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“I’m not sure this going to work.” Luke Skywalker said nervously, feeling the disconcerting sensation of four different women with their hands over his body.

“Of course, it’s going to work.” Princess Nima said. Her firm hand pressed on his head as she clipped the last hairpiece into place. Luke bit down on his protests that this plan might not actually work. Except that Princess Nima was all but daring the universe interfere with her plans.

“I think this is going to be fantastic.” Princess Letta helped fluff out the ribbons sewed onto the dress. “No one is going to suspect anything. Imperials can be so stupid.” The other two princess began to giggle as they buttoned up the back of the gown.

“It is perfect.” All movement stilled automatically as the sonorous voice of the Queen Mother boomed around the room. The princesses all curtsied as the woman, all six and half feet of her, regally floated into the room. “Has the voicebox been programmed?” Luke withered under the intense stare leveled at him. Queen Ana was taller than most stormtrooper captains, with thick shoulders, wide hands, a square face, and a firm frown. Her gown of black and silver was glowing under the light of the

“Yes, mother.” Nima held up the aforementioned droid which the Queen took. “Ready to go?”

“Hmm.” Queen Ana waved her daughters away. The took a respectful step back and left Luke under the scrutiny of the queen. She paced a slow circle about him. “Yellow is a very nice color, young one.”

“Hmmm,” he fidgeted with the cuffs of his sleeves, “Thank you but.”

“You have doubts?” She paused in front of him, looking his gown up and down and then settling on his face.

“Well, I don’t know if I can…or if it is really smart to hide me…here. In the palace.”

“The Imperial officers that are looking for you will not be looking for you here.” She said, and reached out to straighten his shirt. “This is the royal palace.”

“I know but I might stick out…being unfamiliar with…this.”

“Which I why I arranged your hiding to begin now and not two weeks from now when the ISB agent actually shows up. You will take the next two weeks to learn how to walk and talk like a princess. Like one of my own daughters. With the planet under Imperial blockade it will be impossible to move you anywhere on the planet. Stormtroopers are everywhere except the palace.”

“I don’t think I’m going to make a very convincing princess though.” Luke said desperately, “And if I get caught then you’ll all be in huge trouble. I could be a butler or a gardener or something.”

“A butler that had no idea of royal protocol? A gardener that still looks faint over puddles of water?” Luke blushed, that’d been accident. “No, it would simply be easier to make you into a princess.”

“But.”

“You would not be the first child I’ve adopted.” Queen Ana said calmly as Luke tried to come up with further excuses. “Now, Nima, what do you think of his gown?”

“Yellow is a fantastic color on him.” She blinked at the frown directed at her, “Excuse me, her.”

“Yes, an excellent color.”

“It does look nice.” Luke agreed, resigned to his fate. He glanced into the mirror. It did look nice on him. The soft yellows edged with black designs. He looked like that jacket he’d been wearing that’d gotten torn. He was pretty sure that had been the inspiration.

“You are very beautiful, Luke.” Nima said, smiling at him. He shrugged.

“Thank you.” He brushed down the front of his gown and sighed at the image in the mirror. He didn’t look like Luke Skywalker, rebel and pilot and former moisture farmer. He didn’t even look like a male anymore. Some clever dress alterations, some make-up, a few hair pins, and a enough fabric to drown a wampa make him look like any other soft eyed princess on the planet. His adams apple was hidden beneath a high collar and a heavy necklace of white pearls. He held a white and yellow fan in one hand and awkwardly sighed.

Well, he was a princess for the time being.

“I…thank you so much for hiding me, your majes….ty?” He blinked at the firm frown directed at him, “What did I say?”

“I am your mother for the moment. Get used to called me mother in public.”

“We’re not in public.”

“A habit can’t be formed unless the person puts in the true amount of work to make it happen.” Nima smiled and Luke glowered at her. He bit his lip and the grimaced as the salty taste of lipstick flooded his mouth.

“Ewww, why does it have to taste so bad.”

“So no one goes around to suck it off.” The queen levelled a glare at her oldest daughters who shrugged and smiled. “Now, I will have a droid help you with leaning how to be a princess. There is a public function my daughters and I must attend. You will remain in the palace.”

“Yes….” He forced the word out, “Mother.”

“Hmm, well done the final piece.” The queen held up the small droid. “You must swallow this.”

“What…oh dear.”

“Your transformation is nearly complete, young one. Here, it is a mix between Letta and Nima, you will sound convincing as well.”

“Err.” Luke rubbed his nervous hand on his dress before accepting the tiny droid and grimacing. He waited on the edge of nervousness for some time before shrugging and swallowing the tiny droid down.

It wriggled in his throat unpleasantly, nearly making the rebel gag it back up. When the metal had settled where it was supposed to, Luke paused.

“Go on, boy, give it a go.”

“Um,” the four princesses giggled, “how do I sound? Like a princess?”

“Yes!” Nima yanked him into a hug, “Oh, you’re so beautiful. So pretty and handsome. You look just like Mother when she was your age. Ohhh, I’ll show you the holos!”

“Thanks,” Luke stuttered and tried to extract himself from the suddenly over-excited princesses. “Guys, I think you have.”

“Girls, we have an event to attend.” The Queen Mother smiled fondly at the five before her. “Luke has his lesson.”

“Yep.” He agreed weakly, wishing for R2, Leia, or Han. Anyone to get him off the blockaded planet. Anyone at all.

#$#$#$

ISB Agent Hima Suun whistled a cheerful tune to herself, mentally planning her course of investigation of the planet below. She stepped from her shower into the refresher and was wrapping her towel around herself when the door to her quarters slid open.

“I’ll be out in a minute.” She called, foregoing getting dressed with pulling a blaster from the spot under the sink where she’d taped it earlier. It always paid to have extra weapons laying about. Ensuring the towel around her was tight, Hima let the door open just enough to catch a sight of who could be in her quarters.

No one.

She frowned and slipped from the refreshed, checking the corners and closets for the intruder. No one.

“Agent Suun!” Hima shrieked in surprised alarm, whirling around and firing a blaster bolt directly at the armored chest of Lord Vader. Her mind stalled out when the bright red bolt froze in mid-air.

“Lord Vader.” She desperately wished she’d gotten dressed. Or at least put on something longer than a towel. “What….what can I do for you?” He was angry, this much she could tell.

“Why have you not begun your investigation on Telldona?” She swallowed awkwardly, feeling phantom fingers wrap around her throat and knowing that if she died her then she’d die in her towel. It gave her enough courage to reply.

“The royal family of Telldona have filed a grievance. Even if it is ignored it still takes time for the paperwork to go through and be processed. Until such time, sending an ISB agent to the planet’s surface would send a political message that would.”

“I do not care for these petty politics!” Vader thunder and the grip around throat tightened until the agent was gagging.

“Yes…sir…” She rasped, “Order…came from….Isard.” Abruptly he released her and she staggered back, sucking in heavy breaths.

“What political games is Isard playing?”

“I don’t know, sir.” She answered honestly, trembling under the rush of adrenaline and fear. “Orders from that high are too high for me to ignore.”

“Hmmm.” Suun eyed the still blaster bolt. It was quivering within the invisible grasp. “Fortunately, not for me. Is your investigation prepared?”

“Yes, Lord Vader.” She wasn’t a nervous woman by nature but having a Sith Lord looming over her while dressed only in a towel was nothing calming. “Err.”

“Do you have any leads as to where Skywalker might be?” He demanded and she scrambled for an answer. Fortunetly, she’d only had her case files to read in recent days and blurted the information out.

“Skywalker was a moisture farmer,” Vader whirled around, his cape snapped at her bare shins and he crossed his arms. “He may be attempting to disguise himself out in the desert zones where he’d be more comfortable. Agent Mol’s reports suggest that Skywalker would not want to endanger anyone with the task of protecting him. He is probably alone and isolated. Which would make him more difficult to track. There is a reward for turning Skywalker in as well.”

“The boy already has a bounty on him.”

“Yes.” One of the highest ones in modern galactic history. “This is a…bonus.”

“What of the planetary rulers?”

“The planet is ruled by High King Padon and Queen Mother Ana, they have ten daughters and.”

“Ten?”

“Aye, most of them adopted from other ruling houses as they’ve fallen in recent years. Usually due to scandal or exposure to some very bad press. Only three are their biological children.”

“Have there been any recent suggestions that the royal family may be sympathetic to the Rebel Alliance?” Vader demanded and Hima stepped away from him, inching toward her bathrobe.

“No, milord. For what our political analysts can see is that the ruling family is more interested in securing the throne and the positions of the ruling houses for the Queen. Any other sort of galactic interference usually doesn’t last long here.”

“Evidence?”

“In…during the clone war the Republic attempted to establish a base on the planets moon and station a garrison of clones on the planet. This was waylaid by enormous amounts of paperwork, political lobbying and a suspected murder of a Republic official. Though no evidence was produced. The Republic sent some…negotiators.” The ISB code-word for Jedi, “They were also unsuccessful and were imprisoned for eight weeks before the…other negotiators managed to get them out of prison. Hench why we are also stopped by very official paper work.”

“Have you considered.”

“Lord Vader.” She interrupted him, feeling more uncomfortable than she had when Admiral Ozzel had been leering at her. “Ah, I am very…well…naked under this towel and I would be more than happy to continue this conversation but….would please leave? So I can get dressed.” Vader turned halfway around and then jerked back to the opposite wall. As if he hadn’t even noticed her state of undress and was going to check when he stopped himself. The sudden, jerky motion, nearly make her laugh. He paused for a few breathing cycles and nodded.

“When you are dressed, come to hanger 4B. We will go planet-side.” He said and gave a final jerky nod as he left. Hima’s sigh of relief turned into a shriek when the blaster bolt was freed of whatever magic had been holding it and burnt a hole in the wall.

$#$#$3

Vader was pacing angrily around the entrance of the ship when Hima made her way down ten minutes later. Her hair was till damp and her hat was perched on her heard wrong but her notes were neat and her team was ready to go. Thankfully, Vader did not snap or yell at her or her team as they hurried to load the shuttle. Still, he all but threw the five man crew into the ship as the last box was secured and stomped his way into the cockpit.”

“Agent Suun, join me.” He ordered. Hima, struggling to balance her four datapads, nearly slipped as she nodded. She dumped her load, save one, into her subordinates armored grasp and hurried into the cockpit. Vader had taken the pilots seat and was clicking buttons and flipping switches. The ship came to life with a steady hum and in seconds they were out of the hanger and headed dirt-side.

#%$%$

Luke wanted nothing more than to get changed and go to bed. He wanted to find somewhere comfortable and horizontal and pass out. He was already dozing in a comfortable armchair, a good on ediquite open in his lap when a butler bustled into the room.

“Princess, excuse the interruption.” He opened his eyes blearily and watched the man run about the room, “your mother has some unexpected visitors. You are needed in the throne room immediately.”

“What?” He yawned so hard his jaw creaked and Luke shuddered as his brain began to reboot. “What’s going on?”

“I do not have the information for that, Princess. Please, follow me.”

“Okay.” Sighing and almost tired enough to ignore the swish of skirts around his ankles, he stood and adjusted everything that needed to be adjusted. Luke was hovering comfortably between sleep and wakefulness when he entered the throne room through one of the back entrances. The Queen and King were already seated at their thrones. His temporary sisters were all arranged neatly around the throne. The youngest looked miserably tired with definitive sulky expressions on their faces. Luke sympathized as he was shoved into a middle row and told to keep his eyes down.

“What’s going on?” He asked the girl next to him. She shrugged.

“I just got up and dressed,” she yawned and looked desperate for bed. “Not sure what’s going on.”

“Hmmm.” Luke tried to make himself comfortable and he dozed. He, and the rest of the princesses, were jerked to full wakefulness as the throne room doors were slammed opened. He felt his heart come to a shuddering stop as Darth Vader stormed in. So caught up in the terror of Lord Vader having stalked in, he hardly noticed the woman and men following behind him. There was no time to think as the King, Luke hadn’t met yet, spoke.

“Lord Vader, what bring you here. To my planet?” The soft voice turned icy, “To my home?”

“Report of rebel activity on this planet have not been missed, Highness.”

“Reports that need to be verified.”

“I will not waste time with your paltry politics, highness. I will begin my search of the planet today.” The Sith didn’t move up the stairs but even so, it felt like he was looming over him. “I demand the full cooperation of your planetary forces and search teams.” Luke’s heart slowly returned to a normal rhythm as the King waited to reply. The silence stretched out and Luke was dimly aware that the other princesses were just as frightened as he was. He probably fit right in.

“I am aware of your reputation, Lord Vader.” The King said finally, “Should any. Any, harm come to my officers as a result of your temper I assure you, the consequences will be dire.” Luke swallowed down a laugh as Vader did not reply and whirled around to stomp out of the palace. He felt on the edge of hysteria and terror as the ISB agents and troopers followed after him. As soon as they were gone, the Queen stood and waved all over her daughters away.

“Go, go, all of you to bed. Now. Go. Nima, Letta, you know what to do.” Luke squeaked as both girls came up on either side and dragged him from the throne room and toward the residential wing. When he and the two girls were ensorcled in a bedroom, he was finally let go.

“How’d I do?” He asked nervously and Nima yanked him into a hug.

 

“You are doing so well, you didn’t even panic when Lord Vader came in. Oh, I was so frightened and scared. Is he always like that?”

“Yeah.” Luke felt the pressure on this chest and stomach loosen as Letta began to unwind the strings of his dress. “I can finally breath.” That got him twin laughed. “I know. I know. I’ll get used to it.”

“Not for long. If Lord Vader doesn’t find you he’ll just leave.”

“He might leave,” Luke disagreed and he reached up to untangle some of the decorations from his hair. “He probably won’t. He’s been hunting me pretty hard over the last year. I know he wants me alive but…”

“That doesn’t protect anyone else?” Nima asked and Luke nodded. He felt his entire body go numb and he squeezed his eyes shut as he noticed the older princess begin to undo her dress.

“Nima!” He yelped, covering his eyes and leaning away.

“I’m in my bedroom, Luke. I can take off my dress.” Nima retorted. “Just turn around.”

“I think it’s cute.” Letta giggled, “but I guess you’re used to princesses, huh?”

“I guess.” He didn’t think Leia was like other princesses. Of course, he’d never seen her in a setting like this. There was a rustling of fabric. “She’s not really…she’s different.”

“Mama had a third bed set in here, Luke. So you can get changed too and then we can finally get some sleep. “

“I know,” Nima agreed. “I’m so tired. Ugh, I haven’t slept in days.”

“Well, I’ve been on the run for a few weeks so…” Luke shrugged and only turned around when the girls gave him the order.

“See those curtains?” Nima pointed and Luke noticed that three tracks of metal were set into the ceiling, neatly diving sections of the room up. “That way we can all sleep with some privacy.”

“Oh, thank the Force.” Luke grumbled and he scurried over and yanked the curtains closed. They were a soft blue and gave him about six or seven feet of free space around the bed. And what a bed it was. Having grown up on a moisture farm and had been hopping from base to base he’d never really gotten much of an experience with high quality and fashion stuff. Here, he guessed he was now expected to have it at all times. As soon as he’d gotten rid of the dress and yanked on the pajamas that’d been waiting for him; Luke flopped over the bed.

“Luke, can we come in?”

“Sure.” He groaned and peeled his face off the blankets. Nima and Letta whirled in and jumped on the bed next to him.

“Oh, the poor rebel looks so tired.”

“Vader is here and the only hope I have of him not noticing me is me wearing dresses.” Luke moaned and buried his face in his hands. “If I get caught then you realize I get a public execution in a dress….the Rouges are going to laugh themselves sick…maybe cry too but I think they’ll just laugh.”

“Are you that insecure?” Nima demanded.

“Not really,” Luke sat up properly, sighing, “But you’d have to admit, being dragged out of the palace by Darth Vader in one of the ball gowns would be…embarrassing, I guess. I just,” his face turned red. “How long until this is over,” he asked hoarsely.

“Only until they leave,” Nima patted his head gently, “But at least you make a beautiful princess. I am so proud of you.”

“Thank you.”

“You will like tomorrows dress,” Letta told him, curling up, loth cat-like. “It is very pretty. I had a bit of input on it.”

“Oh boy. It had better not be backless.”

“No,” he fiddled with the edge of his pajama bottoms and then shook his head. “My face is covered in make-up isn’t it?” The giggles he got in return only make him shake his head. “I’m going to wash this stuff off.”

In the refresher he heard the soft voices of the girls and he sighed at the person looking back at him in the mirror. He sure looked like Luke Skywalker. He didn’t sound like Luke Skywalker. To him his voice sounded pitched and smoother, definitely more girlish. If he focused he could almost think he sounded like Leia. Still, it felt unnatural and since the droid wasn’t coming back up for a few more days, Luke figured he could be fine.

When he re-emerged into the room Nima and Letta had returned to their beds and were presumably entertaining themselves with sleep or holos. Luke crawled under the heavy blankets and passed out as soon as his head hit the pillows.

#$#$#

Agent Suun glared at the dark sky and the inky landscape before angling her lantern back into the cave. “Anything?” She called, hearing her voice echo oddly back.

“Nothing, not even a sign of human entry.” Replied on her agents and Suun glanced at an increasingly angry Sith lord. Leather creaked as Vader’s hands tightened into fists.

“Come, to the next one then.”

Suun nodded and cringed as a rumble of thunder reached her. “Uh oh,” ignoring Vader, she flipped off her lantern and stared up at the dark skies above. “Oooooo, we’re in for one hell of a storm, Lord Vader.”

“It is of little concern to me.”

“Yes, sir.” She managed to pull her poncho on. The rain came down, first at a distance. The soft rush of water falling from the sky got closer and closer until Hima was cringing under the downpour.

It was going to be a long night.

#$#$

Luke woke up to a rumble of thunder. Sitting upright, he thought for a terrible minute that the super star destroyer’s turbo lasers were now aiming at the planet. He shivered as another rumble shook the foundation of the palace and the room was illuminated with white light.

Just a storm.

He slipped out of the bed and toward the windows. The garden below was soaked through. Leaves and branches all being pushed around by heavy winds, exposing the silver sides. The security lights gleaned a bright orange and yellow and everyone showed the heavy slant of the rain.

He sighed.

It was only a storm. There was no reason to fear the destruction of the palace.

It was only a storm.

W$#$#$3

Hima Suun spent two weeks in uncomfortable company with Lord Vader. Two weeks too much. Two weeks of trekking over every empty section of land possible. Two weeks of sleeping in a tent. Two weeks of climbing in and out of every pit on the planet that could hold Luke Skywalker. She’d fallen into a pit of mud only to have him haul her out by her foot and toss her into a nearby creek. She’d fallen asleep on his shoulder, at one point in his cloak. Her men were all injured and back on the ship at the end of the second week, leaving them along for the remaining five days.

Hima Suun wasn’t sure if she hated the man yet or not.

“Agent Suun,” She dimly looked up from her datapad, wondering why none of her search algorithms were working. Vader loomed over her. “What else have you concocted?”

“Nothing, sir.” She handed him the padd. “Nothing. By every means, Skywalker should have been in the first cave system next to his crashed ship. Or somewhere out in the wilds.” She waved at the distant plains beneath them. Halfway up the mountain side and looking down, the landscape was breathtaking. She sucked in a breath of cold air and burrowed further into her coat. “Nothing. The number are lying.”

“Skywalker is on this planet.” Vader agreed, “where, I cannot sense but he is here.”

“Yes, sir.” Hima shivered under the heavy blast of wind that rushed into the mountainside. It dimmed to nothing as Vader settled onto the boulder directly next to her. Discreetly, she ducked next to him and wished she had enough courage to snuggle up. He was warm, he dispersed heat like a super-computer.

“Then we must begin our search again. From the beginning. We return to the royal palace.”

“No more trekking over the wilds?” She blurted before swallowing down her terror. Still, Vader seemed to have spent the last two weeks of hiking in some sort of relaxation mode. Though his hunt for Skywalker never wavered. This was probably like a vacation for him.

“No, Agent Suun. We will make our way back down the mountain.” She yawned and muttered a nearly silent, ‘finally’. If Vader heard, he gave no indication.

They began to move down the hiking path. Its steep path moving through the rocky terrain of the alpine heights of the mountain. Hima walked behind Vader, his cape had been folded up and tied into a roll on the back of his pack that he’d taken from one of her agents after his nasty fall on the way up. He too had taken up a walking stick. Though, his looked more like a tree branch than a walking stick. His armored figure cut an odd point in the landscape, looking especially out of place in the natural settings. Like a wrathful god, curious enough about what the fuss of living was to step foot planet side himself. Or some ancient warrior risen from the depths of an old data file. Ready to roam the wilds and futures of the galaxy. She whistled a cheerful tune and kept one eye on the path and the other on the breathtaking landscape before her.

#$#$#

Darth Vader could feel his son. Sense the boy’s presence, though muted. Enough to tell that the boy was on planet but not exactly where he was. He watched the plains get closer and closer with every stride, bringing him closer to sea level.

Two weeks of futile searching left him frustrated and burning with fury. He would have vented his temper on the ISB agent if not for the fact she had visibly struggling to contain her own temper at her failure.

Suun was an intelligent woman but one who relied too much on algorithms to be truly brilliant at a manhunt. She was also the only one out of her group to manage to keep up with him without injury.

Her dedication to catching Skywalker was the only reason he’d tolerated her taking holo pics of the landscape and random animals and small farm houses they’d passed.

Like she was now.

He turned to Agent Suun. She jerked around to him on reflex and they were both startled when the holo-cam went off.

“Apologies, milord.” She hastily pressed a few buttons and then whistled in admiration at the image the was displayed. “Oh, this is actually a really good one. Ah…did you need something?”

“Agent, we are approaching our camp site for the evening.”

“Yes, milord?”

“That is all.” She nodded and scrambled down from the rock she’d climbed on and feel into step beside him.

“Do you want to see the picture?” She asked and Vader nearly rolled his eyes.

“If you insist.” He stopped long enough to get a glimpse of the image. It was an excellent shot, even if taken by accident. The background of the boulder field, the uneven landscape, the bright clear skies and then him. Looking less like a Sith Lord and more like a heavily armored wanderer. Suun retreated the camera fast enough that he didn’t have time to decide to destroy the thing. He sighed to himself.

“Come, we are short on daylight.”

“Yes, milord.”

#$#$#$

Luke had had plenty of time learning how to sew and embroider when he was younger. Aunt Beru had make sure he’d learned how to fix his own clothes during the sandstorms that had kept them indoors for days.

He hadn’t imagined that this was what Princesses did when shut up indoors too. He’d thought there had been more interesting things to keep them occupied.

Luke jabbed his length of cloth and set the embroidery aside, sighing. “How much longer are we going to be doing this?”

“Until the hour is up.” The Queen Mother replied, “patience, child.” Luke grimaced and kicked his legs out. If he’d been in the company of anyone else he wouldn’t have dared.

“Isn’t there anything else I can do?” Luke asked, “I can fix speeders and engines really well. I…I need a break. I think I’m going to lose my mind.”

“Luna.” Queen Ana warned and Luke felt his temper flare. “It is not proper.”

“Hmph.” He kicked at the floor, miserably and slumped in his chair.

“Luna, I realize you are impatient but there are certain things that a princess cannot ignore. Image is everything for royalty.” Ana’s stern expression softened a bit, “this evening you may work on some speeders if you wish.”

Luke blushed, a little ashamed of his un-gratefulness. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t want to…I just.”

“I understand,” Ana replied, leaning over her chair to look at the youngest princess stack blocks atop each other. “You are impatient and frightened but one must never allow these emotions to rule themselves.”

“But I am tired. I want to fly.” He stared longingly out the window. “I feel trapped.” He glanced back at the Queen who only smiled.

“I can understand your frustration, Luna. Please, be patient for a little longer and you may work on some speeders tonight.”

“Thank you.” Luke breathed a desperate sigh. “Thank you, so much.”

“Ba!” He was distracted by a tug on his dress to see the baby hanging from the orange and white fabric.

“Oh, what are you doing?” Luke hoisted the squirming baby into his arms and set her on his lap. “Hmmm.”

“BA!” She smacked at his nose, babbling nonsense.

“I agree, that is probably not a good thing to eat.” Luke agreed solemnly. She shrieked out a bright noise and Luke laughed. “No! You can’t eat that either. That’ll make you sick.”

“Buh!” Luke chuckled and stood, swinging the tiny princess into the air. She yelped with joy and Luke settled her back into his arms.

“No, no. That isn’t food. You have to eat the stuff on a plate.” Embroidery forgotten, he carried the baby to the enormous windows overlooking the garden. “Like green things but not green things out there. Stuff that’s cooked or been washed.”

Queen Ana watched the conversation carry on with a fond smile on her face. When the hour in the parlor room was up, she sent Luke outside and then unleashed the rest of her young brood on him.

From an upper window, she watched Luke play with the youngest princesses. His affection was easy, his smile bright, and his cheer never ending. He indulged their play and demands easily until they were called in for dinner.

#$#43

The King didn’t always join in on the family dinner. When he did, it was an event. He told jokes, he laughed loudly, he goaded his daughters into telling their secrets and their dreams. Whenever he was around the conversation was lively.

Tonight he had the two youngest on his lap and was spooning green goop into their mouths. Luke ducked his head, grinning at the scene. After dessert had wrapped up, Luke found himself snagged by the king.

“Ah, my newest daughter! We haven’t yet had the pleasure!” The man boomed, pulling Luke into a fatherly embrace. “Ah, you are the very image of your beautiful mother. Goodness, so strong and fine. Come, come, I must get to know the newest addition to my family.”

“Uh…I have some.” One did not tell the king they had plans to get out of a conversation. Resigned, he followed the man from the dining room and found himself in the hanger.

“I heard you have been longing to work on something mechanical. I would always do my best to encourage the interests of my daughters.” His bright eyes twinkled, “Even if they aren’t technically my daughters. Unless you wish to be addressed as ‘daughter’ for personal reasons. Then I will do as you ask.”

“No I…I don’t really mind. You can call me daughter for the disguise in public but if you could call me Luke here, that’d be nice.”

“Ah, very well. Now, Luke, what do you think of this speeder. One of Ana’s first. She ran this thing into the ground more than once…usually on purpose.”

“It’s beautiful.” Luke breathed, following the lines of the personal speeder. “Wow, this is amazing.”

“Hmm, I was thinking of fixing it for her. A sort of wedding present.” Luke glanced back at him, curious. “I get her one every few months.” The man smiled, “to remind her of my devotion. Ah, truly she is the best woman in the galaxy. Do you know why she crashed it so many times?” Luke shook his head, “She was my bodyguard and then my political advisor. Now, she takes care of what I cannot. Ah….” He looked off into space. “She told me of your concerns, Luke. Thank you would not be safe here. I assure you, we will do our absolute best to protect you here.”

“If Lord Vader finds me then he won’t be merciful.” Luke worked a tool between his hands and sighed heavily. “It could be dangerous.”

“I am sure we will manage.” The King told him kindly, “would you like to help me repair this?”

“Sure,” Luke chirped and settled onto the ground next to the king, helping him disassemble the engine block.

#$#$#$3

Agent Suun had been fantasizing of a hot bath since she’d fallen into the mud pit a week and half ago. A hot anything would have been fine for her. But sinking into the deep pools of the royal palace’s hot spring was practically euphoric. She settled into one of the carved stone chairs and let the heat soak away the last of her misery.

“Agent.”

She didn’t bother to open her eyes, groaning at the voice. “What is with you interrupting me when I’m half naked?” Hima was sure she’d just committed suicide by lack of verbal filter. She was too tired to think straight right now.

“Agent.” The snarl was tilted toward anger and she cringed deeper into the water. “Skywalker is in the capital city.”

“What?” She surged from the water and feeling the cold evening breeze was enough to make her sit down again. “He can’t be? There are too many people around!”

“Nevertheless. I ‘ve sensed him here.”

“Then it would only be a matter of searching the city.” Suun was awake now and hating it. “We’d need to send out holo’s of the rebel and use the local police forces. It would only be a matter of.”

“The king and queen also need watching. I believe they may be in on this conspiracy to conceal Skywalker from me.”

“Ah.” They both were startled by a servant that came bustling through the door holding a thick bathrobe. “Oh dear,” The woman glanced from Vader to Suun, “I’m sorry. Excuse me.” She fled with a blush across her face.

Hima grimaced and later in the evening when she found her room had been reassigned to Lord Vader’s, she nearly fainted.

“Apparently,” Vader said, glowering at her and the suitcase in her hands, “Only one that a lady is engaged to or married to is allowed to be present during a bath.” Finding no other route to disperse her terror, Hima gave a few half-heated chuckles that sounded far too desperate to her ears. “I will leave you to sleep.” The sith announced and stormed out of the room and Hima’s laughing took on a shrieking sort of slant.

#$#$#

“Of course I know Lord Vader is not engaged to the ISB agent.” Queen Ana told her husband. “However, given his habit of disregarding society and manners I thought that it may give him a pointed reminder. That it is not polite to intupert a lady in the bath.”

“She was dressed…somewhat.” The King said, leaning over to kiss her shoulder and Ana chuckled.

“I am aware of what goes on in my house.” She grinned at him, “All of it.”

“I will still pretend you do not know of your next wedding present.” The man replied, “And you shouldn’t tease that poor agent so much. She is probably terrified.”

“Lord Vader would make a strange bed fellow.”

“Ah…, you are devious and terrible.”

“Sweet talk,” Ana grinned, “My dear, you know my soul.”

#$#$#$

Vader was now staying at the Royal palace. To alleviate any chance of running into him, he stuck religiously to the schedule he was given.

Still, that didn’t keep him from running into the ISB lady one afternoon in the gardens. He knew that they were searching the city street by street. Going through the houses and business to find a hidden trapdoor where he might be lurking under. Leaving no nook or cranny unturned. Luke would be flattered by the effort.

“Oh,” Luke paused in the middle of making his escape from the presence of the agent; hoping she hadn’t heard him, “Princess.”

“Ah,” he remembered that his voice was intentionally altered and that no one would hear Luke Skywalker in it. “Agent.” With a practiced snap, he opened a bright orange fan and held it in front of him. According to Nima this was a galactic common sign that a princess was feeling tired or shy. He scanned the rank bars pinned to her collar and frowned to himself. Luke sank into the obligatory curtsey. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Ah, no.” She smiled, “I was simply relaxing for a moment when I saw you. Your dress is fantastic.”

“Thank you.” Luke fluttered the fan for a moment. The dress was rebel flight suit orange with the white pattern almost matching that of his usual flightsuit. Apparently, this had been quite the joke with Nima and Letta. He wasn’t going to tell anyone but this was his favorite gown. “I’ve heard you are searching for a fugitive. How is the hunt coming?”

“Poorly,” the agent looked annoyed for a moment, “he is being far trickier than I would have suspected.”

 

‘Oh?”

“I thought he might have hidden out in the wilds of the planet. Maybe up a mountain or in one of the cave systems but no such luck. We hunted for two weeks and…zip! Nothing. Skywalker’s trickier than I gave him credit for.”

“Really? He sounds clever.” Th agent glanced at him from the corner of her eyes.

“Skywalker is a dangerous and violent fugitive, princess. I am sure that the books and holos romanticize falling in love with a man like that but believe me, he is dangerous. Not at all romance material.”

“I would never imply,” Luke sputtered but the agent only laughed him down.

“Princess, you wouldn’t be the first to fall in love with a…roguish fellow. Though, from the reports…” she put a hand to her chin, “Skywalker is unusually sensitive for a war criminal.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but no matter.” The agent beamed, “don’t worry princess, we’ll capture this man and you can go back to sleeping safely.”

“Oh, thank you. I am sure you and your paramour are doing your best to capture Skywalker.”

“Ah,” she grimaced but, “We…are. Excuse me, I think I hear someone calling for me.” She was gone before Luke lost his composure and started laughing.

#$#$#$

Vader had found two illegal bars, two spice distributors, four dirty politicians, a few dirty cops, a dozen or so litterers, one price-stacking market owner and an abused pet. Most of them he turned over to the police of the planet and the recovering loth-cat was handed off to one of the smaller princesses when she wandered by him by accident.

Still no Skywalker.

He was gone.

By all accounts after such an investigation most would have bowed out and admitted the Skywalker had already fled off-world.

Vader was not most. He knew his son was on planet. He knew the boy was here. But where? Damn the force! Where was the lad?

He stormed around the quarters he shared with Agent Suun. Where was the boy? His son! Padme’s son! In this city, fallen behind and hidden from his sight. Vader glowered at the wall and then at Agent Hima who came running through the door.

“We have a lead! Someone broke into an apartment eight blocks from here and stole only men’s clothes and food.”

“Get the speeder,” He ordered, “We go there now.”

“Aye!”

##$#$

Luke watched from one of the balconies with the Queen Mother and two of his temporary sisters as Vader and the ISB agent went running down the drive toward a waiting speeder.

“Those pearls are doing an excellent job of hiding you.” Queen Ana said as the speeder took off and vanished into the city horizon.

“What?”

“Those pearls you’ve been wearing since you first put on your gowns?” Ana smiled at him, the princesses tittered behind their fans. “They are of a particular element on this planet which disrupts a person’s force signature. Technically, the should hide you completely but…whatever power Vader has he can still sense you.”

“Oh,” he touched the string of pearls around his neck, “That’s why…oh. That’s fantastic. I’ve been worried.”

“Hmmm.” The queen’s self-satisfied smiled was not as reassuring as she probably wanted it to be. “Come, you have a dance lesson.” When Luke got back he was never going to make fun of Leia again.

 

3$#$#$#4

“Any luck?” Luke inched around a bush to see the exhausted looking ISB agent slumped at one of the fountains.

“Nope.” The woman buried her face in her hands. “This is the worst mission yet.”

“Sounds like hunting rebels isn’t easy work.”

“No, they’re very tricky.” Suun said miserably.

“Where is your commander? Is he planning on lifting the blockade anytime soon?”

“No, not until he’s got Skywalker in his grasp. No one on the planet is going anywhere.”

“Oh,” Luke sighed and wondered what he could do to give the impression that he was gone. “Are you alright, I’ve heard…stories of Lord Vader’s temper.”

#$#$#

Agent Suun looked up at the soft eyed princess in front of her, admiring the girl for her courage. “I should be fine…for now.” Apparently encouraged, the sky girl came around the corner. She wasn’t a tall girl. Her shoulders were thin and figure plain but she looked friendly enough. Soft blue eyes gazed at Hima over the garish orange fan the girl always carried. Her skirts swished about at the princess joined her at the fountain. “Thank you for your concern.”

“Of course.” Her voice was soft too, all in all, Luna had to be one of the prettiest of the princesses. And that wasn’t just because Hima was desperate for some friendly interaction. “It is my duty to have concern and compassion for the well-fare of others.”

“Ah, well.” Hima sat upright. “You won’t get in trouble if you’re seen with me, will you?”

“Only if I was in the company of a man without a duenna. Since you are a lady it will be no concern to anyone.”

“Even Lord Vader? He is.”

“Engaged, last I heard. To you.” Luna flared the fan, hiding behind it and seemingly looking away. “Why would you want him in the company of anyone else?”

“We’re not engaged,” Hima told her, “Lord Vader just has no concept of personal privacy.”

“Then why would it be acceptable for me to be seen alone with him? If he has such disregard for propriety? Such a…brute of a man…it ought to be unacceptable for him to be even out in public.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Hima told the princess. “You are a princess, the worst thing you can be guilty of is skipping your lessons. I don’t blame you, those are boring. I skipped my fair share of them too.”

“You were a princess?”

“How?” Hima sat upright, “How did you put that together? I just…very few implications in that sentence could have let you know!”

“I am…frustratingly clever, or so my mother tells me.” Luna told her honestly and set a white gloved hand on hers. “And if you were a princess then why did you leave? How did you end up in the Empire?”

“That’s a very long story.” Hima sat back, “and it’s not a very good one.”

“I’d love to hear it.” Luna told her and Hima beamed.

“Well, it started back when one of my brothers got his hair dyed green.”

#$#$#$

Vader found no peace in the daylight any longer. His son was here and still gone. He spent his days turning the city upside down and inside out and there was still no sign of his son. Vader took to pacing the palace gardens in unmitigated fury during the evening.

Tonight, the same as every other for the week, the moon was high in the sky and the….He turned. The gardens were not abandoned.

Just a few yards away was one of the princesses. He hadn’t bothered to keep track of them, there were too many. Still, he watched in silence as the girl moved closer to the small pond. Silver moonlight reflected off the quiet water. Her gown was a deep gray, lined with a few white patterns but otherwise unremarkable.

“Hey, there.” She cooed at the surface of the water and Vader’s hairless eyebrows rose as a small creature rose to the surface. It was furry and soaked all the way through but it butted a black snout against her hands. “I know, my sisters were loud today, probably bothered your sleep. I’m sorry.” The animal purred under her fingers as they brushed through soggy fur.

“Do you often apologize to water creatures?” There was a shriek and a splash of water. The princess leaned back and the animal dove.

“Lord…Lord Vader…I…I didn’t see you.” She glanced around as he emerged into the waning moonlight. “I didn’t hear you.” Her tone turned accusatory.

“Apologies, princess.” The force buzzed angrily in his ear. “I did not mean to frighten you.”

“Yes, well. I…er…did you need…can I?”

“If I am correct, young princesses are not to be out in the gardens this late.” The girl swallowed audibly.

“I’m twenty,” the blond princess groused, “not a child. I ought to be able wander the gardens.” Vader could sympathize though he didn’t want to. “What are you doing out here?”

“I am meditating.” He blinked as the girl snorted at him. “You imply I was not?”

“Everyone’s seen your temper recently,” she rolled her eyes, “You’re getting madder and madder you can’t find one person in this city. You’re not mediating calmly, people like you don’t do that. You’re stomping around the gardens to sulk.”

“Clearly whatever manners your mother has attempted to instill in your vapid head have not taken root.” Vader returned and took vindictive pleasure when the Princess rose to her feet, glowering.

“Vapid? Lord Vader?” She seethed, “I am not vapid because I speak your inconvenient truths. Perhaps the vapid one here is the self-deluded, insecure mess that is so pathetically violent in his outbursts that all have to treat him like a toddler to ensure he doesn’t throw a tantrum!”

Vader took a step back and then forward until he was directly in front of the princess. “Heed your insolent tongue, brat. While I have promised your mother and father to not bring death to the deserving that would not stop me from punishing you as I see fit.”

“Touch me,” the girls teeth were bared, blue eyes ablaze with righteous fury, “and see how soon death comes to the truly deserving. Your temper as set my youngest sisters on constant edge. You have yelled at, humiliated, and scored a number of the palace staff and you’ve insulted my father. I don’t care if you convince my mother to have me drawn and quartered! I’m an not afraid to remind you that this is not your home! You don’t have to live with the consequences of your actions! This family, this planet does!”

“So what would you do, princess?” He asked silkily, partly filled with murderous rage and partly with the joy of having someone unafraid to argue with.

The princess drew herself to her unimpressive height, snarling, “Twice the pride,” she bit out, “Double the fall, Lord Vader. This planet is not here for your personal vendetta and I will not let you.” He moved before she could continue, seizing her thin neck and yanking her close.

“Princess,” he continued, too calmly for all the blood rushing in his ears and the shrieking of the force. Her voice cracked and her eyes widened. “Whatever martyrdom you seek will not be found with me. Whatever you think you can demand from me…” He tightened his grip only slightly and she gagged. “Is nothing. I am here for one purpose and one only. Which will not be stopped or mitigated by a slip of a brat like you. I am here for my son and him only!”

He realized the second he spoke that he’d spoken too much. His grip lessened and she slipped away, gaping.

“Son?” The girl rasped, her blue eyes went impossibly wide and Vader thought, ridiculously, of his own eyes. “Impossible. He can’t. I am…he isn’t your son. You’re lying!”

“I am not.” He replied coolly, “and if you have any sense you will speak of this to no one.”

“No,” she croaked, “You…liar!” She turned on her heels and fled from the garden, leaving a bemused Sith lord behind.

#$#$3

It couldn’t be true. Vader was lying. He had to be. Luke sprinted from the garden and into the palace, nearly knocking over the ISB agent. He ran from there to the room where the king and queen were spending the later evening together. Luke slammed his hands against to door until it was yanked opened by a obviously concerned queen.

“What is it? What’s going on? Luna, what happened.” Luke was yanked into the room and he nearly collapsed into a heap against the woman who held him.

“He can’t be. He’s lying. He has to be.” Luke babbled, unfeeling even to the hands trying to hold him upright. “He’s lying!”

“Luke,” the king hissed, “what happened?”

“Vader,” Luke blurted, feeling the hot sting build behind his eyes and he pressed his hands to his mouth. “He was in the garden. I was there. We spoke and argued and then…he.”

“What did he do to you?” Ana roared, her eyes turning a lovely shade of murderous. She held Luke against her and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “What?”

“He’s my father.” Luke managed to say, “…he’s Luke Skywalker’s father! He told me! That’s why he’s not leaving! That’s why he won’t go anywhere!” His shock nearly set him to the floor but the enormous queen was cradling him close. “He’s my father.”

Luke couldn’t control his fear and shock any longer, he burst into tears

#$#$#

“Lord Vader.” He didn’t move. He stared at the spot where the princess had vanished. Her behavior and reaction had been…odd. Suspicious even. “Lord Vader?”

“What is it, Agent Suun?”

“Err, the reports from the patrols today and we’ve received a number of complaints from the populace.”

“Ignore them.” Vader ordered, “what do you know of the blond princess?”

“Which one?”

“She wore a gray gown today, with white trimming.”

“Ah, Princess Luna. Most recently adopted by the royal family. Apparently excellent with the younger princesses and machines. A good conversationalist and seamstress.”

“Have you spoken to her?”

“Some, she always meets me in the garden. She is very polite.”

“What does she speak of?” Luna’s reaction had been very strange indeed.

“Erm, she asks me of my investigation and…we usually end up talking about Luke Skywalker.” A truly preposterous idea was forming in his head.

“Does anyone else in the royal family inquire after the state of our investigation?”

“Ah…no, milord.”

“Why would a princess of this rank be interested in such a lowly officer.” Hima made a noise a protest and glumly said.

“To spy.”

“Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior, Agent.”

“Do you think Luna might know where Skywalker is?”

“Perhaps.”

“They can’t be seen in public without at least four bodyguards and two…nannies! I think they’re called nannies. She’d have to be very clever to slip past all of these people to try and help Luke Skywalker.”

“It does seem impossible.” Vader agreed, tilting his mask to the section of the palace where he knew the princesses all slept. “Indeed, it does.”

#$#$#$

For the first time since he’d arrived on the planet, Vader did not go out into the city to search for Skywalker. He remained in the palace, stalking through the corridors and rooms. He sent staff fluttering away and the guards on edge. To the extreme displeasure of everyone, he invited himself into the library where the royal family was trying to relax.

Luna was trying to project an air of disinterest but was failing. As much attention as she was paying to the embroidery on her lap, clearly her mind was busy elsewhere. Vader kept half an eye on her and the other on his work.

She knew something, that much was clear. The whereabouts of Luke was in her head, trapped beneath all of those decorations and pins.

#$#$#$

The attack came in the middle of the night. When the sky was overcast and the atmosphere of the city grim. Vader hadn’t been paying much attention to the political atmosphere of the planet he’d been occupying until it had set the royal palace on fire.

“What is going on?” Vader hauled a dazed, dusty Hima from the rubble of the tool shed and shook her.

“The kings and queen political enemies! The other ruling houses, very dangerous.” She blurted, leaning heavily against him. Blood was trickling from her forehead. “We didn’t…they shouldn’t have attacked why we were here. I think…” Another explosion came from the distance and the horizon ignited in bright orange. “I think they’re out to usurp the throne and…the princesses!” Hima staggered over a chunk of palace wall as he tried to lead her off the palace ground. “They’re in danger. I just bet you.” Her voice slurred, “Anyone with a claim to the throne’ll die tonight. Oh…we should have been paying attention.” Hima staggered one last time against him and passed out.

Frustrated and fearing for his son, who was no doubt out in the middle of this mess, he called up Captain Piett.

“Milord! We’ve detected several explosions in your sector. Are you alright.”

“Send a detachment of Veers’ men to the capital city. A coup in in motion and Skywalker is in the middle of it.”

“Aye.”

“Send a medical ship as well.” Vader carefully propped his unconscious agent against a wall and scanned her with the force. She would live for now. He was about to speak further when a scream rang through the dusty air. A moment later the force shuddered and then ignited into a ball of light. He shielded his eyes and found himself surrounded by the immense and powerful presence of his son.

Luke! Luke was in the middle of this chaos. His son. Vader took off, leaving his agent huddled under his cloak.

Another shout of pain and then the familiar sounds of a fight. Vader ducked around the now crumbled walls of the palace just in time to see Princess Luna slam a heavy beam against a man’s head. The man crumbled next to his partner and the princess whirled his direction. She took two stumbling steps back and slipped on something small and round.

“Vader!”

The voice did not match the same one from one of Agent Mol’s reports. The hair, the eyes, the face…when he looked closely, did match. Vader blinked rapidly and tried to reconcile the image before him with what the force was telling him.

Princess Luna was…Luke Skywalker.

His son was standing before him, looking half beaten and bleeding from a shallow gash on his arm. Wearing a garish orange and white dress which…now that he looked closer. Actually matched the pattern of a rebel flight suit. Luke. He glowed with the pureness of the light side, his entire form nearly ethereal in the dimness of the night.

He remembered how many conversations he’d had with the princess. How their first on in the palace gardens had gone. How deeply she’d insulted him. How often Luke had spoken with Agent Suun.

Right beneath his nose the whole time! Vader stormed across the crumbling courtyard and was hauling his son into his arms before the boy could even protest.

“Put me down!” Luke shrieked, Vader was dimly aware that he must have been wearing a voice altering device. “HEY! How dare you! You!”

“Cease, Skywalker,” He ordered and looked down as something shattered beneath his foot. One of the white pearls he’d seen Luke wearing every day in recent months. It had to be the reason that he hadn’t sense the boy this clearly before. “A shuttle is coming for me and you will be on it.”

“No!” There was a rustle of fabric as Luke kicked at him. “NO! The other! They aren’t safe! They’ve all been taken! I’ve got to get them!”

“We’re leaving.”

“No!” Luke twisted his wrist just enough to slip free and sprinted in the opposite direction. Vader cursed under his breath and sprinted after the boy. His skirt was hoisted over his knees as he ran, heading toward the hills behind the palace.

“SKYWALKER!” Luke was fast but Vader was faster. In a few steps he’d snagged the back of his gown and hauled him back. “COME HERE!”

“NO! The girls! They’re in danger.” Bright blue eyes blazed with familiar fury and fear. “I can’t let them get hurt!”

“I have no concern for these planetary squabbles.” Vader retorted and Luke slammed his foot on Vader’s. His foot was metal so it didn’t hurt but it did take him by surprise. “Boy!”

“I’m going to get them.” Luke snarled, “and you can come with me if you like but.”

“This is not up for discussion, Skywalker. You’re coming with me now!”

“I’ll go,” Luke seemed to have found some measure of calm in the midst of the fighting. Another explosion sounded and his son was wreathed in a backdrop of revolution as blaster fire echoed through the courtyard rubbble. “If you help me rescue them.”

“Boy.”

“I’ll go quietly.” Luke closed his eyes and added, “Father.”

Vader stared at the boy in his grip. He did look like a princess, with royal and regal bearing and his actions echoed those of a certain senator he’d once dealt with. His sacrifice was not as much as a sacrifice as the boy might make it out to be if he knew what future was waiting for him.

“You stay at my side the entire time. You do not stray and you do not wander,” He ordered, finally letting him go. “You do exactly as I say. Understood?”

“Fine.” Luke stooped to snag a blaster from the rubble and pointed the direction of the hills. “They were taking me to there. They were talking about some underground place in the hills where they could hide us. I don’t think they thought I would give them any trouble.”

“My men will be landing on planet then.”

“That might not be enough time!” Luke retorted, running a weapons check on the blaster with brisk efficiency.

“Anyone with a claim to the throne will be dead by morning.”

“What?”

“Agent Suun, she speaks truly. This coup is to ensure that none of the royal family survives. Do you know where they took the king and queen?”

“No, they weren’t even in the palace today. They were off on…I don’t know. But when the first explosion went off we were heading to the safe house when we all got jumped. The guards were shot and the others were taken. They had a harder time with me. They stunned the older girls too.” Vader was then treated to the very odd sight of watching his son hike up his skirts again and march off toward the back of the palace grounds. “Well? Are you coming?”

#$#$#

General Veers was packed into the landing shuttle with dozens of his finest troopers. His blood was singing and his heart racing.

“Landing in five…four…three….two…” the entire shuttle shuddered. “One!”

His men burst from the ship, weapons raised and sweeping the dim landscape in front of them for hostiles.

“This way.” Veers directed his troops toward the crest of a hill where the sound of blaster fire was coming. His hair stood up as he heard the familiar hum of his master’s lightsaber. They crested the hill and looked down on a scene that would burn itself into every man’s memory.

Lord Vader was standing back to back with an unfamiliar woman. His lightsaber was redirecting bolts and slicing through enemies close enough. The woman at his back was using two blasters with brilliant efficiency, shooting enemies down as they appeared from behind rocks and from bushes.

They were a seamless team, reducing their enemies one by one. Seemingly without effort.

“Fire at those shooting at Lord Vader and the woman!” Veers ordered, producing his own blaster. His sharpshooters wasted no time and in minutes the people firing down at the two were dead. “Lord Vader!” He scrambled down the hill and saluted the man.

“There are ten kidnapped citizens in a bunker two klicks from here.” General Veers blinked as the girl spoke first. “The usurpers will not let them survive the night.” Her commanding tone sent the man snapping to attention on reflex. “We need to raid the bunker and rescue my sisters before sunrise comes.”

“Ah?” He glanced to Lord Vader who set one hand on a slim shoulder.

“What are you waiting for, General?” Vader demanded and he saluted again.

“Do we know the layout of the bunker?”

“No,” she shook her head, “We don’t have time either. We’re going in blind but the youngest in there is only 9 months old.” Serious blue eyes met his, “General, my sisters are in grave danger.”

“We will rescue them. I promise you, princess.”

“Thank you.”

E%$%$

Prince Nima was bleary and confused but well aware that she was in deep trouble. All of her siblings were in deep trouble. Opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was the glowing hot blaster barrel of a heavily scarred man.

“Yell or scream and I start shooting into the crowd of skirts.” The man threatened and she glanced back to see every one of her sisters huddled in a confused circle. They were in someplace metal, underground if the ugly scent of dirt and radon told her anything. Nima nodded and tried to sit up but her head ached and her mind felt wrung out. To her side, Letta was still stunned, slumped over a chunk of moldy rock.

She didn’t have time to be frightened that Luke was gone, a sudden surge of blaster fire echoed through the room and they tensed.

Before either man could move the door were slammed opened and Vader stalked through, his saber raised high. Luke, his dress was now torn and his hair falling out of place, followed close behind. Together, they made short work of the usurpers.

“Luke!” She gaped as white armored storm troopers flooded the room and began to help her siblings to their feet. “Luke!”

“Nima!” He rushed over, pulling her up and patting her down. “Are you alright? Did anyone get hurt.”

“I don’t think they had time.” She reported and cringed as Vader came to hover by them.

“Come, we’re heading back. Pray your parents are alive, Princess Nima, or the throne is yours this night.”

“The throne is yours this night?” Luke demanded, “could you be a little less dramatic or at least a little more sensitive.”

“That is not a concern of mine.” Vader snagged Luke’s arm, hauling him from the room. “Our deal is complete, you are coming with me.”

“But the parents. They’re still out there!” Luke tugged at the hand encircling his bicep. “And not to mention.”

“The princesses and heir are safe. What happens next is no concern of yours,” Vader returned and yanked Luke out of the bunker, past the dead bodies and the smoldering fires.

“HEY! WE’RE NOT FINISHED YET! STOP! HEY!” Luke shrieked as he was summarily hauled over Vader’s shoulder. “HEY!”

General Veers nearly fell over at the sight of Vader hauling the blond princess over his shoulder. “Ah, milord. She is a princess. It may not be wise to.”

“General, have the shuttle prepared for take-off.” He adjusted his grip on a squirming Luke and carried him away from the burning palace and back toward the ship. “SLEEP!”

“What? What did you do?” The blond asked, voice slurring immediately.

“I gave you a sedative, son.” Vader replied and let the boy tip uneasily across the bench. “To keep you quiet.”

“Thassss, cheating.” Luke groaned and passed out a second later.

#$#$#

His son. He had his son in his grasp. Sleeping in the next room. He had him! Vader carefully lowered the ship onto the hanger floor, forcing himself to not rush the landing.

Luke, he had Luke. His son was in his custody.

When the ship was sufficiently settled, he moved back to stand by his son. His gown was splayed awkwardly, never designed to be layed down in, his eyes close and his hair glowing under the harsh lights of the ship. His breathing came out soft and even. Vader marveled at the sight before him. Carefully, he tucked some flyaway hair behind his ear and bent down to pick him up.

 

#$#$#

Captain Piett was greeted with the dubious honor of watching Lord Vader kidnap a planetary princess.

“Ah…milord?” He watched the man descend the shuttle ramp and felt like gaping. The girl in his arms was slight, blond, and dressed in a bright orange and white gown. She looked nearly angelic cradled in thick black arms. Like a sacrifice to a demanding god.

“Are the secondary quarters ready?”

“Yes, Lord Vader. They are however… the princess.”

“Is not a princess.” Vader replied, jerking his head as a motion for Piett to follow him. “This is Luke Skywalker.”

“Ah.” He peered closer at the youthful face. It sure didn’t look like Skywalker. “Sir?”

“The Force reveals all, Captain.” They entered a turbo lift. “His disguise is clever but not enough to fool me.”

“Of course, sir.”

“You are not to reveal his identity to anyone, Captain. Failure to do so will be met with the usual consequences.”

“Yes, Lord Vader.” He followed behind until they reached the luxury quarters that had been built in with the ship. The ones attached to Vader’s.

“Dismissed, Captain.” Vader ordered just as the last door opened. “We will speak later.”

“Aye.” Firmus fled while doing his best to pretend he was not fleeing.

#$#$#

Luke came to with the now- familiar hiss of his father’s respirator in his ear. He blinked a few time and sat up. He was set on an enormous bed and Vader was sitting at the very end of the room.

“You will be pleased to know that the royal family did not lose their throne. Both the King and Queen survived.”

“Oh.” Luke startled as his voice came out normally.

“I removed the droid while you slept.” He nodded at the crumbled pieces of metal on the bed-side table.

“Oh.” He looked nervously at his father, drawing his legs under him as he sat up.

“So long as you behave and do not attempt to escape no reparations will be made against them.” Luke blinked and nodded slowly.

“I…the queen knows of our relationship.” He looked away, “I...”

“You told her?”

“Yes.” He felt his heart stall at the cold tone. “I did.”

“Why?”

“I couldn’t…you told me and I…I panicked. I was afraid.” He glanced back at the man, “What now?”

“You are my son. If you wish to be.”

“What?”

“If you wish to be my son.”

“I thought that part was non-negotiable?” Luke blinked in confusion.

“If you wish to be daughter that is your decision, one I will support.” Vader nodded.

“I…” Luke peered at him, “Thank you for the…affirmation but I…I’ll be your son. I just…um. All I’ve got is this dress.”

“No.” Vader stood and a door opened on the other wall. Light lit and the room was revealed to be an enormous closest. “You should find something there.”

“Ah.” Luke nodded primly, pulling on the last of his control. “Of course.”

“I will leave you to dress.” Vader stood abruptly and left. Luke waited one more second before shoving his face into a pillow and screaming.

What kind of a mess had he gotten into?