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Hostage

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Just a few weeks ago, Empire Day had been celebrated across the galaxy. He knew his father detested that holiday but a special effort was always made for Luke because he had the bad luck of sharing his birthday with the Empire. Bail always said it was a blessing and that he was reminded that not everything had been lost that day. A light also came into the galaxy, and he could at least think of Luke when forced to watch the Empire Day’s parade fireworks.

Luke knew his father hated the Empire, and the Emperor especially, who ruled through fear and his vast fleet; bombarding planets into submission at the slightest resistance and annihilating entire species to further his expansion or to simply please his whims. He had the entire Jedi Order wiped out. In its place he installed his own dark disciples, the Inquisitors, and rounded up and killed Force sensitive beings. And not to forget his worst servant. The dark shadow he had at his heels ready to send out when and where he pleased: Darth Vader, the Second in Command and the Supreme Leader of the Imperial Forces. Whenever Luke’s father gave him classified reports about the Empire’s atrocities they usually sported Vader’s name on top of them.

Alderaan was a peaceful planet, the only non-civilians were the royal guard dedicated to the security of the royal family. And of course the gray behemoth of a building planted in Aldera's center, the Imperial garrison. Bail had seethed when he returned from Coruscant to tell Luke and Breha that the Emperor had decreed its installation. Officially it was to increase the sector’s security and protect the people of Alderaan. In truth, it was Bail’s punishment for strongly opposing a new legislation granting vast authority to Imperial officers, protecting them from law enforcement and even granting them rights to ‘pressure’ beings if it was deemed necessary to keep the peace. Which translated to them being allowed to torture whom they wished and being protected from the law when doing so.

The garrison had been built and the Imperial presence had increased. Sometimes Luke wondered if his father wasn’t deeper involved in some organized resistance. But just like him, the Emperor couldn’t prove it. Alderaan kept its status and the Organas were still highly regarded in the eyes of their people, fellow royalty and planetary leaders across the Core and Mid Rim. This status protected them; their greatest asset, his father always said. Without it they would suffer the same fate of smaller and less important planets on which Imperial rule ran heavy.

“Your Highness?”

A voice startled Luke from his musings. His tutor looked at him sternly. “Excuse me, I was… in my thoughts.”

“That is quite all right, Your Highness,” his tutor said, sounding like it wasn’t all right. “But please turn your focus now to your studies. As I said, the Rim colonization…”

But he didn’t get any further than that. Heated voices through the closed door made both look in that direction. Disjointed pieces of conversation drifted through.

“…cannot allow you to ent…”

“…tep aside, or…”

Luke frowned and stood half up as the door opened, revealing two palace guards trying to keep a bunch of Imperial Stormtroopers from entering the room – with little success. Two shots rang out and the guards slumped to the floor, stunned. His tutor's shocked expression mimicked Luke’s own, but he moved to intercept the officer that entered and whose eyes were locked on Luke.

“You are not allowed to…”

“Step aside,” the officer sneered. His tutor refused to budge. Behind the officer the stormtroopers approached.

“May I enquire what…” his tutor began again only to be roughly shoved out of the way.

“You may not,” the officer said, his eyes not leaving Luke for a second. “Your Highness, you are required to come with us.” A politely dressed demand. Luke clenched his teeth.

“For what matter?” he asked, trying to draw on all his diplomacy skills to hide the creeping fear and anger in his stomach.

“My superior will explain to you in great detail, Prince,” the officer answered, measuring him up with his eyes. “Now, if you would follow me.”

“Prince Luke will remain where he is. You have no right to enter the palace, much less to shoot His Highness’s escort and… ufff.” His tutor broke off as one of the troopers’ armored fist buried itself in his gut and he doubled over. The officer sneered at Luke’s shock.

“Leave him alone,” Luke hissed.

“Of course. If you would please come then, Your Highness.” Two troopers approached, each placing a hand on his shoulders to march him away. Luke shook them off indignantly, stepping forward.

“I will,” he replied stiffly.

“Good, this way, Highness.” The officer went out of the room and Luke was ushered out by the troopers, who didn’t try to seize him again but kept close enough to grab him. He had no choice but to follow the officer past the stunned guards. His tutor followed behind. Luke shared a quick worried gaze with him and was relieved when he fell behind and was dissuaded from accompanying them to wherever they were going.

It soon became clear that they were heading for the main wing of the palace and that these Imperials were not the only ones who had intruded into their peaceful home. Crowding their path were an inordinate amount of white armored stormtroopers and officers in dull grey uniform, keeping any palace guards from coming to Luke’s help.

Soon they reached the wide open double doors into the main reception hall. Luke’s father and mother, Bail and Breha Organa, were surrounded by many more Imperials. But Luke’s eyes were caught by someone else. Facing them was the black nightmare of the galaxy. Like a cancerous spot in the soft pastel surroundings, the dark imposing form of Lord Vader stood, his black cape falling to the floor. His leather gloved finger was raised at his father, who looked livid - angrier than Luke had ever seen his usually composed father. Next to Vader stood Alderaan’s portly governor, an Imperial puppet appointed to exercise control and spy on them.

At Luke’s entrance Vader’s mask turned to him a little. “Ah, so this is the young prince.” His deep voice sounded even more menacing live than it had on recordings or the HoloNet. It made Luke’s hair stand on end.

“Yes, my Lord,” the officer that had dragged him here answered. 

The governor’s cold eyes fixed on Luke. “Yes, my Lord, I can confirm his identity,” he drawled.

Vader turned to face him fully and Luke had to force himself not to step back. He straightened his back and raised his head defiantly, meeting the masked gaze. “I see,” Vader said curtly. “Very well, you will accompany me, Prince Luke.”

“He will remain here,” Bail shouted, causing Vader to turn back to him. Luke’s mind spun, what did he mean… accompany? He would never go anywhere with that monster.

“The Emperor is most displeased with your increasing insolence, Viceroy. I did not think you even capable of openly supporting the insurgency, harboring known traitors and raising discord in the Senate.”

“You have no proof for any of your…”

“I would advise you to carefully consider that from now on your actions will have direct consequences for the prince.”

Luke felt the color drain from his face, the situation catching up to him. Vader wanted to take him and coerce his father to comply with their twisted plans. He stiffened, catching his mother’s worried gaze.

“… he will remain exactly here, in the palace.”

“You need not worry, Viceroy. He will be treated well and with the respect due to his title. As long as you consider your steps and your loyalty to the Emperor cannot be doubted again.”

Bail took a step toward Luke, prompting two troopers to raise their blasters at him. He stopped and looked at Vader, face red with anger but his voice betrayed fear. “You have no right to take my son…”

“That is where you are mistaken, Viceroy.”

“I will not come with you,” Luke threw in, finally catching his voice and tensing up, ready to fight.

“Silence, boy,” Vader’s finger shot up, pointing at him. “It would be best to convince your father that your presence aboard my ship is enough to ensure his compliance. It would be most unfortunate if your mother was required to come as well.”

“No!” Luke burst out.

“I will! Instead of Luke,” Breha said quickly, stepping forward, but Luke shook his head.

“A generous offer, my Lady,” Vader said, radiating cruel amusement. “But I feel your place is at your husband’s side. When the Viceroy feels the need to disturb the peace again, you should remind him of the fate that awaits your son.”

Bail moved closer to Vader, his expression imploring now. “No, please. I… take me, instead of him. I’ll…”

“Enough of this, Viceroy,” Vader hissed. “For your sake and your son’s, begin undoing the damage you have done. Leaders in several systems have openly declared their agreement with your sentiments. You will help keep the peace that you have so willfully endangered. I suggest you begin with assisting the governor in rounding up the dissidents rallying in Castanta.”

With that, Vader stalked over to Luke, who could only gape. He stumbled backward but couldn’t avoid Vader’s hand wrapping around his bicep. 

“Father…” he called, trying to reach for his parents.

Bail and Breha both tried to get to him but more troopers crowded in to keep them apart. Vader strode off, dragging Luke with him. Luke struggled against his grip but it was strong as durasteel. He twisted around and managed to catch a last glimpse of his parents’ faces, both terrified for him, before he was whisked around a corner. He struggled to match Vader’s huge strides and was relieved when Vader let go of him. 

“Walk, Prince, or I will make you,” Vader growled. 

Luke scowled but fell into step behind Vader. Surrounded by so many Imperials he had no option but to comply.

His mind was spinning as he was marched through the palace and out into the courtyard where a gleaming shuttle sat. Usually Luke would be thrilled to see one up close. Luke had a great passion for space ships and piloting. He had pleaded with his father countless times that he didn’t want to be a prince, and would rather just fly, until he had accepted that his position was too important to waste.

Now he balked at the sight of the shuttle. Vader was serious.

“Bring him,” the dark voice ordered at his resistance. Two stormtroopers grabbed him and shoved him on, not letting go this time when he tried to shake them off. He was pushed after Vader, up the boarding ramp and into the passenger compartment. He was ordered to sit down. Luke crossed his arms instead.

“Where are you taking me?” he demanded, all his royal displeasure gathered in his voice. His seething eyes were set on Vader, who had his back on to him.

“Sit down, Your Highness,” Vader’s voice was a low growl as he turned to him. “Follow the instructions given and you can expect to be treated well.”

“I will not be a pawn in your game,” Luke snarled back. Before he could register the movement Vader lashed out, soundly backhanding him. Luke gasped in pain. A gloved hand grasped his chin, tilting his head up and forcing him to look at the impassive mask uncomfortably close to his face. Vader's ominous breathing sounded much louder in the shuttle's confined space and it chilled Luke to the core.

“You should take care, Prince. You will be my guest for the foreseeable future, and whether you spend that time in a cell or in more comfortable quarters depends on you. Do you understand?”

The grip tightened painfully until Luke ground out. “Yes.”

“Good. From now on you will be more respectful.” Vader let go of his chin and stalked into the cockpit. Luke balled his trembling hands but complied when a firm request was made to sit down. Soon the shuttle’s repulsors activated and they blasted away from Alderaan, a cold knot of dread rooting deep inside of him.

The shuttle ride was short, Vader’s Star Destroyer must have been in orbit. With creaking landing struts they docked. The shuttle’s boarding ramp hissed open, fumes and smoke filled the hangar beyond. Vader walked past him down the ramp, disregarding him completely. Then Luke was asked to stand and follow. He grudgingly obeyed.

The fumes cleared, revealing a sleek hangar filled with rows upon rows of stormtroopers and other Imperials standing at attention to greet their commander. What a pointless show of force, Luke thought. He followed a few steps behind Vader, two troopers again at his heels.

He tried to put on a mask of being unfazed but he was painfully aware of his burning face, surely still bright red where Vader had hit him. Regardless, he was a prince and he wouldn’t let himself be cowed by that man. He needed to be strong for his father. So he held his back straight and made a face of supreme distaste and irritation.

At the end of the parallel lines of stormtroopers, Vader stopped and stood before the two senior officers. An admiral and a captain, Luke recognized the rank plates. The admiral regarded him with open curiosity and disdain, a small sneer playing around his lips. The captain was also considering him with interest, but radiated more wariness.

“Admiral,” Vader addressed the man who snapped his attention away from Luke and to his commander. “Have the ship rejoin the fleet.”

“Yes, my Lord,” the man saluted, waving sharply at another officer to relay the order.

“Captain,” Vader turned to the other officer. “Escort the prince to his quarters.” Vader barely waited for the captain to acknowledge his order before he strode away with the admiral. The captain looked at Luke.

“This way, Your Highness,” he gestured to another hangar exit and when Luke didn’t reply he nodded to the troopers behind Luke. He reluctantly moved, it wouldn’t do him any good to be dragged there kicking and screaming. The captain seemed satisfied as he turned and marched out of the hangar. Luke followed, the troopers close behind.

After a few turbolift rides and quite a walking distance, Luke was brought to a door. The captain keyed it open and gestured to him. “Enter, Highness.” Luke bit his lip but did as he was told. The captain followed him in with the troopers.

“Search him,” the captain ordered. Before Luke could protest he was roughly patted down and his comlink was confiscated. “You will be confined to these quarters for the time being,” the captain addressed him, his eyes communicating reservation but also alertness. “Though you should keep in mind that, should you choose to be uncooperative, there are other facilities aboard to contain you.”

Luke glared and bit back a rather unprincely retort. He raised his chin and gave a small courteous nod.

“Well, make yourself at home, Prince,” the captain said, leaving the quarters with the troopers in tow. The door whooshed shut and Luke heard the lock click. He stared at it for a long moment and then closed his eyes, briefly giving into the mounting despair he felt. 

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From the moment Captain Piett had laid eyes on Vader's newest political hostage he had swallowed his scorn. The Prince of Alderaan was a boy really; slight, small and painfully young. Poor kid, Piett thought privately. He supposed the boy couldn’t be held accountable for his father's obnoxious pacifist ways. The Viceroy seemed to think peace just happened. Piett knew better. Peace had to be fought for, maintained and defended against those who wished to disturb it. Organa was endangering the peace that Piett and every other officer in the navy was striving for, often paying for it with their lives.

The boy was escorted down the aisle after Vader, his white robes hugging his slight frame. He held himself upright and eyed the assembly around him with deliberate arrogance. But when he came closer Piett could see the beginnings of a bruise forming on his cheek, indicating that the young prince had not come quietly - or at least not quietly enough for Lord Vader's taste.

Beside him he heard Admiral Ozzel huff disparagingly, but Piett forced himself not to mock the boy. He was young, but Piett was sure that wouldn’t stop Vader from punishing the prince for his father’s every misstep. 

Making hostages of opponents’ children was distasteful and against Piett’s sense of honor, but orders had to be followed. And if the Emperor and Lord Vader decreed the prince be detained to stop his idiot father’s dangerous behavior, it was not his place to question it. He forced his attention back to his commander, who ordered the admiral to return the Executor to the fleet. Lord Vader then put Piett in charge of the young prince before striding off without looking at the boy again. The prince fixed Piett with piercing blue eyes. Piett took a deep breath. “This way, Your Highness.”

When the boy didn’t move Piett thought it best to avoid a scene and gestured to the troopers flanking the boy. If His Royalness chose to throw a tantrum in the crowded hangar he'd be forced to punish him, something Piett really didn't want to do. Luckily for the prince, he seemed to accept that he would gain nothing from lashing out. Piett led the way to the guest quarters prepared for the hostage. They had been fitted with reinforced security doors and all means of communication had been disabled.

After the prince entered Piett had him searched and took his comlink. Whoever had arrested the boy should’ve done it already, he thought. In proximity he was even more aware of the boy’s youth. He couldn't be of age. But he held himself well. Piett had seen seasoned officers cowering at being the center of Lord Vader’s attention. This young prince had tried to keep his nerves together. He spared a moment to caution his young charge on the consequences of undesirable behavior. Letting the words sink in, he left the boy to himself.

He ordered the guards posted to use non-lethal means in the event of an escape attempt and let his feet carry him to the officer’s lounge, his shift over with the prince’s delivery. He fell into one of the cozy armchairs and clutched his drink, intent to purge the boy from his mind. However, his attempt at some much-needed relaxation was quickly disturbed.

“Ah, Firmus,” someone said behind him. He turned to see General Veers. “Heard you are chaperoning that royal brat?”

Piett shrugged, unwilling to discuss the boy. But General Veers was not one to give up easily. He flopped into the chair across from the captain, who regarded him wearily.

“So, what’s he like?”

Piett breathed deep. “Young…” he said, hearing his own voice sound less than happy.

The general nodded. “That he is,” he agreed.

“How would you know?” Piett frowned.

“He’s royalty, not like he has much of a private life.”

“Well, General. I never took you for one to read royal gossip,” Piett bestowed the general a small smile.

“Bantha shit, I looked him up. Research, Captain. There is lots about him on the HoloNet. They are treated like celebrities, his idiot parents and the kid. He’s been dragged in front of holocams since he could walk.” Veers grinned.

Piett nodded. It made sense. The Organas were extremely popular, and not just on their home planet. “So what did you find out about him? He can’t be of age, can he?” Piett asked.

“He’s not,” the general confirmed. “He recently turned sixteen.”

Piett raised his eyebrows. Even younger than he had thought.

“Well, he won’t get much older, if his father doesn't do a turnabout,” the general huffed. Piett gave him a displeased look. “Well, that’s how it is, isn't it?” Veers said defensively.

“I think…” Piett broke off, not letting himself voice his sentiments. Empathy for the enemy was treason. “I just don't like putting someone so young in such a position.”

Veers nodded. “If you ask me, he should be sent to Carida. Make a proper soldier of him, show him how the galaxy works. That would be right in the face of his pacifist father…”

The general continued to ramble on and Piett zoned out, sipping his drink. His attempts to forget about the young prince sitting alone in his quarters a couple decks above had well and truly failed.

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