As his helmet was lowered, the man once known as Anakin Skywalker checked his numbers to gauge whether this latest bacta treatment had shown improvement. The numbers were hard to ignore, displayed right in front of his eyes in the lenses of his helmet.
HEART RATE: 62 BPM
“The Force is strong with this one,” he muttered to himself, his hands wrapped around the controls of his TIE Advanced x1.
HEART RATE: 89 BPM
At the voice of one of his cover pilots, Darth Vader felt his starfighter shudder from impact. It went flying out into space, spinning around and around.
With a grimace, he turned the ship in the direction it was tumbling, exerting control through his will, through the Force, and through his knowledge of the ship’s capabilities. In a standard TIE fighter, the pylons would have broken off, a fate that would doom a normal TIE pilot.
But he was no normal TIE pilot, and this was no standard TIE fighter.
HEART RATE: 99BPM
“I’ll never join you!”
The boy was so reckless. So angry. He truly was powerful. The Emperor would be pleased with such a prize.
But … what if … ?
“If you only knew the power of the Dark Side,” Darth Vader said, focused on his son. The son that knew nothing about his father. The son that he wanted by his side, not by his master’s.
“Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father,” he continued, feeling the truth in the Force. His old master would have never admitted the truth to Luke. But he, Darth Vader, would.
He would always tell his son the truth.
Luke scrambled away, sliding onto a ledge, his maimed arm held to his chest. “He told me enough!” he said, all bravado and youthful, foolish courage. “He told me you killed him.”
The warnings were flashing more frequently in his display, but Darth Vader ignored them.
“No. I am your father.”
His son had matured in the last year. His strength in the Force was impressive. His shields kept his thoughts hidden and his face was still.
It was like seeing the kind of Padawan that Obi-Wan would have wanted.
Yet Luke was not like Obi-Wan. He was his own man. A stubborn, determined man.
“Search your feelings, Father. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.”
“It is too late for me, son,” Darth Vader said, the words coming slowly. Words he didn’t want to say. He had hoped that perhaps Luke would, upon reflection, be willing to join him. To embrace his destiny. To use the power of the Dark Side to make the galaxy better. To be a better Emperor than his master could have ever hoped to be.
“The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Dark Side. He is your master now,” Darth Vader said.
Because there was no hope now for Luke to willingly join them–to join him–he could see.
Luke gave a small nod of his head, taking in his father’s words. And then he spoke.
“Then my father is truly dead.”
HEART RATE: 35BPM
HEART RATE: 105BPM
His son was dying in front of his eyes.
The son he had never seen with his own eyes. The eyes that matched Luke’s.
His master paused his attack, Luke’s gasp filling the sudden silence.
Darth Vader, who used to be Anakin Skywalker, braced for what was to come.
“And now, young Skywalker … you will die,” his master said, gleeful in his gloating.
The lightning struck Luke again, making his body jerk. For a moment, Luke’s eyes locked with his.
“NOOOOOOO!” Anakin said–not Darth, not anymore.
He lifted up the bag of bones who ruled the galaxy, ignoring the bolts of lightning still issuing from his hands.
HEART RATE: 117BPM
As he threw the Emperor into the shaft to the reactor core, the lightning shorted out the display, leaving him alone.
Alone and dying.
He couldn’t breathe. He could feel his heart slowing. He was noting more than dead weight, draped over the slight frame of his son.
His son, who would not let him die alone. Who was going to drag him into a shuttle and get him away, even though it was pointless, hopeless.
“Luke … help me take this mask off.”
With the display gone, he could barely see Luke. But he could hear him. Could hear the disbelief in his voice.
“But you’ll die.”
“Nothing … can stop that now,” he said. “Just for once … let me …”
He couldn’t get his breath. But he had to get these words out.
“Look on you with my own eyes.”
Anakin shouldn’t have made such a request of his son. To expose him to what he truly was. But–but he couldn’t die without seeing his son.
Without seeing Padme’s son.
And then he heard the first hiss of the outer helmet being removed.