from affecting me. He is Light, I am Dark. We cannot meet in the middle. Indeed, there is no middle.’
More hours passed, and the flashes of his former life transformed into more recent memories. A sweet smile
that warmed his heart. A small hand touching his covered face. A tiny finger stopping the dart meant to kill him. A pure,
selfless love being offered, that expected nothing in return. Except maybe, understanding and respect.
Because he likes you. Because he cares about you. About your life. About your welfare.
The stab of pain returned, right in between his eyes.
A selfless love like no one will ever give you. A love that could free you if you so wish.
No! It couldn’t be! He had given up love. He had thrown it away from his life and never looked back.
Love had destroyed him. Love was madness, and pain, and betrayal. Especially betrayal.
Love and compassion were useless concepts in the higher scheme of things. He was better off without them.
He had enjoyed four years of emotional calm when he had transcended his need for those feelings.
He knew what he wanted. He knew what he wanted to become. He wanted to rule. He wanted to own, to possess...
...He wanted to fill the emptiness the loss of his wife and his child had left behind.
And the more power he gained, the more empty he was.
He was hollow inside. He was alone.
He had nothing.
He was nothing.
Vader sat at his desk, clutching in his hands the little cuddly toy. Reading the two words on its top time
and again, but not seeing them anymore.
The Dark Lord was weary. Emotionally exhausted.
After hours of frantic soul-searching, he had finally reached one conclusion.
The only sane, logical conclusion.
The boy held the answer to this situation.
The Force had decreed for them to meet. And there had to be a reason for it. A reason for his inability to
get rid of the child and think rationally in his presence.
Tonight, he would have that answer.
Around midnight, Vader had a bad feeling. Hoping to be wrong, he leaned back in his chair and summoned up
his patience. But the subtle twinge of an almost forgotten feeling began to insinuate itself from deep within.
Hours later, the sharp pain made Vader’s breathing hitch, as it became evident that the boy wasn’t
Can you blame him? You told him most explicitly to leave you alone.
‘I told him before and he never listened.’
You never hurt him this deeply before.
Vader looked away, forced to admit the truth. He had caused too great a harm to be dismissed this time.
A pair of breathtaking light eyes appeared in his mind, looking up at him, begging for understanding.
And he had rejected them with an uncalled-for cruelty. He had denied the person who had saved his life. The
only person in the galaxy who would do such a thing, from their heart.
Because the child truly believed his life was precious.
For the first time, Vader’s anger failed him. A black hole of nothingness wrapped itself around his
soul and sucked it dry.
He was a prisoner of the destiny he had carved out. A slave of his own passions and dark emotions.
You’ve got exactly what you’ve been striving for for the last four years. Live with it.
Vader stayed awake all night, sitting still on his chair, the cuddly toy in his hands, a bitter reminder
of what he almost had, and lost, before even knowing how illuminating and worthwhile it could be.
The next day, Vader placed an almost physical barrier between himself and his subordinates. They could almost
feel the force throwing them back when they approached the Dark Lord with some bit of information or piece of news.
All of them knew what that meant.
Someone would die today.
Fear was something really peculiar. It paralyzed most people, leaving them vulnerable to an attack. In others,
the strongest of all, it worked as a stimulant, encouraging them to fight and conquer it. But, as with most things, it also
had a downside. If prolongued in time, people got used to it. They resigned themselves to it, and it lost all effect.
That was what a state of constant fear had done to the crew of the Executor. They just accepted the death
of one - or more - of them, as inevitable. They had surrendered themselves to that fact. Indeed, what else could they do?
None of them was in the position of facing and defeating a Sith Lord. Those who had tried, like Jaffey, always failed.
It would happen any moment, over the smallest issue.
But Vader didn’t move from the windows, just like the day before. He looked out of them as if looking
for something. Apart, as he always was. But there was something different about him this time. No one could put their finger
on it, but it was there. Most definitely, it was there.
No one died that day.
As he did the night before, Vader waited until well past midnight, holding the toy in a tight grip.
When it became obvious that the boy wasn’t coming tonight either, Vader knew it was over.
Rising to his feet, the Dark Lord headed for his sleeping chamber and opened it. He was so weary that his
legs felt as heavy as lead. He couldn’t wait to find merciful oblivion in sleep. He wanted to forget the last week had
ever happened. He wanted to erase it from his mind.
The pod seemed to take forever to open. When it finally did, Vader froze.
The warmth was back. Right there, in the back of his mind. Soothing, calming.
The Sith Lord burst into his office, all weariness instantly forgotten.
The boy stood in the middle of the room. Serious. Withdrawn. Close-faced.
Child and Sith Lord stared at each other for an eternity. Vader almost fidgeted under the disdainful, cold
look in the light eyes.
Finally, the boy reached out, pointing at Vader’s hands.
Blinking, Vader looked down at the cuddly toy, and realized that was what the boy wanted. What he had come
to get back.
The child was the first to move and he walked up to the Dark Lord, who suddenly remembered how to use his
legs and met the boy halfway, handing him his toy.
The child grabbed it, met Vader’s eyes with a chilling look, and turned his back on him.
So this is what it feels like to kill innocence. Congratulations. It only took you six nights.
The boy began to walk away.
"Wait!" Vader’s voice echoed in the room.
The child stopped, but didn’t deign to face him.
Vader took a hesitant step forward.
"I-I had no right to treat you the way I did. You saved my life, and I owe you some respect and consideration."
Vader winced at the words that were leaving his mouth, but they were coming out of their own volition. His brain had nothing
to do with it.
The boy turned about and looked at him. He raised an ironical eyebrow, obviously unsatisfied with his explanation.
Vader paused, knowing what the boy wanted from him, but unsure if he could give it to him. Not knowing if
he still had it in him. Because he knew the child wouldn’t accept it if he didn’t mean it, if he didn’t
say it from his heart.
Then, he saw it. A flicker of need and vulnerability in those liquid eyes.
And to those, Vader responded before knowing he had done it.
"I apologize. You may stay here. If you so wish."
A strange, bitter taste rose in Vader’s throat. He swallowed hard, a slight tremor running up and down
The boy’s eyes bored into his.
Vader struggled not to block the child’s probing. Maybe it was better this way. Let him see what he
really was. That way, he would leave of his own free will.
Vader held his ground, even though the boy’s eyes seemed to burn a path down to his very soul. And
when he thought he could stand it no longer, the child’s face softened into an angelic smile that embraced Vader whole.
The boy walked up to the Sith Lord again, holding the toy to his chest, as if thanking him for taking such
good care of it in his absence.
Vader was in shock after that devastating smile. He blinked in confusion, not knowing how to react. At last,
seeing the uncomfortable angle the child was craning his neck to look up at him, he dropped to one knee, putting himself at
eye level with him.
The boy couldn’t seem to get enough of looking at him. He smiled non-stop, until, out of the blue,
he bent forward and planted a kiss on the upper angle of the triangular grid that covered his mouth.
Vader had no time to move back. Instead, he felt the wet touch of soft lips pecking him on the tip of his
The Dark Lord closed his eyes momentarily against the tingling sensation that spread from his nose to every
corner of his being. He didn’t know there still was any sensitivity left in a body whose every nerve ending had succumbed
to the fire that had burnt his flesh to a crisp.
The boy turned around, trotted happily up to Vader’s chair and jumped onto it. He curled up there and
closed his eyes with a soft sigh, tucking the toy safely under his chin.
Snapping out of his trance, Vader took out the small blanket he had put away in a drawer, and approached
his chair. Unfolding it, he covered the child with it clumsily.
The big eyes opened and gazed at him adoringly. The boy shone with gratitude and happiness.
Trust in him.
Kneeling down by the side of the chair, Vader did his fair share of staring that earned the child’s
Reaching out, Vader turned the sweet face up to his, noticing for the first time the deep dimple the boy
had on the chin. He cupped it, feeling the most overwhelming impulse to touch it with his thumb.
And also for the first time, he realized the boy looked paler than usual. He knew the child had very light
skin, but there was a slight pallor in that face that had been absent before.
"Are you all right? You seem unusually pale," he asked softly.
The boy flashed him another one of his blinding smiles, that Vader had learned to interpret as a yes.
This child was special even in that. Instead of nodding or shaking his head, he smiled for yes and got serious
The Dark Lord rose to his feet, looking down at the small bundle huddled up in his chair. The striking lightness
of his hair stood out, framed against the black leather of his seat.
Unable to help himself, his fingertips brushed the silky hair on the top of the boy’s head in a feather-light
Taking a grip on his dignity, Vader turned about and headed for his sleeping pod, swearing he had heard a
soft purr behind him.
Darth Vader woke up after five hours of sound, restful sleep. He couldn’t remember the last time he
had slept so much after... after becoming what he was.
Reaching out with the Force, he verified the child was gone once more.
He opened the pod and exited it, heading directly for the now empty chair in his office.
The blanket was there, thrown aside, one of the corners hanging from the armrest, and the cuddly toy on the
centre of the seat.
The corners of Vader’s lips twisted upward, knowing the boy had left it behind deliberately, again.
He found the gesture oddly reassuring.
The Dark Lord took it and looked at it for a very long time. It was a really grotesque cross between a teddy
bear and a frog. It had tiny towelling ‘membranes’ in between the four fingers of its hands and feet, an exaggeratedly
wide mouth, pointed ears and a funny tuft of make-believe hair between them. The top it wore was dark-coloured, and the sleeves
were a little bit frayed.
It was obvious the toy had been with the child for quite some time, judging from how worn it was.
Would this be his favourite toy?
The thought felt comforting somehow.
"Well, Froggy Bear. I guess it is just you and me now."
Deciding not to dwell on his weird mental slip, the Sith Lord put away the toy and the blanket and left his
quarters, feeling lighter inside for some reason.
It was a very strange day on the bridge of the Executor.
Vader seemed uncharacteristically impatient. As if wanting to be somewhere else. He walked the deck up and
down, sometimes coming down to supervise his subordinates’ work.
Most lieutenants, when hearing Vader’s breathing behind their backs, got so rattled they made the silliest
mistakes. But instead of Force-choking them, Vader simply waited for them to correct their mistake and continued checking
on their progress. A couple times, he even took the time to explain to two junior officers a faster way of testing their computers’
systems, through a bypass in their programming.
Once satisfied with his inspection, feeling his men were on the verge of a heart attack, Vader crossed his
hands behind his back and returned to his usual position, looking out of the windows.
It was curious, he had never noticed the amusing side of fear.
The Dark Lord was so engrossed with his report that the child had to awaken him to his presence by tapping
Vader nodded without looking, and finished writing the sentence he was working on. Then, he turned off his
When he turned his head to look at the boy, he frowned. The child was distinctly pale. Even more so than
the night before.
"Are you...?" he began to ask, but was shocked into silence when, with no previous warning, the boy climbed
into his lap and cuddled there.
Vader threw his hands up and stared down at the startling sight in disbelief.
His first impulse was standing up and putting the boy on the floor again. Who in Sith hell did that boy think
he was? Cuddling up to him in so proprietorial a manner! But something held him back. Maybe it was the deep weariness coming
out of the small body in waves. Maybe it was the instant concern it evoked in him. Maybe it was that elusive something that
bound child and Sith Lord together. Something beyond Darkness and Light, that had enabled them to find an impossible balance.
Instinctively, Vader brought one hand down and looked for the pulse on the child’s neck. It was a bit
slow, but otherwise, normal.
Dawning on him all of a sudden, he rolled up one of the boy’s sleeves. The little arm was maybe a bit
thin, but otherwise, he seemed well nourished.
"Do you eat properly, child? Do you find enough food to...?"
The boy smiled up at him tiredly, so Vader didn’t bother to finish the question. Still, it didn’t
"Listen, you must be reasonable. This situation cannot go on," he began. "It is time to go home, with your
family. They will take good care of you. You wanted to live an adventure, and you did. Now you have to..."
The boy looked away, obviously not wanting to hear that.
"...before it is too late, for the two of us."
Something in Vader’s voice made the child turn his head and look up at him again. His features softened.
"There could be great danger involved if... someone found out about you. About you and me..." he trailed
off, staring into the distance. "I fear I wouldn’t be able to protect you." He braved the sweet eyes, feeling for the
first time they would be his undoing.
The boy reached out and took one of the big gloved hands between both of his.
Vader looked down at the tiny hands holding his own, and something inside him told him what that gesture
I will protect you.
Vader smiled sadly beneath his mask. He reached out with his free hand and moved the uneven short fringe
aside, revealing the pale forehead. The gesture felt as natural as breathing.
‘I don’t even have flesh and blood hands to touch you. I am nothing but a murderer and a henchman,
burning in his own hatred and greed. In his thirst for power.’
The child smiled as he had never smiled at him before, and kissed the back of his hand.
A strange weakness befell the Dark Lord. His free hand moved again and stroked the smooth, open face all
over, finally giving in to the temptation of touching the dimple on the boy’s chin.
"Did you know that dimples on the chin are dominant hereditary features? That means that either your father
or your mother also had one," he went off at a tangent, needing the distraction to get his control back.
The caring smile never left the boy’s lips as he curled up to Vader’s warmth, staying away from
his chestplate instinctively, and closed his eyes.
The Sith Lord bit his lower lip, swept away by a feeling he had never experienced before. Following it blindly,
he grabbed his cape and covered the child with it.
The weight of the boy’s body on his flesh and blood thighs felt overwhelming. He couldn’t remember
the last time he had someone in his lap. He knew it had been his wife, but he couldn’t remember when.
"Look at me," he suddenly said.
The child’s eyes opened and fixed on him, steadfast, calm.
"One," Vader plunged ahead, "you could be getting sick. You can’t keep on hiding from everyone but
me, even if I cannot stop you from doing it if you want to. You could get seriously ill." He made a pause for effect. "Two,
think about your relatives, your teachers and monitors. All the people who care about you. It has been over a week already.
An intelligent boy like you should be more sensitive than that."
The child clasped his hand tighter between his own, as if knowing where all this was actually heading.
Vader reached down and framed one pale cheek, angling it so the boy was looking straight up at him.
"And three. The longer you stay with me, the more likely it is that someone might find out about you. Your
safety could be compromised at any moment." He pressed his palm hard against the soft cheek and nodded. "Yes, I know. I know
you also feel this... connection between us. Maybe it is what made you follow me aboard?"
The soft smile never left the full lips.
"I have been meditating on it, and although my every attempt has been fruitless, I can admit that this connection
is just as strong for me." He looked up, searching for the right words. "I do not know why the Force decreed for us to meet.
It is not logical, or wise. In the kind of life I lead, there is no place for children. You belong with your family, not in
a Star Destroyer. This is a battle ship, not a safe place for a child. Any child. You understand?"
One look at the boy confirmed he did understand.
"I do not know why are we feeling like this, but it has got to stop. Before our attachment becomes unbreakable.
Your presence is disturbing me greatly, and it could cost me my life." His voice hardened. "I am a Sith Lord. By definition,
emotional attachments, compassion and softness are not a part of our lives. We left that behind and embraced different morals
and ambitions. This is my destiny, and you cannot, you must not, interfere with it."
As he talked, the smile abandoned the boy’s lips. An infinite sadness, and even a hint of disappointment,
appeared in his eyes. The Light around him brushed Vader’s aura tentatively, enticingly.
Vader smiled at the childlike, naive attempt.
"You cannot change what I am. I made the decision years ago, and there is no turning back for me." He drew
back his hand from in between the child’s, and petted his head comfortingly. "Think about all this before going to sleep.
There is much more at stake here than your stubborn desire to be with me. You must learn to let go." A part of Vader winced
at his last words when he remembered who used to say them.
‘Yes, I did learn to let go. The hard way, but I did.’ He let out a nasty smile. ‘You
would be proud of me now, you little green bastard.’
The child’s eyes didn’t move away from his mask for a very long time. He was deadly serious,
but there was a certain softness about him too as he studied the inexpressive durasteel mask.
At last, letting out a small sigh, he curled up even more and pressed up to Vader’s body, tucking his
head below the Dark Lord’s stomach. He put his arms across his chest and relaxed fully. His eyes closed.
Vader struggled to hold back the shudder that the child’s needful cuddling elicited.
It took a while for the boy to fall asleep, and when he did, Vader just couldn’t bring himself to let
He was immersed in a sea of confusion, as the gentle feelings the child inspired, swept him away.
He was living a contradiction. He was a Sith Lord experiencing a true caring for someone. It couldn’t
be and he knew it. He knew what he had to do to save himself. Then, he looked at the boy, and he couldn’t do it.
There was something stronger than their very lives binding them together. Something beyond the bond between
Force sensitives. Beyond spiritual. Beyond real.
‘Ani, I’m pregnant.’
‘That’s wonderful. This is a happy moment. The happiest moment of my life.’
Vader closed his eyes against the words and the images in his mind.
‘I lost it all in the blink of an eye. I failed. Now, I have to live with the choices I made,’
he reminded himself for the second time in three days.
Live for what?
‘To bring true peace and order to it. To make of it what it always should have been.’
And kill anyone who disagrees with your vision of ‘peace’ and ‘order’?
Vader hissed. He had to leave here.
He rose to his feet very carefully with the boy in his arms, turned about and deposited him softly on his
The child didn’t wake up. He curled up even more when a little tremor shook his body.
Vader opened the drawer through the Force and levitated the blanket and the cuddly toy up to his hands. He
tucked the boy and placed the toy beside him. Then, he moved back.
Something felt wrong there. Being huddled in that small space seemed uncomfortable. Any bed would be better
than a leather seat, where the child couldn’t even stretch out completely. Sleeping like this had to be harmful to his
bones and muscles.
Vader’s resolution strengthened. The boy would leave, whether he wanted it or not. There would be no
more putting off.
The Sith Lord woke up with a definite feeling of foreboding. A dark cloud covered his thoughts, and it got
heavier the more the day progressed.
Finally, in the late evening, Captain Kyle approached him. Something inside Vader went cold.
"Milord, the Emperor commands you to contact him immediately."
Vader nodded curtly, dismissing his officer. He looked out of the windows a little longer, bracing himself
for what he knew awaited him.
Vader went down on one knee, as the holographic image wavered and came to life.
"Yes, my master." His mouth was dry, and an undeniable feeling of unease settled in his soul.
"Lord Vader," the chilling voice resounded all over the chamber, "Intelligence has detected some suspicious
movements in the closest circle of the Governor of Kolmenor. He could be conspiring against the Empire."
"Understood, master." A soul-deep weariness overtook the Dark Lord. Another fool who had underestimated the
Empire had his days numbered. And, as thousands of times before, he was appointed to be the executioner. Never mind if the
man was guilty or not. Palpatine clearly considered him a threat to be wiped out. Any intelligent being with an independent
will was a menace to his master.
He had eliminated many of those lately, and he had forced himself into believing that it was necessary, to
protect the Empire and dissuade future enemies, but recently, he had found it wasn’t enough.
He needed a reason to kill. A reason stronger than those that had worked before.
Palpatine made an uncharacteristic pause.
"Good, my friend. Contact me upon your return from your mission."
"I will, master." Vader didn’t look up until the image disappeared. He looked around the empty room.
‘My mission,’ he sneered. ‘As if there was something noble in the assassination
of an unsuspecting nobody, who will never have the option to defend himself.’
Why do you do this? Why are you acting against your own sense of justice, even against your principles?
Principles? He had never questioned them before. Why now?
And why every time he thought about killing, a pair of light-coloured, caring eyes flashed in his mind?
Vader was sitting in his leather chair, staring at the cuddly toy, as if it held the answer to all his questions.
Wondering how would he be able to brave the gentle eyes of its owner, after...
His eyes closed the moment he felt the boy walking in his office. He couldn’t look at him. Not yet.
The Dark Lord felt the touch of the tiny hand on top of his own like fire. The little fingers sought to intertwine
with his own.
Something made Vader look up at last, guarding his deepest core from the child’s instinctive inquisitiveness.
The boy’s face was drawn and he had rings under his eyes. His condition was worsening in leaps and
bounds. Still, his sweet face glowed as he looked at him, despite the worry that was clearly visible in his features.
‘He knows. Somehow, he knows,’ Vader realized.
When the boy made the weak attempt to climb up into his lap, Vader didn’t fight. Quite the contrary,
he helped him up and settled him snugly against him.
"Listen to me," he began, in a startlingly raspy voice, "I have a mission to carry out, and won’t be
back until the day after tomorrow. That means you will be on your own tomorrow night."
The tired eyes met his and the plea in them hit the Sith Lord’s mind like a physical blow.
Vader ignored it and went on.
"After that, I will take you to a shuttle and return you home, wherever it is. You can throw a silent tantrum
if you want, but this is it. Force knows I have been patient, but it’s over, child."
Again, as it happened the second night when he threatened him with taking him to sickbay, stark terror appeared
in the boy’s face.
‘Why are you so afraid of leaving my quarters?’ Vader wondered in awe. ‘No one would
hurt you. I would have the decks cleared so no one would see you. What’s the reason behind so much fear?’
The light eyes turned to his again, and the words appeared in his mind once more, sounding even more desperate
"Stop that!" Vader commanded. "It is my duty, and I will not neglect it just because you do not want me to
go." ‘Even if you don’t like what I have been ordered to do.’
The boy jumped from Vader’s lap to the floor and started pacing the room back and forth, twisting his
hands in obvious anguish.
‘You look like a grown up when you do that,’ Vader mused. ‘Do not want to grow up
too fast, little one. Life is nothing but pain. Hold on to your cuddly toys for as long as you can, even if it’s only
an illusion.’ His eyes turned involuntarily to the toy on the console.
A dull thud made him start. The child had collapsed and lay face down on the floor.
Vader sprang to his feet and knelt down beside the still body. He turned it over and into his arms. The boy
was semi-conscious. He strained to open his eyes unsuccessfully.
‘In the name of... what is happening to you?’ Vader cried out in his mind. ‘It is
as if... as if every time I took a life or agreed to... I was killing you too?!’ it struck the Sith Lord in a moment
of blinding insight. ‘As if every time I yield to the Darkness in me, I was... I was destroying a part of you?!’
Vader stood with the weakened child in his arms, heading hurriedly for his chair and sitting there. He watched
the still form earnestly.
‘Our attachment is unbreakable already,’ he realized. ‘I allowed this to go on for
too long, and it is too late for us.’
A tiny hand reached up shakily.
‘And you allowed it to happen. You welcomed it!!’ Vader drew back in shock. ‘WHY?’
Trembling fingers roamed the black mask, and Vader felt them stroking his face almost fearfully, as if expecting
to be rejected.
Hissing, the Dark Lord pressed the small hand to his face intensely, wishing to imprint those tiny fingertips
on his scars.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked softly. "There has to be a reason. Even for a four year old."
The child licked his dry lips and managed to open his eyes. He let out a little smile. Vader sat him up on
his lap. Some colour returned to his cheeks, and some strength too, as it became evident when he was capable of remaining
sitting without any support.
"Can you break the link between us from your end?" Vader suggested. "There must be a way to spare you."
Outrage appeared on the boy’s face, as if Vader had asked him to commit the worst crime.
"All right. Then I will try to sever it from my end," the Dark Lord decided. "This situation is preposterous."
The child shook his head dejectedly and looked down.
Vader cupped the boy’s chin in his hand and raised it. The moment he faced the infinite sadness in
those breathtaking eyes, he forgot what he wanted to say. What was with those eyes that had such power over him? Why they
seemed to speak in a language only he could understand? Why he felt so comfortable in the child’s presence? Why it seemed
so natural, so right for them to be together?
Vader blinked, as if coming out of a trance, and found himself stroking one pale cheek with the backs of
"I wish you were mine," he muttered to himself. "I wish..." he sighed. "We are two lost souls, living something
that cannot be. Something that’s bound to end tragically, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. You know that,
Tears filled the child’s eyes, but he quickly held them back. A poignant smile illuminated his features,
and turning his head slightly, he kissed the caressing fingers. He took a deep breath and straightened up resolutely, squaring
"You’re a stubborn, recalcitrant, uncooperative, obstinate pest. Maybe that is why I like you so much."
The boy returned the smile unashamedly.
Vader dropped his hand, feeling emotionally drained all of a sudden.
The child reached out and placed his palm on the Sith Lord’s heart.
‘Listen to it.’
Warmth spread all over Vader’s chest, and he felt as if his heart had stopped beating for a moment.
Then, it resumed its steady thumping.
Grabbing the blanket, Vader tucked the boy, and deciding to show off a little, he levitated the toy up to
his hands. A big smile of wonder was the Dark Lord’s reward.
The big gloved hand reached out and ruffled the light hair fondly.
"I will see you in two days, little one. Take care of yourself in the meantime."
Vader was feeling dizzy when he entered his pod, and was glad to get rid of the mask and the helmet. It wasn’t
a rare occurrence. Occasionally, he felt a strange pressure in his skull and being free of them usually relieved it. But not
Maybe the ozone concentration in the chamber was too high. It had been hell the first few weeks of being
in the suit, but he had no choice if he wanted to live. He needed to breathe the cleanest, most purified air, for his badly
damaged lungs to make the smallest effort possible.
He made some adjustments until the feeling of dizziness passed.
He wished the heavy feeling in his chest could be relieved just as easily.
After seven hours in the shuttle, Vader was glad to walk out of it. He had never been on this planet before,
and the Sith Lord had to admit it was one of the most beautiful places he had ever visited. It was exuberant, bursting with
life. The tallest trees he had ever seen raised majestically, shining under the sunlight of the rapidly setting sun. The calming
sound of a myriad fountains and flowing water could be heard everywhere.
But he wasn’t here to bask in the sun and wonder at the classical, elegant architecture of the buildings.
He was here to kill.
He walked from the landing platform framed by perfectly pruned bushes and through a small maze of hedges,
to his destination. A square ten-storey building surrounded by a garden.
On his way, he had studied the young governor’s habits. The building was mostly empty at this time,
except for the few members of the government who worked late hours, and the droid cleaning service. The governor was usually
amongst the last to leave.
He used the Force to bypass the average security system, and the doors opened soundlessly before him.
His steps were long and steady, almost noiseless, as he covered the first three levels and reached the double
doors at the end of the corridor. When he was directly in front of them, he faltered. He could feel the man’s presence
inside. There was warmth behind those doors. Charisma and goodness.
And he would be the one to extinguish that light.
Not knowing why, he opened the doors manually instead of using the Force.
Right in front of him there was a wooden table, functional but elegant; and sitting at it, a handsome young
man in his early thirties but looking younger looked up from the text he was reading to the unannounced visitor. His eyes
"Lord Vader!" he exclaimed, rising to his feet and walking around his table, reaching out to the Dark Lord.
Vader ignored the proffered hand and headed for the massive windows covering the left wall of the room. The
view was impressive. Most of the capital was visible from there. Little lights were coming to life as darkness began to fall.
His acute hearing picked up the chirping of the birds in the garden outside.
It had been years since he had been moved by the beauty of nature.
Snapping out of his reverie, Vader was drawn to the reflection of the governor in the glass windows. He was
around 185 centimetres tall, light-haired and light-eyed. Well built. His hair was maybe longer than usual for a politician,
but impeccably cut, except for a stray lock of hair on his forehead that gave him a youthful look.
"To what do I owe the honour of your visit?" the reflection asked.
"You brought the attention of the Empire," Vader explained concisely.
"Indeed?" the expressive eyebrows arched. "How so?"
"You have been in contact with... certain elements the Emperor doesn’t approve of."
"I see," a faraway look appeared in the light eyes, as the governor walked up to Vader and joined him in
his unconscious contemplation of the lush garden. There was a short pause. "Sometimes, when I have a tough decision to make
that I know will be unpopular, I like to spend some time looking out of the windows. It helps me to relax. And I know that,
in the long run, people will realize that such a decision was for the best."
"Peoples are like children, and as such must be treated," Vader said. "If they don’t like our decisions,
they must be forced to accept them, whether they like them or not. They are too limited to see the greater scheme of things."
"Do not underestimate them," replied a gentle voice. "True, they only seem to care about the subjects that
concern them directly, but they also see the bigger picture. They care about others, they want the best for the galaxy. They
want to be respected and treated as what they are. Independent beings with a conscience. With opinions and feelings. But I
guess we only see what we want to see."
Vader remained silent.
"Look at this garden," the young man invited. "It grows free and exuberant. Hundreds of different types of
plants, flowers, bushes and trees, all mixed together, sharing the same space in peace and harmony. But if you look closely,
you will see that an invisible hand has been putting some subtle order for all these plants not to grow on the others’
space, and end up getting in each other’s way. This is the way I conceive a politician’s role... and true Democracy."
"Democracy is overestimated. It is a system as fallible and imperfect as any other. If not more."
"Any system is likely to fail if ruled by incompetent or corrupt people. People who became so full of themselves
that they stopped worrying about what was really important, and lost perspective on things. That’s what happened to
the Old Republic. It self-destroyed."
The Dark Lord’s heart skipped a beat when he realized he actually agreed with those words. And
what was worse, he was beginning to like that verbose young man with strong opinions and an almost irresistible charm.
"But what we have now is not an Empire," the voice turned deep and serious. "It is a dictatorship, and more
and more systems are beginning to open their eyes. Soon, there will be no stopping it."
"Stopping what?" Vader asked with pretended nonchalance.
"You know what," the young man admitted openly. "Peoples’ freedom cannot be hindered for too
long, before they rise to demand it."
"You realize of course, that you are speaking of treason," Vader hissed coldly.
"That depends on one’s point of view. The megalomaniac whims of one man can hardly be considered a
valid system, especially when all the legal and rightful opposition is being thoroughly exterminated."
Something inside Vader twisted at the sound of those words. Is that what this system had come down to?
He knew the answer before the question fully formed in his mind.
How many thousands of people he had eliminated, following his master’s orders? Maybe those people had
been rebellious or dangerous to Palpatine’s vision at first, but when had those calculated murders given way to the
methodical extermination of any dissident voice, of anyone who dared to express their mere disagreement?
And why only now had he become aware of it?
"Life is a constant change. That is a universal truth. And one day, this system based on oppression and fear
will die, along with those who supported it, and all for what? At the cost of millions of innocent lives, who only wanted
freedom to make their own mistakes, to love, to laugh, to cry, to exist in peace." The young man sighed and turned
about, heading for his table and looking down at it. "And as an intelligent, capable and free being, it is my duty to do everything
in my power to stop this, before it takes any more lives."
Vader walked up behind him.
"Even if it’s too late to save my own."
Vader’s breathing hitched and a chilling feeling of dread enveloped his soul.
It was time. The hour of Darkness.
"I respect you."
Vader’s own words came as a shock to him.
A bitter smile appeared in the good-looking features.
"I know. And believe it or not, even if you’re nothing more than a henchman at the service of your
master, I respect you too. And I hope that one day, you will open your eyes to the truth. That day, my death will not have
been in vain. No one’s death will have been in vain."
Vader’s right hand settled on the back of the young man’s neck. A heartbeat later, a loud crack
broke the quiet of the scene.
The Sith Lord took the slowly slipping body in his arms and let it drop gently to the carpeted floor.
It was then that Vader saw the small two-dimensional picture the young governor had been clutching tightly
in his hands. He bent down and took it from the lifeless fingers.
It was a picture of the governor and his family. His wife was a beautiful woman. Petite, but of a really
stunning beauty. Dark-haired and dark-eyed, her wavy long hair fell down her shoulders and beyond, down her back. Between
the two of them, they were holding an adorable little girl, no more than seven years old. Her dark hair was tied back in two
long pigtails, and her expressive mouth smiled happily. She had one arm wrapped around each of her parents. Her dead eyes
clearly showed that she was blind.
The picture fell from Vader’s suddenly trembling fingers, as the mental image of the little boy’s
face appeared before his eyes.
The Dark Lord looked down at his right hand, and watched it turn into a claw.
Those fingers, that had caressed that sweet, beautiful face, and ruffled that soft hair, were the same fingers
that had just taken a life. An innocent life.
How would he be able to touch that purity again?
His eyes turned to the dead young man on the floor, and a sudden image of the dashing man he had been once
flashed in his mind’s eye. Then, he looked back at the picture.
And he knew.
He had just killed himself. And them. All over again.
Padme. His unborn child.
A tornado of feelings more powerful than anything he had experienced before, rose from the core of his being
and took over his mind, until he thought he was going insane. The pressure in his skull became unbearable. He thought his
brain was going to explode.
And he wished it would.
He was a criminal. A mass murderer. Nothing more. The lowest being who had ever existed.
Vader grabbed the sides of his head and sank to his knees beside the man he had murdered.
The most horrifying scream echoed through every corner of the building.
The shuttle crew was terrified. They had never seen Vader in that state before. He seemed to be in a catatonic
state, but the hurricane of barely-restrained violence inside him was taking over the small living space, until the tension
was a pulsing, breathing thing, wrapping itself around everyone’s throats.
When the shuttle landed in the Executor’s docking bay seven hours later and the ramp descended, it
felt like opening the cage of a rabid Rancor.
Vader walked down the ramp with slow, measured steps that felt loud and deafening to every officer standing
at attention outside the ship. A black, stinking shadow seemed to accompany the Sith Lord, and everybody pulled back, repulsed
by it. His respiration felt like the sound of the angel of death on the loose.
Vader went directly to his quarters and locked himself inside without speaking to anyone, without giving
any orders to his petrified men.
Nobody knew what to do. They only knew one thing.
Darth Vader was a time bomb on the verge of going off.
It was late evening, and Vader hadn’t moved a muscle in five hours. He was sitting on his leather chair,
his eyes fixed on the cuddly toy on the console in front of him. He took short and fast intakes of breath, keeping himself
alert, as if waiting for an enemy or anticipating an attack. Or both.
Until, finally, the Sith Lord felt the tickling sensation in his mind that announced the child’s presence.
One second later, the warmth was there.
The chair swiveled slowly, and Vader faced the boy, who halted in the centre of his office, pale and haggard.
"Here you are," the dark voice hissed menacingly.
The child stared softly at him, his head tilted to one side.
The big, armoured body rose and walked up to the boy with long, guarded steps, like a predator about to pounce
on its prey.
"Your angelic smiles will not fool me again. You will answer me, I don’t care if I have to rip your
mind apart to find what I want to know."
The boy didn’t move back. He simply looked at Vader, more serious than he had ever been. Showing no
fear where other men would have crumbled already.
"Why are you here night after night, tempting me with your innocent eyes and holier-than-thou attitude? Did
you think that a few smiles from you would melt my heart and change me? Is that what you thought?" Vader waited for
a few moments. "ANSWER ME!"
You have changed already.
The red lightsaber came to life with a deadly humming sound.
The child stood his ground and set his jaw, but the gentle warmth around him didn’t waver. Quite the
contrary, his aura of Light was brighter and more compelling than ever.
"I won’t let you take it away from me. You hear me?! You can’t take my hatred away from
me. My hatred is all I have. Hatred is all I am!"
The sweet eyes softened.
You’re far more than that.
"Why are you here every night, risking being discovered, risking your very life to be with me? What did you
expect to accomplish? Why did you choose me? Why?!"
The lovely face shone with tenderness.
The Sith Lord swung his weapon and sliced the cuddly toy in two.
The boy shook his head as if the answer was self-evident but still, sadly incomprehensible to Vader. His
look turned inwards for an instant. He seemed to come to a decision. When his eyes settled on Vader again, it was as if a
door burst open and Vader found himself inside the boy’s soul.
‘Because I love you.’
Vader threw his head back and let out a bark of laughter.
"Love me? And who told you to love me?" The amusement and disdain in his voice turned into seething anger
in less than a heartbeat. "I never asked for your love! I never wanted it! You had no right to enter my life and turn it inside
out with your pathetic goodness and aura of sanctity. I was most satisfied with my life until you came," he spat, looking
at the child up and down as if he was nothing but vermin. "What do you know about me? Do you have any idea what it is like
to be me?" He touched his chest with his left hand. "Do you see this? Love made me what I am. Love put me in this suit! Love
destroyed me because I loved too much once, and I was too afraid of losing it." He was panting, breathless, beside himself.
"Love took everything away from me, and now I am the one who takes!" He straightened up to his full imposing height. "I take
lives, lives as precious and valuable as the ones I lost. And I revel in it! I revel in my crimes, because that’s exactly
what I am. A cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer!"
The child took a step forward, the love in him wrapping itself around the Dark Lord like a fragrant breeze.
‘I know what you are. And I still love you.’
Vader swayed on his feet under the selfless, gentle attack that was embracing all the ugliness in him, ripping
all the hatred from his heart.
"Don’t you understand?!" Vader cried out, holding onto it desperately, even as he felt it fading away.
"I cannot care about the lives I take, like the man I murdered only a few hours ago. Because if I did..." bile rose
in his throat, as the horror he had inside finally caught up with him, and drowned him in all its years of insane, insatiable
brutality. "...if I had to face what I am, what I have done..."
Objects started flying across the room all of a sudden, falling to the floor and crashing.
Tears streamed down the boy’s face, as he stepped forward and grabbed Vader’s left hand.
"...the innocent lives I crushed, the families I slaughtered... How would I live with that?" He looked down
at the child, suddenly lost. "W-what would I do?"
The boy interlaced his fingers with Vader’s and brought the big gloved hand to his heart.
Vader shook it off in a final burst of hopeless fury.
"Damn you! DAMN YOU!" he yelled as his computer screen exploded in a million shards. "You destroyed me. You
destroyed me!!" The suddenly turned off weapon fell from his nerveless fingers and Darth Vader collapsed to his knees, feeling
the wetness of tears running down his face for the first time in four years. They burned his skin and his scars like acid.
"Damn you. Damn you for what you did to me!"
You did it yourself.
Crime after crime passed through Vader’s eyes in a horrific slide show of madness and mindless rage,
that nothing had satiated before.
Before this little boy who knelt down beside the fallen Sith Lord now, took his hands in his –
the hands with the blood of thousands of innocents on them – brought them to his lips, closed his eyes, and kissed the
palms one after the other, in a cleansing gesture that shook the universe with its significance. Ethereal eyes full of love
rose to meet the Dark Lord’s, and in them, Vader saw the promise of a long and fulfilling life, wrapped in the warm
and safe embrace of the Light.
‘I will always be with you. You will never be alone.’
Tiredly, needfully, the Sith Lord’s heart opened to those words. He longed to rest. He longed to be
comforted from a life that he knew would be a torment from now on.
‘No, it won’t be. Not while we’re together.’
And the moment his essence rushed forward to meet the Light around the child, Vader felt something coming
to life again inside him. Unable to stand the hungry, searing love in it, in himself, he passed out.
He didn’t want to wake up. He didn’t want to live with the weight and knowledge of his crimes.
He knew it was cowardly, but he couldn’t face such an existence. He couldn’t!
A loving consciousness wrapped itself around his own, bringing him softly back and reassuring him that it
would never leave him. They were one now, and nothing and no one would keep them apart.
Vader opened his eyes to total blackness. His heart skipped a beat.
Where was he? Was he dead?
Then, sensation returned to his numbed body. His head was resting on something soft and pliable, that a part
of him immediately identified as the child’s lap. Small hands were massaging his chest up and down and around his chestplate.
When the boy felt he had come to, he stopped rubbing his chest, but kept his hands there, dispelling Vader’s
remaining fears through touch alone.
Warmth more sublime than any feeling he had ever known, spread within Vader’s ribcage. He took a deep
breath that made his temples pound, but convinced him that he was truly alive.
His eyesight returned all of a sudden, and the image of a little angel bending over him appeared before his
instantly enraptured eyes.
He struggled to reach up, but his limbs felt heavier than lead. He managed to raise one arm, and brought
it up to the shining face that smiled down at him and filled his heart with rainbows. His fingers made contact with a pale
cheek, and he caressed it timidly. Ashamed.
The child cuddled his cheek needfully into the big palm, and Vader wished they could stay like this forever.
But soon, a strange, uncomfortable feeling made itself known. A tightness in his chest that made difficult
to breathe. He tried to relax and take short and deep intakes of breath, but it didn’t work. In a matter of seconds,
he was beginning to suffocate.
Perhaps his suit was malfunctioning. It was almost impossible, but it could happen. Maybe the switches and
buttons had been damaged in the fall. Fortunately, he had his pod in the next room and he could shelter there, until he found
out what was wrong with his respirator, and if it could be fixed.
‘I have to go to my chamber,’ he sent mentally.
As if understanding what the problem was, the boy smiled and moved his hands away.
Vader had no strength to stand, but it was as if an outside force pulled him to his feet. As he slowly rose,
he felt little hands under his arm, helping him up with no inconsiderable strength.
Stumbling and fighting for every breath, Vader headed for his pod, as the child helped him every step of
the way, his little hand in his own.
Vader couldn’t wait to get inside. Every breath was more painful than the last. The oxygen didn’t
seem to reach his lungs. It was hot and oppressive in his mask.
When the pod opened at last, he almost fainted in relief. He raised a heavy leg to get inside, and felt a
soft tug on his hand. He looked at the boy, who looked up at him with a pleading expression on his face.
Unable to let go either, Vader nodded. But still, he owed the child a warning.
‘You will see my face in here. It’s covered with horrible scars and burn marks. Maybe you’ll
want to close your eyes.’
The boy smiled up at him adoringly and pressed Vader’s hand to his face, caressing himself with it.
‘The ozone concentration is a few times higher than usual, also. It won’t harm you, but it could
make you feel dizzy and slightly breathless. The chamber is set to provide me with the exact concentration of oxygen I need
at every moment.’
The child squeezed his hand.
Bracing himself, Vader entered the pod and sank into the black seat gratefully. The boy quickly followed
and settled on his lap, facing him.
The chamber closed after them and some pincer-like devices removed first the helmet from the top, and then
the mask from the front. A few seconds later, Vader was filling his lungs with much-needed air.
As usual, it took him some time to get used to the light inside the pod, and he blinked several times when
his eyes misted as a reflex action against the brightness. A while later, he was capable of keeping his eyes mostly open,
as his pupils contracted little by little and allowed him to open his eyes fully.
The sight before him took Vader’s breath away. When he had asked the child to be prepared for what
he would see, he had forgotten that he would also be free to see the boy’s real look.
He didn’t expect this. He would have never imagined...! Although he had hoped.
His shaking hands reached out and framed the beautiful face. He had never seen such pure, heavenly beauty
before. But what blew him away were the eyes. He had never seen such a deep, crystal blue. No artist could possibly conceive
such glorious, luminous eyes.
He couldn’t look away from those eyes that gazed back at him full of love and joy. In the end, he had
to blink back the moisture in his own. It was then that his eyes turned to the boy’s hair.
Blond. The blondest hair. Straight and soft like Aurean silk.
His fingers roamed the breathtaking face, trying to convince himself it was real.
"A-are you an angel?" he asked out of the blue. The words left his lips on their own, as his uncertain fingertips
brushed lovely feature after lovely feature. Nose, cheeks, eyelids, forehead, even the tiny ears, eliciting soft sighs of
bliss from the child. "You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."
The boy looked down and a soft blush coloured his white cheeks.
"I lost my child before knowing if it would be a boy or a girl," Vader knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t
help it. And what was worse, he didn’t give a damn anymore. "But if it had been a boy, I would have wanted him to look
The child’s face illuminated with happiness, and the Light around him pulsed with warmth, reaching
out and holding Vader within.
"My wife and I already had a name for the baby, if it turned out to be a boy." He swallowed and his lips
formed the word he hadn’t spoken out loud in four years. "Luke." The name felt and tasted like the sweetest honey on
The child gave a start and his eyes filled with helpless tears that promptly ran down his cheeks.
"What is it?" Vader asked, alarmed by the boy’s extreme reaction. His heart shattered when he realized
there could only be one reason for those tears. He looked away, wishing he could offer that beautiful angel something more
than his deformity. "I am sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry. I wish I could..."
Whatever he wanted to say was silenced by the child’s sudden pouncing on him. His little hands held
his bald skull and he began running his palms all over it, paying special attention to the huge scar that started on the top
of his head. His unbelievably tender lips rained dozens of kisses on every scar and burn mark. Never mind how deep and nasty
looking they were, no millimetre of his face was left unloved.
Vader closed his eyes in surrender as all of him went limp, losing himself in the soothing waves of tingling
warmth that covered every place of him the boy’s lips and hands touched. He lingered on every scar, pressing his lips
to it and breathing on it, as if wanting to take it upon himself or make it disappear.
When the bout of kissing came to a slow end, the child crowned it with a wet, noisy smooch on the tip of
Vader laughed softly, his insides positively turned to mush, and feeling clean and pure, both inside and
The boy moved back, opened his eyes and looked at him as if he was the most beautiful thing he’d ever
And Vader felt like it. He nodded and smiled shakily, his heart too full for words.
"Yes, as good as new."
The child’s smile widened even more, showing his little white, perfect teeth. He studied Vader’s
features with renewed intensity.
Vader cocked his head to one side, wondering what the boy found so fascinating about him, when they had been
face to face for several minutes now.
Finally, the child’s eyes bulged in what seemed like... recognition? He reached out and touched Vader’s
Vader just smiled, uncomprehendingly.
Seeing that he didn’t understand, the boy touched the dimple on his own chin, and then touched Vader’s
chin again, his index fingertip lingering on the exact centre of it.
Vader’s mouth opened in sudden realization. He also had a dimple on the chin! He had completely forgotten
about it! Not as deep as the child’s, but he also had one. His smile grew bigger and he nodded.
"Yes, I have one, too." He bowed his head and kissed the pointing little digit. He didn’t know why,
but having a feature in common with that angel made his heart swell in his chest with the sweetest pride he had ever known.
Resuming their game, the little finger pointed at the boy’s stunning blue eyes, and then at Vader’s.
"Yes," Vader nodded once more in utter contentment, as old memories flooded back with the utmost clarity,
"my eyes are also..." The words died on his lips and his blood ran cold in his veins.
If his eyes were blue, that meant...
Vader fought to remember the last time he had consciously tapped from the Dark. Definitely, it had been until
the moment he passed out, when he had embraced the Light around the child. Before that, he had been holding on to the Darkness
desperately, in a demented effort not to lose the safety net his hatred had provided.
In the end, even his hatred had been an illusion. An illusion that had been defeated by the only real thing
in his life. The unwavering love of this little angel, who had been ready to go farther than anyone had ever gone, and would
ever go, for the salvation of his soul.
His hands moved of their own volition and he wrapped the little body in his arms, drawing it instinctively
He was peripherically aware of the child’s fingers playing with the buttons on his chestplate, but
he ignored it, knowing that the suit would return to the predetermined settings he had programmed years ago, the moment he
exited the pod.
"Who am I?" he wondered out loud. "What am I now?"
The boy stopped what he was doing and focused all his loving attention on the former Dark Lord.
Two sets of incredible blue eyes met.
"How will I live with myself?" Vader’s eyes bored into the child’s, desperate for an answer he
knew they couldn’t give him. No one could.
The boy snuggled up to him, reached up and stroked his right cheek.
‘I will help you. We will always be together.’
Vader grasped the little hand and kissed it.
"You belong with your aunt and your uncle. Your family," he tried to explain for the umpteenth time. His
feelings about losing the only light in his life were of no consequence. "I wish I knew how to make you understand. You deserve
better than a monster like me."
The child shook his head and pressed his face against Vader’s shoulder plate, grabbing a handful of
the leather covering his arm.
"I should be dead. I should have burned to death four years ago," Vader’s voice seemed to come from
far away, as the most ominous thoughts began consuming him. He looked away. "Why didn’t I die then?"
A little hand covered his mouth, halting the stream of dark words.
The touch of Light brought Vader out of his sinister train of thought, and he looked down at the precious
being he cradled in his arms. He smiled, but the smile never reached his eyes.
"I guess we were destined to meet, hm?" His gloved fingers caressed the boy’s face endlessly, all over
it. He never wanted to stop. "So I knew what absolute Goodness is really like. Goodness that was destined to redeem me." His
eyes closed when a wave of excruciating pain slashed through his soul. "But why did it have to take so many thousands of innocent
For the first time, the child seemed to feel helpless to comfort such infinite remorse. But then, with his
characteristic gesture of unyielding stubbornness, he straightened up and placed himself right in front of Vader’s eyes,
cupping his cheeks in his little hands.
‘Hold on to me.’ His eyes reddened with a blending of emotion and passion that left Vader
speechless. How could a four year old feel so much? Then, he felt a ripple of vulnerability in the Force. ‘And
don’t ever leave me.’
Vader opened his mouth and tried to say something, but he was too overwhelmed to articulate the words.
"Do you really need me that much?" he asked at last, astonished.
The lovely face softened and shone with love. Love for him. All for him.
"Why? Why me?" Vader couldn’t understand what he could possibly have that such a angel needed so badly.
The boy hissed through his teeth and the doors to his soul opened wide again, inviting Vader in.
Humbled by the gift of absolute trust he had been given, Vader shyly entered the boy’s mind. Every
childish need was right there in front of him, naked and exposed.
‘Because I am the father you’ve longed for all your life?!’
The boy threw his arms around Vader’s neck and clung to him desperately.
Blown away, Vader returned the crushing embrace. He closed his eyes and buried his face in the little shoulder,
inhaling the child’s scent until he was inebriated with it. He smelled of a faraway desert, sprinkled with little flowers
and soapy water. He smelled like... home.
Oh, Force, he so could relate to that feeling! He had been looking for a father figure all his life.
He wanted to fill an emptiness in his heart that had been present since the day he was born. He had projected that feeling
onto all the male adults he ever met. Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan, Palpatine... And none of them had ever fulfilled the need that
seemed written in his very blood.
If he never had a father, how could he assume such a role for this child?
You already have. You unconsciously assumed it the first night you allowed him here. Because you need him
every bit as much as he needs you. Even more. In your heart, he is your son.
It was impossible. The boy already had a family! As for for himself...
Just then, the child stiffened in his arms. His every muscle became so rigid that it felt on the verge of
snapping. He threw his head back in a gesture of agonizing pain and... fear?
No, it was more than fear. It was sheer panic.
Vader held the boy close trying to calm him, but the child grabbed his upper arm in a vice-like grip, looking
up at him in terror. It was as if the life was escaping him through his every pore.
At first, Vader thought it could be a seizure of some kind, but when those dilated pupils met his, he saw
the Darkness that was engulfing that innocent spirit.
And when he reached out with his senses outside the pod, a revolting nausea turned his stomach.
Palpatine was in the ship.
All reason deserted Vader. The cool-headed, calculating Sith Lord turned into a distraught man, whose only
thought was protecting this helpless child who stood no chance against his master.
There was no time and place for them to run or hide. It was a matter of seconds now.
"Stay here!" Vader ordered the child, opening the chamber and depositing him softly on the leather seat,
after the mask and the helmet closed on him again. Oddly, he could breathe perfectly now. "I will try to distract him."
It was hopeless and he knew it. He knew very well the reason that had brought Palpatine to the Executor.
He wasn’t the greatest, most gifted Sith Lord who had ever existed for nothing.
But then, a little voice reminded Vader that he was supposed to be the Chosen One, the one who would destroy
Maybe that was true... in the past. But he was less than a man now. Half-man, half-machine, and with a limited
ability to feel the Force and wield it.
Whatever he was now, it would have to do. This angel’s life had to be protected at any cost.
A sudden flash of inspiration hit him then. He turned to the child when the pod was beginning to close.
"You can help me."
The terrified eyes turned to him.
"Remember how you’ve been blocking our every attempt to locate you with our scanners? You can use the
same Force trick now to shield your presence in the room."
The boy smiled tremulously, making a visible effort to control his fear. His eyes met Vader’s with
a final plea.
‘I don’t want to lose you.’
"You will not lose me," Vader made the most sacred oath of his life, along with his marriage vows.
"I won’t leave you, Son."
Vader felt the child’s heart skipping a beat at his last, instinctive word, as clearly as if it was
his own heart. The eyes whose true colour he couldn’t see now, looked at him with more love than he could stand to watch.
No one would ever love him so generously, so unconditionally, for as long as he lived.
The love inside him reached out to encompass the tiny form as it disappeared from his sight, and hold it
to the core of his being.
He wouldn’t fail those he loved again. He was ready to die.
As soon as the pod closed, Vader felt the child’s presence blinking out of existence. It was as if
someone had turned off a light.
Still, if he concentrated hard, he could feel a sort of void inside the chamber that wasn’t natural.
Praying for his master not to notice it, Vader entered his office.
He saw his lightsaber on the floor.
He summoned it up to his hand.
He attached it to his belt and turned about.
He called upon the Force to help him and guide him through his greatest trial.
The doors opened to reveal a black, hooded figure framed against the soft light of the corridor, escorted
by a couple of guards and Captain Kyle, who showed him in courteously.
"Most kind of you, young man," Palpatine dismissed the young officer in an old, scratchy voice.
"Your Highness," Kyle bowed to the Emperor, trying to hold back a shudder. His eyes settled on Vader briefly,
and something akin to compassion appeared in them.
The doors closed after Palpatine, leaving master and apprentice alone.
Vader dropped to one knee, a part of him suddenly rebelling against the humiliation it represented. Such
an act should be one of deference, not of complete submission.
But that’s what Palpatine and the Dark Side demanded. Complete submission.
How could he have been so blind? How could he submit willingly to such corruption of mind and spirit? How
could he become the very thing he had always rebelled against, even as a child?
Love enslaved you. And now, only love can set you free.
"Rise, my friend."
Vader complied, struggling to silence the turmoil in his soul.
"What is your wish, my master?" his nostrils flared at his own words.
"You didn’t contact me after completing your mission on Kolmenor," Palpatine went straight to the point,
walking away from his apprentice, studying the dimly lit quarters surreptitiously.
Vader closed his eyes shut when he realized his oversight, but remained silent. It was inconsequential now.
"And your subordinates have informed me that the ship has been orbiting this planet for hours, since you
gave no orders regarding your next destination."
Vader’s silence lengthened.
Palpatine turned to his creation, his yellow eyes seeming to reach into his soul.
Vader never fidgeted, and stood his ground, projecting a mask of total calm, his mind an unreadable blank.
"Lately, I have been feeling a strong disturbance in the Force," Palpatine dropped the bomb, testing Vader’s
reaction with wicked interest. "Did you feel it too, Lord Vader?"
"Yes, I did," Vader replied, not giving an inch.
Palpatine took a step forward.
"And what do you think the reason might be?"
"For some time now, I have been experiencing some... difficulties, master," Vader was purposefully vague,
hoping to arouse his master’s curiosity and divert it from the almost imperceptible void in his chamber.
"What difficulties, my young apprentice?" Palpatine bared his teeth in a blood-curdling smile.
"In regard to my latest missions."
"Oh," Palpatine crossed his arms calmly, hiding them in his long, wide sleeves. "Tell me about them."
"I think that bright, keen intelligences that otherwise could have been very useful to the Empire, have been
"I... see." Palpatine half-turned, facing the sleeping pod in the adjacent chamber. "And you regretted extinguishing
"I considered it a waste, master." Vader made every effort not to think about Kolmenor’s governor.
"There inevitably comes a time when an excessive... zeal becomes counterproductive, and an opposing force is created."
Palpatine stood still in the middle of the room. He hardly seemed to breathe.
"I wonder what made you change your mind so drastically, Lord Vader." His voice sounded even darker and more
threatening than the aura around him. "Just a few days ago, you displayed the fiercest zeal in the performance of your
"It is a feeling I have been getting of late, master." Vader simply said, knowing that with those words he
had sealed his fate.
"A... feeling." Palpatine turned to Vader again, and his eyes flashed under the hood. "I knew that
feelings would be your undoing one day, my apprentice. You were always too passionate. In your hate as much as in your love."
Rotten teeth showed beneath a twisted smile. "Let me help you to get rid of the source of those feelings you have been experiencing."
A grey, wrinkled hand peeked out of the long-sleeved tunic and, without looking, Palpatine cast a massive Force lightning
charge at Vader’s pod, making it burst into flames.
"NO!" Vader cried out, drawing out his lightsaber in a split second.
Palpatine reached out his other hand and cast another charge at Vader, throwing him backwards.
Vader’s back hit the wall heavily and he collapsed, all the air knocked out of his lungs. Smoke came
out of his chestplate and the distinctive smell of burned circuitry filled the room. But Vader didn’t care anymore.
The little presence inside his pod had ceased to exist.
The pain was infinite. Greater than any pain he had felt before. He was burning again, along with the small
body being consumed by the fire a few metres in front of him.
He had failed. He had failed again.
Palpatine forgot about the burning chamber and walked up to Vader with slow, measured steps.
"You have outlived your usefulness, Lord Vader," he taunted the shattered man. "Or should I say Anakin Skywalker?"
he chuckled and threw another powerful bolt of Force lightning at his former apprentice, gloating over his muffled moaning.
Vader couldn’t see, couldn’t feel beyond the pure, innocent life he had failed to protect. He
just wanted to die with that angel and beg his forgiveness on the other side.
He didn’t hear Palpatine’s taunts anymore, mocking his failure and his love.
‘Please, let me die quickly,’ he prayed, the crackling of the merciless Force lightning echoing
in every corner of his torn body.
‘No! Don’t give up!’ a sudden voice resonated deep within him, blossoming in his fading
soul. ‘I’m with you! Always with you!’
Vader’s head snapped up from the floor where he was lying. He didn’t know where that voice was
coming from, but it made the blinders come off as if by magic, and for the first time in his life, he saw Palpatine as what
he really was. A creature with no principles and morals except his own, whose only objective was to dominate, crushing and
destroying those who opposed him. All the billions of beings in the galaxy were nothing more than subjects, necessary witnesses
to his ambition, pawns in his boardgame of absolute dominion. The person he met as a child never existed in reality. It was
an illusion that successfully fooled them all.
Fulfill your destiny, Chosen One.
Vader’s thumb ignited the lightsaber he still clutched in his stiff hand and with his last bout of
strength, he threw it like a javelin.
A horrifying scream filled the room. Palpatine fell to his knees, impaled on the red, glowing blade. His
sunken yellow eyes bulged and reddened, before dark blood streamed from them. His already drawn, cadaverous features, became
a grotesque mask of death. His pasty white skin was consumed before Vader’s eyes in seconds, and with a piercing screech,
he collapsed face down on the floor.
Wheezing, fighting for every breath, Vader crawled past the still form, heading like a wounded animal for
the smoking pod. The fire was almost out by now, and thick smoke billowed out of its remains.
He knew the sight that awaited him if he opened the chamber, but he had to do it. He had to see it for himself,
before he took his own worthless life.
A trembling hand reached out and hit the opening button. There were some metallic noises, but the pod finally
began to open. The fire had fused both halves together in some places but at last, the chamber opened enough for Vader to
look inside, and freeze in shock.
The pod was empty.
Everything in it had burned down, but there were no human remains inside. No smoking clothes. Nothing.
It was as if the child had never been there.
And in a moment of inspiration like he never experienced before, Vader knew that such had been the case each
and every one of the nights they had been together.
The boy had never been in the Executor. Not in a physical sense. That explained why their scanners
had failed to locate him time and again.
Somehow, the child had the ability to project himself from his home planet to his side every night, and then
return home in the morning. That was why no one had reported him missing.
And that also explained the boy’s fear to leave his quarters. Instinctively, he must have known that
he only ‘existed’ within the confines of Vader’s room.
He was safe now, back with his family.
Vader collapsed beside the pod when the shock of what had happened began to sink in.
Everything was over. Now he could die in peace. His respirator was damaged beyond repair and wouldn’t
But he was content. He had known love again, one last time. That elusive feeling that could be either one’s
greatest blessing or one’s greatest curse. He had known the kind of love, pure and all-encompassing, that only children
can give. Selfless and generous as no other love could be.
That little angel had redeemed him and now, he only wanted to join Padme and their unborn child wherever
they were, and beg forgiveness of the souls of the countless lives he had terminated. Let them do with him as they wished.
Vader rose to his feet shakily and returned to his office. His eyes were immediately drawn to the dead beast
on the floor and his lightsaber beneath it. Ignoring them, he walked tiredly to his chair and slumped down in it. It was a
fitting place to die. In the arms of the loving, ghostly presence that had made his last days honourable and worthwhile.
He closed his eyes and let go.
‘NO! Don’t leave me! You promised! I need you! Please, I need you!’
Vader’s eyes opened with a start.
He knew that voice! Bless the Force, he knew that voice! It was the same voice that had encouraged him not
to give up, and reassured him that it was always with him. Only now he recognized it. How many times he had heard it in his
mind when they had been face to face?
Vader closed his eyes, reaching for the Light. Something guided him to the innermost place inside him. There,
the seed of the most wondrous love resided, pure and untouched from all the evil he had spawned the last four years. That
sacred place was connected to another soul that was a part of him. More than that, it came from him!
Vader’s eyes opened again slowly, and settled on the two halves of the teddy bear he had sliced with
Without thinking, he stood up, walked up to the toy and took both halves in his hand. He stared down at them,
looking for the truth. The ultimate truth that answered all the questions he had been asking the past few days.
And the moment the pale image of the child appeared before him, Vader knew he had to leave. Immediately.
That angel’s life depended on him.
With his heart fluttering in his chest with worry and the most fervent hope, Vader left his quarters. After
issuing some quick orders to his shocked crew, he abandoned the Executor and the Empire for good.
He never noticed that his respirator had stopped working long ago.
When the shuttle left the hangar, it wandered aimlessly for a while, floating in the immensity of space.
Vader reached for the little light inside him, letting it lead him to the child. To his true Destiny.
His fingers plotted a course automatically and hit the hyperspeed button.
The small ship disappeared in the nonexistence of light speed, but Vader had never felt so real.
The light brown globe of Tatooine hovered below.
Vader’s eyes contemplated the planet he had sworn never to visit again. His heart had missed a beat
the moment he recognized it. An eerie feeling of foreboding started growing in his chest.
There had to be a reason for it to be Tatooine.
Why was he trembling all of a sudden?
Vader manoeuvred the shuttle through the atmosphere and asked permission to land on Mos Eisley’s space
When he descended from the ramp, he smelled the instant fear in all those present in the docking bay.
It wasn’t amusing anymore.
He rented a spacious landspeeder, big enough for his big form to fit in, and paid in advance, giving an extra
tip and a polite ‘thank you’ to the flipping Rodian, who kept on staring in astonishment long after the speeder
disappeared from his sight, unable to believe the episode he just had.
After two hours of crossing endless dunes, it became evident where the link was leading him.
Vader shuddered with the near certainty of what awaited him when he got to the Lars’ farm. His hands
tightened on the steering wheel, almost breaking it. Sweat started running down his forehead beneath the mask.
When he passed the first moisture vaporator, he had to stop the speeder. He was close to hyperventilating,
and sweat was covering his body. The mix of fear, dread, and sweet hope was too much to bear. His heart felt on the verge
He got off the speeder and stood beside it while he caught his breath, afraid to go on. After a while, his
eyes looked up at the breathtaking blue sky and the twin suns that cast a blinding light on the sand.
Vader’s legs started moving of their own volition. His feet sank in the sand, but that didn’t
slow him down. Instead, with every new step, he walked faster and faster.
Half an hour later, the familiar dome of the white adobe homestead appeared on the horizon.
With his eyes fixed on it, Vader lost track of time and even the awareness of where he was. He just walked,
the feeling in his chest expanding more and more, until it enveloped him in a warm cocoon of ecstatic euphoria.
A figure emerged from inside the dome and stood still next to it, waiting.
Vader walked up to the man. His stepbrother.
The two men stared at each other in silence. Owen’s stance of apparent bravado couldn’t disguise
the fact that he was shivering inside with fear. But not precisely for his life.
"Lord Vader," he greeted the newcomer at last, in a hoarse voice.
Despite himself, Vader found himself respecting the man. Not only for his courage, but for his obvious feelings
of protection and devotion to the child. He shook his head.
"No," he reassured in a gentle voice. "Anakin Skywalker."
Owen’s jaw dropped open.
Anakin reached out his hand.
Owen looked down at it, momentarily stunned. Finally, he shook it, his body relaxing visibly.
"You’ve come for him, haven’t you," he said when they let go.
There was resignation in his voice?
Anakin opened his mouth, but no sound came out of it. Owen had just answered the only question he needed
to ask. He swallowed the lump in his throat.
"H-he..." he stammered, "...he’s... m-my..."
"He’s your son, yes," a kind female voice floated up to them. Beru climbed up the steps and joined
her husband, looking up at Anakin intently with her big blue eyes.
Anakin stood still for what seemed like forever, as the healing power of those words washed over him.
No other words could connect him more to his very essence, to his origins, to his future, to everything that
His life hadn’t been in vain. That angel had given meaning and purpose to his existence as nothing
in the universe ever would.
"May I... May I see him?" he humbly asked.
Beru’s features softened, as if she could see the maelstrom of wild emotions running through his heart
and mind. She nodded and reaching out one arm courteously, she showed him inside.
Owen’s hand shot out and touched his arm, effectively stopping him.
"He’s... not well," he said, hesitantly.
"I know," Anakin’s voice was infinitely soft. "I know how incredibly special he is."
Owen was taken aback for a moment, surprised that Anakin knew. But he shook his head.
"No, I mean he’s... he’s been unconscious for almost two days. Comatose. Nobody knows what’s
the matter with him."
"I do know," Anakin said in a deep voice after a pause, suddenly aching inside with the need
to see his son with his own eyes. "Please, take me to him."
The dirty white room was small, but cozy and comfortable. There were shelves in the niches in the walls,
filled with dozens of cuddly toys. There were two chairs, one clearly meant for an adult, and a smaller one at a small table
in the far right-hand corner.
A little boy, apparently sleeping, lay in a bed in the far left-hand corner.
Beru entered the room and moved aside. Anakin walked in after her, and froze on seeing the child. The young
woman could feel the big bulk beside her trembling like a leaf.
Neither made a sound. They just stared at the sleeping form in the tiny bed, in reverence.
"What’s his name?" Anakin asked at last, in a whisper.
After all this time, he didn’t even know the boy’s name.
"Luke," Beru replied.
A strangled sound left Anakin’s throat, halfway between a laugh and a sob.
"We can’t afford to take him to Anchorhead’s medical centre, but the doctor’s been here
twice," Beru explained softly, a hint of helpless impotence in her voice. "He was very pale and had been feeling more and
more tired the last few days, but yesterday morning, he just didn’t wake up. The doctor said he’s perfectly healthy,
and there’s no reason for him to be like this. He trusts he’ll wake up on his own any moment." She sighed. "He
thinks that being here, surrounded by his toys and those who love him, should help."
Anakin nodded slowly, his eyes riveted on the slow rising and falling of the small chest below the sheets
and the old and faded bedspread.
"I’m so sorry we can’t give him..." Beru lowered her head in shame.
"You’ve given him everything a child could possibly want or need." Anakin hastened to reassure her
without taking his eyes away from the little bed. "Everything I was incapable of giving him. You took care of him and loved
him. No child could possibly ask for more. No one could possibly..." his voice faded away.
Beru felt he was one heartbeat away from breaking down.
"I’ll leave you alone now," she whispered gently, squeezing his upper arm and turning about. Then,
she stopped. "Will you take him with you?" she asked without looking.
"Only if he wants to come with me," was the firm reply.
Anakin walked up to the small bed, looking his fill of the small being in it.
His son. Flesh of his flesh.
Carefully, Anakin sat down on the bed, that creaked softly under his weight. His hands reached up and took
off the helmet. The mask came next, revealing his young, mostly healed face. His left ear was still missing and his skull
was bald, although blond hair was beginning to grow again. All the scars and burn marks were gone.
He would face his son as Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader.
Mask and helmet were dropped to the floor, along with the shoulder and the chest plates moments later.
Anakin inched closer.
"Luke." The name sounded like the sweetest music, and felt righter than any word he ever uttered. The most
beautiful name for the most precious being. "Luke, my son." Every part of his body that was human filled with goosebumps.
He reached out tentatively and touched his son, really touched him for the first time. His gloved, mechanical palm
cupped the side of the lovely face, and he felt something sparking between them through the physical contact. He didn’t
know what it was, he just knew that this was the most transcendental moment of his life. His fingers slid through the silky
hair, and caressed all over the unresponsive face.
It hurt. The silence.
Instinctively, he reached for his belt, inside a small bag he carried attached to it. He took out a small
cuddly toy, a blending between a frog and a teddy bear, whose two halves had been painstakingly put together again, and placed
it beside the small body, leaning on it.
‘I’m good at fixing things. Always was.’
Force, he felt so vulnerable and bereft all of a sudden!
"Why did you do it?" he asked at last. "Why did you choose to stay with me instead of returning here the
moment the pod closed? You were endangering your life enough by projecting yourself to the Executor night after night."
He knew why.
"You have your mother’s spirit. And your mother’s heart," he bent over the still body. "Open
your eyes, Luke. Please. No one will harm you for as long as I live." He smiled poignantly. "I need you, Son. Without you,
I am nothing." One big hand clasped a tiny one. Anakin pressed his lips to the small palm, kissing it fervently.
An explosion of Light in the back of his mind blinded him, forcing him to close his eyes. He thought he would
die with the searing intensity of it, but he didn’t. Impulsively, Anakin projected the Light inside him through the
link connecting him to his son, feeding him with it and holding the boy to him, to his lifeforce, until there was no
spiritual separation between them.
He blinked his eyes open drowsily, and found himself staring into the bottomless blue depths of the most
How he had longed to see himself reflected in that blessed Blue again! He’d rather find oblivion in
death than live without this love.
"Luke," he whispered in a quivering voice. "My son. My cherished Son."
The boy’s lifeforce pulsed with renewed vigour, and his smile lit up every corner of Anakin’s
soul. The young man released the little hand and resumed his hungry caresses all over the beautiful face.
"I am your father, Luke. I really am your father." His eyes filled with tears and he bent closer,
until they were mere centimetres apart.
The child threw his arms around Anakin’s neck.
Unable to hold back the avalanche of joy and happiness exploding in him, Anakin hugged the tiny body back
and sat up, dragging Luke with him.
The boy wrapped his legs around Anakin’s torso, clinging to him for all he was worth.
Nothing existed in the universe except each other. They got lost in each other’s arms, filling one
another’s minds with love and sweet promises of forever, crying tears of overwhelmed gratitude.
‘You saved me and I saved you.’
"Yes," Anakin nodded, smiling through his tears. "We saved each other."
They moved back just enough to look at each other’s radiant faces. They were flushed and covered with
tear tracks, but it was the most beautiful sight they had ever seen.
Luke reached out and touched Anakin’s chin, then his eyes, and then his own. His eyes glittered with
Anakin laughed softly and nodded again.
"Yes, you were the first to notice how much we resemble each other." He framed the child’s healthy
pink cheek in his hand. "Oh, my son. My son!" he exclaimed, glorying in the wondrous truth.
Luke wiped away the tears on Anakin’s face. His little hands roamed his father’s every feature,
moving away playfully every time Anakin tried to kiss them. Finally, he bent forward and leaned his forehead on his father’s,
nuzzling him needfully.
Anakin’s heart had never been so full. He wanted to fuse that small body with his own so they never
had to separate.
But he had to be fair, even despite himself. His feelings were irrelevant in this matter.
Anakin moved back and cupped his son’s chin in his hand.
"Luke, listen to me." He swallowed the hard lump in his throat that brought new tears to his eyes. He blinked
them back resolutely. "I will be leaving today, and nothing would make me happier than take you with me." He took a deep,
painful breath. Force, nothing would ever hurt as much as the words he was about to say! "Owen and Beru love you very much.
You’re like a son to them, and it would break their hearts to part with you. If you want to stay with them, I will understand.
They have the right to keep you. More than I do, in more ways than one. I won’t..."
Luke covered Anakin’s mouth with his hands, not allowing him to finish. He pinned Anakin under those
eyes that seemed as old as Time, and shook his head.
Anakin bit his lower lip.
Luke wound his arms around his father, burying his face in his shoulder. Anakin returned the embrace, beyond
‘Are you sure?’ he asked mentally.
Luke nodded against the side of Anakin’s neck.
‘With you. Always with you!’
Anakin climbed up the stairs with his son in his arms. Luke refused to let go and clung to his father like
a baby Wookiee, arms and legs wrapped around him, head resting on Anakin’s shoulder.
The young man threw his head back and closed his eyes, bathing in the sunlight and the warmth of the suns
on his face.
Anakin sighed exuberantly and opened his eyes again. Luke watched him with an amused little grin on his face.
"You’re even more beautiful in the suns," he observed teasingly, triggering a first-class blush. He
chuckled and kissed the pink cheeks.
Owen and Beru joined them. Owen had an arm around his wife’s shoulders, trying to comfort her to no
avail. Both of them were doing their best to hold on in front of the child, but Beru was rapidly losing the battle. She carried
a small, worn suitcase that handed to Anakin.
"I put his best clothes and some of his favourite cuddly toys in it," she said, tears streaming down her
face at last.
"Thank you very much, for everything." Anakin smiled softly, knowing all too well how they were feeling.
Exactly how he would be feeling if Luke had chosen to stay. He couldn’t resist offering some comfort and hope. "We will
return. And stay in touch. I promise." His eyes flashed passionately.
Owen nodded to him gratefully, and his eyes turned to his nephew.
Anakin looked at his son, who already had his misted gaze settled on the two people who had given him everything
the past four years. He reached out to Owen and Anakin passed him to his stepbrother’s arms.
Owen hugged Luke and closed his eyes tight, biting his lips mercilessly. He kissed the boy’s cheek
and took a deep, shaky breath.
"Good-bye," he whispered in the little ear. "Remember us, son."
The child moved back and looked at Owen with an intensity beyond his age. He held his uncle’s face
in his hands and bending forward, kissed his forehead lingeringly.
Owen sighed as a strange peace came over him. His heart was bleeding, but something inside him seemed to
tell him that everything would be all right. He didn’t know what it meant, but he trusted the little voice. He stared
into the boy’s other-worldly depths one last time before passing him on to Beru, who received him with a helpless sob.
"My little boy," she moaned, kissing the soft cheeks time and again. "Take care of yourself and your father,
and be happy. Be very happy!" she cried.
Luke kissed her tears away and just like he had done with Owen, kissed her forehead as well, holding her
head in his hands. Peace appeared on Beru’s features, and she smiled dreamily. With a last kiss, she returned him to
his father’s waiting arms.
Anakin met Owen and Beru’s eyes one last time.
"I promise," he reassured again, reaching out to both of them.
They shook his hand with a bittersweet smile.
Owen wrapped his arm around Beru’s shoulders again, and they watched them go until they disappeared
in the horizon. Luke’s little arm waving goodbye was the last thing they saw.
Standing on a dune on the other side of the homestead’s limits, a cloaked figure also watched father
and son’s departure. Slowly, he moved the hood back, revealing a brown-haired, blue-eyed, middle-aged bearded man. His
gaze turned skywards, and, as if talking to someone up there, he closed his eyes and nodded, a serene smile on his face.
Halfway back to the landspeeder, Anakin’s resolve wavered for a heartbeat. He wasn’t only responsible
for his own life anymore. He was a father now. A Father.
What would they do? How would they live? Maybe he had acted too rashly in his desperate claiming of his son,
for what could he offer Luke? Not even a home.
A little hand stroked the side of his face.
‘Home is with you.’
Untold peace filled Anakin’s troubled soul, and his eyes turned to the source of all his strength.
The fear in his heart vanished as if it had never existed. He returned the tender caress on the flushed cheek, and reaching
for his cape, he enveloped his precious bundle with it, protecting it from the unforgiving evening suns. He pressed the little
head to his chest.
A small, anonymous shuttle took off from Mos Eisley’s space port a few hours later.
Dressed in dark blue bottoms, matching top and black boots, Anakin Skywalker sat at the controls, manoeuvring
the ship out of Tatooine’s atmosphere. Standing beside him, wrapped in his father’s cape and holding Froggy Bear,
Luke watched Anakin’s gloved hands moving skilfully on the console.
The young man looked at his son, his eyes shining with love and hope. He reached out one arm and held the
little body to his side.
"Let the Force be our guide, my little angel," Anakin kissed the top of the blond head. "Reach for it within
you, and plot our course."
Luke returned his father’s stare, full of faith and joy, and following Anakin’s instructions,
hit the hyperspeed button after setting a course.
Anakin sat back in his seat. It was done now, and it felt good. He opened his arms to his son, and with a
soundless squeal of delight, Luke climbed up to his father’s lap. He turned to Anakin and pointed at the words on Froggy
Laughing, the young man was quick to comply. He hugged his son to him with a fervour and a need such as he
had never known he possessed.
Luke cuddled up against Anakin’s body, losing himself in his love for his father and in his father’s
love for him. He was free at last.
Anakin moved back. He had felt something clicking in his son’s mind, and he looked down at him in confusion,
not understanding what it was.
Luke rose to his knees and smiled at his father. It was the smile of a soaring heart, of a truth that couldn’t
remain silent any longer.
Anakin’s eyes filled with tears at the sound of his son’s first word.