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Possibilities of If May Be
(continued from Part 1)
A Round Robin by:
Selinthia Avenchesca [Imperial Vaders sections]
Valerie Vancollie (valeriev84@hotmail.com) [Dark Jedi's Palpatine, Vader, and Luke sections]
Continued from the first part

Luke took a step back in surprise. One moment he had been talking to his father and his master and the next moment he had heard screaming before his and his father's double had appeared in the air several feet off the ground before they had fallen to the floor between him and his master.

Vader, standing to his son's left, was so shocked that even with the breathing respirator he missed a breath. Where had they just come from and how had they appeared? Had Luke been right about there being doors and windows in the wall that separated them from this other reality?

Palpatine immediately rose to his feet and looked down on the two forms lying on the floor between him and his servants. He quickly studied them and saw that what Vader and Luke had described was right, one of the two forms lying before him did look like an older and uninjured version of Anakin Skywalker and the boy beside him was without a doubt what Luke would look like in a couple of years, with different clothing of coarse.

As Luke watched his older double began to laugh madly and didn't stop. Wondering if perhaps the gate they had used to get here had done something to them he reached out and touched his double's mind. What he found there amazed him, his double did use that dark side, but it wasn't as strong as with him, it seemed that his older version had started his Sith training and then stopped before he had completed it.

Luke was then abruptly blocked from his double's mind as the older version of Anakin reached out and cut his connection. Luke looked up and locked eyes with the Emperor of the other reality.

"Stay out of his mind, boy," Vader hissed to the young, dark clad version of Luke before turning to his son. "Luke," he murmured, reaching forward with the Force, moving to stabilizing whatever may be wrong. What he found there made him start in shock. A wall created of the Force, circling his son's mind. Luke's various abilities seemed to be *floating* on the surface, swirling around in puddles of Force power. The wall seemed like the jelly that had been between the realities. Vader still could not believe what had happened. They should have researched things more before hand, but then again, what could they research? What could they do? There were no recorded incidents of such things, and taking the initiative had seemed the best thing at the time. But Luke was taking this very badly indeed. His mind seemed to be separating into it's individual components. It wasn't working in harmony. It wasn't *connecting.*

Taking Luke by the arm, he stood his son to his feet, and stood up himself as well. The Emperor faced the three beings before him.

"And so we finally meet. Greetings to you," Vader nodded graciously. "I am Emperor Vader, and this is my son, Prince Luke. But then. . .perhaps you already know that."

Luke's anger had risen at being called a 'boy,' but he remained silent letting his master handle the situation. He and his father had, however, moved to stand on either side of the throne.

Palpatine's eyes had narrowed when the older version of Anakin had called himself the Emperor but for now he knew it was better to let it slide, unless of coarse he starting acting as if he had complete power.

"Yes, yes we do," Palpatine finally replied as he sat back down in his throne. "Young Skywalker informed us earlier, right after his near mind fusion with your son."

At this the uninjured Vader looked over to the boy who had earlier probed his son. As he studied the boy he once again locked eyes with him, but the boy refused to lower his eyes the way most people did when they made direct eye contact with him.

He then turned his attention to the masked man standing to Palpatine's right.

"And you are me?" he asked already knowing the answer.

"I am Lord Vader, yes," Vader replied studying his uninjured self as he wished, not for the first time, that he could shed his mask and armour to freely walk around as this man before him did.

Luke studied his older self as he tried to figure out what was wrong with him. When he had probed him he had briefly felt his potential, but he had also felt that something was wrong. He couldn't be sure what was wrong, but his mind didn't quite seem whole, it seemed to be disconnected somehow. He wanted to prob him again but knew it was better not to.

"I am aware of the cause of this situation. A rare violet star exploded very near Imperial City in my reality. It caused ripples to exploded through the fabric of space, disturbing reality. I and my son began to receive visions before we knew the cause. Though the ripples were to be effective for a "brief time" that could be very long indeed in comparison to the length of time between humans and stars. We used the Force to attempt to open a window between the realities. However, instead of simply pushing through the wall, it reached a certain point and began to pull us. This is the result. Interesting a study, and valuable in any such future situations, or needs, but potentially deadly, for us," Vader explained to the three others.

"What is wrong with him?" Palpatine questioned sharply, gesturing to the Prince.

Emperor Vader looked at his son and sighed deeply.

"This may have started earlier, but the crossing greatly advanced it. His mind is separating into it's various components. We will both need to concentrate to bring it back together," Vader said softly, more to himself than anyone, regarding Luke with concern. "And it will need to be done before we return to our own reality. Because if he crosses back as he is, his mind may simply shatter."

'So that was why his mind felt so weird,' Luke thought to himself as he regarded the Prince.

Luke shivered at the thought of a mind being shattered the way Emperor Vader had described it. Emperor Vader, the more he thought about his father's name with that title the more it seemed right, the more it seemed as if it was meant to be that way.

Frustrated Luke shook his head, he knew that if his master knew of what he was thinking that he'd be severely punished, it was treason and there was no way around it. And yet.....

Lord Vader regarded the Prince with a mixed feeling of concern and amusement, concern about what might happen to his son if the Prince didn't make it back to his own reality and amusement at how the Prince was being affected by the reality travel. When he had first arrived he had been laughing like a mad person and now he just stood there, silent and seemingly unaware of what was happening around him.

Vader then looked at his own son and saw him shake his head, a slightly worried look on his face as he briefly eyed Emperor Palpatine.

As Palpatine studied the 'Prince' he was glad of the fact that they had come over first before he had been foolish enough to try to jump into the other reality himself. He could also tell that the Prince's father was deeply concerned about his son's condition, but at the moment there were more important things to discuss, namely how they were going to save both realities from totally merging with one an other.

"You have just told us the cause of all the disturbances in both our realities, but do you know how to prevent our realities from totally merging?" Palpatine ordered not caring that technically the other Vader held just as much power as he did.

Emperor Vader opened his mouth as though to protest the superior manner in which Palpatine had addressed him, but a moment later and he closed it again with a sardonic smile.

"You are in the higher power here, in your reality," he acknowledged, meeting Palpatine's eyes frankly. "And thus have the right to know, as much as the fact of the danger. As to your question--no. I had hoped to pool our resources together, and fix the breach, but I have not the exact manner in which to do so available. The manner which we used to come here was to locate the points we knew of by which your reality was different than our own, and connect to them, pulling the walls closer by that method. However, judging from what happened, I would be hesitant to use this manner to repair our realities."

Palpatine seemed to be eyeing him in something resembling shock. Vader, in his experience, very rarely spoke at anything resembling this length. Then again, Emperor's generally were required to speak more than Dark Lords.

Suddenly, the Prince Luke spoke.

"The walls are falling. Like dominoes. Why are they doing that. I can see them. There are millions of me's, countless me's. Where are they all going. Merging into one. Shutter the walls, rebuild the walls. Use bricks of minds. They're all falling," his voice was a sing-song chant, and his father instantly comprehended the meaning of the words.

"We must act quickly," Vader exclaimed "We are not the only reality in danger! Every wall in falling, and all realities will merge!"

Luke looked up as his double spoke. He was astonished at the tone of his voice, it was nothing like his, nor like the Luke Vader's voice he had heard earlier in the vision. Perhaps his voice had been distorted in the vision or perhaps it was the way his mind was separating that caused his voice to be different. Whatever it was he couldn't be sure.

"All the realities are in danger from one star?" Palpatine asked suspiciously.

Emperor Vader looked at him for a moment knowing the other Emperor had a point. In all the realities that existed it couldn't be that this was the first violet star to explode in such a long time that nobody had any memory of the realities trying to merge before.

"I only said that a violet star exploded near Imperial City in my reality and that has caused the disturbance at our end." Emperor Vader replied. "Perhaps something happened elsewhere and that combined with what happened in my reality is enough to cause all the realities to merge."

"Perhaps the Prince can tell us," Luke suddenly stated as he was studying his double.

"What?" Lord Vader exclaimed, surprised by his son's sudden statement.

"Well he seems to be able to see things we can't see," Luke explained as he briefly took his eyes off his double to look at his father and his master before he turned his attention back to the Prince. "Perhaps he can see the solution or perhaps one of us can tap into what he's seeing as he doesn't seem to respond to anything we do."

"How?" Emperor Palpatine demanded turning his gaze onto his young apprentice.

Luke looked at his master for a moment before he turned to face his father's double, looking him full in the face.

"By finding out how he's seeing it," Luke stated clearly suggesting to enter the Prince's mind.

There reigned a long moment of silence in which the dark clad Vader, the dark Jedi Luke, and Palpatine regarded Emperor Vader questioningly. Finally, he gave a single, reluctant, but decisive nod.

"Very well. Normally, I would insist that only I do this, but even as closely connected to him as I am, it might upset the balance of his mind. But you," he gestured to the young Luke, "are certainly most like him in basic mind set than any of us, even if you are different from him in personality."

"He is not a Dark Jedi," Palpatine suddenly said, so shocked that he spoke aloud.

Silence descended once more.

"No," Emperor Vader said curtly, "He is not."

No further explanation was forthcoming, and though these people were not from his reality, Palpatine surely disapproved of the fact that the other Luke had not achieved that status. He opened his mouth to interject a comment expressing that disapproval, but Luke, seeing a bad situation coming, jumped in.

"I'll go in his mind," he said.

Emperor Vader turned a sharp eye upon him, almost seemed to change his mind, and then nodded.

"Enter," he spoke, and Luke reached forward with tendrils of the Force, entering in full to the mind of his counterpart.

What he found there astonished him.

Prince Luke was neither light nor dark. The lack of training he'd perceived earlier was falsehood. He'd taken the training, but he'd changed the methods. Instead of just using the Dark Force, he'd use all of the Force in any manner he saw fit. The Force seemed to "mesh," seemed "whole" in him, as it was in very few who followed the disciplines of specific orders. The different abilities were all coated in this whole Force, all together, all apart. Where was the vision, where was the seeing, the knowing, that had caused this Luke to speak? And then, suddenly, a howling vision descended upon him, and he could only freeze in horror.

It was ten long minutes, ten long eternities later, when Luke exited the mind of the Prince, and turned to the three who were watching him with avid attention.

His voice was a low, deathly whisper, the whisper of one who has seen the end.

"Chain reactions," he whispered. "Chain reactions. There is. . . violet stars. In many. Many possibilities for destruction. Exploded in one, made our realties come closer, exploded in another, two more realities come closer to each other. Attempts to move them apart from others, two more realties. Chain reactions. No, no. He's screaming. He's dying. Can't you see that!?" Luke gestured to the Prince almost frantically, and then slumped to the floor.

"Luke!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he quickly walked over to his son.

As he reached his son's side he knelt down and gently shook his son. Luke moaned and half turned but remained unconscious. Vader quickly probed him but found nothing wrong that he could detect. Then, keeping one hand on his son's shoulder, he half turned to face both Emperors.

"He's all right," Vader said. "It's nothing with his mind, it might have been the combined stress of entering the Prince's mind and seeing the visions he saw there."

Palpatine nodded his head slightly relieved, Luke was a promising apprentice and it would have been a pity to lose him. He then turned his attention to what Luke had said, the chain reactions, so he had been right assuming that one violet star explosion hadn't caused all the realities to start to merge.

"Until the boy comes round I think it would be best that we stay out of my son's mind," Emperor Vader suggested. "We can't afford to lose someone else while we need to save both our realities."

Lord Vader nodded his agreement as he probed his son again, trying to get Luke to come round again.

"It may be a while until young Skywalker comes around though," Palpatine said looking over at Luke's unconscious form. "This isn't the first time he's passed out today and every time he does so it takes longer for him to come around."

Lord Vader nodded at this as he stood up.

"Did either of you know what he was talking about?" he asked looking from his master to his double. "Also the Prince mentioned something about rebuilding the walls with bricks of the minds."

"He did indeed," Emperor Vader said. "I wonder if it was just a rambling or perhaps he saw the solution, as well as the problem. There have been reports of this. . . ." he trailed off.

"Reports of what?" Palpatine questioned, rather snappishly.

Vader regarded Palpatine, so like the Emperor he had once served himself, so like and yet, subtly different. There was a decay about this man, a different feeling, a lack of fullness, a void to his soul that the Emperor Vader's teacher and liege had not held. The Palpatine he had known had more of a. . .life. . .to him than this man did. There was no other way to describe it. This man seemed dead in ways that were more to do with the mind than any body. He grimaced. This whole reality seemed dead, without the vitality that drove his own.

"Reports of Force sensitives receiving visions of great significance or vast reaching consequences when under extreme pressure or harm. Or if they go mad," this last was more to himself than anyone, and he spoke it as though to deny the possibility. "If he has received such a vision," Vader said again in a firm tone, "The chances are more than certain that the solution is true as well. All we have to do is find out what it means."

"If his mind where entered again--" Palpatine began.

"No," Emperor Vader growled, suddenly deadly threat radiating from him, assuring all here that that was *not* an option.

Emperor Palpatine's eyes narrowed with anger at this, his life was on the line and something that would more likely then not cause no harm was being denied to him, something that might save his life. Palpatine's anger was clear to everyone in the room, even to Emperor Vader. Palpatine opened his mouth to speak, to demand that Lord Vader be allowed into the Prince's mind when Luke Skywalker stirred and moaned.

"What....." Luke said as he opened his eyes.

"Luke," Lord Vader said as he turned back to his son. "Are you all right?"

Luke shook his head as he stood up, looking around as he did so. He looked at his father, his master, his father's double and then at his own double. Emperor Vader immediately noticed the far off look in the boy's eyes, as though he were here and yet far away. As his eyes fell on his own double Luke froze momentarily.

"Skywalker!" Palpatine demanded as Luke's Force aura drifted.

Emperor Vader, feeling the same thing, immediately put a Force shield around his son's mind as he thought the boy was trying to enter Prince's mind again. But Luke had no intention of entering his double's mind again, no, he was still so weak that he barley had control over his own mind, let alone go into somebody else's mind no matter how similar it might be.

Luke's eyes grew wide as he suddenly saw flashes of what he had seen earlier in the Prince's mind. He saw the walls between the realities breaking and weakening, he saw himself in all kinds of different situations, in different realities. He saw people and something he couldn't quite understand, then he saw the walls strengthening as they seemed to be rebuilt somehow. This was the last of what he had seen in his double's mind and he expected to find himself in the throne room again when he felt someone entering his mind.

"What?!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he felt the Prince's mind reach out and touch his son's this time.

Emperor Vader started as well, he moved to break the connection then he hesitated and decided to wait as realization and confusion dawned on the face of his son's double.

"Bricks of the minds, bricks of the minds!" Prince Luke suddenly, frantically, exclaimed. "Soon! It must be done soon or it will be too late!"

Then the connection between the two Luke's broke and the Prince once again became silent. His double stood frozen in place for a moment, shock written all over his face before he swayed and sagged into his father's arms. Bricks of the minds, finally he understood what had to be done.

"Wake him up," Palpatine said, very irritably. "If he persists in loosing consciousness, you may find that he will not wake up, very soon. Such faints are not natural. They drain his life energies."

Vader stiffened in worry, and held Luke up, searching within himself for the healing abilities he very rarely employed. There. . . hidden within the crust of the dark was a silver of healing, a portal to mending energies. Reaching, he grasped it like a rope, and concentrated upon transferring that silver slit of energy, like an eye slowly opening and revealing it's colour and passions, into Luke. It had been long, but the faint was more than within his abilities to cure. Luke stirred, eyes opening to reveal shocked blue, and once more, his eyes wandered over to his double.

"Don't let them make eye contact! It encourages their minds to link!" Emperor Vader barked in a sudden, harsh tone. Lord Vader, moving on instinct, shifted his son around so that his back was to the Prince.

"Don't look into your double's eyes," he ordered shortly. Luke, disoriented and increasingly panicky, despite all of his efforts to contain the feelings, simply nodded. A moment more, though, and he gasped.

"What?" Palpatine demanded. Truly, he was not enjoying the situation, and all of these spontaneous unpleasantries were not improving his mood, either.

"I know what the bricks are!" Luke exclaimed. "I saw it in his mind! I know how to repair the walls!"

"What is it?" Emperor Vader inquired, voice suddenly calm now that hope had dared to present itself. Perhaps the solution was near. His tone, cool command and assurance, drew the need to reply from Luke.

"We need to draw minds from their bodies, use them as patches or bricks of a sort to reinforce the walls, repair them and make them stronger. Only the raw elements though, not the individuals. Think like a sheet to cover a bed. It's one large, seamless piece. But it's made up on thousands of individual threads. We need the sheet, not the threads."

"Minds are very difficult to draw from their bodies without their consent," Emperor Vader noted.

Luke nodded and said, "There was a way he knew. It wasn't a vision, it was an idea he had. His mind is still connected enough to make it. But I didn't grasp hold of it before I left his mind. But I do know one thing. We're all going to be needed for this, every one of us, at top strength, and full clarity. And that means we'll have to repair my double's mind. Somehow. And we need to do it quickly, because he's falling apart fast."

There was a moment of silence as everyone heard this. Palpatine then turned his attention to the Prince, he was fast becoming nothing but a bother, but Luke had said they needed to heal him and if that would save his life, then so be it.

"Do you know how his mind goes together?" Emperor Palpatine demanded looking at the Prince's father.

"His personality, yes," Emperor Vader replied. "But to put his whole mind back exactly the way it's supposed to I'll need to take a look at his mind's basic structure as that should be the same even if their personalities aren't," Emperor Vader continued gesturing to Luke.

Luke looked at him, avoiding eye contact with his double, and seemed to hesitate at the idea of letting his father's double into his mind. Palpatine caught the hesitation and looked at his apprentice for a moment.

"Let him in," he ordered as Luke's eyes wandered to his master.

Luke seemed to cringe at the order, opening his mouth to protest, but then thought the better of it as Palpatine's eyes narrowed in a warning. Reluctantly Luke turned back to face the other Emperor and nodded.

Emperor Vader noticed the way his son's double didn't really dare to speak out against the Emperor Palpatine, even considering the fact that if anyone was in danger because of the order it would be him, and immediately realized that his son's double and his own double didn't have as good a relationship with Palpatine as he had had with the late Palpatine from his universe. Here it was definitely and without a doubt that Palpatine completely ruled them both while he had enjoyed some freedom that neither the Luke and Vader had here. As he thought about this he realized that that was probably the reason his son's double had the last name Skywalker instead of Vader, Palpatine must have refused to even let Vader have his say in the matter here.

Dismissing that from his mind for the moment, Vader locked eyes with the strange Luke. It was disconcerting in a manner, like looking into a living holopic. The blue was refracting over and over into a shimmering tunnel. It reminded Vader somewhat disturbingly of the Force method that he and his son had first used in attempting to contacting this reality. That had ended in both of them screaming at the top of their lungs in abject agony. Dismissing the memory, Vader reached out with his sense, approaching the young Dark Jedi's mind. This Luke was not pleased with the situation, resentful of the intrusion. In another situation, Vader would have sympathized, but this was simply too desperate to try another manner. Shimmering darkness, to young for it's depth, surrounded him.

Vader worked through that dark like a worm through the earth. The comparison was unflattering, but true at the moment. Luke's resentment hardened the substance of his mind into something which had to be pushed up with every movement. Vader frowned. This was his son's double, and he could not recall his son being this strong in mere resentment. But that was ridiculous. It was essentially the same mind, if not the same reality. Not as strong as Vader's own mind, but not very far off, was this Luke. It was disturbing. Perhaps the differences were more pronounced than he had thought. Or perhaps something had happened along the way to change the power levels of this being's mind, somewhere in his child hood, perhaps? There were tricks to boost ones power, though they were very rare indeed. Vader emerged in a cavern, hung with shadows that draped the place. Despair blanketed him in an instant. This would never work. The shadows hid the planes, angles and curves of the mind that he knew as Luke's. Luke's mind was a starlight and crystal cavern, but this place, though it might once have been similar, was too shrouded to make out the original components. This would not help Emperor Vader's son in the least. This Luke's mind was suffocating in the essential despair and lifelessness, almost unrealism, that seemed to mark the reality that the alternates lived in. Vader cursed, snarling under his breath in abject rage. This would not work! He barely held himself back from striking out a manner which would have destroyed this Luke's mind, before he withdrew with lightening speed.

"It won't work!" he snarled aloud before he was out enough to even view his counterpart and the others. "His mind it shrouded! This whole reality is shrouded! The original shape is completely obscured!" It galled him, that for all of his incredible power, he could do nothing about this.

Luke's eyes narrowed in anger at this comment. It was their reality that was wrong?

"Perhaps you're just not strong enough to see the original shape," Luke snarled in reply making no attempt to hide his anger.

Emperor Vader looked up at this comment, his own rage still boiling hot, but he refrained from replying knowing that his son's only chance, and so their only chance, lay with this Luke. If he couldn't identify the shape of this Luke's mind then the boy would have to go into his son's mind and put together the basic structure of his son's mind as he would be able to see the original shape of his own mind. Then, and only then, could he go in and put his son's personality back together again.

Lord Vader eyed his son, relieved that he was okay, he had been sure for a second that he had felt a ripple of danger through the Force. It had been a threat emanating from his double, but it had quickly vanished just before Emperor Vader had left his son's mind.

"Now what?" Lord Vader asked after the short silence following his son's comment.

"He has to enter my son's mind and put together his basic mind structure, then I can go in and put together his personality," Emperor Vader replied indicating Luke.

He hated the thought of letting the boy do this, there was no telling what he'd do, but there was no other way, time was running out and if he refused to let the boy do it then his son would be killed when the two realities merged.

Luke looked up at the suggestion and hesitated slightly, his own mental weariness was starting to get overwhelming and he didn't know if this would be such a good idea. He glanced over at his father and when he nodded Luke sighed out loud before looking at his father's double.

"Okay," he said as he sat down in a cross legged position.

He then closed his eyes and reached forward with the Force and entered his double's mind while simultaneously reaching back into his own mind and studying its basic shape. He hadn't the faintest idea of what the Emperor Vader had meant when he had said that the shape of his basic mind was obscured, he could see it perfectly. He quickly let the thought pass as he knew that Emperor Vader wouldn't let him do this unless he really couldn't do it.

He felt the strange sensation that he'd felt earlier when entering his double's mind, only this time it wasn't as strong, it was as if Prince Luke's mind had been separating further since he had last entered it. He quickly found the pieces he needed and started putting them back together again. Fifteen minutes later he was still working on it and he briefly thought of how this resembled putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he quickly put the thought away as he had always hated making jigsaw puzzles.

Ten minutes after that he finally heaved a sigh of relief as he finished putting the last piece in place. He was just about to leave the Prince's mind when suddenly it seemed like a vacuum opened up beneath him and he was sucked down into it despite his attempts to pull away. He quickly called out to his father before he was completely pulled in.

Prince Luke stood in the centre of a shining dark chamber. Stars danced upon obsidian, and he smiled up at the prism that the ceiling was constructed up. Every once a while, a piece of that prism separated from the rest, and shimmered into diamond dust in the air. The ceiling repaired itself, but seemed less stable every time it happened. Sitting, he wondered where he was. He'd never wondered this before. At least, it didn't seem like he ever had. He'd been here forever. What was forever? Luke's brow wrinkled in thought. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate. He was . . . what was? Something about walls. Well, what about the walls. The walls were just fine. It was the ceiling that worried him. Suddenly, he jumped to his feet. The ceiling! It was caving in! The prism! No! Glass was shattering all around the Prince, shimmering beautifully in the air, raining sharp shards.

"I've come further in than ever before," a voice said. It sounded familiar, but what . . . .

"Who are you?" he demanded as he spun about the form which was picking itself up off of the perfectly gleaming black floor. The pieces were picking themselves up, he noticed detachedly, the prisms repairing themselves on the ceiling. But it looked more unstable than ever. Somehow, he knew that if the whole ceiling fell in, he would have some serious problems on his hands. Very serious.

The boy who had fallen through the ceiling picked himself up off of the floor.

"I said, who are you?" Luke demanded once more, impatience and haughtiness in his voice. He blinked in shock, then, as he beheld the face which was as a time-reversed mirror to his own visage.

"I'm the one who's been rooting around in your mind, trying to put you back together!" the younger Luke flared.

His mind? Vaguely, he remembered something . . . But he also knew that in the mind, you control your appearance, able to take the face and body of anyone.

"Let go of my face at once!" his voice was harsh, commanding, demanding obedience. "Your face? This is my face, sorry to disillusion you. Yours is a few years older, hmm? It's been pointed out quiet a few times. Now, you have to get out of here. We have not time to put around in your mind. We have to put the realities back together!"

"Realities?" Luke regarded him somewhat blankly. Something niggled at his consciousness, but he couldn't quite grasp it. An arrogant sneer appeared upon his face then, marring the courtier's perfection.

"This place is sealed. The ceiling grows weaker, but the prison remains. Where am I?"

The younger Luke regarded him blankly for a moment, and then pointed upwards with both hands, lightening flowing from all eight fingers, thumbs pointed inward to avoid the liquid energy. The ceiling glowed briefly for a moment, and the Prince howled in dismay, clutching at his head in agony, screaming,

"No, you idiot! Directing the Force at the walls only makes them stronger!"

"Luke!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he heard his son's cry for help.

Emperor Vader and Emperor Palpatine both took their eyes of the Prince to regard Lord Vader. During the past twenty-five minutes they had felt Prince Luke's Force aura grow stronger as his mind was rebuilt.

"What is it Lord Vader?" Palpatine demanded just as his apprentice's Force presence flickered and was reduced to half its previous strength.

"Luke," Vader replied as he walked to his son's still form. "He called out for help before he was cut off."

At this Lord Vader looked up and with an accusing look that Emperor Vader could feel.

"What happened?" Lord Vader demanded while softly shaking his son.

"How am I supposed to know?" Emperor Vader replied shortly. "Your son must have done something."

"Perhaps it was your son that did something," Lord Vader replied.

"Enough!" Palpatine declared. "Lord Vader what is young Skywalker's condition?"

Lord Vader turned back to his son and quickly scanned him with the Force.

"His mind is still connected with the Prince's, but his connection to his own mind has gotten weaker," Lord Vader replied worriedly.

"This is just what we need," Palpatine stated . "Emperor Vader I suggest that you enter your son's mind if we get no response from either Luke in a few moments."

Emperor Vader nodded just as Prince Luke let out a startled exclamation.

"This is enough!" the other reality's Emperor suddenly roared. "I am going in."

Before anyone could speak, Vader dove right into the mind of his son. * * *

"Calling me an idiot!" Luke shouted at his counterpart, "You're the one who's caught in your own mind!"

"I have the sense to examine a situation before diving into it!" the Prince sneered.

"I entered in here to save your sanity, and all you can do it sneer at me," Luke barked, "I might as well leave."

"You won't," the other Luke said calmly. "For one thing, you don't appear to like me very much, and thus could not have done so for personal reason. This means that you were either ordered in by a superior, or for a more important purpose. Thus, you will not leave without me."

"Without your sanity restored," Luke muttered irritably. His counterpart apparently spent more time with words than he himself did. * * *

Emperor Vader walked along the corridors leading up the centre of the mind. They were mirrors, these corridors, and many of them were shattered. The centre was not in sight. * * *

"We are more tightly sealed in here than I was before you arrived," the Prince said in repetition of his earlier proclamation. "However, you come from the outside. Perhaps you may tell me of the design of the outside, so we may decern a manner by which to exit."

"The design of the outside," Luke stated. "Is your separating mind!"

"What?" Prince Luke exclaimed astonished.

"I came in here to rebuild the basic structure of your mind so that your father could then enter and restore your personality so that we can get about preventing our realities from merging, or had you forgotten about that?" Luke snapped.

Prince Luke stood still for a moment wondering what the boy was talking about. Then, suddenly, it all came rushing back to him, the visions, the pain, the ropes, the wall....

"We came all the way through the wall didn't we?" Prince Luke asked with a sinking feeling in his heart.

"Yes you did," Luke replied studying his double. "But the travel seemed to have a bad effect on you and caused your individual mind components to separate."

As Prince Luke listened to this and as the memories started to come back in more detail, but they were still cloudy, however as they came to him the walls of the chamber they were in seemed to shimmer. Luke looked at his double then at the walls suddenly realizing what was happening and his eyes opened wide in realization. "What?" Prince Luke demanded looking at the boy standing before him.

"Don't you see?" Luke questioned ignoring the superior tone of voice his double used. "As you remember what happened to you the walls are weakening and fading, you're keeping yourself trapped here!"

Prince Luke looked at the walls and realized that his double spoke the truth.

"What else happened to me?" Prince Luke ordered.

"How would I know?" Luke sneered, his eyes narrowing in anger. "You were already going mad when you arrived in my reality."

Prince Luke's head snapped up and his anger rose at the boy's accusation.

The mirrors around him seemed to shiver, and Emperor Vader stepped more carefully in the corridor as he sensed the instability. What was happening? * * *

"What do you mean?" the Prince questioned harshly.

"Exactly what I said. Outside of this place, in the physical world, you appear as a madman, a mindless husk. But we need you to help repair the realities, and I assure you, I will not be leaving here without your sanity restored. And that is *threat* not a promise," the young Dark Jedi smiled sharkishly.

Luke eyed his double irritably. Mad. They thought he was mad? What exactly had happened when he came through that wall? Another memory shimmered somewhere, and the walls shivered with it, as Luke gasped. This had started before the walls. He remembered now. He had started to feel that . . ..loosening . . .there was no other way to put it, of consciousness before he went through the wall. It had been when his mind had nearly fused with his counterpart. He had felt strange, out of the world, so to speak. When he had went through the walls, he was simply severed from his functions. Luke shook his head, a head he now understood was but part of a spiritual projection of the mind. Which was a contradiction, seeing as this was his mind. But there was no time for that now. The walls were completely transparent as his memory flooded back. The ceiling was growing harder, though. Instinctively, he knew that it was right. The ceiling was a vital representation of some part of his being.

"Come!" Luke snapped harshly as he stride forward, through the walls which were so thin that walking through them was no trouble at all. His double smiled smugly, as though he had accomplished something. Grudgingly, Luke admitted to himself, that my jogging his memory, the boy had accomplished something. Not that he would tell this self-righteous Dark Jedi *that.* * * *

Emperor Vader's eyes opened wide in surprise and satisfaction as the mirrors began to heal themselves with extraordinary speed and efficiency. Soon, they were perfect. It was time to go. He reversed his direction. * * *

As the Luke departed, the walls of the centre of Prince Luke's mind hardened into perfect obsidian once more, reflecting off of the eternal mirrored corridors.

Luke gasped as his mind completely returned to his own body.

"Luke," Lord Vader said looking down at his son.

Seconds later Emperor Vader returned to his own mind and shook his head before looked at his son's double.

"What happened?" he demanded.

Luke slowly stood up as he looked at the Prince whose Force presence was steadily growing stronger.

"He was basically keeping himself trapped," Luke said just as the Prince gasped and looked around. "I had just finished rebuilding his basic mind structure when I was sucked into a chamber-like part of his mind where his conscience was. As he started to regain his memory the walls of the chamber shimmered until he had remembered everything and the walls were thin enough for us to pass through."

Emperor Vader nodded his head at this explanation as he turned his attention to his son.

"You all right Luke?" he asked.

"Yes," Prince Luke replied looking at his double, his father's double and finally Palpatine.

"Now that young Vader has finally decided to join us we should get to the task we should have started long ago, we need to start rebuilding the walls between our realities," Palpatine ordered giving the Prince a cold, hard, accusing stare.

Prince Luke had known Emperor Palpatine as a surrogate for the grandparent he'd never known on either his father's or mother's sides. The Emperor had been a harsh man when it suited his purposes, as it often did, but he'd always been kind to young Luke. This Palpatine was different in some fundamental manner. Like his father, the Prince noticed the despair of this place, the aura that made it seem almost unreal. Grimacing inwardly, the Prince ignored the strange Palpatine's stringing comments as the air they were. His mind had been damaged in an attempt to stop the disaster that was upon the horizon. He could not be blamed for what had happened. No one could. Satisfied with his logic, the Imperial Nobel smiled tightly and said,

"I seem to recall someone rummaging around in my thoughts earlier. Perhaps then you know that the method to patch the walls are to use minds?"

"They know," his double said icily. The Prince nodded curtly, though he'd like nothing more than to strangle his obnoxious young alternate. The Prince did not like the Dark Jedi. He represented far too much of what Luke could have been, had he not used his own common sense. Lip curling in a slight sneer, the Prince directed his next words at the young Dark Sider.

"Perhaps then you are aware that minds are very difficult indeed to pull from their hosts, especially the vast billions that we will need to complete this task?" "Of course," his double snapped.

The Prince smiled tightly. "I propose then, that the method by which to do so would be to 'seduce' so speak, the minds from their bodies. I've heard that you professional dark siders are all very good at that. You actually seem to talk about nothing but that. The vision, should a man or woman choose to follow it, would lead to a Force trap. Having already consented to follow the original lure, they would have no choice but the continue along with the path set. We would collect the minds, and weave them with the Force into the reality walls, reinforcing and strengthening them as we go along."

Palpatine regarded the Prince for a long moment, and said, "Clever. Perhaps your presence is worthwhile after all," hoping to nettle the Prince into anger.

Luke simply regarded him steadily and said, "Of course it is," confidence in his every tone.

Emperor Vader looked up as he realized what Palpatine was trying to do. Palpatine disagreed with the fact that his son wasn't a Dark Jedi and he was going to try to change him to be as he wanted him to be. He was about to say something when he decided that it was better not to start an argument, besides Luke obviously knew what was happening anyway.

"Since we need billions of minds and since it would be an extra burden to get them from your reality as well as from ours now that you're here we should start with the people from Alderaan and then continue using the minds of non-humans we have no use for," Palpatine stated.

Luke smiled at this, this way his master wouldn't have to worry about the Alderaanians and their Jedi and Old Republic ideals anymore, and he would also be getting rid of all the aliens the Empire had no use for. Briefly he wondered as to what aliens his master had in mind and quickly decided that they'd probably end up using the minds of Sullustans, they had no use what-so-ever to the Empire, they were nothing but a pain. Besides Luke thought once the Sullustans or the majority of them were gone they would be able to strip their empty home world for metals and anything else that could be useful to the Empire.

Prince Luke frowned inwardly as he thought of what Palpatine had just said, using Alderaanians and non-humans? It wasn't that he liked either particularly, but using them just because they were non-humans or Alderaanian's? He suppressed a sigh knowing that if he objected it might only cause an argument and then they'd lose precious time, besides this wasn't their galaxy.

Emperor Vader briefly had the same thoughts as his son, but he too cast them aside.

"Very well," Emperor Vader stated out loud. "We begin with Alderaanians. It would probably be best if two of us concentrated on creating the illusion, two of use on pulling the minds with us and the last one of us should place each mind into the wall."

Luke nodded at this and looked at his double. "As you said earlier us dark siders are good at creating the illusion and taking the minds away, which would leave you out of both of those jobs," he said with a smile on his face. "You'll have to be the one who puts the minds into the walls." Palpatine smiled to himself as Luke said this, he knew his young apprentice didn't like his double for the fact that he didn't only use the Dark Side. This showed how close Luke was to completing his training, as he was already trying to get the other Luke to lose his temper.

Prince Luke regarded his double, his detest for the boy growing, he wanted to finish repairing the walls as soon as possible so that they could get out of here and back to their own universe.

"Emperor Vader, you and young Skywalker can create the illusions while Lord Vader and I take the minds from their bodies and direct to where your boy can take care of them," Palpatine stated in a voice that meant that there would be no more discussion on who did what.

There was no time for arguments. The Force filled the room with intensity, brilliant light and ecstatic darkness. All five beings soaked in the power of it, drank in the essence of the universe. Weaves of power were grabbed hold of, entwined into the minds of the five, connecting in a manner that ensured that no matter their individual tasks in this matter, they worked as one, a machine, a perfect device of smooth motion.

Emperor Vader drew in a deep breath, relaxed his every muscle, and drew in a single thread of the Force. Within that thread he threw every temptation he could think of--money, power, possessions, sex, manipulations, corruptions and redemptions, cosmic communion, a million other things. All of it, everything, in that single thread, until it pulsed with such power and strength and size that it seemed an overripe, overgrown sun ready to burst.

Gritting his teeth, the Emperor passed it to the young Dark Jedi who stood some feet from him. It felt as though he were trying to pass the universe. This thread, though he knew it's trap, was so incredibly. . . seductive. To hold onto it. . . .He almost laughed. It was tempting, but he knew better, certainly. This thread would not give these things. This thread, this ocean of temptation, would destroy. Still, it was so hard. . . .

Luke Skywalker accepted the thread's other end with a pained grunt, feeling the weight of it all the more as he held it in his will. His teeth ground against themselves. So heavy! Temptation! The will to resist was even more difficult to summon up when he had not created it, when he had accepted this with no understanding of the weight.

Both took a deep breath. One, long breath. Then, another. And another, bringing their life forces into balance. Both held one end. Now. . . form the visions of temptation from this thread of seduction.

Luke had agreed with Emperor Vader before hand that he would concentrate on one side of Alderaan while the Emperor concentrated on the other. Resisting the temptation he created visions of different kinds and sent them to the unsuspecting Alderaanians. He found that despite the terrible effort the people quickly accepted the visions and willingly allowed his father and Emperor Palpatine to take their minds out of their bodies and lead them to their doom. He also found that it was easier to seduce the minds of the sleeping Alderaanians so he quickly sent a message to his father's double before concentrated on those first.

Lord Vader pulled one mind after another free as fast as his son could seduce them. He was taking the minds seduced by Luke while Palpatine was concentrating on those seduced by his double. His task was difficult because even a willing mind was hard to take from its body and drag across space to wherever Prince Luke was working on the walls. He found that every time he brought a mind over his son's double was just finished with another and ready to accept the new mind. Vader quickly figured that while it might be hard work Prince Luke had the fastest work, which was good as he was receiving two minds for everyone he brought over. Lord Vader also found that although the minds had absorbed as much of the seduction as they could he could still feel free floating parts of the seductive visions when he entered a mind to take it away and found it hard not to give in. Whatever Luke and his double had created it was most definitely very powerful and almost impossible to resist.

As soon as Emperor Vader received the message from his son's double he started seducing the sleeping Alderaanians first. He was pleased to note the Luke Skywalker was keeping up a good pace, even if slightly slower than his own.

Emperor Palpatine pulled the latest mind from the Alderaanian's body, eyeing the Emperor Vader closely, carefully, all the while. The man was disturbing Palpatine far more than he let on outwardly. A version of Vader who was Emperor? A version of Vader who was uninjured, who's spirits remained uncrushed, who retained the confidence the Vader Palpatine ruled over had held as Anakin Skywalker? He passed the next soul to the Prince Luke--the young man was almost as disturbing as his father. A Luke who was not a Dark Jedi, who used more than the Dark Side, who was true courtier and Nobel, as well as fighter? He grimaced The Alderaanians should be running short soon. How long had they been doing this for? How many were now stacked on the walls between realities. Suddenly, Palpatine realized that he was reaching for the next soul, and there was nothing there. A though, transmitted through the room from Emperor Vader, rang in Palpatine's mental 'ears.'

'Switching realities. Alderaanians in another . . . .'

This gave Palpatine thought. Switching realities. Moving the train of seduction from one reality to another, and reaching out for the spirits of that cursed planet in it's alternates. Could they completely destroy the Alderaanians, in all realities? It seemed an unlikely prospect, considering how many realities had the potential to be, but Palpatine smiled at the thought of trying. And this tool that young Skywalker, and the strange Vader were using! It was amazing! You could convert all the light Jedi in existence with but a touch of this! Palpatine made a mental note of that, though of course it would have to be toned down, for easier handling upon an individual basis. Palpatine was not holding the tool, but he could sense the strain, and see the sweat running down their faces.

On Emperor Vader's order Luke followed his father's double into another reality. They used an extremely weak part of the wall to go throw and were soon busy seducing the Alderaanians from this other reality. Once again Luke started with the sleeping ones as the effort was really starting to wear him down, but he kept up his pace knowing that if he quit he would be merged with his double, something he didn't even want to think about. He detested his double just as much as his double detested him.

Lord Vader eyes his son with concern as he took another mind from a seduced Alderaanian. His son's face was covered with sweat and it was a lighter colour then normal, he could also feel the weariness of Luke's body and yet his son didn't complain, he didn't even slow down. Vader smiled at this, his boy was strong, stronger then he was, all he needed to do was complete his training and then he'd be the strongest man in their reality, maybe even in the other realities, but there was no way of knowing.

Prince Luke sighed as he took another mind from Palpatine and put it into place in the wall, he wasn't cementing them into place yet as he didn't have the time at the moment, they'd have to do that later, together. Prince Luke wasn't particularly looking forward to having his double near him, but he knew that as soon as the walls were rebuilt he and his father would go back to their own reality and then they'd never see their doubles again, ever. The thought brought a smile to the Prince's face as he took another mind from Lord Vader.

The work went on and on, as soon as they finished the Alderaanian's in one reality they went on to another and another. Luke let out a sigh of relief when his father finally stated that Prince Luke said he had filled all the gapes in the walls. Everyone immediately returned to their bodies in the throne room and Luke Skywalker and Emperor Vader both had to sit down and just let the Force flow through them, refreshing them.

"Are you sure you filled every gap?" Palpatine demanded sternly looking at his apprentice's double.

"Yes," Prince Luke replied irritated, for although not as worn out as his father and his double he was exhausted.

"Good," Lord Vader replied. "But how will you get back to your reality now?"

"The walls have all their bricks so to speak," Prince Luke replied. "But the bricks still have to be cemented into place. We need to start that and then my father and I will go back through the wall and you finish cementing the place we went through."

"Then we never see each other again," Luke muttered eyeing his double as he got to his feet.

"Exactly," Prince Luke replied.

Lord Vader looked from his son to the Prince knowing full and well that if the two of them were left alone in a room they would probably end up killing each other. He shook his head at this, he didn't like his double but he didn't hate him either.

Luke stood to his feet, which were clad in soft, mouldable white leather. He had done almost no physical walking this day, and yet his feet ached almost as much as his mind did, not to mention his physical head, which was sporting a pounding migraine. Letting out a breath, the Prince drew back into his mental centre, turning towards the first gap he came across the in the wall. This would surely be the most tedious job. The crack between the "bricks" was crooked and gapping, and Luke, as he smoothed it over with the Force, slowly moving them together. A jarring shudder ran through his body, and Luke nearly screamed in shock. It was pulling at him, like a vacuum! The cracks were dangerous, he backed away into his own mind quickly. Sending a message to the others--the cracks are dangerous, they'll try to suck you in--Luke slowly emerged again, searching blindly behind him for a handhold upon reality, such as it was at the moment, and began again. Still, with every smoothing motion he made, the sucking grew stronger.

As the work continued all five of them noticed the sucking. As Luke Skywalker worked on the wall he tried to ignore the weariness of his mind and body, the past few days were really starting to take their toll on him. He shook his head and concentrated on his work, he knew that if he didn't pay attention he might be sucked into the wall and that was something he absolutely did not want to happen.

Working on another section of the wall Lord Vader was worrying about a totally different subject, not that he wasn't worried about being sucked into wall, but something was going to happen, something big, but he couldn't place what.

Moving along a weaker section of the wall Emperor Palpatine worked on, his anger growing, this was not the work for an Emperor! He wished that there was somebody behind this mess, for that would mean that he would be able to take his anger out on them, he just loved to make people pay, to hear them screaming, knowing that he had won. Palpatine then turned his attention back to the wall as he heard a loud rumbling sound. Quickly he took a step back and looked at the wall.

Hearing the rumble Prince Luke also took a step back and was about to continue his job when suddenly the slight sucking seemed to grow in strength and pull him in. He called out as he was pulled towards the wall.

Luke had also stepped back at the rumble and heard his double's scream just as he too was being sucked in, he was being pulled closer and closer to the wall. Then, just as he was sure that he was going to be pulled into the wall, he stopped. Reaching out he felt for what was holding him back and quickly touched his double's mind, as they touched minds he could feel that his double was just as confused as he was at being held back from being sucked into the wall.

"We must balance each other out," Prince Luke sent suddenly understanding.

"That would make sense," Luke replied. "It also means father will be safe, but master..."

"Master?" Prince Luke suddenly questioned.

"Palpatine," Luke replied worriedly. "He'll be pulled in!"

"Good," Prince Luke replied honestly. "That means your father can take over the Empire and rule as he was meant to."

But even as Prince Luke said this he could feel that his double was still worried. Suddenly he realized that Palpatine must have demanded totally loyalty out of his double and his father's double, in this reality they were really his servants.

Emperor Palpatine let out a startled cry as he was sucked closer to the wall. He immediately reached out with his mind to try to anchor himself to something to stop from being pulled into the wall. As he reached out he saw that all the others were being pulled near the walls as well, but even as he watched they stopped as if being pulled back by invisible treads. He soon realized that that wouldn't happened to him as his hands made contact with the walls and started to merge into it. He cried out and struggled, but it was no use Palpatine kept being pulled further and further into the wall. Knowing that nothing could save his body he reached out and entered his young apprentices mind and tried to anchor his mind their.

Prince Luke had been trying to contact his father when he suddenly slid forward and inch.

"What's happening?" he demanded speaking into his double's mind.

But even as he did so he felt Palpatine's presence there. Instantly realizing what was happening he started to push at Palpatine's mind.

"What?" Luke exclaimed.

"Drive him out!" Prince Luke ordered. "He's getting between our link, and if he does so we'll all be pulled into the walls!"

Luke Skywalker hesitated for a moment, he had never even thought of disobeying his master, much less try to kill him. He'd sworn loyalty to Palpatine and in return the Emperor had trained him.

"LUKE!!" Prince Luke exclaimed. "If you leave him in your mind all three of us will die! He's got no double and so there is no way for him to survive this!"

Luke hesitated a second more before he started helping his double, trying to drive Palpatine out of his mind.

"NO!" Palpatine exclaimed. "You are mine! I command you! Let me stay!"

Just then Luke Skywalker and Luke Vader managed to dislodge the Emperor's mind and they silently watched as he was sucked into the wall, moments later they felt the disturbance in the Force as his individual mind was destroyed.

Silence was crowned in that moment. Palpatine's vast mind filled the largest crack in the wall, cementing it closed forever, or as close to forever as can be. But the shock was too great for Lord Vader and Luke Skywalker. For Emperor Vader and Prince Luke, it was a respect for all possibilities that may be, for the fact that if they had not had a double, that could have been either of them. The silence stretched onwards, ever further and faster, seeming to stir the air even as nothing was done. Muscles cramped as they stood in that same position, for how long it was not know. Finally, Lord Vader spoke.

"He is gone," the silence shattered.

Luke Skywalker's breath hissed out and emotion completely overcame him.

"This is your fault!" he screamed at his double. "You wanted me to let go, you put those. . .ideas! . . .in my head to begin with! You had no right! This is not your world! This *is* *not* *yours!*"

"I understand," the Prince said calmly, not hating his double at that moment, but pitying him. In the end, his double seemed no more than a boy, at war with himself. "You understand. He is dead here, and nothing can change it for you, Luke. Nothing. Not screaming and not accusations."

Luke's eyes went wide with incredulousness. He wanted the Prince to scream back at him, wanted him to accuse in return, so he could strike out and destroy him. But this calm reasoning--he did not know how to respond to it!

Behind his mask Lord Vader blinked in surprise, Luke was reacting far stronger then he had expected him to, far stronger then he was reacting. But then he figured, Luke had been raised to obey Palpatine, raised never to even think of betrayal, and now suddenly he had helped destroy his master. As he lightly probed his son's mind he saw something he had never seen before, instantly he knew that he could only see it now because Palpatine was no longer there to hid it from him, he saw that Palpatine had been suppressing some of his son's ability to touch the Force, leaving Luke with more emotion and power then he was used to, thus the reason for him striking out. Seeing that Luke had calmed down somewhat he turned to his own double.

"You'll have to go through the wall before we completely seal it."

"Yes," Emperor Vader replied as he too felt what Palpatine had done to his son's double.

'The faster we get out of here the better,' Emperor Vader silently thought to himself as he looked at his son.

"I guess this means you're the Emperor now," Prince Luke said looking at his father's double.

Lord Vader nodded silently as Luke looked at him, regaining his composure.

"We'd better finish the walls," Luke Skywalker suddenly said, his voice betraying no emotion.

"You're right," Emperor Vader agreed before they all continued their work.

It was almost finished.

"We are leaving now," Emperor Vader said, turning to his double. Lord Vader, who would no doubt soon be know to the peoples of his reality as the new Emperor, nodded in agreement.

"It was . . .interesting," the Dark Lord noted.

"It was indeed," the Emperor's nod was of respect and acknowledgment, before he turned to Luke Skywalker and said, "Luck to you."

Prince Luke turned to his double and nodded curtly, an acknowledgment of existence, wary and irritable, no more. The nod was returned by the young Dark Jedi with the same wariness.

"Luke," the Emperor gestured his son over to him. "Form the spear," he said, referring to the manner in which they had arrived. "And shield your mind." Luke did not need that reminder of his near fatal first crossing.

The Dark Lord and the Dark Jedi observed as their doubles faded and disappeared.

As soon as their doubles disappeared Vader and Luke finished the cementing and thus blocked the passage between their realities, permanently, or so they hoped. When they were done Luke allowed his self to sink to the floor, exhausted. Vader studied his son for a moment before he spoke.

"You have noticed the increase in your abilities?" Vader asked needlessly.

Luke silently nodded his head and looked up at his father, his eyes asking if his father had known what the Emperor had been doing.

"No," Vader replied shaking his head. "He hid it from me as well."

Luke nodded at this and then turned his head towards the throne, waiting for his father to take his rightful place. Vader hesitated for a moment before he stepped forward and seated himself in the Imperial throne. He quickly found that while the throne had been almost too big for Palpatine it fitted his form perfectly, almost as if it were made for him.

"Emperor Vader," Luke stated as he got to his feet.

His words just hung in the air for a while, reminding both of them of their close encounter with their doubles and how close they had come to merging with them. The silence stretched on for what seemed like an eternity while it was actually only a few minutes.

"Lord Skywalker," Vader finally replied giving his son his former title.

Luke smiled at the title, briefly grateful that he wasn't going to be titled 'Prince' even though that was what he now technically was. He liked the title 'Lord' better, it stood for more then just heritage or a future position, it stood for a current position, a position he had trained and waited for from as far back as he could remember.

"We must inform the others of Palpatine's death," Vader finally stated as he looked at his son.

Emperor Vader looked about, seeing clear starlight streaming down through the open ceiling of the main tower of the Imperial Palace. He took a deep breath, revelling in the fresh air that wafted down from above. His son materialised beside him. Vader reached out to Luke's mind, checking on his condition. Nothing seemed wrong. The Prince smiled then, crookedly.

"I'm fine," he said with a laugh, genuinely delighted. "Force, but it feels good to be home!"

"I know exactly what you mean," the Emperor answered, not at all wryly. He was in complete agreement with Luke at the moment.

"I hope nothing like that ever happens again," Luke continued.

"Couldn't agree more. We need sleep, and lots of it," the Emperor noted. "Days must have passed while we were fixing that damn wall. Panic may have taken hold. So, sleep must wait," he reflected, "At least for me. You can catch some now, though."

Luke was already shaking his head, "I don't doubt that you calm matters, but I'd feel much better if I was there, too."

"Good," Vader had been hoping Luke would say this, but had given the choice as well. "The delegation will still be here, as well. What a time to disappear. They must have put out messages to every contact they have. Force. . . ." the Emperor muttered, "We'll have our hands full. Then again, this could be turned to our advantage. Keep them on their toes. Oh, and Luke. The guards will still be outside Princess Leia's door," he gestured pointedly.

"Damn it," Luke muttered, remembering the matter of the troublesome Alderaanian girl. He wondered suddenly just what realities those Alderaanians had been taken from. Was it from his own? If so, those Alderaanians off their planet at the time may be the only ones left of that race. It was possible, but there was no way of knowing just yet.

There had been a lot of doubt among the highest ranking officers of the Empire as to how exactly the Emperor had died, but none of them was stupid enough to confront the Dark Lord or his mysterious helper with Palpatine's death. Instead they had just prepared everything for the public announcement of Emperor Palpatine's death and of Darth Vader's promotion to the position of Emperor as Palpatine had no children and as he was the second in command of the Empire.

Standing in his room in the Imperial Palace Grand Admiral Tern looked into the mirror one last time, just to make sure that he was ready. Being the present third in command of the Empire he, and everyone else, expected Lord Vader to promote him to the status of 'Lord' and second in command of the Empire after Vader's crowning as Emperor. Smiling at his own reflection Tern briefly thought about someday becoming Emperor and ruler of the galaxy. The thought broadened his grin and he saluted his reflection before he turned and left the room, heading for the Emperor's throne room.

As soon as he entered the throne room Grand Admiral Tern collected himself and walked up the stairs to the throne which was facing him but which was empty as Lord Vader stood before the window looking out over Coruscant.

"Is your speech ready?" Vader demanded as he continued to gaze out the window.

"Yes my Lord," Tern replied knowing full and well that Vader meant the speech he was meant to give before Vader took the throne.

There was a moment of silence before Vader finally turned around to gaze at the Grand Admiral.

"Very well," Vader replied eyeing the man he'd never liked, one of the first things he'd do as Emperor was to get himself and Luke a better third in command. "Dismissed."

Grand Admiral Tern gave a slight bow at this and turned around to leave the room, slightly disappointed that the future Emperor hadn't even mentioned his own promotion to second in command of the Empire.

Back in the throne room Luke stepped out of the shadows as the Grand Admiral left the room.

"He over estimates himself," Luke stated as his father sat down in the throne.

"That he does," Vader replied looking at Luke who was now wearing long, black, flowing robes not unlike those he wore. "I never did understand why Palpatine chose him as a temporary third in command, but we'll soon get a more appropriate person for the position."

Princess Leia was furious. She had been pent up in her room for ten days now, on guard by Imperial Stormtroopers. There had apparently been complains in regards, because she heard arguments every once and while outside, but the troopers had ended it quietly and simply gone back to guarding her. Food and drink had been delivered three times each day. The privy was kept well stocked, and her sheets had been changed once, but never had she been let out, and never had she the chance to escape. Where would she go, anyway? As prisons went, the plush room wasn't at all bad, but that was not the point in the slightest.

Without warning, the door opened. Leia frowned at her watch. It wasn't time for her meal . . . .

In walked Prince Luke, looking more tired and haggard than ever she had seen him, dressed in the same white velvet she had last seen him in. His hair was mussed, his blue eyes were hollow, and he kept blinking as though to keep from falling asleep on his feet.

"You're free to leave, or continue with the gathering. Nothing has changed since then. My father and I have been absent. The guards have been dismissed," he turned on his heel and walked away, trudging wearily.

Leia was in shock. Just like that. No explanation or anything. She was free, and she could go back to the gathering. Well, she'd certainly have something to say. Absent? Where had they been?

"...and while we will morn the death of Emperor Palpatine for some time to come we must go on," Grand Admiral Tern said standing on the dias right before the throne in the public throne room.

Although the crowd was respectfully silent there were many among them who were glad that Palpatine was dead. However many of the people in the crowd weren't even thinking about Palpatine, no, they were thinking about Vader and trying to decide whether or not they were glad that he would become Emperor. Vader was leader, there was no doubt about that, but did they really want him to be the Emperor, to be the most powerful man in the galaxy?

In many homes across the galaxy families were sitting in front of holo projectors and watching everything live. Many of the Navy officers watching were glad that Vader was becoming Emperor as it meant that he wouldn't be with the Navy as often as now and that meant that they didn't have to worry about being chocked to death for the slightest mistake they made.

"As our late Emperor had no children the throne automatically goes to his second in command, Lord Darth Vader," with this Tern stepped aside and watched as Vader made his way up to the dias and sat down on the throne.

There was a short silence before their was an applause. Vader looked at the crowd and then at his son standing at the bottom of the dias, just out of sight from most of the people in the room. After a few second of applause Vader motioned for silence and immediately the crowd fell silent.

"As I am now Emperor that leaves my former position free," Emperor Vader stated and noticed Tern, who was standing at the edge of the dias, lift his head in expectation. "I therefore proclaim Luke Skywalker Lord Skywalker and my second in command."

There was a murmur of astonishment in the crowd as everyone heard this. Grand Admiral Tern's mouth dropped open in shocked disbelieve and his eyes opened wide. Luke then stepped forward and walked over to his father's right, acutely aware that all eyes were on him. As he took his place he looked over at Grand Admiral Tern and smiled.

Leia Organa stalked out of her room, catching up with the Prince is short order.

"What is the meaning of this? Where were you? Why was I locked up?"

He looked at her with those weary eyes, and despite herself, she shivered. He looked so tired.

"An urgent trip was made," he said, "We had not time to give instructions in regards to you or anyone. And you know why you were imprisoned."

She scowled. She knew. She had been sneaking around, but damn it she a right to know things! They couldn't. . . they could keep things from her. She was Alderaan's Princess and Senator, but Emperor Vader ruled the galaxy, and Prince Luke was his father's chief advisor. In their eyes, she was not much.

"If you'll excuse me, Princess," Luke nodded, and trudged off.

Leia scowled and turned in the direction of her travelling companion's quarters.

Shock greeted her, screams for attention from people who had served her family diligently for years.

"Princess! Princess, it is horrible! Alderaan! The people!" the woman who shouted these things broke down in sobs after every word.


"They're all dead!" * * *

Emperor Vader stood before the assembly some hours later. The people stared at him in expectation. "I have heard of Alderaan's mysterious misfortune. I am saddened by these circumstances, but nothing can be done for the dead save for to figure what has happened. I will investigate this. In the meantime, Alderaan's dead will be lain to rest in proper fashion, and those surviving off planet will be notified."

Questions assailed the Emperor, and he answered, and no one noticed the white clad woman who's face was drawn right with grief. Her father had been on Alderaan. Bail Organa was dead.

Sitting in his throne in the throne room Emperor Vader regarded his son.

"When you were seducing the souls of the Alderaanians did you ensnare Bail Organa?" the new Emperor suddenly asked.

"No," Luke replied smiling. "I purposefully left him alive to see the consequences of his actions."

"Good," Vader replied. "Our Princess will have quiet a welcoming comity when she returns to her home planet."

Luke's smile grew at the thought and then he watched his father turn the throne away as three storm troopers brought the young Princess into the throne room. They guided her up the stairs and stopped before the throne.

"Leave," Luke ordered and the storm troopers turned and left.

Leia looked at him for a moment as she noticed the new clothing Luke wore.

"Well you definitely look better then the last time I saw you," Leia replied referring to when he had fallen screaming to his knees. "A pity you didn't die."

Luke regarded her silently for a moment and was about to reply when Vader turned the throne around to face a visibly shocked Princess.

"A little more respect," Emperor Vader ordered. "Or we could just punish your planet even more."

It took a few minutes for Leia to get over the shock of seeing Vader in the throne, and when it did she realized that Luke had taken his former place. After this had sunken in Leia finally had time to think about what Vader had said, punish her planet even more?

"What have you done?" Leia demanded weakly as she finally found her voice.

"You'll see when you arrive back home," Luke replied.

"You're letting me go?" Leia asked in astonished disbelieve.

"Yes," Emperor Vader replied. "We needed you here to make your father control his people, but.....that is no longer necessary."

Leia's eyes narrowed with worry and suspicion at those words and was about to say something when Luke stepped forward and lead her out of the room through the Imperial Palace to a shuttle waiting outside.

"Take her away," Luke ordered to the storm trooper waiting at the base of the ramp to the shuttle. "As you wish my Lord," the storm trooper replied as he took Leia's arm and lead her up the ramp.

Three days later and both Emperor and Prince were quite refreshed, dressed in clean clothing, bathed, and well rested. Colour returned to them, and weariness banished, they were both ready to begin the false investigation into Alderaan's mysterious attack. Though the deaths of so many was highly suspicious, especially upon Alderaan, long thought to be Rebel sympathizers when that faction existed, and beyond was difficulty to brush aside, they would put their best efforts to it, and hopefully it would soon be history. Lamented, faded, history. The surviving Alderaanians, who numbered in the bare thousands, would return to their planet once the current inhabitants were put to rest, cremated, it would have to be, considering the numbers, and that would be that.

"Assemble the investigation team. The best we have," Emperor Vader ordered Prince Luke. "Tell them nothing. They are to search as they have never before searched. Make it seem urgent and an extreme concern. They will find nothing, of course, but at least this way we cannot be accused of brushing things under the rug."

"People are going to want vengeance," Luke noted.

"Yes," the Emperor replied. "Just as they're about to give up, we'll give them a scape goat. A suitable one, one that no one is fond of."

"What's that?" Luke asked.

"The Hutts."

"Father?" Luke asked as he re-entered the throne room.

"Yes," Emperor Vader replied not bothering to turn away from the window.

"What about Alderaan?"

"What about it?" Vader asked turning to face his son who now stood several feet behind him and slightly to his right.

"Well what are we going to do for an explanation?" Luke questioned looking out of the window.

"I see what you mean," Vader replied as he went to sit in the throne. "Well the Princess knows that we're behind it one way or another as we told her that our problem concerning Alderaan was solved. Let's just leave it at that."

At this Luke turned to face his father as he lifted an eyebrow questioningly.

"Think about it," Vader stated. "If we don't bother to even investigate the matter then everyone will know that we either did it or know how it happened, and since people know that we were displeased with Alderaan nobody will dare defy us the way they did for fear of ending up like the Alderaanians."

A smile slid across Luke's face as he thought about this, people were always scared of the unknown. Generally if you knew what had happened you had a target to attack or to hid from, but if you had no idea what had happened there was no way to protect yourself from whatever had caused it to happen.

"So we just let the rumours run wild," Luke said after a moment of silence.

"Exactly," Vader replied. "Now, I've been thinking about a new third in command and I have two people in mind, however as you'll be working with them more often then I will you can choose."

Luke just nodded his head and waited for his father to name both men.

"The two men I've chosen are Grand Moff Subik and Grand Moff Losren."

Luke was silent for a moment as he thought about both men, he had been expecting his father to name those two. Grand Moff Losren was a capable man who could take charge in almost any situation, but he also knew when to be silent and follow orders. He had seen Losren at work several times when he had been with his father. Grand Moff Subik was also a very capable man and always ready to take charge in any situation, but Luke had run into him a few times and there was something about the man that he didn't like, he wasn't sure why, but he didn't like the man.

"Losren," Luke finally stated.

"Very well," Vader replied regarding his son before activating the com on the throne arm. "Inform Grand Admiral Tern and Grand Moff Losren that I want them in here in five minutes."

"As you wish your highness," a voice through the com said at which Vader turned the com off and looked up at his son.

"The faster Tern is moved down the better," he stated.

Luke just nodded his head in agreement as they waited for the two men to arrive.

Time passed, and the Imperial Gathering disbanded from the Palace, wandering back to their planets, and their organizations. Emperor Vader and his entourage saw each and every representative off with such ceremony that even those picky beings were satisfied. All save for Princess Leia, who remained upon Coruscant, waiting for Alderaani from all over the Empire to draw to her, to come to her, so that they may reestablish themselves, repopulate their home world. And the investigations, hard working, desperate, and sincere, turned up nothing, as predicted. Absolutely nothing. Even Leia could not fault them. She had kept tabs on their every move, and it was obvious that this was no cover up. And they had found nothing. It was frightening. A planet hit, cleared of all human life? Only human life? All other animals were perfectly fine, plants were healthy. Nothing should be wrong. But the fact of more than thirty million rotting corpses contradicted that. What other planet may be possibly hit by this mysterious affliction. And then the investigation team came back to Imperial City, bearing bells. Their eyes were afire with revelation, marching straight to the Emperor. They'd found something, they said. Found something? What was this? Evidence that the Hutts were behind it. And the Empire screamed it's outraged, and it's satisfaction, The Hutts, hmm? Hutts had never been trusted, and now they'd proven themselves for good. Emperor Vader turned his sights, and his weapons, upon the giant, slug like creatures.

Luke stood at his father's former place on the right hand side of the throne and waited. Any moment now the two men should be entering the throne room. His father had already turned the throne away as Palpatine had done before him. Then the elevator door opened and two men stepped into the room. They quickly made their way forward, ascended the stairs and stopped at the top, waiting to be acknowledged by the Emperor.

Luke eyed them as they stood there and noticed the evil glare the Grand Admiral gave him when the man thought that he wasn't looking. After a few minutes of tense silence Vader finally the throne around to face the two men.

"Your Majesty," they both said as they gave a short bow.

Vader nodded his response as he studied the men. Grand Admiral Tern was wearing his usual dark blue uniform, which was only worn by the third in command, and Grand Moff Losren was wearing his usual green uniform.

"I have brought you here as Lord Skywalker and I have decided to make another change in the power structure," Emperor Vader said indicating Luke when he mentioned his son.

Luke immediately noticed the angry glare Tern gave him, and inwardly he smiled, Tern was already mad at him for the fact that he had become the second in command of the Empire instead of him, and now his anger would grow when he learned what Luke had helped Vader decide.

"Grand Moff Losren, from now on you are Grand Admiral and third in command of the Empire," Vader stated as he watched Tern closely.

At first Tern's face showed no reaction as the meaning of the words took a minute to reach him, but then his face paled before it turned a bright red and he turned his eyes on Luke. It was clear to even to the new Grand Admiral Losren that Tern blamed Luke for what had happened.

"Lord Skywalker did not in anyway make the call here," Vader stated warningly. "He only helped me decide who to replace you with."

Tern obviously realized that he was on dangerous ground as he quickly turned his gaze away from Luke and looked back at Vader.

"You will take Grand Admiral Losren's former place," Vader continued.

"As you wish your highness," Grand Moff Tern said even though it was clear to everyone that he wasn't glad about it.

"You're dismissed Grand Moff," Vader ordered putting a special emphasis on the title.

Grand Moff Tern bowed, turned around and left the throne room. As soon as the Grand Moff was gone Vader turned his attention to the man standing silently before him.

"Grand Admiral Losren," Emperor Vader said. "Unless otherwise ordered you will remain on Coruscant to preform your new duties."

Losren nodded his head as he glanced at Luke. From what the Emperor had said earlier he knew that while the young Lord might not like him a lot he certainly didn't despise him as he had helped choose Tern's successor. Vader noticed Losren was studying his son.

"You will mainly be in contact with Lord Skywalker and from time to time with me, but you are to obey Lord Skywalker at all times," Vader ordered. "Even if his orders may contradict with an order I gave you earlier, is that understood?"

"Ye...yes your highness," Losren replied shocked.

At that moment he knew that the Emperor totally trusted his second as he was giving him the perfect opportunity to betray him. Losren knew how rare it was for someone in Vader's position of power to completely trust someone and to give them the perfect chance at betrayal. There was something about the young Lord that he didn't know, something very important, but he knew better then to ask questions, but perhaps he'd find out some day, perhaps.

In a strange twist of fate, the destruction of the Hutts was to be the final straw for any thought of Rebellion. In vindictiveness as strident and vicious as though he truly believed the Hutts had destroyed Alderaan's people, Emperor Vader destroyed the Hutt worlds, outlawed dealings with Hutts, and placed a bounty upon every last Hutt in the Galaxy. The peoples of the Empire watched in blood thirsty satisfaction. The "evidence" of Hutt foul play was of course destroyed before it was put under too much scrutiny. Soon enough, Alderaan was repopulated by the remaining Alderaani, and generations it was nearly completely restored to it's previous numbers. With one exception to it's peace loving character--it was completely loyal to the Empire. And so was the Galaxy.

After the Hutt extermination, Emperor Vader ruled for decades to come, and the people loved him. He was a hard man, it was said, which was true, but he also cared for his Empire, his peoples, which was also true.

After he died, which happened not fading away in his sleep, but in battle with a faction that had thought to usurp the Emperor, a faction which was put down by Vader's final blow, Prince Luke was soon raised to the position of Emperor. A gracious ruler, it was agreed, though his father's rule was the talk of legends for generations to come.

And the stars twinkled in their places, silent, eternal witnesses to the continuance of Imperial rule, cold, brilliant light shining over the Galaxy.

Few indeed ever guessed what had truly happened, that the universe had come to the edge of destruction, and was put back in it's place with the sacrifice of countless souls. * * *

As soon as the shuttle flew over the capitol of Alderaan Leia knew something was wrong, normally Aldera's streets were full of people going about their lives, but now, now the streets were empty and deserted. Leia's heart stopped for a moment as she remembered the Emperor's words: 'Or we could just punish your planet even more.' What had the Imperials done?

The shuttle then approached the Palace and set down on the single landing pad in the gardens of the Alderaanian Palace. Leia quickly went to the front of the shuttle and got out meeting with no resistance from the storm troopers.

As soon as she was walked down the ramp of the shuttle she heard her father's voice:

"Leia!" Bail Organa called out as he came running out of the Palace.

"Father," Leia replied as she walked up to him.

As soon as he reached his daughter Bail Organa pulled her into a his arms and hugged her while tears ran down his check.

"Leia, Leia, I was so worried about you when we found out you had been kidnapped," Bail whispered.

"Father," Leia said as she pulled herself out of his embrace. "What has the Empire done?"

Bail looked at her for a moment, almost as if he didn't want to tell her, but then he knew that she must know.

"Well I'm not certain who did it, but all the people are dead, they're corpses lying all over the place, in the palace too, everyone but me is dead" Bail said looking around as if expecting someone to jump out of nowhere and kill them too.

"It was the Empire," Leia stated firmly. "Emperor Vader told me before I left that he had punished Alderaan."

"Emperor Vader?" Bail questioned.

"Yes," Leia replied as the shuttle took off. "It's a long story....."


Lightsabers clashed as Vader and Luke fought, they were practising, just like they had the week before, only this time there was no one watching them, monitoring them. Luke had quickly gotten used his new powers and he put them to use as his father could clearly tell as he was being forced back. Suddenly changing tactics Luke managed to rip his father's lightsaber from his grasp and send it flying across the room. There was a moment of silence during which Luke waited for his father's reaction. Finally Vader nodded his head as he stretched out his arm and called his lightsaber back to him.

"Good," Emperor Vader praised his son. "Very good. I knew from the moment you were born that you'd beat me someday."

Luke stepped back and deactivated his lightsaber as he watched his father walk back to the throne and sit down.

"Tomorrow you will take the fleet and to the Sern system," Vader ordered as Luke approached him. "There have been rumours of Rebels in the area, make a quick example of them."

Luke nodded his head as he thought about the future of the galaxy, a future he and his father would decide together as they ruled the Empire and so the galaxy.


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