The darkness was too great. It loomed ever closer, consuming all in its path, bearing down on the light.
"It is your destiny."
All hope diminished quickly, as the Dark Lord - like an angel of death - drew nearer...
Luke Skywalker awoke in his room on board the Alliance's medical frigate. His entire body trembled, and he was sweating profusely.
Please let it be a dream.
He moaned in pain and tried moving his right forearm. The forearm that was no longer there.
Luke willed himself to sit up, but the pain was too acute, too overwhelming for his already weakened condition. All traces of strength, both physical and mental, had left his body. In the still darkness of simulated night, he lay back on his bed, utterly exhausted.
But he did not sleep.
Darth Vader's words burned in his mind, haunting Luke ever since the encounter on Cloud City. They had played quietly in the back of his conscience, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. Sleep offered no escape from the Dark Lord.
"I am your father."
It was a lie, a trick, a desperate attempt to make Luke join him. It had to be! He knew who he was; he knew what was real. And yet...somehow through the Force, Luke could sense the truth in Vader's words.
"I am your father."
"No!" Luke shouted, though it came out only as a hoarse whisper.
"You know it to be true."
"No!" Luke insisted, shutting his eyes. Hot tears slid down his cheeks. "My father is dead! You killed him! You're not my father!"
"I am your father."
Luke cried silently in the dark, feeling the staccato drip of bitter tears on his bruised face. His spirit was broken, shattered by the Dark Lord's words. Had he been given the choice of life or death, the young Jedi was not so certain he would choose to continue living. It would take much more than a new forearm to ease the pain.
How can I go on? How can I ever go on?
"Why didn't you tell me, Ben? Why? Why?" he sobbed. His body shook as he drifted off into tormented sleep.
The ominous black form of Darth Vader reached for Luke, his respirator hissing oppressively. A wall of flame mounted up behind Vader, looming over the two warriors. Both the flame and the darkness, coming to claim him...
Another angel, this one of light, called his name. "Luke..."
"Luke? Wake up, Luke." Leia Organa nudged the sleeping Jedi slightly. He stirred uncomfortably, moaning something Leia couldn't even understand. She put a hand on his cheek, and his eyes snapped open urgently. Leia recoiled, surprised by the wild look in Luke's eyes. His attention focused on her, and he calmed only slightly. His eyes were swollen and it was evident that he had cried himself to sleep.
Vader, what did you do to him?
"Leia?" he asked quietly. "You're here?"
"Yes, Luke, I'm here. Too-Onebee let me in."
Luke looked confused, and his eyes began darting around the room. Leia realized that he had been dreaming, and he was having trouble distinguishing the dreams from reality. "Leia? I... my father. My father... Anakin Skywalker. My father was Anakin Skywalker. Leia, he's dead," Luke murmured urgently, trying to sit up. He appeared lost and frightened, and his battered face and missing forearm made him look all the worse.
"He's dead! He was a Jedi Knight!" he shouted, his voice trembling. "Ben told me so...my father was a Jedi Knight, Leia. Vader killed him." Luke tried to steady his breathing as he fell back onto his pillow. Onebee started toward the bed in a hurry.
"No, it's all right, Onebee." Leia held up a stopping hand to the droid. She turned back to face Luke.
"Anakin Skywalker was my father..." he continued to ramble.
"Luke. Luke! Look at me!" Leia spoke sharply. She placed her hand on Luke's forehead and found that he was hot to the touch. Leia's expression softened, and she spoke calmly. "Luke. Vader killed him. Your father is dead."
Luke looked at her strangely, almost angrily, as if what she had said was not true. But the look passed, and Luke only shook his head in frustration.
"What is it, Luke?"
"I had a dream," he whispered, looking at Leia sadly. His voice was hesitant. "I'm afraid to sleep. He haunts me even in my dreams... and the ending is the worst part. He, he..." A few tears spilled unbidden from his eyes as he pulled back, unwilling to say more.
"Luke," Leia said as she gripped his left hand, "it was just a dream. It's all over now."
"No, no, it isn't over! Leia, you were there. You were in my dream. I saw you with Han. Vader took him from you. I saw it. I saw Vader!"
"Luke!" Leia shouted, briefly wondering how Luke could have known this when he didn't even witness it. She squeezed Luke's hand. His blue eyes were wide and filling with tears. "Onebee!" The medical droid rushed over to Luke's bed.
"No! No, wait! Please, I can do it!" Luke exclaimed suddenly. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Please, let me," he whispered. He breathed deeply, forcing his body to calm down.
For Leia it felt as if time stood still. She thought she sensed something swirling around her, something almost tangible, pulling toward Luke. He seemed to be drawing something to him. She could feel the peace wash over him as his trembling abated and his tears ceased. She stared at him, not knowing what to think. He still looked awful with his bruises and his red, puffy eyes; but at least he was back in reality.
"Was that your Force?" she asked when Luke opened his eyes.
"Yes. I've been learning," Luke replied weakly.
Luke glanced at her ruefully. "I really shouldn't say."
"Oh, I see," Leia said, even though she didn't really understand why Luke couldn't tell her. She looked away dejectedly as Onebee applied bacta to Luke's cuts and bruises.
"We will have a new hand and partial arm replacement ready for you in two days, Commander Skywalker," Onebee informed in his friendly mechanical voice.
"Thanks, Onebee," Luke sighed in relief.
"You need your rest, Luke. Don't try to stay awake tonight," Leia said gently. "Dreams pass in time, and you really do need your sleep."
A shadow seemed to pass over Luke's face. "Dreams pass in time... are you sure?" he asked dryly.
"Yes. My father told me that, a long time ago." Leia remembered her father saying those words to her when she'd had nightmares.
"Dreams pass in time, little Leia. Don't worry. I am here for you always."
"And where did your father hear it?" Luke laughed darkly, staring at the stub where his hand and part of his forearm had been.
Leia was not used to Luke acting so cynically. It wasn't his nature. Had Vader somehow forever changed the sweet, innocent boy she had known? Her eyes narrowed. "An old friend of my father's told him that, years ago. Do you want to know who it was?" Leia snapped.
Luke nodded grimly, knowing not to mess with Leia once she got started.
"It was General Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke." Her voice now had a definite edge.
Luke looked away, his cheeks reddening in embarrassment.
Leia didn't know what more to say, so she turned on her heel and strode toward the door.
"Thanks for coming, Leia."
Leia slowed down as she approached the door. He sounded so young. It was all she could do to stop herself from running back and wrapping him in her arms like a little child.
I shouldn't have been short with him. I'm not the one lying in a bed with part of an arm missing. Poor Luke! I must have made him feel terrible!
She turned and gave him a half-smile - her way of asking his forgiveness. "I'll be back tomorrow morning with Lando and Chewie," she replied.
"I'll be waiting right here," Luke answered, grinning slightly.
Leia had to stifle her laughter as she walked out the door. Good old Luke. He feels like hell, yet he cracks jokes. She raised her comlink to her lips. "Lando?"
"Yeah, Princess?" came the voice on the other end.
"We've got work to do."
"Hey, making plans to rescue smugglers who are frozen in carbonite is what I do best."
Luke heeded Leia's words, and when night came, he drifted off to sleep. This time it seemed that Vader would not torture him. Instead, Luke dreamt of Ben.
He saw Ben standing outside his hut on Tatooine, staring at the setting suns. His hair was white, as it had been when he died. But when he turned to go inside, he looked much younger. His hair was longer and light brown in color. The Jedi looked sad and guilty. It occurred to Luke that Ben must miss his fellow Jedi, all slaughtered by his former apprentice, Darth Vader.
Ben walked into his hut. Luke followed him inside, but upon entering he found himself in a great building. The floors where a calming blue color, and he saw beings of many different species walking about. A blue Twi'lek female caught Luke's attention. Was that a lightsaber on her belt? Luke shook his head in amazement. This place felt so peaceful, so serene. He looked around for Ben and spotted him entering a room filled with children. Luke smiled in spite of himself and followed Ben.
There were about twenty children inside, all wearing large helmets that blocked their eyes and holding child sized lightsabers. Luke recognized this exercise. He'd done the same thing on board the Millennium Falcon when he was just learning about the Force. These small children before him all seemed capable of deflecting the static charges that were sent at them. Luke remembered well his first try at deflecting the charges. It had taken a few attempts to get it right. The realization that these children had been more skilled than he made him slightly embarrassed.
As Luke looked from child to child, he saw another small form that he recognized. Master Yoda! He looked only slightly younger, with perhaps a little more wispy white hair. Yoda looked at Ben and then at the children.
"A visitor, we have," he said in his gravelly voice.
"Hello, Master Obi-Wan," the younglings greeted in unison.
Obi-Wan. Luke felt so used to calling him Ben, that he sometimes forgot Obi-Wan was his real name. Luke watched as the shades on the windows went down, and a holomap of the galaxy appeared. Ben - Obi-Wan - pointed at an empty space in the map. Luke couldn't hear what he was saying. He leaned closer to listen.
He froze in place, afraid to turn around and acknowledge the speaker. The resonating voice filled the air, and the words of Obi-Wan and Yoda were completely drowned out.
"No," Luke whispered, "don't. No more."
Slowly, he turned around, but no one was there. The holomap and the training room were gone. Luke was now standing on a platform over a great abyss. The bowels of Cloud City. His nightmare had returned.
Vader emerged, his red lightsaber buzzing angrily. Luke knew this scene all too well. He fell backwards, unable to defend himself, for his lightsaber was on Vader's belt. Crawling desperately, Luke made it out to the end of the platform. Trapped.
This was the point where Vader sliced his hand off, but for the first time, he didn't. Vader seemed to be in a trance. His red blade waved back and forth, as if to some unheard music. Wind screamed in Luke's ears, tugging at his battered body. Through all this, he held on for dear life, waiting to see what new turn his dream would take. Vader lowered his lightsaber and turned toward the entrance from which he'd come. Luke strained to see what Vader was looking at. He felt something...
A young man, about Luke's age, stood framed by the entrance. He was tall, almost as tall as Vader. His sandy blonde hair was cropped short, and his blue eyes glittered dangerously. He wore a dark tunic and pants, and he had on a dark robe like Ben's. He stared straight into the eyes of Vader's monstrous mask. Luke's heart began to beat wildly. He had never before seen this man, but he knew he was seeing a true Jedi from Obi-Wan Kenobi's time. And he felt sure that he knew him somehow.
The man took one step forward, shedding his robe. His eyes narrowed slightly.
"I believe you have something that belongs to me," he said to Vader.
Luke's lightsaber flew from Vader's belt toward the man's outstretched hand. But it stopped midway. Luke gasped. Vader too had his hand out, reaching calmly for the saber.
"Not today," he rumbled. The lightsaber sprang into his gloved hand. It snapped to life in his grasp. Vader stepped forward, both sabers blazing.
"And not ever!"
The Jedi's face registered shock. He looked at Luke fleetingly.
"No! Don't!" Luke screamed in horror. Even if Vader had heard his words, they would not have affected him in the least. With one smooth motion, Vader struck down the Jedi. Then he turned back toward Luke.
"Oh, please no. No," Luke trembled. Tears blinded his eyes as he shook his head in despair. Still, the Dark Lord came closer.
Leia sat alone in the cockpit of the docked Millennium Falcon. Lando and Chewie had gone to make sure that the hyperdrive was fixed for good. While she had the cockpit to herself, Leia was evaluating the plan she and Lando had come up with to save Han. She looked out at the stars, thinking of Han, of Luke, of the only father she'd ever known, Bail Organa. So many lives extinguished or forever scarred by the Empire.
Wearily, she settled back in the captain's seat for a well-deserved nap. That was when the pain came. It was not physical pain or grief. She realized it was not even her own. It was Luke's.
How did I know that?
Leia wasn't quite sure of what to do. She remembered hearing Luke when he'd been hanging under Cloud City, but would that work now? It was worth a try.
It's all right Luke. I'm here.
It's all right, Luke.
Leia's words pulled Luke from his hellish nightmare.
Luke breathed a sigh of relief.
I know, Leia.
"It's nice to see you awake for a change."
Luke grinned, knowing that Lando was only kidding. They all knew Luke needed his sleep. "Hello to you too, Lando," Luke returned with a hint of sarcasm. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Onebee approach the bed.
"Please do not aggravate the patient, Baron Calrissian," the droid requested politely.
"Hey, Onebee, I'm not a baron anymore, remember? I don't think I'll be seeing Cloud City again anytime soon."
"That's okay, Onebee."
"If you please, sir," Onebee continued, "Commander Skywalker still needs to rest. I will be attaching his limb replacement tomorrow."
"Sure. Uh, Luke? Did Leia tell you about the plan?"
"She told me before you came in," Luke assured him. "Don't worry, Lando. It sounds like a good plan to me."
"Hey! Who's worried?" Lando ran a hand through his well-groomed hair. He looked over at his Wookiee companion. "Come on, Chewie. I want to see what else Han has done to my ship."
Lando and Chewie left, and the room was quiet again. Luke continued to stare at the door. "He really does have a good heart after all," the young man murmured.
Leia, who'd been standing by the large window, walked over to Luke's bed. "Yes, he does," she replied thoughtfully. "I thought he was the worst kind of traitor, but now I realize that he was trying to protect the people of his city. I guess he just didn't think Vader would double-cross him." Leia looked down at her hands, the memory still fresh and painful.
"Guess not," Luke mumbled. He stared blankly into space.
Leia's eyes traveled to his bandaged stump, then darted away. She still found it uncomfortable to look at. "You had another dream last night, didn't you?" she asked carefully.
Luke looked up at her and nodded dismally. He seemed like a little boy, so pitifully lost.
"Did it end the same way?"
"No. I... you woke me up, brought me out of the nightmare." Luke seemed hesitant to tell the details of his dream. Leia could understand that. She'd had enough nightmares of her own. Luke gazed up at Leia with gratitude in his eyes. "Thanks for being here, Leia," he sighed.
"I told you I would," she smiled. "Now get some rest. And hope for better dreams." She kissed his forehead, like a mother to her child, and then left Luke alone with Onebee.
"Try to sleep, sir," Onebee said, as gently as a droid could manage.
"Right, Onebee," Luke replied. He closed his eyes, praying that Vader would let him sleep.
He was back in the dream. Vader was there, as was the mysterious Jedi. Luke knew what was coming as the Jedi went for the lightsaber. Luke screamed for him to run, to get away from Vader. But once again, his cry went unheard.
As before, Vader struck down the helpless, young Jedi. Luke watched in horror as the man crumpled to the walkway.
I can't do this. I can't just depend on everyone else to save me. I have to save myself...
Vader advanced on Luke, both lightsabers ready. Suddenly, Luke's lightsaber flew from Vader's grip. With weapon in hand, Luke sprang at Vader. They traded blows, neither one relenting an inch. Luke saw an opening. He swung his saber to Vader's right and nicked him on the shoulder.
Vader roared in surprise and outrage. He viciously attacked Luke, saber flying.
No! It's happening again!
The red beam sliced through Luke's arm between the wrist and elbow. He screamed in pain. This is how it would always end, no matter what he did.
Vader reached out to him, beckoning him to the dark side. There was no escape as Vader continued reaching, reaching for his very soul...
Luke opened his eyes to find himself back in the medical center. He shivered and looked around the room. It was black as night, except for the window where the stars could be seen. Luke touched his skin and found that it was cold and clammy. He supposed it was an improvement; he wasn't raging hot like the last time he'd dreamt of Vader.
He remembered his dream; he remembered how he had taken his fate into his own hands. Even though that hadn't turned out any better, Luke realized that he had been in control. He had been making his own destiny instead of waiting for it to play out in front of him.
In the dim light, Luke could see the chrono. Three hours past standard midnight.
The dead of night, Luke mused. He closed his eyes thoughtfully. I wonder if Vader sleeps.
The night was not prepared to let Luke rest easy. Shadows still haunted him as he sat awake in his bed. Memories returned, of loved ones burning in the desert, leaving nothing behind but charred skeletons. He recalled the pain he'd felt on the Death Star, when his mentor had died. And forever present in the shadows of the night was the voice of Darth Vader, whispering in his ear.
This time, though, Luke had the courage to face his demons.
I am still afraid of you, Vader. I fear your words. I fear that they might be true.
You have shattered my world and everything I have ever believed in. You have hurt me in ways that I cannot even begin to describe.
Right now, I know I cannot win. But I will continue to fight you, if only in my nightmares.
While most of the ship slept, Luke stayed awake. Had anyone entered the room, they would have found him with eyes closed, deep in meditation.
Luke stared at Leia, who was now dressed in a pure white, floor-length, high-necked gown. She was radiant; a beautiful vision - and also a distraction while Onebee finished work on Luke's new bionic arm. Not that it necessarily hurt, but it was strange to suddenly have a hand and fingers again.
"Luke?" Lando's voice came over the comlink. Luke picked his up expectantly. "We're ready for take-off."
"Good luck, Lando," Luke replied.
"When we find Jabba the Hutt and that bounty hunter, we'll contact you."
"I'll meet you at the rendezvous point on Tatooine."
"Princess, we'll find Han," Lando said earnestly. "I promise."
"Chewie," Luke spoke again, "I'll be waiting for your signal. Take care you two. May the Force be with you." He heard Chewie rumble in response before he and Lando broke off. Out of the corner of his eye, Luke watched as Leia walked over to the window.
Luke set the comlink down and looked at Onebee. The droid was poking his new fingers with a needle. Each one showed perfect reflexes. Luke watched in fascination as the wires and metal "bones" in his new forearm reacted exactly with his nerves.
"Ow," Luke said, almost as an afterthought. He closed the lid on his arm and took the bands off. After examining it and making sure that it looked perfectly natural, Luke got out of the bed and walked over to join Leia at the window. He looked down at her, knowing that her thoughts were with Han. Luke was only a little surprised to find that he didn't mind. He too, was eager to find his smuggler friend.
Leia met Luke's gaze. She sensed that Luke understood her feelings for Han. She felt that he cared for her, but it was different then it had been in the past. The look they shared now was one that friends, even brother and sister, might share.
Both Luke and Leia's attention was focused on the Millennium Falcon as it flew away from the Rebel fleet. As they watched the ship become smaller, Luke put his arm around Leia in encouragement. The gesture held a promise: everything would be all right in the end.
One Year Later
One year. It hadn't really seemed that long to Luke. One year ago Han had been frozen in carbonite, Luke had lost his arm and his father's lightsaber, and Darth Vader had informed him that he was Luke's father. One short year later, Han was free; Luke had a new arm, and he'd built his own lightsaber. He had watched helplessly as Master Yoda died. He had even discovered that Leia was his twin sister. However, none of these things were on Luke's mind at the moment.
Darth Vader stood before him, tall and commanding as ever. But for the first time Luke could clearly sense the conflict.
"You don't know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master," Vader insisted.
Luke shook his head. "I will not turn. And you'll be forced to kill me."
The father I have longed for all my life is standing before me now. And all we can speak of is death and darkness.
"If that is your destiny," Vader replied indifferently.
"Search your feelings, Father. You can't do this," Luke approached Vader, his father, pleading. "I feel the conflict within you, let go of your hate!"
Vader's demeanor seemed to change. "It is too late for me, Son." His voice was almost... remorseful.
Too late? Why, Father?
"The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force." Vader's voice was once again hard. He motioned for the stormtroopers to take Luke. "He is your master now."
Luke shook his head regretfully. "Then my father is truly dead."
So what is to stop me from killing him now?
The stormtroopers led Luke to the turbolift at the end of the corridor. As the door closed between them, he gave Vader one final beseeching gaze.
Luke sat on board the Lambda-class Imperial shuttle that would take him and Vader to the Death Star. As he sat in contemplation, he sensed Leia nearby. The plan to take over the base and deactivate the Death Star's shield must have begun. Quickly, he attempted to reach her before the ship left.
Leia. Be careful.
I will. Come back to us, Luke.
Luke grimaced, not sure if he could make such a promise. I'll try.
His farewell was cut short with Vader's arrival. The Dark Lord took a seat opposite Luke. They regarded each other, father and son.
Luke had no wish to speak to Vader. He had to concentrate, meditate, something - anything to prepare for his meeting with the Emperor. Calling on the Force, Luke wrapped himself in its peacefulness.
He was back in a dream that he'd not visited in months. He was on Cloud City.
Luke was confused. Haven't I overcome this dream?
He felt different this time. Instead of being battered and weak, Luke was completely fine. He was wearing the dark clothing that he'd worn to Endor. The only problem was that a hooded man in black robes was holding Luke back.
Vader approached Luke with his lightsaber drawn. Luke reached for his new lightsaber but found that it was in the hands of Black Robe.
"Let me go!" Luke shouted as the wind picked up. He saw his old lightsaber - his father's lightsaber - once again on Vader's belt. If he could only get it...
A wall of air slammed into him, and he barely managed to grab hold of the platform. Black Robe stood near him, using the Force to render him defenseless while Vader advanced.
Then Vader stopped and turned around.
Luke's joy was only momentary; he quickly remembered what happened to this young Jedi every time he showed up.
"Go back! Please, save yourself!" Luke screamed above the wind.
For the first time, the Jedi heard Luke. His blue eyes met Luke's own. He shook his head gravely, as though he knew something that Luke did not. The Jedi strode forward onto the platform.
With more conviction than ever before, he addressed Vader. "I believe you have something that belongs to me."
Luke's old lightsaber flew from Vader's belt, and Luke wasn't surprised when it stopped midway. Vader reached for the saber also. His voice was menacing as he spoke.
"Not today, Anakin."
Anakin Skywalker's eyes narrowed. His voice was low and determined.
"Yes, Vader. Today."
The lightsaber flew to Anakin's open hand. Vader stood paralyzed by shock and fear.
"No, no! It can't be!" he raged.
"Yes, it can be!" Anakin roared, eyes flashing. "And it is!" With one deadly stroke, he sliced off Vader's head. The helmet crashed to the floor, and Black Robe screamed. Luke called on his lightsaber and slashed at his captor. The empty robes were swept away by the wind.
Luke sighed in relief and ran to Anakin. He stopped short when Anakin put his hand out. His eyes asked that Luke not come any closer. Before Luke could stop him, Anakin backed away into the darkness. Luke stood there, not knowing what to do.
"So is it really over?" he asked to no one in particular. He couldn't hide the hope in his voice.
"No," came a distinctly female voice, "I'm afraid it's not."
Luke spun around to face the speaker. He was surprised to see a short, petite woman who looked only a little older than he. Luke didn't think he recognized her. She had brown hair and eyes, and she was quite beautiful. Seeing her reminded him of Leia, but he knew she was a completely different person.
No, it wasn't the face he recognized. It was the voice.
Luke had not heard that voice in twenty-four years. The sound of it brought back vague memories that he'd never known he had.
The feeling of another small being lying beside him, clinging to him desperately.
The gentle brush of lips on his forehead.
A delicate hand caressing his cheek.
The smell of salty tears as he was ripped from her grasp.
All these and more exploded in Luke's mind as he stared at the angelic woman before him.
"I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her."
"She was very beautiful... kind, but... sad."
"It is far from over," the woman spoke again. "This is but a dream, Luke. Dreams pass in time." She placed her hand on Luke's shoulder. He felt the tears well up in his eyes at her touch. "Luke, he is not really two people. It is not like in this dream. You must realize that. Darth Vader will not be slain by Anakin Skywalker. He is Anakin Skywalker.
"However, over twenty years of devotion to the dark side have buried the light that Anakin served. He called himself Darth Vader because he was trying to rid himself of all the good. But he knows that he is Anakin Skywalker.
"He has Anakin Skywalker's memories. He remembers love and honor and friendship, even if he no longer feels them. He remembers his life before the evil, he remembers the Jedi, he remembers his wife..." the woman's voice cracked slightly, "and he remembers his mother. And because of that, the flame of goodness in him lives on, even though no one can see it through all of the darkness."
The beautiful angel-woman wiped her tears away and smiled at Luke. "Don't give up on him, Luke. Save him. I know you can. I always knew that someday his children would bring him back." She placed her hand on his cheek. A soft cry ripped from Luke's throat.
"I can't," he whispered.
"You can, Luke. I know you can. The light is there. Help him find it." She began to back away. Luke reached for her desperately.
She shook her head and smiled at him. "Now go."
Luke watched as Padm? disappeared in a blinding flash of light.
Luke's eyes opened to see Vader's imposing figure standing before him. The image of his mother lingered in Luke's mind, mingling with the black armor that was now only inches from his face.
How can I possibly save him?
"We must not keep the Emperor waiting," Vader spoke imperiously.
Luke avoided his father's eyes, feeling his face for tears. Satisfied that his eyes were dry, Luke rose from his seat and followed Vader out of the shuttle.
The new Death Star was larger than its predecessor by far. Everything about the battle station was stark. Sterile floors and walls greeted all who entered the hangar, and the air even seemed recycled. Luke felt overwhelming dread as he steeped onto the glossy floors. Of course, dread was to be expected when walking into the gundark's nest.
Vader led Luke across the hangar. After navigating numerous corridors, they came to a lone turbo lift flanked by the Emperor's red-robed royal guards. Luke thought of his dream, of his mother's words.
Can I really do it?
"Father, I sense the conflict. Let it go," Luke stated simply as they approached the lift.
"You are behaving foolishly, my son. You are blind if you do not see the rewards of the dark side."
"Losing all that you love does not seem like a reward to me." Luke's voice was hard.
Vader ignored Luke's remark. "I have no reason to be conflicted. I have everything I want." He stepped into the lift, staring at Luke expectantly. "Everything except for you. You must know, Luke, that you will turn. Think of the power the dark side offers you. Think of the strength."
Luke followed Vader into the lift, never once meeting his gaze.
"There is no strength in enslavement," he countered.
As they ascended, both men stood silently. Luke felt cold inside, colder than when he'd journeyed into the cave on Dagobah. It was as though ice had formed in his stomach and was traveling upward, threatening to choke him. Such cold and fear could only be caused by the Emperor. The urge to panic welled up in him, but he fought it and remained in control.
Vader turned to Luke once more as the turbo lift slowed. "It is your destiny, Luke. Embrace it."
For the first time since arriving on the Death Star, Luke looked up into Vader's impenetrable mask.
"I make my own destiny, Father."
The lift door opened, and Luke Skywalker stepped forward...
Original cover design by Cereth. HTML formatting copyright 2001 TheForce.Net LLC.