Chapter 16: Thoughts of a Dark Lord
My son is either very brave, or very foolish.
The thought swirled in Darth Vader’s mind to mix with the alarming fact that Luke was also very confident, much more so than during the time they’d met in Cloud City. That strange sense of confidence had pervaded his and Luke’s every moment together since the boy had appeared not long after his surrender.
He’s not a boy, was Vader’s next thought. Not any longer. It was a surprise to him. He’d thought of Luke as an untrained boy for so long that he’d consistently downplayed the threat posed by him. According to his previous calculations, Luke should now be ripe for being turned. He would become an apprentice to the Emperor, his untried skills a welcome addition to the Dark Side.
But an untrained boy was not who Vader met on the shield generator’s landing platform. A strong sense of confidence exuded from this stranger wearing his son’s face. He had even remained calm when Vader had ignited his lightsaber directly behind his back. This boy-turned-man had clearly mastered his fear. Yet to be seen was if he had mastered the Force in equal measure.
While on the journey to the Emperor in the Death Star’s Throne Room, Luke’s confidence had systematically assaulted the Dark Lord until he could no longer afford to ignore the obvious: Luke was now someone to be reckoned with. He was more than willing to confront his destiny, not because he was eager to fight it, but because he was no longer afraid of it. His son’s mastery of his emotions was evident in the calm manner that continued to seep from his every pore even when the Emperor sneered that the Rebellion’s secret assault was not so secret any longer. Luke’s response was not to grow horrified, or even surprised, but to accuse the Emperor of overconfidence. No one ever accused the Emperor of anything, least of all a weakness.
Vader wondered why his Master was taking such talk so calmly. Had this been anybody else, the Emperor would have administered a Force choke hold at the very least by now. Vader had never known him to be a patient man, and he had grown less patient in the recent years. His response was to claim that since he was defenceless, Luke should immediately strike him down. However, Vader knew that the Emperor’s claim was just an act. Anyone with the Emperor’s Force abilities was never defenceless.
It didn’t matter in the end; Luke refused to heed the Emperor’s claim, and therefore, the taunting continued. With each taunt, it became more and more clear to Vader what the Emperor was doing; he was slowly turning Luke, probably even without Luke’s knowledge. This son of his was really no match for the Emperor, in spite of his level of confidence. It hadn’t been bravado when Vader had said that the Emperor was Luke’s master now. The Emperor was always the master.
But Luke’s calm in the face of those taunts was substantial; he had lasted much longer than Vader had anticipated. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the Emperor’s claims to be defenceless that caused the first crack in that calm, but the threat to his Rebel friends. The fact that he could see the space battle from the Throne Room window played a much larger role in eroding Luke’s inborn sense of peace. Watching, Vader realized that there was no way the Emperor could tell which side was winning, but also knew that it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the Rebellion could be losing, Luke’s closest friends could be dying, and he wasn’t doing anything to stop it. Holding this meeting in the Throne Room where Luke could witness every battle maneuver and death flash was a brilliant form of manipulation on the Emperor’s part. More brash himself, Vader would do well to remember this type of subtlety for future reference.
Yet, something was still niggling at the back of Vader’s mind, and had been irrationally itching all during this Throne Room encounter with Luke. The Emperor claimed that everything was transpiring as he had foreseen… but was that really so? Vader had also had a Force vision of this meeting, and had it some time ago.
He had seen someone falling, surrounded by wispy blue light. He’d assumed that it was the residual effects of the Emperor’s Force Lightning, and for his Master to resort to using the lightning meant that he had to kill someone for some reason, probably Luke. But Vader didn’t want to assume anything, especially with the interpretation of a vision. He’d seen Luke in hiding, but from what or whom, he didn’t know. He had seen the Emperor laughing maniacally, but that was nothing new. He had seen Luke fighting a lightsaber duel, presumable with him. He had seen Luke standing beside the Emperor, clothed in black, smiling such an evil smile that it oddly twisted his stomach. And where was he in this scenario?
But Vader had never been particularly good at interpreting his Force visions. He didn’t pretend to himself that he was. Yet he noticed that the Emperor had no trouble in claiming that everything he’d seen was unavoidable, especially for Luke. But Vader knew his Master well enough by now to know that this confidence on his part simply encouraged the outcome that he desired, not that it really was an unavoidable outcome. He had used the same tactic himself, most recently on Luke at Cloud City. It was a particularly effective strategy, and typically worked, too. The fact that it didn’t seem to be working now did not bode well for his Master. However, Vader knew better than to say anything about these thoughts.
One thing Vader did know: he had to confront his son in a lightsaber duel once again, and his son was much more formidable competition than he had expected him to be. Sadly enough, despite the inevitability that the Emperor claimed about this contest, he wasn’t at all sure how it would end. The only thing he was certain about was that it would end.
One way or another.