Chapter 1: Disappearance
By SJ and Tatiana 09-05-00/13-04-01
Suggested and co-written with Tatiana
Disclaimers: Nothing in the Star Wars
Universe belong to me; everything belongs to George
Lucas. I'm only writing stories for fun. See my
homepage for more details.
IMPORTANT Note about the story's copyrights: All
the rights related to the basic idea of Mon Mothma's
scheme and the ensuing alliance between Luke and
Vader belong to Tatiana, and so do Vader's
personality and the Sathed history. The rest of
the story is a fusing of our imaginations since we've
passed the story back and forth between ourselves :)
Special thanks to my shy, secret beta-reader and
best friend, Adrianne, for her help with the final
editing of my new stories. Thanks for giving me some
of your precious time, my friend :)
One month after Bespin
Coruscant, Imperial Center
In a conference room which was far from any prying
eyes, Vader was meeting with the Emperor as well as a
plethora of high-ranking officers.
Ever since he had come back from Bespin, he had
remained on Coruscant. At first, his unusual behavior
had puzzled the higher rankings of the Imperial
government, but at the moment, his reasons were all
too clear to the admirals and moffs who were present
in the meeting hall.
The Emperor was losing his sanity.
"A Death Star... Oh, yess... The death of
those rebellious fools..." Palpatine hissed and
smiled at the men who were in the large, gray, cold
"Our last victory caused them great losses,
my Master," Vader's voice floated up, as
emotionless as a steel wall. "The Rebellion will
soon be crushed."
"Master... Yes, your Master I am,
Vader," the despot nodded in satisfaction.
"I am the master of all the Empire, and I will
soon be the Master of Death itself!"
The Emperor smiled again then laughed. The laugh,
however, was loud and awkward; it chilled to the bone
the men who were sitting at the conference table; the
Dark Lord, for his part, remained undisturbed.
"Yes... The Master of the Death
itself..." Palpatine half-whispered as if he had
just been through a moment of great clarity---
"My star must be constructed!" he suddenly
snapped as if he meant to wake up his audience. He
somewhat managed to since the gathered men, except
Vader, startled at his sudden, high pitch of voice.
"With it in my hands, those rebellious planets
will be little more than bits of dust before me.
"As you wish, my Master," Vader bowed
"Begin the construction at once!" the
other repeated, as if Vader hadn't agreed with him.
"The works will begin as soon as this order
is signed," the dark giant informed him as he
produced a data pad and an electronic stylus.
The Emperor looked at it and saw an order for the
construction of the lethal weapon which he had just
envisioned. He signed it.
While he was doing so, an aide in a violet robe
came inside the room and bowed.
"Your Highness, lord Karder has arrived and
is requesting an audience."
"Very well, take him to the small council
room. I'm finished here."
Palpatine stood up; the nine other men were
immediately on there feet, standing at attention. Not
paying them any attention, the Emperor left the
conference hall, leaving a heavy silence of
bemusement and confusion in his wake.
Perhaps five minutes later, the silence was
"Lord Satal Karder?" Moff Jerjerrod
"He is the best specialist of cerebral
illness in the whole Empire," Vader explained
"Awful," a general grimaced in disgust.
"Master Targen" Vader said, suddenly
sounding slightly tired. "Finish the
The five Moffs and three generals signed the data
pad which had just been signed by the Emperor.
The text's title was "Testament and My Last
Once everybody present had signed the document,
Vader made it clear to the present men that this
little procedure had to remain a secret from anybody
who hadn't been present to this meeting.
Otherwise, he warned them, their quiet take over
wouldn't come to work and the Empire would be doomed
thanks to the Emperor's folly.
2 years later:
It was now two years since the events of
Bespin and the ensuing rescue of Han on Tatooine.
The fight against the Empire was still going on,
but, strangely enough, Luke had the unusual feeling
that the Empire was not willing to participate
anymore. Lately, the only fights which had been
reported had been when his rebel comrades themselves
had engaged the Imperials.
Otherwise, they had been and were still left
In fact, throughout the last year-and-a-half, only
five Imperial attacks had been recorded and each one
of them had been the answer to the destruction of
Imperial military bases.
No new zones of influence were gained or lost for
In short, Luke reflected seriously, an awkward
calm was now reigning on the Galaxy.
However, he had the feeling that it was the calm
before the storm, a feeling that was shared by his
sister and her boyfriend. The three of them simply
knew that something was not right anymore, but, he
pondered yet again... what could it be?
As he tried for the hundredth time to come up with
a possible answer, he reminded himself that the last
time that he had seen his secret sister, she had
seemed to know a bit more about the situation than
they did, but she hadn't been ready to share her
hindsight with him.
In fact, he admitted, she had looked jumpy as of
late, as if she were burdened by a great secret which
she couldn't share with any living soul.
He slightly pouted his lips at that; didn't he
just know how that felt, he asked himself
sardonically. He had been living like that ever since
Bespin... constantly dreading the moment when he
would have to reveal the fact that Vader was his
father... When he would have to face his friends'
scorn and disgust.
Up to now, they hadn't questioned him, and Vader
hadn't chased him for quite a while either. While it
was strange, it also allowed him to be at peace for a
Now, he thought glumly, he could only hope that
his inner peace would last for as long as the
galactic imitation of peace would.
As for his sister, he reflected, getting back on
his initial track of thoughts, she had never pried
him too much about his secret, so he decided that he
would return the favor.
He wouldn't pry her for information either.
As he thought about her though, about seeing her
again, he admitted to himself that he couldn't wait
for her to return from her mission; he really missed
her all of a sudden.
Forcing down his sorrow and strangely foreboding
feelings, he pushed away from his chosen bay window
and headed for his X-wing. He was due for a patrol.
'Cold. Darkness. Pain, sharp and clear. A
scream, so loud that it tore lungs apart, yet was
"Please, please, please, anybody!
"Leia?!!" Luke gasped in horror as he
jerked awake. He had dreamed of Leia, and--- no, not
dreamed, he corrected himself as he remembered the
details of his sister's presence in his mind. It had
been an undirected scream of despair coming from a
Force-sensitive mind--- his sister's mind!!
'Sith do I have a 'very' bad feeling about this,' he
thought as he instantly, almost reflexively jumped to
his feet. He now 'knew' that his sister was in
horrible trouble and that she needed his help.
Not caring at all if he were only wearing his
pajama pants or his full uniform, Luke ran out of his
quarters and barreled down the deserted corridors as
fast as could; his direction was the Falcon and his
"Han!" he called the moment that
he was aboard the ship.
As if also sensing that something amiss, the
smuggler was instantly awake and in the hatch of his
"Leia's in trouble," Luke explained
After a very short discussion with Han and
Chewie about his dream, the two men gave themselves
five minutes to get dressed before meeting just
outside the High Command meeting room.
Five minutes later, Luke had barely rejoined Han
that the other almost plowed through the doors of the
high command room thanks to his hasty pace. Luke was
right on his heels.
"Where's Leia?" the smuggler demanded
As if waiting for them, Mon Mothma, Admiral Madine
and Admiral Ackbar were sitting at the meeting room
despite the late hour of the night; they calmly gazed
at them and Luke understood that they knew had
somehow heard about his sister's predicament.
"I'm afraid that Princess Leia is missing,
Captain Solo," Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel
Alliance, explained soothingly. "We
unfortunately don't know where she is, nor what
exactly happened. The last we heard from her team,
they were under attack---"
"Let me and Luke go after her," Han
interrupted seriously. "The Empire is probably
"I'm sorry, but it is impossible," Mon
Mothma answered calmly. "We need both of
you here to help us bring about our New
"What? And just abandon Leia?" Han gaped
"No way." Luke rejoined, speaking up for
the first time since he had walked in.
"Leia has never given up on any of us; I'm not
about to abandon her."
"May I remind you, Jedi Skywalker,"
Admiral Madine cut in, "that Princess Leia has
gone to great length to convince us of your
trustworthiness as a Jedi Knight. It would be most
unfortunate if you were to prove her wrong with any
"But I can't sit here and wait when my best
friend is in danger," he argued earnestly with
the harsh officer.
"You don't know that," Mothma
"I do know it, Madam," Luke stated
adamantly. "Even now, I can feel that she needs
us, that she is alive and in torment."
For a long moment, the matriarch gazed long and
hard at him, as if pondering the truth of his words.
Han interrupted the moment. "The Hell with
it, I'm going. I'm not bound by any promise or
anything, and ain't anybody who's gonna stop me from
finding Leia," he stated defiantly.
"General!" Admiral Ackbar called in
Han threw his general insignia on the table.
"Independent Captain Solo," he corrected
him. "Come on, Luke. Let's leave this gang of
bureaucrats to their games."
He turned on his heels, his frustration clear to
anyone who was watching him. Luke briefly bowed
his head in deference before he followed him.
He walked silently besides Han, all the way to the
Falcon. All of a sudden, both knew better than to
talk in the open about their real plans. However, it
was clear to them both that the High Command would
not keep either of them from looking for Leia.
Once inside the Falcon, Luke spoke up.
"I'm going to look for her too, Han," he
stated seriously. "I've already begun what they
call a Jedi search; I'll just keep my eyes open for
my sister while I'm at it," he smirked
As he did so, he saw a mental flash of when he and
Leia had told Han about their twin ship. It had been
after Luke had had to explain why Leia and he seemed
to share too many odd similarities and even seemed
more linked than Solo and Leia were through their
Han and Chewie had never betrayed their secret, he
remembered from his memory; he knew that he could
trust them with 'any' secret.
"There ain't nobody alive who's gonna keep me
from saving her," Solo growled in anger.
"Okay, but you know how you have a way with
people," the young Jedi seriously warned him.
"just try to be a bit more tactful about that
Han gave him his lopsided, self-confident grin.
"Hey, it's me."
Throughout the following weeks, both Luke and Han
began their secret investigation. Since Luke was
supposedly looking for other Jedi warriors, the High
Command hadn't even tried to make him change his mind
However, he quickly admitted that looking for
other Force sensitives was somewhat easier than
finding traces of his secret sister.
Although he knew that she wasn't dead, he felt as
if she had completely disappeared from the galaxy.
Taking a moment of respite from his
intensive search, the young Jedi sighed and rested
his elbows on the top of his cantina table. He took
another swig of his tea.
Three weeks now... three weeks since he'd felt his
sister's pain from across the galaxy... then nothing.
And if he couldn't feel her anymore, then it could
only mean that she was d---
No, he placated himself, he couldn't give up. Not
on his life. He simply wasn't searching in the right
Sighing in frustration, he looked around the
tavern he was in. Things certainly didn't change much
from one bar to the other, he reflected wryly. As
usual, he was surrounded by the same ragtag assembly
of smugglers, outlaws, and honest citizens who had
gome there to forget their problems.
As his gaze roamed across the crowded room, he
found it drawn toward a man who was flipping a coin
as if it were a great prize. Luke frowned as he felt
a sudden guidance through the Force; he took a closer
look at the man. The Force was trying to tell him
something, he realized, but what?...
Then, before he had focused, he saw an enhanced
image of the coin.
He was instantly on his feet and on his way toward
the other. The two men noticed his approach but
dismissed him as being inconsequential--- until his
hand shot out and caught the coin while it was
flipping in the air.
"Hey, who do you think you are?" the
other asked, more than a little upset.
Luke glared at him, wordlessly warning the other
that he had better not threaten him. The other seemed
to understand him; he subsided. With this threat was
dealt with, Luke turned his attention to the coin.
It was Leia's lucky charm all right, he
identified. Unlike the other pieces of credit, it was
one of the last pieces from Alderaan as well as
unique one. It had escaped the destruction of the
planet because Leia had been carrying it in her
pocket as a lucky charm at the time. It had also been
the only coin ever forged with two metals.
'A special gift from a loving father to a beloved
daughter,' she had told him when she had shown it to
him for the first time... after the battle of Yavin.
He turned toward the man who was still glaring at
"Where have you found this?" he inquired
seriously, almost threateningly.
"None of your business, Kiddo. Give it back
or I'll take it back."
Luke stared the man down. "That coin belongs
to a very dear friend of mine. Either you tell me
where you got it, or I'll assume that you are behind
her disappearance and I'll bring you in."
The other seemed to consider; meanwhile, his
friend tried to take hold of his weapon but a sharp
look from Luke discouraged him.
"None of that," he warned him.
"Keep your hands where I can see them." He
turned back toward his quarry. "Where?"
The other grumbled unintelligibly until he
shrugged in frustration. "Oh, what the heck. One
of the pilots over there had a bet with me. He
Luke turned in the indicated direction, aware that
the man wasn't lying.
"Thank you," he told him before he
returned to his table.
Unlike his first approach though, he kept a low
profile as he studied the raucous group.
The first thing he noticed was that they were
pirates, not smugglers, the second, that they were
quite inebriated; it would make tailing them easier,
he reflected seriously.
It was late at night when they finally
decided to leave the bar. He himself had left the bar
a few hours ago to take position in the streets near
the bar. When they came out; he discreetly
Their destination soon became obvious: the
'Those guys wouldn't try to fly in their state,
would they?', he wondered uneasily, suddenly worried
about the safety of the inhabitants of the
city. He made a note to incapacitate their ship
if they showed any sign of lifting off.
Careful to remain out of sight, he watched them as
they boarded a large ship, which was bearing the same
weird symbol than the one he'd seen on the arm of one
of the pirates.
Feeling his hopes sore as he understood that he
had finally found a link to his sister's kidnappers,
he reached out to search for her presence.
Seconds later, he reintegrated his senses,
somewhat disappointed. She wasn't anywhere nearby,
but he could feel that he was on the right track.
He decided to take a look inside and see which
information they had in their logs about Leia's
The ship was naturally guarded but for a Jedi, he
knew that it would be easy to slip past their
sleeping defenses. Focusing his senses on himself, he
skulked closer to the berthed ship. Slowly, he
approached them from the shadows of the nearby ships,
then silently walked toward the boarding ramp.
By the time that he had reached it, the guards
were nodding off sleepily. With a little
Force-enticement, they kept doing it while he slipped
aboard the ship.
Once inside, he hugged the walls, his blaster in
his hand and set on stun.
'Pirates,' he thought in rare disgust as he looked
There were bodies slumped in every room he passed
by, their capacity to absorb alcohol obviously
ignored by what served as brains in their heads. Of
course, he conceded, alcohol was probably the least
damageable drug that they had taken that night.
He finally reached the cockpit--- where a pirate
was snoring loudly, his heavy body sprawled in the
pilot's chair. Luke took a moment to put this one
under a veil so as to not awaken him during his
search, then called up the navcomp readings and
prepared himself for a long struggle with login and
To his pleasant surprise, he discovered that the
computer was still logged-in. The Force was obviously
with him tonight, he reflected while he set to work.
He had had about one chance in a million to find it
still logged in, for even the craziest fool in the
galaxy who cared about his survival would not leave a
comp logged in...
But then again, perhaps the pilot 'was' the
craziest fool in the galaxy, he thought with a smirk.
The list finally opened without any other
difficulty. His first discovery was that the pirates
had been to many places, both inside and outside the
known- territories; they called themselves the
He had finished to study this information and was
wondering what to check next when he felt a renewed
tug in the Force; he began to call up directories.
He was waiting for them to come up when a sound
came from the opened corridor. He whirled
around, his weapon ready to bear on any bypasser----
only to discover that the source of the sound was
merely a small rodent which had decided to pay a
visit to the bridge during the night.
Letting out a breath of relief, Luke refocused on
the loading computer. However, having learnt
his lesson about being careless, he made sure to keep
his senses alert to sense danger if it came nearby.
The directories finally came up on the screen.
'Interesting,' he thought as he leaned closer.
They weren't only independent, but were also for
He called up the list of their contracts.
The Force was still with him, he smiled. Most were
identified, Leia's included- -- so he had been right,
he thought in sudden aggression and worry. They 'had'
hurt his sister.
Keeping himself from even looking at the nearby
pirate to glare hatefully at him, he asked for the
details of this contract to find out who was after
his sister. Unfortunately, that's where the Force
stopped helping him.
He only found a bank-account number.
Carefully memorizing it for further use, he turned
off the computer and made his way out of the ship.
As he walked down the main corridor, Luke
kept himself on a tight 'leash' and reminded himself
that killing those cruel men and aliens wouldn't be
worthy of a Jedi, but he had to admit that he would
feel damn good about doing it this one time.
They had attacked his sister's ship, he wanted to
remind the Force; they had captured her and brought
her somewhere, probably outside the galaxy.
And to do what? he wondered as he gazed in his
back and inside the ship that he had just exited.
What had they possibly done to his princess? And why?
While he and his sister were both known for their
heroics, they had long since gone down in the most
wanted list. In fact, the Empire had completely
stopped hunting them down almost two years ago.
So if the Empire wasn't after them, he pondered,
then who? He and his sister didn't have that many
enemies... and especially not Leia.
It was another story for him since he was a Jedi
Knight now, but Leia...
And yet, those pirates had taken a contract on
her. Why?, he asked the unseen Force.
Why her and not him?
As he hid once again in the surrounding shadows
near the main engines of the ship, he reflexively
drew his lightsaber and slashed at the engine pods.
They would live some more, he thought at the pirates,
but they would not be going anywhere soon either.
By the time that the sleepy guards had woken up
enough to attack him, he was long gone.
Chapter 2: Truce
After reporting the presence of dangerous pirates
at the spaceport, Luke returned to his ship to get
some much needed sleep.
Cold. Burning pain. Blind darkness. Cold fire-----
A cold touch. A black mask, hovering over her. A
reflection of her face in the empty lenses. Burned
darkened ruins of a temple----.'
Luke awoke yet again with a gasp, the third time
since he had gone to sleep, and once again, he sat
bolt upright on his bunk, startling his faithful
droid from his own rest.
Artoo whistled an inquiry to his master.
"No, I'm okay... Just nightmares," he
muttered as he forced his heartbeat to slow down.
Artoo fluted something degrading about a certain
"Thanks a lot, Artoo," Luke grumbled as
he fell back on the pillow of his narrow bunk.
"I really needed you to remind me of
'him'," he muttered as he covered his eyes to
shoo away the thoughts that were suddenly invading
Vader cutting off his hand... Determinate to
destroy his soul... And now Leia...
He tried to go back to sleep, to forget
everything... but he couldn't.
Two things were not leaving his mind: Vader, and
that unknown account number. Had Vader sent the
pirates after Leia? he wondered as he sat up once
again, this time with a sigh of tiredness and worry.
Had he discovered about their relationship? Why not
come after him instead of his sister? And why the
heck would Vader give that job to the scum of the
galaxy when he could take care of that himself? Last
time that he had dealt with the cruel dark lord, the
other had been more than able to handle his own
affairs with anybody he chose to torment.
Unable to stand the idea of his father hurting
Leia again, he stood up and went into the cockpit,
his droid following him right on his heels.
"I'll get to the bottom of this thing,"
he promised him, sitting in the pilot's seat.
His droid fluted in agreement, although Luke had
the feeling that Artoo didn't exactly know what he
was talking about.
Wordlessly, the young Jedi turned on the main
computer, established a link with the all-knowing
imperial holonet and typed the number that he'd
memorized aboard the Pirates' ship.
A series of possible banks came on screen. He
scrolled down the list, then took a deep breath and
trusted the Force to pinpoint the guilty one.
Since the account was numbered though, the owner's
identity was naturally protected, but Luke had been
with Artoo far too long to ignore his talents of
hacker. He plugged him in and told him to find the
identity of the mysterious nemesis.
It took the little droid a long, long time to find
the data. A time during which Luke couldn't leave the
planet without disturbing his search.
Hence, he tried once again to catch up on his
recent lack of sleep.
Three days later, and little sleep for the Jedi,
the data search was over. Luke, who had once
again gotten up from his bunk after another vain
attempt to sleep, felt his heart stop in his chest as
he read the results. He sank in the pilot chair, his
knees giving under him in horror.
The woman had given another name, but the biodata
didn't lie; Artoo had taken the liberty to compare
them with the medical databank which registered
everything about every citizen as soon as they were
Mon Mothma?.. he gaped in utter denial. No... no,
it couldn't be. Mon Mothma was one of Leia's best
friends. The two women had been in the Senate
together, had founded the Rebellion together and had
fought side by side at the worst of the war---
"There must be a mistake," he commented
out loud as he typed in a request to produce further
Artoo double-checked. Now that the information had
been found, it came up much faster than he
expected... and still confirming him that there
wasn't any mistake.
"Then it's been forged," he told the
droid, hanging onto that last hope that something was
Artoo gave an electronic sigh, set to work again,
with the same results.
It hadn't been forged either.
Luke slumped back in his seat, drained from any
strength to sit straighter.
The woman whom everyone looked up to... The woman
who had led them in war... The woman who was
presently in charge of the Rebellion... was an
assassin. At least, he conceded glumly, it explained
why she had vehemently opposed his leaving to search
for Leia. Somehow, she must have known that his Jedi
talent would eventually lead him to this discovery.
Which now left him with one question: what could
he do now?
He couldn't go back to the Rebellion, not after
this discovery--- and suddenly understood the woman's
reason for her actions: Mon was trying to destroy the
Emperor to take his place, taking out anyone who
could stand in her way... even Leia.
Normally, he didn't believe such mean judgments,
but now, with this last piece of the puzzle setting
into place, everything was horribly clear: the
Rebellion was in fact Mon Mothma's private army
against the private army of the Emperor... and if
Leia had also figured this out...
Then it explained why the other had had his sister
kidnapped even though they hadn't been close to
defeating the Empire.
So, he too had now 'awakened' from Mon's lies, he
thought glumly, but that still left him with the
question as to what to do.
He couldn't tell Han 'that' truth; the poor man
would go berserk and die before he ever got to Leia.
He also knew that he couldn't contact anybody in the
Rebellion; they would tag him as the traitor the
moment that he would mention Mon's secret.
That... left only one person in the whole galaxy
whom he could call for help.
The last person he ever wanted to see again.
No, he argued with himself, swiftly standing up on
his feet as if to add belief to his denial. He wasn't
that desperate... was he? He wasn't going to call for
the help of the man who was responsible for his
artificial hand, his nightmares about his family and
all the other horrors which had happened to him
throughout his first three years with the Rebellion.
And yet..., he reminded himself, slowly sitting
back in his seat under the bemused eye of his
electronic companion, Vader hadn't come after either
Leia nor him for almost two years now...
He himself knew all too well that the Fleet was
still out there, but Vader hadn't tracked them for a
while, since... Bespin in fact.
The thought of that cursed place brought back
memories of despair, of horror, of loss... and of
hope... from the man who had said that he was his
father. Vader had hoped that he would come off his
perch, had in fact wanted him at his side...
And ever since that day, he finally admitted to
himself, the cunning dark lord had not tried to
recapture him even once... It was not as if he
couldn't have tried or even managed it, he reflected
grimly. He himself knew far too well now that Vader
was extremely powerful in the Force.
He had no doubt that he could overcome him anytime
And yet, he hadn't.
And then there was his dream, he remembered. He
had assumed that Vader had been meaning to hurt his
sister, but... What if it had been a vision of the
Force?, he pondered warily. What if Vader was truly
going to help him save Leia?
Far from reassured by his train of thoughts, he
worriedly rubbed his forehead, then ran the same hand
through his sleep-tousled hair before settling it on
his jaw as he kept pondering his decision.
He finally made up his mind and hoped that he
wasn't making a mistake.
Sitting up, he began to type the code which he had
learnt despite himself when he had found out about
Vader's personal calling box.
Artoo, who had remained silent during his bout of
reaction, suddenly noticed what he was doing and
squeaked in alarm.
"It's okay, Artoo, I know what I'm
The droid didn't seem to share his opinion, which
wasn't as confident as it Seemed anyway. He hesitated
before punching in the last numbers, then finally
completed his call.
'May the Force be with me,' he thought fervently.
The box opened instantly, no welcome of any kind
at its opening. Luke hurried to type in his message,
not trusting his voice to remain steady if he spoke.
'Meet me on Saccoria in four days. Come alone. L.'
He knew that Vader didn't need more clues. If he
came, He would find him.
He ended the call and looked at his little
companion. "Well, there's no turning back
Artoo whistled mournfully at that, as if
foreboding some bad event. Luke conceded that he was
probably right as well as the wisest of them both at
Approximately 2 hours later, on
Coruscant. Emperor's Palace:
It had been two years now since Vader had
officially proclaimed himself the Emperor's heir and
Unofficially, he was now the Emperor.
Palpatine's state was now stable but absolutely
hopeless since his mind was in ruins; he had lost all
his faculties, all his powers and almost all his
memory. Once an almighty ruler, he was now just a
pawn in the hands of his servant.
Having waited for this for almost twenty years,
Darth Vader surprisingly didn't feel any joy.
In fact, he felt nothing about either his nowadays
position, nor about the Emperor's state. Perhaps any
joy he might have felt had run away when he had seen
how much needed to be done, he reflected seriously as
he made his way to his quarters.
He had always known what an enormous task it would
be to revive the Empire, but never had he imagined
that its present state would be so desperate...
However, gathering his determination and will, he had
worked like a crazy man, days and nights, sleeping
less and less as the time had passed.
Eventually, he had also blocked any other feeling,
emotion, or thought that was not linked with the task
at hand, trying to make the Empire's future his only
goal in life.
It has been so for two years now.
Even now though, he wasn't completely able to
resume his previous state of mind of 'before' the
events of the Death Star.
Before the princess. Before the knowledge that he
had a son, then a daughter. Before Bespin. Before his
children's hateful glances. Before these feelings had
begun to make a difference to him.
Forcing down his regret once again, he coldly
reminded himself that he had to succeed to forget
them. That was why he was working so hard.
His now firmly-entrenched workaholic attitude was
making him feel cold and empty besides the growing
tiredness. That was good, he thought as he entered
his personal rooms in his castle---
He checked his message box--- and was in for a
rather rude surprise.
He found the message in amongst the rest of the
trash which he normally deleted without a second
look, but strangely not tonight.
Even stranger, he momentarily felt an unusual
peace settle over his senses as he noticed who had
sent it; his son had contacted him... then it was
No, this wasn't a nice surprise, he argued with
himself. It was most unexpected and almost unwelcome
since it was already destroying all the barriers
which he had built around his heart and mind; in the
end, it was painful to feel something, to feel so
much after two years of self-enforced coldness and
He felt joy, and this joy felt as if it were
burning his soul. He also felt a strange peace, the
peace that was not stillness but Life.
And all these feeling refused to die as his cold
mind tried to soothe them back into apathy.
After a long moment of warring with himself, Darth
Vader sighed and admitted the existence, and the
right to be, of all these feelings.
So, he thought, refocusing on his message, his son
What for? Perhaps it was a trap, he began to
consider, then shook his head to himself. Improbable,
unless Luke had assured to the Alliance that the dark
lord would come, but for this, he would have had to
explain why the Emperor's 'henchman' would do such a
foolishness... and to do so, he would have had to
reveal his parentage.
Most improbable, he calculated.
He knew Luke; he knew that the boy could barely
reveal such a matter to his friends since he felt
deeply ashamed of their relationship. Thus, he
strongly suspected that he would not reveal it to the
Not to Mothma.
Still, he admitted, the probability of a trap
existed, but it was very slim, which led to only one
possible conclusion: his son truly needed him.
He had called to him, ignoring the danger, the
hatred and shame... because he was desperate, he
He then grew aware that he himself wanted to hear
why his son needed him so much; he also wanted to
help him--- even if this would not change anything
about how Luke felt about him, he sternly reminded
Well, he told himself, as long as he himself would
have some kind of relationship with the flesh of his
He would go, he decided.
Four days later, Saccoria. Abandoned temple of
Luke remained in the shadows, following the dark
presence of his father through the Force.
Had this been a good idea? he asked himself for
the hundredth time since he had arrived at the
temple. If it weren't, it was kind of too late, he
sarcastically reminded himself. No choice but to wait
for the events to develop.
The other finally stepped into view.
Luke remained behind his column, hiding from the
dark lord. "Don't come any closer," he
warned him, cursing himself for feeling afraid. After
all, he reminded himself, he had debated long and
hard with himself before contacting the dark giant.
He had also come to realize that Vader hadn't
hunted him down for quite a while now. Surely he
wouldn't be menial enough to do it here, under the
strange circumstances, he tried to reassure himself.
Meanwhile, Vader stood still, a dark silhouette
which seemed to float above the softly-lit, white
marble of the temple.
"Very well," the other nodded agreeably.
"Why did you call me?"
The temple was broken but the acoustic was still
good; the Dark Lord's already rich voice filled the
building. Luke shivered as he suddenly felt small,
alone with the dark threat. Perhaps this entire
meeting had been a mistake...
He cursed himself again, then boldly stepped away
from the illusory protection of the column.
"I need your help," he stated as bravely
as he could.
Vader seemed surprised by his quick admission.
"A most unexpected turn of events, indeed. Why
would a Jedi Master need the help from a Dark Lord of
There was a bitter irony in the voice, Luke
noticed as he stared at the dark figure. "I'm
not a Jedi Master." Was he trying to start a
fight? he wondered... And suddenly understood. The
other wanted him to admit the truth, to not beat
around the bushes. "I need help from my
father," he admitted, forcing the last word out
of his suddenly strangled throat.
However, he knew that the strangling sensation had
nothing to do with the dark Lord; it was his own
doing. Forcing himself to focus back on his...
father, he saw Darth Vader acknowledge his statement
with a nod.
"Very well, my son. What do you need my help
How could he explain everything which had happened
in the last month in two or three sentences? he
wondered. "My sister, your... daughter... has
been kidnapped," he finally managed.
He considered that it was a rather good summary.
"Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan?"
Vader queried seriously.
'As if I had 'many' sisters,' Luke thought
sarcastically--- then he understood what the other
meant. Who would kidnap such a persona and risk a
fight with all the Alliance? "At first, I
thought that you were behind it," he admitted,
feeling a slight blush of shyness creep up his
"I assure you, Son, that had it been the
case, you would have known 'for certain' that it was
me," the other stated with a harsh and cold
"Yes, I'm rather aware of it, 'father',"
Luke indicated, restraining his shiver as multiple
scenarios of what might have happened played out in
front of him. "I also know for sure that
it's not you," he added seriously.
"Thank you." The irony in the voice was
palpable. "So, you know who is responsible
of her disappearance."
"Why do you need me then? You are not a
green-horned boy anymore," his father stated,
obviously referring to their last encounter from
which he had survived.
"It's Mothma," Luke said simply,
A small silence.
"I see," was the only answer.
"You don't seem surprised," Luke
frowned, crossing his arms in front his chest in an
attempt to straighten his composure.
"I'm not," the black-clad giant nodded
in agreement. "In fact, I should've understood
it much earlier."
"She is a very good actress..." The
truth was painful, even now that he'd learnt to
"She always was... And she always was
ambitious to the extreme," his father commented,
locking his hands behind his back as a teacher would.
"That's why she left the Senate after she was
refused the Prime minister's seat. At that time,
everybody was surprised. It was impossible to imagine
her out of politics."
His father's accounting made him frown. "You
seem to know her well," he observed doubtfully.
"Indeed I do. We used to work together."
Luke scolded at that. "Worked? She said that
you forced her to leave the Senate because of
A chuckle. "Well, she made up quite a scandal
to quit the Senate with dignity when her prospect was
denied. It didn't fool anybody who knew her well
though, and there really were some 'ideological
differences' between us at the time concerning the
methods, but not the goals. She too wanted a strong
Empire, so I was rather surprised when she started
that Rebellion thing--- but even I never doubted her
Luke was flabbergasted by his father's
revelations. Mothma had wanted the Empire? She had
wanted to rule it??
"She is an excellent actress, is she
not?" his father asked in the silence.
Luke could only nod in agreement. "Even Leia
believed in her," he whispered.
"She's also understood her game."
That was not a question. "Yes. And Mon's made
her disappear. I wonder..." he began
hesitatingly, then licked his suddenly dry lips.
"I wonder why she is still alive..." he
His father didn't even take a moment to consider,
showing him how well he indeed knew the woman.
"Mothma undoubtedly has plans for the Princess
"And that's why I need your help," he
reminded his father. "We have to find her before
Mon initiates any plan she has in mind."
Now that he had spend more than five minutes with
his father, he began to notice how his mask seemed to
carry out his facial expression. Right now, even
though it hadn't shifted in any way, he could almost
see the man raise his eyebrow in slight challenge.
"You need my resources?" he asked him
"I need, 'Father', your help to find my
sister," Luke answered with all the power of
persuasion that he could muster, tired of their
little game of admitting the truth.
He glared at the black mask, forgetting all his
fears this time. No matter how he felt about this
man, this dark lord of the Sith and Emperor's right
hand... he was his father... he 'was' his father.
That 'had' to matter, he wanted to shout at him.
A muffled, short laugh came from the darkness that
was his father. He realized that he was aware of his
annoyance. "Very well, Son. I will help you find
Leia- -- but keep this Correlian of yours out of my
way," he warned, waving a leather- covered
finger at him.
"I will," Luke promised, letting out the
breath that he had been holding. "Thank
"For nothing at the moment. I'll contact you
myself when I have news. You still have a box?"
His father nodded, then without another word,
turned heels and left.
Luke leaned against the closest column. Now that
he was alone once again, he felt as if all his
strength had been drained from him yet again. He took
a deep breath to recover them.
The dices were thrown now, and his father hadn't
tried to capture him, nor deceive him for that
matter. Instead, it looked like he could really trust
him. It naturally bemused him, but he accepted his
feelings as truthful and, somewhat, reassuring. For
the moment, he wouldn't have to worry about Vader.
However, he had to take Han and try to find
another track than his father's to find Leia. As he
considered the Dark Lord's admonition, he dimly
wondered why the other felt such annoyance toward his
friend. He filed the incident for later analysis. For
the moment, he had to rejoin Han. Solo was a smuggler
who had once had dealings with pirates; with his
help, they would find a way to backtrack the pirates
to find some clues as to where Leia was kept.
It probably wouldn't be as fast as Vader's direct
search concerning Mon, he conceded, but it would at
least be something.
And now came the touchiest part, he scowled. He
had to report to the rebel fleet about his Jedi
Search without giving away the fact that he knew the
real motivation behind the rebellion's military
He knew that the most normal thing to do would be
to run away, but it wouldn't do any good to the
galaxy since Mon would still be fomenting her little
personal war. No, he sighed tiredly, he had to keep
up his charade, keep up an innocent appearance--- and
foul her evil plans.
To do that though, he had to find his sister.
His dreams were now assaulting him relentlessly at
night, yet they never gave him any clue as to where
she could be kept.
If only he could feel her through the Force, he
thought in frustration as he pushed himself away from
his chosen column and made his way out of the temple.
Chapter 3: Searches
Back in his shuttle, Darth Vader allowed himself
to relax in the pilot chair. This had gone better
than he had thought it would, not to mention that it
had been much different too.
His son had grown up, he smiled to himself. Luke
was much more emotionally balanced and in control
than he had been two years ago. He had also come to
accept his parentage... at last.
Whatever feeling that the boy had concerning his
father, he was now able to deal with them calmly; to
not let them influence his behavior.
Yes, he nodded wistfully, Luke had definitely
The fact that he hadn't spat names at him, hadn't
threatened his life, nor tried to turn him or even
contradict him in any way had also immensely pleased
It had also confirmed to him that, as he had
originally thought, his son had truly been asking for
his help, nothing more, nothing less.
However, even more important for him than all
those details was that Luke had expected that help to
be given simply because he was his and Leia's father.
There hadn't been any doubt in the boy's mind and
heart that he would help him... He had 'believed' in
He had to admit that this greatly pleased him ; it
was good to know that his son was now thinking of him
as having feelings for his children.
Of course, he himself was perfectly aware that
neither Luke nor Leia, and especially Leia, would
ever accept him as part of their family. He knew that
his children would never care for him... that they
would perhaps hate him forever, but, he shrugged to
himself, it did not matter anymore.
They could accept at least something from him
because his son knew that 'he' cared.
He could live with this, he decided. A very long
time ago he had understood that sometimes, it was
better to be content with little because willing to
get everything could very well destroy the very thing
that one was longing for.
Some lesson that Mothma had never understood, he
suddenly reflected with a sneer.
Mon Mothma, he paused on his thought... He knew
------Much better that he had led Luke to think.
They had almost been friends at her earlier times in
the Senate, appearing to everybody as hateful
enemies. Most of the time though, they had been
secret allies in hundreds of internal plots.
Mothma, he remembered grimly, had especially shone
in plots. She had always been an ambitious, strong
woman, not exceptionally beautiful, but undoubtedly
charismatic. She had also always been very clever.
He himself had sort of liked her, he then
conceded. Observing her had always been very
enjoyable because nobody, including himself, had been
able to predict her actions.
With time however, his sympathy for her had
changed to ... almost disgust for she had been clever
and strong, but she had fundamentally lacked the
Her prime objective had always been power for
itself; she had never understood that the power was
nothing but an instrument to reach one's goal. A goal
which she had never had; she had never had any ideals
nor moral imperatives.
In a way, it made her even worse than Palpatine
since not even the 'Emperor' had not been as immoral
as that woman was. When she had started the
Rebellion, he himself had felt both surprise and
relief that she had left the Empire. They had already
been enemies at the time, but he had mostly been
relieved that she couldn't ruin the Empire anymore.
And now, his son had confirmed that the Rebellion
had been a lie all along.
While not surprised, he was as badly shocked as
Luke was by that truth. He himself was a monster, he
admitted. He had no delusions that he was not, but,
he shivered slightly in disgust at the woman's sheer
depravation of mind, he could not imagine himself
starting a civil war to merely satisfy his personal
Plot, assassination, anything, he could
understand--- but a war? It was even more evil than
what the Death Star had done to Alderaan, he
summarized in rare horror. Mothma simply had, and
still, used millions of people to reach her ends.
She had used Organa's family, the soldiers of the
Rebellion--- and now she dared use his children!??
Leia was the image of the Alliance, he realized,
clenching his fist in anger as he understood why she
had been targeted. The princess was the Rebellion's
Soul. With her in danger, the other could fuel the
body to save that 'soul'.
Luke, for his part, was its hero. The Last Jedi.
Now that Leia had been coldly removed, he had the
most unpleasant premonition that Luke was also in
danger. Jedi or not, he could feel that Luke would
need help if the woman were to throw a contingent of
pirates or outlaws at him.
It must have been how she had gotten Leia, he
mused angrily. From what he knew, his daughter was
also far from helpless; she had been trained to
survive just about anything.
Except perhaps... betrayal.
Vader suddenly felt a wave of cold rage fill him
at the thought of how deceitful the vile woman was;
the feeling was so strong that it was barely
'You dare touch my children!' he growled
dangerously, almost reaching out to strangle the evil
woman from a distance.
However, he calmed himself with an effort.
Emotions would not be of any help now, he reminded
Once he had recovered his composure, he refocused
on his previous thoughts.
What he couldn't understand, he admitted
seriously, was why Leia was still alive. Why had she
been kidnapped and not just killed? Mothma wanted to
use her, that much was clear. But for 'what'?
The response came by itself: to restart the war
even more powerfully than if the Princess were merely
dead. The actual stalemate probably did not satisfy
Mothma, nor would she ever be content with the
present Empire. Hence, to make sure that the war
would last even though the Empire wouldn't want to
fight, she needed a strong catalyst... Like saving
Leia in extremis from an Imperial base...
Even though this thought was only an hypothesis...
it strangely felt right to him, filling him with
renewed anger. If Leia were found in a base's
detention block and that there were evidences of
torture- any peace talks would became impossible for
a long, long while.
And even more so if Leia were to die soon after
she had been found... If that ever happened... the
Rebels would make her a martyr and would wage a new
war in her name.
That hypothesis felt eve more awfully right than
the previous one, he thought with a definite shudder.
Not even the Emperor had ever been this
But if it were true, he reminded himself, then
there was almost no time left... The next base under
attack 'might' be the one. He supposed that the
timing depended of Leia's condition.
Refocusing on his new duty to save his daughter,
he decided to contact some of his agents in the
Alliance to know the time and destination of the next
attack as well as make them investigate Mothma's
He also decided to dispatch a few of those agents
to find the rebel princess before any true Rebel did.
With his plan taking shape in his mind, he leaned
forward and tapped a request for his intelligence
service, then sent it.
In a few hours at most, the search for Leia would
It took Luke three days to rejoin the Rebel Fleet,
three days during which he prepared himself for the
best cover-up job that he had ever done.
He and his droid in fact.
Artoo now knew about the evil woman... and Luke
couldn't risk his ruining everything. Thus, he had
erased that part of the droid's memory, but not
before apologizing to him before doing it. The little
droid had understood and encouraged him to proceed.
Now though, it was his turn to hide the truth, he
reminded himself as he brought his shuttle down in
the Rebel hangar bay.
Techs hurried over and secured it in place as he
stepped down the hatch.A sergeant snapped to
attention. "Welcome back, Commander Skywalker.
The High Command has asked for you to report as soon
as you arrive."
Luke saluted him. "Thanks, Nike. How's the
"They're fine, if a little bit tired to be
out of action. You would think that the Imperials
have gone fishing or something, huh?"
"Yeah, you would," Luke agreed quietly.
"Have you seen any action yourself?"
"Nah, not much. Just a couple of goons in a
"Still beats cleaning up the vents," his
"Sure does, well, I'm better head forth if I
don't want to make them wait too long. So long, Nike.
Say hi to the guys for me."
"Good luck, Luke," the other smiled as
Luke walked away from him. "Are you sure you
won't take back your piloting station?"
"Yes, I am," Luke answered , his eyes
suddenly darkening as he was reminded that he had
once been part of those who were fighting for a cause
which they thought was just.
He walked faster toward the nearest lift, trying
hard to not lose his composure. He couldn't lose it
yet, he sternly reminded himself.
Minutes later, he straightened his stance before
he entered the conference room. He couldn't let them
suspect anything, he reminded himself grimly as he
made sure that he had his commander insignia in his
tunic. As he touched the piece of metal, he took one
last breath to gather his courage, then walked
forward; the double doors opened. He walked until he
stood at the end of the meeting table.
"Welcome back, Commander. How was your
search?" Mon Mothma asked.
"It has gone well, Madam, but has
unfortunately turned up dry. The leads that I was
following were all false."
"Then what will you do next?"
"I will continue to search, Madam. I know
that I am not the only Jedi descendant in the galaxy.
It is impossible," he stated as calmly as he
"When can we hope to see you back on the
front, commander?" a general asked him.
Luke, who had been waiting for such an opening,
pulled out his insignia and setit on the table in
front of himself. "If I do, Sir, it won't be out
of obligation anymore. I hereby resign my commission
as commander in the Alliance."
The leaders were shocked, to say the least.
"May I ask why?" Admiral Ackbar asked.
'Because the woman we follow is worse than the
Emperor,' he thought vehemently before calming down.
He took a moment to clear his voice and senses from
any aggression. "I have decided to devote all my
time to the Jedi Order, Sir. I don't want to deprive
you of an officer because of this decision."
"But you will still be affiliated to us,
won't you?" Mothma inquired, betraying her
slight, very slight tension.
Ooh, she was more than good, he admitted
reluctantly; she was an excellent actress.
"If you want me in your group, yes, but I
will also be independent from you," he stated
"Thus not having to report to us?"
"Yes. Jedi matters can only be understood by
Jedis, with all due respect," he explained with
a short bow of his head. "Of course, if
something serious were to happen, I intend to be here
and at your side," he reassured them
The leaders discussed between themselves. Luke
noticed how Mothma kept throwing suspicious looks at
him; he didn't allow her to find anything
incriminating. She finally acquiesced to the others'
He on the other could now feel the deceit in her
mind. It was a wonder that he had missed it before.
"Very well, Jedi Skywalker," she nodded
as if she were being magnanimous whereas she was
barely trusting him to not discover the truth, but
she couldn't say so to anyone; she had no choice but
to let him leave. "You are now free to search
for the Jedi descendants or to join us, whenever you
wish. We shall continue to provide you with any
transport you may need, or any other resources it the
need arises," she informed him.
Thus keeping him dependant on the Alliance, he
realized, and hoping to make him feel as if he owed
them. "Thank you," he nodded as smoothly as
he could, then bowed his head. He left them.
Whew, he breathed in relief once he was in the
corridor. It was over and he was still alive. Now, he
had to find Han and go after the pirates. He
suspected that his father would search for Mothma's
connections, so he estimated that searching for the
pirates themselves should put enough distance between
the two men so as to not give away his secret
alliance with Vader.
Vader leaned back in his plush chair as he read
the first reports regarding his search. A new attack
was planned in a month.
It could be worse. Judging for this report, he
surmised that Leia's state was not sufficiently bad
for Mothma's plan... and that wasn't a happy thought
for his daughter, he scowled unhappily.
As for Mothma's connections, there was much
information, but at the same time, almost nothing.
The list of personal contacts was enormous and
made of political contacts. However, he knew enough
about politics to not suspect that those contacts
were just front-windows.
Starting a new search of his own, he focused on
the organizations that were behind those people. He
thus discovered that Mothma had contacts or was the
leader of many rebellious cells but almost all those
organizations had already been either destroyed or
integrated in the Alliance. In short, there wasn't
much under that category either. Everything even
Annoyed by that lack of results, he drummed his
fingers on his armrests while he fought his slight
frustration. There 'had' to be something to find, he
thought in growing irritation.
Then he conceded that what he had already found
was at least a beginning. He also knew for sure that
the traitors weren't in the Rebellion because if
Mothma had used rebels, they would surely have come
out false through his son's senses.
One less option to consider then, he heartened
himself. He focused on his other option.
So what if Mothma had called upon the services of
her old acquaintances? While the cells of her old
groups had all been destroyed or dissolved one way or
another, it was well known that those groups always
led to another group someday.
Yes, he decided, he would continue there.
Perhaps one of them either guarded Leia or knew
where she was imprisoned.
Somewhere in the Ategan system, Luke met up with
the Falcon. He hooked his X-wing in the belly clamp
of the pronged-shape ship, then space-walked to the
outer hatch and joined his friends inside.
After a warm reunion, the two friends exchanged
Han hadn't found much, except that there were
plenty of contracts on high members of the Alliance,
Luke and himself included as well as on a few other
people who hadn't been part of their ranks for a
Luke for his part didn't talk about his truce with
Vader, but told him about finding the pirates. He
gave Leia's coin to his friend.
"Are you sure that she wasn't aboard their
ship?" his friend asked him glumly.
"Yes. I checked it thoroughly," he
nodded seriously, then felt his voice catch in
sadness before he could continue: "I have a lot
of trouble finding her, Han, as if she weren't in the
Even though he had grown used to the fact that he
couldn't contact his sister, it still made him flinch
in sadness every time that the subject came up.
"I thought that distance didn't affect
you," Han observed critically.
"They don't," Luke agreed, "but it
is well known that the unknown regions have always
deterred the Jedi Knights because the 'laws' of
physics are somewhat different in them."
"Yeah, and it's also a pirates' nest,"
Solo grumbled--- then turned his gaping features
toward him. "Are you telling me that this is
where we're going?" he asked him in disbelief.
"No," he shook his head. "I think
that we should first find the rest of the Massacres'
"And do you know where to start?" Han
asked somewhat eagerly now.
"Nope, but you're the old pirate here,"
he teased him, his mood suddenly lightening as he
ribbed his friend. "I thought that you might
have an hunch about that."
"Huh-huh, right... let me think for a sec
here..." Solo answered, exchanging a gaze with
Chewie growled something about being eager to be
on their way.
"Yeah," Han nodded, "I'm eager too
to get to the fighting part; I want so much to beat
the crap out of those guys," he finished
It made Luke wince in sympathy even as he admitted
that he understood why his father had asked him to
keep Han out of his way.
"Uh, Han? How about doing it quietly?"
he suggested as he stood to his feet. "Let's not
raise their attention unless we have to. There might
be bigger fishes involved and we don't want to scare
them away," he reminded him.
"Right... Okay, Kid, now buckle in," he
smiled lopsidedly as he stood to his feet.
"Where are we going?" the young Jedi
"In the rings of Farlax," the
experienced smuggler answered grimly. "If we're
indeed dealing with pirates, that's where they'll
Luke followed him all the way to the cockpit, then
decided that he had to contact a certain Dark Lord
before he couldn't do so anymore thanks to their
transition into hyperspace.
"Can I borrow your holonet receiver?" he
queried as innocently as he could.
"Sure," Han shrugged while he checked
gauges. "Make yourself at home."
Luke waited to be completely alone before checking
his box. Just like he knew his father's box, he had
no doubt that his father would know how to find his.
Luke could even feel that he had already made some
He waited for his box to load. There was indeed a
message from his father, asking him to set a
rendezvous point. He told him that he would be in
Farlax in four or five days, then sent his message,
wondering what his father had found.
Aboard the Shadow Spear, his personal corvette,
Vader smiled but his satisfaction was short-lived
when he realized that his son would be with his Solo
friend 'and' exactly in the same place where he
himself had sent agents to investigate before he
furthered the search.
While he tried to suppress his anger, he conceded
that Luke had been right to think that they would
manage to stay out of the way there, but the youth
had obviously not considered the speed with which his
agents might uncover the actual identity of Mon's
He now knew that she was even still their leader.
Their last known base had been in Farlax, hence his
'You had better keep your trigger-happy friend
away from me,' he wrote, then sent the message to his
Four days later, Luke walked beside Han and Chewie
as they entered the base of the rings of Farlax. As
Luke approached it, he became aware that it wasn't
exactly a base but more like a refuge for the outlaw
elements that visited those parts. However, since
they were armed to the teeth and checking everybody,
he conceded that it could also be labeled as a base.
He himself had changed his typical blacks to look
more the part of a crew man aboard Solo's ship. He
was also wearing a blaster in a low-slung holster,
something which hadn't happened for a while now.
Finally, he had concealed his lightsaber under his
As he followed Han inside a local tavern, he
reflected that he almost felt as if he were back in
the Rebellion after Yavin.
"Hey, Solo!!!" someone greeted from
their left. "Long time no see, man, where've you
Solo and his group walked closer. Luke scanned the
man with his senses. Nothing devious there.
"Oh here and there. How'bout you, Tanb? Still
"Nah, there ain't no future in this anymore,
not since the Empire has practically destroyed Kessel
and the mines of the other funny spices."
"Yeah, I've heard about that."
"Say, I heard you were with the Rebs."
"Nay, that ain't true," Han slurred
happily. "I was just there when they needed my
service. They paid me for everything that I helped
"Got a new crew too. My, you've
changed," the other scoffed.
Luke introduced himself. "I'm Deak."
"How did you get hitched with this looser,
"Oh, got kicked out from my pirate
group," Luke answered nonchalantly, "and
Solo was kind enough to provide me transport in
exchange of services. I've been with him ever
"Pirates uh?" the other frowned. He
turned toward Solo who had plopped down in the seat
across from his friend. Luke and Chewie also pulled
two chairs over and sat on them.
Han smirked when he noticed that the 'Kid' had sat
backward on the chair, throwing his forearm over the
back of the chair as if he were a real no-care youth.
"If I were you, Solo, I'd offer him a decent
salary cause you're in the right place to lose
him," the other warned him. "Coupla gangs
are recruiting here."
"Which ones?" Luke asked, as if suddenly
"See? Told ya."
"Come on, Kid. You ain't gonna drop me, are
you?" Solo complained.
"That'll depend what you offer me,
Solo," Luke answered as greedily as he could
manage. "So, which ones?"
"There's the Black Stars, the Wiloug, and a
couple of others. There's also that new one, the...
Massagers, messengers. Something like that
anyway," the other finished, waving his hand in
front of his face in dismissal.
"The Massacres!" Luke turned toward
Solo, as if intent on negotiations. "You ready
to discuss my keeping, Solo? If the Massacres are
here and looking for new members, you'll have to
offer me more than you do now to keep me."
"Let's discuss this between ourselves, Kid.
Tanb doesn't need to know about our arrangements,
"For the moment."
They continued their smuggler-oriented
conversation before walking out in the port once
again, ten minutes later.
"Great play, Luke," Han praised him.
"You really had me fooled."
"That comes from hanging around with you, old
pirate," he smiled teasingly.
"So, we try to find where the gang hangs out?
Or do we try something else?" he inquired,
feeling ready for some serious spying.
"Do you feel up to reading their minds?"
Han suggested. "I don't think that we can track
their ship; they'll have a detector set for any
Chewie agreed with him.
"Unless we try to see their files," Luke
"Sure, but I don't think that they'll file
their secret base," his friend pointed out.
" Even 'I' never did that."
"Oh," Luke nodded, understanding that no
one was dare-devil enough to risk being uncovered
like Alliance bases had been in the past. "then
let's go for the mind probe. I'd do anything for Leia
anyway," he shrugged.
"So would I," Han reminded him with a
Chapter 4: The Quadra Zone
As Luke and his friends came closer to a building,
which had been indicated to them as a place where
they could give their names to be crew members, Luke
stopped dead in his tracks as he felt another Force
presence very close by.
Unfortunately, before he could warn his companions
of a change of plans, Han spotted the white armor of
a stormtrooper and charged in.
Oh no..! "Han!" Luke called,
instantly running after his friend while drawing his
lightsaber and blaster and taking stock of the
Chewie was already on Solo's heels and the
building's windows could not exactly hide the fact
that a firefight was going on within its
walls. As he tried to catch up with his
friend, Luke saw Han rush head first inside the
building where the pirates were defending their lives
against the imperials; the young Jedi reluctantly
followed inside, aware that he had failed to keep Han
away from his father.
The moment that he stepped inside, he spotted his
friends, who were trying to save at least a few
pirates for their own plan, then reflexively turned
toward his father's black-clad presence who was busy
interrogating someone, seemingly undisturbed by the
At first, Luke didn't know what to do exactly,
then his danger senses flared---he defended his life.
He had already deflected a good dozen of bolts and
had injured a few enemy troops, imperials or not,
when the dark lord seemed to noticed his presence and
walked closer to him, as if intent on getting him
*Fight me, Son. We can communicate through
Bracing himself for a double play, Luke holstered
his blaster and focused his mind on split
concentration. *Why are you here?* he asked his
They exchanged a first, vicious slash, as if two
enemies who had finally released their pent up hatred
of each other.
*I tracked Mothma to the former rebellion group
here. You?* "You will be mine this time,
Skywalker," he snarled out loud.
*I found out that the Massacres had the contract
on Leia.* "Never," Luke spat
*It seems that these former rebels contacted
them. Anything else?* his father inquired
Meanwhile, the Jedi and the Sith Lord parried and
exchanged a flurry of dangerous strokes, making it
look as if Luke was defending his life with all his
*No. You?* he queried.
*The rebel's group main base is in the unknown
regions, somewhere near the Quadra Zone. The
Massacres had no other bases than this one.*
*Will you go there? In person?* Luke asked his
Another slash. Vader's' blade almost touched
Luke's head--- or rather where his head had been a
*Yes, we are running short on time. Besides,
it's possible that I'll be needed there. It is
a an Ancient Sith territory. One of the First
Space before the Great War.*
Luke riposted, making Vader step back to prevent
him from injuring his arm. *A ...What?!* he
mentally gaped while he tried to retain his physical
expression of defiance and determination.
*It doesn't matter,* his father shook his head,
then attacked again, forcing him to keep up their
charade. *Be careful if you go there
yourself. 'Anything' can be possible in that
Vader suddenly attacked again. In order to move
out of his range, Luke sidestepped and almost
fell. *We'll be vigilant,* he mentally
nodded--- then fell on his backside.
"Luke!!!" Han exclaimed and aimed at
Vader whirled around and blocked the bolts that
would have added ventilation holes in his
helmet. As if fighting against his deadly
enemy, Luke used the opportunity to move away.
*Now,* his father warned him seriously, *take your
friend away before I can't restrain myself and kill
him with a ricochet,*
*Right. Sorry,* he sent as he scurried to
He then sent a heavy table flying in his father's
path; it crashed hard against his back, forcing him
down for a moment or two. The young Jedi didn't
waste time, as if saving his life, and ran toward his
friend. He grabbed his arm on his way out, then
pulled him toward the exit after him, not giving him
the chance to take another shot at his father.
"Come on, Han," he urged him,
"let's loose ourselves before he can
recover. Chewie! Come on!" he called
to the Wookiee who was busy butting heads, imperials
and pirates alike.
Han didn't resist too much, but he kept firing at
the dark giant until they were out of the building
and running toward the Falcon.
Once aboard the ship, they lifted off in record
"I thought that you could feel him when he's
close," Han grunted as they sped away from the
"Unless he shields his presence," Luke
defended himself. "He must have known that
we were after the Massacres."
"How would he know?" Solo frowned,
turning toward him.
"Your friend perhaps," Luke suggested
Han snorted; Chewie agreed with him.
"Wouldn't even surprise me. So, have you
had time to find the information that we were looking
"Yes. Head for the Unknown Regions,
"The---" Han gaped, suddenly frozen and
speechless in horror.
So, Luke thought seriously, even Han, who was as
daredevil as they came, had never even entertained
the thought of challenging the mystical horrors of
this zone. He himself could only hope that his
sister hadn't had to deal with any of the rumors that
he had heard about.
When he didn't comment on his reaction, Solo
understood that he was serious; he barely nodded and
programmed their destination in the
navcomputer. Chewie threw him another look,
then muttered something unintelligible under his
"I hope you know what you're doing,
Kid," Han agreed with his co-pilot.
Luke couldn't argue with them, except that he
hoped that his 'father' hadn't been wrong. He
hadn't even considered asking him more questions
while they had been keeping up appearances, but now
that he could think----
"Say," Han asked, cutting in his
thoughts, "why didn't you kill Vader?"
"Because we would still be fighting if I
hadn't run away," he lied.
He couldn't tell Han that Vader was his father;
not yet anyway. However, he conceded that he
kind of wanted to.
And then, he also had to admit that the dark-clad
man was becoming quite an interesting puzzle; while
they had been talking through the Force, he had felt
his love for his children. When this would be
over, he reflected, he would have to consider having
a heart-to-heart discussion with the dark lord... but
preferably from a distance.
Their actual truce might not last forever, he
Shortly after Luke and his friends left, Vader
boarded his personal corvette once again.
Since he had known that it would be suicidal to go
in the Outer Rim alone, he had left Coruscant aboard
his personal ship, a middle sized corvette with no
insignia-- much more discrete than a Star Destroyer
but surprisingly no less powerful.
Ever since he had selected the ship to make it his
personal craft, he had always found great advantages
to have it at his disposal in particular
circumstances. His actual mission to rescue his
daughter was one of those.
The greatest advantage with his choice was that
unlike his Super Star Destroyer which was his command
ship, this mid-size corvette was 'his' ship. He
had known that as the new Emperor, he would sometimes
need a discreet means of transportation, one that
would go unnoticed if he so chose.
Thus, the Shadow Spear had come to be.
He had first had the ship outfitted with powerful
engines, an array of weapons that could compete with
that of a Star Destroyer except for the fact that
they were not meant to be used in an aggressive
fashion, then he had equipped it with a cloaking
device that was rendering it invisible to radar.
Its crew and TIE pilots had also been carefully
chosen after an attentive study of countless files.
He had personally chosen them all because they never
discussed orders and were faithful to him.
They naturally knew that they were outside the
normal ranks, but they didn't mind in the least since
they had the honor of being his personal troops.
Yes, he nodded to himself, more than the bulky,
huge Executor, the Shadow Spear was his flagship.
With that thought, he closed his eyes and tried to
relax in the tank that was his bed.
Instead of sleep, darkness and silence, the images
of Farlax came back, full of lights and noises.
Then, the images of his mock battle with his son
came too. His mind, bright, alive--- searching,
asking, teasing. His heart, a tornado of
emotions: rejection and remnants of hate, but also an
interest, a need to know, to understand his father.
This revelation made him smile slightly in the
beginning of relief. To discover anything
besides hatred was already more that the Dark Lord
had ever dared to hope.
"I don't have much to give, Luke," he
said out loud, wishing that his son would hear him,
"but if you're willing to take, I'll give you
anything I can. All you have to do... is ask."
Approximately two days after leaving Farlax, the
Falcon reached the mostly unexplored part of space
that was known as the Quadra Zone. Luke and
Chewie were manning the quad guns while Han was
trying to keep them out of radar sight.
Once they were well inside the unknown region,
Luke scanned the sector for his sister's
presence. She was there all right, he sighed in
relief, but he still couldn't pinpoint her just
yet. The only thing that he knew was that she
was somewhere ahead of them.
"Straight ahead, Han. She's
further inside the zone."
"Joy," the Corellian commented,
Luke wholeheartedly agreed with him. He
wouldn't complain when they would return in normal
space. His Force senses where somewhat muffled
in this part of space, so he couldn't rely on them as
much as usual. It made him quite uneasy.
As he scanned the purple and deep violet space
outside, he wondered what was causing that color
instead of the normal black of deep space.
Perhaps it was some effect of that secret war that
his father had mentioned, he reflected seriously
before refocusing on his dampened Force-scan.
They flew past planet after planet, with no signal
whatsoever---- when a sudden warning managed to work
its way through the mental inhibition that was
permeating his mind. He frantically looked around,
trying to find what had triggered such a powerful
The thing found them first.
What they had thought to be a smaller planet had
been, in fact, some kind of huge birdlike monster,
which was now coming after them.
"Han! Floor it!" he yelled to the
Corellian as he and Chewie opened fire on the thing.
The bolts hurt it, but it was too big to be
incapacitated by their shots. The two rebels
continued to search for a weak spot to hurt while Han
tried wildly evasive maneuvers, to no avail.
"Can't the Force guide you this time,
Kid?" the pilot shouted in frustration in his
mike as he pulled them out of yet another tight turn.
"Afraid not!" Luke answered back even as
he let loose another volley of fire.
They had tried to fire at its eyes, chest, mouth;
anything that looked vulnerable. They still hadn't
got any results.
"Chewie, any other spot a predator would
try?" Luke inquired to his companion.
He suggested the wings. They both aimed at
the wings, piercing their membranes. It slowed
it down but just a tiny bit.
"How about a torpedo?" Solo suggested.
Luke gaped at him. "Are you suggesting
to use a torpedo on a living being?" he asked in
He didn't like that plan one tiny bit.
"We don't have much other choice, do we,
Kid?" Solo grouched, obviously not interested to
argue morale when their lives were hanging in the
Luke fired again as he considered their
options. They were indeed limited.
"All right, but can you pull it off?"
"Watch me," the pilot muttered
The Falcon turned about, coming from an angle that
the bird couldn't hope to duplicate in time, then the
three of them fired at it.
Han's torpedo disappeared inside its body.
"So much for that," the Corellian
grumbled dejectedly while he hurried to veer off,
barely avoiding the snapping mouth.
Luke turned his seat again and refocused on the
creature. That's when he became aware that it
seemed to be larger than a second before--- then he
"It's gonna blow! Get us---"
The creature popped like a huge balloon... a
balloon which threw the Falcon in a stern-to-bow
tumble thanks to the blast of its explosion.
None of them had time to brace themselves before
they collided hard into the nearest bulkhead.
When Vader's ship reached the Quadra Zone, even
her emotionless captain appeared disturbed for a
second, then he restored his blank mask and addressed
the nearby Dark Lord. "My Lord, we've
reached the destination."
"Continue further inside the zone," he
"Yes, my Lord"
The captain turned toward his subordinates.
Even without this announcement, Vader reflected
while he watched the familiar sight of the unknown
regions, he wouldn't have missed the entry in the
Or as it was also sometimes called: the Sith Hell.
The power swirled around him, mad, incurring,
intoxicating. The memories of a long dead race,
of a long ended war. So much power was here
that even the always stable Force flow was
perturbed. For him, who was a Sith, it didn't
matter; this awesome power was his, he merely needed
to ask to use it.
But for Luke, he reflected more somberly, it had
to be awful. With that thought, he reached out
and checked the Zone. He had barely reached out
that a flow of images was hurled into his
mind. It took him some time to sort it
out, having lost the habit to deal with the Sith
Hell's surges of knowledge.
Luke was here, all right, he finally understood,
and was not in danger, or not anymore, he
amended. He and his friends had apparently been
attacked by one of the mad guardians, but they had
survived the shock wave of its destruction.
That relieved him since he knew that the said
shock-wave was comparable to the one caused by the
destruction of a Star Destroyer's reactor. As
he remembered this detail, he admitted that it was
quite a wonder that Solo's tin can had managed to
While he didn't care much about Solo, he could
admit that his ship really intrigued him.
Eventually, he promised himself that he would take a
look at it and study its secret.
Refocusing on the here and now, he felt that his
son's team was now progressing toward the center of
the zone where the rebel base was.
Where Leia was.
Recovering his full awareness, he stepped closer
to the map table and studied it. The targeted
planet was only marked by a number. At first, he
dismissed the detail as inconsequential, then noticed
the pattern of the planets around it and
frowned. After a few seconds of unpleasant
reflection, he addressed his captain once
again. "Proceed toward object 167390.
There is a rebel base on the surface; activate the
As usual, the captain did not appear surprised.
"At once, my Lord," he bowed in obedience.
As he refocused on the map, Vader admitted to
himself that he did not like this turn of events at
all. This planet was not unnamed. It had a
forgotten, old name in a old and forgotten language:
On its surface, where the false rebels had
established their base, stood the temple of
Arsharel's, as dark and oppressive as ever...
and Arsharel was the Sith god of death.
For a Jedi to obtain entrance to his temple, he
knew that the said Jedi would need to offer a very
So would his son...
Luke and Han landed in the desert of the planet,
making sure to not be detected by the security of the
base that was up in the mountains, then began their
long trek toward their target. Chewie stayed with the
ship, waiting for their call. Neither said anything,
aware that they were in enemy territory as well as
close to their goal.
After a long trek and a long climb while being
careful to not trigger any alarm system, they were
finally able to study the base from a closer point of
"Are you sure that this thing is the
base?" Han asked his friend, looking at the
'thing' in question.
The closest wall was at least twenty-five meters
away from them, down a very steep rocky slope.
"I'm positive," Luke told him, his voice
Leia's senses were centered in this building.
The base was a black fortress... and strangely
misshapen. The longer he gazed at it, and the
more Luke admitted that the architecture was unlike
anything he had ever seen; the only thing that he
could say for sure about it was that it was not
He wondered if it was even humanoid at all... and
why it was giving him the creeps as much as it was
doing at the moment.
Beside him, Han hunched down once again,
dissimulating himself behind the cliff while being
careful not to sprain his bad finger.
Fortunately for him, Luke thought, the climb had
been a very steep walk upward instead of a real,
hazardous climb. Otherwise, he himself might
have had to go after Leia alone.
He refocused on their target. The base
definitely felt strange, he reflected uneasily.
Not evil, just ... different from anything that he
could remember... and really creepy. There was
a danger within those walls, but it was a passive
one--- like a danger of a mechanical trap---
"Do you feel her?" his companion
"Yes." Luke shuddered. "It's almost
the only thing that I can feel at all..."
"OK. So ,what's the plan of attack?"
Solo inquired, getting back in business.
"Well...How about finding a back door?"
he suggested with a shrug.
He lurked back over the top of their hiding rock
to look at the fortress.
*LUKE!* Vader's voice suddenly screamed through
It startled the young Jedi. *Father!* he
gasped in surprise, then reached out to locate the
dark lord. *Where are you?*
He put an end to his effort when he became aware
that Vader was probably shielding his presence; he
couldn't feel him anywhere.
*Behind you, and above,* his father answered his
question. *Don't even think to go in there by
yourself. I mean it,* he then warned him
grimly. *Don't underestimate the warning.*
Luke couldn't help but think that he sounded a lot
like a patronizing father at the moment.
*What's the matter?* he inquired.
*It's a temple of Arsharel, the Sith god of death
and destruction, and you're a Jedi. Arsharel will not
let you enter... alive.*
Luke blanched as his father's words struck
home. He looked at his friend and made sure
that he wasn't going to attack those walls by
*You speak as if he really exists,* he then
commented in naive dubiousness.
*Of course he does! It would be foolish to be
priest of a non-existing god, don't you think?* his
father asked matter-of-factly.
*I... I don't understand.*
*Twelve thousand years ago,* the Sith Lord seemed
to sigh, *there was, in this part of the outer rim, a
civilization called Sathed. To simplify it very much,
they had 2 gods: Arsharel and Letane, death and life,
or Dark and Light parts of the Force. Priests of
Arsharel were called Sith and of Letane- Jedi.*
*Huh?!* Luke frowned. That really didn't fit
with what Yoda had taught him.
*What you might have read was written many years
after the Third Great War. The titles of the priests
were kept, but the significance was lost... The
Sathed were also destroyed in the Third War. The only
remains of their civilization was preserved in the
religions of some of the peoples of the Outer Rim.*
Luke was thoroughly lost now, but his father
continued, as if this were very important for him.
*Some four or five generations before Palpatine,
there was an effort to restore the Sith brotherhood
and the cult of Arsharel, but the Jedi destroyed the
Sith before it was done.*
*So you're a priest of ...this god of death?* he
asked, trying hard to make sense of what his father
had just told him.
*No, but I'm one of the Circle. I know about him
and respect him.*
*You've lost me,* he commented truthfully.
*The symbol of memory, among other things,* Vader
said, then cut him short before he could ask more
questions. *If we survive this, Son, and that
you still want to know the answers to your questions,
I'll try to explain everything to you, but it will
take several hours, if not days... And now isn't
exactly the right time to discuss History. I
have merely told you this so that you know what we
are going to deal with inside those walls.*
*Got it. What do we do now?* he nodded, mentally
clearing his mind of questions. Not that he had
understood much anyway.
*Answer to your Correlian friend, and act
natural,* his father instructed him.
*What are you going to do?* Luke asked
*You'll see.* came the cryptical answer.
Chapter 5: Rescue Team
'Damn you, father!' Luke cursed reflexively. He
didn't like to be kept in the dark, especially when
it involved the Dark Lord of the Sith who had just
told him that the Jedi Knights were in fact priests
of some kind and that their gods were alive and---
Somehow, he had a feeling that he wouldn't like
his father's plan.
"Hey, Luke! Are you all right?" Solo
asked, shaking him out of his mental rummaging.
"Uh?" he groaned, recovering his full
senses, "yeah... sorry. Didn't hear you,"
he tried to explain as naturally as he could.
"You tried to check it?" Han inquired,
throwing another look at the temple.
"Huh? Ah, yes, yes," he nodded, getting
back in gear. "I felt nothing. It's rather
"I told you not to rely this much on this
mumbo-jumbo--- Oh, Sith!" the smuggler suddenly
exclaimed, jumping to his feet.
Han fired at the descending shadow, but Vader was
faster and easily blocked the shot. He had barely
landed beside the standing man that he effortlessly
took hold of Solo's arms and locked them in his back
with the help of his own right arm, leaving his left
one free to heft his lightsaber if necessary.
Luke's lightsaber finally came alive when the new
play became less of a blur for him.
"We meet again, Skywalker," Vader
The young Jedi waved his lightsaber threateningly,
taking a step sideways as if looking for a better
angle of attack.
"Let him go, Vader. This is between you and
me," he defied.
"I'll break you friend's neck if you try to
attack me," Vader threatened him, his voice as
calm and cold as a desert's night.
"Luke, the hell with me!" his friend
gritted, his arms held tightly and painfully.
Luke flinched at the pain in Han's voice.
"You want to see your friend die?" Vader
Luke knew that his father had merely created the
best of excuses for him to 'surrender', yet the other
hadn't told him what his plan was. He opted for
playing the defiant, yet beaten rebel.
He put away his weapon, his face one of disgust.
Vader pulled the unlit lightsaber to his hand, then
tossed Solo's blaster to the far rocky outcrops.
"Good. Now we'll talk." He wedged Luke's
lightsaber in Solo's jaw.
"What do you want?" Luke snapped.
*Silence. Perform your part.* "Your
sister," he answered in his coolly modulated
"What?!" Solo gaped in disbelief.
Luke tried to catch up with him on that reaction.
He forced his eyes to bulge in horror. "What...
What sister? I don't know what you mean," he
"Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, Skywalker.
Don't play with me; she is in this base and you will
take me where she is. Only your bond can find her in
this hellish place. If you will not obey, your friend
"Rather clear," Han said, cutting in the
conversation while he tried to escape the dark lord's
iron grip. "But there's one problem, your
His arrogance earned him a tighter grip which put
a painful strain on his shoulders; it didn't escape
Luke's notice. *Father, let up a bit,* he demanded
He was ready to play along with whatever Vader had
in mind, but he wouldn't let him hurt Han. The dark
lord held the smuggler very still for a while longer,
then relented and simply kept the pilot in an
Meanwhile, Luke caught a flash of annoyance in his
father's mind and thus realized, not with some
amusement, that the dark lord didn't approve of his
daughter's choice in the matter of a lover.
So that was why he had asked him to keep Han away
from him, he nodded to himself. The dark lord didn't
want to hurt Han, thus hurting Leia in the process,
but he didn't like the Corellian for whatever he had
done to melt his daughter's strong heart.
He imperceptibly shook his head before he promised
himself that when he would have a chance, he would
have to straighten this matter with their father.
Vader addressed the recovering Solo. "You
were saying?" he inquired tauntingly.
"We don't know how to enter," Han
"That's not a problem, Solo. I know the
He locked his dark gaze with the youth. Luke
sighed. "All right, you win."
"Luke, you can't!" Solo exclaimed.
Luke gazed deep into his friend's eyes. "We
don't have any other option, Han." He couldn't
fight, even in mock-battle, against his father, nor
could he escape.
"Move, " Vader interrupted----
And took a rough Force-hold on his son's arm
before he pushed him hard down the steep slope. Luke
reacted quickly to this unexpected move and set his
feet so that they slid down the rocky surface--- but
couldn't help but collide hard against the stone wall
at the end of the slope. As the stars invaded his
mind in reaction to the impact, he dimly wondered if
his father had considered the possibility that they
had just alerted guards.
*Of course I have. There are no guards on this
side of the building for the moment,* Vader told him,
obviously feeling mildly indignant that his child
thought so little of his strategy abilities.
A second later, Vader and Han came up behind
him---- and a door opened in what had seemed to be
"Sith Hell," Solo swore.
Luke barely had time to draw back in shock before
he was shoved inside the darkened entrance.
The Dark Lord and his prisoner followed him.
*Father? What was this all about?* Luke inquired
as he relented to his 'captor's' push.
*How do you enter in a temple? How do you make a
god see that you're not his enemy?* his father
*Er..." He suddenly remembered his father's
warning. "By making some offers?*
*Exactly, and in this case, a sacrifice. For
Arsharel, the best sacrifice is death, the second,
emotions. Any strong emotion will do, but the best is
Luke fought his urge to turn and gape at his
father at that, aware that it would alert his friend
that something fishy was going on. *You just made Han
hate you more then ever to open a door?!* he began in
*To 'sacrifice' this emotion and open a door,* his
father corrected seriously.
*He won't like it,* Luke warned him. *Even I don't
like it. What if the sacrifice hadn't worked and it
had required a life?..*
*It doesn't matter, it didn't happen,* his father
*I guess so...* Luke grudgingly agreed. No matter
what the dark lord used to represent or do to him, he
had to admit that he was wise in his own way; he also
was much more complex that he had thought he was.
They walked down corridor after corridor. Luke
kept expecting trouble, especially given Han's
constant muttering and fighting as well as his
father's trademark breathing; his eyes were literally
peeled for any signs of patrol. However, the
corridors around them remained empty---
Then they ran into a group of six pirates.
The outlaws instantly drew their blasters and
fired at them. Luke, who was walking in front of the
dark lord, instinctively raised his hand and
deflected the shot away, then he turned toward his
father to call for a lightsaber.
Neither his nor Vader's were available. His father
was using his green blade to deflect the bolts that
were coming too close to him, and since he was
tightly pressing Han against himself, his friend's
weight was keeping him from drawing his father's
lightsaber to his hand.
A hot bolt suddenly burnt the air near his right
ear. Luke reflexively whirled around, jumped and
tumbled out of the way, ending up very close to the
outlaws... then he didn't have to think anymore.
He kicked a first outlaw between the legs, then
rammed his knee against his nose as he bent forward.
Next, he straightened up, stepped out of the way of
another bolt, and cut his other attacker's breath
with a bladed hand in the throat, breaking his neck
He then jumped out of the way again and barely
landed before he jumped again, this time from a
location almost in front of the remaining alien. He
spun in the air and extended his leg--- and hit the
alien with a powerful side kick that tore his neck
off of its supporting structure.
When he landed back on his feet, it was over and
Han was gaping openmouthed at him.
For a few seconds, Vader was unable to formulate a
coherent thought, too astounded by what he had just
seen. His son had just fought as well as any assassin
he had ever seen. How had his child learnt those
As he tried to understand what had happened, he
noticed that Solo, who had failed to escape his grip
during the brief fire fight, also seemed awed by what
his son had just done.
"I didn't know you could do that, Kid,"
the smuggler barely whispered.
Luke brushed a stray hair out of his eyes and
smiled shyly. "Neither did I. I only did
that once, against Guri on Coruscant."
Vader put two and two together. Of course,
Arsharel had allowed the Force to guide his son
during those deadly movements.
One thing was sure, he grudgingly conceded: his
son truly was full of surprises. When he
refocused on him, he noticed that the Jedi was
checking the state of their victims.
"They're dead, Skywalker, thanks to
you," he told him.
The child glared at him. "Thanks to me?! You
have done the deed," he defied.
Plan or not, Luke decided that he wouldn't take
the blame for this.
"If you hadn't fought my projection, we
wouldn't have run into any trouble," his father
"Fought your projection? What do you
mean?" he frowned.
"Uh, Luke, it isn't the best of places to ask
about Jedi stuff," Han cut in, strangely
reasonable for once.
Then the young man realized that trapped as he
was, Solo couldn't really relish the idea of another
"Solo's right for once," Vader agreed.
"Now walk, and let me send them all away."
"No," he mock-argued. "I can get
Leia by myself if I can do it my way."
"You forget that you can't use the Force
here, Jedi. I can," Vader ominously pointed out.
"Now, walk, and don't think. Focus on finding
Luke grumbled something about bossy darksiders,
turned around and walked toward the end of the
*Luke* his father's voice said in his mind.
*It was truly impressive.*
He couldn't suppress a shy smile. *Thanks.*
*But you didn't have to risk your life,* the Dark
Lord slightly scolded him.
*I'm sorry that I disturbed your concentration,*
he apologized in turn.
*Don't do it again.* he answered simply, then
added: *By the way, Arsharel is very pleased with
*My what?!* Luke gaped, barely keeping himself
from whirling toward the darksider.
*Their deaths were a really pleasant sacrifice,*
his father explained.
*I ... I didn't...* he mentally fumbled, horrified
by the idea that he had just turned himself into a
servant of---- . A mental chuckle. *Don't be so
worried, Son. Any death inside the temple will be a
sacrifice in his honor,* his father reminded him.
*I'll never serve him,* he stated with finality
while he sighed inwardly in relief.
*Who is asking you to? You are a Jedi, and it's
fine with him as long as you behave yourself inside
*Oh... OK. Father?* he inquired again.
*Why did you need us- me and Han- here? Arsharel
would've told you were Leia is since you're a Sith,
*Wrong,* Vader corrected. *First, I'm a Sith of
the Circle but not his. Second, Leia has a strong
Force potential; her suffering is a great offer for
Arsharel. He would never let me get to her. You're a
Jedi, so he cannot influence your bond with your
sister; in fact, it is so strong that even an almost
total Force blindness is not disturbing it.*
*Why is he not trying to stop us if he wants to
keep Leia in here then?* Luke queried seriously.
*Laws. I'm a Sith. He has no right to oppose me
directly with no fault from my part... And there were
*Now, if you excuse me, I need to concentrate.*
*Sorry,* he apologized contritely before
refocusing on his sister.
They kept walking down empty corridors, even in
the detention quarters. Luke could hear pirates here
and there, but they were never anywhere in sight.
When they reached the detention quarters, Leia's
presence seemed to react to his own and grew brighter
in the Force.
"She's in one of those rooms," he
informed his 'captor', indicating the doors of the
"Go get her. I will wait here, but no tricks,
Skywalker, or Solo will pay," he warned him
Han had long since then stopped arguing, having
been Force-silenced by Vader. However, he still
expressed his displeasure at the situation via
furious pulls against his hold.
"She's not well. It will take more than a
minute to get her out."
"You have five minutes," the darksider
Luke walked down the corridor, keyed the door
opened, then took a deep breath to steel himself
before he finally stepped inside his sister's cell.
She was laying on her side on the rough ground.
Her clothes were torn up, as was her milky-white
skin. It broke his heart to see her in such a state.
Then he gasped in horror.
*What?* his father asked him.
*I... She......* he tried, then finally allowed
his father to see through his eyes.
He felt his father's instantaneous anger. *Take
her out, Luke. I will restore her features, don't
Luke reverently knelt beside her wounded,
unconscious body, carefully slipped his arms under
her shoulders and knees, then drew her off the floor
and into his arms. She didn't even give him any sign
that she was aware of his presence, merely hanging
limply in his arms.
Luke rejoined the two men in the still-deserted
corridor. Han drew a sharp breath when he saw what
had been done to her beautiful face.
"Well done, young Jedi. Now, we're getting
out, no tricks, no focus on the Force," Vader
Luke walked past the imposing silhouette of Vader
who was still holding Han, exchanging a sad look with
his friend as he did so, then he led the way out of
the detention area.
They had barely disappeared around the corner when
he heard someone shout an alarm that the prisoner had
escaped. He panicked and began to think about what
would be waiting for them.
*I told you not to do that,* his father warned
him, accompanying his admonition with a mental pinch
which cut off his focus.
*Ow!* Luke complained. *Hey! You didn't have to do
*Yes, I had. Your focus is strong, Son. It can
destroy the effects of mine. Do you really want
to run into trouble on our way out?*
*No.* he admitted, subdued. *Father, what are we
going to do with Leia? She's barely alive.*
*I will make sure that she lives, Son,* his father
cryptically answered him while they continued to make
their way out of the temple.
As his father had told them, they didn't run into
anymore trouble on the way out. It was often a close
call, but Luke, and even Han, noticed that the
outlaws seemed unable to see their little, definitely
They finally made their way outside the temple and
down a secret rocky corridor which took them many
meters down and away from the temple. While Han was
still forced to silence, the young Jedi was absorbed
in his own thoughts. Nobody spoke until they exited
the secret passage to emerge on a large ledge.
Luke cradled his sister closer, unsure as to what
would happen next. His father still hadn't told him
what his plan was.
"Hold," Vader commanded.
Luke obeyed, then turned around to face his
'enemy'. "Now what? I give you Leia and you let
go of Han? Why do you want her in----"
Vader interrupted him. "You are all coming
with me," he stated flatly.
Luke couldn't help but take a step backward in
uncertainty. Sure, things had gone well with his
father up to now, but he had never considered the
possibility of actually leaving any place in his
father's custody, or company, or whatever the
appropriate word was now.
Han struggled even more against the dark lord.
"I have enough of you, Solo," Vader
proclaimed, then knocked him out with the Force. The
tall man slumped in his hold. "How you two have
become friends with him will always escape me,"
his father commented more coolly now that they were
between themselves once again.
"I could say the same about you turning to
the dark side," Luke rejoined, still unsure
about his father's plan.
Overhead, a shuttle began its approach.
"Don't worry, Son, I haven't helped you this
far to merely capture you afterward, but after the
stunt that we pulled here, going back to Mothma would
be the least advisable choice, and I'm afraid that
she will find you wherever you go."
Luke's lips moved as if he wanted to argue the
"You'll be safer with me, all of you,"
his father commented with finality.
The young Jedi shut his mouth, speechless. He
simply couldn't find any argument against his
father's logic, no matter how uneasy he was with his
Meanwhile, Vader threw the tall Corellian on his
shoulders, then took hold of his son's biceps.
"For appearance's sake, we better pretend
that you're my prisoner... just in case one of my
people isn't as trustworthy as I like them to
Luke silently pursed his lips but reluctantly
As the shuttle came within boarding range, he
dimly wondered how far this 'fake' prisoner thing
He could unfortunately still remember the last
time that he had been in his father's claws, and he
wasn't interested at all to repeat the experience.
The flight to his father's ship went uneventfully;
he and Han were both locked in the prisoners'
compartment while Leia was set on the sole bunk of
the shuttle where Vader kept an eye on her.
Once aboard the main ship, the men were taken to
the detention block, but not before hearing Vader
order the capture of the Falcon as well as the
complete destruction of the 'rebel' base.
The also heard that he would keep Leia with
As Luke sat on his hard bunk, he finally took some
time to consider what he had witnessed and felt from
his father ever since their little cooperation had
His father was a darksider, yes, but he was also
human. He had feelings like the rest of them, even
love and care, for his children at least, and... Luke
thought with a smirk, he was unhappy with Leia's
choice in her love-life.
This, he chuckled in amusement, had to be the
least expected feeling coming from the dark lord.
He turned serious once again. Now, if he
considered his own relationship with the dark lord,
Vader had not attempted to turn him to the Dark Side
either, unless he was keeping it for now... but if he
never tried it... what would it mean?, he wondered.
Now that the Rebellion was over, for him at least,
he had nowhere to go. He could always fly around with
Han and Chewie, who had just been brought in a cell
besides Han's... or he could work for a while, then
buy himself his own ship and roam the galaxy in
search of Jedi students, perhaps with his sister's
help, or... and here again it was something that he
had never thought that he would someday consider...
he could stay with his father and have the family
life that he had never had.
Of course, he conceded that his father was not
exactly the epitome of love and family values, but at
the same time, he truly cared about him and Leia, and
he didn't wish them any ill fate... the question
being if he was able to distinguish ill fates for
what they were, especially when talking about dark
He sighed and settled in to wait. He had no doubts
that his father would send for him, sooner or later,
and that they would have a chat, if not a fight. It
He closed his eyes and tried to find his sister's
waning presence, hoping to reinforce her.
Burns, fractures... the list of injuries went on
and on, all of them graver than their predecessors.
"She will never walk again" was the
conclusion of the medical droid. "She will never
speak again. Her arms' mobility will be very
restrained. She will be invalid for the rest of her
Vader looked at the monitor without seeing the
'Invalid for the rest of your life...paralyzed...
attached to the life support system... never walk,
never speak, blind and deaf.'
In his case all those crow cries had been proven
wrong, but nobody knew what pain he had had to endure
to make the miracle possible. Countless operations,
implantation to make him able to breathe, see, hear
Nobody knew what it was like to lay in dark
silence, for months, with his Force sensitivity
blocked by drugs while suffering from post-effects of
There, in the black void, he had first seen the
Circle; it had saved him from madness.
He had survived. He had been able to resurrect
from the ruins...
Leia's case, he sighed inwardly in relief, was
fortunately less grave that his had been, but she
would have to endure a similar hell to be able to
Weeks of hell, he calculated, perhaps months.
He only hoped that she would be strong enough. He
also hoped that she would be able to set aside her
hatred of him, at least for as long as the treatment
After all, he calculated, she would have no choice
but to live in his Coruscant castle for the duration
of her recovery. Only there would he be able to
provide her, in perfect and necessary secrecy, the
treatment she needed.
Vader sighed again, then called his aid.
"Have Skywalker brought to me."
"At once, my Lord."
Chapter 6: The Offer
Even though Luke had been locked away in the
detention area of the ship, he had naturally heard
the medic's report through his link with his sister's
mind. Hence, while his father had retired to think,
he himself worked on his sister's subconscious,
encouraging her, telling her that the Force was more
powerful than the droid.
However, working and succeeding were two different
things, and especially where his sister's optimism
was concerned. As he met yet again with a flat
refusal to believe in him, he wished that he could
use the Force again and attempt to heal her even
slightly to prove her wrong---