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Power Lust: Lust for Revenge

Part 1

Chapter 1: The Chosen One

By SJ and Tatiana

Disclaimers: Nothing in the Star Wars Universe belongs to me; everything belongs to George Lucas. I'm only writing stories for fun. See my homepage for more details. http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Quasar/3702

Special thanks to Tatiana for allowing me to bring this sequel to life and for her wonderful job on Vader who once again surprises us with his refreshing point of views :) Like she did in the first story, she wrote Vader, Leia and added Kyp to her creativity so the peculiar traits of those characters are from her mind, not mine :) Working with you is a pleasure, my friend!

Finally, special thanks to my shy, secret beta-reader and best friend, Adrianne, for her help with the final editing of my new stories. Thanks for giving me some of your precious time, my friend :)

Summary: Two years after the end of Power Lust, Luke, Leia and Han still share a family life with the dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. While Leia assist her father in his operations to unify the Empire and the Republic in a joint, yet somewhat distinct government, Luke has gathered Jedi students on Yavin 4 and is beginning to lead them on the ways of the Jedi. Sadly though, the days of peace will soon be over for the Vader/Skywalker family. Well hidden, somewhere in the galaxy, a group called Palpatine's Brigade is bidding its time in order to strike Vader through his most vulnerable spot: his son.
Main Characters: Luke, Vader, Leia, Han, Mara Jade
Other Characters: Kam Solusar, Kyp Durron, Exar Kun, Kirana Ti, Winter, Cilghal, Streen, Piett, Veers, originals.
Category: Drama, adventure, family, angst, romance
Rating: PG-13, torment in part 4, then implicit torture in part 6 but no details whatsoever.

Archivist's Note: The authors will not be completing this story.

Time: 2 years after the first story: Power Lust

The Tydirium shuttle exited hyperspace near the great red giant of Yavin and her green satellite, Yavin 4; it was immediately greeted by the very bored voice of a tech who was aboard the nearby, very small surveillance station.

"You've entered the New Republic's system. Please, identify yourself," the tech stated monotonously, obviously not worried anymore about any danger of invasion.

Lord Vader, also known as Emperor Vader nowadays, smirked under his faceplate and entered his access code in his terminal.

With the latest progress of the integration of the Empire and the New Republic, these controls were now no more than mere formalities, just a reminder of the Republic's independence whenever an imperial ship entered their assigned space.

However, just like the imperial ships never attacked Republican installations anymore, the Republic controls were no longer set on a hair trigger for alarm.

Instead, the two groups were finally co-inhabiting the galaxy without shedding anymore blood because of their differences of visions. Then, once the Senate would be completely re-established, they would even be able to completely abolish the need for surveillance stations, and thus free all those bored controllers for more pleasant duties than watching over empty parts of space.

Or perhaps not, he reflected more seriously. Perhaps they would need them to protect the galaxy from outside danger, but that, he decided, was still in the future.

For the moment, having an independent yet controlled New Republic as an ally was extremely good for the internal stability of the Empire. Since ensuring this stability had become his new goal in life for the past two years, he really hoped to never see a civil war again.

"Your code has been accepted," the tech acknowledged a few seconds later.  "Please, proceed, my Lord."

The Dark Lord complied without further ado. The white/silver shuttle accelerated and began its slow approach of Yavin 4.

As the planet grew bigger in his forward viewport, Vader reflected that it was still almost unbelievable how difficult it had been to make this visit possible.  Apart from creating some free time in his overcharged schedule, the main problem had surprisingly been his status.

For obvious reasons, the Imperial laws had never said anything about why the Emperor would make an informal trip in the Republican territory... Unless it had been conquered, something which he himself had ordered barred out of the Books of Law.

Thus, after an impressive series of discussion, to which he still hadn't seen much reasons although he understood Leia's point of view about how he needed to prove his good will toward a democratic ruling instead of a dictatorship, they  had figured out how to 'justify' his current location.  After weeks of democracy, which had resulted in pointless meetings filled with pointless ramblings, he had finally been 'allowed' to leave Coruscant.

After digging in history and dusty old laws, the assembly of both Imperial and Republican lawyers had decided of their own free will that he would go as a Sith Lord, and that his visit would be qualified as a religious trip.

Well, Vader conceded, there were indeed some Sith temples on Yavin 4, and he did have a great desire to visit them. However, it was not the real reason of his visit... far from it in fact.

'I want to restore the Jedi Order,' his son had told him earnestly, almost two years ago.

Back then, he himself had agreed with this, and for two years, he had not interfered with Luke's searches and projects. So far, his only interaction with the new Jedi Order had only taken place on a medium-sized, financial aid.

Now however... he wanted to see what his son had accomplished. He wanted to see this new Jedi Order, observe its ways... and intervene if need be, as was his role in this life.

This time though, although he had chosen his way a long time ago, he really hoped that his intervention, which could be compared to a surgical treatment of sorts, would not be needed.

Perhaps, he thought in dim hope, the new Jedi Order would finally figure out how to bind the Force the right way, to make it stronger and clearer in the universe once again. Then, perhaps, just perhaps, 'this' would finally help him to find the answer to the greatest mystery of his life: his own very strange destiny.

In the end, he reminded himself, he hoped for a rather calm stay, far away from the political headaches of Corcusant.

As the shuttle neared the planet though, and that he became aware of Luke's presence, he detected that his son was both confused and clearly not happy about something.

Something was wrong, he surmised while suppressing a sigh of slight annoyance; there was always something wrong... Sometimes, he reflected wryly, it seemed that his family couldn't live without problems for more than a few hours at a time.

Well, he heartened himself, what was new?

He chuckled to himself and began the descent sequence.

On Yavin 4, Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight although some of his students addressed him as 'master', something with which he felt most uncomfortable, sat comfortably on a flat rock that was located near a stream. After exercising on his own to clear his mind of physical tensions, he had decided to meditate on today's events.

Calmly, slowly, focusing his attention on his breathing rhythm, he immersed his soul in the Force.

Today's practice had been somewhat strange, he reflected as he began his meditation. It had been filled with unusual tensions in his group of Jedi apprentices. As he remembered their last lesson, he confirmed to himself that the disturbance seemed once again to be coming from the youngest, Kyp Durron.  However, he was still unable to ascertain his feeling for a fact, and he did not want to bring up questions on a baseless front.

Throughout the past years, he had learnt to not trust his 'feelings' without verifying them with his head and heart.

Focusing his mind on the problem at hand, he called up an image of each one of his students; the five of them appeared before his inner eye. He began to study them.

One by one... as they had come to him.

Cilghal, he identified the female calamarian.  Her mind was bathed in a blue- green pattern and felt like soft, clear water. She was an ex-ambassador of the planet Calamari. She had been the first one to cross his path, back on Corcusant. Back then, he had been meeting with the delegation from Calamari when he had felt something about the woman. However, he had obtained confirmation of her Jedi potential when he had seen her fledgling skills at work, right after some "Palpatine's New Order" fanatic kamikaze had attacked the embassy. The woman, has he had seen back then, was a born healer; she instinctively knew how to help someone to recover their health. As he considered her mellow, quiet personality, he decided that he couldn't foresee any problem coming from her. In fact, she was one of the students on which he could count on when trouble rose in the group.

With Cilghal's possibility being dismissed, Luke focused on his second student.

The second one to join his group of apprentices had been Kam Solusar, a steel- gray mind. Kam was a rock, stable and sure. He had already been an half- trained Jedi when they had met. Back then, he had begun his training when he had been very young, but had never completed it since his teacher/father had been killed by Vader during the purges.  Now aged of nearly forty years old, the man was still a beginner, but what little he knew about the Force, he had always used in service of his community. He had never tried to become a reference because of his abilities, nor had he devoted his life solely to the Force. What greatly surprised the younger Jedi about the man though was that even after he had discovered about his Vaderish parentage, Kam had still decided to join the 'academy' in order to complete what he had begun as a child. Luke admitted to himself that he admired his student's open mind and resolve; because of his steadfastness, he thought of him as his right arm, or even more as an equal than as a student. Thus, once again, Luke could not confirm his feeling with Kam's whole demeanor. The older man did not have any obvious reason to be as strongly disappointed and frustrated as he himself had felt today.

Third on the list was Kirana Ti, a witch from Dathomir. Her spirit was tinged by the earth-brown color of her homeworld. Like the forests of Dathomir, Kirana was a young, vibrant, proud, strong tree for them all. She was the only witch who had decided to leave Dathomir's quaint, primitive villages and ways of living in order to explore the power that she had always had yet had never really known how to use. After seeing him and his sister use the 'power' without spinning any spell, nor chanting, Kirana had approached him and asked him to teach her a more skillful usage of the Force. When he, Han and Leia had left the planet that they had been exploring, Kirana had left with them. Later on, she had told him that she didn't want to return on the planet other than to share what she was learning and incite more of her sisters to open their eyes to the real world, not just their world. Again then, he thought seriously, nothing that could warrant the tension of today.

Fourth in line came old Streen, an ex-prospector of gas on Bespin... His mind was like a deep-blue sky, but had the coolness of pure cold air that was filled with golden light. Unlike his other trainees, he had been discovered by Vader himself. Luke couldn't help but smirk slightly at the memory of his father's reaction when he had found himself with the necessity to go back to Bespin, a planet which neither him nor his father wanted to even see ever again. For one of the first time since he had really met him, Luke had had the distinct feeling that his father had pouted under his mask after discovering that no one else but him could fulfill this specific diplomatic duty. However, the trip had not only been a trip down unpleasant memory lanes; it had also allowed him to uncover a Jedi potential that they had both agreed they had to help before madness took hold of it. And madness it would have been, Luke knew today. Streen couldn't shield his mind from the mind of others, could not completely block them even in the complete isolation that he had been enforcing on himself. His unconscious cries for help had alerted Vader. Not willing to involve himself though, the Dark Lord had asked his son to join him on Bespin; once there, Luke had spent several days on end with Streen, teaching him how to shield himself from feeling other's minds all the time, although he had been aware that the Dark Lord had not considered him as a great authority in the domain. Back to Streen, Luke thought more seriously, now that the old hermit could once again be around people, he was content to nurture his strange connection with nature and clearly wasn't willing to return to his older activities; he was very happy in developing his potential little by little.

With this new element excluded from the possibilities, Luke knew that he had found his answer to his question. He should have started right from there, he conceded, but he hadn't wanted to be judgmental.

Kyp Durron was at the origin of the tensions which were now permeating the training sessions of the group.

His mind was a swirling violet and dark-blue; his emotions were confused. The youngest member of the group, Luke had found him while supervising the closing of the mines of Kessel. Back then, he had been amazed by the boy's potential for power and had promised him that his life would never be what it had been up to then, but now, he could see how the youth had understood it wrong. The kid was out for justice and corrections of wrongs; the more he learnt about the Force, the angrier he grew.

In a way, he conceded that he had somehow known this answer already since he had voluntarily lessened the practical sessions and had replaced them by discussions about how to use the Force the right way to help the regular citizens if need be.

Now that he thought about it though, he understood 'very' well why the boy's frustration and impatience had come so clearly to him all of a sudden. He was probably still seething mad at him for restraining his training.

Reaching a decision, Luke opened his eyes and stood from his warm, rocky seat.  It was time to have a talk with his most skilled apprentice.

He had barely left the vicinity of the river when his father's presence entered his senses; he looked up just in time to spot the shuttle as it became visible to the naked eye.

Talk about a pleasant surprise, Luke reflected wryly to himself before he set out for the landing platform of the Jedi Academy, former site of a Rebel base.

The landing was smooth. The white, metallic bird gracefully came to rest in an almost empty hangar, its wings folding upward to allow landing. Luke waited for the ramp to lower itself, then walked forward when he saw the black figure of his father coming down. "Welcome Father," he smiled warmly. "How was the trip?"

"Blissfully boring," the Dark Lord answered coolly, clasping his son's shoulders in a brief hug. "I'm glad to see you alive and well."

Luke laughed heartily. "My trainees are not so horrible, Father," he reassured him playfully, then added: "they leave me some time to patch myself up."

He chuckled at the barely annoyed shake of head that his father gave him, as if rebuking him for his bad joke.

"I'm glad to see you too," he added more seriously. "Congratulations on your escape from your bureaucrats," he then commented more lightly when he noticed the second gaze that the Dark Lord gave him. "How is Leia? I can barely catch up with her when I call," he continued, skillfully changing to a topic that wouldn't upset his father.

"We were negotiating with the Trade Federation in the Outer Rim. It was rather complicated," Vader explained seriously, gazing forward once again.

Luke whistled lowly as he understood his sister's latest predicament. He knew that 'Rather complicated' meant, in his father's mind: almost impossible.

"I suppose that you were successful though," he said at last as he considered what little news he had gotten from the Imperial network.

"That's why I was able to escape," his father confirmed with a short nod. "I left Leia in charge; it will undoubtedly make her rather busy for the next week or so."

Luke grinned as he tried to imagine his sister's face upon finding out that she would be left in charge of their father's Empire until his return. "I'm sure that she was 'really' pleased about this turn of events."

"Ecstatic," Vader returned in cool banter.

"Poor Han," Luke shook his head in compassion although he couldn't help but grin at the thought of the face that both his sister and brother-in-law had bestowed on his father upon hearing his plans. He dimly wished that he could have seen those. He was fairly sure that they had beaten the face that Han had made when he had been told by Vader that he could marry Leia if he dared make his request.

"Indeed," Vader agreed with him, then shook away the consideration of Han Solo's fate with a movement of his hand. "But tell me about you. How are things going here? We didn't hear much from you either," he slightly scolded him with a stern finger that was point at him in rebuke.

"I know, I'm sorry, but we're all right," he reassured his father. "However, it's rather strange to have all this enormous base to ourselves," he commented as he looked around himself at the silent and almost empty hangar: only four small ships occupied the space that had been designed for two hundred. As he gazed around, images from the past rose once again to the front of his mind... He pushed them away, part of the past, not of the present. "Were do you want to stay?" he inquired, turning his attention back to his father. "There are some very good, comfortable rooms here."

"I'm not a former Rebel, and surely not a Jedi," Vader reminded him more coolly. "It would be most improper for me to stay here. I'll be in the closest Sith temple," he stated with finality.  "Structure 187 then," Luke offered. "If I remember the archaeological reports correctly, it is clear for inhabitation now. I walk you there?" he suggested earnestly. "It's about half an hour from here."

"Gladly," Vader assented. "Lead the way."

The dark green, wet jungle began directly around the small clearing of the former base.

"We don't have enough droids to clean the approaches to the base, just enough to clean the base itself, but even then, it's a huge task," Luke explained as they walked through the dense foliage. "All the other structures are completely covered with vegetation. The last research expedition cleaned some, but you can't really see the difference from the surrounding jungle anymore."

"It's good for the training though," the Dark Lord commented as he noticed how graceful his son's movements had become. At the moment, the Jedi was moving through the forest as easily as knife through butter, he reflected. Unlike the jerky, young Jedi that he had learnt to identify as his son, the youth now moved with absolute confidence and elegance.

Luke grinned. "Indeed. The jungle is so alive that I can't think of a better tool to hone Force perceptions."

"Speaking of perception," Vader interrupted more seriously, "something is greatly bothering you."

Luke stopped his forward progress at this and stared at his father in what Vader understood was disbelief. "You can read my mind even behind my shields?" the youth inquired in slight annoyance.

"Your shields..." Vader smirked as he remembered all the other times that his son had faced the fact that he couldn't shield himself from him, "are better then they used to be," he reassured him, "but not nearly good enough since you still broadcast your emotions very openly. Hence, reading your mind is still easy."

"It's because of our bond, right?" Luke inquired, miffed. "Shields can't block it out."

"It's because of your lack of skill," the Dark Lord countered coolly. "With more practice, you will be able to block this too."

"But it can't be blocked from you, can it?" Luke challenged him, his temper gaining over his normally gentler disposition.

"Try to read me," was the reply.

The moment Vader threw down the challenge, he felt his son's senses reach out for him, felt him withdraw the moment that he ran in 'his' black hole. All of a sudden, he had turned himself into a cold, emotionless void. While it was a new experience for his son to feel him this way, he himself was used to rely on this technique when he wished to remain inconspicuous, even amongst Jedi.

"OK," Luke sighed in defeat. "You proved your point. Can you undo the block? It's really chilling to not feel you at all."

Vader didn't bother to reply, but he allowed his presence to return, although he made sure that it remained dimmed and faint. "I don't want to alert your students yet," he explained in answer to Luke's unstated question about this apparent wariness. "I think that you should talk to them before they discover my presence here. It would probably be better advised to prepare them mentally for my being here," he finished more grimly, reminding his son that only 'he' had his trust as a Jedi. His students still had to prove themselves to him.

"Alright," Luke nodded in understanding, then took a deep breath to shoo away his remaining frustration. "And thank you for them, Father," he added, indicating that he understood how dangerous his presence here could be for the Jedi apprentices' continued health. "I will speak with them."

"Good, now, can you tell me what's disturbing you?" Vader inquired, getting back on their previous topic as they resumed their walk in the jungle.

"Well..." Luke frowned. His father would help him, of this he was sure, but... Kyp was 'his' responsibility, he reminded himself. On his way to the hangar bay, he had decided that he would try his way with the youth before mentioning him, and perhaps doom him to his father's... mission. He finally shook his head slightly in negation. "I... prefer to see it through myself first, Father.  Perhaps I can deal with it alone."

"Good," Vader nodded in answer; Luke couldn't help but shiver under his gaze although he was praising him. "Very good, my son. You're learning."

Luke smiled slightly. "I try."

"You are beginning to really trust your own judgement. It's a very good progress," his father added less coolly than usually.

"I don't have much choice, don't you think?" he commented, raising an eyebrow in inquiry. "After all, I need to teach them even if I'm still learning myself.  In fact, I feel more like I'm a guide than a real teacher..." he admitted truthfully, humbly.

"Logical," was his father's short answer. "After all, there's very little that you can 'really' teach them."

"Thanks," Luke replied in dry humor. "That's a great vote of confidence, Father."

"You're welcome," Vader retorted in kind before sobering once again. "What I meant however is that there's not much to teach when you're starting from scratch. You're creating a new way, nobody has ever done what you're attempting to do."

"Ever?" Luke frowned in surprise and confusion. He had thought that the Jedi had at least---

"Ever," Vader stated with finality.

"Oh. Hmmm... I can only do the best I can then, huh?" he commented while turning once again toward his father to see if he approved his new reasoning.

"Indeed," the imposing, still slightly frightening Dark Lord nodded in reassurance. "And don't worry, I won't interfere with your teachings, nor influence you or your students in any way, unless you require this from me."

"I did want to ask you this," Luke admitted with a wry smile.

"I know," Vader smirked under his mask. "You really need to work on your shields," he then reminded him mock-seriously.

"Alright, alright," the youth groaned in annoyance even as he sighed in acceptance of his own weaknesses. "Show me how you did whatever you did to block the bond."

His father seemed more than content to help him with this new technique. They spent the rest of the road exercising this new kind of shield.

The Sith temple looked more like a grassy, small hill, than a temple; it was completely covered with vegetation.

However, Vader had no trouble finding the entry. Once the temple was open, Luke bid him farewell till the evening and departed to sort out his problem.

The Dark Lord entered his chosen place of accommodation.

The inside was a small, light grey, very dull room that bore the signs of the recent presence of research teams. As he gazed around himself, Vader remembered the lines of the report about this place.

'A small ritual place, presents no historical interest,' the archeologist had stated with finality.

Vader almost laughed aloud at this. Only a fool could think that a Sith temple was exactly what it appeared to be. Stepping closer to the far wall, he touched a section of the writing--- and a wall opened up to reveal a flight of stairs.  As he had surmised, the main part of the Sith temple was underground.

A few seconds later, after a long descent through complete darkness, he reached a huge octagonal room. The moment that he stepped on the floor, eight columns of silver light turned themselves on. He took a moment to gaze at them; they looked like waterfalls that were dropping from the ceiling and falling into the bowels of stone of the floor. The eight walls of the room were covered in intricate carvings; each wall was also pierced by archways, each of them leading into more darkness.

Vader smiled and extended his senses. He instantly felt that there was a soft humming of light around him, and a tinkling of water not so far away. There were also hundreds of memories and emotion that were printed in the very room...  The underground feeling of god's presence, he identified knowingly...

*I honor you, Lord of the Sword.*

And a feeling of another mind, powerful and somehow familiar. Before he understood its nature, Vader felt a wave of aggression attack him and barely had the time to mentally close himself.

The attack was powerful, but his shields held strong. They continued to hold for as along as the attack hadn't subsided. While so engaged in a battle of strong minds, Vader lowered himself to the floor and assumed the meditative posture.

Since the attacker did not give him a chance to speak with him in a normal manner, he resolved to use another way.

Thus, he reached for the Circle and touched the memories in the other's mind. They were like dry leaves, dead and crumpling under his touch. However, there were some poisonous leaves in the stack; Vader made them come back to life. The attack stopped abruptly, he felt the pain of his aggressor and then --- silence.

The Dark Lord stood slowly. The situation truly intrigued him now; his attacker clearly was a master of great power, but the taste of his mind was strange, grey, dry and dusty.

Vader circled the room, touching the walls, awakening the temple.

The carvings switched under his hand. The memories swirled around him. He reached for them and asked about his attacker; when he received an answer he almost laughed.

"Exar Kun!" he exclaimed in a mixture of amusement and contempt. "The so-called 'Greatest of Sith Lords'. What an interesting cohabitation it will be!" he commented out loud, not hiding his harsh enjoyment anymore.

He felt the temple respond to his amusement; the writings on the walls began to glow dimly, the pitch black darkness in the archways subsided and became only deep shadows that were pierced by blue-white threads of curved script on the walls. The temple rejoiced in his presence.

Vader thanked it, then set off to find a suitable room for his stay. He couldn't wait for the next confrontation with this so-called Sith Lord...

Kyp Durron sat near the waterfall. He had selected a warm stone as a proper seat and was now trying to tame the swirl of his emotions.

The hum of falling water, the soft whisper of wind in the rustling foliage; all these soothing sounds that usually did wonders on his emotional state were currently of no help to him.

He just couldn't make himself calm down, and he didn't dare touch the Force in so unstable a mindset.

Touch the Force... To him, the very idea of reaching out felt like a white-blue, glowing, powerful sword. Like those sacred swords of legends that only the purest of heart could wield in a battle against Evil.

He had dreamt about this battle in the dark stoned caves of the mines of Kessel.  He had dreamt of it while being forced to work without respite, till total exhaustion. He had dreamt of being the weapon of light, of destroying his tormentors after he had heard about his brother's death.

His beloved brother, who had been one of many faceless stormtroopers who had been killed during a rebel attack.

Sometimes, Kyp had dreamt about his brother's death, seeing his last moments like a torrent of violent fire, hearing his screams, over and over again. After such a dream, he had awakened in his grey cell of Kessel and imagine himself being a legendary sword in some heroes' hands and cutting down the Emperor.

And now the Emperor was dead.

His torment had ended. The Light's servant, the Light's very son, or so he still felt, had come in the mines and had freed them all.  It was then that Jedi Skywalker had told him, Kyp Durron, young, worthless slave, that he could be a weapon of light- a future knight.

A Jedi.

At first shocked by the news, he had blindly followed the Son of Light... until he had discovered that he was also the son of a Sith Lord. Naturally, it had unsettled him, even worried him about the true nature of Skywalker, but he had come to discover that the son was not the Father.

He knew, even now, that the light was inhabiting Luke's heart.

His actual master was fair and pure, he was sure of it. Now, if he could just despise his master, distrust him!, he thought in frustration. He wanted more than what Skywalker was teaching him, yet couldn't hate him. He simply felt the light in his master with every cell in his body.

However, as much as he revered his master, he revered the Force more, and his Skywalker's words during the last training session had generated a great turmoil within him.

'You should use the Force, wrap your will around it to guide it,' his master had said. 'Listen to your hearts and minds, determine the best way of action, and only then should you turn to the Force. The Force is a tool, not a guidance.  Our heart is the guidance that the Force needs.'

And it was painful to hear his master speaking like this of the only sacred thing that he himself had ever had in his life. To him, those words meant that the Force was nothing more than a kitchen knife while it was, in fact, at the basis of absolutely everything.

It pained him so much that even the forest and the river could not help him to appease his mind.

Kyp was so engrossed in his musing that he didn't hear, nor felt, Luke's approach. By the time that he became aware of his presence, Luke was already near him; he hastily acknowledged his presence and made a movement to stand up.  Luke stopped him, then sat down beside him.

They were silent for a while; Luke contemplated the waterfall, Kyp looked at the ground. The Jedi appeared calm and composed, even authoritative, but in fact, the Son of Light was not feeling confident at all. Now that he was near Kyp, the words were eluding him. He could feel the boy's anger and torment, but he still wondered how he could clear this matter with him. "That's my favorite spot too," he finally commented when the silence began to oppress him. "The waterfall is astonishing beautiful."

"This whole planet is," Kyp answered coolly. "It's so full of life, it's incredible. And so much water... I still can't get used to it."

"Me neither," Luke smiled in agreement. "Tatooine is not very different from Kessel," he then explained to the younger man. "However, we have sand there instead of stone."

"I've never been there. I'd like to see it someday," Kyp said thoughtfully. "I'd like to see the whole galaxy..."

"Someday you will. I don't know about the whole galaxy, but I surely can organize a visit to Tatooine for you," Luke offered with a touch of humor in his voice.

Kyp smiled, then grew serious once again. "I'm sorry, Master," he said. "I disturbed the session, I didn't mean to. I just..."

"You're confused. And something bothers you greatly."

"Yes, Master. I..." Kyp shuddered. "I just don't understand... about the guidance."

"You must find your way in your inner heart, your compassion," the older Jedi explained kindly as he nodded in reassurance. "It is the only true way that will guide you in your actions.  Right now you're guided by your emotions; it's very dangerous to touch the Force in this state of mind. The results can be disastrous," he explained, pausing as he remembered the late Emperor and what he had brought upon the galaxy.

Kyp seemed to understand this; he nodded slightly as he swallowed hard.

"That's why I lessened the practical lessons," Luke began anew. "It's very important for you to find a way to control your mind before you begin to really use the Force."

"But how can I find guidance if I don't practice, Master? Can you tell me what is this compassion and heart that you keep talking about? how do I recognize the Guidance?"

Luke sighed this time, faced yet again with the fact that he didn't have an answer for everything. "Kyp, I'm not a Jedi Master," he told him seriously. "I still don't know every secret, and I'm still discovering this particular secret myself. I can help you to advance along with me, but I really can't give you an answer other than to trust your care for others. For the rest, I don't have any answer, I'm sorry." The boy looked thunderstruck; Luke gently touched his arm.  "Trust me, please," he asked him beseechingly. "I'll never let you down. I'll help you in every ways that I can, and I'm sure that together we'll find this secret. I can feel it."

Kyp looked straight at his face and slowly nodded. As he did so, Luke felt the swirl of the boy's emotions slowing down before it completely dissipated. He smiled.

"Thank you for trusting me," he told him gratefully.

The boy smiled too, if shyly. "Thank you, Luke," he answered kindly.

The Jedi nodded and bid him goodbye.

Kyp watched him leave, now calm and serene. The answer to his problem was so easy that it almost made him laugh. Luke Skywalker, while being the son of Light, just wasn't his master and could be wrong. All he had to do now was to find a real Jedi Master who could provide him with responses.

And he had the feeling that he knew where to search.

Chapter 2: Discoveries

In the evening, Luke gathered all his trainees at the foot of the main temple. Thus, they all sat in the large clearing that usually served as a training ground.

As he looked at each face that was watching him patiently, Luke wondered how in the Galaxy he would inform them that his father was on the forest moon... with them. With the possible exception of Streen, who had already met with the Dark Lord of the Sith, he was aware that his trainees did not really like his father.

Would they decide to attac---

Catching his worried thoughts, he almost smirked to himself for his protectiveness toward his powerful father. Throughout the past years, he had seen for himself that the Sith lord could handle anything that was being thrown at him, whether it was a full-fledged attack against his very human self, or the apparition of children and family in his up-to-then lonely life.

Finally, he had also realized that the Dark Lord did not bother much about anybody's feelings, let alone Jedi trainees'.

In fact, he then reflected, it was unusually considerate of his father to give him time to warn his 'Jedi' students of his visit instead of scaring them to death with his revealed, potentially-lethal presence. Even now, the Dark Lord was dimming his presence in the Force in order to avoid disturbing the future Jedi Knights.

"Well," Luke finally said in the expectant silence. "I have an importance announcement to make," he began seriously, then, unable to think of any way to subtly introduce his father's presence, took a deep breath and let out his secret. "My father is here."

"Emperor Vader?" Cilghal gasped in obvious shock while older Kam Solusar frowned.

"Lord Vader is here?" he finally half-whispered as if muted by shock.

"He is," Luke nodded while he threw a warning glance at his student, perplexed by his puzzling reaction.

Aggression, he would understand, but shock. "It's an unofficial visit," he continued more seriously. "He is here as a Sith in a pilgrimage."

"A Sith??" Kirana Ti exclaimed in sudden worry and distrust. "And we are Jedi----"

"That is why he is staying at the Sith temple, away from us," Luke reassured her calmly, hoping to quiet the others' growing worries with his words.

"Why is he here?" Kam demanded, his eyes now narrowed in open dislike.

"To visit my son," said the deep, familiar voice from the surrounding shadows, then pitch black shadow moved, and the Dark Lord stepped on the clearing, his presence now clear and strong to both the trainees' eyes and Force senses. Even to Luke, it felt like a cold wind on their minds, reminding them of a starless night above a field of ice. "You should not worry about me, son of Solusar," Vader stated coolly. "I didn't come for you, nor for your friends."

As if provoked though, Kam was instantly on his feet--- and attacking! Before Luke could stand and interfere, the older man had called Luke's, green-bladed lightsaber to his hand, and was upon the Dark Lord of the Sith.

The young Jedi teacher watched in shock as his student swiftly yet gracefully wielded 'his' lightsaber, his anger and pain swirling around him as a dark blue cloak that was barely lit by the green-white hue of his Jedi teacher.

"Kam, no!" Kirana Ti begged him desperately.

The enraged Jedi did not pay any attention to her and brought his arm in a fast, downard arc----- then the green, pulsing light suddenly stopped at Vader's neck.

Luke, as well as his students, were holding their breaths, barely aware that the Sith Lord had not moved a finger to defend himself. For a moment the only sounds that filled the clearing were the labored breaching of Kam and the mechanical sound of Vader's respirator.

"I should kill you," Kam stated, hatred and pain dripping from his voice. "I should and I can. I have dreamt about it for endless nights. I have been dreaming about cutting you down,... as you did my father," he almost sobbed as his emotional pain overcame even his hatred of the Dark Lord.

"Than why don't you finish me?" Vader inquired calmly. "Why don't you fulfill you dream?" he prompted him, locking his darkened eye lenses on the other's distraught gaze. "Do it."

"I..." the other hesitated, then slowly pulled his blade away from the other's neck.

To Luke's horror though, this first face-off did not seem to satisfy his suddenly worrying father. Instead, he goaded the other further. "I'm your teacher's father," Vader reminder Kam almost meanly, "I killed your father as I did uncountable others. What is my son's suffering compared to the justice that you will accomplish?" he demanded coldly.

That naturally spurred to life the Jedi apprentice's anger once again. "How dare you compare my father with----" Kam exclaimed--- and suddenly froze as if a detail had just occurred to him.

"Yes?" Vader prompted him knowingly.

Luke, for his part, shifted his worried, doubtful gaze from one warrior to another, wondering what in blazes his father was hoping to achieve except doom his student to the Dark----

"I... It can't be compared, can it?" Kam slowly inquired, looking intently at the black faceplate. "My dream... is not right. If I kill you, I will create more suffering and won't remove any."

The Sith Lord slowly nodded in agreement. "My son has taught you well, son of Solusar" the Dark Lord stated almost proudly.

"Yes," Kam nodded, throwing a look in his back at his distraught teacher. "He did." He focused back on the Dark Lord and deactivated Luke's lightsaber before he stepped back; his eyes did not stray away from the Dark Lord of the Sith. The tension didn't fade from the air; nobody dared to move, no matter how much they felt as if they 'should' intervene at some point.

"I still have my honor," Kam finally commented bitterly. "I will not hide behind your son's back." He squared his shoulders, as if preparing to face a punishement, Luke dimly reflected while he searched his father's blocked senses for a clue about what the Dark Lord was expecting to hear next. "I admit that I have thought about killing you, sire," the older man stated calmly. "I am aware that I am still the Empire's subject. So..."

Luke, who was still sitting on the ground as if paralyzed, gaped in disbelief and understanding as Kam let his weapon fall to the ground.

'No!' he wanted to shout, yet was strangely unable to generate any sound at the moment.

"I submit myself..." Kam stated as he knelt in the grass and bowed his head, "...to thy justice, my Emperor."

The young Jedi teacher silently shook his head at his father as Vader studied the kneeling form of Kam--- then the sharp sound of his activated blood- red blade cut through the frozen silence even as the lightsaber bathed the surrounding gloom in shades of crimson.

As if his father's anger had come alive, Luke thought in sudden fear. As if he was lusting for Kam's blood------

He tried to jump to his feet and object to the obviously unavoidable actions of his father, saw that his other students were either preparing a last ditch defense, or else a frightful retreat---- then the cold, black power of the Sith, which was hovering around the Dark Lord, washed over them all as if in warning to not interfere; it naturally killed any words or thoughts that any of them had been harboring at the moment.

Petrified, Luke watched in horror as the red blade slowly descended toward Kam's neck. For a brief moment, he felt the desire to block out the horrible sight of his father killing his first 'new' Jedi, but he fought against it. If Kam was being executed, it was because of him, because he had not taught him----

The lethal blade suddenly stopped its downward motion.

"You asked for justice, Kam Solusar," Vader said solemnly in the horrified silence, "for an offence that is normally punished by death. Since you submit your life to my judgment, I decide that you will live. I condemn you to serve the Empire's people till your last breath. Do you accept my judgment, son of Solusar?"

Luke was too shocked by this sudden turn of events to utter a single word. He fastened his eyes on his father, who had suddenly morphed into a real, magnanimous emperor.

"Yes, my Emperor," Kam answered, his voice devoid of life.

"Then I, Darth Vader, the Sith Lord of the Circle," he proclaimed as he moved his blade from one side of Kam's head to the other, "recognize you, Kam Solusar, as a Jedi Knight. You may rise," he finally told him as he his red blade disappeared from sight.

Kam slowly rose to his feet, gaping at the Dark Lord. Behind him, his comrades in the Force equally gaped in stunned disbelief at the 'dangerous' Dark Lord of the Sith. Even Luke, who knew his father fairly well now, could not stop staring at him.

"Jedi?..." the less-experienced Jedi stuttered once he managed to recover from his complete shock, a feeling that Luke could easily refer to at the moment. "But. but I'm still learning. I'm still---"

"In a way, you will never stop learning, Jedi Solusar," the suddenly wise-proven dark lord agreed. "For the moment though, you will simply learn what you can from my son, then you will move on to your duty." When the newly nominated Jedi Knight cringed in worry and uncertainty, the Sith Lord straightened his imposing, menacing body. "Remember that you asked for my judgement, Jedi Knight; now that I have given it, do you question me?" he inquired in mild rebuke.

"No, my Lord." Kam answered quickly, then humbly lowered his head in deference. "Thank you."  

Vader nodded at him in approval, then shifted his gaze until everybody who was present in the clearing knew that he was looking at them; although he had expected to shock the future Jedi Knights with his unusual actions, he frowned slightly when he noticed that Luke too had been scared by his latest action. "I will leave you now in order to give you time to adjust to my presence here," he calmly informed the group of Jedi apprentices. "I will not interfere with your training in any way, and will not approach your training grounds without my son's consent. Were you to attack me you will suffer the consequences."

He didn't wait for a reaction and turned on his heel; he disappeared in the deep, evening shadows that welcomed him as if he were an integral part of them.

In the clearing, the tension broke at last and everybody rushed to Kam's side; the new Jedi Knight had begun to shiver thanks to the side effects of what had just happened. He sat down hard on the ground.

Luke, who was still busy quelling his own misgivings, shook his head at him in Rebuttal as he recovered his discarded lightsaber. He slowly attached it back to his belt. "That was a very stupid thing to do, Kam" he rebuked the other, his own recent fear coloring his voice. "My father is a Sith Lord; you're very lucky to still be alive."

"... A Jedi?" Kam inquired hesitantly, incoherently, then locked his eyes with his teacher's. "Me, a Jedi?"

"Well, he acknowledged you," Luke reminded him in gentler tones, "and I must say that I agree with him. You still have much to learn, yes, but you've also found the way of your heart."

And with that, he understood why his father had acted as he had just moments ago. The wiser Sith Lord had known that Kam had needed a final face-off with his emotions, something that he, Jedi 'teacher', had never been even aware of. He really had many more lessons to learn before he would ever be as wise and as powerful as his father was, he admitted ruefully.

"Congratulations, Kam," he finally commented warmly, then exchanged a comforting gaze with the nearby students. "I will leave you alone now." He looked up in the direction that his father had taken; the others followed his gaze, as if understanding of whom he was thinking. "I have to speak with him," he told them nonetheless, both to reassure them about his whereabouts as well as his reason why he was seeking the dark lord's presence right after being scared almost to death by him.

When neither of them objected to his plan, he stood up and meant to be on his way--- when he met Kyp's distraught eyes. Revulsion, fear, and... something else were creasing the youth's feature. Upon seeing this, Luke reflexively reconsidered his decision, then, when he failed to find a good justification for his not going to his father, shrugged and affected a lighter mood in order to hide his remaining worries. "I trust that you can all find your way to the temple without any more foolishness for tonight?" he inquired, locking his serious gaze with the young man.

He and his fellow students nodded in reassurance.

"Right. See you in the morning," he bid them goodnight, then turned around as an idea struck him. "Kam?" he called, a smirk creasing his lips now. "Since you're a Jedi now, you'll conduct the first exercise," he informed him. He chuckled slightly at the face the other made upon hearing those news, but did not let Solusar's shaking head dissuade him from his decision. "Good night everyone," he repeated, then he entered the surrounding shadows, as his father had done just moments before.

Through the Force, and their bond, Luke tracked his father's presence all the way to the Sith temple. As if knowing that he would seek him out, his father was sitting on a fallen tree, his legs folded in a meditative position.

"You sure went for spectacular this time, Father," the young Jedi commented in mock-rebuttal as he approached him.

"Thank you," Vader replied dryly; his body did not shift position at all, yet Luke felt that his father was now giving him a meaningful gaze. "Don't you agree with my judgement about young Kam?" he inquired coolly.

"I do," Luke sighed, hitching himself up besides his father. "I know that you were right, but..."

"But?" Vader prompted him, then inquired: "Why are you angry?"

As he realized that his father was once again reading his senses as if they were an open book, Luke gaped in disbelief at him. "You can feel that right now?"

"Yes," the dark giant confirmed with a slow nod of his head. "It's diffuse, and not exactly overwhelming you, but it has brought you to me all the same. What is bothering you, Son?" he asked him pointedly.

Sighing in annoyance at his own lack of control, Luke ran his hands through his hair. "I'm angry at myself," he revealed, then turned away from his father's emotionless yet very expressive faceplate. "How could I not feel his state of mind, his torment?"

"There wasn't any torment," his father stated coolly. "Kam Solusar decided to kill me in calm conscience, long before you two met," he explained. "There weren't any ill intentions towards you. Thus, you couldn't feel it."

"Just like that?" Luke frowned in confusion. Somehow, if Kam had planned to kill Vader a long time ago, he had the feeling that he 'should' have detected it when he had first met the man---

"I suppose that you could have deduced it from his past," his father agreed with his unspoken thought, "but you tend to overlook such details," he then scolded him slightly.

Perching an eyebrow up in slight frustration at his being unable to detect even his own sending to his father, he focused his attention on his father once again. "Meaning that I am too trusting?" he inquired with a tiny bit of animosity.

"In a way, yes" his father agreed somberly. "You tend to see only the good sides in people, Luke."

Before Luke could argue though, Vader continued, interrupting his son's 'but'.

"But I wouldn't advise you to change either," he reassured him more warmly.  "This attitude of yours is an important part of your personality and is, apparently, your heart's way."

Like Kam's way was to understand that no evil could be vanquished by more violence and destruction, Luke dimly thought while he answered his father with an inarticulate: "Oh."

A silence answered him, then his father seemed to study him more intently.  "Something else's troubling you, Son" Vader observed seriously.

Luke looked at his father... and smiled without humor. "I just can't shield myself right..."

His father shrugged his broad shoulders in answer. "You simply don't want to shield yourself from me completely."

Luke sighed once again, this time in acceptance. "I guess so," he finally agreed with his father.

Who would not be distracted from their new topic of conversation. "What is it, Son?"

For a moment, Vader felt as if the boy would never answer him, something which had never happened since they had forged a truce. Eventually though, the boy focused his blue eyes on him once again.

"You scared me," he finally revealed to him. "Awfully," he then specified, his eyes searching his although he could not see them. "Before now, I had never been this afraid of you in my entire life, not even on Bespin."

The mention of their cursed duel caused Vader to catch his breath in shock.

Bespin, he almost cursed, where the boy's soul was scarred so strongly. Somehow, his relationship with Luke always came back to this damned place, they never could escape it.

Vader knew that whatever he was, he wasn't a Healer. Most importantly, he couldn't heal the scars that adorned Luke's soul. He wanted nothing more than to do so but somehow, despite everything he did, despite his care for his son, Bespin's shadow remained between them.

Gently, he laid a hand on his son's shoulder. It was a very light touch, wordlessly inviting him to open to him, yet it was not insistent either.

For a brief moment, Luke froze under his touch, than he silently leaned in his strong embrace and accepted his offer of comfort. "I'll never hurt you again, my son," Vader's whispered roughly, fiercely. His arms tightened around his precious son. "Never ever. I swear that I'll kill myself before I harm you again, even by accident."

In his hold, Luke shivered as he returned the hug. "And I would not let you take your life for this, Father," he whispered, his voice tight with emotions.  "So I guess that we'll just make sure that we never reach this point."

Totally agreeing with the youth, the dark lord remained silent, simply taking care to reassure the boy whom he had scared just one too many times in his young life.

But never again, he promised himself.

Around them, the jungle filled the silence with its nightly sounds.

A day later.  

'That practice sure was interesting', Luke reflected as he cleaned himself. His students had managed to calm themselves a lot since he had introduced them to his father, but he could still feel an underlying tension in all of them.

Somehow though, that made them more studious than usual. Even Kam had been more serious than before, having apparently thought about his new status throughout the night.

His leading of the first exercise had been exemplary, he admitted as he finished his shower and changed into his more regular clothes.

Unlike when he had first allied himself with his father to save his sister, Luke did not wear black clothes anymore. A few weeks after he had decided to stay with his ever surprising father, the man had convinced him that black hadn't been the right wear for him.  As he chuckled at the memory of this most surprising, and unexpected, discussion with his father, Luke pondered once again his father's argument that since he was a son of the Light, he could not wear the Night. While he had expected his father to comment about a few of his 'Jedi' habits, he had most certainly never expected him to scold him about what he had chosen to wear unless it was truly unfit for him.

Still, he had listened to his father and had spent a few days considering his words, then had decided to abide by them.

On the other hand, he hadn't picked on the 'usual' Jedi garb either, aware that his father would have bristled if he had tried to bring anything from the old order back to life. Thus, he had instead adopted tones that were familiar with him, yet weren't the same cut than his farmboy fatigues on Tatooine.

Thus, he finished to put on his earth-brown trousers, then threw an ample, large-sleeved white shirt over which he attached a utility belt to which his lightsaber was attached.

Other than his saber, he never carried any other weapon anymore, but he always wore his saber when outside of his private quarters. Even like when he was going to enjoy a quiet meal with his students, he had learnt to never be caught without it. His scar on his left arm also took care to remind him of what had once happened when he had been too naive about his ability to defend himself without a weapon.

Since his incident with a roaming predator, he and his students had also learnt to set magnetic shields at the entrances of the temple to protect themselves from wandering predators, but still, he reflected as he left his quarters and headed for the communication center, even with those security devices in place, he never wanted to repeat the experience of being caught unprepared.

After a ride in the elevator and a short walk down deserted corridors, Luke reached the old rebel communication room where his sister had stood while he himself had been dodging laser blasts and his father's accurate aim above the Death Star...

As he gazed around himself, images from the past seemed to come to life once again. He could almost see the beautiful, familiar yet unfamiliar princess of Alderaan as she watched the progress of the approaching planet killer while the x-wings and y-wings were attempting to destroy it through a nearly impossible shot in the exhaust port...

He himself had succeeded where others had failed, he remembered, bittersweet. That day, he had killed nearly one million beings, unknowingly evening the score between himself and his then unbeknown father.

Back then, he had seen it as having no choice but to kill all those people to save the rest of the galaxy, but now that he knew who his father was, as well as who he truly was, he could not be this naive anymore. He himself had meant to make sure that the Death Star would not be used ever again after Alderaan... 'He' had 'chosen' to kill all those 'enemies' of Life... of the Force.

Hence, whereas his father had destroyed the Light in the Universe, thus becoming the son of Darkness, he himself had destroyed the Darkness, unknowingly becoming the son of Light... the opposite yet very equal of his counterpart: his father.

Perhaps, he reflected more wistfully, this was why both of them were now starting from scratch with one another, having destroyed each other's greatest resources... which would have led them astray in the end.

Hence, even though both he and his father had destroyed too many lives to count, Luke had to admit that it 'had' been for the greater good, no matter how taxing this admission was for his gentle mind.

Pulling himself out of his glum, unpleasant thoughts, his inner image of a younger Leia disappeared from before his eyes. AS his sister faded away, he made a note to himself to contact her as soon as possible. For one thing, he then thought more seriously, he needed to know if he could somehow help her to get through what their father had left her with.

Just like killing went against what he himself stood for, managing the Empire went against everything 'she' had ever believed in.

"I miss you, sister," he whispered softly at his last remnant of what he had heard had taken place in the command center after his successful shot, then turned away from the far away, deactivated scanning board and activated the communication console.

As he had estimated, several messages were already waiting for his attention. He quickly scrolled through the list, deleted threats and love letters without even opening them, then sat down and read his truly important messages.

Ever since his and his sister's parentage had been revealed, he had received too much unwanted attention to his taste. What was the less to his liking was the fair amount of hate mail that he kept receiving from a faction called Palpatine's Return. That particular troubleseeking group had sprouted to life some time before he had joined his father, yet still had to be detected anywhere. However, its members' main hobby seemed to send hate letters to both himself and his sister.

Upon seeing this, his father had insisted that both of them learn more self-defense techniques in case they were attacked, then when they had refused, had assigned permanent Noghri guards to them. Luke had eventually grown tired of being 'bodyguarded' and had indulged in the rigorous training that his father's trainers were offering to him. He was now quite good against open attacks, but, he could admit that he still had to improve himself when he was attacked from behind.

On the opposite specter of emotions, he had also been receiving messages of timeless devotion of love to him from women, of his race or not, who would give anything to be his chosen lover. Unlike his sister who was now married to Han, it was widely known that he himself was still bachelor and held a place of choice in his father's and sister's favors.

At first, he had read those messages as well, had even detected true, blind love in amongst letters which had sounded more like a business proposition than anything else, but as the months had passed, and that the Jedi had taken prescience on his time, he had stopped reading them altogether.

If he ever was to fall in love, he had resolved back then, it would be with someone whom he would meet on his path of Life, not someone who would force herself on it.

He finished is third message, sent a quick reply to the potential new Jedi to come by if he wanted to see if he were right about his feeling or not, then opened his last message.

The moment that he selected the message, the young man felt a strange wave of awareness enter him, translating itself into a slight shiver that coursed down his spine before it settled at the small of his back. Even as the message loaded itself up, he admitted that he had never felt anything like this before in his entire life, not even when he had 'met' his father for the first time. Was it fear? Warning? Or peace?... He couldn't tell.

He decided to read the message.

'Master Skywalker,' it began, 'I am not a Jedi nor do I really believe in any such nonsense, but... a young woman on Dantooine might be better off with you than with us. She has strange, levitating powers and can't seem to control them. Her powers have already gotten her into trouble; she is secluded in a house for troublesome youths and is awaiting trial. If you don't help her, master Jedi, she will probably end up in one of our detention colony on one of our moons. I wish I could help her, I love her... but I am barely free myself and have been blocked away from seeing her again. Please, gentle sir, help her, help us... You can find her in quadrant 869-54, in the city of Tinan. Her name is Arica Jeel. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Master. M.'

Struck by the emotions that were barely contained enough by the written format to not assault his heart head on, Luke took a moment to read the plea one more time, then leaned back in his chair and pondered his options.

Judging from the tone of the letter, the situation was an emergency; the girl was on trial and he understood that she would lose her freedom forever. Luke also knew enough about the detention colonies of Dantooine to know that they were the opposite of the green, lush planet; no one survived for long in them. If only to spare one more life until his father could obtain the abolition of such places in the Republic space, it was worth going. If the girl was also a true Jedi potential, then all the better.

For the moment, the only thing that he knew was that he 'had' to go. He couldn't abandon her to a fate that he now knew; he replied to the message that they could count on him.

Once his message was gone, he focused on what he had to think about before leaving. His first concern was naturally his students. He was aware that they were not ready to be left on their own yet, but, he shrugged, his father was on the moon at the moment. He decided that Sith or not, he could cover up for him for a few days until he returned with a new student.

His decision made, he stood up and headed outside to gather his students; he had to inform them of this new turn of events. On his way outside, he made a mental note to contact his sister when he would reach Dantooine. He truly, really missed her. Besides, he reflected more wryly, she would also be able to help him if he needed to pull some weight in this matter.

Aboard her ship, which was already in transit toward Dantooine, Mara 'Arica Jeel' Jade smirked meanly as her target answered her.

The trap had been laid, she thought maliciously, and the prey had taken the bait. Soon, her group for Palpatine's Return would have in its hands the perfect tool to humiliate the so-called Emperor Vader before forcing him to return the Empire to her group, who would then kill his 'dear' son and daughter, him, then resume where the true Empire had left off against the rebels.

Then, she sighed in upcoming contentment, and only then, her master would be avenged from the traitor who had wrongly taken advantage of his blind trust to destroy him and steal what had rightfully been her master's, and her master's alone.

She spent the rest of her transit toward Dantooine fomenting more plans about what she would do to Skywalker once she would have him in her hands.

Her master's revenge would be slow and bitter, she grinned meanly.

Back on Yavin 4, Kyp Durron was sitting on the small perch of a stony cliff. A very arduous path had lead him to a small, dark cave in which an ancient Jedi Master had lived and died, many centuries ago.

An 'experienced' Jedi with whom he was now talking. "I considered your proposition, Master Kenan" he said seriously to the blue-white ghost of the old Jedi. "And I have decided to accept your offer."

"You really want to be my apprentice, child?" the gentle-looking man inquired, asking him to consider his answer one last time.

Kyp did not hesitate to commit himself his new master. "I do."

"May I ask what changed your mind?" the older man queried while he seemed to relax somewhat now that he knew his answer.

"My... teacher, Luke Skywalker, is still a student himself. He is leading us" he reflected out loud, "but he himself doesn't know were to go. Moreover, his father is a Sith Lord... and is here at this very moment."

"A Dark Lord!!? A Jedi is related to a Sith??" the spirit, named Master Kenan, exclaimed in horror. "Poor child!"

"Well, huh," Kyp shrugged uncertaintly. "Luke did not seem exactly unhappy to be his son. They appear to be on good terms, but the Sith lord sure looked impressive last night... It was an unpleasant experience," he admitted honestly, "but what truly worries me is that Luke is listening to him, and..."

"And if he is still in training, than the counsels on this Dark Lord will undoubtedly be disastrous to him and his apprentices. Siths are vile creatures, young Kyp" the unknown master Jedi warned him grimly. "There's no goodness in their hearts. You are right to be wary; your Jedi teacher is in great danger, as are you all," he stated more ominously.

"But you will help us.., won't you?" he inquired in worry.

The spirit seemed to consider his request for a while, frowning as if faced with an unpleasant choice, then his features softened once again and he was a paternal figure again. "Of course, my dear child. Of course I will. Unfortunately, I can't leave this place, but I'll help you with all my knowledge. Have no worry," he smiled benignly.

Kyp beamed. "Thank you, master! Thank you so much! I must leave now, but I'll return tomorrow, and we'll begin the lessons, right?"

Kenan laughed. "All right, all right, eager child! Till tomorrow then."

Kyp waved to him, then left the cave, then its perched opening.

Once he was out of hearing range a deep voice commented: "'Siths are vile creatures indeed, Exar Kun," then Darth Vader came in the cave, blocking out the failing light of the evening sun. "What are you planning this time?" he inquired, slowly placing his hands on his belt.

'Kenan', also known as the Sith Lord Exar Kun, hissed in anger. "You! What are you still doing in my temple?"

" 'Your' temple?" Vader shook his head in disapproval of the other's arrogance. "Are you a god now, or the greatest of the Siths?" he taunted him with an audible sneer.

"You're this Skywalker's father, am I correct?" the spirit retorted, evading his open rebuttal with a new topic.

"Yes, I am. What of it?"

It was Kun's turn to snort at him. "A father of a Jedi, yet you think of yourself as a real Sith," the spirit sneered in turn before he cackled in derision.

"Whatever you may think, 'your' temple still accepts me as a Sith," Vader pointed out coldly.

"Hmph," the other scowled, miffed, then seemed to drop the current topic, again. "You could have interfered with our discussion in any moment. Why didn't you?"

"My motives are my own," the living Dark Lord retorted coolly, then gentled slightly, "but I will admit that this boy intrigues me."

"Even if he eventually threatens your oh so precious son?" Kun challenged him mercilessly, openly averse toward him.

Vader shrugged his broad shoulders at him. "If he does, I'll deal with him," he stated matter-of-factly, then lowered his voice to a more threatening tone, "as I will deal with you should you try to harm him."

"Is this a threat?" the other Sith scorned in derision.

"No. But now you stand informed of what would befall you should you approach my son."

"I see." Exar Kun studied the Dark Lord. "So if I understand you, excluding the situation where your son would be in danger, you will not interfere with my dealings with this boy?"

"Correct," Vader nodded. "Kyp Durron's choices are his alone. I will not interfere with your 'lessons'."

"Too good to be true," Exar Kun mused as he turned slightly away from his 'visitor'.

"Indeed," Vader agreed before he lowered himself to sit in a meditative posture, "but let us see if we are right," he offered seriously.

Kun imitated him and both Sith Lords used their powers to scan the future.

Once Luke's students were told about his imminent departure, the young Jedi set out in the jungle and sought his father. Since the Dark Lord of the Sith was still shielding himself, thus being undetectable, Luke took a first chance by choosing his chosen residence as a first possibility. If he weren't there, he then decided, he would simply wait for him. He estimated that the dark lord would return to it sooner than later.

When he finally reached the small clearing around the temple, he gazed around himself--- and stopped short at the sight that greeted him. Instead of the moss-covered, barely detectable temple that he had always seen, the pristine white structure was now cleanly revealed to his eyes.

A relatively large ring of water was also surrounding it, adding to the nearly surreal effect of the sudden change in the clearing.

"How--?" he gaped in awe. As far as he knew, the ground around the temple had been solid, without any underground river or lake waiting to resurface. As for the vines, the cleaning teams had needed several months to clean only the necessary areas of the main temple because their growth rate was astonishing... yet, after only a day or two of being inhabited, the Sith temple was as clean as on the first day it had been built.

Slowly, the young Jedi stepped forward again, studying the unexplainable feat of maintenance; he walked around the small watery trench, then eventually stood right in front of the sole entrance of the temple.

"Father?" he called out loud.

Only the echo of his voice returned from the temple.

*Father?* he tried again, this time through the Force.

Still no answer.

Gazing around himself yet again to make sure that he hadn't missed the presence of his father in a nearby tree, he hesitantly prepared himself to jump to the other side of the watery trench--- when he noticed the presence of what looked like stepping stones just beneath the surface of the water.

Even more awed than a few minutes before, Luke took a step forward, then another, dimly expecting the stones to sink under his weight.

They didn't, nor did they trigger any defense mechanism. His passage on the rocks also failed to awaken any guardian beast from the depths of deceptively clear water. While he had read about such 'traps' in old-fashioned temples and castles, he slowly understood that the Sith however didn't resort to such means of discouraging unwanted visitors, unless his father had 'deactivated' them, he belatedly reflected.

Still, the closer he came to the temple, the more a foreboding feeling crept up his spine and settled at the pit of his stomach; he was being warned... but of what?, he wondered worriedly.

"Father? Are you here?" he called again, this time directly in the temple.

He could now see the sky blue light that was running all around the inside of the temple, exactly where there had been an intricate band of stone carvings.  He smirked in renewed interest as he realized that the writings had obviously been more than stone carvings.

Pulled by his curiosity, he walked forward again---- and yelped in surprise as a strong grip appeared on the scruff of his neck and sharply pulled him off his feet and backward.

Luke had barely become aware of what had just happened when he landed in the warm waters of the trench. Quickly reorienting himself, he pulled his lightsaber free from his belt even as he broke the surface and gasped for air; he instantly looked for his attacker.

"I thought that I had told you to not go in Sith temples without me," his father scolded him as he walked closer to his location.

The young Jedi, who had almost turned his lightsaber on by then, relaxed his arm, then used it to thread water as he swam closer to the nearby shore. "You didn't," he replied in slight resent. "Although I take it that you should have?"

"I did tell you," Vader stated, stopping just in front of him on the shore.  "Remember what I told you when we entered the temple of Asharel?"

"Sure," Luke replied easily, "but first," he argued slightly, "that was a Sathed temple, not a Sith, and second, you didn't specify that it was a general characteristic to those temples," he continued while pulling himself out of the watery trench.

Vader sighed as if in annoyance. "I see that you haven't understood much yet, Son. Sathed is the name of the people, Sith is a name of religion. Sathed had Jedi temples too."


"You're living in one," his father replied seriously, then shrugged. "but it's irrelevant. What is important is that Sith temples are dangerous to Jedi when activated."

"Activated?" the young Jedi frowned, sparing a glance up at his father as he removed his boot to pour water out of it.

"Turned alive if you will," his father answered evasively. "While they are in their stone status, they don't react to a Jedi's Force resonance, but once their integrated Sith energies are turned on, no one but a Sith can enter one."

"I see," Luke mumbled while he removed his shirt in order to wring the water out of it. "So I guess that you saved my life again huh?" he inquired, suppressing a shudder at the thought of how close it had been yet again.

"No, not your life," his father shook his head before he took hold of his still very damp shirt and 'forced' the water out of it; he gave him back his now dry shirt. "Only from most unpleasant torments for weeks following the incident."

"Oh," the youth nodded as he barely registered the new that father had just demonstrated. "Then, considering that there are several Jedi on this planet, will it be possible to post a warning sign or something? I wouldn't want any of my students to experience that."

"Your warning sense is your warning," Vader stated coolly, lowering his helmet toward him so that he looked as if he were scolding him.

"And I didn't follow their guidance, I know, I know," he grumbled, turning away from the relatively menacing sight of his unhappy father.

"You didn't believe them," the Dark Lord specified seriously. "Although you should know better than this now," he added.

"Yeah, I should," Luke agreed, feeling more like a child than a grown up man at the moment.

Just why, he wondered, did he always feel barely trained and intelligent when his father was around him? It wasn't because he didn't love the Sith embodiment; he greatly enjoyed the time they could spend together, no matter how frustrating it could sometimes get for him, but on the other hand... No matter what they were talking about or what he was doing... He constantly felt as if he were a ten-year-old kid instead of a man in his own rights... as well as a real Jedi Knight to boot.

The sound of shifting leather and fabric attracted his attention back to the here and now; he turned his head around and saw that his father had crouched down to be at eye level with him.

"Luke," Vader began in the voice that he only used when with his children, "no matter how old you will grow, you will always remain my son," he reminded him kindly. "As nature has it, this means that I will probably always have more experience than you do, but this doesn't mean that you can't teach me with your own."

"Really?" the youth inquired, raising an eyebrow in slight disbelief. "Like when?"

"Like when you taught me to not turn away my own children," his father explained as he warmly rested his big hand on his son's shoulder. "You lesson was, and still is much wiser and more mature than anything I can ever hope to achieve in the ways of the heart. Always remember that we all have our strengths and weaknesses," he finished thoughtfully.

"I suppose," Luke nodded, then rested his hand over his father's. "Thank you, Father. Thank you for being here," he added earnestly.

"I will always be there for you, my son," the Dark Lord promised him once again, then opened his barriers a bit and allowed his feelings of care to reach Luke.

Luke returned the sending with one of his own, then a silence ensued.

Chapter 3: The Trap

Eventually, Vader broke the silence. "Why did you want to see me, Son?" he inquired seriously.

"Huh?" Luke gaped slightly in answer.

"I believe that you came here to tell me about something," he reminded him teasingly, "not to test the temple and take a swim."

"Oh yeah, right, huh, well," the youth began in his naive way, as happened every time that he was thrown off-balance.

Vader himself considered that it was a strangely refreshing trait. No-one else trusted him so much as to act this way in his presence. However, he was aware that it was also a potential for much trouble for his son if someone learnt how to exploit his naivete.  Up to now, the boy's good judgment had kept him out of trouble, but for some reason, he could feel that soon, things might change.

As if to confirm his feelings, his son told him about a message that he had just Received, then about his decision to leave. It felt bad. Vader didn't have a vision, but his whole being was suddenly filled with anguish. "Are you sure you can trust the source of this message?" he inquired coolly.

"Well, no, but---"

"Then it might be some kind of ploy to pull you away from the safety of Yavin 4," the Dark Lord stated seriously. "You should not go," he advised, only meaning to show his son his worry about him; he utterly failed.

Luke took it the wrong way. "Why?" he defied instantly, "Because you don't think that I can defend myself if it isn't what I think it is?" the youth inquired indignantly. "I can take care of myself, Father," he reminded him with just a touch of animosity in his voice. "I've been receiving such messages for a while now and nothing happened."

"And what about the incident with Palpatine's Brigade on Coruscant?" Vader demanded sharply, his own temper awakened by his son's. Back then, he silently reminded his son, he himself had decided to assign permanent guards to his children.

"That was before I trained with the Noghris and you," his son countered in turn, getting back to his feet in growing irritation.

True, Vader conceded, the boy had grown quite efficient in defending himself from any kind of attacks, and he 'was' an accomplished Jedi Knight. However, his warning senses didn't want to shut up. "It still wouldn't be enough if they are prepared against you," he stated coldly as he too straightened up, aware that he would thus tower over the smaller youth.

Luke, who had been putting his dry shirt back on, sharply pulled on its hem to clear his head from the fabric, then glared defiantly at him. For a brief moment, the Dark Lord felt himself return to---- "You mean that they could be more prepared than that trap that you set for me on Bespin?"

"Yes." Vader answered calmly, sparing a second to not let the sting of that hated word, and memory-awakening stare, get to him once again.

"Really? How so? Back then," the youth continued with animosity, "I was barely trained and fought against you, who wanted nothing more than to turn me or kill me. I was not prepared and I made it through, and now that I am trained and simply leaving on a reconnaissance mission alone, you don't trust me to 'survive'?! Why, I----"

"Stop," the Sith ordered, his voice cold and threatening like when he was commanding thousands of men; the Jedi fell mute as if slapped in the face. "First, I never wanted to kill you. Never. If this had been the case on Bespin you would be dead, incinerated in the first room you set your foot into. Is that clear?"

Luke dumbly nodded.

"Good. Now, what I want you to understand is that if this is a trap, and for me it definitely feels like one, you might still be killed no matter how well you're prepared. For example, if you're blown up with the base you're in, your status as a Jedi will be of no help for you. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Luke nodded somberly. "Yes, I do. But I for one don't feel any danger," he informed him seriously. "I 'have' to save this girl, Father.  That's what I'm living for. Besides," he argued earnestly, "I simply can't run from any situation that seems to be a trap, it's paranoid. I'll end up being a hermit in some safe slump, like Master Yoda. It's not a life, or not 'my' life anyway."

"I still feel great danger coming for you," the Sith repeated while reluctantly accepting his son's words with a nod. "Don't go, Luke."

"I must," the boy answered after a moment of pondering. "I promise to you that I will be very cautious. I will consider everything before acting, but I know what I'm doing. The Force is with me on this one, Father, I know it."

"It is," the Dark Lord had to agree, "but the Force's purpose is not to defend your life, Luke. Always remember that." He paused, then took on a more conciliatory voice. "I'm asking you to reconsider."

Defiant blue eyes met darkened eye-screen as Luke pondered Vader's words once again. Finally, the Jedi shook his head; the Sith sighed in reluctant acceptance.

"I'm going," the boy stated, hooking his lightsaber back to his belt. "It's my duty. I merely came here to tell you that I left Kam in charge of the others while I'm absent, but I wouldn't mind if you'd also keep an eye on them."

"I will," the black-clad giant nodded slowly. "Take care, Son."

Luke nodded once, than turned and went away. Vader watched his leaving figure; he could see the violet cloud of danger hover around his son.

He did have faith in his son's abilities and powers, but he also knew better than to underestimate the enemy. Considering the signal that he kept having, he was really worried about the boy. In fact, he was so worried that for a brief moment, he considered knocking him out and erasing his memory of this whole thing..., but he didn't give in to this urge.

First and foremost, his son would never, ever forgive him when he'd find out, because clever as Luke was, Vader had no doubt that he would find out sooner or later, and second... He indeed couldn't hide him from danger forever.  Eventually, they would have to face the enemy if they wanted to defeat it.

Besides, he heartened himself, Luke was 'more' than capable to take care of himself. He had even defeated Noghris during his training, and he 'could' outdo him in duels when he himself could take defeat without having the urge to attack him afterward.

Everything would be well.


Hours later, still slightly disgruntled by his conversation with his father, Luke leaned back in the piloting seat of his long-range shuttle.

The dark lord was turning overprotective, he thought as he sighed in annoyance.  First, he had practically forced his hand into learning self-defense techniques worthy of an assassin, and now, he didn't even want to let him go in his Jedi missions anymore.

"I'm not a child anymore, Father," he said out loud. In fact, he was not even a mere rebel anymore.

Instead, he had completed his Jedi training, had even begun to surpass that level, according to his father's words. He was also nearly twenty-four years old, a grown man in every sense of the word.

Of course, he conceded that his father might feel the need to protect him to catch up with the years when he hadn't been there for him, but... it was too late to live those years.

They were both adults now, were both warriors and men of action. They both knew when they needed to take certain risks to reach their goals for the greater good.

Today, he himself had such a goal, even if it were directed at only one person.  The number didn't matter; it would be one more life saved, and a potential ally in the ongoing pursuit of galactic peace.

Even his well-intentioned father wouldn't have been able to keep him from going, he admitted to himself; it was something that he simply had to do. He could feel it.

Lord Vader scolding him for taking risks, he then thought with a wry smirk. Things had certainly changed a lot between them since they had 'truly' met with each other. Before then, he had never, ever even imagined what growing up with his father would have been like.

His images had always been nightmarish. Now however, he did wonder about this from time to time... and had to admit that it might not have been has bad as he had first thought.

"He would just have been very patronizing," he concluded with a note of humor.

Sighing in relaxation, Luke admitted to himself that he wasn't really angry at him, nor even really irritated. Just slightly miffed.

It certainly didn't compare to the only thing that still rose between them from time to time: the shadows of their traumatic past. While he quelled those thoughts once again, he suspected that it would take time to completely forget what had happened between them 'before' Emperor Vader.

Perhaps, he conceded, it would always remain; only time would tell.

He pondered this thought for the rest of his transit through hyperspace.

By the time that he reached Dantooine, he had cleared his mind of any thoughts concerning his father and their past; instead, he was focused on finding a way to free the young woman named Arica.

He brought his ship down in the atmosphere of the planet; even though the procedure was very easy for a pilot with his experience, he dimly wished that he had brought Artoo with himself to check the far gauges for him. However, this would have meant making a detour by his sister's location, and that would have delayed his arrival here. Since time was of the essence in the current situation, he had decided to go alone.

The triple-winged, lambda-class shuttle glided smoothly in the fresh, morning sky of Tinan. He was granted permission to land directly at the Correction House for Disturbed Youths.

Minutes later, he exited his shuttle and headed toward the young man who had come in to welcome him.

"Welcome, Jedi Skywalker. I'm Lee Shag, aid to the administrator of this complex. How may we help you?" the young man inquired directly.

Pleased that they would skip the boring formalities of usage, Luke also adopted a straight-to-the-point attitude; he shook the other's proffered hand. "Thank you, Mr. Shag. I received a message that I could help you with a young woman named Arica Jeel."

"Ah, this one," the other sneered in barely contained disgust. "I'm afraid that you'll be wasting your time with her, Jedi Skywalker. She's part of those individuals who should never see the light of a first day."

Stunned by the level of vehemence that was directed at the young girl, Luke worked hard to not let his composure falter thanks to his disagreement with such attitudes. "I'd still like to speak with her, if I may," he said seriously, locking his gaze with the other's.

The other flinched at the direct eye-contact--- and his reaction allowed Luke to feel a sudden tension in the man, which he hadn't noticed up to now. That tension then led him to the discovery of a very diffuse warning in the Force, but it was barely detectable by him.

He surmised that he simply had to keep his eyes open for someone to attack the girl if he managed to free her.

Meanwhile, the aid continued to ponder his request, then finally sighed and bowed his head in agreement. "Follow me, please."

"Thank you," Luke told the other as he followed him away from the landing pad.

At first they walked through spacious, well-maintained and clean corridors that obviously served for the workers of the center, but the further they walked, and the more the place became shabby, lacking in even basic maintenance rules and becoming very depressing.

Minutes later, and a few stairwells downward, the gray walls were visibly dripping with water and the air was thick with humidity, which made it cold around them. "Do you really keep troublesome children here?" he inquired in the silence while he scanned his surroundings to find the answer to his question.

------"Only exceptions," the aid answered shortly.

When Luke's scan came up dry except for one, Force-strong presence ahead of them, he understood that the girl had really managed to traumatize her community. "What has she done exactly?" he queried while he sent soothing thoughts to the distraught mind that was hovering closer and closer.

"You will see by yourself, Jedi Skywalker," came the enigmatic reply.

Finally, they reached the door.

The warning sense, which had been merely tingling the back of his mind, grew somewhat stronger while the aid keyed the door open; Luke decided to keep his eyes on him.

Instead of attacking the girl in the cell, as he had thought he would, Lee Shag merely stepped aside from the opening and wordlessly invited him to step inside.  "She's waiting for you," the other commented as he stepped through the opening.

At first, he didn't see anything through the gloom of the room. "Arica?" he called, taking a step further inside the room. His warning senses didn't grow in intensity. He took another step inside. "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to help---," he began to explain when the content of the room suddenly became visible.

A ship was berthed no less than twenty meters away from him----

"So gallant of you," a harsh, feminine voice commented from behind him--- then something impacted violently with his head.

He reeled down, tried to gather his strength, but the other was already upon him. The second hit to his head knocked his lights out.

Mara had barely finished her round-house kick when she lifted her leg again and brought her hard, booted heel down on Skywalker's neck.

The Jedi fell to the wet ground, unconscious.

Satisfied with her fast results, she turned toward the man who had tried to shoo the Jedi away from her. "You're lucky that he is as naive as he is, Shag," she snarled at him. "Had you managed to make him leave, I would have personally made your last days a living nightmare."

The man swallowed hard in fear, then took a step away from the dangerous red- head. "But now it's over, right?" he asked her hopefully. "I fulfilled my end of the deal; you will leave my family and myself alone now?"

Mara answered him with a silent glare, pondering the traitor's fate. Lee Shag had been one of the Emperor's minor aids, and she would have dismissed him as unimportant if not for one detail: Shag had been with the Emperor when his final throes of agony had hit him... and he had fled away instead of giving the medical alarm.

He had doomed her master to an early death.

If only for this, he deserved to fear punishment for the rest of his life, but she tempered herself as her cool gaze landed on the sprawled form of her prisoner; she had a much bigger fish to play with now.

"You are pathetic, Shag," she sneered in disgust. "Get lost before I change my mind and personally finish you."

The other didn't need to be told twice; he literally fled away from her.

She closed the door of the disaffected landing pad, then pulled a dart thrower from her utility belt and aimed it at her unconscious prisoner. "Horrible nightmares, Jedi," she commented sarcastically, then shot the unconscious man.

By the time she had transferred him in her shuttle, the drug had kicked in and had begun to torment her prisoner's spirit.

As she watched him caught in mental torment, she smiled wickedly at the thought of how sweet her revenge would be.

Sweet, and long.

Kam Solusar approached the Sith temple most warily.

He crossed the ring of water and stopped immediately when he perceived the first warning. Everything was silent and still. He looked at the white walls of the temple and felt as if he was looked at.

Somehow, he had the feeling that the large structure, with its intricate, fine carvings, was studying him, judging him.

"I'd like to speak to Lord Vader," he said to the temple. "Please," he added as if in afterthought.

He then reflected that he ought to feel foolish, standing like this, speaking to the wall. However it felt right, as the most natural thing in the world.   Something around him changed. Something in the air, in the white walls told him to wait.

"I'll wait as long as I need to," Kam assured the warm air.

Then he waited.

Since he didn't dare meditate in such strange environment, he just stood there, listening to the jungle and to his own very confusing thoughts.

Half an hour later, Vader finally emerged from the temple.

"You wanted to speak with me, Jedi Solusar?" he inquired as he walked closer.

Kam bowed at little. "Yes, my Lord."

"Then lets go to the neutral territory."

They crossed the ring of water, then approached a fallen tree; Vader sat down on it and made a gesture to Kam to imitate him. The Jedi assented.

"What do you wish to speak about?" he prompted him without detour.

"Luke left me in charge of the other students, and I'm concerned for their safety... with you," he admitted seriously.

"As long as they don't attack me, they have nothing to fear," Vader reassured the other. "I'm surprised that Luke didn't tell you that."

"Oh, he did, but I didn't mean their physical safety, my Lord," he explained more bravely. "I'm concerned about the Dark side... and the Sith's teachings."

"Because a forbidden fruit is the most appealing of the lot?" Vader offered suavely.

"Yes. Something like that," the newly-promoted Jedi agreed uneasily.

"You are afraid that I will teach them the ways of the Sith then," the Dark Lord commented seriously.

"Won't you?" the Jedi gaped uncertainly.

Vader chuckled. "No. I'll never 'corrupt' your Jedi trainees."

Kam sighed in relief at this.

"However," Vader added seriously, "should one of them refuse his status as a Jedi and come to me desiring to be a Sith, we will see. The Sith aren't always linked with the Dark side."

"Perhaps, but I'd prefer if this never happened," Kam commented coolly. "I'm sure that some of my charges will come to you, if only per curiosity... and I doubt that Luke would approve of this procedure. Please," he then said beseechingly, "I beg you ,my Lord, don't play with them, don't confuse them."

Vader reassured him coolly. "Rest assured, Jedi Solusar, I will not play with them."

"Thank you," Kam replied gratefully, then rose from his seat and bowed his head in respect. "Have a nice evening, my Lord."

Vader looked at his retreating figure smiling under his mask. This kind of small, almost pointless conversation, amused him greatly. The mix of distrust, fear, remnants of ancient hate, growing respect and need to trust in young Solusar was astonishing. His faith in his son as a good teacher was also undeniable.

However, just like his son was naive, so was Solusar. This new Jedi hadn't even understood that Vader hadn't, in fact, promised anything. To him, the definition of 'playing' and 'confusing' were blurry enough to allow any interpretation.

Further more, the Solusar boy had apparently not realized that he had been the first of Luke's trainees to come to him out of curiosity about the "forbidden fruit".

Not that he intended to convert Kam or any of the trainees to the ways of the Sith, Vader admitted to himself, but after the meeting with Exar Kun he 'did' intend to teach them a lesson in judgement and trust.

And despite what Solusar had said about his son's reaction to his plans, he 'knew' that Luke would not disapprove his strengthening their minds.

Well, he decided, Kam Solular would be the first to learn then.

That night, Vader was awakened by an acute feeling of danger. It was so strong that it was almost painful, even to him who was used to live with pain on a daily basis. Focusing his mind, he hastily scanned the temple, the nearby area... and found nothing.

The temple was silent and peaceful; no danger was present around him nor in the proximity. No intruder either, he then confirmed as he searched for Sith energies. Kun's presence was calm, the so called Sith-lord apparently deep in meditation. At the Jedi Academy, Luke's trainees were asleep, and no danger were threatening them either.

However, the painful feeling didn't disappear; if anything it grew stronger.

Belatedly, he understood where it was coming from.


Something was happening to Luke.

Cursing in Huttese, then a few other languages, Vader hurried to assume the meditative posture, then tried to reach his son through the bond that they shared.

What he felt froze his blood in what remained of his true veins.

Nothing. Black, cold nothing, as if Luke didn't exist anymore.

No, he countered quickly, his son was still alive. He could feel it. "Kreth," he cursed again. Luke had definitely done it this time.

Aware that the current situation left him only one option to contact his son, the dark lord considered it long and hard. He was very reluctant to use it : this technique was very dangerous for his mind, and left him very vulnerable to any attack. Yet he had no other choice to help his son.

Sighing, he touched the Circle... and stepped into the dream world.

"... I'll never join you, never, never!!!" Luke's voice rang loud, frightened, desperate.

Gray steel parapet, wind swirling around him and Luke--- battered, exhausted, gripping the steel handle that was just before him, his right hand hidden under his left armpit...

Bespin, Vader recognized.

Every single road led him back to Bespin.

The memory of Bespin, he then corrected as he noticed that the walls of the shaft around him were blurry as if they were a pencil sketch compared to the clean definition of his son and himself.  "...Please, please, don't advance, don't, I don't want to die again, please!" the youth begged desperately.

Again?, Vader frowned in confusion. He looked into Luke's eyes--- and felt his blood freeze completely in his veins as he saw an infinity of Bespins, the very same scene repeating itself over and over, only ending with his son's death thousands miles below when the Falcon failed to show up to save him.

In this world of nightmares he and his son were alone.

"Luke..." he called tentatively, taking a step forward.

"Don't come any closer!!" the horrified child begged, trying to walk away from him even though he didn't have anywhere else to go.

"I won't," Vader reassured him hastily, stilling in his tracks. "Don't move. I will stay where I am, all right?"

"Y-yes..." Luke quivered like a leaf on the wind. "S-stay were you are..."

"Luke, do you know who I am?"

"My demon. My tormentor," the youth answered, burying his face against his arms to hide his tears.

"I'm your father," Vader reminded him.

"Yes. My demon father..."

"Do you know why I am here?" he tried to ask him, to pierce through the veil of nightmares.

"To take me to Hell. To make me a demon like you. To hurt me."

"Luke..." Vader tried to object.

"Whatever you say, I don't believe you, I don't!" the youth interrupted, recovering his more defiant, if no less frightened composure.

"Luke, you're in a nightmare," he informed him seriously.

"Yes... I'm in Hell, but I won't became a demon, I won't!"

"Luke," he interrupted him more seriously. "I'm here to end it."

"I don't believe you," the youth stated.

"I'm here to help you," Vader tried again.

"I don't believe you."

"Luke..." Vader extended his arm to his son, and Luke's eyes widened in fear.

"Don't! Or I will jump!" he threatened, looking behind himself, as if to add weight to his words.

"All right...," the dark lord reluctantly subsided. "But try to remember, Luke, try to remember."

"Remember what?" the boy sobbed, obviously at the end of his rope.

"Us," Vader said--- and touched his son's memories, or at least tried to touch them for they were protected by a stone wall.

"I remember nothing!" the youth retorted vehemently.

Vader sighed. Luke was apparently trapped in some sort of artificially created nightmare. Anything that could allow his escape was blocked.

Anything? he wondered as an idea came to him. He knew that it was dangerous since it left him open for any attack, but he couldn't think of any other solution, and Luke's safety was his prime priority.

"Listen to me," he began seriously ---- and dropped his shields, all of them.

His feeling and memories flowed into Luke's mind, overflowing the nightmare, Shattering the wall that had been protecting his son's memories.

The vision of Bespin disappeared, as if an holovid had just been shut down.

Luke cried as he fell in darkness, but the darkness caught him, and held him. "Father?" he asked, exhausted.

"Son," Vader replied as he hugged him. "What happened?"

"I don't really know..." the Jedi half-whispered as he held his father as if for dear life. "I came in the cell were the girl was... But there was a ship... and a voice..."

He remembered a voice, the harsh tones, the cruel undercurrent- and heard his father's undertake of breath.

"Jade..." the other rumbled in sudden understanding.

"Jade?" the young Jedi frowned even as his confused memories brought him back to a certain day when his father had introduced him, Leia and Han to his new problems with a Palpatine Brigade.

"Yes," Vader nodded in agreement, "you have been caught by the Emperor's Hand, Mara Jade. It 'was' a trap after all," he mused out loud. "I wonder what she wants."

"I have the bad feeling that I will find out soon enough" Luke shuddered in worry, then he suddenly became aware of the strangeness of their situation.  "Where are we?"

"In your dream."

"My..?" he gaped in disbelief.

"It's a technique of the Circle that allows us to enter a dreaming mind.  It's very tiring to you, so I have to depart soon," Vader explained. "I couldn't feel you through the Force, so I suppose that wherever you are, the Force flow there is blocked. I don't think that you have to fear for your life for now..."

"Because I'm still alive," the boy reflected wisely.

"Exactly," Vader nodded in agreement. "Be strong, and don't believe anything that she says. Remember that she is very dangerous, and wait for us. I'll contact Leia immediately."

"All right. Will you visit again?" Luke asked him, reluctant to let him go.

"Yes, soon. By the way, I allowed myself to add a defense for your mind," he informed his son. "You won't have anymore nightmares."

Luke smiled tiredly. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. I'm going now, and you will sleep without dreams for as long as you need to recover."

"Thank you," Luke repeated, his mind already shutting down to rest. "Good night."

"Good night," Vader said and stepped out from Luke's mind---- and into in his own body.

He slowly stood from his seat on his bunk; his body was exhausted. The so called "dream walk" had taken a lot of his energies.

He slowly approached the portable communicator that he had taken from the shuttle exactly for this kind of emergencies.

The call to the Palace took a long time to be processed; he had to type three different access codes just to connect to Leia's visual communicator.

The call was finally answered by Leia's aide and friend: Winter.

"My Lord, " she answered calmly, "Her Highness is in a meeting."

Upon hearing this, Vader made a quick calculation. It was indeed the middle of the day on Coruscant.

"It's an emergency," he said. "Get her out of there."

"But my Lord..."

"Now," Vader stated. "It's an order, Winter."

"Yes, my Lord." she frowned but obeyed.

About fifteen minutes later, Leia's angry face showed up on the screen. "Father, I hope that this is---"

"Luke has been kidnapped," he informed her simply.

Leia blinked. "What?!"

"He received a message to help a Force-sensitive girl named Arica Jeel in quadrant 869-54, in the city of Tinan."

"And he went, straight into a trap."

"Obviously," the dark lord nodded somberly. If Luke was naive, Leia was sometimes too wary for her own good, but in this case, her wariness would have served Luke right.

"And you let him go?!" she suddenly asked him in disbelief.

"My dear, remember that we are speaking about your brother," he reminded her humorlessly.

"Whom not even a lightsaber duel would have kept from going, I know," she sighed in understanding. "What do you know about this?"

"It seems that Arica Jeel is in fact Mara Jade."

"The Mara Jade? The Emperor's Hand?"

"Yes. I have no doubt that she's taking Luke to the main base of Palpatine's Brigade."

"Damn," Leia cursed. "Damn, damn, damn. We've got to recover him," she finally commented more coherently, determination shining in her hazel-brown eyes. "When will you return to Coruscant?"

He sadly shook his head. "I can't leave Yavin 4 now," he informed her somewhat glumly. "Luke asked me to keep an eye on the trainees."

"What?! But, Father, I can't do that..."

"Leia, I can't leave," he stated again. "Exar Kun, the Sith Lord, is here and looking for trouble."

"The spirit of..." the young, beautiful woman froze in understanding.


"Kreth, this can't get any worse," Leia commented angrily. "Sith, What a mess!"

"Indeed," the dark lord nodded, smirking slightly at his daughter's choice of curses.

"Ooooops, sorry, Father," she apologized quickly. "Old habits... All right, I'll get our teams to track Palpatine's Brigade down. You take care of the Sith Lord. Hopefully, everything will be settled before I can't see my toes anymore," she sighed in acceptance.

Now it was the Dark lord's turn to frown in confusion. "What do you mean? Are you all right?" he inquired, his worry shifting from one child to another.

"Ah, yes, it's just...," she began, as if searching for an explanation, then shrugged. "I'm pregnant."

"Pregnant?" the dark lord gasped, the news having caught him like a hit in the stomach.

"I'm expecting twins, a boy and a girl," Leia revealed in more details. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you before, Father, but I didn't know how you'd take it, and... well, Luke wasn't supposed to disappear," she smirked slightly at the screen before a shrill call came from her end of the line. "Gotta go!  I'll find Luke, Father, I promise," she said, then cut the transmission.

Vader continued to stare at the blackened screen long after even his line with Coruscant was interrupted on his end. His mind slowly processed the last information that he had just been given...

And then, at last he laughed, something that he hadn't done for eons.

Or so it seemed.

Chapter 4: Mara Jade

Aboard the Jedi Hunter, Mara Jade once again turned her head toward the back of the ship where her prisoner was securely tied and going through nightmare after nightmare.

Or was at least supposed to, she frowned as she failed yet again to hear a moan or even a whimper of pain. She listened attentively for a whole minute, then, when no sound came from her sleeping prisoner, decided to check on him.

Was he already awake?, she wondered angrily. The drug that she had used had been supposed to keep him under for the whole duration of the transit back to her base.

Unless, she thought in growing frustration, the man who had sold it to her had lied to her. If it were the case, she growled in frustration, then that man would experience his own medecine before learning to never cross her ever again.

Definitely angered now, she stepped inside the holding compartment of the ship.  The Jedi was still in middle of the small room, his wrists locked in chains that kept his hands high above his head; he was thus dangling from the ceiling while his feet were locked to the deck. His head was also slumped forward.

In short, he looked exactly like when she had left him to his torment, almost twenty-four hours ago.

However, unlike when she had locked him up, she could see that he wasn't caught in the throes of nightmares anymore. Instead, he was sleeping as peacefully as if he were in a bed, far away from danger. Furious that the Jedi would not suffer even a little from his predicament, she considered giving him another shot of the nightmare-driving drug, then reconsidered the time that she had left in transit.

She slapped him hard in the face... and failed to wake him up.

Fuming mad, she moved to hit him harder--- when an idea came to her. Leaving her prisoner's side for a few seconds, she returned with a large bucket that she had just filled with cold water.

Grinning wickedly at her mean plan, she balanced her load so that she was aiming at the Jedi's face... then emptied the bucket toward him.

His reaction was everything that she had hoped for; he awoke with a gasp even as he tried to catch his breath from the near-drowning experience that she had just bestowed on him.

"Wakey, wakey, Skywalker" she sneered at him, pleased by the grimace of pain that he made the moment he recovered from his shocked awakening. She suspected that his shoulders were already tormenting him, and she admitted that rather liked that idea.

"Jade," he moaned, then shook his head as if to clear it from the remnants of his drugged sleep. "What do you want?"

"So you know who I am," she commented, surprised that he knew this much about her already. "Your dear father, most certainly," she sneered next in disdain.  "As for what I want," she began, then took a step closer to him before she gripped the hair at the nape of his neck and forced his head backward until he would meet her hatred-filled glare----

Skywalker did not have any other choice but to meet her green, hatred-filled gaze... but so did she his blue one...

As she stood less than an inch away from the son of the man who had betrayed her master, Mara forgot completely what she had been about to tell the other.

Instead, she lost herself in the blue, unexpectedly gentle if defiant eyes of her dripping-wet prisoner. As she gazed in them, she saw the pain that she had inflicted upon him through his nightmares, the pain that he was currently feeling thanks to his predicament... but also, and that greatly surprised her, the compassion that he felt for her.

Compassion?!? she suddenly stopped on her thoughts. Who was he to take pity of her??? She wasn't weak, nor did she need Skywalker's sickening, softy feelings to feel better----

Recovering her colder edge, she viciously twisted her grip on his wet hair, pulling another grimace from him before she leaned closer to him, as if daring him to care for her again. "I think that you know what I want, Vader," she spat. "Or is his real name Skywalker?"

To her utter bafflement, her prisoner answered her mean taunt. "My father's name is Darth Vader, my own name is Skywalker. I am not a Sith devotee," he finished, clenching his teeth against a groan of complaint as she added weight on his arms by pulling him down via her grip on him.

"Ah yes, the righteous, holier-than-thou Jedi master," she sneered at him, then let go of him. "So tell me, 'Jedi', was it you or your father who poisoned the Emperor?"

When the man gaped as if caught red-handed, she felt her victory bubble up inside herself at the thought that she had been right, but the man's answer kept it from going much higher than her guts.

"We didn't poison him," the Jedi shook his head, locking his eyes on hers once again. "The Emperor made a mistake during one of his Force uses; the Dark Side consumed him completely, his sanity included."

Outraged by the preposterous lies of her captive, Mara lashed out at him and hit him once again in the face; this time, he felt the impact and reeled from it.

"I can understand that you might want to protect your skin, or your father's," she warned him as she gripped his jaw and forced him to look at her once again.

And once again, those dripping-wet, boyish features and eyes affected her in a way that she had never even suspected could be possible. Strangely, she felt bad about hitting him, then dismissed her thought as completely insane.

"But if you lack to show respect to the Emperor even once," she tried to warn him vehemently, "I will personally teach you to think of other lies if you want to hide the truth that your father planned the demise of our master," she spat in disgust before letting go of him.

The more she was gazing at him, and the more she was beginning to believe his earnest lies. Somehow, she could... feel... that he wasn't lying.

Even if they were currently in an ysalamiri bubble, cut away from the Force.

Luke nodded to reassure the furious, surprisingly beautiful woman, then shook his head to recover from his latest daze. She had quite a temper as well as had a strong right hook.

He wasn't interested to be on its receiving end once again.

"I'm sorry," he began, thinking furiously about how he would be able to perhaps break through to her and save her from her own lies and misconceptions. "It was inconsiderate of me. However, the fact remains that neither Father nor me took any actions against your master."

He reflexively cringed when the strikingly beautiful woman turned once again toward him. "And what about the secret treaty that made Vader the next Emperor?" she growled, crossing her arms across her chest in challenge.

Luke sighed inwardly at this; at least, she did not mean to hit him again. "Father knew that the Emperor's health was failing and that," he swallowed hard, aware that his next word could be taken as disrespect once again. "because of the particularities of his physical sickness, he couldn't oversee the Empire properly----"

A renewed grip in his hair made him shut up.

"If I didn't want to save the best for last, Skywalker," she whispered angrily, her eyes ablaze with fury, "I'd show you that what you experienced at your father's hand is nothing compared to what a true imperial can do."

Even though Luke knew that the woman's reaction was simply reflexive denial of the truth, he couldn't help but gasp in fear as memories of what had happened between his father and himself 'before' came back to him.

"Oh yes," the other smiled meanly, obviously aware that she had hit a sensitive chord in him. "I know what he did to you, how he caused you more pain than you ever thought possible," she tormented him, stepping away to circle around him as if studying him. "Did you know that he knew that you were his son back then?" she taunted him.

Even though Luke tried to counter the woman's attempts to make him distrust his father with his more recent memories of his father risking everything to reach him less than a few hours ago, the present moment took prescience in his mind.

He listened to her.

"Did you know that he didn't feel any remorse when he returned with your hand and lightsaber as a trophy?"

"No, that's not true," he tried to deny. "Father didn't---"

"Did you know that he had vouched to kill you if you didn't turn? Quite a father, don't you think?" the red-head commented mock-suavely as she finished her walk around him. "Did you know that before you contacted him, oh yes, I know all about this too," she smiled as she noticed his gaping mouth. "Did you know that before this alliance of yours, he had been ready to sacrifice you, and your sister, if it meant destroying rebel ships that were attacking the Empire?"

Luke wanted to deny the mean assumptions, wanted to prove the woman wrong, and yet... he knew that everything that she had said was true. He had seen it for himself in his father's memories, had even talked about this with him.

He jerked away from Jade's touch when she ran her hand in his hair as if in comfort.

"Poor little Skywalker," she mock-soothed, "thought you knew your father, didn't you? Well, surprise, it's Darth Vader, always was... always will be," she finished with an ominous smirk before she turned her back to him.

"You're wrong," he finally half-whispered, his voice catching in his throat thanks to his strong emotions.

"Perhaps, but you will be in the first row seats to find out if I'm right or wrong, Jedi," she commented as she returned with a syringe in her hand.

Luke, who hated needles, tried to draw away from the approaching woman; given his predicament, he could only wriggle like a fish on a hook.

"Consider this as a gift from a father who didn't want to hurt his son... much.  However, he still wanted to convince you to join his side," she said as she stilled him against herself and injected him in the arm.

As their eyes met once again, Luke saw the anger and hatred that the woman literally nurtured toward his father, himself and his sister, but most important, he saw an undercurrent of constant pain.

Her pain was so acute that he realized that the woman simply felt driven to pass it on to the people whom she considered responsible for it. She especially considered his family responsible for it.

As if aware that he was studying her, she first glared at him, then smirked meanly as another idea obviously crossed her mind. "Here, you're all wet; let me help you out of those," she commented mock-suavely, then took hold of his shirt's collar and ripped it up.

Since the fabric was drenched, it was a matter of seconds before he was hanging there in nothing but his trousers. He shivered slightly as the cold air of the compartment assailed his damp skin.

"Now I'll dry it up for you," she said mock-gently. "You stay here and... suffer," she finished, her voice going back to its previous, bitter intonations.

She left him alone once again, dropping his rags on her way out. Luke tracked her with his eyes for as long as saw her, then craned his head backward and tried to ease the slight pain that he felt in the neck.

Man, she had hit him good on Dantooine, he admitted as he gently swayed his head from left to right to rub the abused tissues as best as he could. He then righted his position once again, studied the slight bleeding of his arm where the other had injected him, then focused higher up to see what kind of restraints that she was using on him.

He sadly recognized the Jedi-proof restraints that his father had told him about. he then noticed that they were set on high which meant that if he, somehow, recovered the ability to use the Force...

He suddenly paused as he felt a strange, slightly painful sensation build around his spine and neck. What was the drug that she had used on him this time, he wondered, and how...

The more he pondered, and the more acute the sensation grew until he really felt as if his shoulders were slowly burning...

Belatedly, he understood what had been introduced in his system: one of the pain-enhancing drugs that the Empire was so fond of.

Shortly after, he could only bite his tongue and lips to not scream. He did not want to satisfy Jade.

Two hours later, Skywalker's sounds of torment were beginning to ebb as the drug wore itself out of his system. For a brief moment, Mara considered shooting him once again, using the occasion to tell him that his father had tailored that drug to his DNA, then changed her mind after checking the chrono. They were less than an hour away from their destination.

However, she decided to not let the Jedi get any rest until she chose to, preferably when the time would be right to kill him, although...

Throughout the past hours, she had had flashes of what she had uncovered when she had ripped Skywalker's shirt off from his body. Given his choice of clothes, she had always assumed that he had been, like his father, slightly more corpulent than he should, but in fact, she had seen for herself that the young man was definitely what one could call athletic.

She had even felt what that body was like when pressed against her own, and, combined with the still puzzling effect of his eyes on her, she had to admit that she wasn't completely sure anymore if she wanted to kill him or not.

There was no doubt in her mind that she would shove Vader and Organa Solo out of her way, but the young man... was quickly becoming another matter.

For one thing, he hadn't attacked her, hadn't even insulted her when she had sneered at him, then he had even apologized about his lack of respect for the Emperor.

Then, when she had shot him, he had obviously been afraid, yet hadn't tried to even hit her with his head... although he could have done so. Perhaps he hadn't hurt himself for something he knew was unavoidable, she reflected seriously, but perhaps it had simply been because he hadn't wanted to hurt her anymore than he, or his father, or the two of them, had done already.

But that was preposterous, completely ridiculous, she scolded herself as she headed for the medwing and retrieved an adrenaline shot. Still, there, outside of the ysalamiri bubble, it definitely felt... true.

Shaking her head to rid herself of any thoughts that would gravely alter her devotion to the avenging of her master's dream, she headed toward the back of the ship.

There, she paused in the entrance, watching the Jedi as he writhed slightly thanks to the drug's subdued assaults on his nerve system. Since he was bare torso, she saw every detail of his moving muscles as they shifted in feeble attempts to escape his torment.

Somehow, she thought dimly, the sheen of sweat that was now covering his tanned, scarred flesh was making his half-naked sight even more captivating than when she had first uncovered him.

In short, she finally, reluctantly admitted, she had never seen a man that looked anything like her prisoner looked, not even in her own group of well- muscled, strong mercenaries.

The others simply didn't have Skywalker's boyish look to accompany their strong body, and, she added as she walked closer to the man, none of them were as slight as the other was while well-proportioned.

Slowly, but surely, she realized that he was beginning to captivate her with his unique physical characteristic.

Perhaps keeping him alive would serve her better than to kill him to, she then admitted with a shrug of her shoulders before she lightly slapped him on the cheek. She wanted to wake him up from his trance-like state.

Luke didn't know how much time had gone by him; he only knew that his pain was slowly returning to more bearable levels, leaving him utterly exhausted and yearning for sleep.

With his returning awareness though came one question: had his father truly planned to use this on him? Would he have been cruel enough to---

Slight stings on his right, aching cheek forced him awake, then his eyes flew open as he felt the all-too-well remembered sting of an injection in his right arm.

"Please," he begged, trying to draw away from the other's syringe.

"It's too early to go to bed, Jedi," his tormentor commented as she emptied her syringe in his arm, then stepped away from him as if to leave.

"Mara," he called, feeling his pain return as his senses became more and more awake.

To his surprise, the beautiful assassin turned back toward him. Not for the first time since he had awakened in her grip, he dimly reflected that she was truly mesmerizing.  He couldn't help but like her physical features, but he naturally rebuked himself every time that he caught himself.

"I know that you won't believe whatever I will say... that--- ahh," he gasped as his shoulders burned anew, "you will not stop until you have avenged what you feel my father took from the Emperor, but," he continued, gathering his resolve to see this through before his burning shoulders required all his attention once again, "I want you to know that I'm sorry that you had to suffer from the change in the Empire. I truly am," he finished, then clenched his teeth even as he tried to shift his position and alleviate the weight of his body on his shoulders and neck.

For a moment or two, the young woman didn't answer him, watching him as the shot of adrenaline kept him from falling asleep, then she shrugged her shoulders; her loosened hair shone under the light, offering him a very brief respite in the form of a beautiful sight before painful reality caught up with him once again.

"You really are a softie, Skywalker," she sneered at him in disgust. "Looks like I had pegged you right as your father's weakest point."

Luke closed his eyes and groaned in annoyance and pain as his attempt to open the dialogue with his captor failed once again; he heard her booted feet walk away from him until he was once again alone with his aching body... and the strange thoughts that he was beginning to have in regards of the dangerous young woman who had caught him.

His father had told him about the Emperor's Hand. He had never revealed her name before now, except for 'Jade', but he had told her about a top field agent/assassin who had been reported missing as soon as the secret treaty had been signed. From this day on, his father had received constant threats from the red-head woman, and he had even had to deal with a few attacks against his personal, private places throughout the galaxy. From the start, the woman had identified herself as a vicious, personal enemy to not underestimate.

Unfortunately, by the time Vader had been ready to go after her, Leia's disappearance had come up and his father had had to change his priorities while still monitoring the dangerous woman and her growing group of pro-Palpatine mercenaries.

Then, when the Emperor had truly died, and that he and his sister had become known to the imperial world, they had both begun to receive threat letters from the faction. Eventually, they had even attacked them,... and especially him.As always, the enemy had come through as a very dangerous one.

Back then, he had thought that the attacks had taken place to get to him, and his father, but now that he was thinking about it, he realized that it had been a way from Mara to size him up and plan the surest way to capture him. Far from Coruscant and without arousing suspicions seemed to be the answer that she had found; he groaned as his shoulders complained yet again against his weight.

Hence, he summarized as he tried to expel his breath without moaning too loudly, he now knew from first-hand experience that she was, indeed, a very dangerous woman and should not be trifled with.

Still, he frowned worriedly, his warning senses hadn't reacted in their customary ways in Tinan. Normally, they never failed him when such dangerous enemy was lurking around. Considering the deadly reputation of the woman, he should, by all rights, have felt a definite warning through the Force while he had been approaching her location, and yet, except for a diffuse, almost non- existent tug on his mind to merely be careful... Nothing.

What he had felt in Tinan couldn't even compare with the strong warning that he had felt when he had been about to enter his father's chosen temple, and yet, the woman wanted to kill him whereas the temple would have merely injured him.

Could the Force be lying to him, or hiding the truth from him?, he wondered uneasily. Or was it that he was, in fact, in less danger than they all thought?  True, he conceded, the red-haired woman was hurting him, and leaving him to slowly freeze in the cold air of the ship, but...

She could also do much worse than what she had done, he conceded seriously. No matter what she said about his father, or about saving the more serious challenges for later on, he knew that, were she cold-hearted, he would already be a sight. Instead, he was bruised in the face, cold, and his shoulders and neck ached as if they were ready to burn through his skin, but otherwise... he was relatively well.

In a way, he was in even better shape than when he had dueled against his father... who had known that they were relatives. Back then, the dark lord had been vicious, had not 'cared' much about him, but Mara, who had no relationship with him and was claiming that she would kill him...

That Mara was not harming him anymore than she had to... in order to keep up appearances!, he suddenly gaped as he forced his head up to look in the direction of the cockpit.

There was goodness in the beautiful assassin, he realized even as he understood why his senses had somewhat 'failed' him in Tinan. If he didn't give up and showed her compassion, he might just save her from the persisting grip of the Emperor as well as the lies in which he had wrapped the young woman's soul.

Even though his father hadn't told him much about the young woman, he had told him about how she had been stolen from her parents when still a toddler and how the Emperor had 'molded' her into his secret weapon.

His father, who had always been free of the Emperor's lies, had witnessed how the older dark Jedi had manipulated the pliable mind with lies of different importance until she hadn't known anything but what the Emperor had told her.

And if he had told her, during some secret encounter, that he had been poisoned by Vader, then the poor woman would believe him to her grave... Unless he could help her, he decided.

If only to free one more person from the grip of the Dark Side and its destructive, pain-generating emotions, he would do it, he promised himself.

He then admitted to himself that part of his motivation was the strange interest that he was quickly developing for the woman; she was even more beautiful than on the grainy holo that his father had shown him when he had wanted him and his sister to learn to identify the woman if they ever ran into her.

Now, he sighed in brief dreaming, he would never forget her striking features.

Up front, Mara equally sighed as she tried in vain to rid her mind of the afterimage of Skywalker's half-clothed sight. Going back in there had been a very bad idea, she finally rebuked herself as she leaned forward and tried to focus on their upcoming arrival.

Not only had his body showed more to her scrutiny than she had ever expected to see from the man, but the nature of what she had seen had also greatly surprised her. Then, as if it hadn't been enough, he had had to apologize to her.

Even though she had affected the cold, uncaring attitude with him, he had, in fact, gotten through to her. She had seen how truthful he had been about this; she had really believed him.

While she had heard about how the boy wasn't anything like the father she knew very well, she still hadn't expected him to be 'that' different. She could understand why he would be, for example, defiant while not insulting, or even begging for mercy instead of trying to attack her, but... to apologize, and even wish that he could have saved her pain...

If anyone had ever told her that Skywalker would be like this, she wouldn't have believed him and punished him for wasting her time. However, here she was, faced with that very type of man...

She simply didn't know how to deal with him anymore.

On the one hand, she knew that she would not expose herself to his sight anymore than necessary, and certainly not before recovering her cooler edge, but on the other hand, no matter what she would try while in his presence, his obvious kindness would undoubtedly affect her... make her reconsider the fate that she had planned for the young man.

One thing was sure though, she reminded herself as she brought her ship out of hyperspace: she was not giving him back to his father anytime soon.

The loss of such a gentle being would probably hurt him more than anything she could ever devise against him.

Through the viewport, the lines shrank back to the shape of far away stars and the sight of her destination: the asteroid field of the Hoth system.

Chapter 5: Searching

On Coruscant, Leia had to consciously keep herself from biting her nails as she listened to the reports of the fleet officers. Jade's group hadn't been found yet.

"Sadly, Madam," an imperial admiral was saying, "we haven't been able to locate them anywhere in the Cauldron Nebula quadrant. We left probe droids to monitor the area."

Negative, like every other report that she had received so far, she sighed inwardly. Beside her, Han shook his head and threw a gaze at the nearby galactic hologram.

"Where in Hell can they be?" he grumbled while she thanked the officer for his help and agreed with his new destination. The moment that he closed the transmission, general Antilles from the Rebel Alliance reported in.

"I'm sorry, Leia," he apologized sadly, in turn. "We went to Dantooine and found someone who confirmed to us that Mara Jade had threatened him to help her or else go after his family, but even 'he' didn't know where she is hiding."

"Are you sure, Wedge?" she asked him, feeling both her hope and worry surge at the news that they had, at last, a contact with someone who was related to her.

"Unfortunately," the Corellian general shook his head. "We ran him through a truth-serum session," he paused, giving her time to process this new information. "He didn't know anything. He was chosen by her because he had been present in the Emperor's quarters when he died. The psychologists' verdict was unanimous: he's not who we're looking for."

"Darn it! They're not ghosts!" she suddenly exclaimed out loud in frustration and growing worry about her brother. "The Empire could locate us Rebels anywhere we tried to hide from them," she then sternly reminded her friend.  "Surely we can do it again to find the new 'rebels'."

"I'm sorry, Leia," her friend tried to comfort her. "You know that I want to save Luke from that witch's claws as much as you want. In spite of what happened since Hoth, he is still my friend."

"I know, Wedge, I know," she apologized in turn, then rubbed her cheek dry. A tear that escaped her control. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be taking this out on you." She took a deep breath, trying to recover her composure. "What are your next plans?" she finally inquired, self-assured once again.

"I think I'll take my ship to the Hoth system," the other answered seriously.  "This area of the galaxy is filled with perfect hiding places."

"Make sure to check the asteroid field," Han spoke up, sharing his ideas for the first time in minutes. "We once hid in a large rock in there. Perhaps Jade also knows about this trick and is pulling it on us."

The Hoth system?, Leia mused even as she felt a strange, tingly feeling at the nape of her neck. "How far are you from it?" she asked her friend as a strange confidence slowly replaced her worry.

"Five days, even at top lightspeed," her friend informed her grimly. "I'll keep you informed," he promised her as her composure faltered once again. "Take care of yourselves and don't worry, we'll find them."

"Thanks Wedge," Leia smiled faintly, sadly. Her hopes had vanished just as fast as they had appeared. "Be careful out there."

"We will. Gold team out."

Leia and Han remained silent after this, pondering their respective thoughts.

"Could it be this simple?" her husband finally inquired from her side before he programmed a request in the hologram's controls. Twenty meters ahead of them, in the middle of the huge holographic projector, the asteroid field of Hoth appeared, larger than its initial size. "Could they be hiding almost right under our noses."

"Even if they were," Leia replied glumly, "we're nowhere near this place. So much can happen within five days...," she then commented as she studied the tactical display--- when her intuition suddenly grew stronger than ever. They were there, it seemed to tell her. Their search was over. "How far are our teams from this location?" she asked, turning her attention to the tacticians who were standing nearby.

One of them called up a report. "General Antilles is the closest, Madam. The Adamant was on the other side of the system less than two days ago, but is now in hyperspace and headed for the outer-rim.

"Did they leave any probe droids?" Han inquired, stepping closer to the tactical table.

"Not that we know of, Sir. They were merely patrolling when they left; Jedi Skywalker's disappearance had not been signaled yet.

"Then Wedge is still our fastest way to know if I'm reading the Force correctly or not," Leia observed, determinate once again. Strong-willed once again, she studied the layout of their current search operation.

"Still, Madam, there's nothing else to do but wait, and direct the closest units to this point if you so wish," Admiral Plaat advised her coolly.

Leia could only nod silently.

Wait and see... and hope that her brother was still alive,...

And not suffering too much, she prayed silently to the Force.

Meanwhile, on Yavin 4, Kyp Durron was dancing among five remotes, his new lightsaber, a sky-blue one, flashing like lightning as it blocked every single bolt of energy that tried to hurt him.

He was so happy that he wanted to laugh and sing in delight.

The deadly dance was easy, astonishingly so. He could 'feel' the Force singing around him, telling him what to do next--- and he obeyed with joy. That was what he had always wished, what he had always dreamed about: to be the Light's sword, to be its weapon.

And that dream was becoming reality.

"Do what you feel is right," Master Kenan said, "And you will see that it's the way of the Force. Trust your feelings, young one. Trust your emotions."

And that was the real way of the Jedi, young Kyp reflected grimly. No matter what Skywalker had said, or how he had tried to paraphrase what he had said, trusting his emotions was the way of the Force.

He batted aside another flurry of blaster fire, slashed in pieces two extra remotes, then shielded himself against the attack of three other 'gnats'. Shifting his stance, he angled his blade downward to block their next attempt to hurt him, swiftly shifted his arms and brought the blade up and perpendicular to his torso--- then letting go of all caution, following the guidance of the Force around him, he lashed out at his tormentors.

Five seconds later, he was standing in the middle of a circle of electronic parts.

"Most masterful, my boy," master Kenan commented from his left.

The young man looked up, beaming with pride at the praise.


Skywalker had never told him anything this gratifying.

"Thank you, Master," he bowed respectfully to his new Jedi Master.

Unlike his previous one, this new one was not restraining him from developing his full potential. Instead, he was guiding him in his self-discovery of the Force, passing on all the respect that was due to It.

"Skywalker was truly sheltering you from your true abilities, young man. But then, what could we expect from an untrained Jedi who has been fathered by a Dark Lord of the Sith?" he asked in mild disapproval.

"You mean that Skywalker is under his influence?" the young Jedi inquired seriously, feeling his neck tickle as the master's words settled in.

"Sadly, it is a most certain fact," the other nodded dimly. "The Siths are vile creatures... " His face clouded for a moment; Kyp was sure that he saw a flicker of pain in his eyes, then the Jedi Master forced himself to smile. "But what matters is that you're out of his influence now."

"What troubles you, Master Kenan?" Kyp inquired, concerned. "What?..." And then he understood. It was as if a bolt of lightning had hit his heart--- "The Sith killed you?" he whispered in horror.  The response came in the form of a sigh.

"Was it Vader?!" the young man asked more demandingly.

"Oh, no," the other shook his wise head. "It was a very, very long time ago. Hundreds of years ago. They..."


"They sacrificed me to their god, the Sword Lord I believe is his name. It happened right here, where we are. That's why I can't leave this place."

"Oh..." Kyp looked at his Master, reflecting that he could almost feel his pain even though the other was already dead.

"Don't pain yourself for me, my boy," Kenan counseled him gently. "It was a long time ago. However, beware the actual Siths, and especially this Dark Lord. He is the faithful follower of their tradition as well as a servant of the Dark Side."

"And Luke..?" Kyp swallowed, suddenly worried about the young man who was the 'closest' being to the dark demon.

"The boy is largely under his control, I'm afraid," Kenan sighed glumly. "He may not understand it, but he is undoubtedly being manipulated. It might even be part of the Dark Lord's plan, whatever that may be... However," the other continued, his voice harsher this time, "I have no doubt that he is planning to expand his control over you and your comrades through his son. Still, that is not very worrying compared to my worst fear..." Kenan finished ominously.

"Which is?" the youth prompted him worriedly.

The old spirit locked his ageless, kind eyes on his, as if pondering whether he would tell him more or not. He did. "The Siths have a very vile ritual to obtain supreme power, the one I fell victim to. I fear that Vader is seeing his son, and possibly all of you, as worthwhile sacrifices to his god..."

Kyp swallowed hard at this, chilled to the bone by the other's villainy.

"If this happens," Kenan continued grimly, "and that the ritual is completed, he will have an enormous amount of power, much more than even your Emperor Palpatine ever wielded..."

As he contemplated this vision of horror, Kyp suddenly understood why he had come to Yavin 4. "I can't let this happen, Master Kenan," he said, his voice taking on the sharp edge of determination. "I will do anything that I have to do to stop this from happening."

"And I know that you will, my boy. You are brave, courageous, and you now showed proof that you master the Force unlike any other Jedi before you," his master nodded somberly. "Remember, follow where your emotions take you, what they make you do to use the Force, and you will save your Jedi comrades from this new threat."

"So you really think that I could vanquish Darth Vader if I challenged him?" the youth queried with last remnants of doubts inhabiting his mind although inwardly, he was confident that he would be able to do it.

"I have great confidence in your abilities, young one. However, caution warrants that you should first try and warn the others about the danger that looms over their heads. That way, you will free them from his control before attacking him. With his son out of the way for the moment, nothing will stop you."

"Thank you, Master Kenan," Kyp bowed his head gratefully. "I will follow your advice. I will succeed."

"I know you will, my boy. But please, be very careful," he told him beseechingly. "Vader is very strong."

"I will be, Master," the other smiled confidently as he headed out of the cave.

As he watched his new servant climb down from his forced refuge for the time being, Kun forced himself to not reveal his true self just yet. The time was not right yet to reveal the truth to young Durron, future reborn Exar Kun, but soon, very soon, with Vader out of the way, no one would be able to stop him from resuming his dream where he had left off: completing the ritual and conquering the galaxy.

In the asteroid field of the Hoth System, Mara Jade completed her landing procedures, then stood up and headed for the main ramp of her ship. Unlike what she had first planned to do, she didn't make a detour by the holding compartment to take custody of her prized prisoner. Instead, she left him to his cold unpleasantness and exited the ship. At the foot of the ramp, she met with her officers who, upon seeing her alone, ordered two strong men to go inside and fetch their prisoner.

"Congratulations for your success, Madam," General Jerjerrod bowed respectfully.

"Thank you, General. Have you managed to find out where Vader hides nowadays?" she inquired, turning toward a second man.

"No, Madam," Admiral Piett answered her as she walked away from the shuttle.  "However, now that we have Skywalker in our grasp, I can guarantee that we will uncover his location before soon."

Even though it had been 'her' plan to use the young Jedi this way if need be, 'and' even though she had finally quashed her strange feelings about the young man, she still couldn't help but wince at the thought of what was awaiting the unexpectedly kind man.

As if to answer her resuming inner debate regarding Skywalker, the two troopers came down from the shuttle with a heavily restrained, barely conscious Jedi in their grasp. As she studied them, she dimly reflected that somehow, she had the puzzling feeling that the Jedi hadn't defied the guards in any way in order to earn the bruises she could now see on his ribs----

And now she was going completely irrational, she rebuked herself angrily as she turned away from the Jedi's sight. She refocused on her strongest allies, who would help her bring about the return of her Master's Order. "I leave the details in your hands, Piett," she stated as coolly as she could manage... although she quickly realized that it was not an easy thing to do; her voice was suddenly fluttery as if in reaction to her horrible orders.

Horrible orders? About Skywalker??, she asked herself in disbelief while she listened to the rest of the report about their group. True, she conceded, the man was unlike anything she had ever been led to believe, but in the end, he was still an enemy...

And the son of her arch-nemesis, she reminded herself sternly. If only to hurt the father, then making Skywalker scream would be worthwhile.

Somehow though, she didn't manage to recover her cold composure after such a reasoning.

Meanwhile, Veers informed her of the progress of the preparations for their upcoming attacks on the Rebel stations. She forced herself to forget Skywalker and focus on her own plan, which would avenge her late master once and for all.

After she had checked with the scattered groups in order to estimate how soon everything would be ready for their attack, Jade read all the reports of their spies, catching up with what she had missed while she had been away, then she spent time in the training room to help her troops be ready for anything... However, her training session turned out to be more a mean for her to vent her pent-up emotions about what had happened during the last days, than a truly constructive training exercise.

She was frustrated---elated, angered---- confused... she simply couldn't get Skywalker out of her mind! Every time that this realization struck her, she ended up beating her partners to the ground instead of helping them to train.

After five such losses of control, she retired to her quarters, frustrated beyond belief.

As she finished to wrap a towel around her athletic body and exited her shower, she literally fumed with irritation. Once again, she had tried to get rid of her unwelcome emotions in regards to the Jedi. It just wouldn't work. She tried it once again.

First, she tried to reason with herself that he was a Jedi, the very enemy of what her master's Order had been.

Second, she reminded herself that he was Luke 'Vader', the son of the coward traitor who had killed the Emperor. Thus, he also 'was' her enemy.

Third, she continued, feeling her feelings ebb this time, she pointed out to herself that the Jedi was already bringing back the Jedi danger in the galaxy; she couldn't allow this to happen.

Finally, fourth, but most easily forgotten it seemed, she was the Emperor's Hand, a professional assassin/agent/commander who wasn't hampered in any way by weak emotions. She didn't care about anything nor anybody, was wholeheartedly devoted to her late master. Period.

She would certainly not let that weak-hearted Jedi affect her now, she growled inwardly, finally feeling her hatred of him burn cold and pure at the core of her being. She would not let him affect her when she was so close to what she had been working for almost two years now. She would not change her plans for anything... nor anyone, she resolved adamantly.

Besides, she shrugged as she began to dry her heavy red-gold hair, it was what she had wanted to happen... wasn't it?

Yes it was, she nodded resolutely. She was ready for this, she reminded herself, had envisioned this moment for gods knew how long, had even specifically targeted the youth instead of his sister because she had known that the results would be better with him than her.

And yet-----

No, she objected vehemently at her own feeble attempt to resist her anger. She did 'not' care about Skywalker; it was utterly ridiculous to even consider anything about him...

Although, she unconsciously reminded herself a visual flash of his eyes, he certainly was hard to 'not' consider. He had been so----

Out of dangerous anger, she threw her damp hair towel at her reflection in the mirror, then pulled on her nightshirt, dropped her larger towel and stomped out of her 'fresher and into her private room.

Darn cursed Jedi, she seethed as she fell on her bunk. They were really causing more trouble than anybody gave them credit for.

She tried to find sleep after that thought; not much came.

Back on Yavin 4, Vader sat on his chosen fallen tree. His hidden gaze was locked on the fiery orange ball of Yavin, but his mind was elsewhere.


He had just contacted Leia and had discovered that she had not located Jade yet. His son's pain hadn't left him for the past three hours.

The mere thought that anyone would dare hurt his son was enough to make him throw aside any rationalism and cool-headedness that he still had; he 'had' to find him. If he didn't hold himself back, he would board his ship right this moment and plow his way right through to his son, no matter what, or who, would stand in his path.

However, he had seen what this kind of rage did to a Dark Jedi, how it ravaged his mind and body until it died of insanity. No matter how unlike he was from the late Palpatine, he had no delusion that he was protected from the debilitating side-effects of letting his rage free while he used the Force.

Not even if he himself had been created by the Force.

He still didn't know exactly why he had come to be, creature of the Dark Side that he was, and he understood even less how he could be at the source of two human beings who were the very opposite of him. He also didn't know why he was still alive now that his purpose was fulfilled, but he knew one thing for sure.

He was exactly like the other Jedi or Sith had always been: vulnerable to the side-effects of how they used the Force.

Thus, he never gave into his rage, or fury. Anger he would let lose, hatred, but not rage.

Rage destroyed the bearer as well as his target, he reminded himself, just to make sure that he would remind it for a little longer as his son's pain went on through their bond.

He wanted to destroy Jade and her group, he still admitted to himself. He wanted to make sure that this danger would never threaten his children and future grandchildren... but he also wanted to remain with them for the time being.

He missed his son terribly, he finally admitted--- instantly rebuking himself for allowing such a feeling to invade him, yet it was there.

He hadn't seen Luke for almost five days now, had contacted him through the Circle two days ago, but hadn't re-established contact with him ever since.

He had come to Yavin to spend some time with him, to try and catch up a little on the time they had lost while separated, but as it always was with their family, an obstacle had risen. That stupid mission had come up and his son had walked straight into a trap!

Couldn't he have looked over it and send someone else?, he asked his son even though he couldn't hear him. Couldn't he have listened to him for once?!?

And now he was being childish, he berated himself. Luke listened a lot to him, perhaps even a little too much to his liking, he conceded as he remembered a few discussions that he had had with his son. Being aware that his father had superior experience in the Force, Luke was almost always believing and listening attentively to what he said about it.

The truth though was that sometimes, his ways were just plainly wrong for his son. He didn't know if his son recognized those things for what they were, but he himself did.

He would have to be careful to not 'influence' him too much about his teachings, he decided as he remembered that his son was now teaching a new generation of Jedi Knights.

As he had once told his son, Luke was the son of the Light, a natural guide and teacher in the right ways to use the Force without corrupting it with the will or altering the laws of the universe.

Luke 'was' a Jedi, in every sense of the word; a 'servant' for the Light and the master of the Force, but of its good, constructive side instead of his destructive one.

He was a great Jedi teacher, he then nodded to himself as he considered how he had introduced him to his students. He had been straight to the point, yet had put himself on their level, acknowledging their worries and questions before soothing them.

Well, he smirked slightly, as far as soothing went, he himself had slightly ruined his attempt, but at the same time, he had shown them who he was.

What they had to fear and what they could trust.

Ever since that day, he had felt the students' growing curiosity and even attempts to Force-probe in his direction. He also knew that one of them would come to him today.

Of course, he conceded grimly, the one he really wanted to talk to was Kyp, but it was too early, way too early. Right now, the boy was drinking Kun's words as if they were water; his distrust towards Siths was equally growing as did his strength and Force perception.

The change in the Force was noticeable even though the child had only had three lessons with the dead Dark Lord of the Sith.

A vision of the future suddenly came to him, cold and strong like a snow storm on Hoth.

This boy could be his death, he understood with absolute certainty, then saw that this future was already in motion.

"A vision?" he heard the mocking voice of Exar Kun behind him. "Did you see your death by my apprentice's hands?"

"Yes," the Sith Lord answered, not moving from his meditative position. "You had the same vision, I presume."

"Indeed. What a joyful sight! And what an offer it will be to my master Asharel," he commented lustfully.

"We'll see."

"Do you think that you can change your destiny, Vader?"

"'Always in motion the future is'," he quoted, smiling. "Or so Jedi Master Yoda liked to say."

"And you believe this Jedi?"

"In this matter I do," he nodded, adamant.

"Then we'll see. Try to change your destiny as you like, Vader," the other sneered at him, "but my apprentice will be the sword that even you will not be able to parry."

"When the time comes, we shall see," he answered calmly.

Exar Kun laughed meanly and left.

Vader sighed, and resumed his meditation. The vision was disturbing, but not much. It was only one of the possible futures. The other one had shown him Kun's final destruction, and another, the death of them both.

It wasn't the first time he had such visions; he had had one on Bespin just before he had dueled with his son. If this vision had come true, he thought seriously, he would be dead already. What had probably kept this vision from realizing had been the Emperor's error with his Force-manipulation, then his resulting mental illness.

Considering that it hadn't happened though, he decided to not think about it anymore.

If his actions, or the actions of others, could prevent the new foreseen outcome, then it would be a good thing.

If not, so would it be.

In the meantime though, he had to keep Kun from creating too much havoc in the Jedi school... and he had to find a way to locate his son despite the obvious presence of ysalamiri around him.

He would have to try the Dream Walk again, he reflected. Now that Kun was so sure of his victory, he wouldn't try to dispose of his adversary in a moment of weakness, especially since he needed Vader's presence to control Kyp.

The Dream Walk would be risky, but not that much... at least as far as his own physical safety was concerned.

An hour later he was still sitting on the same fallen log when he felt the presence of his foreseen visitor.

The apprentice's mind was like a clear sky filled with both cold air and golden light.


The old man approached him calmly, without greetings, then sat down on the fallen trunk and assumed the meditation posture.

Vader smiled and reached for the contact, carefully, not willing to harm the old hermit--- and found himself on the shore of a forest river.

Gold green light filtered through the leaves that danced around him while the  water was whispering something soothing to the rocks. A massive trunk of a once mighty tree laid nearby, it's branches drinking in the river.

A young man was sitting on the fallen tree; he was slender, thin, with large blue eyes and auburn hair. He greeted him with a smile.

Vader nodded and sat near him. "Most impressive," he said honestly. "I feared that this had become a forgotten art."

Streen beamed. "I can't do much else, but I found this technique rather easy and very useful, especially for the mind talk. I don't need to open my shields this way."


"But you can assume any form you want, my Lord. You don't need to keep this mask on."

Vader wanted to rebuke him rather harshly for his daring scolding, then stopped himself. Streen wasn't asking him to adopt the form that would be his were he not injured, the face of phantom-like Anakin Skywalker.

He had said 'any form'.

While his mask really was his face, as his son had come to understand at last, he couldn't help but think about what 'human' appearance would be adequate for him. What appearance could he perceive as his own after spending so many years with his 'mask'?

Eventually, he took his perception of himself and projected it outside, using it to model the vision that he would present to Streen: jet-black hair, cold steel- gray eyes, pale face with harsh features - not ugly but definitely not beautiful, the cruel face of a bird of prey. He completed the looks with black robes, in the Sith fashion of some thousand years ago; a silver Sathed sign of the Circle was embroided on them . "Is that better?" he asked the slightly surprised Streen.

"It's... yes, I think it's better," the hermit smiled shyly. "It will take a while to get used to it though."

"So," the Sith Lord said, inhaling in the clear forest air. "What do you want to talk about?" He once again joined his companion on the log.

"I read the Prophecy about the Chosen One," the other admitted without any hesitation.


"I suppose that you 'are' the Chosen one."

"Yes," confirmed Vader briefly.

"You were created by the Dark Side to destroy the Jedi Order and bring the balance to the Force."

"To bring balance, Streen," corrected the Sith. "The destruction of the Jedi Order wasn't included in the prophecy. What is your question?"

"How important is it to you?" hermit inquired bravely. "How far would you go to fulfill this prophecy, this role?"

Vader raised an amused eyebrow at him. "Are you afraid for your fellow trainees?" he asked pointedly, aware that the other could be worried that he had come to Yavin 4 to fulfill the Prophecy once again.

"No," Streen shook his head. "I'm afraid for Luke."

That 'did' surprise the self-confident dark Lord. "I won't touch him," he reassured the other seriously, almost warmly.

Streen shook his head. "It's not that. I don't doubt your care for your son, my Lord.  However, I have no doubts about the possible cruelty of your future decision. The boy tries very hard to love you, my Lord," the older man continued earnestly. "While he will understand your decision were you to kill some of us, the very foundation of his love will be shattered."

Vader couldn't reply to this; the old hermit had an excellent grasp of the situation.

"I care a lot about Luke, my Lord," Streen continued seriously. "And, no matter what I think about his feelings for you, I'm afraid that some of his Light will go away were his love for you, and the others, be destroyed like this."

"Are you asking me to refuse my destiny?" Vader inquired sharply.

"On behalf of your son, my Lord. Yes, I do."

"On behalf on some delusions that my son still harbors on my account," hissed the Dark Lord, slowly losing his iron grip on his temper.

Streen sighed. "Your son is wise, my Lord."

"And naive," retorted Vader in near-disdain. He could 'not' refuse his Destiny. It shaped him, defined everything he was. He could not--

"And he loves you deeply," the other rejoined knowingly.

"Perhaps." the Sith Lord replied dryly, suddenly rising from the tree. "I'm hardly an expert in the matter. I won't harm him, Streen. That's all I have to offer."

Streen raised too, and bowed. "I'm sorry for interfering, my Lord."

"Don't do it again." Vader warned and vanished from the illusory world.

In the real world Streen slowly stood and left, as unacknowledged as when he had arrived.

Part 2

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