Power Lust: Lust for
Chapter 16: Recovery
Mara was sitting at the commanding console idly
staring at the screen,her blaster in her lap. Piett
and Veers were still laying on the floor just behind
her seat - unconscious and restrained with bonds.
The screen was filled
with Executor's huge form.
landed, Madam!" the nervous ensign informed her.
She nodded, silent.
She felt so empty.
Her fingers stroked
her blaster. For a fleeing moment she considered to
fire at her head. But really, what would that
improve? She surrendered to her sworn enemy- she
didn't have any honor to save anymore.
And she wanted to see
'I should have woken
him,' she thought as she remembered the tumultuous
events of the past hour.
When her troops -
those who were loyal to her and not to Piett - had
woken her, she had decided to not rouse Luke too,
mainly because she had felt that her troops did not
trust the Jedi. Considering that those troopers had
been her only hope to take over the ship, and that
the Jedi was sure to not approve some means she had
in mind, thus cause a scene in front of those
unexpected allies, she had promised herself to awaken
Luke only once the battle would be over.
Then, by the time that
her new team had reached the bridge, the ship had not
only been in battle over Bespin, but Piett's men had
been losing the fight.
Somehow, she hadn't
been surprised at all to see Executor in this
All of a sudden
though, it had been as if all her illusions had
collapsed upon registering that sight; Vader had
It had been all too
The only thing that
befuddled her was how long she had been able to
delude herself with the belief that she could win
against such a cunning adversary...
Then, she had heard
his enemy's voice, had heard him threaten Piett that
he would not be making any prisoners unless they
surrendered, in which case the orderly would not be
tried. At that moment, 'she' had known what her next
action was supposed to be.
Now that she had been
given a chance to get her men out of the High Treason
accusations, it had been her duty to respect the
other's terms, no matter her feelings about it. It
had been 'her' obsession that had gotten her men in
Belatedly, she had
also understood that she had definitely begun to
think like a Jedi would, but by that time, she had
already acted on her first thought.
Luke's ways had sure
rubbed off on her, she sighed as she refocused on her
current whereabouts. In the old days, she would have
unwaveringly ordered Avenger to ram Executor and be
done with it.
Anything would have
been acceptable in order to get to Vader. Anything
Today though, she had
come to her senses and had accepted that not only she
couldn't save the situation, but that she didn't want
to do so anymore. She didn't have any more reasons to
It was over, she
sighed in defeat.
She had lost her
battle, had lost her war.
In a few minutes at
most, she would be in the hands of her enemy, who
would undoubtedly torment her before killing her.
In a few minutes, Luke
would be in the hands of his controlling father once
again... a father who would hurt him yet again when
he would kill 'her'.
She touched her
blaster once again.
It was such a clean
way to die, she reflected glumly, much better than
what Vader doubtlessly had in store for her... and it
would be her doing. Luke would understand her
decision, she tried to reason with herself. He too
would prefer that fate for her than what was to
come... and yet... Damn this Jedi! she almost
whimpered in worry.
She couldn't do this
to him. She couldn't leave this life without telling
him goodbye, nor could she bear the idea of leaving
him alone once she would be gone.
As she made up her
mind to not act on her suicidal idea, she fervently
prayed the Force that Vader would allow her to at
least see Luke before her execution. She didn't dare
hope for any other turn of events though... She was
adamant that such mercy was beyond her enemy's
here!" squeaked the ensign.
The door had opened
with a hiss. Sounds of heavy steps filled the room.
She didn't turn.
"Hands up and
slowly turn around!" ordered a cold male voice.
She did put her hands
up and slowly turned her chair.
The man's eyes
instantly widened when he saw the blaster on her
knees, then narrowed - and that was the last thing
Mara Jade saw before the stun bolt from his blaster
slammed into her.
Han's reaction was
instinctive. The enemy was armed - so he shot her
before she could do anything.
The red-head harpy
crumpled, much to his satisfaction. "Help me to
secure her," he requested to his watching
He was walking closer
to his hard-caught prey when his comlink hailed him.
Slightly chagrined to be interrupted just as he was
about to be able to cuff the terrorist himself, Solo
reluctantly allowed his troops to continue without
him while he and answered whom he suspected was his
father-in-law. "Solo here."
To his surprise, a
Wookie's grunt answered him. *We've found the
cub," his long-time partner informed him with
audible relief in his voice.
Whatever resent Han
had been feeling up to that moment dissipated into
relief as he registered his companion's words.
"Is he all right?" he inquired in instant
worry. Please, he prayed the gods, let everything be
all right. 'Please, let him be alive and unharmed. I
might kill him later myself, but please, let him be
alive!..' he continued fervently.
*It... seems so,"
Chewbacca confirmed with just a trifle hesitation in
Han first bypassed
that anomaly as he grinned in relief. Then, once his
first moments of elation were over, he frowned at the
strange choice of words and hesitation of his friend.
He was about to ask for an explanation when a
soldier, who was preparing Mara Jade for
transportation, suddenly stood up and wailed:
"Medics! She's going into shock!"
Han's attention was
immediately riveted on the still unconscious woman.
"Chewie, I have an emergency here. Bring Luke to
a secure medical cell on Executor, okay?" He
then cut the connection and hurried to the
newly-arrived medic's side.
The medic gaze up at
him. "She's going into shock, sir. Her heart
pulse is steadily climbing, and if it continues to
deteriorate, she'll be bathing in her sweat and
heading toward coma."
thought Han. He imagined the non-expression of his
father-in-laws breath mask were he to announce
to him that Mara Jade was dead due to an allergic
reaction to a stun ray. "Take her back to the
ship, right now," he ordered as he turned toward
a nearby ensign. "Have a medical team waiting to
stabilize her the moment that we are aboard."
the stormtrooper saluted, then rushed toward the
nearby communication console and proceeded to relay
his superior's orders.
As the rest of the men
hurried to strap the fallen woman on a floating
stretcher, then rushed her off the bridge, none of
them ever noticed the slight dampness of the crotch
of her black trousers, let alone the blood that was
steadily staining the fabric.
Meanwhile, unaware of
the events that were occurring on Avenger, Vader
switched off the comm, grimaced and closed his eyes.
Were his face accessible, he would have rubbed it
with his palms. His conversation with Ackbar had
tired him a lot more than the ridiculously short
battle with Avenger had.
If one could call this
web of words a conversation, he sighed.
By bringing Executor
by a main republican planet without any
authorization, Vader had violated the treaty, and
Ackbar had used this advantage to its maximum.
Evidently, no party
wanted a conflict, and Executor's intervention had
indeed saved the Cloud City - so the main question
was what Vader would give to the Republic so they
would announce that this intervention was in reality
a well coordinated plan.
It didn't cost a lot,
though, Ackbar wasn't a fool to press his counterpart
too much, - only the price for Balti reconstruction
and reparations to the victims families. But Vader
did manage to keep the traitors under his custody and
Luke was 'graciously' forgotten for the moment.
Luke's case would
reappear, of course, but Ackbar had given Vader a
great space for maneuver.
However, all this
barter had left the Sith with a slight headache.
Treating with crime lords was a lot easier for if you
wanted to buy somebody's cooperation you just told
so, set your price and negotiated - in the open.
What had happened had
been basically the same procedure. After all, he
'had' bought Ackbar's cooperation. However, it had
taken him twice more time and a thousandth more
words, mostly because the deal had to not look as
It shouldn't be
question of money, or of a banned word in high
politics, it should be a question of ideals, mutual
help and fraternity between two states.
The only satisfaction
was to know that Ackbar liked these word laces as
much as he himself, and appeared to truly suffer
during the barter.
Solo had just returned
with Luke and Jade- the mention was mutely showing at
his comm console. It had arrived during the
conversation, and this alone had calmed him a lot.
Luke was here, Jade
was finally apprehended; maybe it had really ended...
A red alert suddenly
appeared on the screen. A priority one call from...
the medical bay?
Vader opened the
channel immediately, his feelings in turmoil.
Surely he would have
felt it if anything had happened to Luke? He tried to
calm himself while the screen light up.
appeared. Vader instantly noticed the raging
desperation in the other man's eyes. "My Lord,
we need you here. Now."
happened to Luke?"
said Forester, then the screen went black.
Vader stood and ran to
The first thing that
Vader noticed when he stormed through the medbay's
doors was a pacing Chewbacca who appeared to be quite
in turmoil, although it was difficult to say with
"What happened to
Luke?!" he inquired as coolly as he could manage
while worry was clenching his heart.
The Wookiee started to
reply, but Forester interrupted him as he entered,
fear and desperation rolling out of him in waves.
fine," the man replied succinctly. "We have
He wasn't lying;
Vader's own fear receded. "What concerns?"
he asked, recovering some of his coldness.
Please, follow me, my Lord."
'Jade?' the Dark Lord
frowned behind his mask. "What's with her?"
he demanded, not moving.
"My Lord, please,
time is crucial here."
"Then the quicker
you explain, the better," he retorted coldly.
Forester sighed in
obvious exasperation at Vader's ever-rational
stubbornness, then seemed to take a few seconds to
gather his thoughts more rationally too. "Her
body is reacting badly to the stun blast that hit
her," he finally said.
commented Vader calmly. "But it was not lethal,
as I gather from your general emotions."
Forester looked at
him, breathed then licked his lips in a highly rare
display of nervousness. He slowly began: "She...
is pregnant, My Lord. The blast has triggered a
miscarriage and she is at risk of losing the
It took two
respiratory cycles to Vader to absorb the
Luke's," continued Forester as the room was
filled only by Vader's respirator and Chewbacca's
fidgeting. "My Lord, Cilghal and I have done
everything that we could think of. We are quite sure
about saving Jade's life, but the child is a goner
unless you can somehow save him with your
Vader slowly shook his
head to clear the mist of confusion out of it. Jade
and his son hadn't been careful during their
now-known intimate interactions... Considering the
current circumstances though, Jade most probably
didn't know of her situation or she would have used
it... Her hormonal misbalance had caused such an
extreme reaction to stun; he vaguely remembered
reading something about it concerning the possible
effects of stun blasts...
His grandchild was
going to die?
Lord," Forester hesitantly interrupted flow of
his thoughts, "if you don't know of anything to
save him, I need your consent on abortion, as the
child closest available next of kin. This way, Jade's
life will not be endangered further..."
To hell with Jade!,
Vader almost spat out loud, yet refrained himself. He
needed to think fast and clearly right now; his anger
would not help him. "Show me, " he finally
ordered, already in movement.
Forester and lead the way back into the examination
Jade lay on the
operation table in front of him, hooked to the too
familiar life-support equipment, only one lock of her
red hair visible between the green sheets. Cilghal
was in meditation by the table; she was keeping
alight the tiny Force-presence...
despite his will, stepped closer, his gloved hand
reached to the covered form and stilled just above
The small light
A girl, he identified. She wasn't older than a
month, yet already reacted to his presence.
He smiled and probed
As he slid deeper in
meditation, the light became brighter, then turned
forest-green. He always saw the Force in vivid
colors, and it never stopped to amaze him.
Apparently, it was also Luke's trait... He then
discovered, with some fatherly pride, that the child
was also already taking after his father's heart and
He could see a blue
link of Force, fed by Cilghal. He could also see the
cream-white bond that the baby already shared with
her father's dimmed presence nearby.
Luke was... asleep? He
suddenly frowned as he became aware that he had no
idea of what had happened to Luke since his recovery
at Chewbacca's hands. Concerned anew for his son, he
carefully split his concentration and searched for
the other bright light nearby.
He found him almost
instantly, laying unconscious in a room next door.
No, he then amended as he scanned his son's mind
further. He was not unconscious, he was as if...
stopped, he frowned - - then understood.
Luke was in stasis.
But in good health,
apparently. His son's presence was calm and strong,
not showing any sign of emotional or physical stress
that would result from some kind of injury.
Satisfied with this
first scan, he carefully pulled away from his boy's
unaware mind--- then scowled in disgust when he
noticed the strong link that bonded Luke to Jade. As
he quickly studied it, he realized that it was a link
that only he could see, and that no one could touch
or probe. It was a bond of something completely
inaccessible but to the two Jedi.
True marriage of the
The bond was
unbreakable by the third party, that he knew all too
well. Only one of them could do it.
And it would be Luke,
he decided as he withdrew from this distraction and
refocused his attention on his newest future
grandchild. Still, once he would awake Luke, he
promised himself to have a good talk with him and not
let him off the hook until the youth too *would* see
the necessity of this. It was, after all, the only
sensible way to resolve this situation, or Jade's
execution would leave Luke crippled and emotionally
'Who am I trying to
lie to?' came the suddenly harsh thought, and all the
other dissolved immediately. 'I can break him, yes,
to see and live as I want him to. But the question
is, do I really want him broken?'
Put like this, the
answer was evident.
That was a tentative
call from the young healer. She was clearly
exhausted. Vader angrily called himself an
irresponsible fool, and returned his focus to the
small green light.
There was only one way
to save the girl, and Vader was surprised to discover
that he wasn't at all reluctant to use it. *Retreat*
he ordered the healer, reached forward--- and swiftly
created a life-bond with the unborn child. Now, his
life would sustain hers until her body would be able
to do so itself.
The only problem was
that the process was bi-directional, and as his life
was tied with the girl's, so his death would be
hers... and vice-versa.
He made a note to
himself to order to equip Jade with Force-blocking
devices and to keep her restrained so as to prevent
suicidal actions of any type.
He would also have to
devise a way to interrogate her safely, he then
reminded himself as he realized that whatever pain he
would now bestow on the woman, both he and the baby
girl would also feel it.
Finally, he decided as
he completely withdrew from Jade's presence, he would
not awaken Luke yet.
Yes, Luke was less of
a problem if he were left in statis for the time
being, he thought, regaining his full senses.
He didn't trust
himself with his son. Not anymore.
Without a word, he
nodded briefly to the nearby medics, then turned
heels and left the examination room.
He had special
preparations to take care of.
Chapter 17: Luke's Return
At first, Luke was
barely aware that he was alive, or even himself. The
only thing that he knew was that it was dark and that
he was content by that situation, not questioning it.
Then, a cool wave of energy swept away the darkness
and he became aware that he was laying on a bunk,
probably asleep or unconscious.
Asleep?, he frowned,
then tried to remember how he had ended up in that
situation. At first, he could not remember anything.
He could not remember being hurt, and he could not
remember fighting, or even merely falling asleep.
Still tired, he decided to let time go by him.
After a while, more
sensations entered his consciousness; his body felt
strangely heavy, as if he had been sleeping for days
instead of hours. He also felt strangely nauseous,
and he had one of those headaches... His tongue felt
strange in his mouth, his throat was relatively dry;
he swallowed to make it more pleasant to feel.
Then his ears tuned in
And he heard 'it'.
The sound of his
nightmares; the sound of the man who had been badly
injured and forced to live in a survival suit
The sound of his
Comforted yet worried
by his presence, he dimly became aware that the
other's leather-covered hand was the weight that
pressed gently against his forehead. But why was he
nearby?, he wondered next. Last thing he finally
remembered was that he himself was supposed to train
new Jedi Knights and he hadn't seen his father
for Wait, he stopped himself. He had seen his
father on Yavin 4. Vader had come to visit him, then
he had left in search of a Jedi... and had---
through the fog that had still been clouding his
conscious mind, his memories of the past months came
back to him, taking him back to the moment of when he
had fallen asleep with Mara in his arms...
suddenly croaked even as he pulled away from his
father's hand. He didn't go very far and quickly
replaced his father's hand by his own when a vicious
headache assaulted him. "Owwww," he
groaned. "What happened? Where are we?"
"In the medbay,
Son. Take it slowly," the Dark Lord replied, his
voice gentle, " you've been in statis for quite
a while. That's why you're feeling so strange."
Rubbing his forehead
once again, Luke sighed and lied back. His father's
gentleness puzzled him. As far as he could remember,
they hadn't parted on quite friendly terms.
happened?" he repeated, turning his head a bit
and looking at the black form in the chair nearby.
"How did I end up here?"
"You and Jade
were gassed by Piett and put in stasis..."
"Is she all
right? What have you done to her?"
Piett attacked Bespin," Vader continued without
missing a beat, "but Jade overcame him and
surrendered before any damage could be done to the
city. She is in adequate health. I didn't harm
Fighting past his
dwindling headache upon hearing those news, Luke
frowned in confusion. Mara had surrendered to his
father? And he himself hadn't been at her side when
she had done so? Why hadn't she woken him? He slowly
propped himself on his elbows, then pulled himself
upward until he was more or less sitting on the bed.
"I want to see her," he finally said,
slightly winded by his recent 'exercise'.
Something wasn't right
about all this, he thought in growing confusion.
Something... was missing, and it didn't have to do
with his separation from Mara.
the Sith replied calmly.
The young Jedi
suddenly glared defiantly at the angular black mask.
"Why not? You've got more than enough
The black gloved hand
lifted in a silent warning: obey or else. "You
will see her later, but first, you and I need to
Luke sneered. "So
that you can mess with my mind anew?" he
challenged the Dark Lord. "I don't think
"And this is
exactly why we should talk, young one," Vader
replied, his tone leaving no place for arguments.
"Your perception of reality is distorted."
Luke went ballistic. Of all the things that his
father could qualify his relationship with Mara...
"Distorted?! What do you know about
distortion?" he challenged him vehemently.
"What do you know about true emotions versus
delusions? I love her," he finally stated
adamantly. "Can you understand that??" Luke
shook his head and sighed. "Of course not... You
can't possibly understand how I can fall for Mara
Jade of all people and disobey my father, can
replied calmly yet again. "What I don't
understand is why you have meshed your soul with that
For a long moment,
Luke gazed at his father, but the black figure seemed
absolutely serene. The young Jedi dropped his gaze
and sighed heavily. "I don't know," he
finally admitted. Behind his temples, his headache
was still pounding, having deceived him with the
illusion that it was going away. Tired, he ran his
hands through his hair. Darn, he felt so... odd, but
what drug could cause this, he wondered anew. "I
really don't know why I fell in love with her. The
only thing that I know for sure is that it's true. I
anything in the world," commented Vader.
nodded firmly. Maybe, just maybe, his father could
"More than your
loyalty for me," the Dark Lord finished and
Luke's fragile hope withered.
sighed dejectedly, "my loyalty to you was never
in question as far as I'm concerned. I merely had to
save Mara's life. I had no choice; I simply wouldn't
let her die."
"I wasn't talking
about you saving her from Solo's shot, Luke,"
the Sith Lord shook his head in negation. "There
was a way to save *and* disable her, but I admit that
it was difficult to think clearly in the situation,
considering your feelings for her."
"Then what are you talking about?"
"While you were
willingly with her, you held information that could
have made her capture easy, yet you blocked yourself
from me," Vader accused him, pointing his
leather-covered finger at him.
Luke felt his temper
blister. "I could not betray her trust
"So you indeed
value her trust more than your loyalty."
"I do not," Luke defended himself, his
anger simmering in his heart. "Besides, you're
not one to speak of loyalties," he sneered.
The Dark Lord seemed
to frown in confusion.
Luke's temper flared
further at that. "You abandoned me!"
you?" the black mask tilted in a rare show of
surprise. "Explain yourself."
"You abandoned me
to my fate; you did not even come after me,"
Luke accused him mercilessly. "Instead, you sent
Han, and he found me, but---"
"I did not
abandon you," came the unemotional answer even
as the Dark Lord's silhouette seemed to minutely
relax in its chair.
"Oh yeah? Well,
you sure took your time then," Luke spat
vehemently. "You also took your time to awaken
me this time around too, didn't you, 'Dad'?"
Luke did not want to
hear any of his father's lame excuse at the moment;
he was too angry at him. "You used to find me
even though I did not want to be found," he
reminded him viciously, "and you even kept an
eye on me from a distance through noghris and other
spies when Mothma was around, yet now?" he
defied him, "You want me to believe that you
could not do better than how many days?---"
"Luke, think with
your head," his father interrupted him again.
"I wanted to go more than anything, but Yavin is
just too far from Hoth. To make Solo wait for me or
to take me in his way there was to lose too much time
we didn't have - Jade had given us only two days to
obey her ultimatum."
Luke took a moment to
consider this new element in his overall grief
against his father; the explanation was reasonable.
It was too cold for his tastes though, but he
couldn't find a reply to it - he decided to drop
'that' argument. "All right," he said more
kindly, then hardened again, "but it doesn't
cover the other times, Father."
times?" the Dark Lord seemed to frown at him.
Galvanized by the
other's reaction, Luke pounced onward once again.
"Just tell me why you had planned to use a
pain-enhancing drug on me if you ever recaptured me
even though you 'knew' that you were my father,"
he asked him pointedly, "why did you cut off my
hand on Bespin," he continued, reliving yet
again those atrocities of the past, "and even
why you didn't awaken me upon finding me aboard
Avenger," he concluded, adding his newest grief
to his list.
The Dark Lord remained
Luke thought that it
was a good sign; the other was considering his words.
He pressed forward. "Those were not the actions
of a father," he rebuked him, locking his
defiant, wounded gaze on Vader's hidden one.
"And now, how can I know that I can trust
you?" he asked, his voice suddenly breaking up
when he realized just what he was asking to his
father, yet he knew that he did not have any other
choice but to ask him. "How do I know that
you're not using me in some strange, unknown way and
that now that you have Leia and Han, and even the
Rebellion, that I'm expan-"
Vader suddenly stood
up. The black form seemed to fill the small room,
even as Luke's voice died out on him, as if strangled
in his throat; swallowing in fright, he suddenly
remembered to whom he had been speaking.
For a second or two,
Vader concentrated solely on calming down and
recovering his cooler attitude.
The boy's questions
had hit him right where it hurt, but not in the way
that Luke thought he had; it was definitely time to
set things straight between them, once and for all.
finally said, careful to not make neither a physical
nor mental move toward the boy. He did 'not' want to
hurt him again. "I can take much from you, Luke,
but now you've overstepped the limits. It is also
hardly proper for a son to insult his father."
baselessly accusing me of preparing a treachery
against my family yet you do not consider that an
"I didn't mean it
"I doubt it.
Present your apologies."
Luke looked down as if
he were but a mere misbehaved child who had just been
caught red-handed. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have
said that... without proofs," he completed in a
Vader decided to let
this subtlety go. "Now," he stated
warningly, "stop listening to your self-pity for
a moment." He sat down again. "About the
pain-enhancing drug," he began down the list
that his son had 'enumerated' to him moments ago,
"I have no doubt that it was Jade who told you
about that. Did you ask yourself how she knew about
"She heard you
saying that, I presume," Luke grumbled lowly.
Vader agreed with him. "And do you happen to
take into account the position that she filled at the
"She was the
Emperor's Hand, but what does it have to do with
Luke. Whatever I said back then was immediately
reported to Palpatine. Thus, if I had ever shown any
feeling for you, or even any reticence to hurt you I
would have signed both of our death warrants."
Luke was gaping at him
now. "So... You never intended to use it?"
"But you would
have done it..."
"If it had been
the only way to save your life, yes, I would
have." He brought his large hand under his son's
pouting chin and gently invited him to look back up
at him. "Luke," he said with more warmth
and care in his voice, "it is possible to heal
out of everything but of death."
"So you just
discard my pain as something unimportant?!" the
youth asked, incensed yet again.
Vader sighed while forcing himself to 'not' rebuke
his son too harshly for his stubbornness. Luke was
just too emotional at the moment to be rational.
"You asked me to explain my actions," he
reminded him more diplomatically than he had first
meant to reply. "That's what I just did. As for
Bespin, we've talked about it so often in the last
year that I suppose that you know my reasons as well
as I do myself. There were no betrayal from my part.
I did hurt you, but I didn't betray you. And you know
it," he stated, adamant. "Finally, I think
that you're only trying to justify your decision to
follow Jade, and for that you need to find betrayal
in 'my' actions. That's why you're bringing up the
old issues we already discussed, not because they
still hurt you."
Luke sneered in reply, "as far as I know, you
don't have a degree in psychology, so keep your wild
speculations to yourself."
'If it keeps going the
way it does, I'll get that degree even despite
myself,' thought Vader, feeling a desire to rub his
temples to ease the weariness that was settling
behind them. "Very well," he said aloud.
"Then tell me 'why' you keep bringing up the
past, Son. The past is the past; we have both dealt
with it yet you keep reopening that door again and
again when you always seem to have closed it for
To his satisfaction,
his son remained silent, lowering his eyes to ponder
his words more cautiously.
"I don't want you
to reopen this discussion ever again," Vader
continued warningly, "You know everything that
there is to know about the past, about my motivations
as well as about how I react nowadays. Deal with it
and move on."
Luke raised uncertain
eyes toward his father's cool presence. He wanted to
be able to close the doors of the past, he really
wanted to, and in a way, he even had since he could
see his father as 'more' than just the being who had
hurt him. However, his memories of his different
torments were not 'that' easy to dismiss either.
Father," he began quietly. "I will not
mention the past challenges ever again, but," he
added when he felt that the other wanted to comment
his decision, "you must also understand
something about me. I cannot predict when my sensory
memories of those events will overcome me again.
Throughout the past two years, you've seen for
yourself that they rarely do, and I don't live by
them, but sometimes, I know that they will come back,
like at the moment. I just can't help it. I will be
careful to deal with them on my own, it's 'my' past,
but you can't ask me to consider them over and done
with. Part of those will never be over for me, I
think, but I will not let them affect our
relationship," he reassured his father, who was
obviously less pleased by his latest statement.
the other finally sighed in acceptance, "I will
respect your choice. You must deal with it at your
own speed." A pause. "Have you ever
considered therapy, Son?"
all the insults that his father could throw at him---
"Some of my
medics are very skilled with post-trauma
illness, Son, so it must be treated as one, and not
protected and nourished the way you do."
Luke just gaped at
him. "I'm not crazy!"
"I didn't say you
were. It's just an illness, it hurts you, and it can
be healed. What's the problem with this possible
you're... I'm... It's just---- All right," he
finally relented under his father's unwavering masked
gaze. "But have *you* ever submitted yourself to
gaped anew at his ever surprising father. Him?? In a
therapy?? "Whatever for?"
Vader shook his head, then just pointed at himself.
"Just look at me, and say that you honestly
don't understand why I relied on therapy for a
Luke blinked, stared
at him. "But you don't seem to have any problem
with your condition at all!"
"I don't. That's
Luke just shook his
head. "Look, I'll think about it, but it's just
"That's all I'm
asking you, Luke. To think about it," said
Vader. "It's your own decision. It's you life
and your mind. In fact," he added more
thoughtfully, "you really need to know how to
firmly make your own choices."
frowned, confused once again by this new turn in
He had forgotten how
straight to point and direct, without any
preparations before hand, his father could be.
"You are too
influenced by what other people tell you, be it me or
Jade," Vader explained in mild scolding.
"You accept everything without thinking. I say I
care about you, you believe me. Jade say I hate you
and betrayed you, and you believe her. Honestly,
Luke, you're a grown man and a Jedi, you need to fly
on your own and to trust yourself. You'll be a full
Jedi Master one day, you'll have a responsibility of
leading other people. You need to be sure of your own
path. Jade may be your love, I am your father but
neither of us is your guide, your teacher or your
The last example stung
His father had pegged
him right on the nail this time. He 'had' been
looking at him in search of a model to follow. In a
way, he had even sometimes felt as if he had found
it, although he had been careful to not follow in all
his footsteps either. Still, he had refrained from
making many decisions by leaning on the knowledge
that his father's decision was the right one, the
"You need to grow
up, Luke," his father summarized his thoughts
The young Jedi could
only nod in agreement; he 'had' been keeping himself
from taking his complete independence with his lack
of self-confidence in regards to the Jedi order and
his own, personal life.
said. "Why did you train Jade in the
'And here we go
again,' Luke thought glumly. He smiled at little;
perhaps he was slowly going crazy, but he really did
miss his father's way of conversing with him.
"It was what I
had to do," he admitted, then looked up as he
had realized something of great importance.
"It's what saved her."
changed," Luke explained, his earnestness
pushing down his glum of the previous moments.
"She still hates you, but she is learning to not
hate anymore. When her troops talked about attacking
Bespin, she held them back because she could not be
responsible for anymore pain."
Even though it
obviously pained Vader to nod in agreement, he still
"Yes, that's what
she revealed too," he conceded.
"Then you know
that she's had a change of heart," Luke began
"For what it's
worth," Vader commented derogatorily.
"It's worth a
forgiveness!" Luke objected instantly.
began Vader but a comm-signal interrupted him.
well-remembered voice said from the tiny microphone
of the device. "Jade's labor has begun. We are
transferring her to the detention block's medbay even
as we speak."
Luke didn't hear his
father's reply to that information, didn't even
notice when the other stood up and moved to help him
to his feet.
Mara was in labor? In
labor as in about to give birth? But Jema was only a
few weeks old! How could... unless...
As a creepy sensation
ran down his back, he locked his gaze with his
father's expressionless mask. "How long have I
been asleep?" he inquired uncertainly.
"So you knew that
she was pregnant," Vader commented even as he
helped him to his feet. "You've been in statis
for almost eight months, Son, and today is the day my
caring comes to an end for your baby girl, while you
become a father. Now hurry."
But why..." and suddenly he understood.
"She was judged, wasn't she? That's why you kept
me in statis? She was condemned?!"
Vader replied, calmly leading him to the door.
"The last hearings are scheduled for next week.
But she most surely will be."
"I will not let
it happen," Luke defied his father.
"You can't stop
the trial," the Sith replied calmly. "It's
Luke would hear none
of this. "You made sure of it too! But I will
stop it," he repeated. "She can do more by
living than dying!"
Vader warned him. "Be reasonable for once. If
you are not, I will have to take drastic measures
once again, and I'd hate that considering----"
than keeping me in statis for eight months?!?"
Jedi asked, almost enraged. He locked his burning
glare on his father's expressionless mask. "If
you, or anybody else kill her, even through a
trial," the youth warned him meaningfully,
"then you'll kill me no matter if I live or not.
I love her," he continued, desperate now.
"She is my soul mate; we have been bonded 'by'
the Force itself, no matter what you think about
this. Just have her left her in my care, Father. As a
Jedi, she will be able to atone hundred of times for
what she's done in the name of hatred."
manipulate the trial in your favor, Son," the
Dark Lord replied seriously. "Every single
action must be done within the frame of the laws in
this delicate matter; the future of the Empire's
treaty with the Republic is at stake here."
"So you'll just
sacrifice her for your political games, how
typical," Luke snarled in disgust even as he
shrugged himself free from his father's loose hold.
"Since when do you obey the laws?"
"Since I began to
write them. It's final, Luke."
"I won't let you
do this, Father, I mean it," the young Jedi went
on, determinate. "I will not abandon her to her
fate; I will follow her to the other side if I have
"We'll see about
that," Vader commented after a beat. His voice
was within its threatening ranges now, sending a
chill of warning down Luke's back.
For a long moment,
Father and Son silently defied each other with their
glares. Vader would not win this time, he would 'not'
have his way with him.
As if understanding
this, his father didn't offer any new argument, then
turned toward the door. "Come, now. Our presence
there is mandatory."
Luke allowed his
father to lead them out of the room where he had
awoken, and into a world from which he had been
absent for almost eight months.
Chapter 18: Luke, Jade, and Family
As a new contraction
hit her, the furious red head screamed her
frustration as angrily as she could.
It had been eight
months since he had captured her; eight months since
they had all discovered that she was pregnant with
Luke's child, yet she hadn't seen her lover even once
Not even when her
trial had begun.
At that time, she had
really expected to at least see him in the witness
booth, but it hadn't been meant to be. Later, Solo,
her assigned guard, had informed her that Vader kept
Luke in statis as well as out of even 'his' reach.
Thus, the trial had
proceeded despite the Jedi's missing testimony.
The baby had also
grown in spite of both her father's absence and the
fact that her mother was held in a comfortable but
Force-blocked cell aboard Vader's ship.
And now, the baby girl
was ready to come to the world.
'No,' Mara begged her
silently while she caught her breath. 'Not without
Luke. We can't make it that easy for Vader to
separate us. Wait for Daddy, please!' she asked her
soon-to-be-born daughter. "Just wait for Daddy
to be here."
Vader simply 'had' to
release him today; he couldn't possibly deprive him
of that very special moment. If he really cared about
his son like he claimed to, then he would allow Luke
to be present for his daughter's birth.
Then, and only then,
with the child in her father's safe embrace, Mara
would completely surrender and accept her upcoming
sentence to death.
If Vader were to try
and steal the baby from her or Luke, though, no
amount of security would----
she begged anew when a new contraction tormented her.
She locked her eyes on the female Calamari healer
that assisted Dr. Forester. "Not without Luke,
When the other
silently shook her head in answer, Mara turned her
head away and sobbed. "Not without Luke..."
If only she had been a
better person when she had met him, she would not be
in this predicament; she wouldn't be about to give
birth alone to their daughter.
She wouldn't be in a
less than dignified position with nothing but
strangers around her.
No, she pleaded anew,
it couldn't happen like this. She herself deserved
the pain, but her dear lover didn't, nor did their
Indeed, these two
special beings deserved to be together from the very
beginning of the baby's existence in the outside
world. Giving this new life to both Luke and the baby
would be but a small way to make up for what she had
done to too many people, but, as far as she was
concerned, it would be the most meaningful way to do
Her dear farmboy would
have a family of his own, and the product of their
love would never find a better father in this life.
groaned again, and then gritted her teeth against the
rest of the wave of pain. No, she couldn't---wouldn't
allow the expected events to occur until she said
The corridor that led
to the medical area of the cell bay was gray and
dull. No windows, no decorations, only bright lines
on the floor - red, white, blue, and green. They
followed the green one, Vader walking slowly to
accommodate Luke while the younger man raged over his
weakness. He wanted to run to Mara, but was unable to
move quicker than footpace. He was still recovering
from his eight-month forced sleep.
In the corridor,
guards stood at attention as their Emperor and his
son walked past them.
Not that Luke either
minded or even noticed the special attention. Except
for walking beside the black silhouette of his
father, his mindcouldn't process anything.
Or so it seemed.
Eight months... eight
months..., it repeated over and over again.
He'd lost eight months
of his life... almost a whole year...
The rest of Mara's
pregnancy... probably her trial, too---- Had she been
sentenced already? He worried anew. Had his father
said anything about that? He couldn't remember.
The only thing that
was clear in his mind was his eight missing months of
He suddenly whirled
toward the black-clad giant, meaning to accuse him of
stealing those months from his life. As his
infuriated glare rested on him, though, he realized
that he loathed him too much to even address him in
When the other turned
his head to gaze at him, Luke swiftly averted his
eyes; he focused his attention on their destination.
The green line turned
and disappeared under a large door that was flanked
by two red robed imperial guards. They didn't react
at all when he and his father triggered the door
open. They stepped inside the room
"...No, I'm busy.
Ergen, which part of 'busy and unavailable' don't you
understand? No, you can't. I don't care."
A person in a highly
formal black uniform was pacing in the small
antechamber, comlink in hand. The voice was Han's,
but the clothes and mannerisms weren't.
Luke stopped and
"...I'm out, and
don't you dare call me again. Solo out."
switched off his comlink, sighing angrily. He then
turned, and looked at him. His face relaxed;
something of the old Han showed through as he smiled
Suddenly, Luke was in
a crushing bones embrace that had nothing to envy to
Uncertain as to which
side Han was on, though, his or Vader's, Luke froze
somewhat in the other's man embrace. Had his friend
been overcome by Vader while he had been alone with
him? And if not, then why hadn't he awakened him when
Vader hadn't? "Han...," he finally gasped
when Solo strengthened his hold around him. "I
need to breathe."
Han instantly let go
of him, yet left his hands on his shoulders.
"Sorry, Kid" he said happily. "I'm
Before Luke could
interrupt him with the semi question/semi accusation
that was burning his lips, the small, well guarded
door on their right opened. Dr. Forester, dressed in
a green surgeon blouse, came out of it.
Luke's heart jumped at
that: his ears had instantly picked up on a familiar
voice. Mara! She was in the adjoining room! He could
also hear that she was furious and in pain.
"If you can't use
the Force either, then get out!---ah! You're useless
here! You hear that, Vader?" she vehemently
shouted; she was obviously aware of the other's
arrival, but not of his...
called in the direction of the opened door even as he
rushed toward it.
called uncertainly, then more hopefully: "Luke!
He smiled in relief---
then became aware that the troopers had moved to
block his entry. Up to this moment, he had only had
eyes for his lover in labour. She was in the middle
of the room, laying half-reclined on the modified
called again, and then tried to push past the
troopers. They held him fast; their actions irritated
him so much that he did something he had never
thought he would someday do.
He focused his dark
anger on the men and reached out to strangle them.
He thus discovered
that the medbay was kept in an ysalamiri bubble.
Irritated further by this discovery, he looked in his
back and snarled hatefully at the man responsible for
his lover's unpleasant situation. "Let me
"You can't go in
there, young man," said Forester. "The
chamber is sterilised."
Luke locked his
defiant glare on his father's hidden one. "I
said: let me through."
For a long moment,
they locked gazes, gauging each other's reaction.
Vader finally nodded in silent authorization.
Forester balked in
worry. "Milord, it's unreasonable!..."
Luke didn't hear
further as he rushed to Mara's side.
sobbed and collapsed against her pillows. She was
bathed with sweat, her red hair abnormally cropped
and plastered to her head. "Thank the Force,
you're here. I don't think I would have been to hold
her back for much longer."
"I wouldn't have
missed it even if someone had wanted otherwise."
He fractionally turned around and bestowed a furious
glare at his nearing father; he then focused his
attention on his lover. "How are you?"
"Better now that
For a long moment, the
two soulmates held gazes, totally oblivious to their
situation. Their eyes spoke of the love that their
heart held for one another, rendering pointless any
vocal communication between them. Then, unable to
resist the temptation any longer, they kissed like
only long-separated lovers could.
Luke felt tears of
relief fill his eyes; he let them come. She was alive
and well. He still had a chance to save her life.
she suddenly groaned, interrupting their moment of
reached out with the Force to relieve her, but found
himself blocked once again. He glared anew at the
nearby black-clad silhouette. "Remove the
lizards," he ordered calmly yet defiantly. He
then locked his gaze on Han's eyes, silently asking
him to obey 'his' command for once. His friend was
still in the anteroom.
"Then get out,
all of you!" Mara spat from his side. "It's
not as if I can go anyw----Aaah!"
Luke turned back
toward her, holding her hand in support. "It'll
be all right, my love," he tried to soothe her.
"Soon, it will be over. Just hang on,
Mara weakly nodded as
he kissed her sweaty temple in comfort.
The young Jedi then
turned back toward their unwanted audience.
"Han, the lizards," he clipped
commandingly. "And you," he glared angrily
at his father, "get out, too."
it's too dangerous," Cilghal intervened.
"Lord Vader share..."
Vader clipped, but too late.
"... a life-bond
with your daughter..." she trailed off.
That piece of
information thoroughly stumped Luke. Huh?.. His
father had what?.. Then, his anger sprang forth once
again. How dared his father bond himself to his
daughter without both his and Mara's consent?!
"So that's what the lizards are about," he
"As if I could
ever hurt the flesh of Luke's flesh," Mara
scoffed at the Sith Lord, disgusted. "Who do you
think I am anymore? You?"
Luke bit out, equally disgusted by his father's
actions. "Leave us, all of you, except
"All of you shut
up!!" interrupted an angry Forester. "It's
'my' medbay, and you 'all' will do as 'I' say. Lord
Vader, you're assisting me, so off to the sterilizer
with you. And hurry, we have no time! Cilghal,
prepare the patient. Lord Solo, remove the lizards
'and' bring this royal highness with you." He
pointed at Luke as he said so.
glared as he registered how the other had just
referred to him. His royal highness?.. What in 'heck'
had happened while his father had kept him under his
complete control? "I'm not---" Luke began,
but Forester interrupted him, shoving his face close
to his, his angry eyes drilling into his. Luke
reflexively backed away from the smaller medic.
irresponsible behaviour endangers your lover and your
daughter," he vehemently rebuked him. "Or
haven't you noticed that we're dealing with
complications, here? You delay the caesarean.
Out!" he shouted again as he physically pulled
him away from Mara's side and got him started toward
Luke was too befuddled
by the medic's unusual behaviour to resist him.
A moment later Luke
effectively found himself in the small antechamber,
the sound-proofed doors closed behind him.
Nearby, Han gave the
ysalamiri's cage to a trooper and ordered him out. He
then turned to Luke.
quite impressive when he wants to, huh? Would have
been a great warlord, I say."
"I have to be at
her side," the Jedi whispered; his anger was
gone from him for now. "I 'want' to be with her
let you, Kid. Believe me, I tried already."
Luke turned his morose
gaze back toward the now sealed doors; on the other
side of the physical barrier, he could feel Mara's
pains as she went through the process of trying to
deliver their daughter, and being unable to. He dimly
wondered if his father was also behind that
unfortunate turn of events, or if it were simply an
incident of nature.
Luke blinked at his
friend. "Where?" No way that he was going
away from this room, he thought decisively. He might
not be beside his wife, but he would sure as hell
stay as close to her as he could throughout the
Han shook his head at
him. "In the observation room, of course. You
can't be with her, but you will be able to see her.
And feel in your case, I guess."
Luke sighed in
relaxation and sadness. "I already feel her, but
it's not enough... She's alone with her sworn
Han stepped closer to
him, a look of rebuttal on his face. "Kid."
The younger man
ignored him as he gazed longer at the closed door. He
couldn't see through it, no matter how hard he tried.
He finally sighed in resignation. "All right,
The observation room
was just above the operation room, allowing them a
detailed view on the people working furiously around
the green covered table.
Upon arriving in the
many-sitters room, Luke had walked up to the
observation window to gaze down at the ongoing
operations; he hadn't moved since then.
Nor had he spoken.
really good, Kid," Han tried to draw him out of
his apparent torpor. "Don't worry, they will
'both' be all right. The little one is in good hands,
forlorn Jedi replied calmly.
frowned, wondering what his friend was talking about.
Luke still didn't take
his eyes off from the operation table where Mara Jade
was knocked half-conscious by the pain killers.
"Our daughter's name is Jemma, after her
Han smiled as he
discovered his niece's name. "Jemma, huh?"
he grinned further upon saying the name for the first
time. "It's a beautiful name, for an undoubtedly
beautiful little girl. I bet she will take after her
father's recklessness," he tried to tease him
out of his solemn mood.
Luke didn't smile.
"Hopefully, she will take more after her
Jade again, Han
grimaced. Although he had spent a lot of time with
the woman throughout the past months, and although he
had witnessed first hand how she seemed to have had a
true change of heart, he couldn't find within him the
heart to like her. He respected her, as a worthy
adversary, and he appreciated her for carrying his
niece to terms, but he couldn't quite imagine himself
sharing a family hug with the cold-hearted assassin.
No matter if he had
seen her talk to her baby like any future mother did,
and no matter that he had recently witnessed the
strength of Luke's love for her and vice-versa, he
couldn't forgive her for kidnapping 'and' hurting his
'little' brother in the first place.
For a moment, at
least, he then amended. He remembered all too well
that once upon a time, he had also thought that being
on friendly terms with Vader could only happen in a
fantasy of bad taste. He had been proven wrong since
then, so perhaps, the same would be true with Jade.
Perhaps some day he'd
even share Luke's thought about her, but he wouldn't
force himself to change his perception either. Only
time, he decided, would bring about such change in
his heart and mind.
"I still root for
your side of the family to be stronger than hers,
Kid," he finally commented in the silence.
Luke threw an askance
glance at him, but remained silent.
Below them Vader
finally entered the room and joined Cilghal at the
table. Luke grimaced. "Why is he allowed there,
and 'I' am not?! He is not Jemma's father; 'I'
The link between his
father and his unborn daughter was visible and
vibrant. He could also feel that it was indeed
sustaining the baby's life. 'Putting her at his mercy
before she is even born,' he silently gritted his
teeth in disgust.
He turned toward his
'friend'. "How could you let him interfere in my
child's life the way he did?"
blinked, pointing at himself in surprise. His
features darkened somewhat in resent. "It wasn't
as you think, Kid. Jade almost had a miscarriage
after we stunned her. The bond was the only way to
save Jemma's life, so you should thank him for the
risks he's taken for her sake. She could have still
died after that, killing him with her death."
Luke snorted in disbelief. "If he hadn't ordered
Mara to be stunned, she wouldn't have had a
again, Kid," Han interrupted him, his eyes
harder this time."Your father didn't endanger
Jemma, I did."
"Jade was armed,
so I stunned her. As a pregnant woman, she reacted
according to the statistics and her womb began to
bleed profusely. You know," he then commented as
if in afterthought, "perhaps if she had known
that she had been pregnant, she would have been more
careful and not shown up with a weapon on her
Luke glared hard at
him. "Don't try to shift the blame, Han---"
Han returned the man's glare with one of his own.
"I'm not. It's my fault, I admit it. And it's
also a fact that your father saved Jemma's life
afterwards. You can't deny that."
Luke snorted in
frustration and turned back toward the observation
window. They had begun the incision now; Jemma would
soon come into their world.
"Even if you had
been there, Kid, you wouldn't have been able to help
her. Just accept that you father 'did' save your
daughter's life, and that he put his life on the line
to do so."
eight months of 'my' life?" Luke growled in
resent. "Sure, he's a real hero."
Han sighed; things
were not going as he thought they would. Somehow, he
had envisioned Luke's return as a happy event that
they would celebrate while preparing him for his new
life as a father.
So far, all they had
done was argue against his perceptions of the events
of the last eight months, forcing him into a
defensive position that supported Vader and his
different decisions ever since he had recovered Luke.
He had disagreed with most of them, yet now, he
sounded quite the opposite.
It was now obvious to
him that the Luke who had emerged from the statis
unit was not the Luke he had last seen in Jade's
base. Vader's actions had changed him almost beyond
In a way, he was even
afraid that his friend was dangerously skating the
line of the Dark Side at the moment. He was so angry
at his father...
"Anger won't lead
you anywhere but to more pain, Kid, remember?"
he finally replied, non-committal.
That earned him a new
glare from the younger man. "Don't talk to me
about anger, Solo. Especially not when you show up
like one of my father's lackeys. He might have lured
you to his side, but he won't do it to me." He
looked harder at him. "He stole eight months of
my life, for Force's sake!"
Han locked his gaze
with the youth's disgusted one. "If we're
comparing grievances, Kid, don't forget that he stole
one full 'year' of my life," he replied calmly.
Luke blinked at that.
Huh? What was Han talking abo--- belatedly, he
remembered that Han had once been frozen in carbonite
during the war. At that time, it had taken them a
whole year before locating and rescuing him.
"I'm sorry... I
forgot," he flushed shamefully, yet the reprieve
was short-lived. His resent rose once again within
his heart. "But anyway, it wasn't the same for
you. You were his enemy, not his son."
Han didn't flinch.
"He still stole a year of my life, Kid."
The young Jedi
subsided. His friend was right; they had been through
similar experiences. "Yet you forgave him?"
he asked more calmly.
"Yeah. It wasn't
easy, but it helped when I discovered that the
carbonite had saved my life."
"Well, the bounty
said 'dead or alive', and bodies are easier to
transport. If not for my frozen status, Fett, or
Jabba, would have killed me. In the end, the slug was
content to keep me as a decoration. Hence, the
carbonite, and his Darkness, 'did' save my
While a smirk tugged
at the corner of his lips upon hearing the other's
ungracious address for his father, Luke considered
his words. "I guess it helped," he finally
conceded, yet argued: "still, he didn't save my
did," Han replied.
Luke frowned in
Han went on.
"You're the Emperor's son, and Jade is a
traitor, no matter that she changed her mind in the
end. The problem is that you went with her on your
own will in front of all my troops. Afterwards, you
acted as her lover and not quite a prisoner in front
of all 'her' troops. Do I need to explain to you just
how 'that' sounded in court?"
Luke shook his head,
first month after your recovery, we've had all the
pains in the galaxy to make the rebels forget your
case and instead consider you as a victim. An
ill-placed word from you," Han shook his head in
annoyance, "and you would have been judged, too.
Now, though, even your enemies in court consider that
you've paid for all the treason you could have
committed. You're clear of all charges."
Luke stared at him
unbelievingly. Political and military games?.. He had
been kept asleep because of--- "And you agree
that I was kept out of the way for that reason?"
He glared daggers at the man he used to call
'friend'. "When did you become this---?"
Han countered with a vigorous shake of his head.
"In fact, it was my attempts to wake you up that
backfired on you once this first month was
father's direct order, I tried to get you out.
Foolish of me, of course," Han smirked slightly
at him. "After my third attempt, 'everybody'
knew that I had defied your father. Imagine the
scandal that ensued: Emperor Vader was defied by his
third in command. Your father couldn't let it pass,
not if he wanted to save his credibility. So, even
though he had thought about awakening you once the
legal danger was over, he didn't. He 'couldn't' let
you go; it would have looked as if he were agreeing
to 'my' wishes."
"So I became a
political pawn? He's worse than I thought," Luke
spat in disdain.
Han shook his head in
renewed disagreement. "He did what he did, but
woke you up as soon as possible. He cares a lot about
"Sure." Some way to care about someone, he
mentally grumbled as he considered his father's
actions in the lights of what Han had told him. If
Vader had really cared about him, he would have told
the rebels to not meddle in his family business and
wouldn't have played with his life the way he had---
A rough grip suddenly
closed around his left arm and whirled him around. He
looked up in Han's angry, cold eyes. That unusual
sight greatly surprised him. He stood stock still.
you're alive, aren't you?" Han spat in his face.
"Jade is alive, your kid is alive. You're clean
of all charges and you can speak for your lover in
court if you want. True, you've lost eight months of
your life, but if you think that you could have spent
them with Jade if you had been awakened, you're a
great deal more naive than I thought."
Luke was stumped by
his friend's sudden change of attitude. All of a
sudden, he wasn't a mere ex-smuggler anymore, nor
even his brother-in-law. Instead, he had turned into
the officer, whose uniform he now wore. Luke looked
at him with confusion in his eyes. He didn't know
this man at all.
"Quit your martyr
attitude," Solo told him angrily, letting go of
him. "I'm not impressed."
Luke looked at him
silently. Could Han be right about how things would
have happened if he had been awake? Did he still have
time to save his wife's life?
The young Jedi turned
back toward the observation window.
Nothing more was said
As far as Mara Jade
was concerned, giving birth to her daughter was her
worst experience yet.
First, there had been
the pain of labour, and then Vader's obnoxious
presence at her side instead of her husband's.
To top it all, she
hadn't been able deliver the baby the regular way;
the medics had had to use surgery to help her give
birth. While doing so, she had been drifting at the
edge of consciousness, barely aware that her beloved
was watching over her while he, too, resented their
At long last, though,
the nightmare was over and the baby girl was here to
Mara had fumed
inwardly when the Calamari Jedi had first presented
the infant to Vader before showing her to her, but
she had been too spent and dazed to act on her
thoughts. Her only comfort was that Luke had been
watching from above as the others had bathed and
clothed the little one.
Her precious, fragile
daughter who represented everything that she had
never thought she would even want in life. Shrugging
off the last effects of the pain-killers that had
dazed her during the surgery, Mara Jade tried once
again to assess what was going on around her. Cilghal
was nowhere to be seen, and Forester and Vader were
exchanging comments while the aide was putting away
the medical tools.
What now? She wondered
drowsily as she struggled against her sluggish body;
she wanted to acquire a straighter position than her
current slouch. Upon seeing her, the aide came over
and offered her to be brought into another room so as
to get some rest before they brought the child to
her; she adamantly refused.
She ignored her
healing, bacta-covered stomach, too, and continued
her attempt to regain a sitting position. She had
enough of being in a less-than-dignified position.
She was fed-up to feel
at the mercy of everyone nearby.
When her pain became
more insistent as she kept straining her freshly
sealed womb, she took it out on Vader once again,
ordering him out of the room now that his bond with
the girl was severed.
She then closely
watched Cilghal's actions with her child as the other
returned from the cleaning area behind her.
Meanwhile, Forester, who had understood her
situation, gave her some pain killers. It helped her
to regain her calmer attitude, for the baby's sake.
A few seconds later,
her daughter was finally in her arms. Mara marvelled
at the way the cooing infant looked like a baby
angel. She was Luke's spitting image with her blond
hair and blue eyes, yet streaks of red in her hair
also belied her mother's identity. Mara felt tears of
happiness creep up in her eyes, but then she
remembered who she used to be and her happiness was
replaced by sorrow.
Soon, she would die,
she reminded herself. Now that the child was born,
Vader had no reason whatsoever to delay her trial
anymore, and the rebels were more than eager to gain
custody of her. Unlike Vader, they would summarily
execute her, too.
she whispered at the infant, gently caressing her
tiny cheek with the tip of her index finger. "I
wish that I had been a better person before I met
your Daddy. That way, I would be able to be with the
two of you."
But she hadn't been.
However, she was determined that the past would not
hurt either her daughter or her lover anymore. She
would not cause them grief with her death; she would
not even make them hold a grudge against Vader for
Instead, she would not
form a bond with her daughter, nor would she maintain
her relationship with Luke.
It was the best that
she could do for them, she thought as tears of regret
slid down her cheeks. It was the only way... no
matter how horrible she felt at the thought of never
kissing Luke again.
Of never seeing her
daughter grow into a Jedi and follow in her father's
one," she whispered as the door of her surgery
room slid open. Through the Force, she could feel
that her husband had finally been allowed inside with
Before he could walk
closer to her, she reluctantly picked the child up
with the Force and swiftly levitated her toward her
father's presence. Luke stopped in his tracks,
stumped; he hurried to catch her before she could let
go of her. "Mara?" he asked in confusion.
She 'had' to do it,
she reminded her already-grieving self. She had to
make Luke break up with her.
No matter how she
still loved him more than even her own life.
Thus, unable to face
him, she forced in her voice all the roughness that
she used to muster in his presence. "Get out,
Skywalker!" she spat mock-vehemently.
Luke, who had argued
long and hard with Dr. Forester before being let in
the surgical room, was shocked by his lover's
When he had come in,
he had been confident that everything would finally
be all right now that their daughter was born. He had
even managed to ignore his father's presence in the
Then, Mara had
practically thrown Jemma at him, as if she were
discarding the new born child from her life. Luke had
been thoroughly stunned by her unusual attitude.
Even the Mara of old
wouldn't have treated her newborn child this way, he
thought subconsciously. Luke meant to take a moment
to gaze at his little Jemma--- when his wife's voice
reached him; it was hard, cold... uncaring and
hateful once again.
Skywalker," she spat while turning his back to
him as if in disdain. "I don't want to see you
anymore." Her short hair was disarrayed from the
woman's recent writhing in labour pain.
What?.. he gaped
silently, the child in his arms almost forgotten. If
not for his reflexive protectiveness of her, he might
have dropped her on his way to his wife's location.
As it was, he held her tighter against his chest as
she began to react to her mother's unusual coldness.
"Mara..." he asked in a subdued voice,
uncertain if he had heard right. "What's
wrong?.." What had Vader done to her this time?
The red-head barely
glanced askance at him. "Get out of my sight,
Jedi, and take your brat with you! Out!" she
spat again in disgust.
This time, he was
utterly stumped. Something 'had' been done to her.
"Mara," he tried again while he reached out
to check on her.
He ran into her mental
blocks. "I hate the sight of you, Skywalker, I
always did. Now get out before I really lose my
patience and hurt the kid."
The wave of coldness
that emanated from her was deadly, warning him that
she wasn't joking about her threats.
What?.. He stared at
her, barely noticing her most unusual appearance as
his eyes searched her hard-set profile. She was once
again avoiding his eyes. She had never liked him? No,
that was a lie. It couldn't be true. It--
Forester warned, but too late.
Luke barely ducked in
time to avoid the scalpel that she threw at him as
she whirled, furious, toward him.
Now!" Mara screamed in outrage.
For a long moment,
Luke could only stare dumbly at the scalpel that had
embedded itself in the flesh-like surface of the
nanny droid behind him. She had aimed at his head, he
realized in shock. She had meant to---no...Vader had
done something to her... yet... Had he ever known
her? Truly known her?
In his arms, Jemma
cried loudly, frightened by all this noise as well as
the emotions that were churning the Force around her
Tell your 'sire'
that I want the lizards back," the furious red
head commented coldly from behind him.
Luke turned back
toward her; his eyes widened in disbelief as he
noticed that she had knocked out Forester and Cilghal
with the mobile table. He also discovered that she
had acquired two more scalpels and held one of them
in a throwing position.
"I hate your
presence," she spat, her right arm poised for
Yet she didn't throw
her new weapon; she could have, he dimly reasoned.
Paralyzed by his growing confusion, he once again
took in her unusual sight. Deprived of her usual,
glorious mane of long red-gold hair, and with no
clothes except for a medical robe, he could only see
her for who she was.
She was aggressive,
lethal, ill-tempered, apparently cold-hearted... and
yet, she was also vulnerable, filled with emotions
that were not only negative..., beautiful...
And he loved her
The door behind him
suddenly slid open as Vader and Solo stepped inside,
ysalamiri in tow.
"Drop the knives
on the deck, Jade," Han ordered calmly as he
aimed his blaster on the still sitting woman.
"Now! Luke," he addressed him next,
"get out of here. Jemma needs you."
Too shocked and
confused to think clearly, Luke nodded in agreement;
with a new glare of resent directed at his father, he
walked out of the room. It was Vader's fault, he
reasoned yet again. It 'had' to be the darksider's
Behind him, Han and
the troopers subdued Mara once again. He heard the
definite sound of closing binders before the doors
sealed closed behind him.
When his tears finally
spilled free, he was alone in the anteroom. Against
his chest, Jemma also cried her lungs out, wanting to
be comforted from what she had just experienced.
Never had her mother
felt that way to her before today.
Inside the surgical
room, Mara first cuffed to her surgical table, then
taken to an isolation room before Han and the others
looked after her other victims.
Once alone, she laid
on her right side and let go of her tears of regret;
she sobbed for all her worth. Even though she had
wanted to make Luke turn his back to her, she was now
haunted by the face that he had made when he had
faced her after her fake attack.
disbelief... His sight had broken her heart just as
much as she had his.
"I'm so sorry,
Luke," she whispered, burying her head in her
cuffed arms. She had never meant to hurt him ever
again... yet had had no other choice at the momen---
Her door opened again.
Even despite the Force, it was easy to tell who was
checking on her.
"I don't want to
see any Skywalker anymore," she growled, hiding
her teary face behind her arms. "Past or
present. That includes you, too."
"Tell me one
thing, and I will be gone," Vader replied,
approaching her bed.
She remained silent,
unwilling to cooperate with the man who had obviously
understood that she had only pretended to want to
kill Luke moments ago.
"I know you love
him. So why did you pull this act?"
She remained mute.
"You could have
killed him if you had really meant to; even 'I' was
too far away to stop you, and Luke is far too
trusting. Yet, you didn't take this opportunity. I
want the truth, now: why did you hurt him this
She pulled away from
her arms at this and sat up to glare at him through
her tears. "You uncovered my intentions, can't
you discover the rest?"
It was Vader's turn to
Mara fumed at him.
"I'm a doomed woman with a husband and newborn
daughter," she stated with animosity. "And
I want to live! I want to know her, but I can't! If I
know her, if I experience any further the happiness
of motherhood, I will never be able to let go, to do
what is right. Worse, my husband might willingly get
killed if it meant saving my life because he's
convinced that I am a Jedi! Well, I'm not. I have
accepted the truth, but he hasn't,... and I don't
want him to get into trouble because of me." She
finished more quietly; throughout her last sentence,
her anger had turned into grief and regret as she had
spoken. Vader was still listening to her. "I
don't want my daughter to remember me in any way
either," she admitted in conclusion, casting her
eyes down at the deck.
No, she didn't want
her daughter to remember her, the woman who had hurt
countless innocents, and even her future lover,
before she had discovered the value of love.
Before she had 'known'
that she wasn't alone, she reflexively glared anew at
her unwanted visitor. "So, you happy?" she
spat in animosity at him. "I'm out of your son's
hair," she mercilessly concluded for him,
"and you will be able to find a suitable mother
for your granddaughter. Now get out!" She fell
back on her surgery bed and hid herself back behind
She wanted to die; she
was so sorry to have ever crossed path with anyone,
let alone Luke... and Jemma now. She wished that she
could undo what would always hurt them, one way or
Beside her, Vader
turned, silent; she followed his presence as he
approached the door. To her surprise, he paused
before leaving, as if he were hesitating.
Finally, he spoke.
"How can you say
that you're not a Jedi if you refuse to pass the
The door slid opened
once again, and then closed behind the dark Lord of
Mara, who had once
again raised her head from her pillows, stared at the
closed door, speechless.
Chapter 19: Luke's New World
Skywalker, where are you going?"
Luke stopped and
turned. He had just left the antechamber and was
moving towards what he assumed was the exit of
Executor's medbay. Jemma was still crying her lungs
out despite all his attempts to calm her.
replied tersely. He felt weary to the bone and
hollow... as if he were caught in a nightmare.
"I'm taking Jemma home. We are orbiting
Coruscant, aren't we?"
Cilghal nodded," but your daughter has to stay
Luke stopped short in his steps and whirled toward
the Jedi healer. "Is something wrong with
Cilghal reassured him
with a gentle shake of her head. "No, have no
fear. It's merely standard procedure for new born
babies. Master Skywalker," she then appealed to
him soothingly. "Please, don't worry so much;
she can pick up on your turmoil and it scares her.
Perhaps you could allow me to hold her? I'll calm her
Luke shook his head,
adamantly rebutting her offer. "It's my job now,
I'm her father. Show me what to do."
Cilghal accepted his
counteroffer. "That's easy," she reassured
him. "Imagine something soft and warm - a
blanket - and gently envelop her in it. Cradle her,
send only love and reassurance; she will calm down -
at least for a moment."
Luke nodded and set to
work. He should have thought about such obvious
method himself, he rebuked himself. It was not so
unlike how he used the Force to heal someone, in
fact. He smiled down at his daughters red face.
She had already stopped crying and seemed to relax a
"Poor baby, so
much anger all around you..."he whispered
softly. "Don't worry, I'm here, now. I'll
Master," Cilghal praised him when the baby
started fighting against sleep. "The severing of
the life-bond caused her a lot of stress, but she
will get accustom to you in no time. I can feel that
your bond with her has already taken shape." She
studied them a little while longer, and then turned
heels and walked toward the opposite end of the
medical bay. "Please follow me," she
Luke fell in step with
her. "Where to?"
"To her room. She
will soon need to be fed and cleaned. Her nursery
room is on the second level, where the wards are
Luke mulled over her
words for a moment. Second level? "I never
thought that Executor's mebay was so big," he
muttered, calmly following his self-assured student
toward the closest elevator.
"It isn't. We are
in the "Gray Prison"."
Luke stopped short on
this information. "Where?!" In his arms,
Jemma started and resumed crying in discomfort. He
tried to soothe her once again, sending her apologies
for his newest outburst.
Cilghal had also
stopped walking and was waiting for him to calm Jemma
down once again. "The High Security Military
Hospital, Master," she said, matter-of-fact.
"In orbit, in the second ring of defense."
Luke frowned but made
an effort to not upset again his very sensitive baby
girl. "Then what is Forester doing here?"
he inquired as quietly as he could. "And why
isn't there anyone except guards around us?"
was closed when we moved you and Mara in. High
security, I'm sure you understand."
nodded in agreement.
"As for Doctor
Forester," his student continued soothingly,
"he is one of the Empire's senior surgeons. He
must exercise somewhere, doesn't he?"
relented. The way she had said that, made much sense
nodded again at him, then started toward the elevator
once again. Luke followed.
As they rode the
old-fashioned elevator in companionable silence, he
pondered her revelations some more. He had to admit
that he had never thought that his father's 'personal
physician' might work somewhere to keep his skills up
to date. He had always thought that he had plenty of
practice tending to his father and his troops on
The elevator stopped;
Cilghal passed an id-card trough the reader and the
doors opened. They stepped out and followed the green
line on the floor.
As he followed her,
another question came to Luke, and he berated himself
for not having thought about it earlier. "How
come you're here, Cilghal? Why aren't you on Yavin?
Where are the others?" His voice had slowly
edged toward frustration as he had realized that his
father had probably taken advantage of his students,
too, while he had been absent.
Master," Cilghal admonished him softly,"
you'll wake her up. I'll tell you everything, but not
in a corridor. Ah," she smiled at a non-descript
door, "we're here."
She stopped and opened
a door which wasn't any different from any other they
had passed by. Inside, the room was quite small, the
by the calming environment, Luke silently walked
inside while his resentment drained from his system
once again. Cilghal gestured to him to lay the baby
in the waiting cradle; he complied without arguments.
Cilghal activated the med-droid, and then motioned
him to follow her in a small, tidy kitchen nearby.
"Please, take a
seat, Master. Would you like some coffee? Or perhaps
you are hungry?"
Luke sat behind the
table and, with some surprise realized that he was
hungry, indeed. "Is there some sandwiches?"
"Everything you want, Master. We're in a VIP
"I'd still like a
sandwich," Luke shuddered at the implication of
the VIP description. "And a hot chocolate,"
he added as he thought of how long he hadn't had one
of those, even before he had been put in stasis. He
looked around himself, and then back at his student.
"What are you doing?" he inquired when he
saw her manipulate a bottle in a droid's hand.
"I'm taking care
of Jemma's breakfast. Host's needs first." She
smiled at him before she refocused back onto her
preparations. "We're only her guests in
"I see." He
felt that some knot inside him was undone by these
simple words and all-too-banal movements of someone
programming a kitchen droid. He sighed, relaxing, and
then allowed his senses to drift toward the tiny
presence that was growing hungry in the room next
door. He sent her his love, and then refocused on his
"We are all
well," Cilghal was saying, still occupying
herself with the droid, "Except for Streen, we
all left Yavin to help with your rescue. Streen also
wanted to come, but someone had to stay to guard the
academy. You know how the jungles are," she
He nodded in
Cilghal continued her
accounting. "After we found you, Kirana returned
to Yavin to help him. Kam and Kyp are still here, on
Coruscant. Kam has enrolled in the Imperial palace
security corp, and Kyp is a helper in Court. As for
me, I'm training under Doctor Forester's direction.
He helped me to improve a lot."
Luke barely heard her
last sentence. "Kyp helps in Court?" he
frowned in confusion.
"Yes, and they
are very satisfied by his service. He is preparing
the entrance examination to the juridical department
of the University."
Luke noted that she
sounded very proud of the young man. He himself
frowned further. Kyp? A boy who was all fire and no
calm at all? Wishing to enter the University? Now
that was a strange idea. Unless... had the boy
decided that he was unable to become a Jedi and had
decided to serve justice this way instead? Justice
was very important to him, Luke remembered. He
resolved to speak with Kyp too, and soon. He had to
talk some sense into him before he invested too much
in these ways; before he decided to discard his
unfathomable talent for the Force. Otherwise, what a
waste that would that be! "I'd like to talk to
him," he informed her.
Cilghal glanced at
him. "I'll let him know, but please,
Master," she asked him earnestly, "Don't be
angry with him. He is a good man and he is trying to
do a good thing as he understands it. I'm sure that
it will be for the best of us all."
Luke smiled in
reassurance. "Don't worry, Cilghal. I know that
he is good boy. I only want to talk with him about
that decision. I know how hard he can try sometimes,
as well as how often he wastes his energies on the
Cilghal didn't reply.
A moment later, she put a plate with a large sandwich
and a cup of hot chocolate before him. She took a
glass of something green-grey for herself and sat
"Many things have
changed in the world while you were absent," she
said. "Please, be wise and understanding, as I
know you can be."
He sighed heavily in
returned wariness. "I'm trying, Cilghal,"
he answered somewhat gruffly. "But it's not easy
to see how my friends have been changed into almost
strangers while I was not there. I'm not sure I like
it, but, please, don't lecture me about this, okay?
I've had enough of Han already."
"It's not my
place to," she replied peacefully. "I'm
just... expressing a concern."
Luke searched her
eyes, and then nodded as he felt her honest concern
for him. "Thank you," he nodded wearily.
"I'll keep your warning in mind."
He took a bite out of
the sandwich. It was excellent. The chocolate was
also. Sweet and hot; it was almost like a balm on his
relatively embittered heart. Many things had changed,
true. He knew it for a fact already. Han had changed
so much that he seemed another man - an unknown man
What role did he play
in his father's plans? Had Vader's dark influence
subtly changed his brother-in-law until nothing of
the old Han remained? Had he also changed Leia? And
Mara? What had happened with Mara after the
operation? What had Vader done to her?
Luke hesitated and
finally didn't ask the question that burned his lips.
He had to go more calmly, more slowly.
Instead, he asked
another question, one which did not raise his
hackles. "Talking about changes," he began
calmly, "how come Forester took you under his
"I was foolish enough to offer assistance to
your father once. He explained to me how stupid I was
in my conceptions of healing and health and sent me
to Dr. Forester for further information. So I went.
And he indeed showed me the extent of my ignorance -
so I asked for even further instruction and he
"And you like
"He is a great
physician. He would even be one of the greatest in
history if he had any ambition. However, he says that
serving Lord Vader is enough. I like him."
Luke sipped his
beverage. "Cilghal...," he began
hesitatingly. "Have you noticed anything unusual
during Jemma's birth?"
unnecessary Force manipulation... on Mara..."
The Calamari female,
who had leaned closer in concern, slowly withdrew
until she sat straight in her chair upon hearing his
words. "Lord Vader did nothing of the
sort," she stated adamantly. "His actions
were only those that were necessary by the
intervention. He didn't influence Mara Jade's further
Luke frowned at her.
"Are you sure?"
"Could you not
detect his manipulations?" he tried more
Cilghal, who rarely
displayed anything but calm and care, gave him a
stern glare. "It's also possible and much more
probable that Mara Jade's actions were only her own
It was Luke's turn to
lose a little bit of his temper. Again. "But it
can't be! I don't see why she would do such a cruel
you," his student visibly shuddered. "She
loves you. It's a possible motive."
"To protect me
"From attacks on
you if you were to defend her in court. If you were
to care about her, you would expose yourself to
danger, or so I imagine she was thinking at that
"Mara is too
intelligent to worry about 'that' kind of danger.
Words and gossips cannot harm me!"
master," the medic retorted calmly. "But
that's not really relevant. She loves you, she was
worried, she had just experienced a great stress, and
her hormonal level was less than stable. She could
make such a decision. However, I'm sure that she will
calm down and ask for you before the day is
Luke perched an
eyebrow at her. "You think so?"
the alien nodded confidently. "She'll sleep,
she'll eat - and then she will ask for Jemma, and for
you, too. Don't worry, master. She loves you very,
very much, that's obvious or else she wouldn't have
reacted the way she did when you first arrived. She
also begged repeatedly for us to wait for you before
we proceeded with the delivery."
Luke pondered the
woman's words for a moment. He finally nodded in
comprehension. Perhaps, Cilghal was right and Mara
was simply caught under the effect of her pregnancy
hormones. He hoped so. He finished his cup and set it
down. "Tell me... What do you think of my
father?" he asked her next.
"Lord Vader is a
great warrior," the Calamari replied calmly,
without hesitation. "All Calamari respect him
"That's not what
I meant," Luke sighed with a shake of his head.
"I meant, what do you personally think of
once again in her chair. "It's not my place to
discuss the head of another clan, master."
Luke locked his gaze
with hers. "Your opinion is important for
Cilghal pondered his
request for some moments, and then said:
"Amongst the warriors, the greatest are those
with the soul of a medic, capable of conscious
self-sacrifice to save a life even when it goes
against their strategy. He is one of those. I will
say no more."
Luke stared at her.
Huh? That was the most important thing that she saw
in his father?... "My father - acting 'against'
his strategy? That would be the first!" he
laughed bitterly. "You idealize him."
stood, took her glass, his cup, and then turned to
the sink. Luke looked at her back in confusion.
did I offend you?"
master," came the calm reply. "Do you want
more hot chocolate?"
doesn't," Han's voice commented from behind
Luke. The young Jedi turned toward the unexpected
visitor. He had not heard him arrive. His friend now
stood in the doorframe, smiling.
"My niece is
great!" he beamed. "You did a great job,
Luke couldn't help but
grin proudly. New Han or not, he couldn't resist the
man's smile when it was this genuine-looking. For a
moment, he could see the old Han, his friend. Then
the mask of efficiency fell once again and he resumed
being a stranger.
"So, as I was
saying, you don't want any more chocolate. What you
do want is a hot meal and a hot bath. True or
chuckled despite himself. How could he be Han, yet
not Han...It was all so confusing. "Especially
the latter. But..."
"I'll call you
immediately when Mara Jade asks for you,"
Cilghal soothed his unspoken worry.
"The Palace is
only fifteen minutes away from her, anyway," Han
added. "If Jade asks for you, I doubt she will
change her mind within the following fifteen minutes.
She isn't the type. And anyway, you'll need to catch
up on what's been going on at the trial, right?"
Luke had to concede
defeat here. "Right."
"And I'm sure you
want to see *your* niece and nephew, too."
Luke gaped for a
moment as he processed Han's strange words--- until
he realized what the other had just told him.
"You and Leia had kids? Congratulations!"
He stood and clapped his friend in the back as he
embraced him like they used to back in the Rebellion.
Han said once they had pulled away from each other.
"They're four months old already, though... So,
will you wait till they're older or are you coming to
see them now?"
"I am!" he
nodded vigorously in assent. "I wish I had been
here when they were born." He meant to follow
Han outside, but remembered they were not alone. He
turned toward his nearby student. "Thank you,
Cilghal, for everything."
She bowed her head in
farewell. "You're welcome, master."
Luke bowed as well,
and then hurried after Han.
They stormed down the
corridor, Luke barely able to keep up with Han's
strides. "Hey! What's the rush?"
Han turned around to
look at him. He blushed slightly. "Eh... sorry,
Kid. I'm always running these days, or so it seems to
me," he slowed down his pace.
Luke frowned slightly
at this. "From problems or into them?"
them," Solo grinned in answer. "Too many
things to do, so little time..."
They stepped in the
elevator; the doors closed behind them. Han leaned
against a wall and glared at Luke, surprising him
with his sudden change of mood.
"You know, Kid,
for a Jedi you can be extremely dense."
Han locked his stern
glare on him. "You asked a Calamari to go
against their customs and tell her opinion on a
subject they 'never' discuss, and immediately
afterward, you dismiss her point of view as
delusional. Couldn't you have nodded and say
"thanks for the insight", you know?"
intentionally," Han said. "I was there to
check on your daughter, but given the open doors, I
couldn't help but hear. I didn't think that
interrupting would have been a great idea. And don't
change the subject."
Luke sighed. "Did
you hear what she said then?"
"Yeah. But at the
moment, what she answered is absolutely irrelevant.
'You' showed complete disrespect for her opinion -
and that what's important."
Luke scowled at his
friend's patronizing attitude. "She said that
she wasn't offended."
"Did she say she
Luke sighed again.
When had Han become his second father? "Look,
I'll manage that myself, okay? I don't need your
counsels of how to speak with my students and I don't
need your sermons. I'm not your kid. Stop calling me
that, by the way."
Han snorted and shook
his head. "It wasn't a lecture, Luke. Not at
all. It was just an opinion of my ever disrespectful
Luke glared askance at
his companion. "Well, it sounded like one."
"Just because I
think you were dense?"
Jedi sighed. "She expressed her opinion, I did
mine. Why make such a big problem out of it?"
"Because I like
her and you did hurt her by not thinking
shrugged. "She's a good girl, a great medic, has
a neat influence on Forester - he seems almost human
Luke rubbed his
forehead. "I forgot," he commented softly.
"You had time to know each other..." His
missing time with his people was really beginning to
make his head spin with all the changes that he had
not witnessed. He dimly wondered if he would
understand them ever again. "Do you really think
I hurt her?"
"Believe me, I'm
an expert. When she turned around, her stance was
just like Leia's when she's disappointed." Han
shrugged again, this time nonchalantly. "It must
be an interspecies female reaction."
Luke nodded in
comprehension. Yes, Han had had a lot of experience
with women, and his sister was not exactly the
easiest woman to live with sometimes. Much like Mara,
he smiled thinly. Mara... "Why the ride is so
long?" he asked, changing the subject of both
his conversation with Han and of his thoughts.
This time Han did let
it pass. "'Cause we're going directly to the
hangar bay. It shouldn't be long now... "
As if on cue, the
cabin stilled and the door opened. Han detached
himself from the wall and strode forward. Luke
followed silently. The hangar was small; there was
only one ship in it: a Tyderium shuttle. As he
studied the ship that sat in the middle of the
landing pad, Luke dimly wondered where the Falcon was
An ensign met them at
the shuttle's ramp.
"Lord Solo, your
highness, I'm ensign Targi, your pilot for today. The
shuttle is ready to launch."
Han said politely. "We're leaving
They followed the
ensign into the shuttle's passenger's section -
spacious, all dark leather and soft lines, and it was
visibly equipped with the best transmitters and
computers the Empire had to offer.
heh?" Han grinned at him, falling into an
enormous chair. "That thing is one of the five
shuttles that were made for Palpatine. He never used
Luke warily sat on a
soft couch. "Do you like it?"
Han smiled. "I
like comfort, yes." He absentmindedly logged
into the console next to him. Luke noticed the
complete automatism of his gestures. "And these
communicators showed to be quite useful." He
threw Luke a glance and flashed a grin. "Don't
worry, Master Jedi, I haven't been corrupted by
"It's not that."
Luke shifted uneasily
in his seat. "It's... these... titles. It's so
"You'll get used
to it," Han replied, his eyes scanning the
screen. "They don't sound so awful after some
'your highness'?.. Between you and me, do I look like
'your highness' to you? Besides, they never addressed
us like this before---"
Han raised his head,
looked at him directly. "You 'are' the Emperor's
son, Luke, therefore the Imperial prince, therefore
'your highness'. It's just a fact of life, and it's a
well-known fact now. Don't worry so much about
Han grinned at him.
"If you really can't stand it, maybe you could
deal it for 'Master' or 'Lord'. The latter is quite
bearable. I can say; I'm an expert."
Luke continued to
frown at his friend. "How come you 'did' accept
it? I remember a time when you had trouble joining
"That was before
I married your sister and began serving your father.
Besides, Lord Solo, is much better than 'consort of
daughter of our Master Darth Vader', don't you
think?" he inquired, imitating the Noghri's
Luke barely smiled in
agreement or amusement. "Seriously, though, why
not 'general' for example?"
"'Cause I'm not
one, that's why. And my position demanded a title of
power. Somebody who can order an orbital bombardment
can't be called "hey, you there!" It's just
Luke blinked and
stared at his friend. Somehow 'orbital bombardment'
didn't go well with Han Solo in the same phrase.
Although... "Can 'you' order such a thing?"
and even as he pronounced this, Luke became certain
that *this* Han, clothed all in black - could; it
gave him chills in the back.
yes. If we were at war and Vader not around..."
Han shuddered. "It's military stuff."
"But you aren't
in the military. Why? If the title is just for
"It's not only
for them, Ki... Luke," Han looked at him
seriously. "it's for everyone. We, as a ruling
family, are somewhat outside of the system. We don't
belong to the structure of any career's hierarchy,
but we 'do' have power - and a great deal of it, too.
Titles remind everybody of our place, including -
most importantly - ourselves. Each one of our
movements can have consequences beyond our reach, so
you see, we better remember who we really are. I
certainly 'do' remember my manners when I'm addressed
as 'my lord'!" To Luke's horror, his friend
grinned at his words. "Awwww, don't make so
grave a face, Luke. It's not so terrible."
talking about distances and superiority! You're
saying that we're 'better' than the others, than our
Han rubbed his
forehead in annoyance. "by higher placed, Luke,
I mean that we are higher 'placed'." He locked
his gaze with his once again. "Sure. You're
right about distance, but it's inevitable anyway. If
we don't create it, the population does it for us,
"And what does
Chewie say about this? Where is he, by the way?"
"He is fighting
xenophobia in the High Tec School, where they form
those guys who design Star Destroyers. He's the first
nonhuman to be accepted after all the restrictions
were lifted - anonymously, of course... He showed
them all," Han smiled proudly at this. "He
got to the third year directly, and he did agree with
me, last time we talked.... oh, about a month ago, I
think. Ah, does time fly or what, huh?"
Luke stared at him in
disbelief. "A 'month' ago?!"
"What's the problem?"
didn't find a moment for your best friend for a whole
"Luke, he works.
I work too - you didn't see my agenda... Speaking of
which... I also have a family and I, too, need to eat
and sleep. So 'no', I didn't find time. So
what?" Han squinted. "I know this face.
What is burning you?"
Luke began carefully, "that this high position
and power are just..." he paused, searching for
a word. Han kept silent, looking at him with a smile
that was just a trifle ironic and bitter.
"...they are turning you into someone who is
'not you'. They're moulding you into something... You
used to laugh, and to not care about titles or a
stupid job. You cared about your friends, you used to
fly! And now... I don't recognize you."
"I grew up,"
Han shrugged simply. "Luke, you can't make an
image of a person, and then decide that he or she
will be like that forever. I'm not an image in your
history book. I'm a person. I change. Everybody
about... you? As yourself?" whispered Luke.
"That's me. As
myself. As I'm now. Oh, darn!" he stared at the
screen. "And right now I'm in a deep bantha
shit. Sorry, Luke. I'll just drop you at home, and
the Jedi frowned, fearing bad news coming.
"Ergen put a
meeting with the senators on three! I will have just
enough time if I go directly- just enough. Damn it
all to the Sith Hell!"
"My aide. An
illegitimate child of Winter and C3PO, you'll like
seriousness of their previous discussion, Luke
couldn't help but burst into laughter at this.
Han waited till Luke
finished laughing, "It's true, Kid, you'll see
it for yourself. I have no idea how they managed it,
pleaded, still chuckling until his belly ached.
"I don't need 'this' in my head!"
remember you could read my thoughts... Anyway, you
need the documents of Mara's trial, right?"
The mood sobered
became serious again.
"I'll tell Kyp to
send them to you; I'll meet him in the Palace
"Tell him that
I'd also like to talk to him."
"No prob here, he
usually comes at home for some saber practice around
7pm. I'll tell him, he'll have a word sparring this
Luke didn't comment on
the other's insinuations. "Thanks."
said voice in the intercom, "We'll land in three
lot," muttered Han. "As if I can't
"Sure. The sound
of the approach is different."
Luke blinked. The
cabin was soundproof. "Which sound?"
"It's a 'real'
pilot's thing, Kid. You just feel it..." Han
"Do you miss
"Flying? Yeah. I
do fly sometimes... with your dad, also," he
grinned. "You know? A bonding thing?"
Luke, there's one advice I have for you. And for
The young Jedi sighed
in resignation. "Shoot."
decide what's more important for you - that image you
have of your dad, or the man himself. No," Han
lifted his hand as he saw Luke open his mouth,
"don't reply - just think about it."
Luke shuddered. That
was a ridiculous question. The response was obvious -
the problem was that this new Han couldn't see it.
"All right, Han. I will. Thanks for the
Han just smiled.
Winter met them in
Vader's castle as they landed.
Luke," she said with a small smile that was an
equivalent of hug-and-many-kisses from the less
restrained people. She looked at Han.
"Everything is well," she said. "The
children were fed and are sleeping. Her highness ate
well at dinner and is now sleeping, too; I checked
five minutes ago."
beamed. "Convince her to go to the park for an
hour or two when she awakes."
"I'll employ all
my ruses," Winter smiled. "Good luck in
your hunting, Lord Solo."
Han grimaced. "I'll need it. Good day, Winter.
Luke, see you in the evening!"
He then turned and
hurried back into the shuttle. Winter turned back to
Luke. "Congratulations for your daughter!"
she said. "I'm so happy for you!"
said Luke levelly. He didn't want to continue in this
painful direction and Winter felt it.
are ready," she said. "Do you want to eat
He followed her in the
opulence of the castle. Leia's touches were visible
here and there, he mused. She had obviously applied
herself to 'humanize' the museum, but he greatly
suspected that she never had time enough to finish
this challenging task.
The only places she
redesigned completely were hers and Luke's suites.
she?" Luke inquired when they bypassed an
abstract painting she had clearly put there; it was
too bright for his father's liking.
"Giving birth was
difficult," Winter replied calmly. "She was
very drained and it took her a long while to recover
from the physical stress. But now, everything is
well," she smiled, the sun shining through the
ice of her eyes, "and the children are so
"Could I see
them? After Leia's up, and that I've cleaned
That got him a
surprised glance from the woman. "How can I tell
you what to do in your own house?"
Luke sighed glumly and
cast his eyes down. "It just doesn't feel like a
home to me, I suppose. I feel like I'm in sort of
hotel or something..."
"With me as a
major-domo?" there was a twinkle in Winter's
"Sorry. But you'd be a great one."
"The thing is, I
don't feel as if I belong to this house. I'm sort of
a temporary guest... It's not home."
"It's not a house
that I'd call 'home'," she retorted wisely.
"A house is just a shell. Home is the family you
Luke grimaced. "The one I was born into? Or the
one I made?"
the reply. "It's the people who will always
welcome you whatever comes."
He pursed his lips at
that. "Somehow, I don't think I'm quite welcomed
by my family..." ... Surely not by my father, he
true," Winter retorted strongly. He felt she was
replying not only to his words but to his thought
too. "All your family loves you very much.
Please, believe me."
doesn't know love."
"Who told you
such a nonsense?!"
"Then, I believe,
he either has a misconception of the meaning of this
word, or he just doesn't know himself well
enough." She gazed deeply into his eyes. "I
saw him during his search for you, and only a blind
wouldn't see how great was his love and his
It's just care. Nothing more."
When a feeling
is of such intensity, I see no difference."
"I do. I don't
wish to discuss it further."
They were not very far
from his door now; they walked the rest of the
distance in silence.
"Thank you for
your company and honesty," he said finally.
welcome," she replied with emphasis on the last
He entered his room,
and closed the door.
An hour later, after
he had taken a bath and had changed clothes, Luke
felt more like himself. His mood had also lightened a
bit. The world around had lost some of its foggy
quality. Instead, his surroundings felt more like
Something he knew.
As he remembered his
previous conversations with Cilghal, Han and Winter,
he felt remorseful to have treated Winter so coldly.
She was an excellent friend and she really didn't
deserve to be the recipient of his bad mood. Even if
she understood why he had been melancholy, he had no
excuse for his attitude with her.
"Next time I see
her, I'll apologize," he decided.
But first, he badly
needed more information about this new world he had
...What he found
deeply shocked him.
There were trials in
progress, Mara's, of course, but also others of a
totally different nature. One of them was called
'Journalists' trial'. Reporters and news programs
directors of liberal channels were being judged for
defamation, collaboration with enemies of the state.
Some of them were even tried for treason.
Worse, Leia was a
Draped in white,
pregnant, she should have looked angelic on holos,
but instead, she had chilled him to the bone. Her
face had been solemn and cold, strong, almost cruel.
The reporters had called her the 'Ice princess'.
Others had addressed
her by her now official name: Leia Solo-Vader.
As he sat looking at
these so simple words, Luke felt the rest of his
world crumbling around him. Absentmindedly, he
registered the fact that Leia's presence felt awake
in the Force now; he could feel her in the background
- so familiar, so ... domestic, warm, friendly... How
could that coexist with the horror he was seeing on
He sprung to his feet
and ran out of the room.
He had to see her. He
had to see with his own eyes if she had truly changed
as much as the holos suggested... or if she was still
his beloved sister.
The sister he
She was branding her
The screen on the wall
in front of her was turned on; a woman's head was
muttering something barely intelligible. 'News,
probably', Luke thought as he stepped in the living
beamed, excited. Her eyes suddenly alit with joy, she
grabbed the remote and turned the screen off.
"I'm so happy!"
She looked so, indeed,
he conceded as she rushed to him and hugged him in a
fashion not so different from Chewie's choke holds.
As he held her, he
reflected that there were strange new feelings in
It had been how she
held herself before she saw him, he realized. The way
she had slowly turned her head - with dangerous
grace. She 'had' changed, too.
"How are you? Is
the baby okay? Congratulations for---" she
pulled away from him and looked up in his eyes.
For a long moment, he
met her concerned gaze. She was so warm and caring
like he remembered, and yet... cold, too, in a way.
"How could you..." he finally muttered, his
heart breaking. Leia, too, was dead... They were all
The ones he had loved,
tried to save, and had even convinced to stay with
Vader... they were all dead, replaced by people he
didn't know anymore.
People who blindly
served his father, the new Sith Emperor...
asked, not understanding? Her eyes turned from happy
to confused in a flash.
Luke met her gaze
unflinchingly. "How could you betray yourself
like this? What happened? What did Vader do to make
you betray everything you ever stood for?"
Leia frowned, and then
blinked. "Luke... What in Force's sake are you
researching what I have missed. I looked at
holos." He let his hurt come through his eyes
and voice. "You used to stand for liberty and
freedom, Leia. How could you discard this
nodded slowly. "The Journalists' trial, I
She walked back in the
living room, sat down in the couch, and then rubbed
her forehead. "Luke, if you read news materials,
read 'all' of it. Some of those 'journalists'
cooperated with Jade and Moffs; they wanted to bring
us down. Others made up such a crap about us to
increase the size of their audience that it became
"Are you sure, it
was all 'crap'?" he asked, raising his two hands
on both sides of his head and mimicking commas with
Leia glared at him.
"Yes. I was there. I heard it. 'I' was on the
receiving end of it. None of what they said about our
search and rescue operations were true. It was
complete lies; dirty, evil absurdities. They
concerned father, me, you, Han; everyone involved in
your rescue. So don't speak to me about freedom and
liberties! There's no freedom and no liberty in
"But you proposed
a law to reintroduce the censure we so hated back in
the old Empire!"
"Did you read
it?" she asked him pointedly.
"Then 'do'. If
anything I want to preserve our freedom, but I don't
want to hear such bantha's shit ever again. We have
the freedom to be informed, but to be informed by
'truthful' reporters, too."
"But it's just
the beginning, don't you see it? It's a first step to
return to dictatorship."
honestly... 'We' are making the decisions, and I'll
never allow any more restrictive law to pass. Calm
down, please. We're not in a B-movie, and Palpatine
didn't take over my - or anyone's - body," she
She gentled a bit and
invited him to sit beside her. He did so, avoiding
her eyes until she delicately took hold of his hands
"Tell me what's
really troubling you so much, it can't be merely
politics. What happened?"
Luke looked at her,
and then averted his eyes to hide his tears from her.
"I am back, but my world is in shambles - that's
what happened!" he sobbed in despair. "I
don't recognize anyone; everything, everyone I once
knew is now twisted, not how I remember them..."
Luke..." she comforted him, drawing him to
herself in a sisterly hug. "I'm so
sorry..." She rocked him soothingly as he let go
of his self-control and cried on her shoulder for all
the losses that he was now only discovering. "Of
course, we've changed. You have been missing or in
stasis for almost a year...Still, it's not that bad a
change. Nothing much has changed really... except for
the babies, of course," she smiled against his
Luke, who had been
basking in her comfort at first, slowly pulled away
from her as her words settled in his mind. This was
not Leia... His sister would not belittle his worries
like this. Only Vader would---- "Not 'much'?!
not bad??" he asked her, locking his distraught
eyes on her startled ones. "Can't you see what
is happening? He's turning you into his copy? Oh,
She looked at him, her
surprise transforming into a mix of condescension and
irony. "Luke, really, there's absolutely
'nothing' so dramatic going on. I'm just becoming a
real politician, at last, and I assure you, I can
take my own decisions. Father and I often have
arguments about points we disagree upon."
"So it was 'your'
idea to change your name?"
"Is 'that' what
it's all about?!" Leia stared at him in
disbelief. "Luke, it's just a formality, really.
I'm his official heir, so the name of the line must
be continued. 'Both' lines, as far as I'm concerned.
"Then what about
the 'Organa' name? You once vowed to never give it
up, remember? Did you forget him so soon? What about
'his' legacy of freedom and justice?"
Leia paled. "I
can never forget Bail. Never. However, I can carry
only one legacy..." she whispered. "I hope,
he can forgive me..."
the memory of Alderaan?" he asked vehemently.
Inside him, a little voice chanted 'I'm right! I'm
right! Here's a betrayer!'. He relished in it.
Leia closed her eyes,
and it felt chillingly final - as if curtain of steel
fell between them. His anger instantly dissipated,
but it was too late; he was already left with just a
cold image near him; that of 'Lady' Vader-Solo. Not
his sister. What have I done?!
He fell on his knees
at her feet.
"Leia, I'm sorry,
I'm so sorry, I didn't want..."
"Luke. Please. Go
"I do believe
you. I still love you. I'll never leave you. I'll
still trust you. But today... I don't want to see you
anymore. Go out. Please."
Beaten at his own
attempt to generate guilt in his sister, Luke left
her, his chin to his chest in deep regrets.
What was going on with
What 'was' wrong with
Back in his quarters,
Luke took a message from Han. Kyp would be at his
place around seven o'clock tonight.
He waited with some
nervousness for the evening to come.
What had happened to
Kyp? What was happening with him?! He was feeling
disorientated and all alone, as if in a desert - and
a storm was building on the horizon. Soon, everything
would be destroyed. Fear was creeping into his heart.
words, he understood now. Indeed, many things had
changed in the world he had foolishly left behind
almost a year ago.
And for what, in the
end? For adventure? For the prospect of a new Jedi
student? For Love? For a family of his own?
For more pain?
Had any of his recent
joy really been worthwhile?..
When his student
finally stood at his door, he felt as if the deck had
fallen under his feet; he was falling into the abyss,
falling, falling... It was not possible!
Kyp was wearing black
robes that were adorned with a Sith symbol, and he
carried an ysalamiri on his shoulder.
"...And then I
pleaded allegiance to the Lord of the Sword,"
Kyp was saying. "And I'm happy, Master
Skywalker. I feel complete, like I never did when
struggling to make myself fit to be a Jedi."
Luke closed his eyes,
briefly. He was still falling.
His father had known
of Exar Kun, had allowed his communications with the
Yes, it was a
masterful manipulation that Vader had mounted to make
this youth a Sith. However, instead of due awe, Luke
felt only the pain of betrayal. He had welcomed his
father at the academy, had left the students in his
'care'... "How can you be grateful to him,"
he finally spat, interrupting Kyp's eulogies to his
father. "He allowed you to be corrupted!"
"No. He merely
left me to my choices."
"But he knew,
your 'friend' was a Sith, that he was deceiving you!
That he wanted you for evil purposes. He should have
"He didn't know
what Kun was planning. Besides, being a Sith doesn't
mean that he can understand all the other Siths he
meets. Anyway, even if he had warned me, I wouldn't
have believed him. I was certain that I knew 'Master
Kenan' well, that I could trust him..."
"You never told
me about him."
"Well... I wanted
my mystery, my special treasure. I wanted to feel
different and important. I was such a fool," The
youth lowered his eyes to look at his clasped hands,
"not able to see the obvious deceptions and
traps. Lord Vader still believed in me, though, I
think. He helped me - and Lord of the Sword helped me
- and no-one forced me to make this decision. I just
wanted to. And I don't regret it at all. Lord Vader
is helping me to learn..."
Learn, sure, Luke
thought, feeling as if he were adrift in deep space,
his pain cutting him off from his surroundings. His
father had been right to admonish him for trusting
him too easily. 'He' had been a fool for that, not
Kyp. All this time, Vader only wanted another
servant, someone else to imitate him, and since his
own son had refused his offer... As he gazed at his
former student, he realized that this time, his
father didn't go with half-measures to twist Kyp. He
kept him cut off the Force so that he couldn't feel
the divergence of the path he was being led on.
Until too late.
'lizard'" he almost spat in disgust. Does it
also help you learn?"
At this, reality
returned to Luke, and his outrage exploded in words.
"And you believe it?! He is cutting you from the
Force, destroying your awesome talent, and you're
grateful?! I never saw an abomination so
He just couldn't bear
the existence of this ... lizard, crippling his most
talented student. Before Kyp could understand his
intention, he was beside the youth. A second later,
he grabbed the lizard and viciously threw it against
Shocked, Kyp didn't
move for a moment, merely stared in utter horror.
Then, he rushed to the fallen animal and fell on
knees beside it. He carefully picked up the ysalamiri
from the floor. "No!.. Lila..."
At this moment, the
Force bubble simply switched off - and Luke was
assaulted by Kyp's disbelief and grief.
Grief for his pet.
His 'pet', Luke
realized in stark horror at his own actions. The
ysalamiri had been Kyp's pet, nothing more, nothing
There were no plots,
no manipulations in his mind, no sinister plan of
turning him into something vile and dark. He had
truly chosen the way of the Sith, but he didn't
intend to pursue goals different from the ones he had
been taught when training to be a Jedi. He didn't
want to hurt people. He wanted to serve Justice.
Just before Kyp's
shields closed, Luke saw a shadow of a memory - his
father, injured, speaking with Kyp about his studies.
"I may be your teacher, but I'm not your
Luke back-pedalled in
terror at what he had just done. "I'm
sorry", he half-whispered, his throat
constricted by grief. "I'm so sorry."
For a moment, Kyp
seemed to ignore him, cradling the dead animal to his
face, and then he gruffly said: "Apologies
accepted." He abruptly stood up, his face
lowered, his hand caressing the green fur. Another
silence stood between them. Luke saw how Kyp took
deep breaths to overcome his darker emotions. He
finally looked up at Luke, his eyes full of tears.
"It was unwise, Master Luke. And..." he
looked him into the eyes. "There's too much
darkness in your thoughts, you frighten me. Please,
be careful. Beware the Dark Side."
At this, Kyp the Sith
apprentice, turned on his heels and was gone.
Luke, for his part,
crumbled to his knees and covered his face with his
hands. What had he done... what was happening to
High Security Military
Hospital, 11 p.m.
It was night already.
The view screen in her room looked like an
abstract painting - golden rings over a black
background; Coruscant's night side as seen from
She was lying flat on
her back, her head turned toward the said screen, her
left hand still cuffed to the edge of the bed. She
had awakened in this position four hours ago and had
barely moved ever since. She felt devoid of any
energy, as if her break-up with Luke had taken all
'Vader will not come
now,' she thought, noticing the time on the clock. It
was too late in the day; her nemesis was probably
catching a good night's rest.
Should she be upset or
Immediately after she
had awakened, she had asked her guards to signal to
Vader her desire to speak with him; Vader hadn't
bothered to even acknowledge her request. Of course,
she couldn't really expect anything of the Dark Lord
of the Sith. They were barely on speaking terms, and
that itself was already a miracle considering all the
history of enmity between them.
A miracle... Like her
little miracle called Jemma.
As she thought about
her pregnancy, she allowed herself to analyze Vader's
behavior with her. He had been remarkably civil with
her then, had even been bordering on paranoid about
her security and mental state. However, now that she
knew about the life bond with her daughter, she
understood his motivations. He hadn't been worried
about her, nor had he been worried about Jemma. He
had been worried about himself...
She paused on this
thought. Vader? Afraid for his own life? Nah... She
knew that as her enemy, his personal bravery had
never been underestimated; the man was known to risk
his own life in a battle if it meant victory. Of
course, he had always taken calculated risks,
carefully considering his capabilities before acting,
but still, he had never shied away from the danger
either. He was a warrior.
So, no, she shook her
head in comprehension. Vader had not been worried
about his existence; he had been worried about Jemma.
He had been concerned about his grand-daughter... his
Her little angel
Would she ever forgive
her for being who she had been before--- and now, for
doing what 'had' to be done, she reminded herself
She held onto that
thought, refusing to let her resurfacing doubts get
the best of her.
But it was too late to
not hurt Luke anymore; she had already wounded him,
she whined inwardly. Jemma's cries had proven this to
her; she had cried her little lungs out for as long
as Luke hadn't managed to calm her. It was clear to
her now that the poor infant had been crying all
'his' turmoil and pain; she had been in 'his' arms
when she had reacted to such an extreme.
In her case, every new
loud complaint that had reached her ears had cut
deeply through her soul. 'She' had caused this. 'She'
was at fault for hurting him, and Jemma, again
But it had been
necessary, she reminded herself sternly as she tried
to trace the lines of light on Coruscant with her
eyes; tears had formed in her eyes throughout the
past minutes, blurring her vision for a moment.
It had been the only
way to save him from her loss; she had had to turn
her back to him before it was too late. Had she not
loved him as madly as she had, she would have never
been able to go through this.
She still loved him,
She dried her eyes
with her free hand. Strange how she could thoroughly
dislike the father, yet be so enamoured with the son
that she was willing to give her life for him if it
meant saving him...
She stopped on her
thoughts, and then shook her head to rid it of that
wrong perception of the facts.
No, she wasn't
sacrificing her life for Luke's; she was only hurting
him again. Badly, too. She had nothing but his
interests in mind, and yet...
'Who do you think I
am? You?!' she had spat at Vader while she had been
on the medical table. At that moment, she had been
outraged by Vader's actions to save Jemma. She had
especially been angry at him for the obsessive
security that had surrounded her even at that moment.
Now, though, she was
calmer... more rational.
The more she
remembered that particular argument with the Dark
Lord, the more she realized that she might have
brought up a good point of reflection when she had
uttered those words. Could she 'still' be like Vader
in her desire to protect Luke?
Hadn't Vader also hurt
Luke when he had tried to protect him from harm by
keeping him in stasis for the duration of her trial?
After all, if Cilghal had told her the truth, Vader
had only done so to save Luke from the events that
had surrounded her arrest... Vader had wanted to
protect him from all this madness.
The father greatly
cared about the son and didn't want to hurt him any
Just like she did.
By the Force, she and
Vader 'were' alike!
Damn it! Despite her
turning her back on her vengeful self, and despite
her giving back his freedom to Luke, she was 'still'
They both hurt the
people they - she hesitated - loved the most. They
both sought to protect their loved ones from... - she
paused again- "us", she concluded in a
strangled whisper. A heavy pang of regret and fear
settled in the pit of her stomach at that.
They hurt people they
loved in order to protect them from them, she thought
in sudden comprehension. Both she and Vader tried not
to harm their loved ones in any way by keeping them
at arm's length. In the end, though, they hurt people
they loved... in order to protect...
Was that why Vader had
told her Jedi and trials? Did he see, like her, the
real motivation behind her action? Did he regret his
own decision? Was he trying to prevent her from doing
the same mistake?
sure," she muttered, a familiar cynical smirk
settling in place as she studied a particular pattern
of movement on the surface of the planet. Her eyes
were once again dry. "The Dark Lord of the Sith,
whom I've tried to destroy, now has only my best
interests in mind. I believe that already."
Still, why would he
seem to suddenly 'care' about her fate? Why would he
even give her an advice, no matter how cryptic it had
Why did he even
bother? She frowned, confusion already replacing her
reflexive cynicism. She had delivered his grandchild.
By all rights, he should have reverted to considering
her as a stranger, especially after her refusal of
Luke's continued love...
'Damn,' she thought
again. 'I don't 'want' to understand him! I didn't
ask for 'that'!' She had asked for freedom her from
her negative emotions because she did not wish to
waste her remaining days, or even hours, on hatred,
anger, and lust for revenge.
However, her dislike
for the Dark Lord was intact; she was entitled to
that emotion and as long as she didn't hurt anyone
with them, it didn't matter...at least she hoped so.
Yet, she reminded
herself pointedly, 'she' had called for him. What
kind of trick was her mind playing on her right now?
She had a fair idea as to what trials he had been
referring to earlier today... and she was adamant
that she did not want to dwell further in Vader's
mind, so what did she 'really' want from him? Why was
she feeling annoyed that he would not abide by her
The sound of the
opening door suddenly attracted her attention away
from the hypnotic sight of the view screen. She
turned her head; almost simultaneously, her ears
picked up on a familiar sound.
She gaped at Vader as
he silently entered her room; he had come after all?
He had answered her request... He motioned to her
guards to leave them alone, and then positioned
himself at the foot of her bed. "What do you
have to tell me?" in inquired without detour.
For a long moment,
Mara could only stare at the black figure. Thoughts
had suddenly flown from her mind. He 'had' come to
speak with her.
The mighty dark Lord
of the Sith who had 'never' been known to pay much
attention to anything except his duty.
prompted her, placing his hands on his belt.
So calm and poised,
she dimly reflected while trying to gather her
composure. He had really changed a lot... since 'he'
had become Emperor. Was he a good one?---
And how could she even
think that?! She rebuked herself vehemently. She
didn't care about Vader's reign; she only cared about
his son's future... and how she could help to make it
better than his present.
Vader, meanwhile, was
gazing at the door, visibly annoyed by her silence
and pondering whether to leave or not.
She imagined that he,
too, was wondering why he had come here. Perhaps,
they would both finally elucidate that mystery, she
decided as her mind resumed working once again.
Still, her first words
were not the ones she had planned. "Why did you
kill the Emperor?" she inquired. The black mask
slowly turned back toward her.
"He was not
killed," he corrected calmly.
Mara noticed that he
didn't seem surprised by her question the way 'she'
was. Did he really know her that well?
"Let's not play
with words," she warned him meaningfully.
"You purposefully prohibited a treatment that
could have saved him."
asked him, partly incensed by his easy admission.
"Our whole life
work was threatened by his madness."
Mara glared daggers at
his cold argument. "You sacrificed him, 'the'
Emperor, to the Empire."
A firm nod accompanied
his answer. "Yes."
Mara could barely
contain her temper at this. She sat up in bed as if
she meant to jump down his throat. "But he
'saved' you!" she reminded him vehemently.
"You were in his debt. How could you?!"
"That dept was
fully paid," Vader replied coldly, implacable in
face of her physical reaction. "As for my
loyalty, it has always been primarily to the Empire;
to Peace and Justice, as you well know."
The ex-assassin had
not heard the last part of his explanation.
"Paid?! A life debt can't be---"
"He wasn't our
savior, Jade," Vader stated coldly. "He was
but our Master, and we, his slaves."
She returned his glare
with one of her own. "It's 'not' true."
"You know it
is," Vader replied. "I see this knowledge
in you, even without the Force. You have realized it
a long time ago. Am I right?"
He was, even if she
had managed to deceive herself for a while.
"For what this
To her surprise, she
definitely heard a smile in his voice this time. Huh?
His unusual attitude softened her despite herself.
She still glared half-heartedly at him, but it was
more out of frustration than real anger this time.
"For not leaving me any illusions." She
took a moment to ponder his words further. "So I
started a war without any valid reason at
"You wanted revenge for your lost world, Jade.
Wars have been started for less."
Was he trying
to...'comfort' her?! "But then I'm right. I'm a
monster; Luke and Jemma are better off me, and that's
the right decision. It's a Jedi's decision. So what
was the point of your talk about Jedi trials?"
indeed." Mara could now swear that his smirk was
almost visible through the faceplate. "Don't
flatter yourself, Jade. Your death count is quite
inferior to even Luke's. Anyway, it's not a
sufficient reason to flee your life. 'That' what a
Jedi's trial is all about."
"I'm not fleeing,
damn you! I'll be executed soon 'because' I'm not
Vader answered calmly. "You're talking about
your 'death'. I'm talking about your 'life'."
"Or what's left
of it," she grumbled, avoiding his gaze.
He nodded. "Or
what's left of it. Still, it's the oldest Jedi test;
the only one, I guess, that's really valid. To become
a Jedi, one must face his worst fear, and make peace
with it. In your case, your worst fear is to live.
Not to die."
Mara was dumbfounded
by the Dark Lord's statement. Not only was it
extremely reasonable, far more reasonable than she
had ever expected to hear from him, but she could not
detect the sign of a monster through it. Instead, he
had almost spoken like Luke did when teaching her...
Like a Jedi.
Like a Jedi Master.
She frowned. What was
she thinking? "Why would a Sith Lord want 'me'
to become a Jedi? Why do you even speak to me,
actually? I'm your enemy. You should despise
"Luke loves you
and this time 'he' is apparently in need of your
support. If you must become a Jedi to give him that
support, then so be it. I'll help you as I can."
"And how can a
Sith Lord help in this?"
"By showing where
you must 'not' go."
she assented. "But it was a response only to the
first question. Shouldn't you hate me?"
"My feelings are
my own to govern."
It meant that he
'didn't', she understood. "But why?"
"You are my
daughter-in-law," Vader stated. "Enemy or
not, betrayer or not - it's irrelevant. In my family,
there will be no war."
She gaped in shock at
him. "What?!" F---f-- family?? Had he said
what she thought he had said?
"Luke loves you.
So I decided to tolerate you. And I believe you are
not without honour, so I do trust you to fight the
temptation to try and avoid your fate, whatever it
She continued to stare
in disbelief at him. All her life, she had wanted a
family; she knew this now. And, now she had it.
Officially, too. And not only Luke and her daughter
either, but the whole package - including the Sith
Lord as her father-in-law.
That he accepted her
like that was astonishing. She knew him enough to
know that it will not influence his decision about
the trial - and - strangely - she was content with
that. She needed it, even condemnation she did need.
She badly needed a
closure to her old life.
If only... She crushed
the thought before it could torment her with what-ifs
and possibilities. "What difference does it
make, then, whether I'm a Jedi or not for the last
few days that I have left to live?"
"To change now
might affect the future. Choices... are a very
powerful tool of Destiny."
Mara wanted to grimace
at him, to even sneer at his hand-me-down wisdom, but
as she glared at him, at his survival-suit-encased
body, she began to realize that, indeed, choices
could have a lot of effect on one's life.
All of a sudden, she
was aware that Vader's choices had led him where he
was today, and that he might want to have done a few
things differently in the past.
Not that she would
tell him that, though; his bad temper had been
legendary even before she had been an active agent in
the Emperor's service.
Still... he was
telling her to beware her choices, and 'she', indeed,
had a choice to make.
Or perhaps, she
amended, she had to 'change' a choice.
As if on cue, the door
of her room slid open once again. She and Vader
looked up; they both visibly started at Luke's
distraught sight. He was dishevelled, his face was
flushed as if he had just cried, and he walked with
the speed of someone who was desperate for help.
He looked up at her,
and then his eyes instantly filled with hatred upon
seeing his father at the foot of her bed.
In a way, she was
almost glad that there was an ysalamiri under her bed
so that they were all cut off from the Force at the
moment. Even without the Force, she could feel the
dark energies that were swirling around her tormented