Here Comes The Son
The air is rich with portend. Destinies flicker in snaking forks from the fabric of space. Luke Skywalker is here now, on Endor's forest moon below.
I waited an hour in the anteroom to the tower of my master Darth Sidious the Emperor Palpatine before the crimson-clad Imperial Guards motioned to me that I was now cleared to proceed. It's always pomp and circumstance with those guys. I stepped inside the lift, and when the door slid back again I saw my master's throne turned away toward the stars.
I climbed the steps and stood before him. After a pause he turned his throne only partly and muttered with irritation, "I told you to remain on the command ship."
I explained about the rebels aboard the Tyderian shuttle. Sidious turned to face me, the corners of his mouth drawn down in a sneer of contempt. "Yes, I know," he said sharply, yellow eyes piercing me from the shadows of his mantle.
"My son is with them," I added.
I felt his surprise ripple through the Force. "Are you sure?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
"I have felt him, my master."
"Strange that I have not," he said airly, his fingers playing thoughtfully against one another. I felt his mind touch mine, probing around its edges, quietly deflected by the cloud of obfuscation I felt myself generating without conscious effort. Sidious leaned forward. "I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader."
"They are clear, my master," I said with terror in my heart.
It was an agonizing moment before he replied, and I felt certain he had penetrated my intimate mind and seen the confusion there. Instead he sat back in his throne and said, "Then you must go to the Sanctuary Moon, and wait for him."
"He will come to me?"
"I have foreseen it," enunciated Sidious crisply. I sensed that his thoughts lacked the conviction of his demeanor -- he was troubled by the shadows in his vision. I felt his mind lick at my spirit again, feeling over the exterior veneer. "His compassion for you will be his undoing," said Sidious. I hesitated, so he continued with strained patience: "He will come to you, and then you will bring him before me."
He turned his throne back toward the stars.
"As you wish," I said, and took my leave silently.
In the corridor I nearly ran into Moff Jerjerrod, who flinched back from me with wide eyes. "Lord Vader," he whispered, his throat raw from yesterday's little incident between us, "General Veers has signalled from the surface. He says a rebel terrorist has surrendered to his forces."
So, my master's vision is not entirely enshrouded! The surrendering rebel could only be my son, Skywalker, as Sidious had foreseen. I took a moment to absorb the information, breathing slowly as I stood over Jerjerrod.
I heard a trickling splash, and looked down to see a small puddle gathering around the good Moff's boots.
Like I said before, joy in life is found in the little things. To Jerjerrod I said, "Prepare my shuttle. I will see to this personally."
"Yes, my Lord," he squeaked and then scurried away. Which was fortunate timing, because I would have been embarrassed to have him witness the way I fell against the corridor bulkhead, my left leg jerking spasmodically under me.
I recovered myself with an effort, and again summoned the tendrils of Force I would need to wrap through my leg's control circuitry and restore me to a dignified level of function. I did not sleep last night and the exhaustion has magnified my limb's recalcitrance. I felt overwhelmed with melancholy, and suddenly so very weak.
As I made my way through the Death Star I found myself looking upon it with a strange nostalgia. There is always something going on aboard the Death Star -- from the galleria mall to the competitive gymnasium -- and though I have always felt apart from the life of the men I have never felt so disconnected as I do today.
I stopped in for a quick pick-me-up at the Imperial House Tavern, and by coincidence ended up standing at the bar next to Admiral Piett his newest protege, a third-class midshipman with blonde hair and a vapid expression. "What a pleasure!" Piett greeted me warmly. "Can I buy you a drink, m'Lord?"
"Corellian wine," I said. "I will take it in my private booth." I began to walk away and then paused. "Why don't you join me, Admiral?"
Piett looked stricken for a fleeting second. "Sir," he replied with a nod.
He came around with the drinks in just a few minutes, his new boy following timidly on his heels. They ranged themselves around the octagonal table as the door hissed shut. Piett placed a goblet before me. "Thank you," I said. After a brief pause I announced awkwardly, "I will take off my mask now."
"Of course, m'Lord," said Piett. I saw him swallow hard. His boy kept his eyes on his drink, stirring it nervously with his pinky.
I disengaged my hood and then removed the upper section of my face-plate, my burned and scarred features visible above the breathing apparatus at my chin. Piett maintained a rigid composure betraying no shock, but the midshipman could not help but gape. With a snortling suction sound the private booth's life support umbilicus attached itself to a port on my neck. "I propose a toast," I said.
Piett and the midshipman raised their glasses expectantly.
"To destiny," I said simply.
"To destiny!" they echoed, and we all drank. There was an awkward moment after that. Piett coughed and then asked, "Pardon my candor m'Lord, but is there something troubling you?"
I sipped my drink again. "Do you have any children, Piett?"
"Children?" he replied, looking faintly amused. "No, m'Lord, no children."
"I have a brother," offered the midshipman helpfully.
"I have a son," I said. Piett's eyes widened but his expression remained smooth.
The midshipman grinned. "Congratulations!"
Piett watched me with concern. "M'Lord?" he prompted gently.
"My son is a member of the Rebel Alliance," I confessed, eyes cast down at my drink. "He has surrendered to Veers, and I go now to take him into custody."
I heard Piett sigh. "Blast," he said under his breath. He finished the rest of his drink in a swallow. "Is there -- is there something I can do, m'Lord? You know you can ask anything of me, sir."
I nodded slowly and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "You are a good man, Piett. But I must face him...alone."
After a few more moments of silence I finished my drink and replaced my mask. Outside the booth came the sounds of laughter and merry chatter, and it made me feel hollow inside. I flexed my fingers and stood up. "You understand, of course, this conversation never took place."
"Of course, m'Lord," replied Piett.
"Unfortunate about the boy," I added, glancing over at the blonde midshipman.
Piett blinked, and then regained his composure. "There are plenty more where he came from, m'Lord."
"What do you mean?" asked the midshipman right before his head dropped heavily to the table, his last breath pressing windily out of his lungs. I tossed a few Imperial coins down and left. "Sorry about the mess," I muttered to the proprietor.
Now I am aboard my shuttle, taking these idle moments to chronicle the day's events before I go to meet Skywalker on the surface. I do not know when I will next have a chance to write. Even now my shuttle has crossed the terminator into the forest's moons shadow, descending through the wet, night air toward the landing platform where Veers' walker will meet us.
The time of confrontation is at last here!
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