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Bound to the Temptation

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“Lani, it’s dinner time!” you called out from the inside of the hut, finishing up the last stages of the meal. You looked outside through the window when no one responded, watching with slight amusement and annoyance as the girl was too far engrossed in something with the other children of the village. They were watching something on the ground— perhaps playing with the frogs native to this land. 

 

“Lani—” you repeated but then the voice of Omera called out from her own hut.

 

“Winta,” you saw her step out and gestured for her own daughter to come inside. Lani immediately looked up and told something to Winta and you watched their exchange as you walked outside with a slight stern expression on your face. The two girls bonded instantly as soon as Winta was born a few weeks after Lani. And from that point on, they were inseparable. Sisters was what Omera called them. Although the two looked nothing alike. While Winta possessed all the characteristic qualities of people native to this land—  with dark hair and brown eyes, just like her own mother, Lani was the total opposite. She was fair-skinned, with light blonde hair that remained that color ever since her birth and bright blue eyes. 

 

“Come inside,” you gestured for Lani when the girl finally acknowledged you and she instantly obeyed, running up to you just as Winta did the same. You exchanged a knowing look with Omera, slightly shaking your head, before you entered the hut after Lani. “What did I tell you about responding to me the first time I call for you?” you asked her.

 

“I’m sorry, mama,” Lani’s expression was less than sorry as she climbed on the chair before the table.

 

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” you inclined your head with your hands on your hips. “You need to wash your hands first after playing outside.”

 

“Yes, mama,” the girl grinned and you sighed. She was a troublemaker, this one. Each day she was growing, there was something more that was added to the growing list of things she was known for in this village. Everyone knew Lani— and how could they not? Not when she possessed a rare quality to her, one you were desperate trying to quell. 

 

You seated yourself on the opposite end of the table after Lani settled on her side once you ensured she properly washed her hands and began eating, barely paying attention to what was happening in front of you until it was too late.

 

“Lani!” you exclaimed when the girl reached for another loaf of bread from across the table without actually reaching for it. The bread was floating mid-air between her and you, with Lani’s outstretched hand beckoning for it to come to her. The bread instantly dropped with a dull thud on the table and you watched it in horror for a second before you managed to school your features. 

 

“I’m sorry,” she repeated again, this time sounding more sincere, before tears started to form in the corners of her eyes— the first sign that she was about to go into the infamous children’s hysteria of her age. 

 

“No— Lani,” you sighed and then hurried over to her side, kneeling on the floor before her chair, before reaching for her small hands and wrapping them in yours. “I’m not angry with you—”

 

“But you are ,” she sniffled. “I can feel you.”

 

You paused for a moment, trying to formulate a response. “You’re right,” you admitted. “I am angry, but not for the reason that you think. I’m just… worried.”

 

Lani looked down at you through her lashes, her eyes boring into you. She was doing that thing again— the one where she could easily tell what you were thinking. The first time that happened you were unsettled for days. But that didn’t mean you were growing used to it any better as more time passed and the older Lani grew to be. She was already four years old and her strange abilities seemed to be growing stronger with each passing day. 

 

“Because of the bad men?” she asked, as though picking up on your stray thoughts. 

 

“Because of the bad men,” you nodded your head and then squeezed her hands. “Lani… there are people out there in the world— different from people on this planet— who won’t hesitate to take you away from me, only because they are afraid of something they can’t explain. And your… abilities… they are natural to you because you were born with them, but others can be scared because they don’t understand. You must be careful when you use them and who you use them in front of. Not everyone as friendly as they seem. Okay?” you looked at her with a small smile on your face, hoping to convey warmth through your love for her. 

 

“Okay,” she tilted her head. “Did daddy have the same powers as me?” she suddenly asked and you froze, the question completely catching you off guard. 

 

“I— I don’t know,” you finally managed to reply. “I don’t remember much about him.”

 

“That’s ‘cause your head feels funny,” Lani replied and you stared at her.

 

Funny ?” you repeated. 

 

“Yes— like a cloud of smoke,” she nodded her head. 

 

“Well— that’s…” you didn’t know what to say to that either. “How about we finish the dinner and then get you ready for bed, alright? You’ve been running around all day today, you must be very tired,” you rose from the ground, ruffling her hair on top of her head. 

 

“I’m not tired,” she pouted, the previous conversation all but forgotten as you two bantered with one another over the rest of the dinner. It was later that night, when you finally managed to wrestle the girl into her bed and tuck her in, after telling her a good night story and kissing the top of her head before wishing her a good night that she spoke— sleepily and out of it into the quiet night. 

 

“Daddy is still alive,” her words made you freeze. “I can feel him sometimes, mama. He’s very sad and lonely,” she was asleep before you could register the meaning of her words. You spent the rest of the night wide awake, tossing and turning in your own bed, replaying Lani’s words inside your head.

 

He was still alive. 

 

___

 

“You’ve been spacing out quite a lot today,” Omera’s words brought you back to the present. You looked up from your spot in the water, the net still in your hands that you were using to catch the krill. You had forgotten to dunk it into the water, thus catching Omera’s attention as she stood next to you. 

 

“It’s nothing,” you lied, resuming your work.

 

“Is this about Eilani?” Omera asked and you stiffened, before abandoning the farming altogether. 

 

“I’m worried about her,” you admitted to her. “She’s been acting… strange.”

 

“She’s a sensitive child,” Omera pointed out. “And she’s always been different amongst our kind.” 

 

Exactly ,” you sighed with irritation. “But being different doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. When have you ever seen a child her age do things that she’s capable of?”

 

“Never,” Omera admitted. “But I’ve heard of stories about her kind.”

 

“She’s not them ,” you hissed. 

 

“But perhaps her father was,” Omera raised her brow as if offering you to challenge her claims. “You hardly know anything about him.”

 

“That’s the thing,” you got out of the water, frustratingly wrenching the wet clothes with your hands. “I don’t know anything about him. And I should . How can I not know anything about the father of my child? How can I not remember ?” you couldn’t tell Omera about what Lani told you a few days earlier. About the weird sensation you’ve been getting any time Lani brought up any mention of her father. About her strange description of what your mind felt like to her. About how you’ve recently been getting strange dreams of a faceless man in black armor. 

 

“Perhaps it’s for the best,” Omera softly spoke behind you. “You ended up here— in this village, for a reason.”

 

A reason . Everyone kept reminding you of that. But what was the reason to place you here in the first place? Away from civilization and the on-going war between the Alliance and the Empire. Away from the center of the world. You did not belong here yet somehow you ended up on this planet and you had forgotten everything . There must be an explanation to— you froze. Looking straight ahead and on the edge of the village you noticed Lani playing on the ground. You didn’t even notice her leaving your side until now so you hurried off to get her. 

 

“Lani,” you called out to her and the girl picked up her head, smiling at you when you neared her. 

 

“Mama, look ,” she called out and you realized what she was doing once you took in the scene. She was twirling some leaves before her, without touching them— she was using her power out in the open.

 

“Lani, we talked about this—” you started but then realized another thing which made you freeze on the spot. Looking past the edge of the trees you saw something which instantly made your heart lurch in your throat. There was a stranger— a man, standing not far off from where you were, staring right down at Lani with an expression you couldn’t quite explain. But that wasn’t what put you on guard in the first place. It was the fact that you didn’t recognize the man— it looked like he did not belong in these parts of the planet, not in the way he dressed nor the fact that he didn’t bother concealing his weapons. It made you experience a funny feeling you couldn’t explain either. 

 

“Excuse me,” you barely smiled at the man before snatching Lani from the ground and lifting her in your arms. She protested with a loud exclaim but you ignored her, staring at the man instead. “Can I help you?” 

 

It was unusual to get visitors to your village— most people never ventured that far off from the main Common House. So the fact that someone like that man made it this far here had put you on guard.

 

The man’s eyes briefly met yours but then fell right back on your daughter, his gaze unsettling you. “Interesting little trick she’s learned there, huh?” he finally replied, smiling at you and flashing his teeth. 

 

“Yes, just a trick ,” you quickly replied, hoping your voice sounded natural, but it came out forceful and dry. 

 

He finally shifted from his spot by the tree, stepping out into the open. “And where did you find such a rare gem?” he nodded his head towards Lani. 

 

“She’s my daughter ,” you didn’t appreciate his tone as you snarled your response, inching away from the man. By now you knew Omera had seen the stranger as well and notified the rest of the men in the village.

 

“Is she now?” the man tilted his head, intrigued. “So the rumors are true then.”

 

“Rumors?” you continued backing away just as he placed more steps towards you. 

 

“Are you one of them ?” he asked, his hand falling right next to the holster with his strapped blaster— you didn’t miss the look in his eyes when he noticed you staring at the weapon. 

 

“One of whom ?” you prayed that Omera would hurry up. Even Lani, who up to this point was struggling in your hold, had gone quiet, staring at the man with her wide eyes. 

 

“One of the Jedi,” the man grinned and you swore you could feel your heart stop beating just for a split second. This wasn’t a rare chance of him appearing here out of nowhere, you realized. And this wasn’t the first time you’ve heard of the Jedi either. Even Omera had mentioned something about them to you when she recently brought up the subject about Lani’s strange abilities. You denied her claims, swearing she wasn’t one of them. She couldn’t be— because you weren’t one. You never stopped to think about Lani’s father because you didn’t want to admit the truth.

 

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” you could finally hear the commotion behind you, breathing a sigh of relief but barely lowering your guard in front of the stranger. “We are just ordinary people, trying to make a living by farming.”

 

“Perhaps they are,” the man indicated towards the villagers behind you, his gaze never leaving yours. “But not this one,” he gestured towards Lani. 

 

“You said there were rumors,” you narrowed your eyes, switching up the conversation. There was no point beating around the bush when the man clearly knew what he was saying. “What were they? Where did you come from?”

 

“Ah,” the man’s lips thinned, his face taking a look of excitement, mixed with another hidden emotion. “Just some… interesting talk about this particular village. I had to come and see for myself if it was true.”

 

What was?” but you already knew the answer to that question and so did the stranger as he flashed you a predatory grin. He came here to see Lani, you just knew it. The thought alone made your anxiety spike tenfold, which caused Lani to whimper in your arms, her senses picking up on your internal distress. You cradled her closer to you, wrapping your arms protectively around her, trying to shield her from the man’s piercing gaze. Just when you thought you’d crack, the help finally arrived with Omera leading the way. 

 

“Can we help you?” she asked when she finally reached you, the rest of the villager’s men obstructing the view of the man as they gathered around you, shielding you from the man’s gaze. 

 

“No— I think not,” he replied, nodding his head as a farewell before proceeding to back away into the tree line of the forest. 

 

Wait ,” you called out, despite yourself. “You never answered me where you came from,” but instead of replying to you the man turned around and continued walking, barely sparing you a glance. 

 

“I said wait—” but Omera stopped you before you had the chance to take a step forward, her hand on your shoulder to remind you she was there. You turned around to see her shaking her head.

 

“He’s gone now,” she murmured. “And we should head back. Eilani needs her rest,” only then did you notice how distressed your daughter looked, her skin pale and her small hands tightly gripping your clothes. 

 

Only when you finally managed to calm her down and make her fall asleep, did you finally have a chance to talk with Omera, who was waiting for you outside your hut. 

 

“He was there for her,” you told her, your voice slightly elevated to convey your internal panic. “He watched her— he saw her strange abilities.”

 

“He won’t take a chance to come here again,” Omera softly spoke by your side. 

 

“You don’t know that,” you were tiredly rubbing at your face. “He must know something . He said there were rumors . About Eilani. How could there be rumors? No one ever comes here… you don’t think the villagers are the ones…”

 

“No,” Omera’s voice was firm. “We are all loyal here to each other. We are all family. Eilani is part of this family, they won’t betray her.”

 

“I don’t understand then,” you sighed. “How did he know…”

 

“Listen,” Omera’s hand was back on your shoulder. “We won’t let anything bad happen to either you or Eilani. If we must— we will protect both of you.”

 

“There won’t be much to do for any of you if that man comes back with more men and more weapons,” you knew you were being pessimistic but you were only laying out the harsh facts. “None of us have anything to defend ourselves with. Not even blasters.”

 

“There are other ways we can defend ourselves,” Omera softly replied. 

 

“Omera—”

 

“You need your rest as well,” she continued. “You’ve looked exhausted for the past few days. Being stressed won’t do either you or Eilani much good. Go to bed— I’ll keep a watch.”

 

Arguing with her was pointless— you were indeed tired but you were also worried, which made your rest almost pointless as you turned and tossed in your own bed after thanking Omera and taking your leave. The conversation with the stranger kept replaying in your head. You had many questions but barely any answers to any of them. You didn’t know how the man came by to the village in the first place. How he knew to look out specifically for Eilani with her strange powers. Who was spreading the rumors and how far they had spread and what exactly were the rumors about. And most concerning of them all —the fact that the man truly believed you were a Jedi, or something equivalent to that. The race of humankind that was long extinct and hunted down by the Empire’s enforcers for betraying the Old Republic two decades ago— so long ago for you to hardly remember that happening. You were just a child at that time when the Jedi Purges happened all over the galaxy. And now you were linked to them because of Eilani— because she seemed to possess the same powers as they once did, which easily put her as a target. 

 

You were no longer safe. You realized that the moment you saw the look in that man’s eyes. You just didn’t know to what extent the danger laid up ahead and how far you were trapped in the spirals of the web until it was far too late.

 

___

 

It was the noise that woke you up. 

 

It disoriented you for a moment because you didn’t recognize it. Not at first at least. Not until something jogged your memory and you felt a prickle of cold sweat trailing down your neck because you recognized the noise. Like a distant memory— like coming out of the fog. You instantly scrambled out of bed, haphazardly throwing on your clothes and rushing into Lani’s room to see her already wide awake and staring at you with a glossy look in her eyes, shining in the dead of the night. 

 

“Mama,” she whispered, her voice quivering. 

 

“It’s alright,” you were by her side in an instant, already dressing her up when you heard an insistent and loud knock on your door. You froze mid-air, anticipating the worst, until Lani informed you it was just Omera— you weren’t even going to question the child about her ability to distinguish between people’s emanations. You barely even unlocked the door when Omera pushed at the door, her facial expression the first thing that reflected from the make-shift light source she was holding which confirmed your worst fears. 

 

“You were right,” her voice was hurried, rapid, tinted with her own fear. “They’re here— they’re coming. You need to leave.”

 

Who ?” but instead of answering you Omera had stepped inside the hut, already starting to pack the supplies. You only stared at her in shock, your mind blank as thought someone had shut off your brain. Then you heard the noise again— high pitched and passing overhead the huts. 

 

“I’ve heard this before,” you gasped, staring at Omera’s face as though hoping that what you’d find there would dispel the realization of what that noise meant.

 

“I’m sorry,” she was ushering you around to help you pack. “I don’t know who that man was, but he brought something I never thought I’d ever expect to see on this planet.”

 

“The Empire,” you couldn’t deny this any longer. What you’d been hearing, the noise that kept getting louder and closer, were the Imperial fighters flying over the village. 

 

“Yes,” she admitted. “And you need to leave before they find you. Before they find Eilani.”

 

How ?” you screeched. “There’s no way out of this planet—”

 

“How else do you think visitors keep coming here?” she interrupted you before shoving the pack with supplies in your hands. “There’s a way out of here. My husband will show you the way. He’s waiting outside.”

 

You were too stunned to speak, because in the next moment Omera was pushing both you and Eilani out into the dead of the night with Omera’s husband— Khoan— already waiting for you as he grabbed the supplies out of your hands. You instinctively picked up Lani in your arms, protectively wrapping her in your embrace.

 

“Will I see you again?” you asked Omera. “Will you be okay— all of you? Winta?”

 

“Don’t worry about us,” Omera gave you a small smile, her fingers softly trailing Lani’s cheek as the girl watched her from behind your shoulder. “Take care of yourself first. We’ll be alright.”

 

“We need to go,” Khoan’s voice was urgent and you understood his reason for urgency. You could hear another noise somewhere far off into the distance. Another memory resurfaced from the depths of your mind— it sounded a lot like a Scout Walker. 

 

You shot Omera a final look, your eyes conveying everything you were grateful to her for the past few years of your life in this village. You knew the chances of you ever seeing her again or this village were slim to none. If the Empire was here that meant you could never come back here— not unless the Empire lost in the on-going war against the Alliance. Your heart hurt, not because you couldn’t say your proper goodbyes, but because Lani never got her chance to say her goodbyes to Winta. You were taking her childhood away with the swipe of your hand across her cheek as you pressed her closer to your chest, keeping your tears at bay. 

 

“Why bring all this fortified equipment to this backwater planet?” you finally asked after a while, after you were treading behind Khoan for the past half an hour through the dense forest. You had to be particularly careful not to inadvertently stumble upon any Imperial troopers. You were at a disadvantage with no night vision and no weapons to protect yourselves. 

 

“The Empire does not want to take any chances,” Khoan responded. “Not when it involves a child with the Jedi powers.”

 

“But she’s not—”

 

“I know,” he interrupted you. “But they don’t. And they won’t stop until they get what they want.”

 

“Mama,” Lani’s voice was alert. You couldn’t see her that well in darkness. “What’s a Jedi?”

 

“Not now,” you hushed her. “I’ll explain everything—”

 

Quiet ,” Khoan hissed and suddenly you were pressed against the thick trunk of the tree with Lani sandwiched between you and Khoan’s body. Seconds later you could hear the unmistakable sound of a speeder passing through the forest somewhere close to where you were hiding. A minute had passed before you were allowed to move again. Lani had grown quiet— she was surprisingly smart enough for her age to recognize when there was a serious situation going on around her. 

 

“We are heading towards the Common House?” you finally asked when you recognized the pathway. 

 

“It’s the only way out of this planet,” Khoan replied. “That’s where you’ll find a ship.”

 

“And that’s exactly where the rest of the Imperial troops are,” you hissed. “What makes you think they hadn’t blocked off the routes off this planet? For all we know there could be a blockade up above.”

 

“These are just scouts,” he replied. “They were sent here to gather the intel.”

 

“Too many troops for them to be just an intel,” you finally made it to the other edge of the forest after what seemed like hours. The night had not broken in but it was much closer to the dawn than a few hours back. You had a much better chance escaping this planet unnoticed in the dark. That meant you didn’t have that much time left. 

 

“That man must have been a spy,” Khoan declared. “Perhaps an official for the Empire. I’ve heard rumors of them scouting remote planets for a chance to find gifted children.”

 

You gritted your teeth, silently berating yourself for the mistake of staying on Sorgan days after the man left, even knowing the risks that came with that decision. You knew he was coming back, you just didn’t know he was so powerful in the chain of the Empire to bring a whole battalion of Imperial troops with him. You not only endangered yourself and Eilani, you also placed all those villagers, including Omera’s family in danger as well. 

 

“I should have left.”

 

“You didn’t know. We all didn’t.”

 

You shook your head. “If something is to happen to any of you I don’t know what I’d do—”

 

“Nothing will,” he assured you. “Let’s go.”

 

It was a trek down the hill but you managed to do so inconspicuously. You couldn’t be more thankful for a tall grass surrounding the small outpost that sat in the open clearing surrounded by the trees and swamps, which was the Common House— a place for any rare visitors to stop by and rest. Usually peaceful and quiet, it was now swarmed by several small Imperial convoys with several small shuttles parked on the other side.

 

“I don’t see any of the ships you mentioned,” you whispered. 

 

“I see several right in front of us,” your eyes widened when you realized what Khoan meant by that comment. 

 

“You’re not serious,” you hissed. “Taking one of the Imperial ships will only get us all killed.”

 

“Not if they have no other transports to use to get themselves up in the air,” you saw the look in his eyes, finally catching on to his insane plan. 

 

“You want to take out the remaining ones while keeping one for myself,” you realized. 

 

“Exactly,” he nodded his head towards the closest one. “It shouldn’t be this hard to pilot one and engage its weaponry systems, right?”

 

You couldn’t quite tell Khoan how you were that much certain that you could pull this off if given a diversion. Somehow the haze in the back of your mind was slowly pulling away, revealing more about your past life in the last few hours than what you could remember in the last four years since Eilani’s birth. And you were more than certain that you, at one point, could pilot a ship. 

 

“Yeah,” you whispered and then looked down to see Lani fighting her sleep to keep her eyes on you. “It’s going to get rather loud soon. You think you can handle that?” 

 

She only nodded her head, her eyes still watching you. You could almost imagine her feeling the apprehension waffling from you at the mere prospect of this insane plan. If something were to go wrong, then you would all be doomed. But what other choice did you have? The Empire would easily find you come daylight.  

 

“Let’s move,” Khoan motioned for you to follow him. In another life you could almost imagine him becoming a General in the war. He was good like that, keeping calm in the intense situations, not showing any fear at the prospect of danger and a chance of death. You needed that comfort at the moment, the strength of a man while you battled your own inner demons. The thought of a faceless man in black armor resurfaced in your mind again. You pushed it away to focus on what was in front of you.

 

You took your chance when there was a shift in the trooper’s patrolling, with Khoan sneaking behind one of the lone troopers and taking him out in a stronghold with his arms wrapped around the soldier's neck. You made sure to shield Lani’s eyes away from the scene until you were sure the trooper wouldn’t move. The blaster came in your possession when Khoan argued you’d be best with keeping the weapon with yourself. You sneaked inside the compartment of a ship, ensuring it was empty before proceeding to the cockpit. 

 

“Switches to engage the weapon system,” you showed Khoan, your hands moving on autopilot as though this knowledge was ingrained in your memory. “This one is to start up the engines,” you explained to him.

 

“I won’t be needing to engage anything else besides the laser cannons,” Khoan told you. “Keep a lookout for my signal.”

 

“You can just use the communication system,” you told him before he had the chance to leave and get to another ship to start the process. “Good luck— and please, be careful,” you held his hand for a moment, a silent agreement passing between the two of you until the moment was broken when Khoan left to make his way to another ship.

 

You wasted no time to prepare the ship for takeoff. You strapped Lani to her seat, ensuring she was safely tucked in before taking your own place in the pilot’s seat. You wouldn’t start up the engines until Khoan started the attack, but you were swiftly going through the pre-flight sequence with exact precision, ensuring the ship was at its full capacity to take a sudden flight. It was just a waiting game at this point— and the first ray of sun finally broke through the darkened sky, casting a soft yellow glow at the horizon. Just in time when the ship closest to you engaged the cannons. 

 

“Ready.”

 

That was the only warning you had to start your own engines, your hands on the levers of the stick as you pressed down on the button to engage your own weapon system. And in the fiery display of the attack all the nearby ships went up into flames, exploding upon contact with the lasers. You had barely any seconds to spare as troopers came running at your ship with their own armed weapons, the commotion causing all the nearby scattered troopers to return to their base. You continued firing, the lasers hitting at the troops with precision, your mind too focused on what was in front of you to see what was coming your way from behind. 

 

You had completely forgotten about the damn Walker.

 

“Look out!” it was Khoan’s voice that came over the speaker. Lani screamed and you lurched the ship to the side almost out of instinct, barely avoiding the hit from the laser cannon as it hit the side of the ship. You had no time to waste on the ground. You had to lift the ship up into the sky to avoid the ground hits.

 

“You need to start up your engines,” you shouted over the speaker as you guided the ship unto the air, avoiding more hits from the Walker. 

 

“I’ll stay behind— you go,” you had no time to respond to that as you circled the ship mid-air, taking a shot at the Walker— enough to render it immobile but not enough to put out of commission as it continued firing at yours and Khoan’s ships. 

 

“You’re going to get hit!” you screamed.

 

“Go!”

 

You couldn’t stay here much longer— your main objective was complete. All the remaining ships were destroyed and there was no way for the rest of the troopers to reach communication with the Empire without their lost signal. You lurched the ship up, ensuring to cause more damage to the grounds below as you continued climbing up in the air. The unexpected explosion took you by surprise, as well as Lani’s loud screaming.

 

No .”

 

Khoan’s ship was blown up into flames. It seemed the Walker managed to land a hit, even with it being partially immobile and severely impaired. You gritted your teeth, angling the controls of the ship down to avenge his death as you flew straight towards the Walker.

 

Mama ,” it was Lani’s voice that snapped you from your red haze of anger and you pulled at the lever at the last second, avoiding the direct hit coming from the Walker. You bit back your tears, casting last look at what remained of Khoan’s ship, before flying off away from the center of what remained of the swift battle that left the place looking like a perfect picture of a war— with everything lit up in flames and burning. Everything destroyed and lives taken— including Khoan’s. 

 

You wondered what Omera would say when she learned of her husband’s death. Would she be angry at you or the Empire for destroying her life? Would she be proud that her husband sacrificed his life to save yours and Lani’s? Would Winta even remember her father growing up with just her mother by her side? You would never know— because you would never see her again. 

 

I’m sorry. 

 

You looked to the side to see Lani’s own tears glistening in the sunrise.

 

“I’m sorry,” you told her. “I never wanted you to see any of this,” you went to say more but then a thunderous headache shot through your head and you cried out from pain, almost letting go of the controls of the ship. You just passed the upper levels of the planet's atmosphere, flying straight into space. You held on to the controls, gritting your teeth as you battled at the tears in the corners of your eyes as more pressure gathered around your head.

 

It hurt. It hurt so much

 

“Mama,” it was Lani’s voice again but it sounded so far away. “The smoke.”

 

“What?” you choked back. 

 

“Your head,” she continued. “It won’t let you leave.”

 

You couldn’t understand her. The pressure continued to grow. You were fighting the gravitational pull of the planet down below. And the splitting headache that continued to make you feel like your head was about to explode. 

 

“Mama,” Lani’s voice sounded closer. You opened your eyes to find her reaching for you with her small hands. Somehow she managed to unclasp from her seat and make her way over to you. “Let me.”

 

You let her. You couldn’t stop her even if you tried. The pain immobilized you to the point that you couldn’t speak. It was like you were rooted to the seat, unable to move, unable to talk. You could only watch as Lani climbed on your lap and reached her fingers to your temples.

 

It happened in an instant. 

 

The pain was gone. The fog cleared. And with that came the flood of images long suppressed behind the mental shields erected in place to keep you from remembering your past life. 

 

It was like a fresh breath of air— except you were choking on all the emotions, all the hurt and betrayal you felt as you finally remembered . The reason for you ending up on this planet all by yourself, the reason you couldn’t remember your past life, the unexplained existence of Lani as you lived to cope with realization that your mate was dead while taking care of your daughter all by yourself.

 

Except he wasn’t dead.

 

Because he was kriffing Darth Vader and he left you here. 

 

He erased your memories. 

 

And he went through all the trouble to ensure you wouldn’t remember any of it unless you left the planet. Because he thought you never would. 

 

“Mama?” you looked down to see Lani staring at you with her father’s eyes. 

 

“I’m okay,” you choked on your words. “I’m okay,” you repeated, straightening the controls of the ship. 

 

“Was that daddy?” she asked and you looked down at Lani with shock written on your face. “The man in the mask?”

 

You were speechless for a moment until you snapped from your stupor. “We need to find another ship and soon before we are found,” you couldn’t bring yourself to speak with Lani about her own father, about the man who did this to you. You ignored Lani’s protests and strapped her back to her own seat before thinking of your next course of action. 

 

Vader’s words slithered through your mind, like a treacherous ooze. 

 

Take this ship to Motok, the capital of Cyrkon. Trade it for another craft— one the Empire won’t track. 

 

You let out an aggravated sigh. At least there was something you were thankful for for having your memories back. The knowledge of who you were and how to navigate in the world of the unknown. You knew Motok was your only option at the moment. No one there would care about a stolen Imperial ship. The issue was to stay off the Empire’s radar and keep Lani safe. 

 

You glanced back at her.

 

You could do it. You could keep your daughter safe.

 

Even from the hands of her own father. 

 

___

 

The call from the Emperor was unexpected. Even more so was his opening statement as soon as Palpatine’s holographic image came into view before Vader’s kneeling form.

 

“Have you felt the disturbance in the Force, Lord Vader?”

 

The question almost brought Vader back to the time all those years ago when Palpatine finally learned of the true identity of the rebel pilot who destroyed the first Death Star. 

 

“I have felt it,” he admitted— he did feel it. There was an unexplainable spike of something familiar in the Force but he couldn’t place what it was. Even meditating did not allow him to see the truth before he was interrupted by Palpatine’s call. 

 

“There’s a new threat on the horizon,” Palpatine rasped. 

 

“Could it be Skywalker?” 

 

Luke— his son— a notorious rebel fighter who was growing stronger and stronger with each passing year. And after their last match on Cloud City it only confirmed how strong the young boy really was in the ways of the Force. His training with Master Yoda paid off well. He even managed to land a hit on Vader before losing his own hand in process. Something Vader regretted but he had to make the boy vulnerable and defenseless for Luke to listen to him. In result, it only proved to be hopeless as the boy possessed far more qualities of his mother than his father’s. Defiance and misplaced bravery which forced Luke to jump into the air shaft and escape from Vader. He spent months looking for the boy and his friends, growing irritable as more time passed with no results. Nothing else mattered to Vader, not even the rebels. 

 

“No,” Palpatine hissed. “I do not sense anything from the young Skywalker. There’s a new… far more inexperienced presence in the Force.”

 

Vader was not concerned when he had far more pressing matters to focus on. Finding Luke was his top priority. Ensuring that the second Death Star was nearing its completion was his second, followed after the Emperor’s order. 

 

“Whoever it is… they’re strong in the Force,” Palpatine continued, noticing Vader’s lack of concern. “You must find them.”

 

Vader gritted his teeth but remained motionless on the floor. “Yes, master.”

 

“Good,” Palpatine’s image flickered. “Ensure they’re found soon. I’ll be waiting for your report, Lord Vader.”

 

The image flickered one more time and then disappeared, leaving Vader kneeling on the floor in the darkness of his quarters aboard the Executor . He remained staring at the far wall, clenching and unclenching his fists as he tried to regain his composure. He didn’t care about Palpatine’s irrational concerns of an unknown presence in the Force which could as well prove to be pointless. There were countless Force-sensitives that were hunted by the Emperor’s enforcers and used for his own gains. Vader was almost positive this was another one of those instances, which proved to be another annoyance to Vader’s plans of searching for Luke. 

 

The Emperor was foiling Vader’s own attempts at finding the young Skywalker. The rift between the Emperor and Vader could not be felt more than it was in those moments when the two conversed about Luke. Vader was running out of time— he had to find Luke and turn him to the Dark Side before Palpatine did the same and turned the boy against his own father.

 

Fine .

 

He’ll search for the cause of Palpatine’s panic. He’ll find them and he’ll destroy them. And then he’ll be back on track of searching for Luke. 

 

This won’t take long.

 

He had his ways to find his prey.