"How did my father die??
A flurry of emotions passed over Ben?s face?fear, concern, hope, regret, and
others Luke could not name?and then he took a deep breath.
?He didn?t. Have you ever heard of Darth Vader??
?Of course. Everyone?s heard of him. The Emperor?s second-in-command. He?s
Ben closed his eyes, pain flitting briefly across his face.
?He?s your father.?
Their footsteps echo in the corridors of the Death Star as they run, Leia
directly behind Luke and still holding his blaster.
?What kept you?? Han asks, his Wookiee friend still by his side.
?We ran into some old friends,? Leia tells him.
?Is the ship all right?? Luke asks, going straight for the more practical
concerns. Nothing else matters if they are stuck here.
?Seems okay, if we can get to it,? Han replies. ?Just hope the old man got the
tractor beam out of commission.?
Luke lets his eyes wander, searching for any more threats; the last thing they
need right now is for another squad of stormtroopers to show up, besides the
ones already in front of them. And there is something flickering at the edge of
his senses, something he can?t quite hear, or see, or feel?something powerful,
and strangely familiar. He turns his head, trying to find it, and then he sees.
?Look!? he says, and the other three look, to the hallway across the docking bay
that has caught his attention. There is Ben Kenobi, the old man Han so
derisively spoke of, and he has his lightsaber out and ready, and fighting
His opponent is Darth Vader. Luke has never seen him before, not even holos,
but he knows it instinctively. This masked black giant, dueling ferociously
with a red lightsaber clutched in his hands, is Darth Vader.
This is his father.
?Now?s our chance. Go!? Han shouts, and Luke suddenly notices that the troopers
have moved away, heading for the fight between his mentor and his father.
He starts running towards the Millennium Falcon, without taking his eyes off the
battle before him. He isn?t sure who he wants to win?and curses himself,
because it is obvious who he should be rooting for, that he should be urging Ben
Kenobi to be the victor, but it isn?t that simple.
His mentor, discovered only earlier that day, or his father, despite all the
evil that Luke has heard of him?
Ben continues fighting, but seems to slow down. His head turns, and his eyes
meet Luke?s with a shock that runs straight down Luke?s spine, and he seems to
have a strange little smile on his face. Then he turns back, lifts his
lightsaber, and waits.
The stroke that cuts him down comes swiftly, and he meets it serenely, without
attempting to further defend himself. The bright red blade bisects him
completely?and then Luke?s breath catches, because he isn?t there anymore. Ben
?No!? Luke almost doesn?t realize that the shout had come from him, and he
starts forward for a moment, toward the empty robes that have fallen to the
floor, and are now being prodded by black boots.
?Come on!? Han urges, running up the ship?s ramp, and Leia joins the plea,
saying, ?Come on! Luke, it?s too late!?
But Luke stands in place, rooted to the floor. His mentor is dead, the teacher
who had promised to train him in the ways of the Jedi. He knows that he should
follow Han and Leia, because Ben Kenobi can?t help him anymore, and there is
nothing left for him. Not even Leia, for all that she feels so familiar?and
besides, what would he do, if he left with her? An Outer Rim boy who knows
little of life beyond farming and daydreaming?what could he offer a princess
like Leia, or her Rebellion?
But there is something left, he thinks. He closes his eyes for a moment,
ignoring Han?s command to shoot the blast doors, and opens them again to see
Darth Vader striding toward him.
There is something left. There?s my father.
A father who has just killed his mentor, yes, but?perhaps there is a reason?
Maybe Ben did something, something bad?Luke doesn?t know very much about him,
after all. Maybe there?s another story, and if he can just talk to his father,
maybe?maybe Vader isn?t really as monstrous as everyone?s made him out to be.
Aunt Beru told him once that Anakin Skywalker loved his wife and his mother, and
if the person who became Darth Vader could have loved?
Maybe he?ll want a son as much as I want a father.
The stormtroopers are shooting at them, and Han and Leia are shooting back,
still urging him to get aboard the ship. Han looks like he is about to run down
the ramp again and grab Luke, but Luke steps away before that happens, and
almost without thinking, unhooks the lightsaber that is hanging from the belt
he?d purloined from another stormtrooper, and ignites it with a sharp snap-hiss.
?Luke, no!? Leia yells at him, desperately. ?He killed Master Kenobi?you don?t
stand a chance against him!?
She thinks he is going to try and fight. Luke wants to laugh, but some part of
him knows how horribly out of place that would be, and he keeps himself quiet.
Han is closer to him now, his arms stretched out and ready to grab, but Luke
steps further away, and dodges the blaster bolts that are still coming towards
?Stand down,? a deep voice commands, and Luke shivers absently. That?s my
father?s voice. In all his eighteen years, this is the first time he?s heard
his father speak. There is something unspeakably criminal about that.
The blaster bolts stop flying, and Vader strides forward, until he is only a few
feet away from Luke, the lengths of their lightsabers between them.
?Are you going to fight me?? Vader queries. ?You can?t be even as well-trained
as Kenobi was. Don?t be a fool, boy.?
Luke swallows. ?I?m not going to fight you,? he says, and is proud that his
voice remains steady, despite the nerves trilling through his system. His
father is in front of him, and they are speaking to each other! Vader does not
seem to realize that it is his son standing before him, but he will soon.
Leia gasps, and Luke distantly hears Han yelling, ?Not going to fight him! Then
what are you doing, run away??
Luke tunes him out. He finds that he likes Han, somewhat, in the brief time
that they?ve known each other, but he has someone far more important to his life
to talk to right now.
Well, the first step to talking is to not seem a threat. He turns off his
lightsaber, it having done the duty of catching Vader?s attention, and holds it
in his hands for a moment. He wonders what to do with it. His father?s saber,
Ben had told him. And his father is only a few feet away. Would he recognize
In an action that surprises everyone there, himself not the least, Luke holds
out the saber hilt, offering it to Vader. ?Do you know whose lightsaber this
is?? Luke asks, and hopes Vader is not about to blast him for presumption. Luke
doesn?t think Vader knows of their relation, after all, and doesn?t know how
Vader will react. They?ve had eighteen years stolen from them, and he doesn?t
know his father at all.
Vader is silent for a moment, and then one hand reaches out and takes the saber,
studying it closely. Then he stiffens, almost imperceptibly, and his red blade
jabs closer to Luke.
?This is my former saber,? he says, lowly, with an edge of danger. ?Did Kenobi
give it to you to taunt me?? Even if his words had not demanded an answer, his
voice and stance would have.
Luke takes a deep breath. ?No,? he says. He pauses, the moment crystallizing,
and he knows that what he is about to say is perhaps the most important thing he
has ever said, and will change his life forever, even beyond what has already
occurred. ?He told me that it was my father?s old lightsaber.? He straightens
to his full height, looking up at Vader and feeling no fear, and says, ?My name
is Luke Skywalker. I?m your son.?
There is silence, a long stretch of it, full of surprise and disbelief and
disrupted only by Vader?s breath. Behind him he hears Leia sliding numbly to
the floor, hears Han?s frantic question of ?Vader has a son??, but doesn?t pay
any attention to them. They are not important. The man in front of him is.
Vader stares at him, long and hard, and slowly nods. Then he says, very
carefully and evenly, ?Come with me.? And he turns and walks away.
Luke is poised to follow him, but then he stops for a moment, and turns back to
face Han and Leia. They are both staring at him, and Leia looks afraid and
determined. He walks closer, tries not to wince as they shrink away, and says
quietly, ?This is your chance. He?s distracted with me?you can leave. Go!?
He?s helped them now, and played what part he could in their escape. They
aren?t his responsibility anymore. He turns away before they can say anything,
and without looking back, heads after his father.
He catches up to him across the docking bay from where the Millennium Falcon
sits, and falls into step beside him. Beside him, not in front of him or
Vader does not say anything about it. Nor does he mention Luke?s delay in
following him. He doesn?t say anything, doesn?t even look at Luke, instead just
walking to wherever he?s going, and Luke finds himself beginning to grow
discouraged. Surely there is something Vader can say to him? Questions to ask,
like Where have you been? and What has your life been like? and How did you get
here? But Vader says nothing.
Have I made a mistake? Luke wonders suddenly, as the silence between them
stretches onward. Should I have made another choice?
But all the other choices seemed drab and dull compared with this, even in the
split second Luke had to consider them. There were many things he could have
done, of course. He could have shot the blast doors, like Han wanted, and maybe
he would be with them on the Falcon, on their way to the Rebellion. Ben Kenobi
would probably have wanted that.
But he hasn?t made that choice. Instead, he?s chosen to follow after a father
he?s never met before, about whom he?s only heard bad things, and?why? Vader is
still silent, striding through the sterile halls of the Death Star, oblivious to
what Luke is thinking. Why did I choose this? Luke wonders, and the only answer
he can find is, Because he?s my father.
Suddenly Vader stops, apparently having reached their destination, and Luke
blinks and is surprised to see that it?s a medbay. Why are they here? He isn?t
ill or injured, and he doesn?t think Vader received any injuries in the duel
?Lord Vader,? a man in a white doctor?s coat says, approaching and bowing
shortly. ?To what do we owe the honor of your visit??
?You have a sample of my blood on file, do you not?? Vader rumbles. The doctor
nods, and Vader gestures towards Luke. ?Take a sample of the boy?s, and compare
it to mine.?
Oh. Luke understands now, and how simple it is. Testing the claim, like Luke
hadn?t thought to do, trusting what Ben Kenobi and his own feelings had told
him. Then Luke is filled with an almost unreasoning fear?should he have
trusted? What if Ben lied, and his own feelings misled him? Luke lets the
doctor roll up his sleeve and plunge a needle in the vein in his arm, not caring
about the slight pain, and worries. Will Vader kill him if it turns out to be
Luke waits with bated breath as the doctor performs the analysis, and tries not
to let himself think too much, tries not to wonder what will happen if Ben lied
But even immersed in his own thoughts, he sees the doctor pale, and wonders if
that?s good or bad. Apparently Vader also wonders what it means, because he
says, with a thin veneer of patience over subtle threat, ?Well??
?Ah?? The doctor swallows, and then collects himself, and takes a deep breath.
?Congratulations, Lord Vader,? he says with recovered aplomb. ?You have a son.?
It is true. Luke feels suddenly weak-kneed, as if he?s lost far more blood than
what was taken for the sample. Darth Vader really is my father.
I?ve got a father now.
It is impossible to tell what Vader himself is thinking, because his mask is as
black and his distinctive breath as steady as ever, but Luke gets the feeling
that something inside him has shifted off balance and he doesn?t know where to
find his center anymore. Then without warning, Vader turns around and sweeps
out of the medbay, and after a stunned moment, Luke scrambles to follow him.
Vader is the only thing he knows on this station, and by now Han and Leia should
have left, so Luke has no recourse left him but to follow.
They walk again in silence through the halls, but it is a silence filled with
strange emotion. Feelings ripple in the air, confusion and wonder and surprise
and bafflement and hope, passing between them on their way to?where? Luke is
hopelessly lost, but Vader obviously has a destination, and Luke just follows
They finally pause before a door, and when it opens Vader waves at Luke to enter
first. Luke just barely notices that it must be Vader?s quarters when the door
sweeps shut and Vader is striding forward to sit down heavily in one of the
room?s utilitarian chairs. Luke gingerly takes a seat in another, and waits.
There is quiet in the room, aside from the ever-present breathing, and then
Vader finally breaks it, and speaks. ?You?re eighteen.? It is not a question,
but Luke nods anyway. Vader exhales more heavily than usual. ?I was told
that?your mother died before you were born, and that you died with her.?
Luke hadn?t asked for an explanation of why Vader never found his son, but he is
glad to have one all the same. He clears his throat.
?I grew up on Tatooine, with my Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru,? he says, and wonders
momentarily why Vader stiffened. But Vader waves at him to continue, and so he
does. ?Uncle Owen bought the droids with the Death Star plans, though we didn?t
know that at the time. Artoo?Artoo Detoo, that is, the astromech?had a message
from Princess Leia to Ben Kenobi, and went looking for him. I went after them,
and while I was gone?stormtroopers traced the droids to Uncle Owen and Aunt
Beru, and killed them.?
He closes his eyes against a fresh wave of pain, at that. Uncle Owen and Aunt
Beru?always there and so suddenly gone. Had they known about his father? He
can never ask them now. ?Ben asked me to go to Alderaan with him and train as a
Jedi.? He shrugs, remembering his helplessness. ?I thought maybe I could
finally make something of my life, maybe even find you, so I agreed. We
commissioned Han and the Falcon to take us there, but then we were tractored
onto the Death Star. Han and I went to rescue Leia while Ben went to turn off
the tractor beam, and, well, you know the rest.?
Vader breathes. ??Train as a Jedi??? he repeats. ?Are you then untrained in
the ways of the Force??
?Well, aside from how to deflect very slow bolts from a remote with my
lightsaber?yes, I?m untrained.? Luke smiles, remembering his fumbling, and how
it suddenly came together with the helmet on his head and the blast shield down.
But that is all that he?s learned, and he knows that there is so much more.
?Obi-Wan did not begin your training until you left Tatooine?? Vader persists.
?He taught you nothing before then??
Luke shakes his head. Why is that important? ?Nothing,? he confirms. ?I only
learned this morning that he was a Jedi. Before then I just thought he was a
crazy old hermit.?
Vader?s hissing breath is somehow thoughtful now. And it is very
rhythmic?suddenly all that has happened today catches up with Luke and
exhaustion overcomes him, the steady breathing almost willing him to sleep. He
blinks to keep his eyes from closing, and tries to suppress a yawn, but it
But the yawn does bring Vader?s attention back to him, instead of whatever
thoughts he had been lost in, and Vader stands and says, ?You are tired. Come.
I will show you to a place to sleep.?
Luke nods and stands as well, and as if in a daze follows Vader into another
room, where there is a bed that looks like it has never been touched. He falls
gratefully into it, the first break that he?s had since following Artoo into the
desert a morning and a lifetime ago, and drops into sleep almost immediately.
The last thing he remembers before it overcomes him is a hand resting lightly on
Something feels wrong. Even in the place between sleep and alertness, Luke
feels that something is wrong.
There?s a large hand shaking his shoulder. Aunt Beru doesn?t have hands that
big, so it can?t be her.
?Uncle Owen?? he mumbles sleepily, but no, that can?t be right. Uncle Owen
wouldn?t shake him, he?d just yell at him?
A memory floats up, from beneath the depths of consciousness, and others follow
it?fire and burned familiar bodies, a battle with brightly colored blades of
energy, and heavy breathing over everything.
He remembers, and wakes, opening his eyes and sitting up with a gasp. His
father?I really have found my father it?s not a dream it?s not a dream?stands
beside the bed, his hand falling to his side, and Luke knows that it was his
father whose hand was shaking him.
?What?s going on?? Luke asks, and scrubs the sleep from his eyes with one hand.
?The Death Star is approaching the planet Yavin,? Vader says.
Luke blinks, confused at the seemingly random statement. ?What?? he repeats,
feeling like he?s missed something important.
Vader sighs explosively, but explains, ?We put a tracking device aboard the ship
Princess Leia Organa escaped on, and it led us to the Rebel base on the fourth
moon of Yavin, which we are now approaching.?
?Oh.? He tries to see what this has to do with him, and why his father had to
wake him up to tell him, but then he remembers and realizes? ?You?re not going
to blow it up, are you?? he blurts out. Vader looks at him impassively, and
Luke knows what?s going to happen. He doesn?t want it to be true. ?But Han and
Chewbacca and Leia??
Leia, who he loved from the moment he had first seen her in hologram. The first
time he?d seen her in person, in that cell in the detention block, he?d felt a
shock running straight down his spine, that here was someone he knew, that
everything about her was familiar, even though he?d never met her before.
He can?t imagine her about to be blown up. Not Leia, when he could tell after
only a minute in her company that she is a fighter, and someone who will never
?She was about to be executed when you rescued her,? Vader says, as if he knows
what Luke is thinking. ?She cannot escape her fate again.?
Is he trying to be comforting? Luke wonders briefly, and bitterly. Her
fate?what a distant way of putting it, as if it has nothing to do with Vader.
?I am not in command of this battle station, Luke,? Vader says, again as if in
answer to Luke?s thoughts, and a horrible suspicion blooms. He?s heard stories,
of course, everyone has, but he?d never imagined that they could be true?
?Are you reading my thoughts?? he asks quietly. It?s somehow more believable if
he speaks about it seriously.
But he still hadn?t expected Vader to confirm it. ?Your thoughts are very
loud,? he answers. ?As are the thoughts of all untrained and unshielded
Force-sensitives. You are not the only one I have overheard.?
Oh, Luke thinks, and, sarcastically, How very comforting.
?It is not my job to be comforting,? Vader says. ?It will do you more good to
be told the truth.?
Luke groans. ?How do I make my thoughts private again?? he asks, a bit
desperately; he doesn?t know what he?d been expecting when he found his father,
but this is not it. His aunt and uncle often seemed to be able to read his
mind, but his father really can.
?I will teach you,? Vader tells him firmly. ?But there are other concerns at
the moment. I did not think that you would wish to sleep through the
destruction of the Rebellion.?
Yes, I would, Luke thinks immediately, but knows that that is not true. It may
not be something he can stop, but the least he can do is stand witness.
?Is there somewhere I should go?? he asks, and Vader nods, seeming to understand
what Luke doesn?t want to articulate.
?I will take you,? he replies. ?I cannot stay, for I am needed elsewhere, but
there is a place where you may stand and watch.?
He steps back, and Luke stands up. He?s still dressed in yesterday?s clothes,
which are rumpled from sleep and screaming of Tatooine moisture farming. He
looks at them, and then looks at his father, and does not know what to do; he
needs his dignity for this affair or he?s not sure he?ll be able to stand it.
These clothes have no dignity about them, but he has no others.
He does not say anything, but maybe there is some advantage in having a father
who can read his thoughts, because Vader says, ?Before I returned, I procured
some additional clothing for you.? He steps to the side, and Luke sees a black
pile sitting on the room?s only chair. ?Join me when you are dressed.? He
sweeps out, and the door shuts behind him.
After Luke has stripped out of his white clothes and pulled on the black, he
joins his father, and then follows him to a room above the bridge with a large
viewport. The gas giant Yavin is clearly displayed, and a moon is just starting
to appear from behind it. There is no one else there. Vader leaves him then,
the sound of his steps echoing in the silence, and when he is gone there is
nothing else to do but watch Yavin Four creep out from behind its planet, and
He does not know what to think about; there?s so much that has happened to him
recently. Should he think about dead Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, murdered by the
Empire on Tatooine?the same Empire that he finds he?s probably joined, just by
being here? Or about Ben, who promised to teach him the ways of the Jedi and
died before he could, killed by the Empire personified in Luke?s father? Or
about Han, the mercenary smuggler who has likely already departed the system to
save his skin? Or Leia, who he feels he knows without really knowing, and who
is about to die?
Through the viewport he can see small ships, snubfighters, some with the body of
a Y and some an X, and some he can identify as TIE fighters. When he was trying
to go to the Academy he learned about the Empire?s fighters, but not about the
Rebellion?s, which he assumes are the X- and Y-fighters.
His father is out there. He knows this without knowing precisely how it is that
he can be so sure, but it is true; his father is fighting the Rebels personally,
risking his life directly and not hiding inside a moon-sized battle station like
Luke is. Luke almost wants to be out there as well, flying like he knows he
can, but he doesn?t want to fight. Maybe if he hadn?t met Leia he could have
fought her Rebellion, but just standing here it seems like he is betraying her,
and he doesn?t want to think about what it would be like if he should be out
there, killing people she might think of as friends. But despite that feeling
of betrayal, he cannot stop the Death Star, and so he thinks the least he can do
He wonders what the snubfighters are doing. Surely they don?t think they can
make a difference, fighting against a battle station of this size? And there
aren?t any large transports leaving the area?What are they doing, why aren?t
they evacuating, what kind of fools are they? Luke wonders. This obviously is a
Rebel base, because there are those snubfighters, but why are the Rebels not
doing more to protect it?
The Death Star has almost completely cleared the planet; Yavin Four is nearly
fully visible right now. A rumbling starts, and Luke realizes that they must be
powering up the main weapon, the beam that destroyed Alderaan and now is about
to destroy an almost-uninhabited moon, save for the Rebels living on it.
He waits, willing the moon to go slower, but it does not listen to him, and then
it is out from behind the planet, and Luke can see it in its entirety.
Something in his eyes starts burning, and he wants to close them, but he
doesn?t?he will watch this. He owes it to Leia.
The rumbling increases, and then stops, suddenly, as a beam of light appears in
front of him. It heads straight towards Yavin Four, hits?
?and then Yavin Four is gone, debris flying off, some bits sinking into the gas
planet, some creating a new asteroid field, like the one where Alderaan once
was. And in his mind, Luke feels lights abruptly going out.
The brightest light is familiar, but it burns out as completely as the others,
and Luke knows that Leia is dead.
In all the dreams he dreamed on Tatooine, he never thought he would find himself
here, yet here he is. He stands before the Emperor of the galaxy, and as one
who is allowed to do so.
Just weeks ago he was an anonymous farmboy on a dustball of a planet in the
Outer Rim, and now here he stands, the son of the Emperor?s second-in-command.
It is such a change that he almost cannot believe that it is possible.
Yet if it is a dream, he thinks it might be a nightmare. He?s seen holos of the
Emperor, of course, but none of them depicted his more?corpse-like qualities.
Cloaked and hooded completely in black, yellow eyes deep-set in a face
impossibly wrinkled, skeletal pale hands with the skin stretched so tight it
almost seems that it is not there?the Emperor is terrifying.
And Luke is terrified. He doesn?t want to be, but he is. His father stands at
his back, a supportive presence, but Luke is the focus of this interview, and so
he is the one in front of the Emperor. He wants to tremble, wants to quake in
his boots, but he resists; he knows he is not weak, and he does not want to seem
so in front of the galaxy?s ruler.
The Emperor speaks. ?This is the boy?? he says disdainfully, and Luke wonders
why he sounds like there is something wrong with the one standing before him.
?My son,? Vader confirms, from behind Luke.
The Emperor nods, slowly. ?Tell me, son of Skywalker,? he says. ?Do you want
to be with your father??
If I didn?t I would not be here, Luke thinks, but safely beneath the mental
shields his father taught him to erect days ago, as soon as Vader told him that
the Emperor wanted to meet him. If I didn?t want to be with him, I would have
gone with Leia, and died on Yavin Four along with her.
But he does not say that. He doesn?t like this man, and doesn?t want to give
him more insight into himself than he has to, so he only says, ?Yes, Your
There is something in this room that feels?wrong. He does not know what it is,
but it?s like darkness touching him, leaving oily smudges on his skin, despite
that most of it is covered by cloth. Darkness sliding over him?it makes him
feel dirty, and disgusting. It?s powerful, wild, and almost overwhelming.
The Emperor looks out at him through lowered lids. ?Leave us, Lord Vader,? he
says. Behind him Luke can feel Vader obeying, and he?s filled with an impulse
to whirl around and grab Vader?s cloak and keep him here, make him a shield
between Luke and the Emperor, but he doesn?t. He listens to his father walk
away and does not turn his back.
Then they are alone, he and the Emperor, and the wrongness in the room
increases. He thinks that if he opens his mouth he could taste it, and it would
be cloying, sickeningly sweet and poisonous. The wrongness seems to envelop
him. He hates it.
?You are a nephew of moisture farmers, young Skywalker?? the Emperor says.
Luke clears his throat and replies, ?Yes, Your Highness.? Darkness, let in when
his mouth opened to speak, seems to dance on his tongue, and when he swallows it
feels like it?s going down his throat as well. It?s like sugary bile, and he
wants to gag, but he doesn?t.
?You would not have expected to ever meet me.?
It?s not a question, but Luke answers anyway, ?No, Your Highness.?
?Your father has already begun to instruct you in the ways of the Force, has he
not?? the Emperor asks. And before Luke can answer, he continues, ?I don?t
suppose that he informed you it was forbidden??
Forbidden? For a moment Luke forgets himself, and gapes openly, his surprise
letting the darkness pour more quickly into his open mouth with every
inhalation, and he shuts it and feels dizzy. No, his father had certainly not
told him that. But why should it be forbidden? There seemed to be no problem
with Ben taking him as a student?
The Emperor gives him a tight smile, as if knowing exactly what he is thinking,
and Luke hurriedly checks his mental shields to make sure that he is not
leaking. He?s not, but he would not put it past the Emperor to know what he is
?Yes, forbidden,? the Emperor says. ?There is a rule, among the Sith Lords,
that there can ever only be a single master and a single apprentice. For the
apprentice to have an apprentice would be to upset the balance of power.?
?My father?s not the master, then?? Luke asks, fascinated in spite of himself.
He?s never heard of this rule.
?No,? the Emperor says. ?I am.?
The wrongness in the room increases yet again, and this time Luke recognizes its
strengthening taste as the Force, except twisted, and by this man?s hand. It is
the Emperor?s darkness that seems poisonous to him. His father?s, at least,
does not make him feel ill.
?So you see the dilemma, young Skywalker,? the Emperor says, and gives him a
considering look. ?But there is a solution. Take this.? The Emperor reaches
inside his cloak and pulls out a lightsaber hilt, like the one Luke left back
inside the quarters he?d been assigned here in the Imperial Palace, and a weapon
that he?s only learned the basics of how to use properly, for all that his
father says he is a natural.
The lightsaber floats over to him, buoyed by the power of the Force, and Luke
reaches out and takes it, switching it on to see a bright red blade. A blade
like his father?s.
He hears a sound behind him, but he does not turn; he is not willing to present
his back to the Emperor, even given a weapon. The sound resolves itself into
footsteps and breathing: his father has returned.
And this time his father steps up to stand beside him, and not behind him. Luke
looks at him out of the corner of his eye, sees a flash of red?and turns
completely, to see that his father has his own lightsaber out and on.
What is going on? Luke thinks, with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Whatever
it is, he does not think he?ll like it.
?My solution,? the Emperor says, and gestures at Luke and his father. ?Whoever
survives is the one most worthy to stand at my side. Is it not neatly done,
young Skywalker?? And the Emperor laughs.
Does he mean what I think he means? And he does, Luke knows it. But I?m barely
trained, there?s no way that I could win?is my father really going to fight me?
The Emperor laughs, and Luke feels, not for the first time, that he should have
made a different choice on the Death Star, and ran when Ben Kenobi gave him the
opportunity. Because now he feels like he made the wrong one, the worst
decision in his entire life, and knows, deep down in his gut and in his soul,
that he is going to pay for it.
Original cover by Mistress Eden. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.