The door slid open with a loud hiss, admitting only one man - or machine. Those awaiting couldn't decide which Darth Vader was, but they would never dare voice this in fear of their lives.
"What did you find?" demanded the tall, black monstrosity as he glided forward.
Nervously, the officers stayed silent, not sure who was going to break the news that a droid had been found on a routine inspection of Cloud City. Finally, it was a greying officer who mustered the courage, "The Rebel's droid was spying, my Lord. The troops who came across it disposed of it, but we can't be sure if the Rebels know we're here."
"You call me here for this?"
It was hard to determine if the Dark Lord was angry behind that hideous mask and imperious breathing. He swept towards the dirty crate and tucked mercilessly at the dented golden head, not caring if it broke. As soon as the face was clear from the tangle of wires and limps, Darth Vader's breathing quickened.
He turned it over in his hands, commanding almost dangerously, "Tell me what you know about this droid, Commander."
"It was..." The greying Commander Ferris faltered. "The design dates back almost thirty years, my Lord - an admirable time for such a droid to still be used. It's an A Type protocol, serial number," he checked quickly, "C- 3PO."
By now, most of the accompanying officers shot nervy looks towards the shut door of Calrissian's invaded suite, obviously wanting to leave as soon as possible - and with good reason. They knew they had failed in stopping the droid from seeing the hidden storm troopers and someone was going to pay.
Darth Vader wasn't paying any heed to their behaviour, his attention fixed on the head of a droid which seemed so tattered and old it was unlikely very useful. It wasn't just a droid's head, Vader reflected, more a memory of an almost past life. Angrily, he pushed this away - there was no dwelling on that half witted Anakin Skywalker when there was work to be done.
But he couldn't stop the flow of memories.
"Hey Kitster!" called Anakin, weeding his way through the hot junk yard. "Lookit what I found!"
A dark haired youngster peeked over a pile of melted power converters. "Oh no, not another one of your mechanical ideas, Anakin. You never finish them anyway."
Anakin pouted, clutching his prize to his chest. Kitster laughed in spite of himself and dashed over to see what his friend had found. Satisfied that Kitster was paying attention, Anakin held it forward.
t was an uncovered droid's head, the wiring still intact in some places and only one of the eyes remained. The other looked as though it had been ripped viciously out by an aggressive owner. Dirt and grime coated it, crusting off onto Anakin's already filthy hands and clothes.
"I'm gonna build a droid," Anakin whispered, almost to himself. "And everyone will call it the best droid ever built!"
Vader savagely discarded the golden plated head in the crate, his breathing slowing once more. The Emperor would be furious at this lapse, the Dark Lord knew. Turning to the cowering officers he snapped, "Don't just stand there! Dispose of it quietly in Cloud City's trash. I want to see no more of it."
"But, my Lord, what if it's alerted the Rebels?"
Commander Ferris wished he hadn't said those words as soon as they had left his lips. Darth Vader glared at him through the mask. "They are not informed. Dispose of it. Now."
With that, the Dark Lord strode out, his mind reeling over his lapse into that pitiful memory. He tried to tell himself he was above that young boy, a boy who never existed. But try as he might, he couldn't push the droid's head from his mind until much, much later.