On the rebel shuttle, Luke is practicing with his father's - rather, his - lightsaber, duelling against a remote slightly more sophisticated than the one seen in the first film. Blindfolded and expertly deflecting the remote's laser blasts, he fails to notice Leia enter the room. She watches with surprise and admiration, not yet having seen this side of Luke, nor his growing confidence. When the drill ends, Luke removes his blindfold and jerks in surprise when he sees Leia, blushing.
"I didn't mean to scare you," she says with gentle mockery.
"No, that's okay. I just...didn't sense you. I was so focussed on the remote that I guess I forgot to pay attention to my wider surroundings."
"Did Obi-Wan teach you how to do that?"
Luke nods sadly; it's clear he still misses his mentor. "He wanted me to be a Jedi, like my father. He said I was strong in the Force. Maybe he was right. I could never have hit that exhaust port without it, or without his guidance and wisdom. But how can I ever become a Jedi without him to teach me?"
Luke sits next to Leia to rest, his head hung low. In his grief for lost Ben, he's almost forgotten his post-adolescent crush on Leia...but she sees him in a new light. Intending at first only to comfort him, she wraps her arms around him, and suddenly they're locked in a kiss - just in time for Han Solo to enter with the news they're about to reach their destination. Han stops in his tracks, frozen in place, watching with growing dismay. Then, hurt and angry, he turns away, heading back to the cockpit, where Threepio informs him that Gatta Central - the main spaceport of Gatta Prime, planet Ben chose as Laurel Skywalker's initial hiding place - has sent landing coordinates. Han responds gruffly, bringing the shuttle in for a landing.
Meanwhile, a squadron of X-Wings led by Wedge Antilles lifts off from the green moon of Yavin and jumps to lightspeed for an initial recon of the Life Star Expeditionary Force's planned route to the Imperial homeworld. All seems quiet when they re-enter normal space, but unbeknownst to Wedge the Imperials on the Super Star Destroyer have decoded the Life Star plans. The haven't found any obvious weaknesses, so instead they've used the plans begun a crash construction program of their own Life Star, hoping to complete it before the rebels can attack. With the Empire's greater manufacturing capacity, it's possible they can launch a Life Star attack on the forces protecting Yavin, not only knocking out the rebel Life Star but leaving the rebel base vulnerable to conventional attack. Moffs Lee and Reed oversee the Imperial Life Star's rapid construction, ensuring airtight security so that word of the duplicate weapon doesn't leak back to the rebels.
Ignorant of all this, Wedge and his fellow X-Wing pilots map out the route to the Imperial homeworld, turning back before reaching the bulk of Imperial defenses.
"Freedom Corridor all clear," Wedge reports back. "There'll be fierce resistance closer to the Imperial core, but with the bulk of the fleet protecting the Life Star there'll be no way to stop us."
Back on Gatta Prime, Luke, Leia, Han and Threepio walk the streets of the vast city surrounding Gatta Central. Exotic alien life teems busily, but the quartet is virtually ignored - until tentacles snap out of an alley to snatch Threepio into the darkness. "Help, help!" Threepio shrieks, but Luke's lightsaber flashes faster than the eye can follow, sending chunks of tentacle flying. Threepio staggers to freedom with a "My goodness!" as the wounded alien scurries off to safety, howling.
Han and Leia are impressed by Luke's speed and skill, but they also note a sadistic, almost predatory gleam in Luke's eyes. He's about to give chase, to kill the alien, but Han rests a hand on his shoulder.
"Ease down, kid, you got him. He's not gonna bother us anymore."
Luke calms down, reluctantly. Without a mentor, the dark and light sides of the force war within his soul, and Luke doesn't have the knowledge to understand what's happening to him. "Let's just find my mother," he barks, leading the others toward the address Ben left.
At the edge of the Gatta system, Darth Vader jerks in his cockpit, as if suddenly sensing something - a powerful source of the Force. "Laurel..? No...Luke. Luke Skywalker. I have you now." He accelerates toward Gatta Prime.
Luke, Leia, Han and Threepio reach Laurel's home, but it's empty - long abandoned, as Luke half-suspected it would be. As the others look about for possible clues of her current location, Luke squats on the floor, closing his eyes, reaching out with the Force to see if he can track her presence. But he feels nothing, and his brow furrows with anger as his frustration grows.
"There's nothing! I can't feel anything!" he shouts. Leia kneels to calm him, and Han comes to the rescue with the news he's discovered a hidden vault with a holo imager inside.
"Old smuggler's trick," he notes with some admiration for their quarry. "False panel in the 'fresher. I'll bet she left this for you, kid."
Luke turns on the holo, and sure enough it's Laurel Skywalker, a beautiful young woman with a message nearly two decades old. "Hello, Luke. Or Obi-Wan, perhaps, but I hope it's you, Luke, who's seeing this message now. Either way, one or both of you have come looking for me, perhaps with the news that the dark times are over and we can be a family again. I'm sorry that I couldn't wait here; the agents of Darth Vader were getting too close and I fled to a place called Cloud City floating high in the atmosphere of the planet Bespin.Hopefully I'll still be living there by the time you see this message, and I can finally be a proper mother to you..."
Just as the message ends, Vader appears, igniting his lightsaber. Han pulls his blaster, but Vader yanks it out of his grip with telekinesis, and then uses the same power to casually fling Solo out a window; the smuggler lands in an unconscious heap in a garden outside. Threepio, in an uncharacteristic display of bravery, raises his hands as if to ward off Vader. "Stay back, Master Luke!" he cries, and those are the droid's last words, for Vader cleaves him in half straight down the middle, utterly destroying Threepio beyond repair.
Luke screams in rage, drawing his own lightsaber and charging Vader. "You killed him!" he screams. "And you killed Ben!"
Leia watches in horror as Luke and Vader duel. Vader should have the edge, but Luke's youth and rage have given the boy an uncanny ferocity that catches the Sith Lord off guard. Leia draws a sidearm, aiming for Vader, but the saber duel is so fast and unpredictable that she holds her fire, afraid of hitting Luke accidentally. It's a battle to the death, neither man speaking, lightsabers leaving streaks of neon light in their wake as they carve through the air and smash together, errant slashes slicing apart the walls and furniture. Realizing she can do little here, Leia retreats to the yard, finding Han and tending to the unconscious rogue. He awakens with a groan, and Leia helps him to his feet.
"Luke's fighting Vader! We've got to help him before - "
But suddenly there is a scream from within the house. A second later, something rolls out the door, something vaguely spherical, smoking...it's Vader's head. A second later, Luke steps into view, extinguishing his lightsaber.
"My father is avenged," he says, his eyes hollow. "My aunt and uncle and Ben...they can rest now."
It should be a moment of triumph. But Han and Leia's expressions are of horror as they feel the waves of dark rage emanating from their troubled young friend...