Dream or Premoniton
Something wasn't right. He should be hearing the running footsteps of the officers and troopers around him. The alarms should be deafening him. The shouts of the men should be all around him. Yet there was silence save for his breathing and his pulse pounding in his ears. The running men didn't seem to notice him yet did not hinder him as he walked.
Where was he going? He didn't know, but he knew whatever he was looking for was up ahead.
With each step a feeling of dread filled him, yet he had no idea why. As he walked, he could see something ahead, through the mass of bodies. Someone was kneeling beside a fallen person. The dread increased.
He at last reached them, and the kneeling person looked at him.
Tears ran down Luke's face. He hesitantly reached for the fallen person, somehow knowing they were dead, and dreading what he would see. Turning the person over, he jerked back in surprise. The man had been killed by a lightsaber, judging from the hole scorched through his chest. His eyes traveled up to the dead man's face. Horror and shock filled him.
Crazed laughter rang out.
Vader woke with a start. It took him a moment to realize he was still in his meditation pod.
Not again, he thought.
Every-time he had dreamt of someone's death it had happened. Now he had seen Piett dead, killed by a lightsaber. The laughter at the end of his dream had been the Emperor's. Had his Master killed Firmus, or worse, had he himself murdered his brother in a loss of control?
He reached along their bond, finding the fuzziness of sleep. He withdrew, satisfied. There was no reason to wake his brother when sleep had been hard to come by for him during the past week since the accident. It was becoming clear to the men that their Admiral was not completely well and thus had a shorter temper than usual. While Piett's temper wasn't dangerous, no one aboard the Executor fancied kitchen, laundry, or droid repair duty, or any of the dull, utterly boring tasks he punished them with that made men groan just at the suggestion of them. If he was sleeping well tonight, Vader wouldn't disturb him. He could wait until morning to speak with him about the nightmare.
However, Vader couldn't keep the dream out his mind for very long. Would this one come true like with his mother and Padme? He shuddered at the thought of his brother dying much as Qui-Gon had so long ago. He couldn't let Firmus die, certainly not the same way his father before him had. Obi-Wan had told him years later that Qui-Gon had suffered great agony before he finally died. Lightsaber wounds were painful, he knew this all too well, but he couldn't imagine the agony of being stabbed with one.
Abruptly he realized the path his thoughts had taken. He had been thinking about the past a lot recently, forgetting that he had been trying to separate himself from Anakin, claiming that Anakin no longer existed. A losing battle, and Firmus, and now Luke, had simply been reawakening his past self. For so long he had tried to destroy or at least bury that part of him. He'd lost that fight quite some time ago, it seemed.
A mental nudge from Piett snapped him out of his thoughts.
/What are you doing awake so early?/
Confusion flooded the bond from his brother's end.
/Early? It's 0800./
Vader blinked then looked at the chrono to find that Piett was right. He had been lost in thought for the past three hours.
/Well, I know you are there, so come in./
Piett entered, still looking a little confused at his apparent lack of ability to tell time.
"Are you all right?" he asked worriedly.
"Just a long night. What do you need?"
"The Emperor has ordered you to contact him."
A feeling of dread came over Vader, trickling across his bond with Firmus before he could close it off. The Admiral blinked at the feeling coming from his older brother but, wisely, did not question it, at least at the moment.
"I will do so now."
Piett left, and Vader steeled himself for the conversation to come, tightly shielding his mind to prevent Palpatine from learning about his brother and his power.
"What is thy bidding, my Master?" he asked as he knelt before the hologram of Emperor Palpatine.
"I sense you have secured young Skywalker. Why did you not bring him to me immediately?"
"I am working on gaining his trust so that his turn to the Darkside will be easier to accomplish. Bringing him directly to Coruscant would have only made it more difficult, Master."
Palpatine seemed to consider this then nodded.
"Very well, Lord Vader. However, I expect to be updated on your progress."
The call cut out, and Vader felt a wave of relief. Crisis avoided, at least for now. He went to the training room, dueling with some droids until Piett's shift was over. His brother joined him, this time without Luke. Vader knew he should tell him about his nightmare.
"What's bothering you?" Piett asked as he parried one of the Dark Lord's attacks.
"I had a dream about you."
His younger brother flashed him a smirk.
"Should I be disturbed?" he joked.
"Firmus," Vader said sternly.
His smile faded, and he grew serious.
"You were dead."
Piett stopped fighting.
"You were killed by someone with a lightsaber. Just before I woke up I heard the Emperor laughing."
The Admiral was silent for a few moments, switching off his lightsaber.
"You think the Emperor killed me in your dream?"
"It is possible."
"Well it was just a dream."
Vader said nothing, and Piett frowned.
"You don't think it was just a dream... do you?" he asked.
"I have had such dreams before. I dreamt of our mother dying and later of my wife dying. Both times it came true. This... felt like those dreams."
Firmus swallowed nervously. If what Vader said was true, then it seemed very likely he would die when faced with the Emperor. He had known that would be a very real possibility because of his strength in the Force but to have it confirmed in what seemed to be a premonition from Vader, who had a history of such things, made it all the more real and terrifying.