The Planets Bend Between Us

Chapter 4

Sure enough, when Bobby and Sam found Sam’s abandoned speeder, it had been torn to pieces by sand people, Jawas, or both. The hull had been stripped, the seats were gone, and so were all of his tools from the trunk and the pod parts he’d left in the bin the night before. Sam cussed under his breath at the sight, but he wasn’t exactly surprised by it.
“Guess you can keep your fuel,” he said, gesturing to the container in the back of Bobby’s shuddering old speeder. “Thanks anyway.”
“Sorry kiddo,” said Bobby, and they rumbled past the shell of Sam’s speeder.
After spending most of the morning talking, the pair said very little on the trip to Sam and Ellen’s homestead, each lost in thought. Not until they flew past the approximate border of the Dune Sea and Sam spotted a thick black plume of smoke rising in the distance was the silence broken. He felt the bottom of his stomach drop out.
“Bobby, drive faster.”
Bobby’s face had gone a few shades paler and he needed no encouragement – he was already accelerating.
The closer they got, the sicker Sam felt. There were no other homesteads near enough for him to mistake where the smoke was coming from. And unless Ellen was having a giant bonfire for some reason...
The speeder roared across the sand and then Sam could see it: his home, a black and charred ruin, belching thick dark smoke. Debris was strewn everywhere, the canvas tent was nothing more than a blackened frame. There were still flames flickering in the windows of the shop.
“Oh my God...” Bobby murmured.
Sam’s heart stopped beating, his breath got stuck in his throat and all he could think about was how his last words to his mother had been Leave me the hell alone.
The speeder hadn’t quite halted and Sam was already clambering out of it. His heart restarted and worked hard to smash out of his ribs. Maybe she’s not here, maybe she went out...
“Mom!” he screamed, scrambling across the dirt and sand towards the front entrance. He distantly thought he heard Bobby call his name, but he couldn’t be sure over the roaring in his ears. “Mom!”

He spotted something in the doorway of the home and he stumbled over his feet in his haste to get nearer.

Sam crashed to his knees when he found her. It looked as though she’d been trying to climb out of the burning homestead but hadn’t made it. There were charred binder cuffs on the remains of her wrists and then Sam couldn’t see anymore.
The world tunneled around him, blurred, slipped sideways. He must’ve passed out. The next thing he knew, he was looking up at Bobby, who had red eyes and was gently shaking Sam’s shoulder, saying his name over and over.
Sam sat up, feeling hollow. For a small moment, he thought maybe he’d had a vivid nightmare. He was still at Bobby’s and had dozed off. Or maybe the sand people had hit him hard enough to knock him out and he was just coming to, and none of this had ever happened. He could go home right now and save her. He could say he was sorry. Say he loved her and he wasn’t going to break her heart like Jo did, that he understood, and he knew, and he’d stay, he’d stay.
But then his eyes lighted on the smouldering remains of his home and no, this wasn’t a dream. Bobby must’ve dragged him back to the speeder because Sam was a lot farther away than he remembered being moments ago (or was it an eternity?). He couldn’t see her body from here. He didn’t know if that was a good thing or bad thing.
Beside him, Bobby drew a deep, trembling breath and kept a steadying hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, son,” he said quietly.
Sam didn't react, didn't know how to. His world had opened up and ended in the same morning. He stared without seeing, numb and empty and cold, even as the suns were at their highest and hottest far above his head.

He was vaguely aware of Bobby coaxing him to a standing position, steering him to the passenger’s seat of the rusty speeder, strapping him in. As Bobby drove them back to his home, Sam couldn’t pick out the details around him – it was a smoky, hazy blur, and his own words seemed to echo in his ears, followed by Ellen shouting his name, wanting him to come back into the shop and talk to her.
“Leave me the hell alone.”
He shut his eyes after a while, and saw the homestead, saw her, behind his eyelids. The wind dried the tears on his cheeks.

Dean bit back a groan when the door to his cell opened with a loud swoosh. He’d kinda been hoping they’d forgotten about him.
His cuts and bruises from the ‘interrogation’ he’d been through after being captured were starting to heal. His muscles ached from the electric shock the Imperials had put him through when the interrogation had failed. His stomach was empty with hunger (the Imperials had yet to give him more than a few mouthfuls of pasty unflavoured foodpac base).

All in all, the past few days had not been his best. He was very much not looking forward to finding out what the Imperials had planned for him today.
Darth Azazel swooped into the cell, his cape swirling behind him. He was grinning – that was never a good sign.
“What do you want?” Dean snapped.
“Winchester, please.” Azazel tipped his head to the side and fixed those nasty yellow eyes on Dean. “You know exactly what I want. I don’t know how many times I have to ask.”
“Well, Azazel,” Dean said, purposely skipping over Azazel’s title to piss him off. “I hate to sound like a broken record here, but I’m still not giving it to you. Ever.”
Azazel stepped forward, clasping his black-gloved hands behind his back. “Here’s the thing, Winchester. We found the pod.”
Dean didn’t flinch, but his heartrate ratcheted up a few notches.
“Which I suspect means we’ll soon find the plans you stole, and with any luck, we’ll find your little Rebel rat hidey-hole, too.”
Dean smirked, despite the rapidly dissolving confidence in his gut. If they’d found the pod but not the plans, then someone must’ve discovered the disc and taken it before the Imperials had. But what poor soul had scooped them up and was now about to find themselves in a whole world of trouble with the Imperials?
“You keep saying you won’t tell me anything,” Darth Azazel continued, “and clearly our other methods of persuasion have not been persuading enough, so let’s try something else.” He turned towards the cell door and crooked his finger.
A large, black, orb-shaped robot came floating into the cell, whirring softly. Fixed on either side of it were hefty-sized syringes filled with yellow-tinted liquid. Dean’s mouth went dry. He’d been lucky enough to have avoided this particular brand of Imperial torture, but he’d heard about it from a fellow Rebel who’d managed to escape captivity.
“Yeah, you know what this is, don’t you?” Azazel gave the robot a gentle tap on top as if it were a beloved pet (maybe it was).
Dean crammed away the fear scratching inside him. He couldn’t let it show. Feeling it meant showing it. Azazel would know he was frightened and he’d have the upper hand – something Dean refused to give him.
“Torture bot. Mind probe. Loaded with truth serum,” Dean answered as casually as he could manage, as if the humming robot before him was no more interesting than the featureless cell wall beyond it.
Azazel pointed at Dean. “Bingo.”
Sometimes Dean hated being right.
“One more chance, compadre. Where’s the Rebel base?”
Dean pursed his lips and scrunched his brow. Then he answered innocently, “In Hell? I can take you there, if you want.” He flashed Azazel a cocky grin.
The Sith stepped back, sneering. “Just remember, you asked for this.”
He gave a nod and several Imperial flunkies in uniform joined them in the cell. They proceeded to wrestle Dean into a set of binders that held his arms uncomfortably behind his back and attached another set to his ankles. Once it was clear Dean wasn’t able to move or strike out at them or their commander, they stepped back.
Darth Azazel rubbed his hands together. “Let’s begin, shall we?”

Everything was cloudy and blurry. Like being awake for too many hours, finally getting a few minutes of sleep then trying to function again. Like he was stumbling through fog and smoke. There were figures swimming in his vision, but he couldn’t focus on them. It was too hard. He stopped trying.
His head throbbed. Something was wrong with his skin – it was prickly. Pins. Like a roll of pins was sticking into his arms over and over. His chest ached too, like he was stiff from too much physical labor. His legs were sore and heavy. He wasn’t moving. Or was he? No, his muscles hurt too much. He didn’t want to move.

His mouth was raw. He must’ve scorched it on a drink that was too hot. Maybe he’d been run over by a speeder or something and was dying in a med unit…
“Where are the Rebels?” A strange, disembodied voice penetrated the fog.
The answer bubbled up Dean’s throat but some instinct stopped the words from tumbling past his lips just in time. Don't, it urged. Say nothing.
“Where is the Rebel base?” The voice tried again. It was distant, sweet, wheedling... but familiar. More oily than sweet. Something was wrong with it, though Dean didn’t know what.
Again the answer to the voice’s question came, filled his mouth like a drink of water –

Don’t! He heard his own voice in his head this time, wriggling through the confusing haze. With difficulty, he swallowed down the words the coaxing voice wanted to hear. Something burning touched his arm and tried to flinch away. It still burned, though, so he must not have moved.
“Stop,” he said – or thought. He couldn’t tell.
“Just tell me where they are and I promise it’ll stop,” insisted the voice – it was more threatening now somehow, less pleasant. More rough than sweet.
The information to the question was struggling to get out. Dean wanted to let it free, because he knew that was what the voice wanted, and the pain in his arms would stop, and the fog would lift, and it would end, if only he could say the words...
He saw flashes of people then – people he knew. Friends, fellow Rebels. His parents: a tall thin man with wispy grey hair and a shorter woman with wavy, fading red hair. He saw himself kissing a black disc and sliding it between panels inside an escape pod. He saw a pair of terrifying yellow eyes and needed to run, to lash out. Why the hell couldn’t he move?
Do not give in, said his own voice, strong and sure in his head. Don’t tell him anything. Dean trusted that voice; he listened to it. He fought down the urge to speak, jammed the words deep inside, locking them up in an airtight container. He curled his fingers and dug his nails into his palm.

Stay strong, his inner voice commanded.
The strange voice came back, no longer sweet. Now it was angry, grating, hateful, and shouting.

“Tell me where the Rebels are, you shit!” It slammed against his senses, crashed around his skull, ugly and discordant. “Tell me! Damn it, where are they hiding?! Tell me!
“No!” he thought – or maybe he yelled?
Dean cried out as something pierced his arm, sharp, deep, red hot. He didn’t want to obey the foul voice.
He wanted to wake up.

Darth Azazel stormed into the corridor of the Detention block outside Winchester’s cell. The men with him scurried out behind him, bringing the probe and locking the cell back up.
Azazel was furious. The mind probe with the serum was an incredible weapon, the best of the tools at his disposal and it had failed him. He’d seen dozens of men spill their guts after only a couple doses. He’d peeled them apart like ripe fruit. Yet Winchester had managed to withstand an entire damn syringe.
Azazel had even used a considerable amount of the second syringe, against one of his lieutenant’s warnings that it could kill Winchester. Still the bastard held onto his secrets. Azazel had seen people resist before, but to entirely withstand the mind probe was extremely rare.
“He’s impressively strong,” one of the men behind him remarked, sounding a little in awe of their traitorous prisoner.
Azazel rounded on him. Some of the guards flinched and cowered, while the others hid their weakness well and stood their ground.
“You think so, do you?” the Sith sneered.
The lieutenant began sputtering and blabbering some sort of explanation that Azazel did not care to hear. He reached for the Force, wrapping his fingers around dark threads of energy in his mind. He swung his hand out like he was swatting a fly. The lieutenant went hurtling down the corridor. His scream cut off abruptly with a clench of Azazel’s fist. The man’s neck snapped before he hit the ground.
Without a word or glance back at the body, Azazel swept down the corridor to the Detention block control room and the turbolifts beyond. He was going to find a way to make Winchester talk. Darth Azazel wasn’t one of the only two Sith in the galaxy for nothing, after all.

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