SW AU - A Glimmer of Hope

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CaptainSarine, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 15

    Her mother haunted Leia’s nightmares.

    Like a shade out of some ancient Jedi fairytale, Padme Amidala Skywalker Kenobi followed Leia through corridor after corridor, passing through doors and solid walls, her hands spread out in front of her as if she wanted to take Leia into her arms. Fire burned her mother’s body, turning her into a walking pyre.

    And all Leia could do was run and scream.

    The screams followed her up out of sleep. Sitting up in a rush, the chains wrapped around her arms drew taut and dragged her back down to the hard slab that served her as a bed.

    Another scream ripped from her lips as her scarred back touched the cool metal. Pain sent spasms through her body, her legs jacking as if they had a mind of their own. It took all of Leia’s Jedi concentration to force her body to relax.

    Once the pain had faded to a constant, dull ache, Leia managed to pull herself together enough to look around. Everything was darkness and shadow. How long has it been? she wondered. Her mind seemed to spin, everything that had happened since the events in the negotiation room blurring together. Time seemed to have become maleable - as far as Leia knew she could have been in here for days or even weeks.

    The only things that had interrupted the monotony had been her meals and her visits from Palpatine. Those visits that had left the scars on her back. And which would have killed her by now if it hadn’t been for the fact that Palpatine had healed her using the Force after every session.

    She lay there in the darkness, trying to get her bearings through the pain. Not for the first time, she reached out for the Force. Pushing through the pain, she tried to find her calm centre, pushing everything else, her physical envelope, to one side and concentrating on her mind. She reached out, towards the bright light she could sense just on the other side of a thin veil. She reached and reached... But she couldn't touch it. After a few moments of straining, she gave up, her body shaking from the effort.

    She knew that if she could just have touched the Force, she would have been able to make more sense of what was happening to her, but those creatures that Tarkin had used to capture her were still here somewhere. Every time one of the guards came in to give her her meal, he or she had one of those things wrapped around his shoulders.

    How does Palpatine overcome that blockage? He didn't seem to have any problems using the Force when he came to see her, and yet she could never touch it.

    Being without the Force was taking its own toll on her. She felt blind without it. If only she could overcome the block...

    She tensed as she heard steps in the corridor outside. She opened her eyes in time to see light stream into the dark room through the open door.

    "Hello, my dear."

    Him. Palpatine. Stood in the doorway.

    She found that she couldn't move. It was as though she had a series of weights pressing down on her chest, forbidding her any kind of movement.

    Palpatine laughed.

    "Still struggling, my dear? Still trying to escape?" His laugh became a vile snort. "Do you still persist in thinking there is any way out of this, Jedi?"

    She could picture the sneer on his face. She felt sick.

    "There is no getting out of this. The only release is to join me, or to die."

    She managed to gather enough strength to spit. The little ball of spittle splattered on her own cheek. "Die," she croaked, though she wasn't sure if she was asking him to kill her or threatening to kill him.

    He laughed. "You think that now, my dear. But I am not done with you yet. By the time I am, you will beg for me to allow you to join me."

    No, she wanted to scream.

    "First, though," Palpatine went on, "there are things I want to know. Such as the location of your little Jedi temple."

    "Never," she whispered. A single tear left her eye and drifted down her cheek. She knew that as soon as he mentioned the temple, pain was never far behind.

    "Never is a dangerous word to use, Jedi. A dangerous word indeed."

    She heard movement from behind her as more men entered the room. Shadows appeared around her, then hands clenched over her arms. She screamed.

    They turned her over onto her front, the scraps of clothing that covered her lower half ripping even further. Her naked breasts pressed down against the cold slab of metal, pain ricocheting through her body as the scar tissue on her front stretched taut.

    "Where is it?" Palpatine asked, his voice closer now. She screamed as his finger pressed against her back. "Tell me."

    "No!" she screamed.

    He pressed harder. She started to scream uncontrollably and her body began to shake.

    "Tell me."

    "My - name - is - Leia - Skywalker. I - am - a - Jedi - Knight. My – name – is --"

    Palpatine snarled. The room around her lit up with flickering, terrible light as lightning darted from his fingertips, ravaging her skin, burning, tearing, biting, clawing... The pain rose and rose, until she was howling. Then, suddenly, it was over.

    Her whole body continued to convulse long seconds after the attack had stopped. Leia gasped for air, every breath piercing her raw throat with darts of pain.

    "You know how much I can hurt you," Palpatine whispered in a soothing tone. "I don't want to hurt you, my dear. Really, I don't. There are much more agreable ways of turning a Jedi to the Dark Side." She felt his hand against her sore back, this time accompanied by the soothing healing of the Force. Pleasure penetrated her body, leaving her whimpering. "Especially female Jedi."

    Leia gritted her teeth against the onslaught of pleasure, trying to keep her mind clear. Biting down on her lip, she began to speak again. "My name is Leia Skywalker. I am a Jedi. My name is Leia Skywalker. I am a Jedi. My name is--"

    Palpatine's hiss was all the warning she got. Lightning struck her body again and Leia continued to scream.

    xxx

    Han set the glass down on the desk, wiping his lips with the sleeve of his shirt. He blearily noticed the numerous stains already decorating the white fabric, then let his hand fall back on the desk.

    He was drunk. It wasn't a surprise – in fact it had been his purpose all along. The drink was the only thing that could keep the memory of screams quiet.

    In the two days since he had witnessed the end of the galaxy as he knew it, Han had not left his office. He had returned here straight after fleeing the Palace to find Ly had barricaded herself in. He had sweet talked her into letting him enter, then helped her lock the door again.

    He frowned suddenly. Where was she? He hadn't seen her in... He couldn't remember. He vaguely remembered her saying she was going to go out and try and get some news on what was happening and then... How long ago had that been? He shook his head, trying to clear it of the buzz of the alcohol, without success.

    After a moment, he shrugged. She'd be back. She'd be fine. She was Ly' after all. She always knew what to do.

    He reached over and grabbed the bottle of Alderaani rum and went to pour a new glass. It took him a moment to realise that there was no liquid pouring out. He frowned, lifted the bottle and stared into it. Empty. Damn.

    Grumbling, he pushed the chair back from the desk and stood on unsteady legs. Wobbling slightly, he took a step towards the drawers on his right hand side, just as the door chime to his office rang.

    Han paused, the sound loud enough to cut through his drink-induced fog, but not enough for him to actually understand what it was. That took him a good few seconds.

    When the understanding eventually seeped into his brain, Han hesitated. There was no one he wanted to see. Then he remembered Ly. Could it be her? She would be able to get in on her own, wouldn't she?

    The door chime rang again. Han was conscious enough to realise that if it was Ly, he couldn't leave her outside. So he stumbled unsteadily across the room and pressed his hand to the plate.

    The door slid open. It wasn't Ly.

    Instead, a young human woman, draped in a heavy cloak, stood there. She lifted her face to him as the door opened and Han saw that she had been crying. He did not recognise her.

    "Prince Solo?"

    Han laughed. He didn't mean to. The sound just escaped him. Hearing her call him prince after everything that had happened seemed quite a joke.

    The young woman jumped and wrapped her arms around her middle. For the first time, Han realised that she was holding a little boy to her, hidden deep within the folds of her cloak.

    She stared at him uncertainly. Han managed - with difficulty - to bring his laughter under control.

    "I'm Han Solo."

    "I'm sorry to come here," she said. "But she told me that if anything happened, you could be trusted to help us."

    She? Us? Han's alcohol imbibed mind was finding it very difficult to make sense of any of it.

    Finally he blurted out the question that had been bothering him.

    "Who the hell are you?"

    The woman frowned. "I am Byriam. Lady Padme's handmaiden."

    So that was where he had seen her before! He smiled, then had a mental flash of Padme's broken body. He felt a sudden surge of fear in his belly.

    "You... You shouldn't be here. They're looking for you."

    "I know that," Byriam cried out. She glanced to the side in fear and when she turned her gaze back to him, her eyes were full of a desperate fear. "I've been running and hiding for two days. I would have given up a long time ago, but I couldn't let them have Kie."

    Han frowned. She sighed, exasperated, and opened her robe a little, all the while casting furtive glances up and down the corridor. Han stared down at the young boy, who lifted his head and stared up at Han with wide eyes, red with dried tears.

    It took Han a moment to place him - he had last seen this boy running to his mother's side on the landing pad near the Palace. Padme's son. With that realisation came understanding, understanding of what exactly this woman was doing here. He started to back up, his mind clear for the first time.

    "No, no, no. No way, sister."

    "But milady said..."

    "I don't know what your lady said, and I don't care. This has nothing to do with me. I can't get involved."

    Byriam glared at him. "Not involved? You're already involved! You became involved the moment your planet was subjugated by the Empire."

    "We're part of the Empire."

    "And who made that choice? Corellia is a beacon of freedom to the peoples of this galaxy. Now, a Grand Moff sits on equal footing with your father."

    "What do you know about my father?"

    "Haven't you been watching the news?"

    Han shook his head. Byriam pressed on. "The Empire has been showing off their new conquest for everyone to see. Every Imperial holo-channel has been showing pictures of your father signing the treaty, of the Imperial stormtroopers 'defending' order and justice on the streets of Coronet, of Grand Moff Jizier sitting in the Royal Chamber beside your father."

    Han felt sick to the stomach. How had he missed all of this? How had it happened? How...

    He suddenly realised that he was getting side-tracked here. He frowned and shook his head.

    "That doesn't change anything. Whatever you thought to find here, I'm not it, alright? There's nothing I can do to help you."

    "Nothing you want to do, you mean?" To Han's surprise, the young handmaiden took a step forward and spat at his feet. "Milady Padme was wrong about you. You're nothing but a coward."

    She wrapped her coat around Padme's son again, who had started to cry softly, and glared at Han. "Come on Kie. We'll have to find help somewhere else."

    As soon as she was gone, Han pressed his hand to the plate and let the door lock behind her. He found that he was shaking violently. He stumbled back a few steps and fell against the wall. Eyes staring blindly at the closed door, Han allowed himself to slide down until he was sitting with his arms wrapped around his legs.

    He sat there, his mind whirling wildly with pictures of his father, of Padme, of Leia, of Byriam and Padme's son and Ly and... How had it all deteriorated so badly and so fast? He had been sure that he had everything under control. Now all he wanted was someone to take care of him, to tell him that it was all going to be alright. He felt like, like...

    Like a young boy.

    Like Padme's son must be feeling.

    Suddenly, he flashed back to Padme Amidala Kenobi's final moments. To the insistent look she had given him, telling him to look after her daughter. Except perhaps it had been more than that. Perhaps what she had really been asking him was to take care of her children.

    He knew what he had to do. Cursing himself for a fool, he scrambled up and ran for the door.

    He just hoped he wouldn't be too late.

    xxx

    Byriam dashed tears from her eyes as she pushed past the two guards stationed at the main entrance to the Corellian Embassy. She hugged Ben to her more tightly and led him out onto the street. Once there, she hesitated, not sure where to go next. Solo had been her only hope.

    Darkness ruled the depths of Coruscant. The massive buildings created an unnatural twilight in the middle of the day, lit only by the electric lights, which created little circles of illumination every few metres.

    There were few other pedetrians down here, and those that were seemed as down on their luck as she was.

    Trying hard to hold back the tears, she began to lead Kie left, towards an elevator she had glimpsed on the way to the Embassy. She had heard that there were hostels in the underlevels where one could find a room for a couple of credits and without needing to show any ID. Of course she did not want to imagine the sort of beings who probably inhabited such places. She would deal with that when she came to it. She would do whatever - whatever - it took to keep her mistress' son safe. Whatever it took.

    Perhaps if she kept on repeating it, it would come true.

    She had been keeping her head down up until now, but when she heard the metallic-sounding voices she lifted her head. She dropped it back down immediately when she saw the dreaded white uniforms.

    Stormtroopers. A pack of them, fanning out across the street, checking papers and studying faces. Byriam felt her heart stop and she came to a stop. Fear clawed at her throat.

    She turned to go back the other way, but more troopers were coming down the street as well. What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?!! She knew she was panicking, but she couldn't seem to stop it. She looked from one side of the street to another, desperately searching for some way out of this.

    She almost screamed when the hand fell on her shoulder. She spun round, expecting to see the sight-less white and black mask of a Stormtrooper staring back at her. Instead, she was astonished to see Han Solo. He wasn't looking at her, but rather at the stormtroopers rapidly approaching.

    "Shhh," he hissed, one finger on his lips. He was standing in an open doorway, some kind of side exit to the embassy. Slowly, eyes peeled, he drew her inside and closed the door.

    "Are you alright?"

    Byriam nodded, though her whole body was shaking violently. "I thought you didn't want to get involved."

    He smiled at her, a lopsided grin that made him strangely attractive. "What can I say? I'm a complicated guy."

    He dropped down to one knee and studied Kiewan. He reached up tentatively and ruffled the boy's hair. Kiewan tensed slightly, but he didn't back away.

    "Are you alright, little guy?"

    Kiewan didn't answer, just stared back at Han with wide-eyes. Han nodded, then stood.

    "Okay. I'll help you. I'm not sure how, but I'll find some way of getting you off the planet. Until then, we should be safe here. I don't think the Imps will dare invade the embassy."

    Despite herself, Byriam felt a surge of relief, as a little of the tension she had been feeling fell away.

    "How are we going to escape?"

    "Like I said, I don't know. For now... I'm going to take you back up to my office. You'll be safe there until I get back."

    Fear surged again. "Get back? Where are you going?"

    "I... I have somebody I have to find. My assistant. She's missing."

    Although Byriam wanted to beg him not to go, she could see in Solo's eyes that this woman was important to him. She nodded.

    "I'm sure we'll be fine."

    Han nodded as well, then turned to lead them both to a service elevator. Byriam looked down at Kiewan and smiled.

    "See, little Kie. Everything is going to be fine."

    As she followed Solo, she wondered when it had become so easy to lie.
     
  2. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Another good chapter, I could hear the Emperor speaking his lines as I read them.
     
  3. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Captain Sarine, excellent as always. I once wrote a Buffy AU, the details don't matter. Suffice it to say, I had a strong start, but I grew too dependent on soap-opera type twists, big reveals and like that, and it was unsustainable. You've had all that in AGOH, but you've also kept up the story itself, and that gets you props from me.

    It seems like this Empire is more pedestrian in its brutality, since it never had a facade of legitimacy to operate under, and needs to show people what was known and understood in canon. Its lack of overconfidence may be our heroes' undoing.
     
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Typical reluctant Han...a good guy in spite of himself. ;)

    But Leia--MAN, that was a tough torture scene! I begin to worry about exactly what KIND of Force block those animals are putting out, though. I don't want to say more lest I spoil what you're trying to do...
     
  5. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    ^Agreed, Han works best as a reluctant hero.

    And, man, that Emperor just gets creepier and creepier!
     
  6. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

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    USS Avenger

    Thanks so much for that, I'm glad you felt I was able to capture the oh-so-sinister way that the Emperor always delivered his lines.

    Gojirob

    Thanks for your really kind review, I'm touched that you feel I've been able to handle both the twists and turns and the story behind it in a good enough way to keep you interested.

    I don't know whether I would have described the Empire as being pedestrian in their violence, but I certainly see what you mean about them not having a facade of legitimacy. However, I think that you'll be getting a slightly different view of the Empire in the next chapter, as Vidius begins to work on Luke...

    Nerys

    Yeah, Han is always best as a reluctant hero, that isn't something that was going to change in this A/U.

    Not sure what you have in mind for the Force block, but I hope that I won't disappoint.

    The Badger

    See above for commentary on Han.

    Glad I was able to convey the Emperor's creepiness! :lol:
     
  7. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    To clarify : I meant pedestrian in that they must get down and dirty with torture, whereas in canon the mere threat of what the already-supreme Empire could do was often enough. Palps was granted a chance early on within his territories to do the kind of purge his mask of legitimacy wouldn't allow till much later in canon.
     
  8. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Gotham
    Another interesting chapter...I enjoyed the Palpatine scene with Leia.
     
  9. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Need more!!!!!! :D
     
  10. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

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    Hey CD!

    Hopefully have some more up soon, working on a Luke chapter.

    Thanks for the support and continued interest!

    Joel
     
  11. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    More coming soon!?! WOOHOO! :)
     
  12. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

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  13. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

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    Chapter 16

    "Luke."

    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.

    "Luke."

    "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.

    Darth Vidius.

    A Sith.

    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.

    "Hello Luke."

    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."

    "Why?"

    "What?"

    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?"
     
  14. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

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    (continued)

    Turbulence hit the shuttle as it pierced the layer of clouds above Coronet City. Luke tightened his grip on the arms of his chair until his knuckles turned white. He felt nauseous at the way the shuttle was bouncing around in the atmosphere. Or at least he tried to convince himself that was the reason.

    Darth Vidius sat at his side, legs stretched out lazily in front of him, watching out of the viewport in front of them. He glanced at Luke and smiled reassuringly, but Luke felt too sick to smile back.

    Instead, he looked out at the world below, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the view. He had vague memories of Naboo, the planet where he was born, but apart from that his only experience was of the harsh deserts of Tatooine. Corellia seemed very different. Softer.

    The capital city of Corellia nestled between a series of low rising hills and an ocean. Luke could just make out a series of beaches running along the coastline. The city herself was a metropolis of graceful towers and supple domes, spread out across a vast area. From his vantage point, Luke got the feeling that he could have fitted a dozen Mos Espa's in the space taken up by Coronet.

    "Impressive, isn't it?" Vidius asked beside him. Luke could only nod.

    The pilot, a human dressed in the dark colours of the Empire, began to level the shuttle off as they neared a landing area on the east side of the city. Vidius had still not informed him of where they were headed exactly, though he had told Luke it would give him a new vision of the Empire. Luke remained sceptical that anything Vidius could show him could change his opinion.

    The shuttle swept in closer to the landing area. A green square appeared on the viewport, projected holographically to help guide the pilot. As they drew closer, Luke could make out a handful of other ships already parked on the wide area, as well as tiny white dots he took to be a stormtrooper escort for Vidius.

    At the last moment, the pilot pushed a button on the command console in front of him. The shuttle's wings rose with a rumbling sound, shaking the shuttle slightly and setting off Luke's nausea again. The shuttle drifted forward, eased down, and then softly settled to the ground.

    Luke sat there for a moment, enjoying the sensation of solid ground beneath him. Vidius had already unbuckled himself, and Luke struggled with a moment to release his own restraining harness. He stood, his legs wobbling slightly beneath him.

    "Thank you, Lieutenant," Vidius said, nodding to the pilot who smiled back. It took Luke a moment to recognise the look in the man's face. Respect bordering on adoration. He had seen it in the faces of some of the smuggler crews back in Mos Espa. Like them, this man looked as though he trusted Vidius with his life.

    How could a dark lord make someone respect him so much? It doesn't look like fear. What could he have done to earn that?

    His mind still whirling, Luke followed Vidius back to the ramp and down, stepping out into the Corellia air. He gasped as the heat struck him like a wall. The southern continent where Coronet City was located seemed to be in the middle of a heatwave, and the temperature was sweltering. The heat, though, was totally different to what Luke was used to back home. Full of humidity, which made the air so thick he had trouble breathing.

    At the bottom of the ramp, four stormtroopers stood at attention. They turned as one once Vidius and Luke stepped into their midsts and marched them toward a waiting speeder.

    "Where are we going?" Luke asked.

    "I want to show you exactly what the Empire has done for this planet, Luke," Vidius said gently. "I don't think you can truly understand unless you do."

    Privately, Luke doubted Vidius could show him anything to help him 'understand' but he was willing to play along. For now. As long as it takes for him to release me.

    As they climbed into the speeder, which eased out of the airport into the streets surrounding it, Luke wondered suddenly what had happened to Mara Jade. He hadn't seen his captor since they arrived - Vidius had informed her that she was expected on the bridge for a communique from their master. She hadn't been to see him, and he wondered whether she was even still onboard the station.

    His musings were rapidly extinguished as they moved into the city itself. He gaped at the size of the buildings, all of which seemed to conspire to form a massive canyon of metal and transparisteel around him. He could hardly even glimpse the sun above him. And yet the buildings maintained an elegance and a beauty unlike any he had ever seen in Mos Espa or even Mos Eisley on the rare occasions he had been there.

    "Impressive, isn't it?"

    Luke turned his head to see Vidius considering him, a smile playing on his lips. Luke nodded and crane his head back to peer up at the domed top of the building they were passing.

    "I've never seen anything like it."

    "And this is nothing compared to Imperial Centre. Coruscant is a true jewel."

    Luke nodded, unable to imagine anything being more impressive, more beautiful, than Coronet City.

    After a few minutes, the speeder began to slow. Luke looked around, trying to find their destination. He realised that they were coming to a stop in front of a smaller building that hunkered down between the larger palaces around it. Red and ochre tones from the brick construction mingled in the shadows. Luke felt a chill.

    "Where are we?"

    Vidius didn't answer. He waited for one of the stormtroopers to open the door and hold it for him, then stepped out. His cloak billowed in a gust of wind, and Vidius let it. Luke gazed at him, taking in his impressive stature, his effortless confidence and wondered what could have happened to turn this man into... Into my father.

    Shaking his head, he followed Vidius out onto the street. He wrapped his arms around his middle and stared at the building.

    "Where are we?" he asked again.

    "This was the Coronet Community Centre," Vidius said softly. "When we arrived, we found it packed to the brims with the dregs of Corellian society - the poor, the misfortunate, the crippled and the handicapped. They had been left here to rot, provided with a few meals, just enough to keep them alive."

    Vidius started forward, flanked by the stormtroopers. Luke had no choice but to follow him. They walked up a series of steps, then through the open doors.

    Inside, darkness reigned. The first thing Luke noticed was the smell - the stench forced his mind back to the day his father had taken him to visit an old friend of his in Mos Eisley. The family of Rodians had lived thirty in a small room. That same funky smell of trapped beings, of unwashed bodies, of despair, filled this space, so strong that Luke took a step back.

    One of the troopers lifted his arm and shone a torch over the corridor. Mats covered the floor, dirty and falling apart. A couple of rats scurried away from the light. Luke swallowed. The light continued, showing metre after metre filled with the bedding.

    "This is where some of them slept," Vidius said, his voice cold. "The King and his government had done nothing to improve their living, had locked them away in here with a handful of keepers who were little more than guards, and abandoned them to rot."

    He guided Luke forward, avoiding the mats, and led him into a room off to one side. The stench was stronger here. When the light played over the same mats, these encrusted with blood and excrement, Luke tumbled to his knees and threw up.

    His throat burned as he stumbled back to his feet, his head spinning. He had never imagined anything like this. He put a hand out to steady himself, and found his hand pressed against Vidius' chest.

    He met the Sith Lord's eyes, and saw the anger and rage and sorrow burning there. "I vowed, a long time ago, that I would never allow another person to die in these conditions. I swore it. To your grandmother."

    "But... But what can you do?" Luke whispered.

    Vidius smiled, and it was as though he lit up the darkness, fighting it back. "I'm so glad you asked."

    xxx

    The sound of children laughing met Luke's ears as he exited the speeder.

    They had driven out beyond the city limits, inland through a series of fields and forests, to this small farmhouse. It was idealic, especially to Luke who had never known anything but sand and dust and super-heated wind. Although it was hot, a cooling breeze wafted in from a nearby stream and a handful of large trees provided shade.

    Some of the children ran over when the speeder stopped. Luke was astonished when Vidius fell to his knees and opened his arms. Laughing, he enfolded two of them, a boy and a girl, and lifted them. They squealed as he spun them around, then put them down. They ran off again, their cheeks red from the exertions.

    Vidius turned to Luke, and Luke would have sworn he saw tears in his eyes. "It's good to see them so happy," he said, gazing off after the children.

    "What is this place?" Luke breathed.

    "This is the new Corellia Communitee Centre. Completely paid for and subsidised by the Empire. In the old days of the Republic, an initiative like this would have had to turn to big business for the money, because it would have taken the Senate years to push through the legislation. Thanks to the Empire, this place was found, the installation complete and the families moved within three days."

    Luke shook his head. "It's amazing."

    Vidius smiled. "This is the Empire, Luke. This is the sort of thing that we can do, the sort of help that we can provide."

    "But... But the Empire has destroyed liberties. Has stopped people from doing what they want."

    "A price." Vidius nodded. "I'm not going to lie to you, Luke. I never will. The Empire is far from perfect. There are a handful of people who suffer under the stricter conditions of the Imperial law code. A few newspapers were closed for spreading sedition, a few groups were slapped down, a little too hard. But look at these people, Luke! Look at the happiness the Empire has been able to bring."

    Luke looked. He looked at the children running through the trees, swinging on branches and kicking a ball. He looked at the parents, working hard in the barn or putting extra paint on the walls of the farmhouse. He looked at their smiles. And he felt totally lost.

    "I know this must be overwhelming. I know what you must think of the Empire - what the other me must have told you. This is what he threw away, though, Luke. This is what he sacrificed for his Jedi. His Force. And what did we get for it? War. Suffering. The sort of places you saw in that community centre."

    Luke nodded. "I... I need some time to process all of this."

    "Of course you do. But first, come and speak to the people. Ask them what it was like before and how they have been treated since. Talk to the people, Luke, the real people. See how they feel."

    Nodding, Luke started to follow Vidius towards the farm. He had only taken a few steps, though, when he felt a surge of heat rush through him. An urgent compulsion filled his mind, and he cried out, throwing himself forward to knock Vidius to the ground.

    He heard the whine of a laser and saw an explosion of dirt half a foot from where Vidius had stood.

    Before he could make sense of what had just happened, he felt rough hands grip his arms and haul him to his feet. Two stormtroopers dragged him off Vidius and Luke was convinced they would have shot him on the spot if Vidius hadn't intervened.

    "No," he said, coughing out dust. "No."

    The Sith Lord climbed to his feet, dusting himself off. Luke saw the other stormtroopers rush towards the farmhouse behind him. Most of the families had scattered, taking refuge behind farming equipment or in the shade of the trees. The children were crying, looking terrified.

    "Let him go," Vidius ordered. "He just saved my life."

    The stormtroopers released him immediately and Luke stumbled a little. He felt weak at the knees, and his stomach was roiling violently.

    Vidius stepped towards Luke and before he could stop him had grabbed Luke in a hug. He pressed Luke to him for a moment, then released him, holding him at arm's length.

    "Thank you," he said. "Thank you."

    "I... I..." Luke fell to his knees and vomited in the dirt. He felt his head begin to spin, and then darkness rushed in and took him.
     
  15. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2001
    Location:
    Grand Canyon State
    Interesting.... very interesting.

    So I wonder if Vidius really does believe what he's saying to Luke, and really believes in the power of the Empire to work as a force for good, as Anakin seemed to do when he spoke to Padme on Naboo in AOTC. Maybe he has designs against the Emperor?

    I'm really enjoying this.
     
  16. ParticleMan

    ParticleMan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    May 18, 2001
    Location:
    Zooland, NC
    I just got caught up on this thread in the last day or so and I wanted to chime in...

    I've never been a huge Star Wars fan...never got into the EU or anything beyond the 6 films, but I gotta say, this story thus far has REALLY got me in its grips! Love the little details, the well thought out deviations from the "real" universe. Great job so far! I really look forward to reading more...
     
  17. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    VERY interesting...Vidius, instead of being the sort of outright, obvious evil that Vader was, reminds me far more of Gul Dukat. He's almost Cardassian, the way he talks about the Empire and the State, and uses the appearance of charm and warmth to manipulate.

    I am actually beginning to think this version will be HARDER to turn back to the Light Side (should that even be possible) than Vader, given the shades of grey. (I wonder if he's close to Vergere's philosophy of the Force? And no, I haven't read the books, but I know about that.)
     
  18. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Hmm. Is this Empire actually benevolent in some matters. Is the whole thing orchestrated to win over Luke? Every time I think I've got this figured out something new comes along!
     
  19. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2002
    Location:
    Gotham
    Another excellent installment. I think this keeps better and better and more intriguing as we get deeper into the story. I agree with the poster who wrote that Vidius reminded him of Gul Dukat...I got that vibe from him as well. I'm wondering though if Vidius is just a means to the end for the Sith and if he is able to turn Luke to the dark side he will be killed?
     
  20. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    I am in agreement with the others here, Vidious seemed...charming. Thats a truly scary thought, a charming Vader. Well done, I also wonder if the Empire has done some good in this galaxy. In the "real"(or is it "prime") universe, I would bet that it actually did. Despite what we see in the movies, I would guess that many ordinary citizens were actually very sad to see the Empire fall. In this alternate reality I would think ithe Empire would have done even more "good" in order to win the hearts and minds of the people because the Alliance is around as a true force, not just some pitiful little band.
     

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