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Protective Sacrifice

Chapter Text

“What are our chances of survival?”

“Erm, considering the heat wave that’ll reach us as soon as the top blows? The gases, erm, volcanic ash that will probably suffocate us, then the title wave of destructions as the plates move. Then the title wave that’ll follow, then lava, maybe.”

“Pretty low?”

“Pretty low.” Petty Office Dern, glanced over at Han Solo, rebel captain and general piece of scum. “I always wanted to die in a blaze of glory killing people like you.”

“I’ve been planning on not dying,” Solo grinned past bloody teeth as he threw his weight on top of the tarp and finally managed to pin the last flapping corner. “Don’t plan for death, pretty boy. Make it come to you.”

Dern couldn’t feel too much rebel bravado as he turned his stare to the mountain in the distance. The lake surrounding it had grown toxic and started boiling. Anything in there was long dead.

“Getting scared?”

“Yes,” he stood and brushed the dirt off his previously pristine uniform, “where to next?”

“Nowhere,” Solo shrugged, “this was the last batch of supplies.” He shielded his eyes from the wind that was beginning to smell like acid. “If we’re protected at all from this eruption then this,” he gestured to the pile of food and medicine that was wrapped in layers and layer of protective blankets, “is all we’ve got.” The rebel seemed to wilt as he turned to the sight of their doom. “When she blows then we’ll see how much they’ve managed to get done.”

“Do you think that Commander Skywalker can really fix the shield generator?” Dern followed Solo toward the tall spires of the academy.

“I’ve seen that kid spit in a space battle and keep his ship wing on. You think he can’t fix something with more than three wires?” The Imperial supply officer staggered when the former smuggler slapped his back. “He can fix that generator.”

“If he doesn’t then we’re all going to die. Very slow and very painful deaths.”

“You are so dramatic,” Solo laughed, Dern could hear the fear, “he’s got this.”

Twenty minutes later.

“I don’t know how to fix it,” Luke Skywalker gestured to himself and at the group of engineers gathered in the small stone room. “There’s nothing that makes sense in here. When the commander abandoned the academy, he pretty much took everything useful.”

“He,” Dern covered his mouth and tried to remember if he’s prayed to his gods today. “Took all of it?”

“Everything,” Skywalker said grimly, “I took apart my ship, a dozen droids, a few TIEs and then Artoo tried to power it up. Nothing.”

“What about that Corellian freighter?” The highest ranking Imperial on the planet was a medical officer on leave.

“I don’t think that thing has any useful parts,” Chief Joko, the highest ranking civilian on the planet, shrugged. “I saw it when we brought in the last of the villagers in.”

Despite the impending doom, Dern almost laughed at he concertation and insulted on Solo’s face. Skywalker smiled wanly.

“How long until that thing blows,” Solo demanded, “anyone knows?”

“Could be from a few days to minutes. Our equipment nearly the base of the volcano has been destroyed. Probably by heat.”

“Can we follow the wave of destruction. Do you have those things planted at intervals? Is there a way we can calculate that?” Silence followed Solo’s demand. Dern inched closer to Skywalker as the rest of the adults and teenagers began to argue.

“Skywalker?” Dern asked. He wasn’t so afraid of talking to him now. Knowing that they would be dead soon anyway. No one could accuse him of treason if he were dead.

“Yes?” Luke Skywalker, rebel, and destroyer of the Death Star didn’t move from where he was standing; arms crossed and expression firm as he tried to work through the mental gymnastics of paperless engineering.

“You have magic right?”

“Magic?” Finally, Skywalker looked up. Dern wondered how someone who looked as young as him, managed to look so old. “I, guess you can call it magic. It’s the force. It’s what makes a Jedi a Jedi.”

“Right, so, is there a way to use that to put a shield around the academy grounds?”

“This wasn’t an academy before,” Skywalker said, mystery turning his eyes to one of the stone carvings on the wall. “It was something else.”

“What does that have to do with the shield.”

“I think,” Skywalker hesitated and shrugged, “If it was possible to put a whole shield around the academy, I don’t think I could do it.” He looked down at his hands, “I’m not strong enough.”

“You know,” Dern jumped conversation tracks. “You were right about the fact that this place wasn’t an academy, to begin with.”

“It’s too pretty,” Skywalker laughed. Dern smiled thinly.

“Yeah, and there’s a room no one’s been able to open.”

“You mean to tell me that there is a room that the Imperials can’t open and they didn’t blast open?”

“They tried,” Dern said, ignoring the incredulous humor in the rebel’s voice. “It didn’t work. Do you want to check it out or not?”

“Let’s, nothing here is going to help us right now.” Luke grinned at him, “so where is it?”

#$%$%

The room was a stone wonder. It began on the bottom floor and stretched stories above the last floor. On every floor, there were doors leading into it. None of them opened. Dern and Luke tried every door, getting increasingly discouraged as they entered the headmaster’s office.

“The last door is in his closet,” Dern pushed aside the desk that the headmaster had left in a mess in his hurry to escape the volcano’s eruption. “It is, I guess it was locked. Left a mess.” Dern felt his stomach tighten at the thought of the man’s cowardice.

Abandoning the academy and crippling any ships that might make an escape too. The academy spent the first few day reeling, trying to find a generator strong enough to power the shield. Every single person knew the shield wasn’t going to save them. It was mean to artillery bombardment, not for the forces of nature themselves. It gave Dern some form of comfort as they tried to secure supplies and repair a hopeless generator.

What was worse, he mused, navigating the messy closet. Was that the entire population of the surrounding towns had poured into the academy. Taking up the extra classrooms and spaces and putting their livestock in among the ships and war machines like they belonged there. Apparently, they did. Generations of carefully scripted history told them that the academy was where they went during any disaster. There wasn’t a point in turning them away.

They were all going to die anyway.

He bumped into Skywalker as the man stopped in front of the last stone door.

“This is a big door.”

“Yeah.” Ten feet tall, eight feet wide and decorated with writing that Dern couldn’t read. Skywalker stared strangely.

“And you can’t get it open?”

“Nope.”

“Why,” Skywalker pressed his hands against the door and spiderwebs of blue began to crawl away from his hands until the entire stone door glow. “It’s so easy?” He pushed, and the door slid soundlessly open.

“What?” Dern followed on Skywalker’s heels, “the hell did you do?”

“I just opened the door!” Skywalker exclaimed, and with a starling snap-hiss that made Dern dive for cover, he ignited his lightsaber. The blue blade extended outward into the body of a man that shouldn’t have existed. Instead of screaming, crumbling, crying, or even reacting normally. The man stayed still. Skywalker didn’t move, but his blue eyes flickered down at him where he was sprawled across the floor. Just as they looked at each other and then away, the man vanished with a sigh.

“That’s odd,” Dern felt compelled to say.

“He was the doorkeeper,” Skywalker said with great authority, despite never having stepped foot on the planet before a week ago. “This place is just steeped in.” He paused and bent his lightsaber down until fire flared from its tip and began to burn along a smooth curve. Dern nearly gagged on his tongue as the fire curved around and went up in a seemingly never-ending spiral. As it moved, the enormous chamber came into view. It was almost a mirror image of the mountain that was threatening to blow up.
A set of stairs lined the inside of the oil trench that burned merrily, climbing to the top which was a musty brown of yellowed glass.

“Wow.” His voice echoed off the stone. “What’s all this?” Skywalker wandered onto the chamber floor, turning around as he did so to admire all angles of the room. There weren’t any chairs or benches, only the staircase and the trench of burning oil. Thick veins of blue crystal crawled over the walls and upwards, almost seeming to pulse with energy.

“Skywalker,” Dern leaned forward and grabbed at the rebel’s ankle, “don’t do anything stupid.”

“What?” Skywalker powered down his lightsaber, “makes you think I’m going to do something stupid?”

“You blew up the Death Star and fought Lord Vader in aerial combat and are still alive. The only people who can do that are idiots. You’re going to do something stupid, I can feel it.”

“We’re in a room that hasn’t been entered in generations, and you're accusing me of being an idiot? There’s nothing in here except oil and stairs.” Skywalker grinned and gestured to the distant ceiling. “Come on.”

“There’s nothing here!” Dern hissed, scrambling to his feet and following the rebel anyway, “there is a volcano about to go off, and we need to get that generator fixed.”

“We do.” Skywalker didn’t say that fixing the generator was going to work or that it would be worth the effort. Dern felt depressed about the whole mess already and regretted not calling his mother back on Life Day.

Hiking the enormous stone staircase, sandwiched between a wall that seemed to pulse and fire, was enough to make Dern nervous enough to miss the fact that they had arrived at the top.Above them, the room came to a gentle dome, made from a dull and stained glass.

A second too late, he saw the statues. Skywalker was staring at them, confused and frightened. Dern felt frightened too.

They didn’t look so much like statues or sculptors as they looked like people who had stopped long enough to be covered in gray paint. It was eerie how life-like they appeared. Almost as if they would step forward and tell them to get out of the room.

The half-dozen people were human, twi’lek, ithodorian, and togruta. All of them looked middle-aged, wearing similar clothes. Their little alcoves were decorated with various symbols and images. The togruta had something like an antique spaceship blasting off on the wall behind her right beside a carving of a farm field. The twi’lek had a set of crossed swords engraved on the stone, above a flying bird, and below an imploding star.

“This is creepy.” Dern stepped closer to Skywalker, who was standing in front of the only human man in the collection of sentients. “Why only six? What are they all doing here? They don’t even…what’s the point?”

“I think they’re here for something,” Skywalker leaned forward until he was nearly nose to elbow with the statue of the human. “Like the door-keeper, they’re,” his eyes turned upward to the dirty glass dome. “Come on.”

On a normal day, Dern wasn’t so strong a person with a bold personality. Today, facing down the rebel that blew of the Death Star, telling him to follow, wasn’t going to be a day of grand changes in the routine. He followed Skywalker up another set of stairs, not lined with fire, and toward the dome. When they emerged on top, he blanched even as the rebel continued to walk forward toward a center stone that was just at the top of the dome.

Belatedly, he noticed that the thick blue veins had converged on the center stone. Like a pulse point, the entire top of the dome seemed to breathe.

“I think this is the right place,” Skywalker said.

“To do what?” Dern demanded, barely climbing the dome and clinging desperately to something solid. He hated heights. “Stare at our death? Jump off to avoid dying?” He looked at the blond rebel, which seemed partly out of it, to the volcano that loomed in the distance.

It had somehow gotten bigger. The top was bulging, and from this distance, he could see the faint drooling rivers of lava that were inching out of the smaller cracks. A volcano wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that it loomed over the academy and the villages at its base. If the heat, gases, and ash didn’t kill them first, then the lava that was already leaking from it’s top would. Whoever decided it was a good idea to build a home at the base of a volcano was an idiot.

“Skywalker?” Dern swallowed hard, “Skywalker!” The man didn’t hear him; his attention was somewhere else and, Dern squeaked, his eyes were a solid, glowing blue. It was a deeply unnatural blue, the same shade as the veins beneath him, the same shade as the lightsaber. “Skywalker?”

Something boomed in the distance, somewhere he could hear someone crying. Luke Skywalker stood tall and firm and unflinching as the volcano began to rumble ominously and a plum of smoke shot into the sky.

It was happening. Dern clung to the stone beneath him and felt his lips quiver. It was going to erupt and kill all of them. The academy had been abandoned, and every single cadet and villager and the rebels were going to die because of one man’s cowardice.

“This isn’t the end, Dern.” He jolted at the rebel’s voice. Flat and smooth, yet totally not Skywalker. For a moment he was held in the gaze of divinity as Skywalker looked down at him. “We are not alone.”

“Um, we’re not?”

“The Force is with us,” whoever was speaking through Skywalker said, “all who find shelter in these halls will be safe.”

“And how are you going to stop a volcano?” Skywalker’s face smiled briefly, and Dern couldn’t recognize the expression as the rebel’s. It belonged to something else. “And who are you? Get out of his body!”

“You are intelligent to notice the difference, though usually, the sacrifice does not bring a witness. Was it vanity?”

“Witness? SACRIFICE!” Dern shouted, finally recovering from shock and fear to yell. “WHAT?”

“You do not know?” Unlike Luke’s friendly expression and kind mannerism, the being speaking through him was folding the pale face into an old expression of tiredness. “Then,” Luke’s unnerving eyes slid shut. “There is little vanity in this one.”

“Hold on.”

“Silence.” Dern felt his mouth clamp shut against his will. As he did so, the stone beneath him began to rumble. The mountain was ready to blow. Cracks were already beginning to spiderweb from the top, lava and gas and heat began to bubble and burst out of them. Skywalker fell into a stance and raised both arms.

It was almost a poetic dance, half fighting motions and half not. As he moved, the quick motions the only noise from the dome, the blue veins beneath his hands began to drain downward. Dern followed the motion of the blue with wide eyes; it took a few moments be soon the entire roof was back to gray stone and yellow glass.

Skywalker seemed to stop, and a moment later Dern felt his eyes nearly fall from his eye sockets as a wall of blue seemed to build itself and climb through the sky. He whirled around to see the blue wall climb to a huge peak and then dome inward until it formed an enormous bubble.

People below were shouting and screaming; Dern just knew that Han Solo was going to be looking for them.

“Skywalker!” Dern watched as Skywalker folded down on crossed legs and pressed his fists together, his eyes were still glowing. His attention was wrenched from the rebel to the impending doom that had him so scared for the last few days.

It was shuddering, making the entire building shudder too. The mountain was straining; Dern could almost see the stone rising and falling as it prepared to vomit molten lava. Too horrified to look away, he watched through the haze of blue, as the volcano fell still for a solid ten minutes.

The eruption was just as bad as they’d been expecting. First the air and heat, it screamed from the faint openings and vents in every direction. Smoke began to billow out a moment later, enormous swaths of it that rose into the sky and beyond. Lightning began to crackle between the pillars of smoke, thousands of feet high and getting more violent as sparks began to shoot up from the presumable cracked open crater.

Dern braced himself, begging whichever god was listening to spare him and everyone in the academy. Somewhere below him, animals began to low and bellow.

For too long a moment, nothing happened. Unable to watch anymore, Dern buried his head in his hands and pressed himself against the roof and waited to die.

Stone shuddered, and he heard something enormous crack wide open. The noise was loud enough to make his ear pop, and his head hurt. A thunderous roar followed next, continuing until the sound of millions of tons of stone falling joined it.

Too curious for his own good, Dern peaked up just in time to watch the side of the mountain collapse. It was in awe as he watched the enormous mountain slid apart, stone and ash billowed into the air, blotting out the sun.

He paused and glanced at the dome. Ash and rocks were raining down across the dome, hitting it and bouncing and sliding off. It was incredible to see the planet raining down on them. Dern finally made himself stand and watched as the stone and boulders were likewise deflected.

“Wow.”

Beyond the ash cloud, red and orange flames began to ominously highlight the smoke and its twisting, writhing shapes.

“Oh.” He’d managed to forget about the lava. Because of the mountain side’s collapse, lava was beginning to burble free from its confines. Miles across, the river of melted rock and stone began to ooze down the mountainside and devour everything in its path. Dern watched as it devoured the villages and towns and forest. With his heart in his throat, he waited as it reached the edge of the blue dome (he now stood at the ever edge of the roof, unable to keep away) where it hissed and sparked but did not penetrate. All over the academy grounds, people began to inch from their rooms and assumed safety to stand just before the dome and watch as lava flowed around them. Facing the mountain the lava rose up the dome to ten feet, dwarfing the rebel captain standing just beneath it.

Solo turned around and up to see Dern leaning over the edge of the roof. Both men looked between the lava and the blue dome and concluded that Skywalker had to be responsible for it.

 

The entire the time volcano shuddered apart; Skywalker did not move. He remained perfectly still, almost dead if it wasn’t for the soft breathing that Dern and Solo could faintly hear whenever the eruption beyond the blue dome died down enough.

“So this is the force?” Dern sat cross-legged at the bottom of the glass dome and chewed thoughtfully on his sandwich. Captain Solo sat beside him, sipping from a flask.

“I guess,” Solo replied, “pretty much the only thing between us and that,” they both turned to watch part of the mountain the size of a starship collide against the dome and shatter. “Is him.”

“Is he alright?” Skywalker didn’t move or drink or seem to think. His eyes continued to glow.

“I don’t know,” the worry in the faint brown eyes was obvious. “He’d better be.”

“It’s been three days; the eruption can’t last that much longer.”

“Probably won’t, I’ve seen some like this before. Once it burns out, then it should stop.” They both glanced at the too still form of Luke Skywalker. “He should come back.”

$#$#$

He was both aware and not aware of what was going on. Luke knew that he had watched the mountain fall to pieces. He knew that the crystal that had enchanted him since his arrival at the academy had formed the blue dome around him. He knew that the storm of ash and smoke had not reached them, and the sluggishly flowing lava had only oozed around it.

He knew that the crystal was the dome and that he had somehow managed to make it.

{Death is not the end for you, child.}

“What?” Luke blinked and stood and was a little shocked to see his body stay perfectly still.

The presence, so familiar and so alien, that was holding to him and speaking to him; seemed to press closer. Luke walked around his body and paused. “You said sacrifice.”

{I did.} It replied, the mournful tone clanged like a bell in his ear.

“You mean me.”

{In the past of this world. I lived alone and when people came my strength was waned.} Luke watched the world shift until the building beneath his feet and the world around it became wilder, smaller, and broader. People rushed around him, passing through him as they ran. {Until people came, I did not control the chaos of my body. Seas vanished, and the skies turned black as they pleased and as it happened. Builders} Luke watched as the spires were being built. They rose higher and higher and people crawled over the stone. {Knew me, this monument is to me. Aware I was this world and that I was not. It was believed that I was a God, that I would prevent all chaos.}

“You couldn’t.”

{No.}

Around him the volcanic eruption buried the building in ash. Some smaller buildings collapsed.

“Did they add the crystal?}

{Yes.}

“Then, they were Jedi?”

{No.} The being curled around him sighed. {We learned to work together. To build and protect together. However, for all of time that has passed, I grow weaker. Your power feeds me.} Luke watched as his body seemed to waver out of existence.

“Am I dying?” He asked, feeling his throat seize up. Luke didn’t have a throat did he. He was only a form in the Force, he couldn’t have been real.

{In a way. To do this} The world around them reverted to the apocalyptic scene that Luke remembered, {Requires my strength and the strength of someone willing to protect.}

“Oh.”

{When I touched your mind. I saw compassion and power, love and kindness.}

Luke looked away from the now silent volcano and to his body.

“You haven’t spoken since the beginning.” Luke observed with some impossible amount of dispassion.

{No.}

“You’re preparing me to pass,” he swallowed hard, “on?”

{Yes.}

“Ah.” His body wavered in an out of existence again. “Can I?” He glanced to his right, “say goodbye.”

{Quickly.} Luke obeyed and moved to Han, who was half-asleep and had probably not seen his body flickering.

“Han.” The Corellian stirred. “Han!”

“Good to see you up, kid.” Han slurred, only opening his eyes a bit, “go to sleep.”

“I’m leaving, Han.” Luke bit his lip and knelt beside his friend. “I’m sorry.”

“Sure, kid.” Han rolled his head to the side and opened his eyes. “You’re fine, go to sleep.”

“Probably forever,” Luke joked hollowly, “I’m not sorry, Han. I knew what would happen just as soon as I stepped onto the platform.”

“Hmm.”

“Give my love to Leia, please.” Luke hesitated and the being around them seemed to tense with impatience. With the last bit of time he had, he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Han’s forehead. “Goodbye, Han.” The rebel stood and turned to Dern and patted his shoulder. The Imperial didn’t move, still sleeping.

{Are you ready?} A tall being in a black cloak appeared before the pilot, a blank white skull looked out of it. A think, skeletal hand reached out.

“Why do you look like that?” He blurted out.

{Human tradition, death is always themselves stripped of life.}

“Oh,” Luke glanced around him and saw that his body had vanished. The dome was gone too, the blue crystal was crawled back into it’s veins again. He could almost imagine how tired it was. He was tired to, suddenly drained beyond imagination and thought, Luke clenched his hands. Biting his lip, he forced himself to open his hand.

He’d been ready to die for the rebellion during the first Death Star. He’d prepared to die on every mission he’d ever embarked on for the rebels; now, he wavered.

“I.” His voice stuck.

{I understand.} The skeletal figure waited until Luke slowly lowered his fingertips into the bony palm. {All will be well, Luke Skywalker.}

The last thing Luke Skywalker knew was the firm grip of a hand closing over his.

Chapter Text

The death of Luke Skywalker caused a rift in the force. A sinking, sudden absence of light and presence, that Lord Vader staggered into the just enough to take a diving fall into the crew pits of his star destroyer. He knocked a navigator from his seat, inadvertently broke the ankle of another office as he landed.

In the sudden chaos, Vader gave a roar of pain so barbaric that no one moved for a long moment. Save for the officers he’d knocked over, they dragged themselves away from his radius of destruction and held very still.

“Prepare this ship for hyperspace!” The man shouted, straightening himself and vaulting out of the crew pit. Showing more agility than he had in years. Another officer staggered to the side as he swept by. “Order Commander Kilo to this ship with his remaining aides.” He turned around to see a perfectly still bridge. “NOW!” The entire bridge jumped into action and Vader stormed away.

#$#$3

Leia Organa sat down slowly and her movement caught the attention of every rebel in the command center.

“Princess?” Mothma leaned over her, “are you alright?”

“Luke,” Leia said quietly as she pressed a hand to her heart. “Something is wrong with Luke. Something just happened.”

“Princess, how could you possibly?”

“Get a hold of Captain Solo!” She snapped, tears welled behind her eyes. “Find him! What happened to Luke Skywalker?”

#$#$#$

Han woke from his sleep with a nasty crick in his neck and nearly snuggled against an Imperial officer who had taken too many liberties. Including spooning him from behind. It was, admittedly comfortable, but he was too intent on Leia to get comfortable. He detached himself from the clingy Imperial and cracked his neck.

From the top of the tallest tower the devastation of the surrounding valley was obvious and horrifying. He could see the hundreds of people milling around the academy grounds, their animals and children were slowly recovering from the fright of the last few days.

“You saved everyone, kid.” Han said, puffing up his chest and trying to keep himself from getting teary eyed. “One hell of a show.” He turned around to where Luke had been sitting. “Luke?” The spot was empty. “Luke!” his shout woke the Imperial with a snort. He sat up, yawning.

“What’s wrong?”

“Luke is gone!” Han knelt by the empty spot and traced the blue veins beneath it. The solid geometric pattern gave him no details. He stood, spinning around. “LUKE! LUKE!” He took off and came across the chamber of statues. His heart leapt into his mouth as he caught sight of the seventh statue. “Kid? He whispered and inched through the silent chamber until he stood in front of the statue. He knew the face in front of him. Every dip and hollow in the young face. His smiles and his frowns. It was so life-like that he expected Luke to drop the act and step down off the pedestal.

Unlike the other statues, he wore his flight suit. The entire suit was made of stone, undyed but with texture so perfectly captured that Han had to touch it to recognize that it was rock. His lightsaber was clipped to his belt, and his helmet was tucked under his left arm while his right was held toward the sky. On the alcove behind him, an engraved Death Star hovered over a small x-wing. He recognized the binary sunset of Tatooine, but little else.

There was a small smile on his face, and but he looked sad too.

Han felt a sob build in his chest and he covered his mouth as he realized exactly what this place was.

A memorial to all the force users who had protected the city.

“Captain Solo?” Dern ran up behind him. His gasp echoed around the room as he saw. “Is that Luke?”

“What’s left of him,” Han said slowly.

“What’s left of him? What do you mean?”

“It must have been too much for him,” the rebel answered hollowly. “He didn’t have the strength.” His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “He wasn’t strong enough.”

#$#$#

Captain Piett watched dispationaly as Commander Kilo collapsed to the floor, his hands at his neck. The last breath he breathed was a desperate rattle that sighed out of dead lungs as soon as Vader finally released him.

The man had not only abandoned his posting, but he’d condemned Imperial cadets and civilians to die. He’d intentionally crippled their ships and transports, making sure that he was going to get his petty revenge.

It would have been an effortless murder if Skywalker hadn’t been on world. If his death hadn’t been heard by Vader, through whatever the force was, it would have gone unnoticed.

“Set course for the academy,” Vader ordered, staring down at the cooling corpse. “Send for evacuation crews, rescue teams, and medical teams. There may be survivors.”

“Yes, Lord Vader.” He doubted that anyone would have been able to survive an eruption that the readings had predicted. If anyone was still alive, Piett would eat his shoes.

#$#$3

The wasteland that surrounded the volcano was exactly the sort that the drop teams had expected to see. Ash and lava covered every available surface and whatever had been a town, was an unrecognizable lump in the bleak landscape.

Clouds still blanketed the entire region, the pilots were flying via sensors, their visibility having been reduced to zero.

For once, Vader was not piloting. He was standing in the center of the dropship, holding onto an overhead strap to keep steady and staring in the distance. Well, it looked like he was staring into the distance.

“Sir,” an officer held up a datapad, “we’re picking up signals.”

“Signals? What kind?”

“Machine signals, droid chips, ship transmissions! There are survivors!”

“I can sense them,” Vader interjected suddenly into the conversation. The ship went silent. “Several thousand.” A second later a break in the clouds revealed the academy building. The stone spires reached into the sky, still intact. Nothing seemed damaged, even the green shrubbery that refused to die was still present.

As they lowered themselves from the clouds, the mass became distinct shapes that became people. What baffled the hovering Imperials most, was the perfect ring the destruction made around the grounds. As if some god had drawn a circle around the academy and forbidden any damage inside the circle.

Only two ships were present, an x-wing and an overly familiar Corellian freighter. Vader didn’t wait for the ship to land, he jumped the last few hundred feet and landed with stunning grace amidst the crowd.

The cadets and civilians pressed away from him.

“Where is Luke Skywalker?” He demanded and he was met with a hundred somber gazes.

“He’s gone.” A lean, sallow faced cadet detached himself from the crowd. He set his hands on his hips.

“Explain, cadet.” He was not in the mood for games. He was not in the mood to be lead around.

“He’s dead.” The flat announcement visibly pained the boy, and he took a shallow breath before continuing. “You’ll find his friend up in the tower with Chief Joko.”

“Which friend?”

“Han Solo.”

Vader didn’t need anymore prompting. He crowd parted before him as he sprinted away, his frantic terror getting the best of him. The force aided his jumps up the stairs, his head pounded weakly in his chest as he ran.

At the last curve of the stairs he skidded to a halt at the sight of Solo, the presumed chief, and Luke Skywalker.

It wasn’t until he’d stormed across the chamber did he realize that Luke hadn’t moved. The boy was there, so life-like that it rent the sith’s heart in two the second his hand encountered stone and he realized..

“What is the meaning of this?” He turned on Solo, seizing his shirt front and yanking him into the air. “What happened?”

“Lord Vader! Set him down! Lord Vader! I can explain!” There was brief tussle and Vader allowed the rebel to be yanked from his arms. All the while, Solo was silent and when he staggered back, Vader realized it was grief. Seeing that the Corellian wouldn’t be of any use, he whirled on the chief.

“EXPLAIN!”

“Luke Skywalker is dead, sir.”

“That is not an explanation!”

“He’s dead because he saved everyone else!” Solo yelled, he turned on the Sith, hands balled up at his sides. “Your commander abandoned everyone on this miserable rock! He left them to die and Luke stepped up! He used whatever mojo he had and he saved everyone else!”

“Not even the old Jedi would have been strong enough to do what Luke did. It is not possible.”

“It is! And it was too much for him! And now he’s dead! I guess you won’t have to pay that bounty after all!”

It was too much. Vader slapped Solo to the side, sending him reeling to the ground and he stood in front of the statue of Skywalker. He heard a harsh sob from Solo and ignored it.

“Lord Vader,” Chief Joko muttered carefully. “Han Solo is correct. Our home was built with the veins of our god. In times of crisis the strongest of our priests is called to protect their home. These defenders never have survived the strain of carrying godhood, even momentarily. These statues are to remember them. Luke Skywalker was the last one, and he wasn’t even a priest. His sacrifice ensured the survival of hundreds.”

“You did not deserve it!” Vader shouted, entranced by the stone wrinkles on Luke’s face. If he would only scrape off the stone then somehow, his son would survive. He touched the stone hand, wishing and praying that it would move and take his.

“We never have,” Joko’s voice was full of genuine sadness. It was not a comfort.

The Sith bowed his head, feeling the burn of tears behind his eyes. “Get out.” His voice was a whisper, but the vocoder made it a firm command.

“Vader.”

“Out!” With a force push, he propelled the two from the room and down the first set of stairs. They must have taken their leave, because they did not return. Alone, he stared at the statue and then at the alcove behind it.

The x-wing facing the Death Star. Easily understood. The binary sunset of Tatooine. Then the symbol of the Jedi. Several lines in the secret language outlining his lineage. Why it only had Beru and Owen, Vader was unsure. Even his grandmother wasn’t written there. Then in basic, just behind his head were the words, “A New Hope.”

“Foolish child,” he swallowed hard. “Foolish, reckless child. You shouldn’t have done anything for them. You should have saved yourself. You were too,” he paused. The unmoving statue only worsened his horror and fury. “You should have saved yourself, Luke. Then again, I doubt you would ever put yourself above others.”

He lowered his hand, and sank slowly to the floor until he was sitting at the base of the pedestal.

“My reckless, foolish son.”

“You are not supposed to be here.” His head snapped up. Luke stood in front of him, a glowing blue that Vader associated with Jedi spirits.

“Luke!”

“No,” the usually mild-tempered face was stern and unfamiliar to Vader. “I am not Luke.” Who ever it was, it was borrowing Luke’s appearance. They stood stiffly and stared with confusion as the sitting Sith.

“Who are you?” Vader lurched to his feet, furious.

“I had a name. I do not remember it.”

“Give me my son.”

“No,” the being tilted his head to the side. “I will not.”

“He is not yours too claim! He is my son!”

“He joined me willingly,” they said calmly. “I offered him a choice.”

“It was not a choice! It was death of himself and thousands or simply his own death!”

“That is only if you believe that death is not a choice,” Not-Luke blinked a few times. “If it is not an option.”

“Luke would have never chosen anything else”

“Then he has chosen willingly and freely; and you should not be here.”

“Why not? The resting place of my only child is.”

“Luke was not your only child, and it is rude to impose yourself on my territory.”

“Not my only?”

“There is another,” Luke’s form flickered in and out of existence.

“I want my son back,” Vader demanded, “give him to me.”

“His sacrifice was made willingly. You would insult him?”

“I would insult him a thousand times if I could bring him back to me,” the Sith hissed, “if Luke made the sacrifice, cannot one be made for him?”

“For him?”

“In my son’s place, take me instead.” Vader held out a hand to the flickering image of his son. “Allow Luke to return and you may have me.”

 

“You?”

“A willing sacrifice.”

“You are a cruel man,” not-Luke said, “an evil one. Your sacrifice is as selfish as the rest of your actions. Your death is meaningless to you. What you once feared you now desire. You are half-dead already.”

“I.”

“I will take it.” He was unable to stop the scream the erupted from him as the figure of Luke grabbed his outstretched hand. Vader collapsed to his knees, unable to keep standing. “You will suffer what you have feared the most.” The Sith was curled against the now-solid figure, his scream now soundless. “You will live!”

It was the last thing that the Sith was aware of.

 

34343

The memory of a beautiful woman with brown hair kissing his cheek faded as Luke Skywalker drew in a harsh, desperate breath and sat up straight.

Preoccupied with realizing that he was alive, and not dead, Luke didn’t notice the Imperial officers and stormtroopers who barged up the stair, shouting.

He set his hands on his hammering chest.

“Rebel!” Luke looked from his shaking hands to the Stormtrooper commander who shoved a blaster in his face.

“I thought I was dead,” Luke said stupidly. He was so cold and he hated it. “I was dead.”

“I’ll put you back to rights,” the captain sneered and his weapon whined at it charged. A moment later he was gone, thrown through the air by an unseen force. Luke gasped and scrambled backward as another man sat up.

Luke didn’t recognize him. He was tall, tanned, with a scar running over his right eye. He had plenty of frown lines, and it looked like his mouth was fixed with a permanent scowl. His hair was a dark blond that curled and fell to his shoulders, white just beginning to streak through it. He wore black robes and Luke glanced down to see his orange flight suit was in near mint condition.

What made Luke stare; was the way the man seemed to radiate power.

“Don’t touch him,” the man snarled. His voice was raspy and deep. Luke felt terror surge through his system. “Do not touch him.” He lowered his arm and turned an amber gaze on Luke. As the rebel watched, the amber bled out of his eyes and revealed solid blue.

The silence was broken by the arrival of a new Imperial, small and mousy with gray hair.

“Captain Piett,” the stranger spoke. Captain Piett turned around in confusion and glanced between Luke and the stranger. “Captain!”

“Erm,” the man swallowed, “Lord Vader?”

“Who else?” There was a sarcastic tilt to his eyebrows and voice, that made the man straighten. “Have the rooms beside mine prepared for an extended guest.” Luke swallowed hard as the Captain and the odd looking Sith turned to face him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to be alive, if he was being captured by Vader. He had died and he sort of wanted to go back. “As well as order a work crew to refit my apartments.”

“Yes, sir.” The confusion thickened and turned to terror as Vader sans armor, leapt to his feet and stretched out powerful looking arms. With a satisfied grin, he set his hands on his hips, one flesh and the other metal, and stared down a still immobile Luke.

“Vader?” Luke queried.

“Who else did you expect,” he spread his hands, almost smirking. The drastic change between the armored monster and the person in front of him; reduced Luke to speechlessness.

“Erm,” Luke tried to stand. His body did not cooperate. Vader crossed the distance between them in three confident steps. Boots stomping against the stone until he was nearly on top of the rebel. “HEY! LET GO!” The Sith seized the front of his shirt and yanked him upwards. “Put me down.”

“No,” Vader held him to his side, heedless of the stares he drew of the Imperials. “You idiotic, stupid, reckless, foolish, moronic, child! What were you thinking?”

“What?” Luke stared up at the narrowed blue eyes. Part of him recognized how much they were like his. He ignored that part. Vader held out his free hand and a pair of cuffs soared into them. The entire Imperial presence watched the slow arc of cuffs in silence which ended as Luke exclaimed in fury as they were clamped around his wrists. “NO! I did not die for this!”

“You are not a prisoner,” Vader adjusted his grip and carelessly tossed the nearly boneless rebel over his shoulder. “This is a precaution.”

“It sure feels like I’m a prisoner!” Luke shouted, trying to will his limbs to work. “Let me go!”

Vader moved with the strength of an energy of a younger man as he carried his son down the winding staircase. The Imperials watched after him, almost too stunned to move.

In the silence that followed his departure, a stormtrooper muttered, “he’s going to be impossible now.”

“Well,” Piett seemed to struggle for words. “Back to work, troopers. This planet won’t unbury itself from ash.”

Chapter Text

Luke’s main difficulty with dealing with the problems he was facing right now, including but not limited to being kidnapped by Darth Vader; was the fact that he was still having a great deal of trouble adjusting to the idea that he wasn’t dead, and that the same man who betrayed and murdered his father was carting him aboard a shuttle like he was a child.

“Put me down!” He wasn’t even able to control himself. He couldn’t move very much, his arms and legs felt like they were full of pins and needles, and he wasn’t sure if he was breathing correctly. Something about being wrenched away from the arms of Death was definitely making him frantic.

“No,” Vader didn’t even look down, and Luke sucked a breath that seemed to lodge halfway down his throat and say there. He opened his mouth to protest again, but nothing came out. Nothing happened for a long moment, and his lungs started to burn. He opened his mouth again and rasped just enough for Vader to look down. Shocking blue eyes widened at the sight of Luke’s struggling to breathe.

“Luke!” He knelt down enough to settle Luke against the ground as he let the medic run to catch up. “Luke!”

Frantic, and trapped within a body that wasn’t responding to him, Luke’s wild eyes met Vader’s, as the medic knelt over him. A second later, a heavy jolt to his system, not exactly an electric shock had him sucking in a desperate breath. The next breath came easier, and Luke felt his heart slow down enough that it no longer hurt. He blinked a few times as the medic strapped a respirator to his face and the artificial press of air against his nose made the next few even easier.

“What’s wrong with him?” Vader demanded, very reluctantly being pushed back by the medics who surrounded Luke. “What.”

Without the suit, Vader wasn’t nearly as terrifying. The medics ignored his questions, choosing instead to chatter to each other and over Luke. Luke was hoisted onto a gurney and pushed aboard the shuttle, and Vader watched his son disappear from view only long enough to find that they had secured him to the shuttle, and were holding conference around him.

“I was dead,” Luke finally managed, his eyes meet Vader’s, and he noticed the worry that he would have missed if he was still encased in the enormous suit. “Somehow I came back to life.”

The medics exchanged a series of glances, and then looked back at Vader. His arms were crossed, and his eyes had turned from bright blue to a dangerous amber.

“Lord Vader,” still obviously confused by the announcement that Vader was the handsome standing in the back of the shuttle, the medic captain spoke up. “Is this true?”

“Perhaps,” Vader frowned, “in a certain sense.”

“In a certain sense?” Luke gasped, he tried to arch off the gurney, but the medics pushed him back down. “I was dead! I was actually dead!”

“Really? And Lord Vader brought you back to life?” The medics glanced at each other again, and then back at the newly healed Sith. “And how are you like this?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Vader slashed an angry hand through the air, “concentrate on the boy.” Luke continued to glare at him until he made his way to the front of the shuttle and settled into the cockpit,

#$#$#

Luke’s dreams were painfully disjointed and confusing, leaving him empty and cold as if he’d never get warm again. The whole universe seemed to hurt, pressed down on him like unbearable water pressure.

“You don’t seem happy,” he turned, not sure if he was awake yet. The man looked older, grandfatherly, wearing the sort of robes that Obi-Wan used to wear. His eyes were a solid, electric blue. No pupil, no iris, only a glowing blue that turned to survey the binary sunset in front of them. Beyond the boulder he sat on, the desert stretched for miles. Luke thought he could catch of glimpse of the old homestead from here.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Luke answered, and the man gestured for him to sit. “Who are you?”

“Everyone,” the man told him, “ and no one.”

“That’s,” Luke swallowed, “why are you in my dreams?”

“I can connect to you,” a piece of carved japport appeared in his hands, and he passed it to Luke. “You’re truly my grandchild.”

“What?” The snippet trailed a piece of string, and Luke held it up. “Um.”

“I’ll help you put it on.” He maneuvered behind Luke, who was too afraid to do anything besides let the older man secure the necklace around his neck. “It suits you.”

“Thank you?”

“You don’t need to be afraid,” the man sat beside Luke, smiling so kindly it was hard to be afraid of him. “I’m only your grandfather.”

“You don’t look like Cliegg.”

“I’m not,” the man pointed to the homestead in the distance, “he’s there. Finally able to relax, and live without worries.”

“He’s dead,” Luke said flatly, “he died before I was born.”

“He’s dead in your sense, Luke. He’s still there, living happily where he was most comfortable.”

“Then my father!” Luke stood, taking a step toward the homestead, heart in his throat. “My aunt and uncle!”

“Ah,” Luke was jerked back as a very firm grip clutched at his shirt. “That’s why I’m here to talk to you, Luke.”

“So, my aunt and Uncle are over there. I want to talk to them,” Luke tried to yank himself out of this grip, faltering only when the bright blue eyes flashed purple. “What?”

“You can’t see them yet, Luke,” the old man said gently, pulling Luke back to the boulder, “eventually.”

“But my father?”

“Still alive,” Luke blinked and jerked awake to the sound of a machine screaming in his ears. The machines buzzed, and a doctor leaned over him holding a light to his eyes. Nonsensical medical jargon was getting thrown around, but Luke was only able to focus on the tall man at the end of the room. His robes and armor all black.

Vader, he remembered, and he finally glanced down at the medical equipment attached to him.

“What happened?” He blearily focused on the doctor holding a scanner to his head.

“You flatlined,” the man answered brusquely, “again.”

“Why?”

“You tell me, you’re the one who came back from the dead.”

“I guess,” Luke closed his eyes, unsure how he should feel about being surrounded by Imperial doctors. “I don’t know what happened. I was talking to my grandfather.”

“Cliegg?” Vader had moved from the back of the room to the foot of Luke’s bed, his amber eyes focused with unnerving intensity.

“No,” Luke shook his head and felt something shift beneath his shirt. “My father’s father.”

“You have no grandfather on your father’s side,” Vader snapped, and the doctor glanced between Luke and Vader curiously.

“Then you’re a medical miracle,” he told Luke dryly, “and not because you came back from the dead.”

Before Luke could answer, the doctor was thrown across the room, yelling. Vader held out a hand, his eyes flashing. “OUT!” Heedless of the fact that they were abandoning Luke, they ran for the exit, leaving the Jedi and the Sith alone. “You,” he pointed angrily at the rebel, “explain yourself.”

“What?”

“Explain this grandfather.”

“I don’t think my dreams are Sith business,” Luke told him and winced when Vader bent over him, frowning mightily. “They’re just dreams.”

“Dreams are never just dreams,” Vader told him, his now handsome face was marred by an ugly glower. The scar over his eye seemed to deepen. “They always mean something.”

“Still none of your business,” Luke smirked but froze as Vader’s eyes swept down his neck and then to his shirt front. He was suddenly and intimately aware of the fact that he was very, very vulnerable like this.

“What is this?” The very cold prosthetic, more artistic than Luke ever credited Vader with, dug beneath his shirt and pulled out the japport snippet that hadn’t been there when Luke had passed out on the shuttle. “Where?” He dragged his eyes from the necklace to Luke’s frightened blue eyes. “Who did you speak to in your dream?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Luke rasped, fear drying out his mouth. “It’s mine.”

“I think not,” Vader yanked the cord so hard it snapped. He held it up and tucked it into a pocket.

“Give that back!” Luke tried to sit up, but the various restraints kept him down. The Sith smirked.

“Who gave it to you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Luke strained in his bindings, the heart monitor beeped rapidly. “It’s mine! Give it back!”

“It does matter,” Vader told him tightly, “because you weren’t wearing this when you were brought in, and that last place this was, was attached to.” He faltered. “It was entombed with your mother.”

“What?” A nurse poked their head in the door.

“Lord Vader, his monitor.” He tried weakly, and Vader jabbed a finger at the door. He was gone within an instant.

“Your mother was buried with that necklace,” Vader tried again, “and to have you wearing it. How did you come by it?”

“I,” Luke focused first on the pocket the necklace had vanished into, and then on Vader. “My grandfather gave it to me.”

“Your grandfather is dead.”

“My other one,” Luke told him, “and it was weird.”

“No doubt,” Vader was unable to resist the urge to shatter the heart monitor as the beeping increased. It sparked and sputtered to its mechanical death. “Return to sleep and recover.” He straightened and swept out of the room and glowered at the doctors and medics waiting to resume their care of their patient. “If he dies,” Vader held a hand up threateningly, “your lives are forfeit.” As soon as he was gone, they charged Skywalker room.

He had plenty to think about.