Luke Skywalker stood with his arm around his wife, Mara, watching the ship approach the planet's surface. Excitement stirred within him. Mara leaned her head on his shoulder.
It was a perfect day. The sky was a deep shade of blue that complemented the greens and purples of the lush, tropical life around them.
The ship landed with the thud and flash of repulsors. The ramp slowly lowered, showing a pair of small boots at the top. They were brown and scuffed, and showed no sign of coming any nearer. A larger pair of boots appeared behind them, and the small ones stumbled forward. A pair of short, sturdy legs came into view, followed by the rest of a little boy's body.
Luke drew in a deep breath. The child's light hair reflected the sun, and his light blue eyes stared about him in wonder. The boy glanced at Luke and Mara as though startled to see them there. He turned and started back up the ramp like a frightened animal.
"It's okay," said a soothing voice, and the boy returned with his father. Luke held out a hand in welcome. The man's blue eyes, so similar to Luke's, crinkled in greeting. "Uncle Luke!" he called, starting to walk toward them. The boy latched onto his leg, though, and he was forced to stop. He bent down and said something stern. The child released his leg slowly.
"Anakin." Mara pulled him close and kissed his cheek. "We haven't seen you for so long."
Luke embraced his nephew. "We missed you here. Yavin's a lonely place without Anakin Solo underfoot."
Anakin grinned, looking older than Luke remembered. "When duty calls, it must be answered," he replied. Then, with barely contained excitement, he turned away from them. "Come on, they won't bite," he said softly to the blond haired child. The little boy gave Luke a wary look, then darted into his Anakin's arms. Anakin lifted him and faced Luke and Mara. "And this is my son, Luke Solo."
"Hello," Luke greeted him, smiling. His great-nephew, with his mother's pale hair and his father's ice blue eyes, looked almost exactly as Luke had when he was that age, a boy on Tatooine. The child remained silent, staring at him. Their gazes locked, and the boy didn't look away as he had earlier, which surprised Luke.
Anakin frowned. "Say hi, Luke," he commanded.
"Hi," the boy whispered. Then he firmly closed his lips.
"He doesn't talk much around strangers," apologized Anakin, embarrassed.
"Many children are like that," Mara said briskly.
"Luke! Mara!" A pretty young woman emerged from the ship and made her way down the ramp, a little faster that was safe considering the narrow footing.
Luke grinned. "Tahiri! I haven't seen you for ..."
"Several years," she said, finishing his sentence for him. "Not since the three of us went off on that mission of yours that took forever." She smiled playfully, and Anakin slipped his arm around her waist.
"It was an interesting mission, don't worry, Uncle Luke," he said. "Starting another Jedi Academy for young trainees was a brilliant idea."
"It was mostly yours," Mara commented wryly. Anakin shrugged. "But come on inside. People are anxious to see you, Anakin, and meet your son."
Anakin put the boy down, and the four of them entered the huge Massassi temple. As always, a wave of memories passed over Luke as they went inside. His first time in this building, trying to fit in among veteran pilots and ending up a hero, then returning to the temple years later with his first students, teaching them to fight as a team and ultimately defeating the ancient Sith lord Exar Kun. He smiled as he remembered the students who had followed, many of them mere children. Anakin Solo had been only eleven when he first came, and eleven when he faced his first challenge against evil.
Luke shook his head to clear it. Bad things had happened here, too. Defeat, fear, death. Now it was time to move on to the future. He looked down at that future, walking beside him in the solemn manner only very small children have.
The five of them took the turbolift to the top floor - the Grand Audience Chamber. Just before they entered, Luke and Mara exchanged a secret glance. They had a surprise for their guests. The turbolift doors opened, and they stepped out into the massive hall. Rows of benches filled the floor on both sides of the aisle, and rows of Jedi filled the benches. All of the Jedi stood in respect. Tahiri, in on the surprise, hugged him fiercely and kissed his cheek. "Congratulations, Anakin," she whispered.
Anakin turned to Luke, surprised joy on his face. "What ...?"
"They're here to see you," Luke said, enjoying the moment. "The entire order of Jedi."
"Here to see me?"
Mara swatted him. "Stop being modest. You know you're the most powerful Jedi since Master Luke Skywalker." She gave Luke a playful glance.
Luke gave his nephew a proud look and strode purposefully up the aisle to the raised platform in the front. He knew Mara would guide their guests to a bench at the front. He faced the audience and surveyed the Jedi with pride.
"This is a triumphant day for the Jedi Order and the New Republic," he announced. The wonderful acoustics of the renovated room carried his voice easily over the crowd. They applauded and cheered, filling him again with memories. He saw the Jedi historian, Tionne, near the aisle, and remembered her struggle to become a Jedi. She was not as powerful in the Force, and had dedicated herself to the study and preservation of Jedi lore. Next to her sat Raynar, a young man who had overcome similar struggles and now proudly wore his lightsaber in protection of the galaxy. And over there was Corran Horn, the legendary pilot. Just as Luke had been famous in his youth, he thought, smiling to himself, though Corran's youth was past him now, as well. And there in the front row, next to Mara, sat his son, Ben, the apprentice of Luke's one-time nemesis, Kyp Durron. It had repaired the rift in the Jedi Order the day Luke Skywalker's son decided to learn with Kyp.
"As a group," he continued, with a special smile for his earliest apprentices, "A team, we have survived every obstacle thrown at us. There will be more, and we might even feel overwhelmed at times, but we will survive again, thanks to the Jedi Masters and Knights who preserve our past, present, and even future. But as we gather today to welcome another Jedi into the ranks of the Masters, let us take a moment to remember."
The hall was filled with silence. The Jedi gathered before him sat, eyes closed, some meditating, others simply remembering.
"Now," he concluded, "the order of Jedi Knights is once again firmly established. Though I was never officially pronounced a Jedi Master, it is my duty to select another Master to follow in my footsteps and lead the Jedi when I am gone." A hush fell over the audience. Luke let a broad grin break out on his face. "Jedi Knight Anakin Solo," he said resolutely. "Please come to the front."
Anakin stood and made his way down the aisle. His friends murmured congratulations to him, and all the Jedi strained to see. He climbed the steps and stood beside Luke.
As Luke conferred the honor on him, he felt the approval of the Jedi assembled below sweeping over and around him, just like the Force itself. Luke took Anakin's lightsaber and switched it on, remembering when his nephew had built it. He held the blazing sword in the air above Anakin's head, and the Jedi below switched on their sabers, holding them out in a silent and moving tribute. The Grand Audience Chamber was filled with colors and light, and the power of the Force. Luke handed Anakin back his lightsaber and removed his own. Anakin took the blade, holding it straight out in front of him, and the Jedi in the audience moved theirs into the same position. Luke switched on his own lightsaber, feeling the power vibrating through his artificial hand, and saluted Anakin with it. Through the green light of the blade, he could almost see faces looking back at him, faces last seen together on Endor. A lump filled Luke's throat to see them there, in his moment of triumph, seeing how he had restored the Jedi. Anakin Skywalker's smile still held sadness and the love of a father; Yoda, as always, brimmed over with wisdom to share; Ben Kenobi nodded in approval. Thank you, Luke silently said to them.
No, they replied. Thank you.
Anakin Solo raised his blade, and Luke Skywalker stepped back, letting the Force flow through him. The past must always make way for the future, he reminded himself. And this future will be glorious indeed.
Luke lay in bed, listening to the sounds of revelry continuing below. The celebrations would continue even longer into the night, and although Luke no longer enjoyed staying up so late, he encouraged the festivity.
He turned over and closed his eyes, relaxing and trying to sleep, but he no longer slept easily. Through the Force, he could feel Mara's presence beside him. Others slept nearby in their rooms. Other old fogies, he thought, suppressing a grin. Except for one. Little Luke Solo slept in the room just next to him, a surprisingly bright spot in the Force. The boy was only four, but like his father, he already showed much potential.
Like me. Luke now realized that his potential had shown early in his life, too, but no one had been there to point it out. His piloting skills and fast reflexes were more than just a coincidence. He closed his eyes and remembered.
A small boy, running swiftly through the sand with a gang of children. The twin suns were hot. The boy raced ahead of his friends and reached their prize first. A swoop! They were too young to ride on it, so they kept it hidden, far beyond the edges of the farthest settlement. He climbed enthusiastically on it and revved up the engine.
"I got here first!" he shouted triumphantly at the others, who stood back a safe distance. "So I get it today!"
"Aww, Luke," a friend protested. He was older than Luke, and had ridden the swoop several times. He was the best pilot of the children. "Gimme a chance! I wanted to try Flegrat's Demise!" Flegrat's Demise was the ultimate challenge for them, a gorge so narrow that only the best of the children dared try it.
"You've had your chances, Biggs!" Luke shouted. "I'm just as good as you are!" To prove his point, he reached for the control stick and pulled it toward him, preparing to zoom off and make a grand exit. Instead, the swoop shot backwards. Luke hastily let go of the stick, and the swoop stopped short. His legs were too short to balance himself with them, and he teetered for a moment before regaining his poise. The others laughed uproariously.
"Nice one, Luke!" yelled Biggs.
"Shut up!" Luke thrust the control stick forward and shot off. The desert sands were a blur beneath him, and he lifted his head as high as he could, feeling the wind blow his hair wildly. He laughed with exhilaration. Biggs told the others that flying the swoop was hard, but it was a piece of Corellian ryshcate!
The terrain of sandy dunes fell away, and he found himself in a small valley. The ground was pebbly and strewn with large boulders. He flew in among them, confidently veering back and forth, reveling in his quick reflexes and how he was always in control.
A flash of red light startled him, and the swoop swerved up above the boulders. Another red flash of light whizzed past him, leaving the scent of singed hair behind. Someone was shooting at him! He brought the swoop around, trying to locate his enemies. Two Sand People squatted on the ridge he had navigated just moments before. They raised their gaffi sticks and bellowed.
Luke swallowed. He hadn't expected Sand People. The smaller one shot at him again, but he steered the swoop aside just in time. Suddenly, more Sand People rose into sight, hidden behind the sand dune.
"This is not good," Luke muttered. Unsure of what to do, he slowed the swoop down and descended back into the maze the boulders. They couldn't see him properly, so he had time to think.
He recalled the valley. It was surrounded on three sides by the ridges. He couldn't get out that way; there was no telling how many Sand People were out there or where more were hiding. The other side was a cliff. That would have to be it.
He gunned the swoop and headed for the cliff. To his immense relief, there were no Sand People atop it. But there was no way he could count on this rusty old swoop turning upward so sharply. He continued his approach, though he wasn't sure why. There was no way out- wait! A canyon opened up in front of him, and he gratefully flew into it.
The walls were narrow, with slabs of red rock jutting out from the sides. He slowed the swoop and carefully began to make his way down the canyon, frightened by the close proximity of the walls. After a few minutes of tense flying, he relaxed. His hands seemed to know what they were doing.
The canyon turned sharply. His fingers tightened on the controls, and he flicked a switch, trying to reduce power. The swoop barely made it.
"Whew! That was close!" He peered ahead, wondering if this canyon would ever end. A moment later, the light of the sun blinded him and he was out.
Luke looked around in surprise. He knew where he was! His friends were waiting for him just beyond that rise. He gunned the engine and roared towards them.
They stood in a tight clump, shielding their eyes from the sun. He waved at them, trying to look casual. Then, on an impulse, he swung it around in a 360-degree turn before turning off the engine and jumping confidently down.
"That was fun!" he told an open-mouthed Biggs. "I got cornered by Sand People and had to escape through Flegrat's Demise."
"But you've never flown before!" Biggs exclaimed in amazement.
Luke shrugged flippantly. "It was easy," he told the others. "No problem."
The astonishment on their faces was worth every minute of it.
"Mara, I am going to make a holocron." Luke watched her carefully for her reaction. They lay in bed, the morning light streaming in the window.
"Why?" she asked simply, carefully hiding her feelings so she wouldn't influence him unfairly.
"For the same reason the Jedi of old made them," he replied, again feeling the rightness of it. Last night, something inside him had said to do this. "Because the legacy must never be lost or destroyed. Without the knowledge of the Old Republic's Jedi, we need to step in and build in again. As the first Jedi Master after the purge, it is my duty."
"What will you need to do to compile the holocron?" she asked.
"Just sift through my memories, figure out what was significant and what wasn't. Remember my mistakes, and the solutions I found." He slid his arm around her. "Remember my life."
"The Force will be with you," Luke told Anakin, gripping his hand. "Always."
"Thank you." Anakin looked steadily into his eyes.
"And I will always be available to help you adjust," Luke added.
Anakin's stern expression dissolved into a relieved look. "Thanks, Uncle Luke."
"Just command the respect you deserve, and-" Luke broke off with a sheepish smile. "I'll stop lecturing you. You know everything you need to know."
"Yes. And I appreciate your help with my son."
"Of course. Mara and I look forward to getting to know him better. It will be just like having Ben at home again." While Anakin and Tahiri learned to deal with their new responsibilities, Luke and Mara would keep an eye on their little boy, caring for him and training him in the ways of the Force. It was generally assumed that Luke Solo would be Luke Skywalker's last apprentice, then Luke could retire, or keep getting into an out of impossible situations, like the old days.
"Goodbye." Luke knew that a lengthy farewell would be harder than a simple one, so he turned and entered the shuttle that had come to take him to Coruscant.
Mara sat on a couch with little Luke next to her. He sat solemnly, watching out the window as his father turned and walked away. A silent tear trickled down one cheek. He seemed to have accepted that he had to leave his parents for awhile, but he wasn't ready to be friendly yet.
"Don't cry, Luke," Mara urged. "You'll have a good time with us, and your father will take you back to live with him again after just a few months." She looked up. "There's an even more pressing issue than that, I'm afraid," she told her husband with a twinkle in her eye. "How are we going to tell you two apart?"
Luke agreed. "True. We'll have to come up with a nickname for the great-nephew here." He sat on the other side of the little boy, and they fastened themselves in for departure. Soon the shuttle was in orbit.
"What would you like us to call you?" Mara asked the child. He remained silent, watching out the window as the planet receded. Then the ship flashed forward into hyperspace. She directed the question to the other Luke. "What would you like to call him?"
Luke thought for a moment. The ship rumbled softly, and a strange feeling came over him. He furrowed his brows, but nothing seemed to be wrong. Without warning, a word spoke inside his head, echoing as if it came from a great distance. He whispered it, wondering what it meant. "Padawan."
"Padawan?" Mara asked. "What kind of name is that?"
Luke shrugged uncomfortably. He felt vaguely disturbed but didn't know why. "It just ... came to me," he said softly.
Mara gave him an odd look, but nodded. They could discuss it another time. She sensed that Luke wasn't ready yet. "Well," she said to the boy. "We'll call you Padawan then." She grinned impishly. "Lots of nickname potential there. Pada, Padi, Wani ..." Luke chuckled, and his great-nephew looked up at him.
"Do I have a new name now?" he asked; his first words since they left.
"A nickname, yes," Luke replied.
The boy considered for a moment. "If I have a new name, then I don't have to be a Jedi hero like you, right?"
Luke laughed. "I was never a hero, Padawan," he answered softly. "I was just the only Jedi around at a time when we were desperately needed."
"But I have your name, so I have to be real good," the boy said, sounding comically melancholy.
"Not anymore," Mara interjected. "Now you don't have to live up to anything."
"Your father had the same problem," Luke said. "He was named after my father."
"Darth Vader," the little boy said, his eyes wide.
"No," Luke told him sharply. "Anakin Skywalker. A good man who was corrupted but came back to the light."
The boy nodded, but Luke didn't know if he understood. He patted the child's shoulder; he had a lot of time to learn yet.
Luke had always enjoyed landing on Coruscant. At first, he had been amazed at the enormity of it. Now he still felt the same wonder, in combination with a familiarity that had come with time. The boy stood, his nose plastered to the window.
"Padawan," Luke said, enjoying the strange nickname. "You need to sit down now."
"Do I have to?" the boy's bright eyes pleaded.
"Yes," Luke said firmly. Padawan climbed down and strapped in between Luke and Mara. Mara was asleep, her head resting against the window behind them. It had been a long trip. Luke reached over and touched her knee. "Mara, wake up. We're here."
She stirred and stretched. "I'm awake." They sat in silence as the shuttle landed.
The pilot, a young lizard-like life form, slithered up to them. "It wasss an honor to sssafely deliver you to thisss placcce, Massster Ssskywalker," she hissed, bowing her bright green head.
"Thank you," he said, getting up and stretching his legs. "It was a pleasant ride."
She shivered with pleasure and shook out her frill. "I thank you with humblenesss," she said, bowing her head again. Her silver eyes glistened with pride. Luke took Padawan's hand and the three of them left the shuttle.
An honor guard surrounded the Chief of State, who waited for them below.
Luke greeted him formally. "Chief of State Lowbacca. Thank you for meeting us here." He looked up at the tall Wookiee. The furry being had filled out since his time at the Jedi academy, and wore his lightsaber hanging from his belt. Luke recognized the belt. Lowbacca had taken the strands from a deadly syren plant in the bowels of Kashyyyk's forests during his rite of passage into manhood.
The Wookiee growled, and a tiny translating droid on his belt piped up in a prim voice. "Chief of State Lowbacca welcomes you and Mara Jade back to Coruscant, and inquires about the ceremony."
Luke addressed his former student. "All of the Jedi were there except you, just as we planned. It was a wonderful gathering, and I'm grateful for your help contacting them. Anakin Solo is settling into his new role as the leader of the Jedi."
What will you do now? Lowie inquired through the droid.
"Mara and I will rest and care for Anakin's young son while he adjusts." He gestured at the small boy who stood back with Mara. "If you need us, of course, just let us know."
Lowie chuffed with laughter. Luke Skywalker at my beck and call! Times have changed! He looked at Mara and the boy. How is your wife?
"I'm very well," Mara answered before Luke could.
And the boy? What is his name?
"His father named him Luke, after me, but we decided call him Padawan to avoid confusion," Luke replied.
A Twi'lek hurried up to Lowbacca and whispered something to him. Lowie growled a comment back, then faced Luke again. I'm afraid I must leave you now. Something has just arisen that requires my attention.
"Thank you for meeting us," Luke repeated. The Chief of State swept off with his honor guard and the Twi'lek.
"Did he ask about me?" Padawan asked when Luke took his hand again.
"Yes he did," Luke said, smiling at the boy's enthusiasm. He was getting used to them. "The Chief of State was once a student of mine, and a very good friend of your Uncle Jacen and Aunt Jaina."
They caught a shuttle to the apartment they in which they would be staying. It was expensively furnished, and larger than Luke had expected.
"Your due," Mara told him, squeezing his hand. "A room for every time you saved the planet." They laughed together.
"Maybe I should have considered the consequences first," Luke teased.
"Padi, don't do that," Mara scolded, leaving her husband's side. Luke turned to see the boy banging his fist against the wall. A holographic screen showed views of the city, to compensate for the lack of windows in the apartment.
"It's not real," the boy said, puzzled and slightly angry. "It isn't a window."
"That's right," Mara agreed. "It's a holograph, since we have no windows."
"But lying is bad!" Padawan protested. "Father says it is bad."
"It is," Mara said helplessly. "This isn't lying, it's just a decoration."
Luke laughed aloud, startling both of them. "What's so funny?" Mara demanded.
"You two. I'd forgotten how difficult it is to argue with a four year old." Luke recalled the hours he had spent arguing with Jacen and Jaina when they were young, and then Ben. "They don't understand logic yet."
"So you tell him that holographs in the wall are good and shouldn't be banged against with dirty hands."
"Fine," Luke said. He turned to Padawan. "Want something to eat?"
"Yeah!" The boy scampered over to him. Luke led him into another room, glancing over his shoulder to catch Mara shaking her head with mirth.
"Just distract their attention," he said flippantly, smiling warmly at her. "Easy!"
Over the next few days, he discovered just how wrong he was. The little boy had seemingly endless supplies of energy. He woke early, and never wanted to go to bed at night. He wanted to see everything, and go everywhere, and was never content to just sit and talk. He asked questions nonstop, and was always in the way.
"Just distract their attention, huh?" Mara snorted at him one night after tucking Padi into bed.
Luke shrugged. "It worked once."
"But not twice."
"A minor glitch."
Mara chuckled despite herself. They could never stay mad for long. "On the way here," she said suddenly, glancing at him. "You acted- I don't know, peculiar. I wanted to ask you about it, but I sensed you weren't ready yet."
Luke sobered as he remembered. "Yes. I can't explain it."
Mara waited expectantly. She knew he would try to explain anyway.
Luke sank down into a plush chair. "Something about the ship. It felt so peaceful, somehow, so familiar. Then I heard a- a whisper, I don't know how else to describe, though it wasn't really. A voice said in my head, 'Padawan.' And when I looked over at little Luke, the word felt right somehow. I felt like there was some connection between him and me, and the relationship was best described with the word 'Padawan'."
"Could it have been a vision of some sort?" Mara asked, as puzzled as he was. "A vision of the future perhaps?"
Luke thought for a moment, then shook his head. "A vision, possibly. But it didn't feel like the future." He shook his head again. "I've never felt anything like it before, and it rattled me."
"Maybe ... a vision of the past?" Mara sat next to him, her arms crossed and her brows knitted with concentration as she probed her husband's feelings.
"How could we lose knowledge of a word?" Luke asked. "Unless it's from the far past. But it didn't feel that far. Maybe a hundred years, or fewer."
"How can you tell?" Mara's green eyes bored into his. "You weren't even sure it was from the past."
He ran a hand through his grey hair. "It just feels right. I can't explain it, but I've been thinking about it a lot over the past few days." She didn't look convinced. "I'll tell you if it happens again," he promised.
"All right." Mara stood. "Are you coming to bed? It's late."
"I think I'll stay out here for a moment longer." She nodded and left the room. Luke leaned his head back against the soft cushions and let his eyes drift shut.
He gripped the controls of his X-wing, eyes scanning the dials and the view ahead while he listened to voices over the comlink. He knew what he had to do; he just wished he knew if he would get out alive.
The trench felt evil to him, and he shuddered as his ship swung into it. Like immersing himself in a bath of darkness. His wingmates swung in behind him.
"Watch yourself," he ordered to his wingmates. "Increase speed, full throttle."
Green blast of laser fire began systematically shooting towards him down the trench from the assault tower just beyond their destination.
"But what about that tower?!" It was a young pilot named Wedge Antilles, flying with Luke and his old friend Biggs Darklighter.
Luke spared little concentration on him as he rocked the X-wing back and forth to avoid the laser fire. "You worry about those fighters! I'll worry about the tower." He glanced at his panel; everything checked out. Then he noticed a blinking red light and sighed in frustration. Did Rebel equipment ever work right? "Artoo, that stabilizer's broken loose again! See if you can't lock it down."
Artoo warbled a reply, and the warning light clicked off.
Wedge's voice came back over his comm. "Fighters! Coming in, point three." Luke hit the throttle and hoped Biggs and Wedge could deal with the fighters. A second later, he heard Wedge's voice again. "I'm hit! I can't stay with you."
"Get clear, Wedge," Luke replied, irritated. "You can't do any more good back there."
Luke glanced back to see Wedge's X-wing swing up out of the trench. Now it was just Luke and Biggs - like it used to be.
Biggs spoke for the first time on their attack run. "Hurry, Luke. They're coming in much faster this time. We can't hold them!"
Luke pushed down the feelings of panic rising in his stomach. Everything was moving so fast. "Artoo!" he cried. "Try and increase the power!"
"Hurry up Luke!" Biggs's voice urged, sounding desperate. "Quick!" Then the comm went dead and Luke knew Biggs's X-wing had just been destroyed. He was next.
How close am I? He pulled over the targeting computer. He was rapidly approaching the target. Was it fast enough?
Suddenly, a feeling of peace and calm swept through him. He looked up, disoriented, as a familiar voice spoke in his head. Use the Force, Luke. His mind spun. Ben Kenobi! But Ben was dead ...
Let go, Luke! Dead or not, it was Ben's voice. Luke paused a moment in confusion, then looked back into the targeting computer. The target was steadily approaching. Would he be able to hit it?
Luke. Trust me. Yes. He would be able to hit it.
Filled with confidence for the first time since he entered the trench, Luke reached up and switched off his targeting computer. The Force was his ally; he would get rid of this agent of evil before it destroyed another world.
A voice from the base spoke in his helmet - the only voice near enough to reach him. "Luke, you switched of your targeting computer. What's wrong?"
He smiled. "Nothing." An honest answer. "I'm all right." And I'm going to stay that way.
The target was approaching; he could feel it. Suddenly a mechanical wail filled his headset, and the X-wing rocked violently. "I've lost Artoo!"
As the Death Star cleared the planet and prepared to fire, Luke felt his confidence build. He took a deep breath. The space station below him charged with terrible energy. A warning light went crazy. Someone had a lock on him! He swerved, but the Imperial stayed right with him.
As he prepared to die, a shockwave hit him. Then the last voice he ever expected to hear: "You're all clear, kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!" Luke's head jerked up. Han Solo! So the scoundrel really did have some good in him. His fingers tightened on the firing mechanism. Not yet, not yet ... Now! He squeezed. His proton torpedoes shot out, flashes of red zooming out in front of him. They zeroed in on the shaft, before swooping into the bowels of the Death Star.
Yes! Luke nosed upward, getting away from the station before it blew. A shockwave hit him, bumping the X-wing and making his head bounce back and forth, but he made it. Pieces of shrapnel and debris shot past, impacting on his remaining shields.
"Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!" Han's voice was excited. Luke was so shocked, he was beyond excitement. He had done it! He was a hero! But at what cost?
Obi-Wan answered his unspoken question with one simple phrase. The Force will be with you. Always.
The door chime woke Luke from a deep sleep. He looked around in confusion, belatedly realizing he had fallen asleep in his chair. He got up and answered the door.
A Twi'lek - the same one who had spoken to Lowbacca when they first arrived? - stood before him. "Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, I bring you an urgent message from the Chief of State."
"What's wrong?" Luke asked sharply. For the past few days he had sensed a vague uneasiness in the surrounding area, but as it did not feel serious or harmful, had not paid much attention. Now the feeling blew up with full force. "Something has happened."
The Twi'lek blinked. "Yes, sir. Lowbacca wishes to speak with you right away."
Luke nodded. "I'll be there shortly."
"With all due respect," the Twi'lek said quickly. "Lowbacca wishes me to escort you."
Luke nodded again. "Let me tell my wife where I'm going. I'll be right back." He slipped back into the bedroom. Mara lay breathing deeply, with the blankets wrapped around her. "Mara?"
She stirred, blinked, and sat up. "What is it?"
"Lowie needs to talk with me. It's urgent. An escort is waiting at the door." Luke shrugged uncomfortably. "I think he just wants me. Alone, I mean."
"What happened?" She sensed it too; the feeling that some important event had just occurred.
"That's what I hope to find out. I'll be back later; I don't know when."
"I love you," she smiled.
"I love you too." Luke left and joined the Twi'lek at the door. "I'm ready."
"Please come with me." The Twi'lek led him to a shuttle, and carefully piloted the small craft to the Imperial Palace. Luke wasn't sure why it was still called that. Emperor Palpatine had built it back when Coruscant was Imperial Center, but when the Rebels freed the planet, they continued calling the huge building the Imperial Palace. The Twi'lek brought them down on the rooftop landing pad, a familiar sight to Luke from the days when his sister was Chief of State.
He was ushered immediately into a soundproof room where Lowbacca waited.
He rumbled something and indicated the chair opposite his. The little translating droid began to speak, but Lowie growled at him, and he fell silent. Luke sat.
Through the droid, Lowbacca spoke. The day you arrived, the Coruscant Archeological Team uncovered a ruin of unknown origin or importance. It was completely sealed in and hidden most skillfully. They realized it was there because there seemed to be a gap in the city where there were no other structures. This morning, they managed to locate a doorway and cut their way to it. Keep in mind that all the doors were covered and sealed, so they would not be found. Just inside, they found a brown robe lying in the middle of the hallway without a seeming owner. A lightsaber lay on top of it.
Luke sat up, shock running along his nerves. "The remains of a Jedi?"
That is what they suspect. Everything seemed intact inside. The halls, though dusty, were still safe. But our team could find noting of significance other than the lightsaber. We knew if this place was indeed associated with the Jedi, you would feel it immediately, and would be by far the most qualified person to investigate.
Luke's mind reeled. A completely intact Jedi ruin? "I'll go there," he agreed, containing his excitement. "And I'm sure my wife will want to help."
We appreciate your help with this archeological find. It isn't terribly important, but you were the only one I could think of for this.
That boy is our only hope.
No. There is another ... Luke shook the voices out of his mind. This was no time to waste on memories. Then it occurred to him that that wasn't a memory. The voices sounded like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he didn't recall them saying those words. He shrugged it off. It was not important now.
Luke felt Mara stiffen beside him as they approached the ruin. So she felt it, too. The feeling of death that surrounded the area, but beyond that, of peace. Peace and light. The feeling of other Jedi.
The once hidden door was scorched from the tools that had uncovered it. It opened as the group approached it. Young Padi clutched Luke's hand excitedly. "This is an adventure, right, Uncle Luke?" Luke and Mara had agreed this would be a valuable learning experience for the boy, and as both of them would be with him, there was no need to fear for his safety.
"Yes, Padi. A great adventure." They stepped through the door at the same time. It was broad enough for twice as many to pass.
Padi stopped short. "It feels funny in here," he said.
Luke nodded. "That is the feeling of Jedi, and of Jedi dying," he added when he saw the brown robe. It lay crumpled in the middle of the hallway, the lightsaber to the side. The Jedi must have been guarding the corridor when whatever caused this feeling of death came in. His lightsaber hadn't helped; he was defeated by another Jedi. A Sith? Darth Vader?
Luke stepped carefully past the remains of the Jedi. Mara took his hand, and he felt her anticipation through his fingers. The hallways were filled with the Force. Luke felt it almost tangibly.
Padi kept scratching his nose. "Something in here tickles," he said.
"Don't scratch," Mara told him absently, scanning the walls of the long corridor, her knees slightly bent and her lithe body poised for action.
Luke looked down at the boy, surprised that such a little boy could feel the Force so distinctly. "What you're feeling," he said softly, "is called the Force. It is created by all living things, and we can touch it and listen to it, as well as use it. Jedi can use the Force better than most people can."
Padi's eyes were wide. "Is that why they are heroes?"
"We aren't all heroes, as I told you before," Luke answered, smiling at the boy's hero-worship. "With the special powers that the Force gives us, we also have a responsibility to protect others."
"Like that man back there," Mara said softly. "When a Jedi dies, he or she disappears. He died protecting this building."
"How do you know?"
"I can feel it," Mara replied, and her expression was grim.
They turned down another corridor. This one, like the others, had doors at intervals down its length. The corridors offered no information, so he faced the nearest door. It opened, revealing an empty room. Another brown robe, this once bigger and lighter in hue, lay alongside another lightsaber.
He gingerly picked up the lightsaber and depressed the button. A bright gold blade shot out from the tip. It tingled in his hands, and he could almost feel the spirit of the Jedi that had created it whispering at him. He turned it off and looked again at the empty robe. "She was a great warrior," he said softly.
Mara wordlessly reached for the lightsaber, and he handed it to her. She nodded. "Yes. Her lightsaber was used often."
"She was pretty," piped up Padi.
Luke smiled. The boy was trying get into the spirit of discovery. "We don't know that, Padi," he said mildly. "But I'll see if you can help us. Do you feel anything special about this room?"
Padi looked down at the light brown robe. "She died here," he whispered. "The dark man killed her."
Luke felt a chill at the mention of "the dark man." He didn't know where the boy had heard it, but he obviously meant Darth Vader. "I don't know if Vader was even here," he replied. "But I'm sure this massacre was part of his purge of the Jedi."
They left the room, and entered the following door. It was completely empty. The walls were bare, and the floor free of Jedi remains.
The next one was far more interesting. An oddly shaped Jedi robe lay with the sleeves outstretched. Luke's heart quickened and he reached for it. Underneath it lay a smaller robe, humanoid in form, unlike the larger one. It seemed to be the size for a child, one not too many years older than Padi. Whispering filled his head again, and he spoke aloud with wonder. "Padawan."
"Yes?" Padi squatted next to him.
Luke shook his head. "No, I mean, yes-" He paused. "Mara, I've discovered what that word is. Come feel these robes together."
She knelt down and he felt the same awe coming from her that he was experiencing. "They're linked," she whispered.
"Yes," Luke said, staring at the robes. "A Master and his apprentice, his special apprentice. His padawan."
For the next three hours, the trio explored the rooms. They managed to investigate all of them. Each room had the remains of a Jedi or a group of Jedi, for the most part. Of the thirty plus rooms, many contained brown robes and lightsabers. Another contained a lavender robe without a lightsaber, but Luke could easily sense that she had been a Jedi.
"I wanna go home!" Padi pouted for the umpteenth time as they entered the last room.
"Not yet," Luke said absently, as he and Mara felt about the room with the Force. He sensed Mara do the same. They both felt a greater disturbance here than in most rooms. Mara stepped in, and he heard her gasp. Luke glanced inside, then whirled on Padi. "Stay right here, understand? Do not come into this room. Mara and I will be out in a little while."
Padi crossed his arms and sat in the middle of the hallway. "I won't move," he said stubbornly, not realizing that he was being rebellious by doing exactly what Luke wanted him to do.
"Good," Luke replied, and turned to the room once more. Mara knelt in a corner, eyes closed, hands held over a small pile of bones. Luke joined her. He gently reached out and picked up a tiny brown robe, shivering at the fragile innocence and the brutal fear he felt from it. A small skeleton lay inside, wrapped in the fraying cloth. He held the delicate body together with the Force and carefully set it down in the middle of the room.
In the pocket of the little Jedi robe, he found a silver sphere, its outside transparent. Within, some silvery stuff swirled like powder. Luke recognized the toy. He prodded it with his mind, making the powers form a shape: Mara's face. He smiled before turning his attention back to the skeleton. It felt young and innocent, and frightened, terribly frightened.
"They must have brought the children in here, hoping to protect them," Luke said, noticing two lightsabers in the room. "They were defended, but didn't stand a chance against whatever it was."
"Poor children," Mara said, her voice heavy with pain. "When I was taken by Palpatine-" she broke off and swallowed. "He would do something like this." They never discussed her childhood. Mara had moved on into the future - the present - and put her dreadful past behind her. The bodies of these Jedi children were a brutal reminder of that past.
"Oh," said a small voice over Luke's shoulder. "That's bad."
"Padi!" He swung around in anger. "I told you to wait outside!"
"Outside is scary," Padi responded, shrinking away from Luke. "Two guys died there." He pointed toward the door, which had closed behind him, obscuring Luke's view of the hall. "Right where I was sitting. It's scary," he repeated. Then he looked warily around to where Mara was separating the little skeletons and lining them up side by side. "This is scary too. But you can protect me, because you're a Jedi."
Luke sighed. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. Just don't get in the way." Padi stood against the wall as Luke and Mara finished sorting the tiny bodies. When they finished, Padi sidled up and held Luke's hand.
"Are we going now?"
"Yes." The door opened easily for them. As Luke stepped on the place where Padi had been sitting, he felt a chill. Two Jedi had indeed died there. Gruesomely. He shuddered.
"We should come back tomorrow," Mara said, her voice grim.
"Yes," Luke agreed vaguely. Something felt incomplete. "I sense that there's a lot more to this place than meets the eye."
He huddled in a corner of the space ship. An unfamiliar humming surrounded him as they tore through hyperspace, each second taking him farther from Tatooine and his mother. He pushed away the thought, and absently took out the little piece of japor wood in his pocket. He had carved it earlier, but wasn't sure what to do with it. He took out his little whittling knife, and bored a small hole through the top, then retrieved a leather cord from his other pocket - never knew when something might come in handy - and threaded it through the delicate piece of wood.
The door swished open, and Padm? entered the room. She glanced around and noticed him immediately. "What's wrong, Ani?"
He clutched the japor snippet in his fingers. "It's cold."
She smiled and sat next to him; he was grateful for the shared warmth. "You come from a warm planet, Ani. Much too warm for me, I'm afraid." She gave him a special, sympathetic smile. "Space is cold."
Luke sat up in bed, panting hard. What a strange dream! It felt so real ... He closed his eyes and again saw the room. It was a storage room in a spaceship. Unfamiliar cold seemed to surround him, and he felt the corner walls pressed up against his sides. Yet the cold wasn't unfamiliar. All spaceships felt that way. The rough clothing he was pulling close was familiar and precious, yet he had never felt it before.
But who was that woman? He closed his eyes again. "You come from a warm planet, Ani." Who was Ani? And who was the girl? He shivered again as he thought of her name. He had known it in the dream.
"Padm?," he whispered softly. What a beautiful name. It raised goosebumps on his arms, for a reason he couldn't understand.
"What's wrong, Luke?" Mara asked sleepily.
He turned over apologetically. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
"You were troubled," she said simply. "You are troubled." She reached out a hand and stroked his hair. "Can you tell me?"
He could tell her anything. "I had a ... disturbing dream. Only it wasn't like a dream." He cleared his thoughts and tried to speak coherently. "Lately, I've been remembering things. In my dreams, when I fall asleep, I have been reliving my past. I encouraged it, because of the holocron, and I thought my brain and the Force were just helping me prepare for it. I dreamed I was a child on Tatooine. I dreamed I was destroying the Death Star. But tonight, I dreamed - in exactly the same way - that I was lonely and confused. I think I was still a boy in the dream. My voice was high and childish. And I was leaving Tatooine, and- and my mother." His throat closed in. As a tiny baby, he must have felt that same loss, but been too young to understand it.
In the dark, Mara's face looked questioning. "But you never knew your mother."
Luke hardly heard her, as he pieced through the memory. "And the girl, Padm?." He looked deep into Mara's eyes. "There is something about that girl. I don't know what it is. And she called me Ani."
"Ani? What kind of name is that?"
"A nickname," Luke replied slowly. "Like our Padi." He rolled onto his back, trying to sort it all out. "But it felt exactly like those memories."
"Are you sure it wasn't just a dream? Or some memory you'd forgotten about?"
Luke faced her again, urgency written on his face. "Yes! Yes, that's exactly what it was. Only it's not a memory I forgot." He stopped short and swallowed heavily in anticipation. "It's a memory I never had." He paused again. What? But that's exactly the way it felt.
"I don't understand."
"Neither do I. I just relived someone else's life. Someone I know."
Luke shivered again. "I think I'll find out soon."
Luke and Mara split up, each taking a different room. Padi opted to stay with Luke, and neither adult could change his mind.
"It's a good opportunity for instruction, Master Skywalker," said Mara sweetly. "Make the most of it."
"I guess so," Luke agreed ruefully. Padi was a joy to be with, and his endless enthusiasm - as endless as his energy - was refreshing, but he exhausted Luke.
Luke and Padi walked down to the far end of the hall, while Mara started near the door. They would meet in the middle. "We found all the bodies last time," Luke told his great-nephew as they hurried down the hallway. "This time we're double checking everything, and feeling for disturbances."
"Why didn't you find everything last time?"
"We wanted to focus on the bodies, and blocked out distractions from that goal. We may have missed many important things, but we figured out a lot about the Jedi who died here."
Padi nodded and pointed at the door they had just passed. "Can we look in there?" he asked. Luke recognized a room that had contained no Jedi remains.
"No, we'll start at the end of the hall."
They explored the farthest room carefully. Luke closed his eyes, feeling along the walls with his fingers and the Force, not entirely sure what he was looking for. He felt that something was hidden in these rooms, that there was somehow more to them than met the eye. But there was nothing important in this room. They moved on to the next. Again, nothing.
"This is boring," complained Padi after nine rooms.
Luke disagreed. "It looks boring on the outside, Padawan. Where it is interesting is through the Force."
"The energy stuff?"
"Right. You have inherited a close connection to the Force, Padi. Come in here and let me show you something." He led the small boy into the next room. "Now, close your eyes." Padi stood in the center of the room and obediently squeezed his clear, blue eyes shut. Luke gently lifted the brown robe that lay near the door. It had small bloodstains on it. He wondered suddenly if a blood scan would identify the owner of the robe. He carried the rough fabric over to Padi, holding it in front of his face. "Does this robe feel different from the rest of this room?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Does it feel different to you than, say, the walls? Or the door?"
Padi slowly nodded. "Yeah."
"That is the Force, telling you that this once belonged to a Jedi. You may open your eyes now." Luke quickly searched the room, then moved on the next. They met Mara at the door and went in together.
"Mara," Luke suggested, still holding the robe. "We should run blood analyses on these Jedi robes. Perhaps we can identify them."
She agreed. "The same thing occurred to me." There was no robe in this room, but they hurried around the building picking up the others, including the children's robes.
"We should take these to a lab immediately," Mara said.
Outside the ruin, an escort of guards relieved them of the robes and promised to have them analyzed within the week. Luke thanked them, and the three investigators returned to the apartment.
Padi, fighting mightily every step of the way, was plopped in the bathtub and scrubbed. He had managed to get himself covered with dust. Mara carted him off to his bedroom for a nap, also against his will.
"I promise I won't sleep!" he said, pouting.
"Then just lie down and be quiet. You've had a big day, and we've been invited to dine with the Chief of State tonight."
Padi yawned hugely, protesting. "I haven't had a big day! I'm not tired."
Mara smiled and turned out the light. Soon contented snores came from the bed.
Mara returned to Luke in the living room.
"Did you find what you expected to find?" she asked quietly.
He sighed and shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. I keep thinking that the Jedi would have left something to help their descendants, but I found nothing. I checked for hidden rooms, and closets in which they might have stowed something away. Nothing."
"I didn't find anything either. Have you considered this find might not be as significant as we think, Luke?"
He leaned back and she rubbed his shoulders sympathetically. "Yes. But no matter how hard I try to convince my brain that it is just an unimportant building, something inside me refuses to believe it. Why would so many Jedi have died in one place if it weren't an important place?"
He answered himself after a moment, "Perhaps they were herded in there to be killed. But why in separate rooms? They could have all been crammed in one big room and gassed. Even Jedi can't survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes."
Mara nodded. "I know. I feel like something, someone, wants us to keep looking. But we searched every room."
Luke sat up sharply. "No we didn't! The last room where we ended up! We just took the robe and left." He thought for a moment. That was the room Padi had wanted to explore. "I think that little boy knows more than we think," he said slowly.
"What do you mean?"
"That last room ... He wanted to go in there first. And we both suspect that something must be in there now."
Mara leaned her head to the side, thinking. Her greying red-gold hair tumbled over her shoulder. "It makes sense. Anakin is descended from Anakin Skywalker, just like you and Leia. And Padi's mother is also strong in the Force. He could possibly be the strongest yet. You know Anakin showed more potential than the twins, and earlier than they did, too."
"It does make sense." Luke remembered Anakin Solo's amazingly precocious behavior. He had been able to use to use the Force not only to get into trouble with his brother and sister, but to hide the fact that he had helped. Luke himself had frequently been taken in by the innocently wide blue eyes. Once at the academy, Anakin and Tahiri had trained together, and were remarkably stronger together. "Perhaps their strength combined in that little guy," Luke murmured.
"If only there were a way to tell."
You think this ruin has some significance to the Jedi? asked Chief of State Lowbacca as he ate his raw meat delicately- for a Wookiee. Next to Lowbacca sat the Twi'lek, and across from them Luke, Mara, and Padi. Other officials talked quietly around the table, not interested in this conversation.
"Yes," Luke said certainly. "Mara and I have both felt great disturbances there."
"Death," Mara said softly. "Dozens of deaths. The rooms are full of dead Jedi, or at least their robes and lightsabers. One room is filled with the skeletons of Force-sensitive children."
Lowie rumbled something, and his droid translated. An old Jedi training facility, perhaps?
"Or a place the Jedi tried to hide when the Empire came for them," Luke confirmed.
Hmm. Very interesting. Have you finished your search?
Luke pondered how to answer. "We have completed the search, we think ... But there is something there we need to investigate some more."
Lowbacca frowned. We need to clear the ruin out and transport the artifacts to museums.
"The robes were taken to a lab today," Luke said quickly, "for blood analysis. We might be able to identify some of the Jedi who died there."
Lowie shook his head. All traces of the ancient Jedi were removed from the computer system during Palpatine's reign of terror.
Mara spoke up. "Perhaps not. I was involved in the computer wipes. We wiped the main computer terminals on Imperial Center and elsewhere, but some places still have their separate computer systems. Whether they will have what we need is unknown, but we may be able to recover some old DNA records."
However unlikely that is, Luke thought.
The Chief of State nodded slowly. You may take another day, then. If you uncover something important, you may then have another day. We will see.
"There is more," Padi said loudly. "We didn't check the middle room yet."
Luke quickly explained. "He thinks there is something in the middle room, where we ended our search. That is where we will start tomorrow."
"Children will be children," the Twi'lek said dismissively. "But don't place any significance on his words, Master Skywalker."
Luke bristled. He wasn't listening to everything Padi suggested, but he wasn't just discarding his ideas, either. "This child is very sensitive to the Force," he said, containing his annoyance. A Jedi must have patience. "We do not assume everything he says is a revelation, but he may have some insight in his untrained mind that our trained ones did not pick up. We have learned to control our powers, and he has not, so he may have been sensing things outside the realm of our search."
"Excuse me," the Twi'lek said, bowing his head. "I did not mean to insult the boy. But this is a very important archeological find for the New Republic!"
"And will continue to be important if a small boy senses that something has been overlooked and we discover what it is," Mara replied, giving Luke a warning glance. Don't lose you temper, my love.
"Twins. They are twins, Obi-Wan." Perhaps Padm? had some connection to the Force, enough for her to feel two small minds developing within her. Or maybe it was their connection to the Force that was so strong it spilled over into her.
"He must never know, Padm?." She stared at the screen. Obi-Wan's face was intense.
"But they are his children!" She shook her head in denial. Her dreams for the future; Anakin raising his children with her and training them as Jedi. Anakin and her, the two of them together always. It would work out! These political disturbances would end some day. Even as she thought it, she knew she was fooling herself, and swallowed the bitter disappointment that rose like a gorge in her throat.
"You know what he would do to them." She nodded, though she refused to believe it. How could Anakin, her own, dearest Anakin, harm his own children? "He would give them to Palpatine, Padm?."
Palpatine, who had once supported her, or so she thought. She shook her head. He had never helped her. He had used her, manipulated her. She was a fool. What would have happened if she had stood up to him? If she hadn't been taken in my his smooth, comforting words? The galaxy was not a safe place if men like Palpatine and Anakin could go so furiously astray. She bowed her head. "So be it. But how can I escape him?"
Obi-Wan's young face was lined before his time. He glanced over his shoulder and lowered his voice. "I will come for you ..."
Luke stared at the ceiling, reeling with shock. Padm? was his mother.
The chamber was empty. Not even a brown robe and lightsaber lay on the floor. Luke cast about him with the Force. The room felt completely still.
"This feels funny," Padi said.
Mara felt the wall with her fingers. "It feels so empty. There can't be anything here."
Luke closed his ears to sound, caressing the walls and ceiling with the Force. He opened his eyes. What he felt disturbed his greatly. "The Force feels exhausted, somehow. Something happened here." Vague mental images of whirling figures and cries filled his mind, but he pushed them away. Now is not the time for inexplicable memories and visions.
The room's glowpanels refused to work, like those in many other rooms. He took out his lightsaber and flicked it on. An eerie green glow filled the small chamber. Mara activated her own weapon, adding a purple glow to the green.
Padi stood between them, staring at the glowing blades. "I didn't know Jedi use lightsabers like that," he said curiously. "Why are you?"
"To help us find what we are searching for."
Luke touched the walls with his mind. Something about that one- "A door!" He moved forward and touched it with his fingers. "It's presence is ... muted," he whispered. "Like someone tried to hide it, even from the Force."
Mara quickly touched the wall. She squeezed Luke's hand. "Another room."
Luke cut away at the wall covering the door with Mara's help. Soon it was exposed. Mara stepped forward, but the door didn't open.
"It isn't automatic," Luke said suddenly. He felt no computer mechanism or sensor in the doorway. "So how does it open?" He took out his lightsaber to cut a hole through it. The sword shut off as soon as it touched the door paneling. Luke stepped back in surprise. He tried again. The lightsaber again deactivated. "It isn't being absorbed," he said, bewildered. "It's just- turning off." He stared at his lightsaber, but it was working perfectly. "It's like a flame being plunged into a cold lake."
Padi stepped between them and touched the door. "You have to push it," he said, squinting at it. Luke didn't bother asking how he knew. He reached out with the Force and undid the catch. The door felt strange, and it took him a moment to put his finger on it.
"It resists the dark side," he breathed in awe. "You can only open it with the light side of the Force."
Mara stared at the deceptively simple-looking door. It was painted white, and had no designs etched on it. It was an ordinary door. "To guarantee no one but Jedi can get inside."
"A dark Jedi must have tried to force it," Luke said, noticing several scorch marks. "Just like I did."
"Let's go inside!" Padi shouted excitedly. The three of them held hands and pushed open the door with the Force. Then, still holding hands, they stepped inside. The doorway was wide enough for twice as many people to enter side by side.
Luke was overwhelmed. The Force exploded around him again, alive and active in this room. The lights snapped on as they entered. He closed his eyes a moment before they lit, so he wasn't blinded. When he opened them again, he gasped in wonder.
The room, though not very large, was full. The walls were lined with shelves, all covered with pieces of machinery. In a daze, he approached the first machine and gingerly picked it up.
Ancient voices seemed to whisper to him through the Force, but he could make out no words. The hand held machine had tiny needles attached to it. Somehow he knew they were for taking blood samples.
"Mara, come here." He gently punctured the skin on her arm and drew a sample. His fingers touched some buttons. How do I know how to work this? The dial on the face of the machine lit up. "17,500," he read. "17,500 what?"
"Padi, come here." Padi submitted to a blood sample. The dial shot up above the top of the scale. "Over 20,000."
Over 20,000. Even Master Yoda doesn't have a midi-chlorian count that high!
No Jedi has.
What does it mean?
I'm not sure.
Luke spun. The voices seemed to come from nearby. "What was that?" he asked sharply.
Mara shook her head. "What was what?."
"I heard something through the Force." He smiled at an old memory. "Maybe it's like in that cave where I rescued you."
"You didn't rescue me," Mara retorted. "You located me."
Luke looked back down at the machine. "But what is this thing?"
Mara glanced over his shoulder at it. "Midi-chlorians," she read off the top. "What in the universe are midi-chlorians?"
Luke felt something push insistently on his mind. He closed his eyes, then opened them again, finding himself in different surroundings. He perceived that this was another dream, another memory.
"Master, sir ... I've been wondering ... what are midi-chlorians?" The little boy looked up at him curiously.
"Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life-form that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force." Qui-Gon recalled his own Master, Yoda, telling him about midi-chlorians when he was young. Anakin had so many questions. So much wonder and curiosity. Yet the Council refused to let him be trained.
"They live inside of me?" The boy's eyes registered surprise.
He smiled at the child's wonder. "In your cells. We are symbiants with the midi-chlorians.
"Symbiants?" The boy radiated puzzlement.
His education has been sorely neglected, Qui-Gon lamented silently. It's up to me to fix that. "Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force." Anakin still looked confused. He doesn't understand! He must gain more of an understanding of the Force and its workings. Qui-Gon struggled to make Anakin understand how important this was. "They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force."
"When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you." If you learn, my child. If the Council will ever permit you to. Qui-Gon watched the boy, so strong in the Force, yet with a darkness in him that only the Force could fill.
Luke shook his head and opened his external eyes. Qui-Gon? Anakin? Could that boy who looked so like little Padi be his father? That innocent child turn into a monster named Darth Vader? "Midi-chlorians measure our connection to the Force." He looked down at Padi. "They live inside our cells, and tell us the will of the Force." How do I know this?
He is the Chosen One. He will bring balance to the Force.
Who? Luke cried silently in confusion. What do you mean? He looked at Padi again. His great-nephew was obviously filled with the power of the Force. Were the Jedi of the past trying to tell him something about Padi? Did they think that the boy might repeat Anakin Skywalker's mistakes?
Both Padi and Mara were staring at him now. "Luke, what-?"
"Shh!" He closed his eyes, willing the explanation to come to him. After a moment, it did.
He stood on the balcony of a cheap home on a desert planet. He watched the group of children swarm around the pod-racer. They were excited, especially Anakin. There was something amazing about that boy. He almost radiated the Force. Anakin's mother came up behind him, and he turned to greet her.
"You should be proud of your son. He gives without any thought of reward." Qui-Gon glanced again at the boy, so happy to be helping others.
"He knows nothing of greed. He has..." She stopped, as if unwilling to reveal something, but Qui-Gon read her expression with ease.
"He has special powers."
She nodded. "Yes..." He could tell she knew that the powers were a burden as well as a privilege.
Qui-Gon elaborated, trying to understand everything about Anakin's abilities. "He can see things before they happen. That's why he appears to have such quick reflexes." Shmi nodded, confirming his suspicions. "It is a Jedi trait."
Her eyes lit up, but she kept her face controlled. It hurt Qui-Gon to see what this woman must go through, that she hid all her emotions. "He deserves better than a slave's life." Her eyes pleaded with him to help Anakin.
"The Force is unusually strong with him, that much is clear." Qui-Gon considered for a moment. Would she think his question rude, prying? He had no choice. "Who was his father?"
Shmi glanced up at him uncertainly. "There was no father..." Qui-Gon covered his shock, willing her to continue. "I carried him, I gave him birth...I can't explain what happened. Can you help him?"
"I'm afraid not." Not yet. "Had he been born in the Republic, we would have identified him early, and he would have become a Jedi. But it's too late for him now, he's too old." Even as he spoke, Qui-Gon began thinking of ways to bend the rules. The child must be trained! He would see to it.
Luke blinked, coming back to this world, this time. Tatooine. My father is from Tatooine. No wonder Ben Kenobi decided to hide me there.
Padi was tugging on his sleeve. Luke looked down, and the boy pointed toward the door. Mara had levitated herself into the air and floated before the door. She reached out and wiped the dust off a square piece of metal fastened near the ceiling, above the doorframe.
"This room is sealed by Mace Windu," she read slowly. "To keep out the scourge of the Sith and protect the secrets of the Jedi until they are again needed."
"Who is Mace Windu?" asked Padi.
"A Jedi Master," Luke breathed. He closed his eyes again, and this time the pictures came flooding in at his bidding.
A tall, dark skinned man sat in a chair. His expression was serious. He whispered something to the alien seated next to him. Yoda!
"He was a friend of Yoda's." He knew my father.
"Who is Yoda?" asked Padi.
"A great Jedi Master," Luke said heavily, remembering the deceptively little creature and his strong connection to the Force. "He trained me after my Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, died." He surveyed the room again. "We must tell Lowbacca about this room immediately," he decided. "And contact Anakin and the Jedi."
Mara nodded, still staring at the plaque. "I think you're right."
Luke sat at the transmitter in their suite, waiting for the static to clear. Anakin's face appeared, smiling. "Uncle Luke! I hoped you would call."
Luke smiled tightly. "I'm afraid I can't talk for long. We have made an important discovery."
"A Jedi discovery?" Anakin looked interested.
"Yes. The remains of a Jedi sanctuary of some sort. It is filled with robes and lightsabers."
Anakin raised his eyebrows. "How old are they?"
"I can't tell exactly," Luke answered, "but I know they're from the Jedi purge. I feel the death, and a dark Jedi tried to force this door ..." He stopped. "I'd better start from the beginning."
As Luke explained their discovery, other Jedi appeared behind Anakin, listening intently. The Jedi historian, Tionne, leaned in close, biting her lip. "Mara and I went to see the Chief of State this morning," Luke finished, "and for some reason, they wouldn't even tell him I was there."
"Who? His secretary?" Tionne asked.
"I don't know what his official position is," Luke said, "but there is a Twi'lek who is always with him, and monitors everything he does. This Twi'lek wouldn't let me through."
"Why didn't you force it?" asked Tionne's teenage apprentice eagerly.
"Since the Yuuzhan Vong attack, the Jedi have had ... a strained relationship with the bureaucrats. I did not think it wise to pursue the issue."
Anakin nodded. "What possible reason could this Twi'lek have for not letting you through?"
"He was very interested in our discovery," Luke said slowly. "I don't mean to accuse an innocent person on anything, but he seemed too interested, if you take my meaning."
The small group of Jedi on the other end of the line whispered among themselves, and Anakin held up a hand to stop them. "Do you need our help?"
"I need you to assemble a team of Jedi and get them here before something happens to those artifacts. They are extremely valuable. I think we need to get them out of there."
Tionne volunteered, "I'll lead the team."
"Thank you," said Luke and Anakin at the same time.
Luke smiled and reached out to sever the connection. "May the Force be with you. All of you."
"And you," they replied.
The thundering noises came closer. Mace Windu knelt in the doorway, his versatile mind adjusting the door mechanism. His strong fingers tightened on the small piece of metal in his hands. He didn't dare close his eyes to use the Force.
A wave of dark side power blasted past him, and he winced. Yoda was right. The "Chosen One" would destroy them all.
Finally the door accepted its new role: to keep out the dark side. Mace looked down again at the plaque. He scratched a short but clear message into it:
THIS ROOM IS SEALED BY MACE WINDU, TO KEEP OUT THE SCOURGE OF THE SITH AND PROTECT THE SECRETS OF THE JEDI UNTIL THEY ARE AGAIN NEEDED.
He levitated himself and fastened the plaque securely above the doorway. Please, he thought. Someone, come and save the Jedi before it is too late.
He gave one last glance to the room. He and Yoda had scrounged for the remaining midi-chlorian counters, lightsabers, and Jedi holocrons. Those were the most important. Yes, the lightsabers could cause much damage if they fell into the wrong hands, and the midi-chlorian counters could be used by the Sith to find new apprentices, but the holocrons had the most potential danger as well as the most possibility for good. They contained the collections of each Master's knowledge and memories. They also contained detailed descriptions of training and fighting methods.
Mace mentally stroked the large, dingy box in which he and Yoda had hidden them. These would be all that remained of his legacy. All of his apprentices had been killed now, and he had never made a holocron, so he could only hope that the Jedi of the future would find these, and that the Sith would not destroy them. He suppressed a wave of sadness that threatened to overwhelm him. All the promising young Jedi, killed by Darth Vader. And the feeling of death here in the sanctuary, coming closer ...
Another rush of dark side power pulled him back to the present. He hurried through the door and closed it, sealing it forever until a light Jedi discovered its presence. He pulled the false wall into place. The dark Jedi drew closer. In haste, Mace drew heavily on the Force, melting the new panel into the wall and covering the door.
The sound of harsh breathing filled the room. Mace whirled to face his opponent, lightsaber blazing. He pulled the Force to himself, preparing him. His thoughts raced as the black-clad man approached. If Yoda managed to get away, his sacrifice would mean something. Yoda and young Obi-Wan Kenobi. They must save the children and the queen!
Mace calmed his mind, wiping away every memory of Yoda's plan. Of the twin children who were the only hope for the Jedi, the young Jedi who would protect them, the mother to nurture them, and the aged Master who would one day train them, if all went as planned.
"So, Master, we meet again." Anakin Skywalker's voice was distorted horribly by the mask he wore, the constant reminder of his fall into the pit of lava and to the dark side.
"Yoda was right," Mace told him. "There was too much fear in you."
"Not fear, Master Windu," Anakin replied. "I am not afraid. It is you who trembles now."
"You cannot harm me," Mace said confidently. And in a moment you will have lost the war.
"You underestimate the power of the dark side," Anakin assured him. "I can and will kill you easily."
"That name no longer has any meaning for me," Anakin - Vader - said automatically. "I am the Dark Lord of the Sith, and I am Darth Vader. I am the Chosen One."
"No longer the Chosen One," Mace snapped. "Never the Chosen One."
"It was you who thought I was, Master," sneered the black-clad man. "But I am chosen. I am chosen to serve at my Master's side and I am chosen to destroy you."
Then they leapt at each other. Time and place blurred as Mace fought, the Force directing his motions. His lightsaber sliced nearly through Vader's shin, but somehow, Vader remained upright. Mace knew that he would be repaired again, have more and more of his body replaced by machinery, machinery that could not touch the Force. Perhaps that would one day be Vader's undoing.
Mace kept up as Vader fought with relentless vigor. Suddenly, a burst of lightning hit Mace hard in the chest, knocking him backwards and sending his lightsaber flying. Darth Vader came closer as the Jedi Master lay helplessly writhing in pain. The end had come. Some separate part of his mind sought out Yoda. The presence of the Jedi Master grew fainter and fainter before disappearing into hyperspace. Mace allowed a smile to curl his lips. "You have already lost, Vader," he said calmly.
"No, I have just won." Vader plunged his red lightsaber down, and Mace felt the room around him begin to fade. No, it wasn't fading, it was expanding. As he became one with the Force, he felt it draining from the room as his spirit pulled it out with him.
Vader sank down on one knee and probed the brown robe with his unlit lightsaber. As he curled his fist, the robe caught on fire, burning with the last vestiges of the dark side left in the room. Mace's robe and lightsaber were quickly consumed, leaving nothing in the room. Even the Force had fled.
A silent tear slid down Luke's cheek, the only mourning Mace Windu had ever received. Thus passed a great Jedi. Yet another Jedi who died saving me. But he allowed himself a smile of triumph. Mace Windu had indeed saved Yoda and Obi-Wan. They, in turn, saved Luke, and he saved the entire Jedi Order and New Republic.
When they returned to the hidden room the next day, Luke finally recognized it from the dream. The room where Vader had defeated Mace Windu still lacked the Force in all its vibrancy, as Luke had noticed earlier. "A great Jedi Master died here," he told Padi.
Padi nodded. "The evil man."
"The evil man killed him," Luke corrected, then paused. "Actually, you're right. The good man, the light inside the evil man died here. He died very slowly, and in very many places. But perhaps he finished dying here."
"You had another dream?" Mara came up next to him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't know," Luke admitted, furrowing his brow. "I feel like someone is trying to tell me something, and I'm not getting the message. Who is the Chosen One? They say he will bring balance to the Force. They thought Anakin Skywalker was he." And Padi reminds me of him in so many ways.
Luke had left the hidden door ajar, in case the paranoid security teams wanted to check out the new room and sound for architectural flaws. Padi went on into the next room, then gave a little shriek. "It fell over!"
Luke rushed in. The shelves had fallen to the floor. No, not fallen. Scorch marks were apparent on the wall where the shelves had been severed from the paneling.
"Someone was looking for something," Mara murmured in shock, rushing over.
"But did they know what?" Luke replied, half to himself, keeping his calm. He recalled his dream and made his way to a tumble of planks and machinery. A large, dirty box lay next to an old lightsaber. He lifted it carefully. "This is what they were looking for."
He held it out to Mara, who touched it gingerly. It had small keyboard. "It needs a combination."
Luke remembered his short time on Dathomir all those years ago. A box of Jedi lore had been sealed with the word 'Yoda.' "Try 'Mace Windu'." The lid creaked open as Mara typed the letters in.
Inside were stacks of shiny cubes. "Jedi holocrons," Mara breathed in awe.
"We have to get these to Yavin right away," Luke said, urgency filling him suddenly. "I don't know why, but we have to get them out of here."
A voice spoke from the doorway. "Or not."
Luke turned slowly, but no one was there.
"A comm unit," Mara said simply, reaching out with the Force and detaching the small cylinder from where it was hidden above the plaque. She spoke into it. "Whoever you are, show yourself."
"Don't worry," the comm replied. "We're on our way." Luke felt people enter the building. Moments later, the Twi'lek and a group of nearly thirty companions walked through the door. They looked like a disreputable lot. They wore uniforms with the same insignia on them: a triangle with a blaster in the center.
"So much of this junk is valuable," the Twi'lek said, smugly surveying the wreckage, "but we didn't know what was worth the most. Until you led us right to it." He held out his hand for the box. Luke held it closer. The nearest ten men lifted their blasters and pointed them at his heart. The others aimed toward Mara and Padi. Even if he could call his lightsaber to his hand before they fired, Padi would be defenseless. Luke swallowed a hard, bad tasting lump in the throat, and handed over the box. Suddenly, strangely, calm filled him.
"Thank you," the Twi'lek said, displaying his sharp teeth in a grin. "This Jedi junk will bring us a fortune."
Rage rose up in Luke, blinding him, but he pushed it away. "I will not fight you," he told them, "but you will be considered enemies of the Jedi."
The Twi'lek sneered. "Except that I am not afraid of the Jedi, Master Skywalker. The Jedi Order died during the purge. I am not afraid of you and your pathetic little following. They are no match for me, and my people." He indicated the insignia on his companions' uniforms, laughing harshly. "Now that all the smugglers are joining the New Republic, there is room for others to take over what they once did. In this time of peace, no one will care." He laughed again. "Your pathetic Jedi are all but gone. The spirit left them during the Empire. Sorry, Master Skywalker. You're martyring yourself for nothing."
Luke drew himself up and looked the Twi'lek straight in the eye. "The Jedi Order died, but has come back now. And we will never fade away again." He lifted his hands, his lips twisted with the disgust he was holding in check. "And do you know how I am so certain? Because I built it back up, Jedi by Jedi, mission by mission, and I know we will not fail." He stepped back and lifted Padi. The boy's blue eyes were wide and terrified. "But we didn't need those records after all," he said. "This next generation of Jedi have the knowledge, and the lore. We didn't need it to be easy, and because it wasn't, we became stronger. So take the holocrons, and the midi-chlorian counters, and even the lightsabers, because we don't need them anymore. We are the Jedi, and we will never fall again."
The Twi'lek opened his mouth as if to speak, then sneered again without conviction. He turned and left, walking slowly to annoy Luke and closely clutching the box as though afraid Luke might rip it from his hands. His horde followed him, glancing surreptitiously over their shoulders at Luke. He set Padi down, and caught sight of Mara staring at him.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"You're glowing," she whispered, reaching up to stroke his hair. "Not visibly, but through the Force." She pulled his head down and kissed him, then touched her forehead to his. "You tell 'em, Skywalker."
Mara stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep.
The son of Skywalker must not be allowed to become a Jedi. The Emperor's familiar voice suddenly resonated in her mind.
She blinked. What?
The son of Anakin will bring balance to the Force. It was a different voice this time, an unfamiliar voice. No, she had heard it before- in Luke's memories.
Three Jedi took shape before her eyes, and she knew instinctively who they were. They belonged together. Mara, the son of Anakin has brought balance to the Force.
"He's too young," she whispered, not understanding.
No, Yoda corrected. In fact, he was too old. Yes, too old to begin the training.
The bedroom faded and she found herself in a small mud hut. The humid air pressed down on her uncomfortably.
"No. He is too old. Yes, too old to begin the training." Yoda bustled about, but he was paying very close attention to the conversation nonetheless.
"But I've learned so much!" Luke looked around in frustration. He could hear Ben's voice; where was he now?
Yoda, looking skeptical, asked Obi-Wan, "Will he finish what he begins?"
"I won't fail you." Luke was intense. "I'm not afraid."
Yoda's ears raised slightly in disbelief. "Oh? You will be." He nodded, and chills ran up Luke's spine. "You will be."
Mara looked up. "Are you saying that we waited too long before starting to train Padi?" She let out an exasperated sigh. "I don't understand!"
Yoda's gravelly voice repeated the words. The son of Anakin will bring balance to the Force. The son of Anakin has brought balance to the Force.
A barrage of images and sounds flooded her mind. Luke fighting Darth Vader. Luke with Yoda on Dagobah. Luke on a ship above Bakura, trying to save the life of a young Force-sensitive boy. Luke training his first apprentices, overcoming his first obstacles. His near defeat by Exar Kun, but the strength of spirit that refused to be destroyed. Luke fighting the Yuuzhan Vong. And finally, Luke passing the charge of the Jedi on to his nephew, Anakin.
"But Luke fell to the dark side once," Mara protested. "He can't be the Chosen One."
He was right, Mara, Obi-Wan said, his look cutting straight to her heart. He is not afraid. And he never was.
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