Return of the New Blood
By Michael Weyer
Apologies for the long delay, a bit of a block but with the saga coming to Blu-Ray, feeling more inspired to finally close it out.
After times on Tatooine, Hoth and other severe weather planets, Xander had to admit Endor wasn’t too bad. The cool air carried along a light wind through the forest clearing where the Rebel squad was hanging back. Mara was sitting cross-legged on the ground, seemingly unperturbed by the guns aimed in her direction. Han seemed nonchalant leaning on a log but Xander knew him well enough to know that the man was ready for action at a second’s notice. Artoo was moving his head around in slow circles when it stopped and he let out a whistle. “Artoo reports movement coming our way,” Threepio translated.
Proving Xander right, Han instantly was pulling out his blaster and alert. Chewbacca joined him with his bowcaster as rustling could be heard nearby. Everyone aimed at the section of forest it was coming from before Luke popped out, sitting down on the grass to take some deep breaths. Han lowered his gun as he sauntered up, smiling. “Rough day, kid?”
Luke smiled back, hoping once more that Han’s brand of dark humor in the face of adversity would never die out. “Wait till we get to the generator.”
Han looked behind him. “Where’s Buffy and Leia?”
Luke’s smile vanished. “They’re not here?”
“I thought they were with you,” Han pressed.
Luke shook his head as he stood up. “We got separated. We have to look for them.”
Han nodded. “Xander, Chewie, with me.” He turned to one of the soldiers. “Keep your heads low, find cover, rendezvous at the shield generator at 0800.” The man nodded as Han’s eyes fell on Mara. He bit his lip before nodding toward her. “She’s coming with us.”
“Excuse me?” she blurted, not happy about that.
“I’m more comfortable keeping an eye on you than leaving you here,” Han said. “And there’s no choice for you, Red, you’re going.”
A look at Chewbacca’s face convinced Mara to keep her mouth shut as she got up and reluctantly followed the group through the underbrush and into the forest.
It was a long hike, the sun starting to move toward setting as they walked through the forest paths. Han was in the lead, Luke behind with Artoo scanning the area. Xander brought up the rear, making sure Mara stayed ahead. Once again, the young man wanted to say something, anything but once again held his tongue, really not sure of what to say to someone who had broken his heart like this. His musings were cut off by Artoo’s whistling. “He says he’s found something by that tree,” Threepio said, pointing to a burned trunk nearby.
Han and Luke quickly raced to the area, looking down at the remains of a speeder bike along with the armored bits of what had been its pilot. Nearby was a familiar-looking helmet which Luke held up. “Buffy’s,” he whispered.
Han bit his lip. “They’d better be all right.”
Xander glanced at Mara and was surprised to see what looked like actual concern on her face. She quickly covered but he knew it had been there. Chewbacca lifted up his head, his nose twitching. He let out a bark as he began running off. “Chewie, what is it?” Han asked as he followed. “What do you smell?”
The Wookie ignored him, moving into the brush. The others came up as he found himself staring at the carcass of some animal placed atop a large tree branch. “What?” Han asked, not getting it. “Chewie, it’s just a dead animal.”
Luke looked down at the ground, noting how the leaves seemed so much heavier in this area. His eyes widened as he realized what this was, moving fast. “Chewie, wait, don’t------“
It was too late as Chewbacca grabbed the meat, pulling at it and yanking the stick to the side. A series of whipping sounds echoed as various ropes began to strain and yank. With a whipping sound, a thick net sprang up from the leaves under their feet, wrapping around the group and pulling them into the air in a loud smashing of bodies and yells.
“Great…just….great, Chewie!” Han finally gasped out. “Always thinking with your stomach!”
“Unbelievable,” Mara muttered. “Oldest trap in the galaxy and you idiots wander right into it!”
“I notice you’re in it with us, lady!” Han snapped.
“Okay, calm down,” Luke said, one arm sticking out of the net. “Han, can you reach my lightsaber?”
“Sure…one sec…” Han grunted as he reached out, trying to pull the net closer to get at Luke. Xander yelped as he was pressed against Threepio, feeling his cheek crushed on the droid’s back. “Will you move?”
“This is hardly ideal for me, either!” the droid fired back. There was simply no protocol for a situation like this.
Amid the arguing, Artoo opened a panel in his body and extended a small buzzsaw that began cutting through the ropes. He moved it side to side, slicing through the strands. Hearing it, Threepio looked down to see what his counterpart was doing. “Artoo, I don’t really think that’s a good idea. It’s a very long drop------“
He was too late as the last strand cut and the net opened to deposit everyone on the ground in a large and painful heap. The sound of painful moans echoed as they all recovered. Mara, in particular, was hard hit as Chewbacca had landed right on top of her. Whether planned or not, Xander couldn’t help but get a bit of pleasure out of the sight, followed by an odd shot of pain.
He was distracted by movement and stared in disbelief as a couple dozen small bear-like creatures rose from the brush, all wearing hoods and jerkins with various spears and bows with arrows aimed at the group. “Holy shit, we’re surrounded by the Care Bears.”
Luke and Han were also taken aback at the appearance of the Ewoks, Han chuckling until one stuck a spear into his face. “Hey, watch it!” he snapped, reaching for his blaster.
“Han, wait,” Luke said, putting a hand to stop him. “Take it easy.” He slowly pulled his lightsaber up and handed it over to one Ewok, who studied it in curiosity. “Go on, give them your weapons. Chewie, hand your bowcaster over.”
The Wookie growled but agreed as Han reluctantly passed his blaster over. “Hope you know what we’re doing,” Xander remarked as he gave up his gun. “Of course, that would be breaking our usual routine.”
Mara glared at one the Ewoks as she called out. “Hey, talkdroid, any chance we can get a translation for these things?”
“Oooooh, my head,” Threepio moaned as he sat up.
“Wow, I’m so reminded of Giles now,” Xander couldn’t help remarking.
At the sight of the golden form, the Ewoks let out a collective gasp before dropping to their knees. They began making bowing moves and starting what sounded like a chant, arms reaching toward Threepio.
“Okay, not so much now,” Xander continued. “Well, unless he’s attending some weirdo tea function.”
Threepio appeared as startled as everyone else by this display. He began uttering a series of chirping sounds that the Ewoks quickly answered, conversing for a few moments. “Do you understand them?” Luke asked.
“So help me, if you start with that fluent in six million languages thing…” Mara threatened and for once Han was agreeing with her. “What are you telling them?”
“Hello, I think,” Threepio said. “It’s a rather primitive dialect but easily understandable. These Ewoks seem to believe I’m some sort of…god.”
Artoo and Chewbacca found that extremely funny. The droid let out a series of whistles and Chewbacca roared with laughter, even wiping a tear from his eye. Han rolled his eyes before forcing a smile. “Well, why don’t you use your divine influence and get us out of this?” he hissed.
“I’m sorry, General Solo but that wouldn’t be proper.”
“Proper?” Han repeated, his eyes wide. He’d always known this pompous droid would push him too far one day and this just might be it.
“It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity,” Threepio responded as if it was obvious.
Han moved forward. “No problem, I’ll just open you up and do a little field modification…”
The Ewoks moved in with spears and bows aimed, not happy about their god being talked to in such a way. Getting the message, Han raised his hands. “Hey, it’s okay, he’s a friend of mine.”
Somehow, Xander suspected that explanation wasn’t going to go over well with their new captors.
“I can’t believe this,” Xander muttered. “Four years out of Sunnydale and this is still happening to me!”
He was in the same situation as the rest of the Rebels, hanging from a large pole with his hands and feet bound tightly to the wood. In what had to be a record, the Ewoks had created a chair for Threepio to carry the droid on their shoulders. Eat your heart out, Bob Villa.
The Ewoks were carrying them to a larger set of trees, passing several scouting parties and sentries. They soon caught sight of the massive village, huts filling the trees with elevators and wooden bridges connecting them. Dusk had fallen with torches lit around as the group was led up via an elevator and then a set of vines to the uppermost level of the village. As they were carried about, Ewoks stared in wonder, some with suspicion, mothers grabbing their children to race them to safety. Some Ewoks picked up spears to follow the procession up a long winding staircase until they finally came to the largest platform.
The center was a pit with various small spots set up for seating and what appeared to be some sort of pit in the middle. “This doesn’t look good,” Han muttered as they were set down upon waiting holders to keep them suspended. Artoo, tightly wrapped in his own bearer, was stood up not happy about the way the Ewoks were prodding him with spears. Threepio was placed at the height of the circle, a place of honor.
The muttering of the creatures died down as two figures exited the large hut before them. One had gray striped fur with a horned half-skull of some animal draped over his head, feathers sticking out from it. A stone hatchet was held in his hands as he walked with a bit of a swagger. The other was older, his fur a dark tan, wearing his own half-skull of a bird creature, a pouch wrapped around his side and held a staff topped by what looked like a spinal column draped at the top. The other Ewoks moved back in deference as these newcomers approached.
The first moved to study the prisoners, pressing his axe at Artoo, the droid letting a sharp whistle out in response. The leader of the Ewok group moved up to argue with the other Ewok, waving a hand at the prisoners, indicating he was sympathetic toward them. The figure then moved to study Chewbacca, the Wookie growling at his approach. “Easy, Chewie,” Han warned. “He must be the head honcho.”
“Actually, Captain Solo,” Threepio clarified. “From what I gather, Logray, here, is the medicine man.” He nodded toward the other Ewok with the staff. “That is Chief Chirpa, the leader of this tribe.”
“Good, we know who to exchange Christmas cards with,” Xander remarked.
Logray continued to study them, stroking their clothing and moving back to Artoo. He whacked the axe onto the droid’s head, causing him to squeal out. A panel opened to spark an electrode at the Ewok, causing him to jump back. He turned to Chirpa, the two exchanging some words with various gestures at the captives.
“I know I’m not the popular sort here,” Mara called out. “But maybe the droid should plead our case?”
“For once, Jade’s got the right idea,” Han agreed. “Get to talking, Goldenrod.”
Threepio began conversing with the Ewok leaders as others began to pile wooden branches into the pit. “Oh, I have a very bad feeling about this,” Xander moaned.
“Oh, dear,” Threepio announced. “I’m rather embarrassed to say it, General Solo but I’m afraid you are to be the main course in a banquet in my honor.” He paused to listen. “Oh, and Artoo is to be broken down into spare parts for scrap.” The other droid let out a sharp whistle. “Well, don’t yell at me, that’s how they put it.” Artoo whistled again and Threepio brought himself up. “That’s no way to talk to someone in my position.”
“Can’t you talk them out of this?” Xander demanded. “You’re their god, remember?”
“That wouldn’t be quite proper, Master Xander. The Chief would be greatly offended if I refused such an honor.”
Han craned his head toward Luke. “Time to finally get undiplomatic?”
“Always time for that.”
“Only if you’re captured by vegetarians.”
Han’s musings of deicide were interrupted as three more figures came out of the hut. All were female and all instantly familiar to one member of the captives. “Hey, Buff, great to-----“ Xander stopped and stared at the woman behind her. “Faith?! What…how the hell did you get here?!”
“Nice to see you too, Xan-Man,” Faith smiled as she moved to them. She was clad in her usual leather pants and jacket while Buffy and Leia were wearing nice brown dresses, Leia’s hair let down long around her. Faith looked at Mara and raised an eyebrow. “You must be Jade. B was telling me about you.” She let out a punch that smashed Mara’s head back with a loud yell. “That’s for the Xan-Man.”
“Yeah, it’s you, all right,” Xander had to chuckle.
Leia moved to Threepio. “Threepio, tell them this is a mistake, these are my friends.”
“And seriously, cook them?” Buffy added. “Come on, these guys are just too cute to be cannibals.”
“Technically, to them, we would be just another animal,” Luke couldn’t help pointing out.
“Leia, stay back,” Han warned. “I don’t want you ending up on the buffet table too.”
Threepio talked to Chirpa, who shook his head. “I apologize but it appears he is most insistent on this.”
“Threepio,” Luke said. “Tell them that if they don’t do what you say, you’ll get angry and use your magic.”
Buffy saw his look and smiled. “Riiiight, got it.”
“Magic?” Threepio did his best to frown. “But, Master Luke…”
“Just tell them.”
Threepio did so and the chittering from the Ewoks answered his attempts. “I’m sorry, Master Luke, but as I said…”
With a wave of double concentration, the wooden throne levitated off the ground. Everyone but Buffy and Luke were taken aback as it began to spin about, Threepio letting out howls of surprise and fear. The Ewoks, however, mistook it for roars of godlike indignation as the throne floated about over their heads. They yelped and ducked around before Buffy and Luke finally allowed the throne to settle down. Chirpa and Logray exchanged a look, then the chief barked to the guards surrounding the prisoners. In no time flat, the bonds were cut and they were freed.
“Nice job, Threepio,” Buffy smiled.
The droid was slumped in the throne, doing an excellent impression of catching breath. “I…didn’t know I had it in me.”
Luke smiled at Buffy as he rose up. “Well, that’s one dinner I’m glad skipping out on.”
She smiled back. “What next?”
Luke nodded to Threepio. “They’ll listen to him. Maybe we can get them on our side.”
Threepio recovered a bit at that. “Master Luke, I’m afraid I’m not programmed for propaganda or political agitation.”
“There go your hopes for being in news broadcasting,” Xander joked.
Luke smiled. “Just do what you do best, Threepio. Tell a story.”
Night had fallen as Threepio detailed the story of the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion, his voice box mimicking sounds from fighters to Darth Vader’s breathing. He was keeping the Ewoks bundled in the main communal hut enthralled with his story, everyone listening in. Well, almost everyone.
“Okay,” Xander said as he huddled in the corner with the two Slayers. “Time to talk, Faith. How did you get here?”
The brunette lounged back, smiling. “Not as easy as it may sound. G’s been calling in favors from some of his contacts in the supernatural world. Course, we got delayed by random stuff like this military group hunting demons and then that goddess thing and I was dead for a while…”
“The usual,” Buffy remarked.
“Anyway, G finally got his hands on some magical gem that can track a Slayer anywhere. Andrew and Jonathan, they’re the tech guys with us, annoying but smart, managed to figure a way to hook it up with some spells by Rat-girl and Tara and opened up a portal to drop me here.”
“Assuming you got a return ticket?”
“If I need it.” Faith held up a small amulet with odd carvings on it. “This can send a message back if need be, have to be careful using it so I don’t waste the power.”
Buffy was silent. “And…you want us to come home?”
Faith seemed surprised. “You don’t?”
Buffy and Xander exchanged a look. “It’s just…we’re invested here now,” Xander said. “We’re trying to save the galaxy here, that’s a bit bigger than anything on Earth.”
“Hey, Earth is still not bad. Sure, usual wars, pollution and all but new movies, DVD’s, Xbox, IPod things and hey, Red Sox won the World Series!”
“You’re kidding me,” Xander said, eyes wide in shock.
Buffy sighed. “It’s more than that, Faith.”
Faith looked over to where Luke was sitting. “Yeah, I can tell,” she smiled. It faded as she looked to Buffy. “But more than that. Angel got a meeting with one of his contacts, found this parchment with your picture on it.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, God, how far do I have to go to escape prophecies?”
“Not far enough,” Faith said, reaching into her pocket to pull out a piece of paper. “Let’s see…Okay, says that a warrior caught between light and dark will engage her fated foe and in victory…the darkness shall claim her.”
Buffy was quiet taking that in. “Well…at least it’s not hopelessly vague as usual.”
Xander was a bit more concerned. “Sounds like one of those Dark Side things you kept talking about after seeing Yoda.”
Faith nodded. “I caught the robot’s talk there. So this is where Angelus wound up? Shoulda known he’d be causing trouble still.”
Buffy frowned. “How’s…Angel?”
“Still fighting the good fight in L.A.,” Faith answered. “He’s got his own team now.”
“Someone else?” Buffy asked.
Faith paused and nodded. Buffy smiled softly. “Good for him.” She rose up. “Be right back, checking in how things are going.” She moved to where Luke, Leia and Han sat, listening to Threepio’s story.
Faith watched her go. “She’s changed.”
“We all have,” Xander noted. He looked over at Mara. “Well, I’m still falling for the wrong girl.”
Faith followed his gaze, her expression sober. “Sorry.”
“Ah, just me being an idiot,” Xander said. “As proven by the fact I think I still love her.”
“Really?” Faith paused before rising. “Be right back.” Before Xander could react, she stood up and marched toward Mara, grabbing her by the ponytail. “Sorry, girl talk,” Faith said to a startled Luke before dragging Mara out of the hut. Threepio seemed a bit put out before continuing his story.
Outside, Mara gasped as Faith shoved her against one of the barriers at the edge of the platform. “Who the hell do you think…” she started but a finger at her face silenced her.
“Listen and listen close, bitch,” Faith snapped. “B gave me the scoop on you, the spy working for the Empire and all that. I don’t care much for that crap. But messing with Xander is something else. That guy…” She sighed. “He tried to help me when the rest of them didn’t. I didn’t let him and it led to some really bad stuff for me. Maybe if I’d just…opened up more…things might have been different.”
Mara snorted. “Don’t talk to me like you know me, girl.”
“Know you?” Faith let out a sardonic laugh. “Lady, I was
you. Stuck in my own darkness, thinking I couldn’t survive without some guy, hooking up with someone who seemed to care about me but was just using me…I’ve been through it all and then some.” She stepped forward. “And that’s why I know you’re not the tough bad-ass you make yourself out to be. If you were, you’d have found some way to get that collar off and left a while ago. You’re sticking with them because you want to.”
Mara raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yes, hanging with these creatures, that’s gone over well.”
Faith shook her head. “Don’t hide it. Like I said, we’re a lot alike, I can see it in you.” She leaned forward. “Take it or don’t but here’s my advice. If you have a chance to get out of the darkness…especially with a guy who’s filled with nothing but light…take it. Don’t question, take it. Otherwise…” She sighed. “Otherwise, it’ll just get worse before it gets better. Believe that.”
She pushed Mara back as she moved toward the hut. “One way or another, your Emperor is going down,” she called over her shoulder. “So you’ve got a choice, Jade. Be out in the cold alone…or take a chance on the good guys’ team.” She smiled. “You’d be surprised how well it works out.”
She walked back inside, leaving Jade alone in the night with her words.
Faith was sitting back down as a discussion went on between the Ewoks. Chirpa stood up, motioning for silence before speaking, Threepio translating his words. “Chief Chirpa says it is a moving tale but does not see what this has to do with us.”
“Tell him this, Goldenrod,” Han spoke up. “I know it’s hard to use words like rebellion and all that as more than an abstract. Tell him it’s not just in their best interests…even though it is because the Empire’s tapping into the energy of this planet to power the shield and that’s going to be effecting them come winter. That’s why I always did stuff, because it was for me. But not anymore. I do it for my friends now because what else is there? Money? Power? Jabba had all that and look where it got him. Do it because of others. For friends.”
He sat down, seeming embarrassed by his own speech as Chewbacca gave him a pat on the shoulder in support. Luke spoke up next. “Look up there.” He pointed at the hole in the ceiling that showed the clear night sky. “Every one of those stars has their own life forms surrounding it. Billions upon billions of lives, all connected to the Force. They’re a part of it, all of this, it’s for the good of all that they can help.”
“There’s a lot of lights up there,” Buffy broke in. “And the Empire wants to shut every one of them off.”
Leia’s response was far shorter. “Do it for the trees.”
The Ewoks once more conferred among themselves, Chirpa talking to an eager Wicket before rising up. Threepio translated for him. “Honorable elders, we have received a great gift. This golden god…” He couldn’t help pausing to revel in that. “This golden god, whose return has been prophesied since the First Tree, tells us now he will not be our Master, that we are free to choose, that we must choose, as all living beings, our own destiny. He has finally come and he shall go and we may no longer be slaves to his guidance.
“Yet how must we comport ourselves? Is an Ewok’s love for the woods less when he leaves it? No, it is more because he can leave it but he stays. His friends tell us of a Force, a great living spirit we are all part of. We know this spirit, though we call it not the Force. They tell us this Force is in great jeopardy. Some among us may ask why should we care? Why should this be our battle? When the fire threatens the forest, do we ask why we should aid others? No, we simply do so, because it is right. It is a brave thing to confront a fire. Many will die, that the forest will live. But we are brave.
“Honorable Elders, we must aid this noble party not only for the trees but for the leaves upon them. These Rebels are like the Ewoks, who are like the leaves, battered by the wind, eaten by locusts. Yet do we throw ourselves on smoldering fires that another may know the warmth of light, we swirl in the wind that assails us, we change color as the season asks us. So must we help these brothers, these rebels…for so has come a season of change upon us.”
He sat back as the Ewoks once more chattered among themselves. They seemed to come to a conclusion as a loud collective cry went up and Wicket threw his arms around Leia. “What is this?” Han demanded.
“It appears we have been made honorary members of the tribe,” Threepio stated.
“Great, just what I hoped for,” Han muttered as he was hugged by a pair of Ewoks. Drums began playing as the creatures broke into an impromptu celebration. Luke rose from his own chair and moved out of the hut. Buffy saw Leia following and sighed, knowing what was going to happen and Luke had to do it alone. She rose herself, passing by Han ordering Threepio to start getting some help from the Ewoks to walk out the other side of the hut.
She breathed in the night air as she felt a form behind her. “Don’t even try to stop me, Xander.”
“I won’t.” He came beside her, joining her in staring out. “I know you have to face him.” He was quiet for a long moment. “You know that I lied back then, right? About Willow doing the spell?”
“We figured it out,” Buffy said. “I was mad but…” She shrugged. “You were right.”
“No, I wasn’t,” he said. “I didn’t do it because you’d be distracted or any of that. I did it because…well, I was jealous of him, ok?”
She smiled. “Xander, we were younger, both did a lot of stupid things.”
“Amen to that.” He looked at her, sobering. “This time…you know it’s not him. No holding back, that’s what I thought. But now…” He bit his lip. “I don’t know or understand much about this Force, Buffy but I know it’s dangerous to slip. Faith did and I know it hurt you. I just…” He sighed. “If killing him means losing you, I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Buffy gave him a sad smile. “I’ve been ready to die since I was Called, Xander. It’s what Slayers do.” She moved to hug him. “But not just yet.”
He hugged back tight before breaking off. “Go get him. And this time, I know Will wants you to kick his ass.” He stared at her with emotion. “Just don’t lose yourself in the process.”
She nodded as she wiped at her eyes, bringing her emotions in check. “Good luck tomorrow.” She began to walk off, moving down the walkways until she saw Luke pacing toward the end of the village. “How’d it go?” she asked.
Luke gave a soft smile. “As well as could be expected.” He paused. “She seems to remember our mother. Even though she died right after we were born…She said she seemed…sad.”
“I can imagine,” Buffy remarked. She took a deep breath. “Ready?”
He nodded as they began to walk out of the village and into the forest.
The landing pad stood out among the trees of Endor, a large construct of steel with various Imperial troops about. A shuttle was landing as a large four-legged Walker moved up to the installation, its central body set to open onto a catwalk. In the background could be seen the main shield generator, a massive dish aimed at the Death Star visible in the night sky. The tube-like columns supporting the platform were elevator shafts, one leading from the Walker gangplank, another down from the landing platform.
Darth Vader exited one elevator, moving down the catwalk with ease. The other elevator opened up to show Luke and Buffy standing side by side, both manacled and surrounded by stormtroopers. An officer stepped forward, bowing his head. “Lord Vader, these are the Rebels who surrendered to us. They deny it but I believe there are more of them present and request permission to conduct a further search of the area.” He lifted up a pair of weapons. “They were armed only with these.”
Vader held the two lightsabers in his hands before nodding. “Good work, Commander. Leave us. Conduct your search and bring their companions to me.” The officer bowed as he and the stormtroopers walked back into the elevator. The doors hissed shut and the three were left alone.
Vader hooked Buffy’s lightsaber to his belt but held Luke’s in his hands. He gazed at them both carefully, Luke staring right back. Never comfortable with long silences, Buffy spoke up. “So…where’s dark and brooding?”
“Darth Scourge awaits us on the Death Star with the Emperor,” Vader answered as he began to walk, motioning for them to join him. “I preferred to handle this myself.”
Buffy couldn’t help smirking. “Already drove you nuts, huh? He gets that way.”
Vader focused on Luke. “The Emperor has been expecting you.”
Vader glanced at him before looking away. “So, you have finally accepted the truth.”
“I’ve accepted you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.”
“That name no longer has any meaning for me.”
Luke stopped to face him. “It is the name of your true self, Father. You’ve only forgotten it.” He stepped forward. “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully.” He turned his back to Vader, moving to the handrail. “That is why you couldn’t destroy me on Cloud City. That’s why you won’t bring me to your Emperor now.”
Vader looked down at the lightsaber in his hands, turning it over, pondering those words. “I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.” He ignited the blade, holding it up and Buffy automatically tensed. Vader studied the blade, Luke not flinching at the heat near his back. “I no longer use yours.”
Vader nodded as he turned it off. “Your skills are nearly complete. You are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen.”
Luke turned back, his face tense. “Come with me.”
Vader shook his head. “Obi-Wan once thought as you did.” He glanced toward Buffy. “She does not. I can see in her heart. She knows the truth, that I am lost.”
Buffy paused before speaking. “I thought I did,” she quietly said. “But I just ran into a…friend who reminded me that…sometimes…people can change. Even if they fall far, they can still rise and become better.” She set her jaw. “So maybe…maybe it’s not too late for you. You were the Hero Without Fear, right?”
“That man died in the fires of Mustafar.” Vader snapped. When he spoke, actual regret sounded in his voice. “You don’t understand the power of the Dark Side. I must obey my master.”
“I will not turn,” Luke proclaimed. “Neither of us will. And you’ll be forced to kill us.”
“If that is your destiny,” Vader flatly said.
Luke moved closer, the raw emotions coming to his face. “Search your feelings, Father. You can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.”
“If only I could,” Vader whispered before he could stop himself. There was a long pause before he waved his hand to the other elevator. It opened and a squad of stormtroopers exited, ready for any danger from the two Jedi. Before they came into earshot, Vader spoke. “It is too late for me, my son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.”
The troopers came to surround them, Luke’s gaze never leaving Vader’s as he sobered. “Then my father is truly dead.” He and Buffy let themselves be led away, the blonde leaning in. “You had to try,” she whispered.
“And I still will,” Luke told her.
Behind them, Vader stared at the forest, gripping the lightsaber in his hand. If one could look under the black mask, they would have seen a face marked with pain and regret as he twisted the lightsaber in his hand. Perhaps if they kill the Emperor. Perhaps then…I can finally be free.
Then he turned and marched into the waiting shadows of the landing bay.
I promise not as long a delay until the next chapter which gets to the epic battle. Thanks for hanging in there.