When Darth Vader awoke, the red tint of his helmet lenses was gone. He could see and feel brilliant white light all around him. It was warm and inviting. He rose, catching a shocking glimpse of his hands; his pink, fleshy hands. Gone were the mechanical digits he had grown accustom to. They quickly went to his face, and did not feel the cold, hard edges of his fearsome helmet, but of more flesh. His face was uncovered. A brief moment of panic set over him as he took in a deep, unassisted breath with his own lungs, not the iron machines that breathed for him. His clothing was layered black and brown robes. His hands ran up to the top of his head and felt hair.
“What sorcery is this? Am I dead?”
His voice, for the first time in many years, was his own rather than the modulated growling of his helmet.
“Hello?” He yelled. “Is anyone here? Lieutenant Seeda? Captain Vario? Krest?”
In every direction around him was a wash of opalescent white with no horizon. He was not floating, but he also could not make out what he stood on. He scanned as far as he could see for a point of reference, but could find none. Whatever he was treading on felt solid, so he walked. After a few dozen steps, a feeling washed over him. The Force was pulling at him from multiple directions but he could not detect its meaning. It was very strong here, unlike anything he’d ever felt. He tried to reach through it and sort out the source, to search for others, but none could be found.
“I must be dead.”
No, Chosen One, you are not dead. The same voice from the cavern rolled through his head. You are safe within the Vault of the Whills.
He looked around but could not find where the voice was coming from. He sat cross-legged and closed his eyes, focusing on the voice.
“Reveal yourself. Why do you hide?”
We do not hide from you, Chosen One. We are here if you would only see us.
“Enough games! Show yourself!”
He opened his eyes and before him was an even brighter orb of light, shimmering and turning. “What manner of creature are you?”
We are not creatures. We are the watchers of all who are strong with the Force in the universe, both light and dark, and those between. My cousins and I have been waiting for you, Chosen One. The shimmering ball expanded into a humanoid female form in a black robe, wearing a broad white mask showing a blank expression. Her two-toed feet hovered above the surface.
“Is it you who spoke to me in the tunnels? What do you want of me? Why do I appear in this form?”
So many questions. In this realm, all appear in their true form before the Force. Here, you appear as the Jedi Knight and General Anakin Skywalker.
“Anakin Skywalker is dead. I am Darth Vader.”
A lie you perpetuate to yourself. The beast is you, and you are the beast. Try as you might, you cannot escape the destiny set before you, Chosen One. To fulfill your destiny, you must know yourself—your true self. That is why you appear in this form. Your true self is Anakin Skywalker.
“You speak in lies and riddles.” He reached down to his waist, but the familiar hilt of his lightsaber was gone. “Why am I here?”
The Watcher’s form glowed brighter, then split into another visage, though the mask of this one appeared angry. She moved down within inches of his face and yelled.
Cousin, this one would strike us down for speaking the truth to him! He is not worthy to possess what he desires! Expel him immediately!
“You do not know what I desire, fiend!” He yelled back. “Tell me who you are and why I am here!”
I am Serenity, and this is my dear cousin, Anger. We appear to you because we are the emotional instruments you live by. You are driven by your anger, but you seek the serenity of love and family. Search your feelings. You know this to be true. You seek the serenity of a life with the one called Padme Amidala. You seek to restore her from her place in the cosmic force.
Vader was stunned. This being had reached into his innermost recesses of suppressed thought and extracted what he wanted most; to leave the Empire and the Emperor behind and live out his days in peace with Padme at his side. How could she know this much? He stood up to plead his case.
“If you know these things then you must know how I can bring her back! You must tell me! How can I bring her back?!?”
Anger moved up into his face again. Foolish boy! She is now one with the Cosmic Force. She cannot return! The one known as Sidious has fooled you. He, too, visited us with the one known as Plagueis asking the same questions. Life. Death. Immortality. The Cosmic Force is all-powerful! Seeking to control it is folly!
In his heart, Vader knew she was right. He could feel anger rising inside him. He didn’t know if he was furious with the visage of Anger for saying these things, or with himself for being fooled. Within those same hidden recesses of his mind, he’s known all along Padme could never be returned to him. A single tear rolled down to his trembling lip. The anger welling inside him was about to boil over.
“Tell me how I can bring her back!”
He reached up, extending his hand at Anger and feeling for her air way. He would choke the answer from behind her treacherous mask. He felt within her neck piece, searching for her throat, but found… nothing. Suddenly, her robe collapsed to the ground and her mask tumbled down within it, coming to rest in a neat pile and leaving behind her violently flashing orb. Anger let out a maniacal laugh and shot toward him, smashing into his chest, knocking him down and stealing the air from his lungs.
Foolish boy! You have been deceived! Bringing her back is a fool’s errand! The orb of Anger disappeared. Serenity still hovered before him as he regained his footing, coughing and choking to recover his breath. He then fell to his knees, seeing no other avenue than to beg for her mercy.
“Please, I beg of you, please return her to me. Please!”
It is not within our power to interfere with the destiny of others. As is my purpose for being, I am compelled to help those within the Living Force that seek it find serenity, and alas, you are the Chosen One. You are destined to bring balance to the Living Force. I will help you, but be warned, Anakin Skywalker. What you seek—the possessions of the one known as Darth Plagueis—carry a great darkness with them. A darkness that, if uncontrolled, will create a wound in the Force not easily healed. Your actions will have a ripple effect that cannot be stopped. The ancient one known as Nihilus sought this ability, and nearly succeeded, though the results were disastrous. These artifacts became interred in this vault for a reason. Once removed, their darkness will consume you. Do you accept this great and terrible responsibility?
“Yes! Yes, anything… just please show me how to bring her back.” He collapsed in sobs of anguish. The realization of all the evils he had done washed over him in an instant. Killing his fellow Jedi, the Younglings, all the incalculable deaths across the galaxy credited to him came crashing down on his shoulders. “Please… I’ll do anything…”
Very well. And in another brilliant flash of light, the visage of Serenity was gone.
Darth Vader awoke in the main hall behind the altar of the Temple of the Kyber with his face pushed into the ground. His right eye could see clearly the dirt and rubble of the temple floor. In his left eye returned the familiar red hue of his lenses with a diagnostic readout running. Then the labored, mechanized breathing apparatus heaved him to life. Pushing himself up from the floor, he could see his hands were once again machine parts and tattered black gloves. Around him was a nearly shredded black cloak, covered in burns and rips.
He looked to his left to see stirring both Captain Krest and Vario. Their uniforms were also in tatters as they regained their composure. Seeing Vader’s condition, they rushed to his side to defend while he recovered, but they were both injured as well. Behind them, lying face-down, was Lieutenant Seeda. Vader reached to him through the Force and felt a heartbeat, but he also sensed something else. Walking over, he used the Force to roll over Seeda and beneath him was a small wooden box. In the top was a gold inlay of a Borzûm. He pulled the box to him through the air and opened it. Finally, he held in his hands what he long desired. Finally, there was a chance to save Padme.
A chance for him to once again experience… serenity.
Seeda awoke, groggy and injured as well. He barely got to his feet when his communicator started blaring that a shuttle was en route for Lord Vader. He looked over to the opening where they entered the tunnels. It was filled with rubble and rock. He had no idea how they got out of there before it collapsed. Vader sensed Seeda’s confusion.
“Do not ask questions there are no answers to. Saw Gerrera is dead and we have the Emperor’s prize. You have done well, Captain Seeda,” Vader said through a cracked and damaged face shield. Seeda tried not to stare, but Vader’s right eye was exposed. He could clearly see the red and orange striations of his iris surrounded by the scarred and pale gray skin of his face. He looked down to see the Borzûm box in Vader’s hands. With all that was running through his mind, it was difficult to focus on the fact he just received a battlefield promotion from Darth Vader, himself.
The injured Vader and his party emerged at the top of the Temple steps where the remaining Lancers that were not buried in the tunnels secured a wide area where a shuttle was now landing. “You will return to the Dauntless by ground transport. See to your injuries, then send your mission report directly to my shuttle. These artifacts are precious to the Emperor. I leave at once for Coruscant with our spoils. He commands, and I must obey.”
In a flourish of ragged black robes, Lord Vader turned and limped up as the ramp hissed closed behind him.
Seeda looked on as the shuttle climbed through the atmosphere and disappeared behind the clouds, watching until it was well beyond his sight.
“When I get back, I must remember to tell Commander Junus about this. He’ll be upset he missed attempt number eighty-nine.”
Next time in Star Wars: Lifeboat!
Captured! The crew aboard the Emperor’s shuttle finds themselves in the clutches of the bounty hunter Gekko. They’ll have to bargain for their freedom if they are to proceed with their mission to find the missing journal of Darth Plagueis and the kidnapped son of Captain Inda Krest!
Go back and check out Lifeboat from the beginning with Part I here!
To learn more about Star Wars, visit the official website at www.starwars.com. May the Fourth, and the Force, be with you!
The preceding is a work of fan fiction based upon and utilizing locations, characters, and/or plot points from the Star Wars universe, originally created by George Lucas and trademarked to Lucasfilm, Ltd. The author makes no claim whatsoever of ownership of the Star Wars name, characters represented, or the Star Wars universe generally. This work is created of the author’s own imagination and is intended for entertainment purposes only. It does not purport to be an “official” Star Wars story or part of existing Star Wars canon in any way. The author is not profiting financially in any way as the result of the creation or publication of this piece of fan fiction.