The bridge of the Executor was a place feared by many, and with good reason.
Because I have made it so.
Lord Vader tightly clenched his fist at his side with pleasure. Fear was like a drug to him. He fed off it. Used it to strengthen his power. To dominate the weak. The Executor's crew made for ample sustenance. Here, he was master. Here, he had built his legacy.
Yet, the Executor was not enough anymore.
Peering out from behind his tomb-like mask, he was thankful for the anonymity it afforded him. He did not want anyone to catch a glimpse of the thoughts running through his mind.
For over a thousand years the tradition of the Sith had been passed down. From master to apprentice. And it had always been to one apprentice, never more.
Now he understood why.
He had long lived under the shadow of his master, and had learned much about the Dark Side and the Sith. For many years he had reveled in the glory and power it brought him, but now the elation had faded, leaving him hungry for more. He had destroyed Tyranus to earn his place at his master's side, eager to learn how to harness new heights of power. He had learned what was necessary, and now...
Now it is my turn to be the master. And if I were the master, who would be my apprentice?
"Lord Vader," said a curt voice at his elbow.
Slowly, Vader turned to regard the young officer standing there. The man's face was a perfectly chiseled sculpture of military discipline - impassive, betraying nothing, yet beneath the man's calm exterior Vader could sense his fear.
"Milord," the young man began, straightening himself and lifting his chin, "I have assembled the reports you requested. I am sorry for the delay."
"I trust you have not returned empty handed."
"No, Milord." The Lieutenant extended his palm upward, displaying a small, discreet black datacard. "The details I was able to find," he continued, "are all contained on this disk. There is not much, but then...you did not request much."
He had wanted to learn the identity of the pilot who had destroyed the Death Star. The pilot had been strong in the Force-strong enough that he could present a danger to the Empire. Vader wanted to find him and destroy him. Quickly.
"What is his name?"
"Skywalker, Milord. Luke Skywalker."
"Skywalker?" Vader repeated the word. Spat it out. He knew his vocal modulator would make the word sound as ominous as everything else he said, but the word spilled from his lips like a curse from the past. It had been a long, long time since he had said that word. It felt strange to say it now.
"Yes, Milord," the oblivious young Lieutenant said again.
"Good work, Lieutenant," said Vader. "You may go."
Was it possible?
Of course it was. He knew it to be true. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, he had known the day would come when his past would caught up to him.
You knew. You always knew. She told you the day you left.
He always knew he had a child, somewhere. Or that he should have a child, anyway. He had made one feeble attempt to find the child, but Kenobi had slipped through his fingers.
His mind filled with fury as he suddenly realized.... Kenobi!
That is why Kenobi had allowed himself to be destroyed!
His hand clenched again, this time around the datacard and the revealing information it contained. He opened up to the Force and reached back to that moment, almost a year ago. Kenobi had been distracting him...from what?
Drawing on enhanced Force memories, he brought to his mind an image: Kenobi, smiling, giving in. Vader, full of anger at rage at his former master, and consumed by nothing else.
Vader closed his eyes, forcing himself to remember more clearly. At that moment, there had been a shout...a young man's shout...Kenobi had waited until that moment for his distraction. He had been toying with Vader, carefully guarding his true intentions. Vader recalled the look of triumph in his eyes.
I've won, the eyes seemed to say. As we both knew I would.
That had made Vader even angrier than before, infuriating him to the point of striking his master down. Thus Kenobi's distraction had succeeded, and, caught in his own emotions, Vader had completely ignored the young man and his futile screams.
What a fool he had been! He had always known Kenobi was one of the few who might successfully keep his child hidden from him.
I should have searched harder.
But it had not been possible then. The Empire had been very young, and undergoing many changes. All his time had been devoted to establishing control and eliminating the Jedi. Besides, Palpatine would never have let him out of sight without ample cause. Vader knew full well that the existence of his child would have been plenty enough cause for the Emperor. A priority, in fact. But he had never disclosed the information to Palpatine.
He shoved the thought aside. A small voice lingered in the back of his mind, that voice he had never quite been able to shake away, though it had been ignored for over nineteen years. Tonight it was more persistent than usual; stronger than it had been since...
His face darkened. He whirled around, the black cape whirling with him. He strode down the walkway of the Executor's bridge.
As he progressed, Vader pondered again the possibility of seeking out an apprentice of his own. The answer had literally come right into his grasp. The night's events seemed to be the will of the Force. He would have an apprentice, just as the Sith had originally decreed. There would be two of them - two to finally bring order to the galaxy.
He wanted Luke Skywalker. He wanted his son. With another of Skywalker blood at his side, he would become far more powerful than he had ever dreamed. Certainly powerful enough to defeat Palpatine.
With a final swirl of ebony black, he exited the bridge, purpose in his step. He had work to do.
Original cover by Handmaiden_Yane. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.