Turning away from the blazing sun and the endless desert dunes, Luke frowned as he looked for the origin of the voice. A tall shadowy figure, his face lost in the glare of the sun, stood behind him, watching him.
"Hello?" His voice sounded distant, like an echo of an echo.
"Who are you?"
The figure took a step forward, revealing a distinguished face, chin covered in a well kept beard, with long hair tumbling down around his shoulders. The man looked sad.
"Luke. You must not listen to him."
"To who? What are you talking about?"
"Everything is wrong. This isn't how he was supposed to bring balance to the Force. You must not listen to him."
The man seemed to be fading into the sand itself, his body disintegrating into dust before Luke's very eyes. "You must be careful. He will try to turn you. You must not listen. Bring balance, Luke. Bring balance back to the Force."
The man's voice trailed off into silence, and was gone... and Luke woke up.
For a moment he just lay there, staring at the perfect white ceiling, lit by a single lamp at his side. He struggled to make sense of where he was, and how he had come to be there. It took him a moment to remember his arrival the day before, the sight of the Death Star and... And his father. Or the younger version of his father, anyway.
How is this possible? Or is this all just another bad dream?
With a sigh verging on a sob, he rolled over and out of the bed. He had been brought to this room the night before, escorted by two stormtroopers who were even now posted outside his door. For his protection, the man who wore his father's face had claimed. Luke knew enough to know that he was a prisoner, though.
Not that he could have done much even if he could have left the room. He was in the middle of an Imperial space station powerful enough to destroy the most formidable weapon the galaxy had ever known. He was surrounded by the Empire's most deadly shock troopers, never mind two trained Sith.
Like it or not, he was trapped and there was no way out.
Padding over to the chair where he had put his clothes the day before, he slipped back into his trousers, but left the shirt off. It stank anyway after days stuck in Mara Jade's ship. He wondered whether Darth Vidius would be willing to let him have a new shirt before he killed him.
He moved over to a small portal that had been installed in the far wall. Pressing his nose against the cool glass, he stared longingly at the planet Corellia hanging against the backdrop of stars. One of the main continents was just about visible, green and blue and full of life. He almost felt as though if he closed his eyes and listened, he could hear the planet breathing.
He was still gazing across the vastness of space when the door to his cell slid open.
Spinning round, Luke froze as he glimpsed the two stormtroopers, turned towards him with their blasters raised. Stood between them was the man who wore his father's face, the man who claimed to be his father.
He was smiling at Luke warmly, an unfamiliar expression on Anakin Skywalker's face. His father rarely smiled - Luke remembered wondering as a child whether he even knew how. It was disconcerting to say the least, though no more so than the rest of the situation.
Waving a hand, Vidius sent the stormtroopers back to their posts on either side of the door, then stepped into the room. As the door closed behind him, Vidius studied the small room, then looked back at Luke.
"I hope you slept well?"
Luke nodded, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the imposter. Vidius sighed, then dropped his own gaze to the floor.
"I can see that you don't trust me."
Can you blame me?
Luke almost said. He stopped himself in time and just stood there, staring.
Vidius trailed his hand over the top of a table at the entrance to the room, then walked around it to one of the two chairs. He pulled it out and sat down, then indicated for Luke to take the other. Instead, Luke walked over to the bed and sat down there, putting as much distance as he could between Vidius and himself.
The Sith Lord smiled wearily. "I guess I'm going to have to do some explaining before you'll talk to me. Well, I suppose that after all these years, you deserved to finally hear some truth."
"I am a clone of Anakin Skywalker," Vidius went on. "I was grown on a planet called Wayland in a facility run by the Empire. As you obviously saw when you arrived, I have all of your father's features, his entire genetic code and all of his memories up until the moment that he lost his hand on Geonosis."
"Geonosis?" Luke blurted out without meaning to. When had his father been on Geonosis? Luke had heard of the strange world in the history lessons he had received in the small school at Mos Espa. Something to do with the Clone Wars.
Vidius screwed up his mouth, his eyes flashing angrily. "I see that your father has hidden all of this from you. As I knew he would have. How else could he live with himself, considering his treachery."
Treachery? What was this man talking about? Vidius seemed almost to be able to read Luke's mind. He smiled. "I know all of this must seem overwhelming. Strange. Maybe even unbelievable. But I am telling you the truth. I can show you the documentation, the holovid recordings from the Republic News Service about Anakin Skywalker and his heroic actions during the Clone Wars."
"No," Luke whispered. "No, my father was a pilot."
"I still am, actually," Vidius said with a smile. "A damned fine one. I would imagine that you will have inherited that from us. You do know your father was a Jedi?"
Luke's mind flashed back to the scene he had walked in on back home, his father holding a lightsabre to another old man's throat. Yes, he knew that his father was a Jedi. And a liar. His heart clenched as he recalled what he had heard his father saying about his mother. And sister. I have a whole family out there that he hid from me.
A surge of anger almost overwhelmed him, so strong that it almost left him breathless. Across the room, Vidius closed his eyes and hummed.
"Yes. I can feel how angry you are towards him." Vidius opened his eyes and gazed at Luke. "As you should be. He has hidden so much from you, Luke. He took your whole life away from you, your heritage, everything that you could have been, because he couldn't face what he had done all those years ago. He robbed you of the father you should have had." He smiled. "The father I can be."
Luke shook his head. "No. You're not my father."
"Maybe not technically. But I could have been. I can be."
"But... But we're almost the same age!"
"True. Alright then, not a father. An older brother. We are both the progeny of Anakin Skywalker. A reflection of him, of what he could have been."
"No. I... I just want to go home."
Vidius pressed. "Why would you want to go back to that man? To a man who lied to you, who dragged you away from a mother who loved you, who hid your sister from you? Why would you want to go back to a planet that might as well be the furthest point from the galactic core it is so far removed from the centre of power? What are you really going to do back on Tatooine?"
This man knew a lot about Luke, a lot more than he should. Luke felt a prickling at the back of his head, a warning sensation that had his hackles up. I don't want to be here
And yet... Vidius wasn't wrong. What could he ever hope to achieve on Tatooine? He had spent his entire life dreaming of leaving onboard a ship, of finding his place, any place as long as it wasn't there. But with the Empire?
"I can't. You're... You're..."
"Evil?" Vidius' smile widened as Luke started. "I know that's what you think. What everyone thinks. The Empire is the dark canker at the heart of the old Republic. That the Emperor drinks the blood of babies and tortures anyone who disagrees with him in hidden prisons on Imperial Centre." Vidius laughed, a surprisingly light-hearted sound. "Do you really believe that?"
"I... I don't know."
Vidius stared at him for a moment, and then nodded. "Alright. I tell you what. Let me take you somewhere, show you how evil the Empire is. Then, if you still want to go home to Tatooine, I will arrange for Hand Jade to return you."
Luke's eyes widened. "You would do that?" It’s a trick.
Luke couldn’t be sure whether that was one of his own thoughts or an echo from his dream.
"You have my word on it."
Luke thought about it for a moment. He couldn't trust this man. He was a Sith, a vampire out of nightmares. He had powers beyond any that Luke could ever hope to master. If he didn't stay on his guard...
Still, he could also keep Luke locked up in here indefinitely. Listening to him and letting him show him whatever he wanted might give him an opportunity to escape. And maybe he would actually hold to his word and let Luke go. At the end of the day, what do you have to lose?
Finally, he nodded. "Alright. What do you want to show me?"
Vidius smiled. "How would you like to visit Corellia?"