In Another's Eyes
by Clarus, Dark Luke Junkie, Force-Wielder and
The fear drains from the pores of the pilots and fills the small shuttle.
It is appropriate, though disturbing. The fear is of me, and the monster
that I am, and the thought that I inspire such abject terror - the terror
that makes men lose their bowels at my approach - has always sat skewed
on my mind, an angle gone wrong. I cause fear. My men have nightmares about
me, and about the mask. The mask is me. In fact, the pilots' fear of me
is greater than their awe at the Death Star II, which we are now approaching.
The Hangar-Master grants permission to land, though the tone in his voice
rankles. It is filled with arrogance, and the darkest voice whispers that
I should find him and demonstrate true power. The dark voice is easy to
ignore now, but it was not always so.
It began, I think, after the first Death Star was destroyed above Yavin.
I watched the holos from the DSI's security cameras - paying particular
interest to the one of the detention block where the Princess was held.
The pirate and Luke managed to destroy the cameras at the guard's terminal,
but they neglected to look for those in the hallway.
"I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you."
And so he did. This child I realized was my child, my son, two seconds
after the words had passed his lips. Hate flared at Obi-Wan, hate enough
that my Master, sleeping half a world away, dreamed that I had torturously
murdered him. I paid for that little vision with the scars I now wear along
my back. He hates to fear me. Then there was the obsessive search: any
news clipping with his name, all the old holos from his home on Tatooine
(and it was impossibly ironic to learn he had grown into manhood on the
same barren sand dune I left behind). My informants and spies were paid
well, and my collection grew as did his fame.
Finally, I was given permission to hunt him - to chase down my elusive
offspring and claim him, as I should have been able to do at the moment
of his birth. Admiral Ozzel commanded my ship then, and he was not my choice.
He pulled strings and thought that he might do very well under my eye.
His intuition was proven wrong, however, above Hoth. He almost cost me
my son. I caught him later, but it could have been there! There are no
bottomless shafts on Hoth into which he might have jumped! I could have
had him! I could have stopped him and reasoned with him and shown him –
! So, Ozzel's neck collapsing in the Force I held was a satisfying thing.
I enjoyed every second.
Captain Needa was a mistake. I admit that freely, and forced a penance
upon myself that makes me shudder to remember. It was not his fault that
the pirate flew so splendidly - I'd had my eye on the boy once, when he
was a boy. I had wanted him as one of my TIE pilots, but that day never
came. But as I looked over the asteroid field that had claimed the life
of one Destroyer already, all I knew was a deep fear, one that consumed
me utterly. I thought that the princess and the pirate, possibly the last
links to my wayward son, might be lost or destroyed. I felt time pressing
heavily against me and for a long time I considered the fear.
When I realized I had strangled Needa it was too late. Lord Vader must
show no mercy, no emotion besides cold rage, so as I stalked past his shuddering
form, feeling quite ill, I muttered, "Apology accepted." Later, I forced
myself to look up his history. This had been his first command, and he
had left behind a wife and three small children to take it - to serve me.
I was supposed to bring him home, as I was supposed to bring all of those
men home. I failed in that mission. Needa was a mistake. Wherever he is
- for I do not know where those who do not touch the Force dwell once their
bodies have died - I hope he knows that I suffered more for causing his
death than he did in dying. The irony is this, though: his wife's name
My fear almost cost me Piett. To my shame, I do not remember what caused
it, only that it was long after Bespin. Piett has been a gifted and trustworthy
commander; the men love him, and he gets along well enough with me (if
it can truly be said that I get on well with anyone). Somehow, he has managed
to survive and thrive. He is a good Admiral.
I thank the Force, as well as other less welcome voices in my head,
that I realized what was happening before he died. I know only this: he
was reporting something, and then he was lying at my feet, gasping and
clawing at me. I released the Force – flung it far from me, actually. I
also thank the Force that there was no one else in the chamber with us
– I think we might have been in my conference room, but I am not sure.
If anyone else had been watching, I would have had to continue. I cannot
appear weak. I think what hurt the most was when he finally looked up,
through a veil of tears, and all the respect and faith he had had in me
was gone. Instead, there was stark terror, and that hurt me deeply. "You
idiot," I muttered as I knelt beside him. I think he was surprised that
I healed him, and frankly, I was, too.
And so I have come to DSII, and Jerjerrod awaits me with all the pomp
and circumstance warranted the heir of the Empire. Every available man
snaps to attention, and another voice, this one light and full of sadness
and dim remembered joy, whispers that once men had saluted me because they
truly honored and loved me. The dark one is sullenly quiet, for he, too
remembers love, though it was bitter and hollow in his mouth. Now, the
less disciplined tremble and shake as I walk by them. I do not look at
anyone besides Jerjerrod; feces do not have a particularly pleasing smell,
and I do not wish to humiliate one of these men before his fellows. I have
looked at Jerjerrod's history, too. His son was born three days after he
left to come here, and though he has been able to receive holos of the
child, he has not been allowed to send any. His son does not know he exists.
He is three years old now, and perhaps this business will be over soon
enough that the boy does not remember not having a father. The child's
name is beautiful: Israel. I linger much on fathers and sons now.
Jerjerrod tries to placate me with pleasantries and platitudes, none
of which I have the stomach for just now. I threaten him - vague threats,
letting him fill in the blanks with what appears to be quite an imagination.
I have no interest in DSII; the game of politics and rebellion wearies
me. I just want to find my son.
I stand with my back to Jerjerrod and his officers, inspecting the drive
core of DSII. It is offline, and it will take another month, at least,
to have it ready. And that is with all the techs and engineers working
on this alone. I am disappointed. The drive was supposed to be completed
a week ago. Without the drive core, the DSII can only rotate slowly; there
will be no locomotion until the fusion inside it begins.
"Explain, Jerjerrod." He hesitates for a moment, thinking of the time
when the Grand Moffs had ranked far higher than the Sith Lords. That was
in the days of Tarkin, and not so long ago, but since then, Palpatine has
become more openly Sith. The beauracrats, like all the Grand Moffs, are
losing power, and they do not like it.
"There was a malfunction, milord," he finally stammers. Gods below,
how many malfunctions can one construction project have? So far, there
have been malfunctions with the Endor generator, the super laser, the small
weapons systems on the completed side, and now the drive core. I might
have laughed if it were not up to me to form some sort of order from all
this madness; Jerjerrod should be weeping.
"W-when the coolant arrived. There was a spill. Many men were injured,
three were killed. It set us very far behind -"
I hold up a hand, willing him to be silent. He bites his tongue in his
haste to obey. It is a legitimate excuse, but like the rest, I will have
to investigate each one. I do not look forward to it, and I regret not
taking an aide when I had the chance.
"Very well, Commander. Take me to the communications array, if there
His face goes very pale, and the commanders behind him exchange wary
looks. They are not used to my sarcasm. Surprisingly, the communications
array is in excellent condition and fully operational. I mention this to
Jerjerrod, and after he realizes it is a complement, he inclines his head
slightly. He thinks, very loudly, Israel, perhaps I will come home to you
I have to leave him. I have been walking a precarious line for a long
time, and this has nearly thrown me off of it. I have realized that we
two are very similar – we have never seen our sons.
"That will be all for today," I announce as I walk quickly from the
communications bank. I must hurry; I cannot cry in the mask – it causes
all sorts of electrical problems. I enter the quarters that have been prepared
for me near the medical bay and slap a button on the wall as I struggle
to keep the emotions from leaking out. A soft chime – the air is appropriately
oxygenated – and I quickly tear mask and helmet from my head, falling to
my knees as the first sob wracks through me.
I do not know how long I lay on the floor or how long the weeping lasted,
nor do I know why it came. Surely men would think me mad if they knew how
good it had felt to cry just then. I must meditate on this, but later.
For now, there are reports to read and malfunctions to investigate. I lock
the door, and it disturbs me that I had not locked it before. Anyone might
have walked in; the air would have escaped, mixing with the bacteria in
the corridor, and I would be dead now. The sad voice wonders if that would
be such a bad thing.
I am pleasantly surprised when I begin my tour once more. Jerjerrod
insisted on returning to the super laser, and I am astonished to find that
it has been completed during the night. Jerjerrod stands at stiff attention
as I inspect the terminals, and though I am at my most critical, I can
find nothing wrong with the construction and function.
"Well done, Commander," I admit finally. I have looked over this unit
more thoroughly than I did the medical facilities this morning. I smirk,
ignoring the stretching pain of scar tissue. "How many men did you have
to assign here to get it done?" He hesitates, and then seems to sense humor
in my tone. "Almost two hundred, milord." The vocorder does not allow my
quiet chuckle any farther than my lips, and all Jerjerrod hears is a heavy
silence. His confidence slowly dissolves into the ever-present fear. Damn
it, why can't I laugh?
The light voice in my head is being more and more persistent, and assures
me that he will continue to annoy me until I have listened to him. I remind
myself firmly that I would be truly insane to do so. As long as I hear
the voice, but do not respond, I can maintain my sanity and control. This
thought occurs to me as I enjoy what the light voice has called a sumptuous
meal of pastes and liquids. Surprisingly, the darker voices agree with
him. So I eat, and make use of the facilities, and the colorful descriptions
the light voice merrily delivers is below polite society. The dark voices
laugh, and I sit quietly and hope they will be silent. Meditation calms
them, finally, though when I rise I am more torn than I was before, and
all because of the vision.
I am standing in darkness, and around me there are dim forms that represent
all the parts of me – the voices. All of them are looking at me, beckoning
me to follow them. One is so dark that to look upon it would drive men
mad; the other's light brings joy so consuming I feel lost in it.
"Follow," the darkest one says, and I shudder at the sound. He turns
from me and walks in one direction, towards a darkness so deep and incredible
that the light around it is swallowed and destroyed. I cannot go there.
The others go in turn, saying, "Follow," and beckoning me down their paths.
Some are tempting. Finally, the last one, the bright one calls. He is formless,
like the others. "Follow," he says, and turns. I cannot go there; I missed
that purity long ago. The bright one turns once more, and I have the vision
of a sad smile. "It will be alright, Anakin." The usual hate and revulsion
do not appear at the mention of that name, but I turn my eyes from him
and look down the darker, but not the darkest path.
My legs tense as I prepare to take a step forward, but the vision ends,
and I do not know in which direction I turn.
It is a long, long walk from my quarters to the hangar, and
I half fear that I have delayed a proper welcome for my Master. The darker
voices mutter quietly, maliciously, just beyond my level of hearing – insects
in the small of the back, where you can't quite reach – and the light voice
is conspicuously silent. "You must be strong," it finally whispers, and
I find myself agreeing on the point, though not the method. I must be strong;
I must follow the course I have chosen. It is too late, far too late, to
rethink that. I remind myself of my power, of the dark energies that swarm
to me like hungry dragons. I am an extension of the darkness, of what is
I learned that the Jedi Council had long deceived its scions with that
notion. Darkness is not evil; it is order. There is no static, there is
change. There is no chaos, there is order. There is no stillness, there
is passion. There is no death, there is the Force. I repeat this litany,
over and over again, and the light voice wails in my mind as the dark ones
cackle. I enter the hangar.
I am conscious, as I kneel to my master, of his thoughts sweeping not-so-gently
over my mind. His presence is black and baneful; the light voice seems
to have fled entirely and the darker ones reach forward, as would an animal
to be petted.
"Rise, my friend," he says, and I cringe. I find this expression terrifically
painful, bending scar tissue in new and interesting ways.
"The Death Star will be completed on schedule," I report, and I do not
lie. Only a gross mismanagement or accident could deter Jerjerrod now.
For all his annoying ways, he truly has proved himself by turning this
project around. I will try to have him stationed near his home, near Israel.
"Good, good." He cackles, and I feel my heart freeze. "And now I sense
you wish to resume your search for young Skywalker." How is casual he is!
Always, Luke is "son of Skywalker" or "young Skywalker" or (when he has
destroyed trillion credit construction projects) "that damn Jedi."
"Yes, my Master."
"Patience, my friend. In time he will seek you out. And when he does,
you must bring him before me. He has grown strong. Only together can we
turn him to the dark side of the Force."
For no apparent reason, pain lances through my entire body, and the
respirator falters slightly. My son will try to find me? The euphoria is
instantaneous and aborted. He will come to me...
"As you wish," I answer, but what I want to do is leap for joy! My son!
"Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen," he replies, and cackles
once more as we leave the hangar.
Your son is coming, the light voice croons softly as I remove the helmet.
I pause and stare into the mirror, into eyes that, by some miracle, my
son has inherited. My son. Your son, the voice agrees, with a hint of finality,
and then he is gone. Moments later, Palpatine's thoughts brush over mine.
Remember who your master is, Lord Vader. There is pain, then blackness,
and I am dimly aware of hitting my head as I fall. My muscles begin to
seize, and I hurt.
An hour later, lunchtime for the crew and paste time for me.
My humor has taken a decidedly sarcastic turn, I notice, perhaps to make
up for the gnawing silence of the light voice. The dark one scoffs; there
is the sense of rolling eyes, and I swallow my "food." What I would not
do for a working intestinal tract. I wave a hand absently, then lean my
head into my folded arms – a mistake, for it constricts already damaged
breathing passages. The holonet news comes on, and I listen distractedly,
"In other news, Jabba the Hutt, notorious gangster and leader of the
Tatooine slave ring, along with most of his court, were killed yesterday
afternoon in a freak sailbarge accident. The names of the other victims
are not yet released, but bystanders claim a local boy-turned rebel, Luke
Skywalker, was responsible. Skywalker is also named as the man who destroyed
the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, taking with it the lives of over
two million loyal Imperial subjects. More at ten. In other news..."
She should write a book: How to Shatter the Balance in a Sith Lord's
Mind in Ten Seconds or Less.
I stand, moving away from the tubes – the tempting remains of my lunch
– and approach the broken mirror. I think I hit my head earlier when I
fell, for there is a large bruise forming above my eyebrow. I can see it
in a thousand reflections. I am not surprised that, when I try, my powers
of healing are completely blocked by Palpatine. It is swelling, and the
mask will put painful pressure on it. Damn. But on it must go, for there
are things to be done. The galaxy does not stop for one Sith Lord, no matter
how depressed or uncomfortable he might be.
I have decided, after lengthy introspection, that a singularity of purpose
is a good thing. With the light voice either completely eliminated or temporarily
silenced, I feel myself again, coming back to ways of thinking I have avoided
since Bespin. That is when the light gained the loudest place in my head,
and when my officers began to die. This news, delivered by what can only
be called a "chipper" anchor, brought the light voice back with an incredible
momentum. I almost expect the annoying creature to sing. I can if you like,
he says, and I try not to groan. I believe a headache is developing. Annoyed,
I flip the holoviewer off and look for a more comfortable place to sit,
only to discover that there is no such thing in my quarters as a cushion.
For an utterly insane moment, I am grateful that mine is not a line of
work for which retirement and old age are considerations. I will probably
be dead within a few years.
My thoughts careen wildly back, many years ago, to a little boy saying
with absolute faith that "no one can kill a Jedi." For a moment, Qui-Gon's
eyes linger in my mind, the deified man who stares at me not in the anger
of betrayal, but in the sadness of loss. The dark voice cackles, the light
voice whimpers, but the whimper is quelled when my head begins to throb
suddenly. Palpatine has, once again, reasserted his authority.
When I wake, it is not to the 'hiss-shush' of the respirator and the
false, filtered light of the mask. Sunlight streams about me, bright and
terrific, and I realized that I can breathe. I have never known such sweetness!
I fill my lungs with air, but it seems as though they have forgotten quite
how to work, for I cough. Finally, though, they remember, and I breathe
and breathe and breathe. That's when I see him. Not Luke – I might have
died from pain had it been his spirit come to greet me – but the being
from my first vision, with all the paths and the dark creature. It is the
one I know only as the light voice, though now there is more to him than
voice. I study him-blonde, of course, though it is hard to tell through
the omnipresent glow about him; pale skin; large, vulnerable eyes. It occurs
to me that it is my face – or, what my face used to be – only I was never
that innocent. My eyes were never open quite so wide, and I never looked
so . . . virginal. Try as I might, that is the only word I can use to describe
this incandescent figure: virginal; completely pure and innocent.
"It was not Luke," he says quietly. I have to lean forward to hear him,
for he speaks quietly and a wind has risen from nowhere. "But Anakin, what
if it was?"
"That is not my name," I insist, though the proclamation does not have
quite the same weight as it once did. He waves his hand, as if to ward
off an annoying insect or bat away an invalid argument.
"What if it had been Luke?" he asks again. "What if it were your son
that the Force is so joyfully welcoming just now?" Then I feel it: a sense
of near-completeness around me, a comforting familiarity that almost reaches
out to touch.
"Is this ... the Force?" I ask, and I do not notice that whether it
is the Dark or Light Side makes not the slightest difference to me. "Am
"I hardly think so, but you might be soon. There are many paths, Anakin,
and not all of them end in goodness."
"I am a Sith," I persist. The look he shoots me is annoyed. "Well, I
am." Stars, that was just about the weakest thing I've ever said.
"Yeah, and I'm a dancing Twi'lek," he responds, and his legs unfold.
He comes to stand very close to me. "Listen to me: Luke is alive. It was
another who passed."
"There are no others as powerful as Luke," I say.
"Probe the disturbance," he urges. "If you do, you will see that the
soul that left your lane is not nearly so bright as Luke's." Relief fills
me, but I am a damned thing indeed, for I cannot rejoice that my son lives
"You never answered my question. Is this the Force?" He draws himself
up, and for a moment, I am very afraid of the intensity in his gaze.
"This is the Force you abandoned, Anakin Skywalker, though you can see
it has not given up hope in you."
The dream ends, and I wake once more, surrounded in the smell I now
associate with myself, but once associated with hospitals and places of
healing. My respirator wheezes though the mask has been removed. I turn
my head slightly, and glimpse the external respirator hooked to the implants
protruding from my chest. The bright lights – perfectly unfiltered – glare
in my sensitive eyes, and I am forced to close them.
"Lord Vader? Do you know where you are?"
"Infirmary," I answer. "I don't know what ship," I add, even as my awareness
reaches out and I feel the distinct presence of Piett nearby. Thank the
Force, they've moved me to the Executor.
"The medical doctor on the Death Star did not feel skilled enough to
help you, Lord Vader, so he had you transferred here immediately." It appears
there is one genuinely honest human being in the Empire, after all. Most
doctors would have operated on me, or whatever they had to do, rather than
admit they need the help of colleagues. Not all doctors are like that,
but Imperial physicians are notorious for it.
"What has happened? How long was I unconscious?"
"Four hours, my Lord. We feared your respirator was damaged when you
fell, so we attached you to this one instead. You were walking with Grand
Moff Jerjerrod on the Death Star, and suddenly collapsed against a bulkhead,
hitting the chest plate on a protrusion. You then suffered a series of
seizures. We felt the situation warranted full medical attention instead
of the usual care of the Two-Onebee droid."
"What is your name?"
"Doctor Harreck, my Lord."
"Thank you, Doctor," I reply. This is not something easy to digest.
Seizures? From shock, I wonder? Yet another symptom of my trauma so many
years ago, just now coming to the surface when I am under such stress?
"When will I be able to return to full duty?"
"Tomorrow morning, at the earliest," he states, and there is no question
in his tone. He is not going to allow me to leave this room unless he is
satisfied that I am capable of walking on my own. "I'll allow you to rest,
then." Then he leaves, and Piett enters.
"My Lord." I remember now that I am unmasked, and hot shame fills me.
I allowed him to see me – once, and it was only a reminder and a way to
make him fear. "My Lord, I had feared for you." Yes, he had. Piett does
not have it in him to lie to me; he did once, but that was before serving
as my admiral for a year or more. There is no hostility between us. I wave
a hand, and he takes another step closer. A dark voice wonders if it is
because he wants to stare, and the light voice tells the other to shut
up. I sigh. They are back.
I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not enjoy and
endure physical exertions. I was a child in the desert racing pods, then
a Jedi apprentice, and my body was taxed beyond any limit I had imagined.
The wars and what came after...that I choose not to think on too much.
So, feeling the stretch and tense of each muscle I still possess – feeling
blood pouring in the veins that are still intact – this brings me great
pleasure indeed. I have destroyed many of the extortionately expensive
droids since coming into this gym. The hour is late – or perhaps early
– but I have locked and sealed the door. I do not wish to be disturbed,
and any who dared to disturb me would regret the first kiss their father
ever gave their mother.
The Force flows over me in a fiery storm – it is burning ice in my mind
and my soul. I long sometimes for the smooth, cool flow it had when I was
young, but then I remember the weakness of that current. I draw the Darkness
deeper. I know its strength. Here, now, holding it like this, I am powerful.
The buzzing of the droids has subsided, and I look about me in shock –
they are all destroyed. How long has this exercise lasted, I wonder as
I extinguish the harsh glow of my weapon. When the red hue is gone from
the light, the gymnasium seems much calmer, and more ordered. There is
soreness in my shoulder, and I recognize it as an old wound – the one inflicted
by my son on Bespin. My mind echoes like an empty theatre as the moment
plays in my memory. I hear Luke, screaming in denial as I tell him something
I should not have had to reveal. I see Luke, grasping the stump of his
arm, slinking back over the catwalk and holding desperately to the central
vane, and then falling silently to escape the monster I am. And now I feel
Luke, dead at the hand of some unknown entity. I imagine that he died well,
fighting and on his feet, surrounded by the corpses of enemies before he
was finally overwhelmed. I slap the doors shut on that traitorous thought,
closing that part of my mind like a trap. It can only lead to madness.
Returning to the Executor is like returning home. She has not
been mine for long – she has not yet developed the squeaks and twitches
of an old ship – yet she is mine. I stare at her as we approach in the
shuttle – just the fearful pilots to bring the craft home, and me. My breathing
is loud in my own ears. The shuttle is brought home in a hangar of gleaming
white and sterile durasteel. I exit the shuttle and a weight falls off
me. This is my realm. I am in control. Palpatine has little power over
my crew. Piett finds me in the corridors approaching the bridge, and his
expression is surprised.
"My Lord, we were not expecting you to return."
"The Emperor's commands are not often predictable."
"He is a demanding master, my Lord."
"Did anything unusual happen while I was away?"
"No, my Lord. Executor is running smoothly, and the crew does not seem
overly taxed by the unusual duration of this mission."
I nod, and we enter the bridge. The crew does not stand – they tried
that the first time, but I would rather they did their job than salute
me. A few look up from underneath their caps. There are several women among
the crew, something that has earned hard stares from the naval hierarchy.
I told my Master when I was given command of the Executor that I would
hand pick the bridge crew, and that only the best would be acceptable.
He gave me that permission, though I believe he was somewhat amused by
the demand, and I chose the best. That the females do not meet the gender
standards gives most Admirals an ulcer.
"Admiral Piett, contact the other destroyers. They are to move to the
far side of Endor and remain there."
"By order of the Emperor, my Lord?"
"By order of the Emperor."
Piett gives a small bow and moves away to do as I have commanded. I
find myself wandering to the view port, my usual position when I am here,
and looking out on a field of stars. Slowly, very slowly, the Executor
turns, moving to take another position, alongside the DSII. We have a new
duty to perform for the glory of the Empire: traffic control.
Piett contacted me an hour ago and informed me of a fight in the mess
hall. My boredom is such that I join Piett in the brig to stare at the
terrified combatants. Five young men, all in the coveralls of maintenance
crew, stare at the deck plates as if some divine truth is to be revealed
on the blank surface.
I nod to Piett, and he commences with the questioning. Sometimes, I
have learned, it is simply best to stand aside and breath menacingly. According
to the story, one had insulted the other, his friend had joined in, and
it had escalated into a brawl that disrupted the entire mess hall. I want
to sigh – or scream. I wonder which would make the men jump farther.
Piett dispenses the proper punishment, and makes a very impressive speech.
When he is finished, the five combatants are staring at the floor again
and blushing to the roots of their hair, shamed to their cores. Piett questions
their honor, their loyalty, and their intelligence. He wonders at the negligence
of officers, at the forgetfulness of sons for the lessons taught by mothers.
Now I want to laugh. This is a dangerous man.
"I have never been so ashamed of my men," he concludes grandly. "We
are the best crew in the Empire, selected by Lord Vader himself to man
the most important ship in the Fleet. And you fight like boys in the schoolyard.
I cannot find words to express my unhappiness at being called into this
sad duty." But find words he does – words and words, then words again.
Finally, sensing that the men are quickly losing interest, he steps aside.
"I'm finished with you. You are beginning to turn my stomach. Lord Vader,
do you have anything to add?"
I find that I do, and I say it very succinctly.
"There is no room for blunders on Executor, gentlemen, nor for personal
ego. Find a way to work peacefully, or I shall transfer you all to the
The five blanch, and I suppress the urge to chuckle. A laugh sounds
like a growl through the filter, anyway. I turn and leave, Piett trailing
"They won't so much as sneeze without permission now, my Lord," Piett
remarks, and he is almost laughing. "Would you really transfer them, though?"
The thought of going from the Lady Ex to another vessel is disgusting,
I admit, though I have been forced to do so in the past. No ship is the
Executor, no ship carries her reputation for excellence or demands such
precision. Most cadets go to sleep dreaming of serving on her.
"If they or anyone is involved in another brawl, they will not serve
on my ship a day longer. I'll not have hotheads in my crew."
The ego, the recklessness, of one could destroy this ship, and the hundred
thousand lives aboard. My thoughts careen back to that black time between
Hoth and Bespin, when I used their lives like fodder to reach my son. My
now-dead son. That time fills me with shame. The ego of one could easily
kill us all.
"I told you to remain on the command ship."
There it is – no preamble, no greeting, only a statement that I have
defied him. His hands are still on the arms of the throne, but many years
ago, I would have been writhing on the floor by now as he threw the lightening
at me. I suppress a shudder and speak, wondering, not for the first time,
why I have come. I think, perhaps, it is to have my beliefs reaffirmed.
My son has come; my Master will confirm it.
"A small Rebel force has penetrated the shield and landed on Endor."
"Yes, I know."
How infuriating he is in his superiority; how very like the Jedi Council
he is now, complete with the ego of twelve. His mind is warping – rotting
– as he ages and continues to rely so heavily on the Dark; I can feel my
own mind deteriorating slowly. Do the voices (though they have been unusually
silent in the past day) not indicate as much?
"My son is with them." He is so aloof when he replies.
"Are you sure?"
Of course I am sure! He glows like a small sun next to the darkness
of space, of this station, of – Of me. I want to rage then, at my own weakness.
I want to strangle this withered old man for taking that light out of my
life forever; to throw myself into the bowels of this station for being
idiot enough to remove myself from it.
"I have felt him, my Master." Master, to remind myself of what he is,
and what he is capable of, and that I alone am no match for this hideous
"Strange, that I have not." How could anyone not feel that? I wonder
as I turn my consciousness toward Endor and feel the brightness of my son.
"I wonder if your feelings in this matter are clear, Lord Vader."
That was a threat more than a question. It would not be easy to replace
me – I am a legend in the Empire for my fanatic loyalty and evil, and for
the mask – but Mara Jade sits ready on Coruscant, does she not – a powerful
receiver without the sense to rely on the Force and raised to adore Emperor
"They are clear, my Master," I reply, adding emphasis on the word Master.
My Master... first Watto, then Obi-Wan and now Palpatine, what a succession
of characters. I could not have told a more blatant lie had I tried. My
feelings are anything but clear, if the truth must be known. Oh, I want
to be with my son, of course, but what I am not clear on is if whether
I want it to be in this life or the next, or in the Darkness or the Light.
"Then you must go to the Sanctuary Moon and wait for him."
"He will come to me?" Why in the name of the Force would he ever come
to me? The last time we were face to face, he tried to kill himself instead
of coming to me. How could he have changed that much?
"I have foreseen it. His compassion for you will be his undoing." Compassion?
For me? For this Sith monster that once called himself Anakin? "He will
come to you and then you will bring him before me." He says it in a singsong
manner, as though to a child who could hardly be trusted with the simplest
"As you wish," I reply, sketching a bow. He gives no acknowledgement,
only turns his throne to face the blank darkness of space, and to contemplate
horrors beyond even my imagining.
I have been dismissed. I turn to leave, and as I near the lift, he calls
out. "Lord Vader?" I turn to face him, to see his gnarled visage leering
across the darkness, at the glowing, sickly eyes. "If I do not wish to
be disturbed, I do not wish to be disturbed. That is why I have guards.
If you must indulge your little strangulation fetish, why don't you try
it with that troublesome Admiral Piett?"
I want to scream. How dare he threaten my men? The Executor is my territory;
he has never given me orders regarding her before, save where to fly her.
Why begin now? To pull my leash a bit tighter? To crack the whip?
"Good. We will discuss your punishment when this attack has been dealt
I pause. Punishment? I feel a slow, gnawing fear build in my belly and
rise through the remains of my lungs. Had I control over them, I would
not be able to breathe, but the respirator continues. Hiss-shush, hiss-shush,
loud in the darkness.
"Yes, my Master." I bow once more, and hear his cackling hound my retreating
Once, when I was younger and still possessed flesh to feel
pain, I stood in the same room as a smelting pit. I was warned not to stand
too close, but I was entranced by the bright colors. Though I never managed
to stand close enough to see what I wanted to see, the heat still burned
me, caused me pain. I learned a valuable lesson that day. That is what
standing next to Luke is like.
It occurs to me that what the Captain is saying might be important,
and I manage to ignore the glaring, burning, wonderful brightness of my
"...I believe there may be more of them, and I request permission to
conduct a wider search of the area." With typical precision, the man extends
his hand, fist down, and drops Luke's 'saber in my hand. "He was armed
only with this."
"Leave us." Leave me alone with my son, let me look at him and learn
him... "Conduct your search and bring his companions to me." The Captain
and the Stormtroopers return to the Walker and into the darkness of Endor's
dawn. And I stare at my son. "So." I pray my voice is more controlled than
it sounds to my ears; I pray he senses no weakness in me. "You have come
to me." After such a long journey, Luke, you have returned to me, and we
will do what we are destined to do.
The Light and Dark voices are silent, but I feel them peering over my
shoulder, both staring in the same mute, incredulous wonder they shared
on Bespin. Suddenly, the light voice surges forward with desires that I
cannot – must not – indulge. For the first time, I squash it ruthlessly,
but it sits still on my shoulder.
My son speaks. "And you to me."
I was supposed to be the cryptic one, the one to speak in riddles that
would leave his mind reeling as he sought the truth in my words. Now, I
reel; Light and Dark spin about me in a whirlwind I cannot control, though
I know the truth. We have come to each other. Darkness speaks, reminds
him of my bonds and my duty, and the path I have chosen.
"The Emperor is expecting you. He believes you will turn to the Dark
"I know, Father."
Father! He called me father! I have the sudden, disturbing image of
that iridescent person from my vision dancing in joy behind me. I resist
the urge to look. He called me father! I can see that it meant something
special to Luke, as well. Once the word is out, his shoulders straighten
and he stares into my mask, searching, perhaps, for my eyes. What did this
admission cost him, I wonder? My joy diminishes only slightly with this,
but the Dark One is whispering like a serpent.
"You have accepted the truth."
"I have accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father,"
he replies coolly, and I know that is how he has remained sane. Darth Vader
is not Anakin Skywalker; he is the man who came after.
Rage builds, hot, white, and I turn toward him, waving his 'saber beneath
his nose. I wonder if he would have irritated me like this had things been
different. Would we have fought? Would he have gotten on well with me?
"That name no longer has any meaning for me!" I tell him sharply. Does
he not see the anger, the fury, inside me?
"It is the name of your true self; you've only forgotten." There is
no doubt in his mind that he speaks the truth. "I know there is good in
you. The Emperor hasn't driven it from you fully."
I feel myself falling under the spell of his words-mind trick? I want
to laugh. I want to place my hands on his shoulders and tell him what a
wonderful, ingenious child he is, to try that with me. How can he know
that only Palpatine can penetrate my shields, and that rarely?
"That is why you could not destroy me. That's why you won't take me
to your Emperor now."
I wish it were true. I want Luke all to myself, to share this brightness
with no other. I want him to be mine alone. I stare at my hands, and at
what they hold. Luke's lightsaber. My son's lightsaber; the weapon my grown
child was taught to use with the motivation to kill me.
"I see you have constructed another lightsaber."
"This one is mine; I no longer use yours." His voice is quiet, and he
stares at my hands on this weapon, eyes very blue under his lashes. I break
the moment, igniting the 'saber and holding the green blade between us.
Death is between us.
"Your skills are complete," I rumble, a sigh that he cannot hear. "Indeed,
you are powerful as the Emperor has foreseen."
Energy – basic, vital energy – swirls between us, and I stare into his
eyes, wondering at the combination of Padme and Anakin that I see there.
"Come with me," he says quietly, and I suspect he had meant it to be
more commanding than what I heard. Come with me, come with me, come with
me . . . So easy to walk away from all that I am, to go with him, to be
his father, to watch his light...
"Obi-Wan once thought as you do," I reply, shaking my head. It is more
to allow time to think than to make conversation.
"Don't blame Ben for your fall -"
Blame Ben? How can I not! He pushed me over the edge of that pit and
watched as I fell! He walked away though he did not know with any certainty
that I was dead! Because of him, I cannot breathe! Ben, Obi-Wan – stole
Thoughts dissolve into dark, angry clouds, and I tell my son that he
does not understand the power of the Dark, and of my master. I must obey.
He stares up at me; he is small and slender like Padme was.
"I will not turn – you will be forced to destroy me." It was a duty
I embraced once, and I do not know why it should be so difficult now.
"If that is your destiny." If it is our destiny, that he should die
and I should be damned, then so be it.
"Search your feelings, Father. You can't do this. I feel the conflict
within you; let go of your hate."
The boy has no inkling what I am capable of. Perhaps his Princess could
offer him insight...but of course, it is too late for that bit of elucidation.
I am capable, if not willing, and the conflict is only my disgust with
myself. Hate is too strong an emotion to be doled out as willingly as he
apparently believes I do. I hate Obi-Wan, but that hatred is old and stale
now that he is dead.
"Someone has filled your mind with these foolish ideas, young one. The
Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your Master now."
I wave my hand – with witnesses, he will keep his silence, I hope. The
Stormtroopers stand behind him, ready to do my bidding. They know who he
I do not know why I speak again, especially with the Stormtroopers standing
nearby. The words seem to comfort him and disturb him at once.
"It is too late for me, my son." His eyes fall to the floor, then rise
to behold me once more.
"Then my father is truly dead."
He is led away, and I watch him go, as a thousand knives twist in my
heart. I turn to stare over Endor once more, my thoughts confused and jumbled,
and the voices have begun what sounds like an enthusiastic brawl in the
back of my skull.
That is the second time I have been declared dead. I wonder if Luke's
statement is more accurate than the one that took him from me in the first
Luke is wearing black, and I do not like it. It makes him too
old, and it takes the life from his eyes. I cannot tear my eyes away from
his face and his hands – or, rather, hand. He has only one hand; the other
is a mechanical construct. The Force in him shudders to a halt at the beginnings
of that hand; it is unnatural and ugly, though necessary. I regret now
taking a piece of his life, of his body, but the lesson that was learned
was too important to completely expunge those moments.
We stand before my Master for an instant before I kneel. I feel Luke's
pain scream across the canvas of the Force, and I wince. My eyes move from
his eyes, locked on Palpatine, to my Master, who regards him with a malignant
glee. My Master spares me a glance, tells me to rise, and I do so. I join
him in his study of my son, though I am sure I look for different things
than he. He stares at the defined muscles, signs that he is fit and capable,
but I look at his eyes (they are clear, if confused and sad), and the set
of his shoulders (which are slumped slightly, as though beset with a despair
he does not truly believe). I notice a long, brown hair on his collar,
and wonder whose it is. Is it a lover, waiting for him on Endor and watching
the sky? A friend filled with sadness that he has disappeared? The Pirate
perhaps...or the Princess, who stood so bravely and watched one lover sink
into the carbonite pit? I hope it is the Princess.
"Welcome, young Skywalker," he says, leering in a way he thinks is cordial.
"I have been expecting you."
Everything has been expecting this. The galaxy was born in expectation
of this moment. My son's eyes flash with defiance, and I feel sorrow. The
dark voice whispers that I, too, exhibited such defiance once, and I stand
at my Master's side. The light voice tells it to be quiet. I wish to rub
my temples and soothe away the forming headache.
"You'll no longer need those," he adds, and with a gesture, a thread
of the Dark Side, the manacles binding Luke's wrists fall to the floor.
Luke stares at his freed hands, as do I, and the moment hums with possibility.
If he strikes now, I know I am not fast enough to stop him... I might choose
to be too slow. It could be ended right now, and Palpatine's corpse would
twitch as I took the throne and accepted Luke as my apprentice, my heir.
The moment passes; Luke does nothing.
"Guards, leave us," Palpatine calls, and the crimson guards vanish,
bloody shadows in the distance. "I'm looking forward to completing your
training." He leans slightly closer to my boy as he speaks, as if sharing
a precious secret. "In time, you will call me Master."
Not a precious secret, then, but a hideous truth. He is right, of course.
Luke, naive and innocent, has no chance. Luke stands a bit straighter,
as if the Emperor has reminded him of something.
"You are gravely mistaken. You won't convert me as you did my father."
Brave words, my boy, brave words. Once, I, too, spoke bravely. But where
do brave words leave us? Hanging over the edge of molten pits, with fingers
shoved into tiny cracks, bones finally breaking to let us fall? That is
where brave words leave us; they are only words, and will not stop the
saber; will not stop destiny.
Palpatine steps closer to my son, and allows the hood of his dark cloak
to fall back slightly, finally revealing his entire, hideous visage to
Luke. Luke does not flinch, and the light voice exults silently. The dark
voice replies that Luke is still here, standing before Darth Sidious, as
his sire once did.
"Oh, no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken...about
a great many things."
"His lightsaber," I say. I suppose I want to stall, to keep this moment
when they threaten each other with words and glances and wills, and make
it last as long as possible. I drop the 'saber into my Master's hands.
"Ah, yes, a Jedi's weapon. Much like your father's. By now, you must
know that your father can never be turned from the Dark Side." The light
voice whispers, In life only. "So will it be with you."
Luke smiles – actually smiles! – at the old tyrant. Or, rather, at his
back, for he has turned to reclaim his throne.
"You're wrong. Soon I'll be dead...and you with me." Light and dark
voices cringe at the thought of Luke dying, but for different reasons,
and Palpatine laughs. It sends fear into my heart.
"Perhaps you refer to the imminent attack of your Rebel fleet." The
face he makes is similar to the one I saw on Bespin. He is not the wailing
child now, but his face is naked with despair and terror. Palpatine's tone
becomes distinctly more cruel as he twists the knife lodged deep in my
son's heart. "Yes...I assure you, we are quite safe from your friends here."
I turn my face to see my son. He has collected himself, smoothed the
Force around him. He stares Palpatine down with a new resolve.
"Your overconfidence is your weakness."
"Your faith in your friends is yours!" Palpatine spits.
Oh, Luke, he will break you in the end. There is no hope for you – for
us. There is no need to suffer more than you already will. I try to convey
what I have learned from experience with this demon.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." I am reminded of speaking to Obi-Wan,
for he does not glance at me, and my words bounce off of his mind.
I am not in the spotlight, here. This is my son's time of destiny, his
time to choose. My time came many years ago, and my decision was made.
"Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design."
Not true. It was Xizor's idea, but he no longer exists to dispute creative
property, does he? "Your friends on the Sanctuary Moon are walking into
a trap." He laughs, dark menace filling the empty spaces. "As is your Rebel
fleet! It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield
generator! It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion
of my best troops awaits them !"
Luke's eyes dart to me, then to Palpatine, and finally to his 'saber.
Stars Luke, just take it, take it! Destroy this creature, and I will stop
the attack! Join me, and I can deny you nothing!
"Oh..." Palpatine says, mocking sympathy, "I'm afraid the deflector
shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive."
The battle has begun. Luke has gone to the large, asymmetrical port
behind my Master's throne, and he stares at the newly arrived Rebel fleet.
Someone is clever, and has discovered that the shield is still operational.
The discerning pilot leads the rest away from the Death Star. They fly
into the fleet. Not the entire fleet, of course, but enough to bring a
stop to their sudden retreat. They are trapped between the shield, which
is impenetrable, and the awaiting Star Destroyers. The Executor hulks among
them, a mountain among low hills.
"Come, boy. See for yourself." Palpatine baits Luke as he stares in
horror at the numerous explosions that have suddenly begun to flash in
some bizarre unison. "From here you will witness the final destruction
of the Alliance, and the end of your insignificant Rebellion."
The horror turns to hate as it slowly rises to the front of Luke's mind.
He glances at his lightsaber sitting on the armrest of the throne.
"You want this, don't you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your
Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your
anger. With each passing moment, you make yourself more my servant."
Luke turns sharply from the window to give my Master a look that could
kill a normal man. But Palpatine is far from normal.
"No." Luke manages to say through clenched hatred and sorrow.
"It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now
Luke's anger turns sour as he looks at me by my Master's side. How could
any man, let alone a Jedi, serve this hideous creature. If only Luke knew
the power of the Dark Side. Then he would understand. He turns again from
the blackness of his enemies to watch destruction taking place around the
orbit of Endor.
"As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now
witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!"
He clicks a button on his throne to notify Jerjerrod. "Fire at will, commander!"
Luke's eyes widen in horror and understanding, and his world crashes
about his shoulders as the first shot whips out of the Death Star and caresses
one of the rebel ships. The explosion, and the subsequent loss of life
sends agony and terror raging across the fabric of the Force. Shock comes
off Luke in waves, taking his mind from the Force. Foolish boy, he must
keep his center if he is to survive this.
More rebel ships are destroyed. Luke turns his eyes toward me, as if
begging for mercy, for a boon, but it is one I am incapable of giving.
He does not see my weariness, my constant pain, the duality, in my eyes;
he turns his attention to the battle. I suppose things have never looked
more bleak for the Rebel alliance. We watch, my boy and I, as chaos spreads
across in the Rebel fleet. One or two of them may realize what has happened,
perhaps. Then, someone does something very intelligent. A command is given,
and the Rebels disperse towards the formation of Star Destroyers. Excellent
plan. Perhaps it was Ackbar? I do not believe Palpatine will risk one of
our capital ships to destroy the rebels. The only purpose the laser served
was to unsettle Luke. It has.
"Your fleet has lost. And your friends on the Endor moon will not survive."
Palpatine does not know how that thought hurts Luke; he never had a heart
to bruise. "There is no escape my young apprentice. The Alliance will die...as
will your friends."
Victory is so close for him now, and he can hardly sense it. The Darkness
sings in this room, in this space, its voice loud and discordant; it vibrates.
"Good." Palpatine sighs. He is almost at the point of ecstasy, his breath
short and excited. His own power trembles in the moment. He does not understand
how powerful he is sometimes. "I can feel your anger. I am defenseless.
Take your weapon! Strike me down, and your journey toward the Dark Side
will be complete!"
Luke does it. The Gods help us all. His 'saber flies from the throne
and into his outstretched hand. There, he has activated it and the green
glow illuminates his thin, pale face in the darkness. My golden, delicate
son. There, he swings, and it will be finished, there will be no more Emperor,
and no more need for Vader.
His blade is intercepted by mine, even though I do not remember drawing.
Palpatine laughs under the heat of our crossed weapons, and in the confusion
of adrenaline and despair, the darkness consumes me, and I fight my son.
I stare, and my son blocks Palpatine from my sight. I wonder
if it is symbolic. He stands there, shoulders straight, though he is tired,
and stares defiantly into the mouth of darkness. Pain rips across my consciousness
once again. It would be such a simple thing to close my eyes, to sleep,
to wait for death, damnation, or Palpatine to claim me. I am very, very
weary in this moment, but the galaxy does not stand still for one Sith
Lord who has decided that he is no longer interested in the title.
"If you will not be turned," Palpatine says, his voice so low and so
dark, "you will be destroyed."
That is when the lightening starts. It shoots from my Master's hands,
a dozen tiny, poison-toothed vipers straining for flesh to bite, to tear.
It strikes my son, and for a single, blessed instant, he is able to deflect
the worst of it. Still, he is untrained, untried in this, and the energy
strikes him. Luke is not the first Skywalker to sink to his knees in pain
at this onslaught, before this man. He allows himself to fall, slowly,
as I rise.
Dark voices whisper and shush against my mind, and I watch, clinically,
detached. Luke falls finally, and my breath catches as he nearly tumbles
over the railing, down the shaft. He grasps one of the many canisters,
though, and pulls himself back to the dubious safety of the walkway, to
the unrelenting assault of my Master's wrath.
"Young fool," Palpatine laments. He is thinking of power that might
have been his, "...only now, at the end, do you understand."
This peculiar detachment intensifies. It is another man's son who writhes
on the floor, his bones alive beneath the flesh. Another man's son cries
weakly through clenched teeth, unwilling or unable to scream as I (his
father) did so very long ago.
"Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side," Palpatine
snarls beside me. A particularly vicious bolt snaps into the boy's body,
and he does cry out, this time. "You have paid the price for your lack
This does not bode well for that other man's son, who reaches a hand
toward me. But why does he do that? Doesn't he know that I don't know him?
That he is helpless? How many have died of this, in this same way, felt
the same pain the boy feels now? What does it matter? He is not my son.
"Father, please. Help me!" he cries, and I remember.
The woman was small and thin, and I loved her. I loved her that last
time, and gave her a baby. I never knew it, though. I left and found a
new Master, and knelt at his feet, and when I misbehaved, I felt the lightening
strike me again and again. Then I felt flame, and I died in every way imaginable.
I walked in Darkness. Suddenly, light came to me, saying, "I'm Luke Skywalker,
I'm here to rescue you." And damn it all, that's just what he's done.
"And now, young Skywalker...you will die."
There is no question in his tone, only a dark lust. He would kill my
son, right now, as I stand here, watching! I understand the detachment,
now; it was the Dark Voices, standing in my mind, influencing me, manipulating
me. I would hate them, but I do not think I am capable of that just now.
The energy comes faster; Dark Voices scream denial and light voices
howl in triumph. They know what I plan. The know, they understand, and
I glance once more at my son's writhing, pained body before I move on my
Master. He is not heavy. I lift him over my head and walk quickly to the
pit, preparing -
Aaaaaaah! His energy assaults me now, burning across my mind, piercing
my flesh, and I almost stumble, almost drop him – too soon! – he would
kill my son then kill me, maybe burn us both alive, and I will not let
that happen! There! The edge! Just throw and watch him; watch him spin
as he falls, still shooting that lightening from his fingertips, still
trying to hurt. The Dark voices plummet down, down, down with him, and
the Light voices spin a great song that echoes across the galaxy. O Sithgods,
please just let him die! And he does. He must have hit an outcropping and
broken his thin little neck; maybe he was impaled on one of the many thin
antennae. Maybe he fell into space and was frozen instantly. However he
died, the backlash, his energy, careens up and over, and a new pain, one
I remember from before the Burning, comes. It is the raw, naked pain of
a torn bond, one ripped from the mind, leaving a great, gaping, bleeding
wound in its place.
Despair and self-loathing overwhelm me. I am weeping behind the mask,
and something is going to short-circuit, probably. Damn it all.
I step closer to the edge, and I have never wanted anything more than
I want to die at this moment. I want to kill myself and not think or feel
or hurt anymore, and I do not want to look at my son and answer the questions
I know will be in his blue, blue eyes. Goodbye, my son, luminous beings
are we -
Strong hands, smaller than my own, grasp my shoulders and pull me back.
I want to rail against them, throw them off, but moving is too much an
effort. My son. My beautiful, golden son. He cradles my broken, heavy form
against his own, young and scarred, and holds one of my hands in his own.
My son holds my hand. That is a miracle all of its own.
I cannot breathe. The respirator is making the noises, in a gasping
way, and I realize I will die here, in my son's arms, and that I will watch
his emotions play across his vulnerable, perfect features. Something clicks,
then; a wire shifts or a circuit depolarizes, and I can breathe again,
shallowly. I might have time to tell my son that I love him.
There are new emotions in me now. Pride, I recognize easily. Joy is
harder to acknowledge. Love, I vaguely remember, and it shines bright for
my son and a bit dimmer for the daughter I knew as an enemy. There is another,
though. I am content; there is no rage inside me, no pain or hate. The
envy has burned away. It takes many, many moments to define this peculiar
combination of non-feeling, but finally I do. I now have the candor to
admit that it is something I have sought my entire life, in some form or
I am in my son's arms, and he is holding my hand. The last of the Sith
is dead, his apprentice to follow very soon, and all I feel is a deep,
Beside me, Master Yoda appears perched on a log, and farther
away, Obi-Wan's smile is enigmatic. It is a fulfilled, self-satisfied smile;
it appears things have arranged themselves as they were supposed to. But
I have all of eternity to ponder such things. I turn my attention to my
He stands a little distance away, separate from the celebrants in the
firelight. His eyes are tired, and he is hurt; he should be in an infirmary.
But he smiles as he sees us, glowing pale blue in the moonlight. The moment
stretches on, though I know it has been mere seconds.
Then Leia – my daughter! – steps to his side and wraps an arm about
his shoulders, affectionate and smiling. Luke turns to meet her gaze, and
then glances over his shoulder, toward the dancing, singing Alliance. His
eyes turn back to us, shining bright, and I remember times very much like
this one. When the last of the clone armies had been destroyed, we, too,
held bonfires and danced and sang; our young voices had lifted with joy
and sorrow and regret. For no reason, I laugh; there is no vocorder to
stop it from coming to life this time, and I see my son blink and smile
brightly as he feels my joy ripple across the Force. Luke turns, swings
his own arm over Leia's, and they go to celebrate with their friends.
"Come the time has," Yoda says quietly, "for old ghosts to return home.
He flickers and vanishes, and Obi-Wan meets my eyes across the empty
"We will talk," he says and I feel he wants to lay a hand on my arm,
perhaps to hug me, but there is still too much between us. Qui-Gon and
Padmé forgave me without reservation, but Obi-Wan and I know the
wounds between us are deep, and became infected over time. Even for the
dead – or perhaps especially for the dead – it takes time to heal scars.
After a long silence, in which neither of us move or speak, he adds, "Padawan."
I do not wish for him to see the confused joy and pain that title brings,
so I will myself away from him. I find myself on a plateau overlooking
the dawn. I do not believe it is Endor's dawn, however. I am quickly discovering
that the power of my soul is limited only by my creativity. Still, I am
surprised that he does not appear at my side instantly. So, I watch the
dawn. The horizon changes gradually, the black of night fading to navy,
fading to azure, and then to all the myriad colors of daybreak.
Beneath my plateau, birds burst into song in a great, wide swamp, a
place full of life and growth. In the distance, I can see an ocean and
a small town. In that town, men and women are opening their eyes to freedom,
real freedom. Today, the Empire is dead. Which brings my thoughts back
to me. What becomes of this tired, blemished soul now? My form makes the
motions of sigh, though I no longer have lungs to inhale. For an instant,
I am angry, infuriated, but it is a formless rage and fades quickly into
nothingness. This time, I do not try to sigh. I simply watch as the sun
rises on a planet I do not recognize.
Another warmth strikes me, at my back, and I turn this "body" to face
Qui-Gon Jinn. His own energy is gathered neatly about himself, but he strokes
my cheek with it, and I am nine years old once more, wanting nothing so
badly as I wanted his approval and his trust.
"It's very symbolic, Anakin," he says. It takes me a moment, and then
I realize he is talking about the dawn. He comes closer and stands very
near to me. We watch the sun for another long time. Finally, he continues.
"The night on this planet ends even as the night in your own soul. With
the coming of this planet's freedom from darkness, so does light come to
the galaxy and everyone in it. The sun rises."
"But it also sets," I counter, feeling a quiet, bitter melancholy in
"Yes. And darkness will come again to the galaxy, one day. But that
day is not today. For now, the Skywalkers have done their duty to the galaxy."
"My sins are not so easily abolished," I reply. He inclines his head
"To the galaxy, no. The death of one very evil man does not negate the
deaths and sufferings on your hands. Darth Vader will always be known as
an evil man. Many will not believe Luke's telling of what happened there,
above Endor. To the living galaxy, Anakin, you are a demon."
"Better than I deserve," I whisper. A flight of birds emerges from the
swamp and sweeps past us, beneath us.
"The Force does not pay much attention to the opinions of the living,
Anakin. It has been, and always will be, a tool for their use. But a hammer
does not care for the disposition of the one wielding it, does it? In the
eyes of the Force, your great sin was turning, and betraying the trust
of the Chosen One. And how it cried when you embraced the Dark Side, Anakin."
I hear it now as though I had twenty years ago, when I first kneeled
to Sidious: a soul-deep keening rises around me, fills my mind with a dark,
painful longing and sorrow. I caused that sorrow. Qui-Gonn continues, oblivious
to my burgeoning misery.
"In the Force's eyes, what happened in those years did not matter. You
were only being a Sith – if a somewhat enthusiastic one – and it does not
see that as something extraordinary. In the eyes of the Force, all of your
sins were cancelled out the minute you rose and lifted Palpatine up. And
what a song rose then, Ani, what an incredible song."
And that swells then, flinging my grief far away. It is a new song,
one of fulfillment and joy, and I recognize it. Had I a heart, it would
stop; had I knees, they would collapse. This rejoicing song – it is the
light voices! The voices in my mind that argued constantly with the darkness,
with the Dark Side. Epiphany strikes. The light voices were the Force,
the dark voices the Dark Side, and I had been their battlefield for years.
It is good to know this, unbelievably good.
I sense the conflict within you.
Yes, he must have. He sensed the battle that was being fought over my
soul, and I thought it was mere insanity. I laugh suddenly, long and loud,
and around us, the grass grows a bit higher and flowers bloom. Light fills
me, fulfills me, and I glory in it. Qui-Gon leads me away, perhaps forever,
but I smile as I go, leaving the galaxy in the care of my children.