The Moment of Balance (PG)

By : Tycalibur

Archived on: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

This story chronicles the internal thoughts, feelings and conflicts of Luke Skywalker, the Emperor and Darth Vader in the final moments of the well-known confrontation in the throne room of the Second Death Star. It mainly focuses on Vader, but offers an insight as to what was running through the minds of these three beings as these all-too-brief but powerful moments in the Original Trilogy came to pass. Its focus lies more on the internal fight than the physical fight.

Chapter 1 - Palpatine: Observance

"If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will."

Even as the words began to escape Vader's lips, Emperor Palpatine felt Luke's signature in the Force ripple with uncontrolled rage and explode. Palpatine was beside himself with delight; he had not felt such a sudden wave of violent emotion in the Force in someone so young since the day the teenage Anakin Skywalker lost his mother. Back then, however, Palpatine had been many parsecs away. This time, he was very close and very unprepared for the pure power that his old apprentice unleashed in the young man.

The Emperor was further startled when Luke screamed, then jumped out of his hiding place and lunged for his father.


With this one single word, Palpatine felt hot from excitement. Then a chilly wind rushed through him, along with a violent Force-generated tremor that would have shaken an ordinary Force wielder off his throne.

Palpatine also felt something else at that moment.

Cold fear was coming from the proud warrior whom Palpatine resurrected from the ashes of the former Anakin Skywalker. Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, who had turned to the Dark Side and who had destroyed all known Jedi in the galaxy, was very afraid.

Despite all the years of service, loyalty and friendship Vader had shown him, Palpatine always suspected there was a part of Vader, buried very deep within the Dark Lord's heart that was weak and tortured. Vader was the Emperor's conditioned killing machine, the enforcer of his will. This is what I trained him to be. Most of the time, Palpatine observed that Vader simply followed his Dark Side teachings, and managed to convert these weak emotions to rage and destroyed anyone who invoked them within him.

With the Dark Side as his ally, Vader tracked down and destroyed any and every known Jedi, sometimes even provoking them into a brief Dark Side fury, causing them to go against their nature. It was one of Vader's greatest talents, one he had learned well from Palpatine. A Jedi who employed unintentional rage in a misguided effort to do good was always undone by the emotion. Rage would always unbalance a Jedi in combat, and then Vader's blade would assuredly find its mark. Any Jedi who had stood against Vader that did not turn to the Dark Side simply could not hold ground against Vader's power.

Now Vader was using these methods against his own son, but he had no idea of the power his words would unlock.

Nor did Emperor Palpatine.

Palpatine's mind flashed back to a moment he had shared with Vader in the throne room only a few days ago. "I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader," Palpatine had said.

He had detected no hesitancy from Vader when the Dark Lord quickly and calmly replied, "They are clear, my Master."

Palpatine searched through the Force for an answer about the future. He remained confident when he told Vader that Luke's compassion for Vader would be his undoing. Still suspicious of Vader, Palpatine made sure that father and son were both brought before him this time. He wanted to personally oversee this event.

In opening his mind to Luke to probe his thoughts, Vader had unknowingly opened his own mind to his Master. Vader was too preoccupied with the rage that boiled up within his son to notice that Palpatine was sensing his thoughts, and that his inner soul was being shed. But now, as Vader's naked thoughts emanated from his mind like a cosmic wind gone wild, Palpatine's fears were confirmed. Vader wanted Palpatine dead; he had for many years, in fact. Vader wanted to replace him as ruler of the Empire. The Emperor trembled with rage, but also hope as he watched the events quickly begin to unfold before him.

Over the years, Palpatine had known this could happen at any time with Vader, or with any apprentice. But, he was always prepared to deal with such things. For an apprentice to occasionally rise up and slay his Master was the way of the Sith. Though Vader never revealed himself, Palpatine knew Vader was up to something during the asteroid field pursuit of the Millenium Falcon when Vader recommended Luke be turned rather than be destroyed.

Treachery, he thought to himself now, in the throne room. Palpatine realized Vader's real plan was to destroy him, and to take control of the Empire. As much as he hated to ever admit that he made a mistake, Palpatine thought to himself, The naive young Jedi was right. Palpatine's overconfidence was his greatest weakness.

Trusting you to turn this boy was a miscalculation, one that will correct itself momentarily. You sentimental fool, I knew I could not trust you to follow through with what I expected of you. You actually care for this child. Palpatine knew what Vader really wanted to accomplish with Luke.

Palpatine began to think about his overconfidence in the former Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin's feelings for those he loved a lifetime ago were his greatest weakness, and that made him easy to turn. But now, Palpatine realized that it was actually Vader's compassion for Luke that would be his undoing! This was what Palpatine really foresaw. The Emperor sensed Vader's mind was distracted, confused, conflicted, just as the boy accused him of being moments before. Before Luke even activated his weapon, he knew Vader was going to be too weak to overcome this torrent of emotions to fight the boy.

Preoccupied or not, the Emperor pondered, he is still going to try and turn Luke on me.

The Emperor almost stood up then to destroy Vader himself, but he smiled and sat back in his throne. He relaxed himself in a comforting thought...

I will let the child try and destroy this fool.

Palpatine now pinned his hopes on the boy from Tatooine, Vader's son, and the most recently revealed prospect, the boy's twin sister. Vader was useless to him now.

Chapter 2 - Vader: The Truth

The Emperor's cackle filled the room as Vader retrieved his lightsaber from the wreckage of the fallen catwalk and began walking down to the bottom of the throne room after Luke Skywalker.

As he and Luke traveled up the turboshaft to the Emperor earlier that day, Vader had forseen one thing: only two of the three people that would be in this throne room would leave it alive. Of that, he was certain.

Vader's frustration and annoyance with the boy was at its peak as he descended the stairs to search for him. He knew the Emperor had been lying to him from the beginning. The Emperor did not want Vader to bring Luke before him because he had 'grown strong.' Those motives were too simple. Vader had failed to kill Luke on Bespin, and the Emperor wanted to personally ensure that Vader would follow through and destroy the boy if he did not join them this time.

But, Vader had motives of his own.

Vader did not wish to kill Luke even as the boy taunted him from the catwalk of the throne room, but he was quite intent on injuring the boy again as he did in Cloud City, possibly worse than before. Failure to do so would risk angering his Master and arousing suspicion. Unfortunately, Vader underestimated the improved skills of his opponent, and Luke had evaded his blade. He could feel Luke's presence in the Force as he made his way down the stairs and under the main bridge that led to the Emperor's throne.

Vader entered a dark area, lit only by the faint lights of the control panels of a few central security cylinders. He could feel Luke's presence in the Force, but he could not sense where Luke was. Only that Luke was beginning to feel real fear.

There is little more point to this, Vader thought to himself. He was not going to play this game with Luke; his patience was already worn thin enough. He had to obey his Master to some extent, but first he had to get Luke to fight. He let the Dark Side flow through him, his crimson blade illuminating the dark room like a red serpent ready to strike. Then he spoke to the boy, putting as much power into his voice as he could...

"You cannot hide forever, Luke."

"I will not fight you." Vader turned toward the voice that spoke to him, knowing full well that Luke had used an old Jedi trick to throw his voice in another direction.

Very good. He is as defiant as someone I once knew, Vader thought.

Wait! Someone I once knew?

He quickly remembered that thinking of things linking him to his distant past angered his Master, but of late he found it more difficult to control his thoughts. His encounter with Luke on Endor the day before had already opened a door to his past that haunted him. He meditated on it for hours before being able to purge it from his mind prior to bringing Luke here.

So, Luke is intent on using what he perceives to be my weaknesses against me? he thought. Just then, an idea came to him.

Luke is my son, and far more unpracticed at controlling his anger. Why not simply use his own negative feelings against him? The Emperor had taught Vader how to do this many times, and many Jedi had succumbed to their fears and regrets just before Vader slaughtered them.

Vader had his advantage now. He had allowed the boy to humiliate him twice in front of the Emperor during this particular encounter. Now it was time to teach him a new lesson, as he had done on Bespin.

Vader sank himself deeply into the Dark Side of the Force. He entered Luke's mind easily, sensing his thoughts and feeling his pain. Vader could already tell that the boy was too afraid and mentally anguished to shield himself.

Vader could feel through the Force that Luke was distracted, and fearful for the safety of the Rebel Fleet, as well as Han Solo, the Wookiee, and even those ridiculous droids he considered 'friends.' The boy was afraid for all of them now that he knew that the Rebel Alliance had been pulled into a trap. Luke was beginning to believe that he had truly underestimated the Emperor's abilities. Now, here he was, cornered by his own father and by Palpatine. He was beginning to feel the slightest inkling of doubt in himself...and he was feeling helpless.

Vader sensed that Luke was searching for someone. Obi-Wan, and...Yoda! He saw in Luke's mind, a swampy planet, and the face of the very withered old Jedi Master, as he taught the boy many things: how to clear his mind and the dangers of the Dark Side. Now the boy was calling out to Yoda, trying to find his essence in the Force.

So that is who finished his training, Vader thought, utterly disgusted. The highest member of the once great Jedi Council. All this time Vader had assumed that his former Master had somehow had a hand in completing Luke's Jedi training after Vader struck him down on the Death Star, but that was clearly not the case. Vader had been mistaken when he congratulated Luke twice on how well Obi-Wan had taught him. However, it no longer mattered. He could tell by Luke's thoughts that both Obi-Wan and Yoda were dead, and they were not answering Luke's cries for help.

My Master has already done some of my work for me, Vader thought. Palpatine had succeeded moments earlier in breaking Luke down emotionally. Luke was full of anger and had made the choice to pick up his lightsaber and to try to strike the old man down.

Two Dark Lords of the Sith were hovering over Luke like a cloud as black as Vader's mask. Luke's emotions were swirling in his head because of this, and Vader could sense every nuance in them. Luke seemed fairly certain the entire Rebel attack was doomed. Luke's mind yearned for peace and comfort. Vader sensed the boy wanting an answer from the two dead Jedi, but Luke could not find it.

Vader had an answer for the comfort Luke sought. He spoke more calmly this time, intent upon bending a battered spirit to his will. He wanted to bring Luke to grief, but also to come to accept his fate rather than to choose death.

"Give yourself to the Dark Side." Vader was in full form now, feeling Luke mentally writhe and fight against him. "It is the only way you can save your friends."

Luke did not speak. Vader probed even deeper, and sensed something crying out in Luke's mind. Something that Luke was now trying to hide from him.

Something that Obi Wan hid from me. Something very, very valuable.

"Yessss," Vader hissed, knowing that Luke would yield at any moment. "Your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong, especially for..."

Vader's mind slipped into Luke's one last time, and he found what he was looking for. This time, Vader did not even have to push. There it was, trying not to be heard, but Vader heard it.

Padm? Naberrie Amidala Skywalker had given birth to twins.

"...sister!" Vader felt Luke's mind shudder with defeat. " have a twin sister!"

Now Luke was no longer alone. He had a sister, and that sister was one of the strongest leaders of the Rebel Alliance. It all fell into place now. Hidden in plain sight by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Adopted by Bail Organa of Alderaan. Strong and defiant like her mother as well, and a natural leader. She was also completely untrained.

That meant the chance of recruiting another powerful ally against the Emperor.

Vader quickly suppressed his very last thought to hide it from his Master, unaware the Emperor had already heard it before he even tried to conceal it.

Luke's mind was an open book now; Vader could sense that Luke felt complete failure. He knew that Luke's mind was reeling from the horrid thought that Leia's identity was no longer safe from him.

Lord Vader was enamored with malevolent glee. He continued to press forward to his advantage, very aware of Luke's feelings of guilt and utter despair, but completely unaware of how unstable the boy had become.

"Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete." Vader smiled as he spoke the hateful words against his former Master.

The possibilities are endless. I have an entire family I can unite, under my terms, under my rule. The Emperor could not withstand the combined might of all of them.

Purposefully toying with the boy, Vader continued, "If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will."

The words had not finished coming from Vader's audio mechanism when he felt a small but strong, dark flame of the Force inside Luke grow to the size of an erupting volcano in a fraction of a second.

Luke was truly full of hate for his father.

This was something Vader did not want, and never intended to happen. He merely wished to weaken Luke more emotionally than he did on Bespin, not to throw him into a rage this violent. He wanted Luke as an ally, a student, a son, and a partner in the Dark Side. Luke's rage washed over Vader with such incredible force he could have sworn he felt the entire throne room shake as Luke jumped out from behind his hiding place and ignited his lightsaber.


The single word, taking on a power all its own, cut through Vader more painfully than the most agonizing of all the physical injuries he had ever sustained in his lifetime.

Vader turned his head to see where his son had been hiding; but was now showing himself ready to strike. Poised and full of vicious, writhing, shaking hate, and intent on one thing: killing him. But something was different this time. He sensed something in his son he had not felt in years. Vader's ally was the Dark Side, but feeling the Dark Side coursing through his son so powerfully made him look at it in a different way. Vader once felt this much uncontrolled power when...

...when had he last felt this way? The memory suddenly came back with horrible clarity.

Just after Shmi Skywalker died in his arms.

He felt something else that day, he remembered, the voice in his head pleading with him to stop. It was Qui-Gon Jinn. But the Dark Side was so powerful when it beckoned him and fed him, that he felt full of power yet incapable of stopping it.

Vader suddenly felt very cold, seeing his erstwhile self in his son now. Was this not what I wanted? he thought. Why is this different from what happened to any other Jedi slain by my power, even the ones that I sent into a Dark Side rage? I took my old Master down with no hesitation. Wasn't this what I have been working so long and hard to achieve? My son is turning to the Dark Side. Suddenly, Vader decided he didn't like this feeling. But he had very little time to think about it.

As Vader turned his head, his breathing went out of sync with his respirator as his son's green lightsaber lunged at him wildly, full of hateful fury.

Chapter 3 - Luke: Fading Faith

Luke still clung stubbornly to his hope that his father would see the good in himself. Yes, he had felt conflict before his father hurled his lightsaber at him on the catwalk, even though it almost killed him. Luke had used the Force to cushion his fall, but his body still ached from it. He had no time to try and heal himself. He felt his father coming for him, so he did the first and only thing he knew he could do to buy time; hide.

Unfortunately for Luke, hiding allowed him far too much time to collect his thoughts, all of which were focused on the trap the Emperor set for the Alliance, and on the safety of his friends. Before he realized what he was doing, he could already sense Vader on his trail, his dark presence bearing down on him as Vader quietly entered Luke's hiding area, sniffing him out.

Luke regained just enough of his abilities to suppress his feelings for a moment, and to conceal his presence.

A bold voice came out of the darkness, the dark power behind it intent on drawing Luke out.

"You cannot hide forever, Luke".

Luke remained true to what he said before, but he had to stall his father in an effort to figure out what to do next. He could think of nothing yet, so in a moment of desperation he threw his voice across the room, calling on the Force to assist him. "I will not fight you." he retorted.

Luke was tired of this confrontation. He was tired of fighting, and tired of running. He thought of all his training on Dagobah, of everything Yoda and Obi-Wan had warned him about Vader and the Emperor. What was it all good for? He suddenly caught his breath when he realized he was thinking this.

I can't take on these two at once. They were already at work trying to destroy everything he fought for. Through the Force, he felt the battle rage outside the Death Star.

Luke found one last, possibly positive way to collect his thoughts that could give him hope. He calmed his mind, trying to become one with the Force.

The darkness and evil in this place is too great, it's so difficult to concentrate, he thought to himself.

Luke tried to focus on his two Masters, Obi-Wan and Yoda; but all he could see through the Force was the past. Obi-Wan had helped him in the past during the battle of Yavin; perhaps he would help him now. Luke listened for Obi-Wan with all of his strength, but he heard nothing. What about Master Yoda? Yoda always seemed to Luke even more powerful than Obi-Wan, maybe Yoda would answer him. He called out desperately to the Force, looking, seeking, searching for guidance, searching for a way out of this.

Luke received no answer through the Force, except one.

He felt a presence in his mind, dark and with malicious intent. It was Vader invading it, sensing not only his presence, but also his thoughts.

This struck immediate fear into Luke. Luke mused that if Vader could read his thoughts this clearly, then he truly was not safe in any sense of the word. Luke was beginning to feel hopelessly trapped. Yoda told him not to underestimate the powers of the Emperor, and until now, Luke did not feel that he had. He had refused to fight Vader after overcoming his fears to face his father in the first place. But how much longer could he continue this confrontation? Luke began to doubt himself, and began considering just how powerful the combined strength of his father and the Emperor really was.

"Give yourself to the Dark Side," came Vader's voice again; it felt almost as though Vader was trying to calm his helpless emotions.

Luke felt he would have been more useful to his friends if he'd stayed on Endor. He felt this confrontation with Vader was hopeless, and Yoda's last order to face Vader useless. Luke tried to erase these thoughts and to remain one with the Force, using it as his ally, but he was too drained from trying to convince his father that he would not become evil.

Having come to terms with the thought that he was not going to make it out of the Death Star alive, Luke made one final effort to keep his thoughts on his friends, but to keep them hidden from Vader.

But Luke had little power left to bury his thoughts as Obi-Wan warned him. He felt Vader invade his mind again. NO!

Vader spoke, in what seemed to be an attempt at reassurance, "It is the only way you can save your friends." Luke now knew quite vividly that Vader could read everything he was thinking, but the more Vader spoke, the more he couldn't help but think about his friends, and the danger they were in.

"Yesss..." Vader said. "Your thoughts betray you, your feelings for them are strong, especially for............."

He couldn't keep Leia out of his head now. She was the only person left who could stop Vader and the Emperor if he failed. Luke couldn't stop the torment his feelings were inflicting upon him. He wondered if he was going mad with these emotions. His useless efforts to stop his father were spiraling downward, and his fears were beginning to be accompanied by another emotion.


Luke gasped and his eyes bulged painfully as he realized that Vader knew the truth.


Luke's eyes began to burn, and his head was spinning. His mind felt as if it was falling into a bottomless, pitch-black chasm from which it could not return.

As cold as ice, Vader's voice came at him again. " have a twin sister!"

Luke felt uncontrollable emotions filling him to the brink with the knowledge that Vader now knew that Leia Organa had been born Leia Skywalker. This was his sister, another child of the former Anakin Skywalker. She was the other half of the only good left in his family, and he had exposed her existence to Vader's evil thoughts. He felt Vader's thoughts focusing solely and greedily on her. He was sure the Emperor heard all of Vader's words as well.

"Your feelings have now betrayed her, too." Vader said, sounding satisfied. Luke made no more effort in hiding his thoughts. He was too petrified. He simply wanted to vanish, he wanted to make all of this go away, to be swept away to a different life, to have his memory erased like a droid's and to pretend none of this ever happened. Luke had come to face Vader fully confident he could turn him away from the Dark Side. But now, for the first time since he faced Vader on Bespin, that confidence had dwindled to nothing. He finally felt like he was in completely over his head.

As Vader continued probing his thoughts, Luke was now focused on his own inner emotions. He felt shamed. Betrayed, as Vader pointed out, by his own mind. If by some chance he survived this situation, how could he explain this to Leia? Or to Han? Or to anyone else in the Alliance?

"Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me," Vader continued, "Now his failure is complete."

Obi-Wan, Luke thought. He said that Vader was 'more machine now than man, twisted and evil.' In his anguish and torment, Luke began to believe it. Obi-Wan and the Emperor were right, and Luke was wrong about his father. Vader could not be turned.

Luke felt the tears well up in his eyes at his failure. The simple fact that Vader now knew about his sister was enough to send him over the edge. Just when Luke thought he could not take any more of Vader's taunting and provoking of his seemingly hopeless situation, he heard Vader turn his head the other direction as he spoke, but Luke continued to listen and heard the words clearly.

"If you will not turn to the Dark Side..." Vader started...

Luke snapped. He knew what was coming, and suddenly he felt cold, angry, excited, aggressive, and full of power. It was a horrible, incredible power that rushed through him like a tidal wave. When Vader spoke the second half of his thought...

"...then perhaps she will."

...Luke let the power embrace him.

This man is truly evil and I am going to destroy him, no matter the means.

Luke no longer cared about himself. He didn't care about the Emperor...nor about the Empire, the Alliance, or Yoda and Obi-Wan's teachings. All he could think of was sweet, kind and loving Leia; and how Vader could not be allowed to do something so evil to her. He had already done enough to Luke.

Luke felt the power running through him like a river, and sank deeper into it, letting it guide him, as he boldly stood up from his hiding place, screaming "Never!" and igniting his lightsaber. Luke closed the distance on his father rapidly.

The Dark Side was with him.

Chapter 4 - Palpatine: Possession

The Emperor was on his feet, hearing the violent clashing from underneath the main audience chamber, feeling the power of the Dark Side in the boy. Highly amused, he wondered if the boy was so blind with rage and power that the entire throne room bridge was going to come down underneath him.

As father and son emerged from the underside of the throne room, Palpatine watched partly in excitement and partly in fear as the enraged young pupil turned on his old apprentice. This was not exactly as he foresaw things, but then, Vader was foolish to provoke his son. Now Palpatine sensed that Vader himself was emotionally unbalanced by the fact that his own son had turned on him. As they emerged, though, he noticed that Vader was not fighting with the correct stance.

Vader was being knocked backward by Skywalker, blow by blow.

Fool, he thought to himself happily. What did you expect? Your son inherited the same weakness from you that made you so easy to turn. I knew you would never be rid of your need for this pitiful side of yourself. Your pathetic ambition for this child has clouded your vision. If you cannot bring yourself to destroy him, then you are no longer worthy to be my apprentice.

Palpatine watched joyfully as Luke drove Vader back, Vader parrying the blows but being cut off at every chance, every move. Luke closed in on him as Vader stumbled to the floor. Skywalker released his anger by swinging his blade six times in a row at Vader - and when at last Vader no longer fought back - Luke disarmed his opponent by severing his hand at the wrist. Vader's mechanical hand and lightsaber fell end over end into the reactor shaft. Palpatine began to laugh loudly at the sight before him.

Now, Skywalker would surely be his.

Chapter 5 - Vader: Torment

Vader barely had time to react as his son stabbed directly at him with his lightsaber, meaning to strike straight through his face. His blade narrowly knocked Luke's to the side.

No, Vader thought as Luke swung his lightsaber back and forth in wild, wide arcs at him, heedless of any returned blows. Vader thought of telling Luke to stop, but words failed him.

Still tormented by the image he saw of himself in his son, Vader clumsily tried to offer his blade to Luke to protect himself. Luke simply knocked it up into the ceiling, sending a shower of sparks down on them both. His son continued to swing at him wildly, the Dark power in him completely out of control.

By the time Vader regained control of his consciousness to focus on his opponent, Luke had already driven him back out from under the bridge to the throne. But Vader was still too distracted by what he sensed in his son's mind. Luke was full of indescribable strength, not caring how he killed Vader, but only that he did kill him.

Vader had felt this strength once before - the first journey he made to the Dark Side - after his mother's death, and remembered how it made him feel so full of power and of life.

But seeing it in his son made him feel very differently. Feeling the Dark Side within Luke like this was...almost hideous to him.

Vader tried to call upon the same Dark power to retaliate, but soon found he could not gain the anger nor the footing he needed to block Luke's relentless attacks. He could not get angry with his son. Luke's green blade drove his own back with an incredible force, pushing it away time and again.

Vader continued to step backward, wondering when he was going to run out of space. Luke's blade continued smashing into him. Vader felt Luke using both his lightsaber and the Dark Side of the Force to physically knock him back. Overwhelmed by the power his son wielded, Vader realized he was fighting for his life. He also became increasingly aware that his body was pushing the limits of his mechanical suit while fending off Luke's attacks. Vader could barely draw upon the Force to keep himself in the fight.

My son is going to kill me, just as I slaughtered those Tuskens many, many years ago.

Luke and Vader reached a catwalk crossway at the base of the stairs, with a very precarious railing behind them. Luke and Vader locked blades twice, and then Luke swung in a high arc from behind his head. Vader dodged, narrowly missing the blow. They locked blades twice again, then Luke swung high in the other direction, narrowly missing Vader again, but neatly severing a portion of the catwalk railing in two.

Vader could neither emotionally nor physically take any more of this onslaught from his own son. The implications of what Vader put Luke through on Bespin was becoming quite clear. Only now, Vader was the victim. He slipped for the final time, falling backward but ended up sitting against the catwalk rail, simply holding up his lightsaber in vain defense.

Luke slashed down from over his head at Vader's outstretched saber several times; so many times that Vader could not count. Vader wondered why Luke didn't just kill him then. Vader felt the internal mechanisms of his right hand being stretched and ripped apart by the repeated lightsaber strikes. As a result of this, he could no longer even maneuver his hand to stop Luke, but it did not matter. Luke's blade came down for the final time, even harder than all the previous strikes, and severed Vader's hand at the wrist. Having neural mechanisms tied into his hand, Vader cried out in pain, but his cry was far more emotional than physical.

Vader held up his hand in a gesture of surrender as Luke stood over him, holding his father's own power, a green lightsaber blade less than an inch from Vader's throat.

Chapter 6 - Luke: Proclamation

Now, you die.

Luke awoke from what seemed to be a painful dream. Unlike the first time he used the Force to destroy the first Death Star, he knew and remembered exactly what he had done this time. He was breathing rapidly and holding a lightsaber to Vader's throat. Sweat was pouring down his face. He had finally accomplished what he set out to do.

Or had he? What was he thinking? Was he supposed to kill him? What was that dark and horrible power he just tapped? Or was it the dark and horrible power that tapped him? Luke felt dizzy as if stuck at a very critical moment. It was as if the power he was wielding and the power he was normally accustomed to wielding were arguing within him over what to do next.

He then heard the Emperor's laughing voice close behind him.

"Good!" came the satisfied, wretched voice, cackling some more.

Luke looked back at his father, still unsure of what to do. The moment was too confusing.

"Your hate has made you powerful," the Emperor reassured. "Now, fulfill your destiny, and take your father's place at my side!"

Luke looked at his father's cauterized wrist, and then brought his own hand up to his face. He flexed the artificial fingers, hearing their mechanized whirring as he did so. He then looked down at the rest of his father's body, entombed in that suit of armor. His father's choice to turn to the Dark Side and what it had truly cost him began to weigh heavily on Luke's mind. It had cost him his identity, and imprisonment to the Dark Side. It had also enslaved him to the Emperor for the rest of his life.

My choice must be made, he thought.

Luke then remembered a voice from his training. It said, "Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you, it can."

My father was made evil, assisted in the process by a monster that is also evil. I came here to save him, but first I have to save myself. I am about to slay him. Do I wish to become him?

No. This is NOT what I wish to be.

As assuredly as it entered him, he felt the dark power leave him as he sighed. He was free of its grip, and of the Emperor's grip. He was Luke Skywalker, not Darth Vader. Being Vader's son never meant that he had to become him. Defeating Vader was not as important as holding to Obi-Wan's and Yoda's teachings, and it showed with the pride on his face as he looked at his father and realized the truth. Luke confronted the same evil that his father had - and defeated it.

I defeated the potential for evil within myself. Also, I did not kill my own father, even if I did come close.

He turned away from his father, and faced Palpatine boldly.

"Never," he said, extinguishing his lightsaber and casting it aside proudly. "I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

The Emperor's smile turned downward, and Luke could feel the old man's yellow eyes piercing his soul. Luke knew he was about to face the Emperor, and something inside him told him he should not have cast his lightsaber aside, but he decided not to succumb to fear of any kind this time, and did not let that thought deter him. Defeat of evil sometimes meant sacrifice. Luke understood this now.

The Emperor spoke four words, acknowledging him as being what he chose to be.

"So be it, 'Jedi.'"

Luke had not planned for this moment. He suddenly realized why Yoda warned him not to underestimate the powers of the Emperor.

Luke felt a sudden rush of power coming straight from Palpatine that made him want to try and reach for his lightsaber, but it was far too late. "If you will not be turned," Palpatine started, slowly raising his hands, " will be destroyed."

Lightning spewed forth from the Emperor's hands, instantly knocking Luke to the floor. So, this is why my father always feared him. Things were becoming clearer to Luke, but Luke knew there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop the Emperor's sudden attack.

Or was there?

Before he had the chance to ponder the possibility, more lightning came forth, almost knocking Luke off the catwalk into the reactor core. Luke barely held on. His mind was racing for a way out of this, but there was no way to stop it.

"Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side," the Emperor said as he continued his attack, moving in closer to Luke. "You have paid the price for your lack of vision!"

Now the attacks came even harder. The pain from the numbing electricity going through Luke's body was unbelievable. Luke noticed his father now standing back at the Emperor's side.

"Father, please!" he cried, "Help me!" Luke continued to scream in pain.

Luke began to really believe his father was truly dead if he was going to stand there and watch this happen. But, if he was going to die, Luke was going to try one more time to appeal to the side of his father that was once Anakin Skywalker.

Little did Luke know, that he had already done it, when he almost tore his father to shreds just moments ago.

Chapter 7 - Palpatine: Passing Judgment

Emperor Palpatine poured forth lightning onto Luke, disgusted and disappointed at Vader's faith in this child, along with Vader's revealed treachery. He would have to deal with Vader's treachery later. The simple fact that Luke was not only on the verge of ridding him of Vader and chose not to, but dared to declare himself a Jedi in Palpatine's own throne room was infuriating enough. Now he would have to keep the aging Vader as his apprentice, and the Sith would likely have no heir.

No, he thought. I have a much better idea.

Vader spoke of this boy's sister just moments ago. Jedi Kenobi was indeed devious in hiding her, but now that I know who she is, she will be more valuable to me than either of these pathetic fools.

He vaguely noticed that Vader was back at his side, but just enough to entertain the idea of disposing of him when he was done with Skywalker. Then when he was done with Vader, he would see to it that Leia Organa was captured and brought before him. She was completely untrained, and he would deal with training her personally. Her mother was easily manipulated, she should be as well, he thought with satisfaction.

Palpatine taunted Luke, continuing to attack him; calling upon the Dark Side more and more. His entire form would serve as a conduit for the most powerful lightning he had called upon in ages to punish anyone.

Luke's screams were pleasing to his ears. Good. The boy cried out for his father to help him, but Palpatine doubted Vader would act knowing full well what would await him if he dared try.

The Emperor smiled and gritted his teeth as he focused the lightning into Skywalker harder and faster. Luke was on the edge of losing consciousness when Palpatine felt a horrible grip on his backside, crushing his ribcage and breaking his spine, hoisting him into the air...

Chapter 8 - Vader: The Moment Of Balance

Vader felt like a lost little boy as the Emperor's final punishment of Luke began. Too conflicted to understand all that transpired between him and his son, he called upon the Force to try to help him understand and assimilate the pieces of the puzzle together.

His son was now a Jedi. As a Sith, this should have meant nothing to him. But for some reason, it did.

Why? Why does it mean anything? Vader asked himself.

I was a Jedi once, long ago, a voice answered in his mind.

Yes, he was, but long ago. But what struck Vader as being most peculiar was the voice that spoke those words. It was not the voice that everyone in the galaxy feared. It was not a deep, menacing voice normally accompanied by the dark hiss of a breathing apparatus. It was his old voice, Anakin's voice - the voice he had last heard over twenty years ago before he became encased in this body suit forever.

Why did Luke spare my life? Why did he turn away from his destiny?

He was too moved by his son's actions to do anything but crawl back beside his Master, but carefully, to avoid getting electrocuted. At long last after moments of trying to sort it all out, it came to him.

Vader began to feel regret and remorse. His son, Luke Skywalker, bested the evil inside himself that nearly caused him to take Vader's life. Luke also risked his own life to save Vader. Vader had a daughter he probably would never know. The Emperor would surely destroy him when he was done taking Luke's life.

"Father, please!" a voice came from the present, drawing his attention away from his thoughts. "Help me!"

Vader was startled by Luke's anguished cry for help. He looked at Luke, simultaneously remembering his former identity, his former life. He remembered how much this youth reminded him of himself in that other lifetime, which now for some reason did not seem so long ago. He told Luke the name Anakin no longer had any meaning for him. His identity in his former self was lost when he lost Shmi, and then his wife. But here was his son, who came here to save that person.

He had a son, Luke.

He had a daughter, Leia.

Although he never knew them, never got to watch them grow up and become the heroes they were, they were still a part of him. They were his connection to that misplaced identity.

Did my former self still have meaning? He came back to save me because he loved me, because some part of him believed that my former self was not destroyed.

Then, a revelation hit him...The Chosen One...The Jedi Council had faith in him...the person who could bring Balance to the Force...Qui-Gon had faith in him. It all came back to him. Even now, he could still remember Qui-Gon's scream as he slaughtered the Tusken Raiders in the camp, one being at a time. He watched his son, Luke, defeat evil and redeem it within himself.

Luke did truly defeat me, in every sense of the word. He, Darth Vader, was the one that was corrupted and tainted and perverted by this truly evil being standing next to him.

Then, the last happy thought he ever had in his former life came rushing in...


His mind flashed again to happier times in his life, escorting his would-be wife to Naboo, falling in love with her, marrying her against the Jedi Council's code. Their fates were forever bonded, and she was forever a part of him from the day he met her. The Emperor had tried vainly, but never completely severed the pain of her loss from Vader's memory. He thought all these years she was gone. But in a way, she wasn't. She lived on in this child (who was now a Jedi), and in Leia (one of the strongest leaders the galaxy had ever known). It all made sense now. Vader let the feelings come in, and called upon the Force to see the past. His past.

"I will even learn to stop people from dying."

But did I?

No. The deaths of billions of innocent beings were on his hands. His life had no meaning after Padm?'s death, his only purpose was to kill anyone who displeased him and to serve the Emperor.

His son had shown him the way. No one truly loved him enough to believe in him since Padm? left his life. Palpatine's 'belief' in him over the years was too twisted to ever be construed as love. He was becoming overwhelmed by what Luke just sacrificed in front of him, simply based on the hope that his son's love could save him.

Still immersed in both the past and the present, two sets of spoken words entered Vader's mind, spoken by both father and son.

"I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

"I'm a Jedi. I know I'm better than this."

Both had conviction, both had pride. But only one of the people succeeded following those words, where the other had failed.

Vader was frozen where he stood. I am nothing. I could not succeed, for good or for evil's sake. I could neither turn my son, nor save him when he could not be turned. Leia will suffer the same if not a much worse fate at my Master's hands. Soon he will destroy me as well. I have failed. No one believes in me now. I truly am nothing.

What happened next only lasted a few seconds and only Vader saw it. He would never tell anyone of it, not even Luke. Vader saw an image flash over Luke. He could not tell if what he was seeing was a vision from the Force or a hallucination, but at that exact moment it did not matter.

It was her.

It was Padm?, as young and as beautiful as he'd ever remembered her. She was dressed in white and her straight brown hair flowed over her shoulders.

She was kneeling over her son as Palpatine paused his attack to say, "Now, young will die". Her face was very sad.

Her tear-stained face looked longingly and gently up at Vader. It was full of the love Anakin Skywalker had once known.

The lightning continued, and Luke screamed even louder. Padm? vanished, her pained gaze still fixed on Vader as she disappeared.

No one in the galaxy ever knew on that day Anakin Skywalker had two tears running down his face under that mask.

He had two children that were all that remained of his and Padm?'s love. That alone meant his life still had purpose. He had a choice. If he did not act, Luke would fall now, and the Emperor would surely destroy him and corrupt Leia.

Vader was suddenly aware he could read his Master's thoughts as Palpatine's rage at Luke boiled to an immense crescendo. This disgusting shell of a wretched old man standing next to him controlled the entire fate of every being in the galaxy, including his and his wife's fate. He was the single instrumental force in destroying the Jedi (many of whom had been Anakin's friends), destroyed his relationship with Padm?, commanded him to kill his former Master, and now was about to destroy his son, the last Jedi. Anakin then remembered Count Dooku, the Trade Federation, the Separatists, the civil war that led to galactic Armageddon that claimed the lives of countless trillions with this one man behind it all. He could feel the hatred for the entire Skywalker family burning brightly in his Master as he unleashed the full wrath of his power onto Luke.

"I'm a Jedi, I know I'm better than this," he heard in his mind again.

Anakin Skywalker was reborn in that mechanized monstrosity he had worn at the behest of the Emperor and the Dark Side.

He called upon the Light side of the Force, marshalling all the strength he could into every fiber of his body, and he lunged at his former Master from behind.

As he picked up the Emperor, he felt the old man's ribs crack and other body parts break. Palpatine cried out in extreme pain and could no longer direct his hands, but the lethal lightning, which was no longer pouring forth at Luke, was raining down uncontrollably on Anakin.

Anakin couldn't breathe. I have to make it to the catwalk above the reactor...I have to. He continued moving, calling on the Force with all of his will, maintaining his death's grip on the Emperor's body, making his way closer to the catwalk.

As Anakin escorted the Emperor to his oblivion, he spoke to him, but his voice was too low to hear over Palpatine's bellowing cries as well as the lightning that continued to rain down on him.

"You...are no longer...anyone's Master."

The Force protected Anakin long enough to get the Emperor up and over the rail and into the chasm. The Emperor, flung from the throne room, fell thousands of feet, screaming in partial pain and mortal fear, then exploded in a violent Dark Side Force storm that nearly sucked Anakin behind him into it.

Anakin collapsed onto the rail, unable to move at all. The lightning damaged most of his suit's life support systems, and his respirator-assisted breathing was very labored. Luke crawled to his father's side, holding his hand, neither of them speaking.

Anakin was redeemed because of his son's love. The Sith Order was finally destroyed, and the long awaited prophecy came to pass. He had finally brought Balance to the Force, but at a terrible cost to himself and to the galaxy. As he looked upon his weeping son with his own eyes, he kept his thoughts happy ones and remembered Padm?, Luke and Leia, imagining all of them as a family as he slipped into physical death, becoming one with the Force.

His spirit returned with his two former Masters to see his children one last time on Endor.

Epilogue - Padm?

Somewhere, along the faintest ripples of the Force, Padm? Naberrie Amidala Skywalker smiled at the scene below her on Endor. Though she was never strong enough in the Force to either speak with or even to make her presence known to her children or to Anakin, she had watched over all of them for a very long time. She wondered all these long years why her spiritual identity lingered in this realm if she could not do anything to help her children. Obi-Wan told her after his death that she still had a final task to complete. Though she never understood the will of the Force, she complied with it. Padm? had spent her spiritual existence wondering when that moment would come.

Now, it finally had.

All the energy she had left was spent when she appeared to her husband, and now the Force was ready to claim her.

Happiness in death rather than in life would do - it was better than never again feeling that joy I once felt with Anakin, she decided as she felt the Force pulling her in. Releasing her agonizing grip on her weak but continued spiritual existence, she surrendered herself to become one with it, waiting for her love, Ani, to return to her and to be with her together in happiness.

There is no death; there is only the Force.

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