Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Power lust : Part 1
Truce
By SJ  (skyjade@oricom.ca) and Tatiana (aa354105@econophone.ch)  09-05-00/13-04-01
website: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Quasar/3702
___________________________
Disclaimers: None of those characters belong to me.

Note about the story's copyrights: All the rights related to the basic idea of
Mon Mothma's scheme and the ensuing alliance between Luke and Vader belong to
Tatiana, and so do Vader's personality and the Sathed history. The rest of the
story is a fusing of our imaginations since we've passed the story back and
forth between ourselves :)

Also, special thanks to my shy, secret beta-reader and best friend, Adrianne,
for her help with the final editing of my new stories. (Eh, I have no choice
but to mention you, my friend ; your secret is still safe though ;) Thanks for
giving us some of your precious time, my friend :)
(Note to readers: if you still find mistakes after our three heads going over it
again and again, then, well, I guess perfection doesn't exist on that planet ;)
So let's have fun instead! And I insist on FUN!)
_________________________________
 

A month after Bespin, Coruscant, Imperial Center:
Vader was meeting with the Emperor and a plethora of high-ranking officers.
Ever since he had come back from Bespin, he had remained on Coruscant for
reasons that were only beginning to become clear to the admirals and moffs
who were present in the meeting hall.
"A Death Star... Oh, yess... The death of those rebellious fools..." hissed
Palpatine and smiled at all men in the large, gray, cold conference
room.
"Our last victory was a great lost for them." Vader's voice floated up, as
emotionless as a steel wall. "The Rebellion will soon be crushed, my
Master."
"Master... Yes, your Master I am, Vader." the despot nodded in satisfaction.
"The Master of all the Empire I am. The Master of Death itself I'll soon be!"
The Emperor smiled again, and laughed. The laugh was loud, and awkward.
The five Moffs who were sitting at the conference table shivered while the Dark
Lord remained undisturbed.
As usual.
"Yes... The Master of the Death itself..." Palpatine half-whispered as if he had
just been through a moment of great clarity. "My Star must be constructed!
After that, all those rebellious planets will be just a bit of dust before me. "
"As you wish, my Master." Vader bowed obediently.
"Begin the construction at once!"
"The works will begin as soon as this order is signed."
A data pad was laid before the Emperor. He looked at it and saw an order for
the construction of the mortal weapon that he had just envisioned. He signed it.
At this moment his aide in a violet robe came inside and bowed.
"Your Highness, lord Karder has arrived and is requesting an audience."
"Very well, take him to the small council room. I'm finished here."
Palpatine stood up ; the six other men were immediately on there feet, standing
at attention.
At this, the emperor left the conference hall, leaving a heavy silence charged
with bemusement and confusion in his wake.
Perhaps 5 minutes after. the silence was broken.
"Lord Satal Karder?" Moff Jerjerrod inquired nervously.
"He is the best specialist on the cerebral illness in the Empire." Vader
explained seriously.
"Awful."
"Master Targen" Vader's voice sounded a little bit tired. "Finish the
formalities."
The five Moffs signed the data pad that had just been signed by the Emperor.
The text's title was "Testimony and My Last Will".
After that, Vader made it clear to the men present that this little procedure
had to remain a secret from anybody who hadn't been present during this meeting.
Otherwise, their quiet take over wouldn't come to work and the Empire would be
doomed thanks to the Emperor's folly.

******

2 years later
It was now two years after Bespin and the ensuing rescue of Han on Tatooine.
The fight against the Empire was still going on, but, strangely enough, it
seemed that the Empire was not willing to participate anymore.
Lately, the only fights that they had had to deal with had been when they
themselves had engaged the Imperials. Otherwise, they were left alone.
Throughout the last year, only 5 Imperial attacks had been recorded and
had been the answers for the destruction of 5 imperial military bases.
No new zones of influence were gained or lost for each part. In short, an
awkward calm was now reigning on the Galaxy.

Luke Skywalker had a feeling that it was the calm before the Storm, a feeling
that was shared by his sister and her boyfriend. They just knew that something
was not right anymore, but... what could it be?
As he tried for the hundredth time to come up with a possible answer, he
reflected that his secret sister seemed to know a bit more about the situation,
but she wasn't ready to share her hindsight with him.
In fact, he admitted, she had looked jumpy as of late, as if she was burdened by
a great secret that she couldn't share with any living soul.
He slightly curled his lips in a pout at that ; didn't he just know how that
felt, he asked himself sardonically.
He had been living like that ever since Bespin... constantly dreading the moment
when he would have to reveal the fact that Vader was his father... when he would
have to face his friends' scorn and disgust.
Up to now, they hadn't questioned him, and Vader hadn't chased him for quite a
while either. It was strange, he thought with a frown, but it also allowed him
to be at peace for a while.
He could only hope that his inner peace would last for as long as the galactic
imitation of peace would.
As for his sister, he reflected, getting himself back on his initial track, she
had never pried him too much about his secret, so he would return the favor.
He wouldn't pry her for information.
He couldn't wait for her to return from her mission though ; he missed her.
Forcing down his sorrow and strangely foreboding feelings, he pushed away from
his chosen bay window and headed for his x-wing. He was due for a patrol.

******

'Cold. Darkness. Sensation of burning.
Pain- sharp and clean, cutting the body in million pieces.
Burning.
Cold fire.
Cry- so loud, tearing the lungs apart. Soundless.
Cold, still, burning hell.
"Please, please, please, anybody! Please..."'

"Leia?!!"
Luke gasped in horror as he jerked awake.
His first conscious thought was "Sith do I have a VERY bad feeling about
this".
And he was unfortunately right.
As usual.
When he and Han found out that Leia's shuttle had been attacked, they both
demanded to be allowed to go to her help.
They were denied.

******

Han burst into the high command room.
"Where's Leia?" he demanded.
Luke was right on his heels, trying to calm him down.
"Princess Leia is unfortunately missing, Captain Solo." Mon Mothma, leader of
the Rebel Alliance, explained soothingly. "We unfortunately don't know where
she is, nor what has exactly happened."
"Then let me and Luke go after her." he demanded. "The Empire is probably
behind this."
"I'm sorry, but we need both of you here to help us bring about our New
Republic." Mon Mothma said calmly.
"What? And just abandon Leia?" Han gaped in disbelief.
"No way." Luke rejoined. "Leia has never given up on any of us ; I'm
not about to do that to her."
"May I remind you, Jedi Skywalker," Admiral Madine cut in, "that Princess Leia
has gone to great length to convince us of your trustworthiness as a Jedi
Knight. It would be most unfortunate if you were to prove her wrong with
any rash action."
"But I just can't sit here when my best friend is in danger."
"You don't know that." Mothma interjected.
"I do know it, Madam." Luke stated adamantly. "I can feel that she needs us."
"So do we."
Han cut in. "The Hell with it, I'm going. I'm not bound by any promise or
anything, and ain't anybody who's gonna stop me from finding Leia."
"General." Admiral Ackbar called.
Han threw his general insignia on the table. "Independent Captain Solo."
Han corrected him. "Come on, Luke. Let's leave this gang of bureaucrats
to their games."
He turned on his heels, showing his frustration through his actions. Luke
briefly bowed his head before he followed him.
He followed Han to the Falcon. Both knew better than to talk in the
open. It was clear in their minds tough that the high command wasn't going to
keep either of them from looking for Leia.
Once inside the Falcon, Luke spoke up.
"I'm going to look for her too, Han. I've already begun what they call a
Jedi search, so I'll just keep my eyes open for my sister while I'm at it."
He still remembered when he and Leia had told Han about their twin ship, after
Luke had had to explain why Leia and he seemed to share too many odd
similarities and even seemed more linked than Solo and Leia were through their
love.
Han and Chewie had never betrayed their secret.
"There ain't nobody alive who's gonna keep me from saving her." Solo
growled.
"Okay, but you know how you have a way with people," the young Jedi seriously
warned him. "just try to be a bit more tactful about that one."
Han gave him his lopsided, self-confident grin. "Hey, it's me."

******

Throughout the following weeks, Luke and Han began their secret
investigation. The high command hadn't even tried to make Luke change his mind
about leaving since he was supposedly looking for other Jedis.
As it turned out to be, looking for other Jedis was probably easier than
finding traces of his secret sister.
He knew that she wasn't dead, but she had completely disappeared from the
galaxy, or so it seemed.
The young Jedi sighed and rested his elbows on the top of his table. He
took another swig of his tea.
Three weeks now... three weeks since he'd felt his sister's pain from
across the galaxy... if he couldn't feel her anymore, then---
No, he couldn't give up. Not on his life. He simply wasn't searching in
the right places...
He looked around the tavern he was in. Things certainly didn't change much
from one bar to the other, he reflected wryly. The same ragtag assembly of
smugglers, outlaws, and honest citizens who came here to forget their problems.
As his gaze roamed across the crowded room, he found it drawn toward a man
who was flipping a coin as if it were a great prize.
Luke frowned and took a closer look at the man. The Force was trying
to tell him something here.
Then, before he had focused, he saw an enhanced image of the coin.
He was instantly on his feet and on his way toward the other.
The two men noticed his approach but dismissed him as being
Inconsequential--- until his hand shot out and he caught the coin
while it was flipping in the air.
"Hey, who do you think you are?" the other asked darkly.
Luke glared at him, which made the other realize that he had better not
threaten him. Once this menace was dealt with, he turned his attention to
the coin.
Yes, it was Leia's lucky charm all right. This was one of the last pieces
of money from Alderaan and it had escaped the destruction of the planet
because Leia had been carrying it in her pocket as a lucky charm at the
time. It had also been the only coin that had been forged with two metals,
a special gift from a loving father to a beloved daughter.
He turned toward the man who was still glaring at him.
"Where have you found this?"
"None of your business, Kiddo. Give it back or I'll take it back."
Luke stared the man down. "That coin belongs to a very dear friend of mine, so
either you tell me where you've got it, or I'll assume that you are
behind her disappearance and bring you in."
The other seemed to consider. His friend tried to take hold of his weapon
but a sharp look from Luke discouraged him.
"None of that. Keep your hands where I can see them." he warned him then
turned back toward his quarry. "Where?"
The other grumbled unintelligibly until he shrugged in frustration. "Oh,
what the heck, one of the pilots over there has had a bet with me. He's
lost."
Luke turned in the indicated direction. He knew that the man wasn't lying.
"Thank you." he told him.
Unlike his first approach, he kept a low profile this time. He kept
an eye on the raucous group as he studied them.
It was obvious that they were pirates, not smugglers. They were also
quite inebriated which would make tailing them easy.
When they finally decided to leave the bar, it was late at night. He
followed them.
Soon their destination became obvious: the spaceport. Those guys wouldn't
try to fly in their state, would they?, he wondered uneasily. That wouldn't be
safe for the inhabitants of the city.
They all boarded a large ship that was bearing the same weird symbol that he'd
seen on the arm of one of the pirates.
Careful to remain out of sight, he reached out to search for his sister's
presence.
She wasn't anywhere nearby, but he could feel that he was on the right track.
He decided to take a look inside.
The ship was guarded but for a Jedi like himself, it would be easy to slip past
their sleeping defenses. He took a moment to focus, then he skulked closer to
the berthed ship.
If his sister wasn't nearby, he calculated, then he'd at least have an idea of
where they might have taken her.
He remained in the shadows of the large ship, walking silently toward the
boarding ramp. The guards were still nodding off sleepily.
With a little Force-enticement, they kept doing it while he slipped aboard
the ship.
Inside, he hugged the walls, his blaster in his hand and set on stun.
Pirates, he thought in disgust. There were bodies slumped in every room he
passed, their capacity to inhibit alcohol obviously ignored by what served
as brains in their heads.
Of course, alcohol was probably the least damageable drug they had taken
tonight.
Luke finally reached the cockpit. A pirate was snoring loudly, his heavy
body sprawled in the pilot's chair. Luke took a moment to put this one
under a veil so as to not awaken him, then he called up the navcomp
readings and prepared himself for a long struggle with login and password.
He was lucky.
He had had about one in a million chance to find it still logged in, for
even the craziest fool in the galaxy who cared for his survival would not
leave a comp logged in, but this pilot had.
Well, perhaps he WAS the craziest fool in the galaxy, he thought with a smirk.
The list opened without any difficulty.
Those guys had been to many places, he noted, both inside and outside the
known-territories, and they called themselves the Massacres.
Once he'd studied those things, Luke felt a renewed tug in the Force and
began calling up directories.
He was waiting for them to come up when a sound came from the opened corridor.
The Jedi whirled around, his weapon ready to bear on any bypasser.
He quickly found the source of the sound ; a small rodent that had decided to
pay a visit to the bridge during the night.
Letting out his breath, Luke refocused on the loading computer but made sure to
keep his senses alert for any danger nearby.
The directories finally came up on the screen.
Interesting, he thought as he leaned closer. They weren't only independent, but
were also for hire.
He called up the list of their contracts.
The chance continued: most were identified, Leia's included--- so he had
been right. They had hurt his sister.
He asked for the details of this contract to find out who was after his
sister, but all he found was an account number.
He carefully memorized it before making his way out of the ship.
Killing those cruel men and aliens wouldn't be worthy of a Jedi, but Luke
had to admit that he would feel damn good about doing it. Leia... they had
attacked her ship, then captured her and brought her somewhere, probably
outside the galaxy.
To do what?
What had they possibly done to his princess?
And why?
While they were both known for their heroics, they had long since gone down
in the most wanted list. For some reason, the Empire had stopped hunting
them down almost two years ago now. But if the Empire wasn't after them, then
who?
They didn't have that many enemies... especially Leia.
It was another story for him since he was a Jedi Knight now.
Yet, those pirates had taken a contract on Leia.
Why?
Once outside, he drew his lightsaber and slashed at the engines of the
ship. They weren't going anywhere soon.
By the time that the sleepy guards woke up enough to attack him, he was long
gone.

******

The first thing that he did when he left the spaceport was to report the
presence of pirates at the spaceport.
Then, he went back to his ship to get some much needed sleep.

'Cold. Burning pain.
Pain- a worm of steel, biting the flesh from inside, turning in, moving in.
Blind darkness.
Cold fire.
A cold touch.
A black mask, hovering over her.
A reflection of her face in the empty lenses.
Burned darkened ruins. Nothing more.'

After the third such dream, Luke awoke, startling Artoo, who had been
guarding the ship while he'd been away.
The faithful droid whistled something.
"No, I'm okay... Just nightmares." he muttered as he forced his heartbeat to
slow down.
Artoo fluted something degrading.
"Gee, Artoo, thanks a lot." Luke grumbled as he turned around on his narrow
bunk. "I really needed you to remind me of 'him'." he muttered.
He tried to go back to sleep, but he couldn't. Two things were not going
away from his mind: Vader, and that unknown account number.
Had Vader sent the pirates after Leia? Had he discovered about their
relationship? Why not come after him instead of his sister? And why the heck
would he give that job to the scum of the galaxy when he could take care of that
himself?
Unable to stand the idea of his father hurting Leia again, he stood up and
went into the cockpit, his droid following him right on his heels.
"I'll get to the bottom of this thing." he told him, sitting in the pilot's
seat. Wordlessly, he turned on the main computer, established a link with
the all-knowing imperial holonet and tapped the number that he'd memorized.
A series of possible banks came on screen. He scrolled down the list,
trusting the Force to pinpoint the guilty one.
It did.
Since the account was numbered, the owner's identity was protected, but
Luke had been with Artoo for too long to ignore his talents of hacker. He
plugged him in and told him to find the identity of the mysterious nemesis.

It took the little droid a long, long time to find the data. A time during
which Luke couldn't leave the planet without disturbing his search.

******

Three days later, late at night, the data search was over. Luke felt his
heart stop in his chest even as he sank in the pilot chair, his knees giving
under him in shock.
The woman had given another name, but the biodata didn't lie; Artoo had
taken the liberty to compare them with the medical databank that registered
everything about every citizen as soon as they were born.
Mon Mothma?..
No... no, it couldn't be. Mon Mothma was one of Leia's best friend. They
had been in the Senate together, had founded the Rebellion together and had
fought side by side at the worst of the war---
"There must be a mistake, Artoo." he told his companion.
Artoo double-checked.
There was no mistake.
"Then it's been forged." he told the droid, hanging onto that last hope.
Artoo gave an electronic sigh, set to work again, with the same results.
It hadn't been forged either.
Luke slumped back in his seat, all his strengths drained.
The woman every one looked up to, the woman who had led them in war, the
woman who was presently in charge of the Rebellion... was an assassin.
At least it explained why she'd vehemently opposed his leaving to search
for Leia. She must've surmised that his Jedi talent would eventually lead
him to this discovery.
Which now left the question as to what to do?
He couldn't really go back to the Rebellion, not after this discovery--- and
suddenly, an horrifying truth slammed in his brain: Mon was trying to
destroy the Emperor only to take his place.
He had never accepted it before when the mean comments had come up, but now,
with this last piece of the puzzle, everything was clear.
The Rebellion was in fact Mon Mothma's private army against the private
army of the Emperor... and if Leia had also figured this out... Then it
explained why she had had his sister kidnapped.
It was nice and swell to realize all that, he thought glumly, but that still
left him with the question as to what to do.
He couldn't really tell Han; the poor man would go berserk and die before
he ever got to Leia.
He couldn't contact anybody in the Rebellion; 'he' would be tagged as the
traitor.
That only left one person in the whole galaxy whom he could call for help.
The last person he ever wanted to see again.
Vader.
No, he argued with himself, getting back to his feet. He wasn't that
desperate... was he? He wasn't going to call for the help
of the man who was responsible for his artificial hand, his nightmares
about torture and all the other horrors that had happened to him throughout
his first three years with the Rebellion. No way.
And yet..., he reminded himself, sitting back in his seat under the bemused eye
of his electronic companion, Vader hadn't come after either Leia nor him for
almost two years now...
The Fleet was still out there, but Vader hadn't tracked them for a while,
since... Bespin in fact.
The thought of that cursed place brought back memories of despair, of
horror, of lost... and of hope... from the man who had said that he was his
father.
Vader had hoped that he would come off his perch, he had wanted him at his
side...
And ever since that day, the cunning dark lord hadn't tried to recapture
him even once...
It was not as if he couldn't have tried or even managed it. Luke knew far
too well now that Vader was extremely powerful in the Force.
He could overcome him anytime he chose.
Yet, he hadn't.
And then there was his dream... He had assumed that Vader had been meaning
to hurt his sister, but what if it had been a vision of the Force? What if
Vader was truly going to help him save Leia?
He rubbed his forehead with his fingers, then ran the same hand through his
sleep-tousled hair before settling it on his jaw.
He hoped that he wasn't making a mistake.
He sat up and began to type the code that he'd learnt despite himself when he'd
found out about Vader's personal calling box.
Artoo, who had remained silent during his bout of reaction, saw what he was
doing and squeaked in alarm.
"It's okay, Artoo, I know what I'm doing."
The droid didn't seem to share his opinion, which wasn't as confident as it
seemed. He hesitated before punching in the last numbers, then finally
completed his call.
'May the Force be with me.' he thought fervently.
The box opened instantly, no welcome of any kind at its opening. Luke
hurried to type in his message, not trusting his voice to remain steady if
he spoke.
'Meet me on Saccoria in four days. Come alone. L.'
He knew that Vader didn't need more clues. He'd find him.
He ended the call and looked at his little companion.
"Well, there's no turning back now."
Artoo whistled mournfully at that, as if foreboding some bad event.
Luke thought that he was probably right.

******

Approximately 2 hours later, on Coruscant, Emperor's Palace:
It had been two years now that he had officially proclaimed himself the
Emperor's heir and Palpatine's representative.
Unofficially, he was now the Emperor.
Palpatine's state was stable but absolutely desperate since his mind
was in ruins; he'd lost all his faculties, all his powers and almost all his
memory.
Once an almighty ruler, he was now just a pawn in a hands of his servant.
Having waited for this for almost 20 years, Darth Vader surprisingly didn't
feel any joy.
In fact, he felt nothing about either his nowadays position or the
Emperor's state.
Perhaps any joy he might have felt had run away when he had seen how much needed
to be done, he reflected seriously as he made his way to his quarters.
He knew what an enormous task it was to revive the Empire, but never had he
imagined that its present state would be so desperate... so, gathering his
determination and will, he worked like a crazy man, days and nights, sleeping
less and less as the time passed. He also blocked any other feeling, any
sentiment, any thought that was not linked with the task at hand, trying to make
the Empire's future his only goal in life.
It has been so for 3 years now.
But even then, he wasn't completely able to resume his previous state of mind,
the one that he had had before the events of the Death Star.
Before the princess.
Before the knowledge that he had a son, then a daughter.
Before Bespin.
Before his children's hateful glances.
Before these feelings started to make a difference to him.
Forcing down his regret once again, he coldly reminded himself that he had to
succeed to forget them. That was why he worked so hard.
His workaholic attitude made him feel cold, feel nothing besides the growing
tiredness. That was good, he thought as he entered his personal rooms in his
castle--- but when he checked his message box, he was in for a rather rude
surprise.
He found the message in amongst the rest of the trash that he normally deleted
without a second look.
Somehow, he momentarily felt a strange peace settle over his senses. His
son had contacted him. Then it was gone.
No, this wasn't a nice surprise, he argued with himself. It was most unexpected
and almost unwelcome since it destroyed all the barriers that he had built
around his heart and mind ; it was painful to feel something -feel so much-
after 2 years of self enforced coldness and stillness.
He felt joy, and this joy felt like fire burning his soul.
He also felt a strange peace- the peace that was not stillness but life.
Completion.
And all these feeling refused to die as his cold mind tried to soothe them
back into apathy.
After a long moment of warring with himself, Darth Vader sighed and
admitted the existence and the right to be of all these feelings.
So, he thought, refocusing on his message, his son needed him.
What for?
Perhaps it was a trap, he began, then shook his head to himself.
Improbable- unless Luke had assured to the Alliance that the dark lord would
come, but for this, he would have to explain why the Emperor's supposedly
henchman would do such a foolishness... and to do so, he would have to reveal
his parentage. Improbable, he calculated.
He knew Luke ; he knew that the boy could barely reveal such a matter to his
friends since he felt deeply ashamed of their relationship-- so he would
certainly not reveal it to the Alliance government.
Not to Mothma.
Still, he evaluated, the probability of a trap existed, but it was very slim,
which led to only one possible conclusion: his son needed him.
He'd called to him, ignoring the danger, ignoring his hatred and shame...
because he was desperate, he realized.
Vader wanted to hear why his son needed him so much ; he also wanted to help
him--- even if this would change nothing about how Luke felt about him, he
sternly reminded himself.
Well, he told himself, as long as he himself would have some kind of
relationship with the flesh of his flesh...
He would go, he decided.

******

Four days later, Saccoria. Abandoned temple of the Sun:
Luke remained in the shadows, following the dark presence of his father
through the Force.
Had this been a good idea? he asked himself for the hundredth time in the past
hour. It was kind of too late if it weren't, he sarcastically thought. No
choice but to wait for the events to develop, he sighed in resignation.
The other finally stepped into view.
"Luke?"
Luke remained behind his column. "Don't come any closer." he warned him,
cursing himself for feeling afraid in the circumstances. After all, he
had debated long and hard with himself before contacting the dark giant,
and he had come to realize that Vader hadn't hunted him down for quite a
while now.
Surely he wouldn't be menial enough to do it here, under the strange
Circumstances, he tried to reassure himself.
Vader stood still, a dark silhouette on the white marble that was lit by a soft
glow that was coming from the broken windows.
"Very well." the other nodded agreeably. "Why did you call me?"
The temple might have been broken but the acoustic was still good- and the
Dark Lord's already rich voice filled the building. Luke shivered. He
suddenly felt small, alone with the dark threat. Perhaps this entire
meeting had been a mistake...
He cursed himself again, then boldly stepped away from the illusory
protection of the column.
"I need your help." he stated as bravely as he could.
Vader seemed surprised by his quick admission. "A most unexpected turn of
events, indeed. Why would a Jedi Master need the help from a Dark Lord of
the Sith?"
There was a bitter irony in the voice, Luke noticed as he stared at the dark
figure.
"I'm not a Jedi Master."
Was he trying to start a fight? he wondered. And suddenly he understood.
The other wanted him to admit the truth, to not beat around the bushes.
"I need help from my father," he admitted, forcing the last word out of his
strangely strangled throat. He knew that the strangling sensation had nothing
to do with the dark Lord though ; it was his own doing.
Forcing himself to focus back on his... father, he saw Darth Vader acknowledge
his statement with a nod.
"Very well, my son. What do you need my help for?"
How could he explain all that had happened in the last month in 2 or three
sentences? he wondered.
"My sister, your... daughter... has been kidnapped." he finally managed.
He considered that it was a rather good resume.
"Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan?" Vader queried seriously.
'As if I had _many_ sisters.' Luke thought sarcastically.
Then he understood what the other meant. Who would kidnap such a persona, and
risk a fight with all the Alliance?
"At first, I thought that you were behind it." he admitted, feeling a slight
blush of shyness creep up his cheekbones.
"I assure you, Son, that, had it been the case, you would have known it 'for
certain'." he stated with a harsh and cold tone of voice.
"Yes, I'm rather aware of it, 'father'." Luke indicated, restraining his shiver
as multiple scenarios of what might have happened played out in front of him.
"I also know for sure that it's not you." he added seriously.
"Thank you." The irony in the voice was palpable. "So, you know who is
responsible of her disappearance."
"Yes."
"Then why do you need me? You are not a green horned boy anymore." His father
stated, obviously referring to their last encounter from which he had survived.
"It's Mothma," Luke said simply, dejectedly.
A small silence.
"I see." was the only answer.
"You don't seem surprised." Luke frowned, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm not." the black-clad giant nodded in agreement. "In fact, I should've
understood it much earlier."
"She is a very good actress..."
The truth was painful, even now that he'd learnt to accept it.
"She always was... And she always was ambitious to the extreme." His father
commented, locking his hands behind his back as a teacher would. "That's why
she quitted the Senate after she was refused the Prime minister's seat. At that
time, everybody was surprised. It was impossible to imagine her out of
politics."
His father's accounting made him frown.
"You seem to know her well." He observed doubtfully.
"Indeed I do. We used to work together."
Luke scolded at that.
"Worked? She said that you forced her to leave the Senate because of ideological
differences."
A chuckle.
"Well, she made up quite a scandal to quit the Senate with dignity when her
prospect was denied. It didn't fool anybody who knew her well though, and there
really were some 'ideological differences' between us at the time concerning the
methods, but not the goals. She too wanted a strong Empire, so I was rather
surprised when she started that Rebellion thing--- but even I never doubted
earnestness."
Luke was flabbergasted by his father's revelations. Mothma had wanted the
Empire? She had wanted to rule it??
"She is an excellent actress, is she not?" his father asked in the silence.
Luke could only nod in agreement.
"Even Leia believed in her," he whispered.
"She's also understood her game."
That was not a question.
"Yes. And Mon's made her disappear. I wonder..." he began hesitatingly, then
licked his suddenly dry lips. "I wonder why she is still alive..." he admitted.
His father didn't even take a moment to consider ; he answered him right away.
"Mothma undoubtedly has plans for the Princess of Alderaan."
It made him snap out of his bad scenarios.
"That's why I need your help." he reminded his father. "We have to find her
before Mon initiates any plan that she has in mind."
Now that he had spend more than five minutes with his father, he noticed how his
mask seemed to carry out his facial expression.
Right now, even though he hadn't changed, he could almost see him raise his
eyebrow in slight challenge.
"You need my resources?" he asked him tauntingly.
"I need, 'father', your help to find my sister." Luke said with all the
power of persuasion that he could muster, tired of their little game of
admitting the truth.
He glared at the black mask, forgetting all his fears for once.
No matter how he felt about this man, this dark lord of the Sith and Emperor's
right hand... he was his father... he 'was' his father. That 'had' to matter, he
calculated.
A muffled, short laugh came from the darkness that was his father. He was aware
of his annoyance he realized.
"Very well, Son. I will help you find Leia, but keep this correlian of yours
out of my way." he warned, waving a leather-covered finger at him.
"I will," Luke promised, letting out the breath that he had been holding. "Thank
you."
"For nothing at the moment. I'll contact you myself when I have news. You
still have a box?"
"Yes."
His father nodded, then without another word, turned heels and left.
Luke leaned against the closest column.
Now that he was alone once again, he felt as if all his strength had been
drained from him at once. He took a deep breath.
The dices were thrown now, and his father hadn't tried to capture him nor
Deceive him for that matter. It looked like he could really trust
Him, he thought bemusedly. Now, he had to take Han and try to find another
track that his father's, but one that they could follow to find Leia.
Han was a smuggler. He could try to backtrack the pirates and hope that
they would find some clues as to where Leia was kept. It probably wouldn't be
as fast as Vader's direct search concerning Mon, he conceded, but it would at
least be something.
And now came the touchiest part, he scowled. He had to report to the rebel
fleet about his Jedi Search without giving away that he knew the real motivation
behind the rebellion's military enterprise.
The most normal thing to do would be to run away, he knew, but it wouldn't do
any good to the galaxy since Mon would still be fomenting her little personal
war. No, he sighed tiredly, he had to keep up his charade, keep up an innocent
appearance--- and foul her evil plans.
To do that though, he needed to find his sister.
His dreams were assaulting him relentlessly during the night, but they
never gave him any clue as to where she could be kept.
If only he could feel her through the Force, he thought in frustration as he
pushed himself away from his column and made his way out of the temple.

******

Darth Vader relaxed in the pilot seat of his shuttle.
This had gone better than he had thought, he evaluated, not to mention that it
had been much different too.
His son had grown up. He was much more balanced and in control than he
had been two years ago. He had also come to accept his parentage...
at last. Whatever feeling he had concerning his father, he was able to
deal with them calmly and to not let them influence his behavior.
Yes, he smiled to himself, he had definitely grown up.
The fact that he hadn't tried to kill him nor turn him, nor contradict him
in any way had also immensely pleased him.
He had truly been asking for his help, he admitted, nothing less, nothing more.
But what was more important was that he had expected that help to be given, just
because he was his father.
He had to admit that this greatly pleased him ; it was good to know that his son
was now thinking of him as having feelings for his children.
Neither Luke nor Leia, especially Leia, would ever accept him as part of
their family though. They would never care for him... and perhaps their hatred
of him would never cease, but that did not matter since they could accept at
least something from him because his son knew that 'he' cared.
He could live with it, he decided.
A very long time ago he had understood that sometimes, it was better to be
content with little because willing to get everything could very well destroy
the very thing that one was longing for.
Some lesson that Mothma had never understood, he thought with a sneer.
Mon Mothma... He knew her well. Much better that he had led Luke to think.
They had almost been friends at her earlier times in the Senate, appearing to
everybody as hateful enemies. Most of times they had been secret allies in
hundreds of internal plots. Mothma had always shone in plots, he
remembered.
She had always been an ambitious, strong woman, not exceptionally beautiful, but
undoubtedly charismatic. She had also always been very clever.
He had sort of liked her, he conceded. Observing her had always been a real
pleasure because nobody, including himself, could predict her doings.
But with time, his sympathy for her had changed to ... almost disgust for she
had been clever and strong, but she had fundamentally lacked the purpose.
Her prime objective had always been power for itself and she had never
understood that the power was nothing but the instrument to reach one's goal.
This goal, she had never had, as she had never had any ideals, or moral
imperatives.
Even Palpatine had not been so immoral, he thought darkly.
When she had started the rebellion, he felt both surprise and relief that she
had left the Empire.
They were enemies now, but at least she wasn't liable to ruin the Empire
anymore.
Yet the Rebellion had been a lie.
While not surprised, he was as badly shocked as Luke was by that fact.
Yes, he was a monster- of this he had no delusions that he was not- but he could
not imagine himself starting a civil war just to satisfy his personal ambitions.
Plot, assassination, anything- but a war? It was even more evil than what the
Death Star had done to Alderaan.
Mothma had and still used millions of people, she had used Organa's family, and
she dared use his children.
Leia was the image of the Alliance, he thought, clenching his fist in anger, its
soul.
Luke- its hero. The Last Jedi.
And now that Leia had became dangerous- she had been coldly removed.
Luke was in danger too now, he could feel it.
And Jedi or not, Luke would need help if she threw a contingent of pirates or
outlaws at him.
It must have been how she had gotten Leia, he realized. From what he knew, his
daughter was far from helpless ; she had been trained to survive just about
anything.
Except perhaps... betrayal.
Vader felt a wave of cold rage-- so strong that it was barely controllable.
'You dare touch my children!' he growled dangerously, almost reaching out to
strangle the evil woman from a distance.
With an effort he calmed himself. Emotions would not be of any help now.
Once he had recovered his composure, he refocused on his previous thoughts.
What he couldn't understand, he thought seriously, was why Leia was still alive.
Why had she been kidnapped and not just killed? Mothma wanted to use her- that
was clear. But 'what' for?
The response came by itself: to somehow restart the war. The actual stalemate
could not possibly satisfy her. She would never be content with the present
Empire.
That was only a plausible hypothesis... but it felt right, he admitted.
If Leia were found in some imperial base's detention block and that there
were evidences of torture- any peace talks would became impossible for a
while. Even more so if Leia would die soon after she had been found...
They would make her a martyr and would wage a new war in her name.
That hypothesis felt awfully right, he thought with a slight shudder.
Not even the Emperor had ever been this machiavellian.
If it was true, he then reminded himself, then there was almost no time left...
The next base under attack might be the one. That only depended of Leia's
condition.
He would need to contact some of his agents in the Alliance to know the time and
the destination of the next attack as well as make them investigate Mothma's
contacts. In addition, the agents would be dispatched to find the rebel
princess.
He leaned forward and tapped a request for his intelligence service, then
sent it.
In a few hours at most, the search for Leia would officially begin.

******

It took Luke three days to rejoin the Rebel Fleet, three days during which
he prepared himself for the best cover-up job that he had ever done, he and his
droid in fact. Artoo knew about the evil woman ; Luke couldn't risk his
ruining everything, so he had erased that part of the droid's memory.
He brought his shuttle down in the hangar bay. Techs hurried over and
secured it in place as he stepped down the hatch.
A sergeant snapped to attention. "Welcome back, Commander Skywalker. The
High Command has asked for you to report as soon as you arrive."
Luke saluted him. "Thanks, Nike. How's the gang?"
"They're fine, if a little bit tired to be out of action. You would think
that the Imperials have gone fishing or something, huh?"
"Yeah, you would." Luke agreed quietly.
"Have you seen any action yourself?"
"Nah, not much. Just a couple of goons in a bar."
"Still beats cleaning up the vents." his friend smiled.
"Sure does, well, I'm better head forth if I don't want to make them wait
too long. So long, Nike. Say hi to the guys for me."
"Good luck, Luke." the other smiled as Luke walked away from him. "Are you
sure you won't take back your piloting station?"
"Yes, I am." Luke said, his eyes suddenly darker as he thought that he had
once been part of those that were fighting for a cause that they thought was
just.
He walked faster toward the nearest lift.

He straightened himself before entering the conference room. He couldn't
let them suspect anything. He made sure that he had his commander insignia
in his tunic, then walked forward ; the double doors opened. He walked until he
stood at the end of the table.
"Welcome back, Commander. How was your search?" Mon Mothma asked.
"It has gone well, Madam, but has unfortunately turned up dry. The leads that I
was following were all false."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"I will continue to search, Madam. I know that I am not the only Jedi
descendant in the galaxy. It is impossible." he answered as calmly as he could.
"When can we hope to see you back on the front, commander?" a general asked
him.
Luke pulled out his insignia and put it on the table.
"If I do, Sir, it won't be out of obligation. I hereby resign my
commission as commander in the Alliance."
The leaders were shocked, to say the least.
"May I ask why?" Admiral Ackbar asked.
'Because the woman we follow is worse than the Emperor.' he wanted to say.
He took a moment to clear his voice from any aggression.
"Because I have decided to devote all my time to the Jedis, Sir. I don't
want to deprive you of an officer because of this decision."
"But you will still be affiliated to us." Mothma inquired, betraying her slight,
very slight tension.
Ooh, she was more than good ; she was an excellent actress, he admitted.
"If you want me in your group, yes, but I will also be independent from
you." he stated with finality.
"Thus not having to report to us?" Madine queried.
"Yes. Jedi matters can only be understood by Jedis, with all due respect."
he explained with a short bow of his head. "Of course, if something serious
happens, I intend to be there and at your side." he then reassured them.
The leaders discussed between themselves. Luke noticed the way Mothma
threw him suspicious looks, but never found anything incriminating so she
acquiesced to the others' demands.
He on the other could now feel the deceit in her mind. It was a wonder that he
had missed it before.
"Very well, Jedi Skywalker." She nodded as if she were being magnanimous. In
fact though, she was barely trusting him to not discover the truth, but she
couldn't say so to anyone, so she had no choice but to let him leave. "You are
now free to search for the Jedis or to join us, whenever you wish. We shall
provide you with any transport you may need, or any other resources it the need
arises." she informed him.
Luke was aware that it was her way of keeping him dependant on the Alliance, and
thus, feeling like he earned them. "Thank you." he said as smoothly as he could,
then bowed his head. He left them.
Whew, he breathed in relief. This was over and he was still alive. Now, he had
to find Han and go after the pirates. He suspected that his father would search
for Mothma's connections, so that orientation should put enough distance between
the two men so as not to give away his secret alliance.

******

Vader leaned back in his plush chair as he read the first reports regarding his
search. A new attack was planned in a month.
It could be worse he thought. Apparently, Leia's state was not sufficiently bad
for Mothma's plan ; that wasn't a happy thought for his daughter, he then
scowled.
As for Mothma's connections, there was much information, but at the same time,
almost nothing.
The list of personal contacts was enormous, a list made of no less than
political contacts. Then, he decided to focus on the organizations behind those
people.
Mothma had contacts or was the leader of many rebellious cells but almost all
these organizations were either destroyed or integrated in the Alliance. Hence,
there wasn't much under that category either. Everything seemed legitimate.
Annoyed by that lack of results, he drummed his fingers on his armrests while he
fought his slight frustration.
It was at least a beginning, he finally pointed out to himself, and he was sure
that the traitors weren't in the Rebellion because if Mothma had used rebels,
they would surely have come out false through his son's senses. One less option
to consider then.
He focused on his other option.
What if Mothma had called upon the services of her old acquaintances?
While the cells had all been destroyed or dissolved one way or another, it
was well known that those groups always led to another group someday.
Yes, he decided, he would continue there.
Perhaps one of them either guarded Leia or knew where she was imprisoned.

******

Somewhere in the Ategan system, Luke met up with the Falcon. He hooked his
x-wing in the belly clamp of the pronged-shape ship, then space-walked to
the outer hatch and joined his friends inside.
After a warm reunion, the two friends exchanged their findings.
Han hadn't found much, except that there were plenty of contracts on high
members of the Alliance, Luke and himself included, and a few others on people
who hadn't been part of their ranks for a while now.
Luke didn't tell him about Vader, but he told him about finding the
pirates. He gave Leia's coin to his friend.
"Are you sure that she wasn't aboard their ship?" his friend asked him.
"Yes. I've checked it thoroughly." He nodded seriously, then felt his voice
catch in sadness before he could continue: "I have a lot of trouble finding her,
Han, as if she weren't in the known galaxy."
Even though he had grown used to the fact that he couldn't contact her, it still
made him flinch in sadness every time that the subject came up.
"I thought that distance didn't affect you." Han observed critically.
"They don't," Luke agreed, "but it is well known that the unknown regions have
always deterred the Jedis because the 'laws' of physics are somewhat different
in them."
"Yeah, but it's also a pirates' nest." Solo pointed out unhappily. "Are you
telling me that you want us to tease each group until we find the right one?"
"No. I think that we should first find the rest of their group."
"And you know where to start?" Han asked somewhat eagerly now.
"Nope, you're the old pirate here." he teased him with a grin. "I thought you
might have an hunch about that."
"Huh-huh, right... let me think for sec here..." Solo answered, exchanging a
gaze with his co-pilot.
Chewie growled something about being eager to be on their way.
"Yeah," Han nodded, "I'm eager too to get to the fighting part; I want
to beat the crap out of those guys." he commented angrily.
It made Luke wince in foreknowledge. No wonder that his father had asked him to
keep Han out of his way.
"Uh, Han? How about doing it quietly?" he suggested as he stood to his feet.
"Let's not raise their attention unless we have to. There might be bigger
fishes involved and we don't want to scare them away." he reminded him.
"Right... Okay, Kid, now buckle in." he smiled lopsidedly as he stood to his
feet.
"Where are we going?" the young Jedi inquired.
"In the rings of Farlax." the experienced smugglers answered grimly. "If we do
indeed deal with pirates, that's where they'll be."
Luke followed him all the way to the cockpit, then he decided that he had to
contact a certain dark lord before he couldn't do so anymore thanks to their
transition into hyperspace.
"Can I borrow your holonet receiver?" he queried as innocently as he could.
"Sure." Han shrugged while he checked gauges. "Make yourself at home."
Luke waited to be completely alone before checking his box. Just like he knew
his father's box, he knew that his father would know how to find his. Luke
could even feel that he had made some discoveries.
He waited for his box to load. There was indeed a message from his father,
asking him to set a rendezvous point. He told him that he would be in
Farlax in four or five days, then sent his message, wondering what his father
had found.

******

Aboard the Shadow Spear, his personal corvette, Vader smiled but his
satisfaction was short-lived when he realized that his son would be with his
Solo friend and exactly in the same place where he had sent agents to
investigate and where he himself was headed.
Luke had been right to think that they would manage to stay out of the way
there, except that he hadn't considered the speed with which his agents might
uncover the actual identity of Mon's former group.
Hence, he already had his answers. She was even still their leader. Their last
known base had been in Farlax. 'You had better keep your trigger-happy friend
away from me.' he wrote,
then sent to his son.

******

Four days later, Luke walked beside Han and Chewie as they entered the base
in the rings of Farlax. Well, it wasn't a base exactly, more like a refuge
for the outlaw elements that visited those parts, but since they were armed
to the teeth and checking everybody, it could be labeled as a base.
Luke had changed his typical blacks to look more the part of a crew man
aboard Solo's ship. He was also wearing a blaster, something which hadn't
happened for a while now. He had concealed his lightsaber under his
utility vest.
He almost felt as if he were back in the Rebellion after Yavin, he thought as he
followed Han into a local tavern.
"Hey, Solo!!!" someone instantly greeted. "Long time no see man, where've
you been??"
Solo and his group walked closer. Luke scanned the man with his senses.
Nothing devious there.
"Oh here and there. How'bout you, Tanb? Still smuggling spice?"
"Nah, there ain't no future in this anymore, not since the Empire has
practically destroyed Kessel and the mines of the other funny spices."
"Yeah, I've heard about that."
"Say, I heard you were with the rebs."
"Nay, that ain't true." Han slurred happily. "I was just there when they needed
my service. They've paid me for everything that I've helped them with."
"Got a new crew too. My, you've changed." the other scoffed.
Luke introduced himself. "I'm Deak."
"How did you get hitched with this looser, Kid?"
"Oh, got kicked out from my pirate group and Solo was kind enough to
provide me transport in exchange of services. I've been with him ever
since."
"Pirates uh?" he turned toward Solo who had plopped down in the seat
across from his friend. Luke and Chewie pulled two chairs over and sat on them.
Han smirked when he noticed that the 'Kid' had sat backward on the chair.
"If I were you, Solo, I'd offer him a decent salary cause you're in the
right place to lose him." the other warned him. "Coupla gangs are recruiting
here."
"Which ones?" Luke asked, suddenly interested.
"See? Told ya."
"Come on, Kid. You ain't gonna drop me, are you?" Solo complained.
"That'll depend what you offer me, Solo." Luke answered as greedily as he could
manage. "So, which ones?"
"There's the Black Stars, the Wiloug, and a couple of others. There's also
that new one, the... Massagers, messengers. Something like that anyway."
the other finished, waving his hand.
"The Massacres." Luke turned toward Solo, as if intent on negotiations.
"You ready to discuss my keeping, Solo? If the Massacres are here and
looking for new members, you'll have to offer me more than you do now to
keep me."
"Let's discuss this between ourselves, Kid. Tanb doesn't need to know
about our arrangements, right?"
"For the moment."
They continued their smuggler-oriented conversation before walking out in
the port.
"Great play, Luke. You had me fooled."
"That comes from hanging around with you, old pirate." he smiled.
"Sure."
"So, we try to find where the gang hang out? Or do we try something else?" he
inquired, feeling ready for some serious spying.
"Do you feel up to reading their minds?" Han suggested. "I don't think that we
can track their ship; they'll have a detector set for any homing beacon."
Chewie agreed with him.
"Unless we try to see their files." Luke offered.
"Sure, but I don't think that they'll file their secret base." his friend
pointed out. " Even 'I' never did that."
"Oh," Luke nodded, understanding that no one was dare-devil enough to risk being
uncovered like Alliance bases had been in the past. "then let's go for the mind
probe. I'd do anything for Leia anyway." he shrugged.
"So would I." Han reminded him with a sideways glance.

******

The message came in while he was entering the system. They had found the
group and were waiting for his presence to attack their refuge. The former
rebels, he read, were sharing the building with a pirate group called the
Massacres. His spies had also found evidences that the former rebels were but a
front for the pirates.
If he had figured right, Vader reflected in satisfaction, those former rebels
would be his last step before finding where his daughter was kept. He could
feel it.

******

When Luke and his friends came closer to the building that had been
indicated to them when they had inquired where to give their names for crew
members, Luke stopped dead in his tracks as he felt another Force presence
very close by.
Meanwhile, Han charged inside when he spotted the white armor of a stormtrooper.
Oh no...
"Han!" Luke called, running after his friend.
He drew his lightsaber and blaster while he evaluated the situation. Chewie was
already on Solo's heels.
He rushed inside the building where the pirates were defending their lives
against the imperials. Luke immediately spotted his friends, who were trying to
save at least a few pirates for their own plan ; he then noticed his father who
was busy interrogating someone while caught in the midst of the battle.
At first, Luke didn't know what to do exactly, then his danger senses flared and
he
defended his life.
He did so for a while until the dark lord noticed his presence and walked
closer to him.
*Fight me, Son. We can communicate through the Force.*
Bracing himself for a double play, Luke holstered his blaster and focused
his mind on split concentration.
*Why are you here?* Luke asked his father.
They exchanged a first, vicious slash.
*I've tracked Mothma to the former rebellion group here. You?*
"You will be mine this time, Skywalker." he said out loud.
*I've found out that the Massacres had the contract on Leia.*
"Never." Luke shot defiantly.
*It seems these former rebels contacted them. Anything else?*
The Jedi and the Sith Lord parried and exchanged a flurry of dangerous strokes,
making it look as if Luke was defending his life with all his heart.
*No. You?* he inquired to his father.
*The rebel's group main base is in the unknown regions, somewhere near the
Quadra zone. The Massacres had no other bases than this one.*
*Will you go there? In person?* Luke asked his father.
Another slash. Vader's' blade almost touched Luke's head--- or rather where his
head had been a second ago anyway.
*Yes, we are running short of time. And it's possible that I'll be needed
there. It is a an Ancient Sith territory. One of the First before the Great
War.*
Luke riposted, making Vader step back.
*A ...What?!* Luke mentally gaped while he tried to retain his physical
expression of defiance and determination.
*It doesn't matter.* his father shook his head, then attacked again, forcing him
to keep up their charade. *Be careful if you go there yourself. 'Anything' can
be possible in that area.*
Vader suddenly attacked again. In order to move out of his range, Luke
sidestepped and almost fell.
*We'll be vigilant* he promised even as he fell on his backside.
"Luke!!!" Han exclaimed and aimed at Vader.
Vader whirled around and blocked the bolts that would have added ventilation
holes in his helmet. As if fighting against his deadly enemy, Luke used the
opportunity to move away.
*Now take your friend away before I can't restrain myself and kill him with
a ricochet.* his father warned him seriously.
*Right. Sorry.* he sent as he scurried to his feet.
Next, he sent a table flying in his father's path ; it crashed hard against his
back, forcing him down for a moment. The young Jedi ran toward his friend,
grabbed his arm on his way out and pulled him outside.
"Come on, Han, let's loose ourselves before he can recover. Chewie! Come
on!" he called to the Wookiee who was busy butting heads, imperials and pirates
alike.
Han didn't resist too much, but he kept firing at the dark giant until
they were out of the building and running toward the Falcon.

******

Once aboard the ship, they didn't waste time and lifted off.
"I thought that you could feel him when he's close." Han grunted as they sped
away from the rocky formation.
"Unless he shields his presence." Luke defended himself. "He must have known
that we were after the Massacres."
"How would he know?" Solo frowned, turning toward him.
"Your friend perhaps." Luke suggested.
Han snorted; Chewie agreed with him.
"Wouldn't even surprise me. So, have you had time to find the info that we were
looking for?"
"Yes. Head for the unknown regions, Quadra Zone."
"The---" Han gaped, speechless in horror.
Even he, no matter how daredevil he was, had never even entertained the
thought to challenge the horrors of this zone.
Luke could only hope that his sister hadn't had to deal with any of the
rumors that he had heard about.
Solo finally understood that he was serious ; he barely nodded and programmed
their destination in the navcomputer. Chewie threw him another look, then
muttered something unintelligible under his breath.
"Say," Han asked him after their transition into hyperspace. "why didn't you

kill Vader?"
"Because we would still be fighting if I hadn't run away." he lied.
He couldn't tell Han that Vader was his father, even though he kind of
wanted to. He had to admit that the man was becoming quite an interesting
puzzle; he had felt his love for his children while they had been touching each
other's mind. When this would be over, he told himself, he would have to
consider having a heart-to-heart discussion with the dark lord... but preferably
from a distance.
Their actual truce might not last forever, he reminded himself.

******

Vader departed the planet shortly after Luke and his friends left.
He had known that it would be suicidal to go in the Outer Rim alone, so when he
had left Coruscant, he had taken his personal ship, a middle sized corvette with
no insignia-- much more discrete than a Star Destroyer but surprisingly no less
powerful.
Ever since he had selected the ship that had become his personal craft, he had
always found great advantages to have this ship at his disposal in particular
circumstances. His actual mission to rescue his daughter was one of those.
The greatest advantage of this choice was that unlike his Super Star Destroyer
which was his command ship, this mid-size corvette was 'his' ship.
He had known that as the new Emperor, he would sometimes need a discreet mean of
transportation, one that would go unnoticed if he so choose.
Thus, the Shadow Spear had come to be.
He had first had the ship outfitted with powerful engines, an array of weapons
that could compete with that of a Star Destroyer except for the fact that they
were not meant to be used in an aggressive fashion, and he had equipped with a
cloaking device that was rendering it invisible to radar.
Its crew and TIE pilots had also been carefully chosen after an attentive study
of countless files. He had chosen them because they never discussed orders and
were faithful to him. They knew that they were outside the normal ranks, and
they didn't mind in the least. They were his personal troops.
Yes, more than the bulky, huge Executor, the Shadow Spear was his flagship.
Vader closed his eyes and tried to relax in the tank that was his bed.
Instead of sleep, darkness and silence, the images of Farlax came back, full of
lights and noises.
Then, the images of his mock battle with his son came too. His mind, bright,
alive--- searching, asking, teasing.
The tornado of emotions: rejection and remnants of hate, but also an interest. A
need to know, to understand his father.
To discover anything besides hate was already more that the Dark Lord had ever
dared to hope.
"I don't have much to give, Luke," he said to himself although he wished that
his son would hear him, "but if you're willing to take, I'll give you anything I
can. All you have to do... is ask."

******

Approximately two days after leaving Farlax, the Falcon reached the mostly
unexplored part of space that was known as the Quadra Zone. Luke and
Chewie were manning the quad guns while Han was trying to keep them out of
view.
Meanwhile, Luke scanned the sector for his sister's presence.
She was here all right, he thought, but he still couldn't pinpoint her just yet.
The only thing that he knew was that she was somewhere ahead of them.
"Straight ahead, Han. She's further inside the zone."
"Joy." the Correllian commented.
Luke wholeheartedly shared his feelings. He wouldn't complain when they
would return in normal space. His Force senses seemed to be muffled in
this part of space, so he couldn't rely on them as much as usual.
He scanned the purple and deep violet space outside, and wondered what was
causing that color instead of the normal black of deep space.
Maybe some effect of that secrecy that his father had mentioned.
They flew past planet after planet, when a sudden warning managed to work
its way through the mental inhibition that was permeating his mind.
Luke looked around, trying to find what had triggered such a powerful
warning.
The thing found them first.
What they had thought to be a smaller planet had in fact been a kind of
huge birdlike monster, and it was now coming after them.
"Han! Floor it!" he yelled to the Correllian as he and Chewie opened fire
on the thing. The bolts hurt it, but it was too big to be incapacitated by their
shots.
Han began wildly evasive maneuvers while his friends tried to find a weak
spot on the monster.
"Can't the Force guide you this time, Kid?" he shouted in his mike.
"Afraid not!" Luke answered back even as he let loose another volley of fire.
They had tried to fire at its eyes, chest, mouth, anything that looked
vulnerable, still without results.
"Chewie, any other spot a predator would try?" he inquired to his companion.
He suggested the wings. They both aimed at the wings, piercing their membranes.
It slowed it down but just a tiny bit.
"How about a torpedo?" Solo suggested.
Luke gaped at him. "Are you suggesting to use a torpedo on a living
being?" Luke asked.
He didn't like that plan one tiny bit.
"We don't have much other choice, do we, Kid?" Solo grouched, obviously not
interested to argue morale when their lives were hanging in the balance.
Luke fired again as he considered their options. They were indeed limited.
"All right; can you pull it off?" he asked Han.
"Watch me." the pilot muttered darkly.
The Falcon turned around, coming from an angle that the bird couldn't hope
to duplicate in time, then the three of them fired at it.
Han's torpedo disappeared inside its body.
"So much for that." grumbled dejectedly.
Han hurried to veer off, barely avoiding the snapping mouth. Luke turned his
seat again and refocused on the creature.
It seemed to be larger than a second before.
Then he understood.
"It's gonna blow!" he snapped. "Get us---"
The creature popped like a huge balloon, a balloon which threw the Falcon
in a stern to rear tumble with the blast of its explosion.
None of them had time to brace themselves before they collided hard into
the nearest bulkhead.

When the Falcon's tumble came to an end, its occupants were too banged up
to be aware of it.
Chewie was the first one to recover given his stronger constitution. He
looked up the stairwell and saw the dangling form of the young Jedi. He
crooned at him as he went up the well to help him.
"Hmmm?" he moaned.
*Are you okay, cub?" he asked him.
"Hmm, yeah, I think so..." he slurred, still very dazed.

His head seemed about ready to explode, but when he checked himself with
the Force, or at least what he could call upon, nothing else seemed amiss.
Chewie's large hand pulled him back into a more natural position and he
finally recovered his full senses.
"Oww!" he groaned.
He touched his temple with his hand.
"How's Han?" he asked Chewie.
*I'll check on him. Can you make your way down by yourself?"
"Yes, in a minute."
*Good."
The lanky Wookiee went down the stairs and headed toward the cockpit.
Luke followed him a minute later, after having tried to call on the Force to
calm his headache.
Solo had broken a finger in his fall, but apart from that and bruises, he too
was fine.
"Next time you want to use a torpedo, Han," Luke grumbled as he sat in the comm
seat. "make sure we're far enough from the explosion."
"Hey, it's worked right?" Han defended. "Better this than being eaten by-Ouch!
Chewie!" he glared at his partner.
The Wookiee was strapping a splint around Han's right, broken middle
finger. Luke noticed that it incapacitated his firing hand.
"Is your left-hand aim as good as your right one?" he inquired.
"I'll have to work on it, but it'll be." he answered seriously.
Dear Solo, Luke thought, never doubting of himself for a single moment.
"How about you, Kid? Can you use the Force with the head you've got?" his
friend queried, pointing at him.
Luke frowned as he brought his left hand to his temple once more.
"What do you mean?"
Chewie pulled out a small mirror from the medkit. Luke saw the huge black
and blue that was covering the left side of his face ; it was more like a group
of bruises than a single one though.
No wonder that he felt as if banthas were dancing a Correllian samba in his
head, he realized.
He looked at his friend and smirked.
"I'll have to work on it, but I'll be able to." he retorted like his friend had
a few minutes earlier.
The three friends broke into a light laughter that relieved the tension of
the past hours.

******

When Vader's ship reached the Quadra Zone, even her emotionless captain
appeared disturbed for a second, then he restored his blank mask and addressed
the nearby Dark Lord.
"My Lord, we've reached the destination."
"Continue further inside the zone." he ordered him.
"Yes, my Lord"
The captain turned toward his subordinates.
Event without this announcement, he reflected, he wouldn't have missed the entry
in the Quadra Zone.
Or as it was also sometimes called: the Sith Hell.
The power swirled around him- mad, incurring, intoxicating.
The memories of a long dead race- of a long ended war.
So much power was here that even the always stable Force flow was
perturbed.
For him it didn't matter- he was a Sith. All this power was his- he merely
needed to ask to use it.
But for Luke it had to be awful, he reflected.
He checked the Zone. He had barely reached out when a flow of images was hurled
into his mind.
It took some time to sort it out.
Luke was here, all right. And not in danger, he understood. Or rather, he
corrected, not anymore. He and his friends had apparently been attacked by one
of the mad guardians, but they had survived the shock wave of its destruction.
That relieved him since he knew that the said shock-wave was comparable to the
one caused by the destruction of a Star Destroyer's reactor.
His son's team was also progressing toward the center of the zone where the
rebel base was.
Where Leia was.
The planet was only marked on maps with a number. Vader looked at the map,
and frowned. After some seconds of reflection, he called the captain.
"Proceed to the object 167390. There is a rebel base on the surface ; activate
the cloaking shield."
As usual, the captain did not appear surprised.
"At once, my Lord." he bowed in obedience.
As he refocused on the map, he thought that he did not like this turn of events
at all. This planet also had an another name, he knew, forgotten, old of some 10
thousand years, in a old and forgotten language.
Arsharel'an skal.
On its surface, where the false rebels had established their base, there was
Arsharel's temple.
Arsharel was the Sith god of death, and for a Jedi to get entrance to his
temple, he needed to offer a very dark sacrifice.

******

Luke and Han landed in the desert of the planet, making sure to not be detected
by the security of the base that was up in the mountains, then began their long
trek toward their target. Chewie stayed with the ship, waiting for their call.
Neither said anything, aware that they were in enemy territory as well as close
to their goal.

After a long trek and a long climb while being careful to not trigger any alarm
system, they were finally able to study the base from a closer point of view.
"Are you sure that this thing is the base?" Han asked his friend, looking at the
"thing" in question.
The closest wall was at least twenty-five meters away from them, down a very
steep rocky slope.
"I'm positive." Luke told him, his voice unwavering.
Leia's senses were centered in this building.
The base was a black fortress, or rather a fortress that was strangely
misshapen. The architecture was strange, very strange in fact ; the only thing
that he could say for sure about it was that it was not human.
He even wondered if it was humanoid at all.
Han dissimulated himself behind the cliff yet again, careful not to sprain his
bad finger.
Fortunately for him, Luke thought, the climb had been a very steep walk instead
of a real, hazardous climb.
He refocused on their target.
The base felt strange, he reflected uneasily. Not evil, just ... different from
anything that he could remember.
There was a danger within those walls, but it was a passive one--- like a danger
of a mechanical trap, he realized.
"Do you feel her?"
"Yes. "Luke shuddered. "It's almost the only thing that I can feel at all..."
"OK. So ,what's the plan of attack?" Solo inquired, getting back in business.
"Well...How about finding a back door?" he suggested with a shrug.
Hmmm..."Han frowned.
He lurked back over the top of their hiding rock to look at the fortress.
*LUKE!* Vader suddenly called out, almost screaming through the Force.
It startled the young Jedi.
*Father! Where are you?* Luke gasped in surprised, reaching out to find where he
was.
He put an end to his effort though when he realized that Vader was probably
shielding his presence; he couldn't feel him anywhere.
*Behind you, and up.* his father answered his question. *Don't even think to go
in there on yourself. I mean it.* he warned him.
Luke couldn't help but think that he sounded a lot like a patronizing father at
the moment.
*What's the matter?* he inquired.
*It's a temple of Arsharel- the Sith god of death and destruction, and you're a
Jedi. Arsharel will not let you enter... alive.*
Luke blanched as his father's words struck home.
He looked at his friend and made sure that he wasn't going to attack those walls
by himself.
*You speak as if he really exists.* he pointed out.
*Of course he does, Son! It would be foolish to be priest of a non-existing
god, don't you think?* his father asked matter-of-factly.
*I... I don't understand.*
*12'000 years ago in this part of Outer Rim was a civilization called
Sathed. To simplify it very much, they had 2 gods- Arsharel and Letane, death
and life, or Dark and Light parts of the Force. Priests of Arsharel were
called Sith and of Letane- Jedi.*
*Huh?!* Luke frowned.
That didn't fit with what Yoda had taught him.
*What you might have read was written many years after the Third Great War. The
titles of the priests were kept, but the significance was lost... The Sathed was
destroyed in the Third War. The only remains of this civilization was preserved
in the religions of some of the peoples of the Outer Rim.*
Luke was thoroughly lost now, but his father continued. He realized that this
was very important for him.
*Some 4 or 5 generations before Palpatine, there was an effort to restore
the Sith brotherhood and the cult of Arsharel, but the Jedi destroyed the Sith
before it was done.*
*So you're a priest of ...this god of death?* he asked, trying hard to make
sense of what his father had just told him.
*No, but I'm one of the Circle. I know of him, and respect him.*
*You've lost me.* he commented. *The Circle?*
*The symbol of memory, among other things.* Vader said, then cut him short
before Luke asked more questions. *If we survive this, Son, and you still want
to know the answers to your questions, I'll try to explain this to you, but it
will take several hours, if not days... And now isn't exactly the right time to
discuss about history. I have just told you this so that you know what we are
going to deal with inside those walls.*
*Got it. What do we do now?* he nodded, mentally clearing his mind of questions.
Not that he had understood much anyway.
*Answer to your correlian friend, and act natural.* his father instructed him.
*What are you going to do?* Luke asked uncertainly.
*You'll see.* came the cryptical answer.
Silence.
'Damn you, father!' he cursed. He didn't like to be kept in the dark,
especially when it involved the dark lord of the Sith who had just told him that
Jedis were in fact priests of some kind and that their gods were alive and---
Somehow, he had a feeling that he wouldn't like his father's plan.
"Hey, Luke! Are you all right?" Solo asked, shaking him out of his mental
rummaging.
"Uh?" he groaned, recovering his full senses, "yeah... sorry. Didn't hear you."
he tried to explain as naturally as he could.
"You tried to check it?" Han inquired, throwing another look at the temple.
"Eh? Ah, yes, yes." he nodded, getting back in gear. "I felt nothing. It's
rather disturbing, you know."
"I've always told you to not rely on this mumbo-jumbo--- Oh, hell!" smuggler
suddenly exclaimed, jumping to his feet.
Solo fired at the descending shadow, but Vader was faster and easily blocked the
shot.
He had barely landed beside the standing man when he effortlessly took hold of
Solo's arms and locked them in his back with the help of his right arm, leaving
his left one free to heft his lightsaber if necessary.
Luke's lightsaber came alive when the situation became less of a blur for him.
"We meet again, Skywalker." Vader rumbled.
Luke waved his lightsaber threateningly, taking a step sideways as if looking
for a better angle of attack.
"Let him go, Vader. This is between you and me." he defied.
"If you try to attack me, I'll break you friend's neck." Vader's voice was
calm and as cold as a desert night.
"Luke, the hell with me!" his friend gritted, his arms held tightly and
painfully.
Luke's eyes seemed to flinch at the sound of pain in Han's voice.
"You want to see your friend die?" Vader offered suavely.
Luke knew that his father had just offered him the best of excuses to surrender,
but he hadn't told him yet what his plan was. He opted for playing the defiant,
yet beaten rebel.
He put away his weapon, his face one of disgust. Vader pulled the unlit
lightsaber into his hand, then tossed Solo's blaster to the far rocky outcrops.
"Good. Now we'll talk."
He wedged Luke's lightsaber in Solo's jaw.
"What do you want?" Luke snapped. *Father?*
*Silence. Perform your part.* "Your sister." he said in his coolly modulated
voice.
"What?!" cried Solo.
Luke tried to catch up with him on that reaction. He forced his eyes to bulge
in horror.
"What... What sister? I don't know what you mean." he fumbled awkwardly.
"Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, Skywalker. Don't play with me; she is in
this base and you will take me where she is. Only your bond can find her in
this hellish place. If you will not obey, your friend will die."
"Rather clear." Han said, cutting in the conversation while he tried to escape
the dark lord's iron grip. "But there's one problem, you see, your Dark
Lordship,"
His arrogance earned him a tighter grip which put a painful strain on his
shoulders.
*Father, let up a bit.* Luke demanded warningly.
He was ready to play along with whatever Vader had in mind, but he wouldn't let
him hurt Han.
The dark lord held him a bit longer, then relented and simply kept the pilot in
an inescapable hold.
Luke caught the flash of annoyance in his father's mind and realized, not with
some amusement, that the dark lord didn't approve of his daughter's choice in
the matter of a lover.
So that was why he had asked him to keep Han away from him. The dark lord
didn't want to hurt him, thus hurting Leia in the process, but he didn't like
the Correllian for whatever he had done to melt his daughter's strong heart.
Luke imperceptibly shook his head; when he would have a chance, he'd have to
straighten this matter with their father.
Vader addressed the recovering Solo.
"You were saying?" he inquired tauntingly.
"We don't know how to enter inside." Han answered shortly.
"That's no problem, Solo. I know the entry."
He locked his dark gaze with the youth.
Luke sighed.
"All right, you win."
"Luke, you can't!" Solo exclaimed.
Luke gazed deep into his friend's eyes.
"We don't have any other option, Han."
He couldn't fight, even in mock-battle, against his father, nor could he escape.
"But Leia..."
"Move, "said Vader. He took a rough Force-hold on his son's arm and pushed Luke
hard down the steep slope. Luke reacted quickly to this unexpected move and set
his feet so that they slid down the rocky surface. He stopped himself hard
against the stone wall. As the stars invaded his mind for a few seconds, he
wondered if his father had considered the possibility that they had just alerted
guards.
*Of course I have. There are no guards on this side of the building for the
moment.* Vader told him, obviously feeling mildly indignant that his child
thought so little of his strategy abilities.
A second later, Vader and Han came up behind him and a door opened in what had
seemed to be solid rock.
"Sith Hell." Solo swore.
Luke barely had time to draw back in shock before he was shoved inside the
darkened entrance.
The dark lord and his prisoner followed him.

------*Father? What was this all about??* asked Luke as he relented to his
'captor's' push.
*How do you enter in a temple? How do you make a god see that you're not
his enemy?* his father inquired cryptically.
*Er..." He suddenly remembered his father's warning. "By making some offers.*
he realized.
*Exactly. Sacrifices. In the case of Arsharel, the best sacrifice is death,
the second best is emotions. Any strong emotion will do, but the best is
hatred.*
Luke fought the urge to turn and gape at his father. It would alert his friend
that something fishy was going on.
*You've made Han hate you more then ever!* he realized
*To sacrifice this emotion and open a door.* his father agreed.
*He won't like it. Even I don't like it.* he admitted.
What if the sacrifice hadn't worked and it had required a life?..
*That doesn't matter.* his father told him.
*I guess so...* Luke grudgingly admitted.
No matter what the dark lord used to represent or do to him, he had to admit
that he was wise in his own way; he also was much more complex that he had
thought he was.

They walked down corridor after corridor. Luke kept expecting trouble,
especially given Han's constant muttering and fighting and his father's
trademark breathing. His eyes were open for any signs of patrol, but he was
somehow always walking down empty corridors.
Then they ran into a group of six pirates.
The outlaws instantly drew their blasters and fired at them. Luke, who was
walking in front of the dark lord, instinctively raised his hand and deflected
the shot away, then he turned toward his father to call for a lightsaber.
Neither his nor Vader's were available. His father was using his green blade to
deflect the bolts that were coming too close to him, and since he was pressing
Han tightly against himself, his friend's weight was keeping him from drawing
his father's lightsaber to his hand.
A hot bolt burnt the air near his right ear. Luke whirled around, jumped and
tumbled out of the way, ending up very close to the outlaws, and then he didn't
have to think anymore.
He kicked a first outlaw between the legs, then rammed his knee against his nose
as he bent forward. Next, he straightened up, stepped out of the way of another
bolt, and cut his other attacker's breath with a bladed hand in the throat,
breaking his neck that way.
He then jumped out of the way again and barely landed before he jumped again,
this time from a point almost in front of the remaining alien. He spun and
extended his leg while he was air born--- and hit the alien with a powerful side
kick that tore his neck off of its supporting structure.
When he landed back on his feet, it was over and Han was gaping openmouthed at
him.

Vader was unable to formulate a coherent thought for a few seconds, too
astounded by what he had just seen. His son had just fought as well as any
assassin that he had ever seen. How had his child learnt those techniques?
Solo, who had failed to escape his grip during the brief fire fight, also seemed
awed by what his son had just done.
"I didn't know you could do that, Kid." the smuggler barely whispered.
Luke brushed a stray hair out of his eyes and smiled shyly.
"Neither did I. I've only done that once, against Guri on Coruscant."
Vader put two and two together. Of course, Arsharel had allowed the Force to
guide his son during those deadly movements.
One thing was sure: his son truly was full of surprise.
He noticed that the Jedi was checking the state of their victims.
"They're dead, thanks to you, Skywalker." he told him.
The child glared at him. "Thanks to me?! You have done the deed." he defied.
Plan or not, he wouldn't take the blame for this.
"If you hadn't fought my projection, we wouldn't have run into any trouble."
"Fought your projection? What do you mean?" he frowned.
"Uh, Luke, it isn't the best of places to ask about Jedi stuff." Han commented,
strangely reasonable for once.
Then Luke realized that trapped as he was, Solo didn't relish the idea of
another firefight.
"Solo's right for once." Vader agreed. "Now walk, and let me send them all
away."
"No." he mock-argued. "I can get Leia by myself if I can do it my way."
"You forget that you can't use the Force here, Jedi. I can." Vader ominously
pointed out. "Now, walk, and don't think. Focus on finding your sister."
Luke grumbled something about bossy darksiders, turned around and walked toward
the end of the corridor.

*Luke* his father's voice said in his mind.
*What?*
*It was truly impressive.*
He couldn't suppress his smile. *Thanks.*
*But you didn't have to risk your life.* the Dark Lord slightly scolded him.
*I'm sorry that I disturbed your concentration.*
*Don't do it again.* he answered simply, then added: *By the way, Arsharel is
very pleased with your offer.*
*My what?!* Luke gaped, barely keeping himself from whirling toward the
darksider.
*Their deaths were a really good sacrifice.* his father explained.
*I ... I didn't...* he mentally fumbled.
A mental chuckle.
*Don't be so worried, son. Any death inside the temple will be a sacrifice in
his honor.* his father reminded him.
*I'll never serve him.* he stated with finality.
*Who is asking you to? You are a Jedi, and it's fine with him as long as you
behave yourself inside his temple.*
*Oh... OK. Father?* he inquired again.
*What?*
*Why did you need us- me and Han- here? Arsharel would've told you were Leia is
since you're a Sith, right?*
*Wrong.* Vader corrected. *First, I'm a Sith of the Circle but not his. Second,
Leia has a strong Force potential- and her suffering is a great offer for
Arsharel. He would never let me get to her. You're a Jedi, so he cannot
influence you and your bond with your sister ; it is so strong that even an
almost total Force blindness is not disturbing it.*
*Why is he not trying to stop us if he wants to keep Leia in here then?* Luke
queried seriously.
*Laws. I'm a Sith. He has no right to oppose me directly with no fault from my
part... And there were none.*
*Ah*
*Now, if you excuse me, I need to concentrate.*
*Sorry.*

They always walked down empty corridors, even in the detention quarters. Luke
could hear pirates here and there, but they were never anywhere in sight.
When they reached the detention quarters, Leia's presence seemed to react to his
own and grew brighter in the Force.
"She's in one of those rooms." he told his 'captor', indicating the doors of the
cells.
"Go get her. I will wait here, but no tricks, Skywalker, or Solo will pay." he
warned him ominously.
Han had long since then stopped arguing, having been Force-silenced by Vader.
He still expressed his displeasure at the situation with furious pulls against
his hold.
"She's not well. It will take more than a minute to get her out."
"You have five minutes." the darksider informed him.
Luke walked down the corridor, keyed the door opened, took a deep breath and
finally stepped inside his sister's cell.
She was laying on her side on the rough ground. Her clothes were torn up, as
was her milky-white skin. It broke his heart to see her in such a state. Then
he gasped in horror.
Her face...
*What?* his father asked him.
*I... She... They've mutilated her face...* he finally managed.
He felt his father's anger.
*Take her out, Luke. I will restore her, don't worry.*
Luke reverently knelt beside her wounded, unconscious body, carefully slipped
his arms under her shoulders and knees, then drew her off the floor and into his
arms.
She didn't give him any sign that she was aware of his presence. She hung
limply in his hold.
Luke rejoined the two men in the still-deserted corridor. Han drew a sharp
breath when he saw what had been done to her beautiful face. She was cut and
burned in so many places that she would be unrecognizable for any stranger.
"Well done, young Jedi. Now, we're getting out, no tricks, no focus on the
Force." Vader reminded him.
Luke walked past the imposing silhouette of Vader who was still holding Han,
exchanging a sad look with his friend as he did so, then he led the way out of
the detention area.
They had barely disappeared around the corner when he heard someone shout an
alarm that the prisoner had escaped. He panicked and began to think about what
would be waiting for them.
*I've told you not to do that.* his father warned him, accompanying his
admonition with a mental pinch that cut off his focus.
*Ow!* Luke complained. *Hey! You didn't have to do that.*
*Yes, I had. Your focus is strong, Son, and that is why it can destroy the
effects of mine. Do you really want to run into trouble on our way out?*
*No.* he admitted, subdued. *Father, what are we going to do with Leia? She's
barely alive.*
*I will see that she lives, Son.* his father cryptically answered him.
As his father had told them, they didn't run into anymore trouble on the way
out.
It was often a close call, but Luke, and even Han, noticed that the outlaws
seemed unable to see their little, definitely suspect-looking group.

They finally made their way outside the temple and down a secret rocky corridor
that took them many meters down and away from the temple.
Han was still forced to silence, and the young Jedi seemed absorbed in his own
thoughts.
Nobody spoke until they exited the secret passage to emerge on a large ledge.
Luke cradled his sister closer, unsure as to what would happen next. His father
still hadn't told him what his plan was.
"Hold." Vader commanded.
Luke obeyed, then turned around to face his 'enemy'.
"Now what? I give you Leia and you let go of Han? Why do you want her in----"
Vader interrupted him. "You are all coming with me." he told him flatly.
Luke couldn't help but take a step backward in uncertainty. Sure, things had
gone well with his father up to now, but he had never considered the possibility
to actually leave any place in his father's custody, or company, or whatever the
appropriate word was now.
Han struggled even more against the dark lord.
"I have enough of you, Solo." Vader proclaimed, then he knocked him out with the
Force.
The tall man slumped in his hold.
"How you two have become friends with him will always escape me." his father
commented.
"I could say the same about you turning to the dark side." Luke rejoined, still
unsure about his father's plan.
Overhead, a shuttle began its approach.
"Don't worry, Son, I haven't helped you this far to merely capture you
afterward, but after the stunt that we've pulled here, going back to Mothma
would be the least advisable choice, and I'm afraid that she will find you
wherever you go."
Luke's lips moved as if he wanted to argue the point.
"You'll be safer with me, all of you." his father pointed out.
The young Jedi shut his mouth, speechless. He couldn't say anything against his
father's logic.
Vader threw the tall Correllian on his shoulders, then took hold of his son's
biceps.
"For appearance's sake, we better pretend that you're my prisoner... just in
case one of my people isn't as trustworthy as I like them to be."
Luke silently pursed his lips but agreed.
As the shuttle came within boarding range, he dimly wondered how far this 'fake'
prisoner thing would go.
He could unfortunately still remember the last time that he had been in his
father's claws, and he wasn't interested at all to repeat the experience.

******

The flight to his father's ship went uneventfully; he and Han were both locked
in the prisoner's compartment while Leia was set on the sole bunk of the shuttle
where Vader kept an eye on her.
Once aboard the main ship, he and Han were taken to the detention block, but not
before hearing Vader order the capture of the Falcon, as well as the complete
destruction of the 'rebel' base.
The also knew that he would keep Leia with himself.

******

As Luke sat on his hard bunk, he considered what he had witnessed and felt from
his father ever since their little cooperation had begun.
His father was dark, yes, but he was also human. He felt emotions like the rest
of them, even love and care, for his children at least, and... Luke thought with
a smirk, he was unhappy with Leia's choice in her love-life. This had to be
the least expected feeling coming from the dark lord.
He had also not attempted to turn him to the Dark Side, unless he was keeping it
for now... but if he never tried it...
what would it mean?, he wondered.
Now that the Rebellion was over, for him at least, he had nowhere to go. He
could always fly around with Han and Chewie, who had just been brought in a cell
besides Han's... or he could work for a while, then buy himself his own ship and
roam the galaxy in search of Jedi students, perhaps with his sister's help,
or... and here again it was something that he had never thought that he would
someday consider... he could stay with his father and have the family life that
he had never had.
Of course, his father was not exactly the epitome of love and family values, but
at the same time, he truly cared about him and Leia, and he didn't wish them any
ill fate... the question being if he was able to distinguish ill fates for what
they were, especially when talking about dark side seductions.
He sighed and settled in to wait. He had no doubts that his father would send
for him, sooner or later, and that they would have a chat, if not a fight. It
was unavoidable.
He closed his eyes and tried to find his sister's waning presence, hoping to
reinforce her.

******

Burns, fractures.. the list of injuries went on and on, all of them graver than
their predecessors.
"She will never walk" was the conclusion of the medical droid. "She will never
speak again. Her arms mobility will be very restrained. She will be invalid for
the rest of her life."
Vader looked at the monitor without seeing the lines.
..invalid for the rest of your life...paralyzed... attached to the life support
system... never walk, never speak, blind and deaf.
In his case all those crow cries had been proven wrong.
But nobody knew what pain he had had to endure to make the miracle possible.
Countless operations. Implantation making him able to breath, able to see, to
hear and speak.
Nobody knew what it was like: lying in dark silence, for months, with his Force
sensitivity blocked by drugs while suffering from post-effects of brain surgery.
There, in the black void he had first seen the Circle; it had saved him from
madness.
He had survived. He had been able to resurrect from the ruins.
Leia's case was fortunately less grave that his had been, but she would have to
endure a similar hell to be able to live again.
Weeks of hell, he calculated, perhaps months.
He only hoped that she would be strong enough. He also hoped that she would be
able to set aside her hatred of him, at least as long as the treatment would
take. After all, she would have no choice but to live in his Corcusant estate
for the duration of her recovery. Only there would he be able to provide her
the treatment that she needed in perfect and necessary secrecy.
Vader sighed, then called his aid.
"Have Skywalker brought to me."
"At once, my lord."

******

Luke had heard the medic's report, then, while his father had retired to think,
he himself had worked on his sister's subconscious, encouraging her, telling her
that the Force was more powerful than the droid.
He wished that he could use the Force again.
He was so focused on his task that he failed to hear the betraying sounds of
approaching troopers, until too late.
The moment that his door swished upward, a stun blast hit him full in the chest.
He crumpled to the floor, perfectly unaware of it.

******

Vader watched his troopers as they brought in the inert form of his son. He had
known that they would control him, and, to avoid any painful retributions, he
had mentally suggested them to stun the Jedi.
"Leave us." he told them.
They unceremoniously dropped the unconscious Jedi on the hard floor, then turned
on their heels and left.
Once alone, Vader locked his room, then knelt by his son's side until he could
lift him in his arms.
He carried his limp, slim body in his office.
Once he had sat him down in a chair, he set about awakening him, careful not to
enhance the aftereffects of the stun blast.

Luke groaned as his senses came back to him. He slowly became aware that he was
slouching rather heavily in a chair, but that other then his disorientation, he
was fine.
His father was straightening up beside him.
"Sorry about that stun, Son, but I thought that it would be better than a
beating or whatever they might have had in mind."
Luke brought his hand to his head, then he slowly pushed himself upright. For a
fleeting moment he had feared that his father had tricked him, but apparently
not... yet.
"You could have warned me." he complained, rubbing his stinging ribs.
"Yes, I could have." his father agreed. "But your surprise left no doubt that
you were my prisoner, not my guest. What better way to convince my troops that
everything is normal?" he inquired in his maddeningly wise voice.
Luke pursed his lips. He didn't like the reasoning, but he couldn't argue with
it.
"I guess." he conceded.
He looked around himself. He was in a small, austere room.
A computer terminal, a desk, which was covered with data disks, and two chairs ;
he was obviously in his father's office.
He had never even imagined that his father had such a room.
To tell the truth, he pointed out to himself, he had never thought that his
father had any regular quarters at all, as if he spent all his time on the
bridge of his ship, ordering the Fleet.
He should've known better, he snorted at himself.
He continued his quiet observation since his father didn't say anything.
There was a painting on the wall; it was a strange sign made of silver on black.
When he looked at it more closely, he got the impression that the sign was 3-
dimensional while slowly revolving on itself.
It was a beautiful illusion.
"It's not an illusion." his father commented from his position in his chair.
He was sitting by the computer, almost invisible in the shadows.
"It's not?" Luke queried, turning back toward the design.
"No. It's an original Sathed writing; all their symbols were meant to be
3-dimensional."
"What does it means?"
"Inside is as great as outside. One's feelings can shape the universe as simply
as the universe can shape one's life."
"All this in one sign?" Luke gaped, unable to tear his eyes off of the
mesmerizing writing.
"It's not "one sign". If you look more carefully, there are many, interlaced."
Luke looked more carefully and saw an infinity of silver bands, crossing and
twisting. It took him a supreme effort to detach himself from this hypnotic
sight. He turned back toward his father.
"In reality, the meaning is more complex, but it is difficult to translate it in
any other language. Sathed were not like us at all."
"Then why are you following their religion?" he inquired in interest.
"They were the race who knew the Force better than anyone possibly could. For
them feeling it was as natural as it is for us to see." Vader explained simply.
"How do you know this if they've been dead for thousands of years?"
"The Circle. It's a memory of all living things, linking the dead Sathed with
the living who are open to their teachings. Thus, as a Sith, I know what they
knew."
"I don't understand." sighed Luke. "And I'm not really sure, that I 'want' to
understand at all. Anyway, I don't think that you've had me brought here to
discuss a religion."
"You're absolutely right, son." Vader took a pad from his desktop. "This is the
medical report on Leia's state. Read it."
Luke took the pad and read it; he did so three times.
After the third time, he looked at his father; he knew his face was wrenched
with pain, but he didn't care at the moment.
His sister...
"Invalid for life?.." he asked, dreading his father's answer.
"No." Vader assured him. "I can heal her, but only in my Coruscant estate; it
will be time-consuming, two months, perhaps more."
"I see." Luke said in a neutral voice. He was too numbed by the news to really
react to anything.
"Your friends are my main problem, Luke." Vader said.
The youth forced himself to focus on his father's words. Han and Chewie...
The dark lord continued. "I don't think that they'll be able to appreciate my
hospitality for such a long period of time."
"I don't think they would." he agreed.
Luke couldn't help but smile slightly upon imagining Han's reaction to Vader's
offer.
"But we could always tell them..." he began.
"About my relation with the two of you? Captain Solo's reaction is rather
unpredictable." his father commented, his voice mildly harsh at the mention of
Han's name.
"I see your point..." Luke agreed. "Anyway, it must be Leia's decision."
Vader leaned back in his seat.
"Of course, if she could make it, but she won't be conscious for a long while...
and the faster I will begin to heal her, the better she will be."
He let Luke consider his words.
He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his desk, lacing his gloved hands in a
conciliator's stance.
"I could release them, Luke, if I could be sure, if only for Leia's sake, that
they won't go to Mothma for support. 'You' could guarantee that." he finished,
pointing his big index at his shocked son.
"Me?" Luke blinked, totally confused yet again by his father.
He was surprising him at every corner now.
He worked some moisture in his throat, then asked, very slowly: "If I do that,
you'll release us... including me?"
"Yes." Vader nodded, leaving no doubt about his intentions.
Luke was stumped. What was going on?.. Was he trying to trick him or did he
really mean it?..
"Why? I mean, why would you release me?" he inquired in disbelief. "Now that
you have very good..." he stopped.
"Continue. Very good means of pressure, was that what you wanted to say?"
"Yes." he blushed slightly, ashamed to admit this to his father who was showing
him good intentions. "You... You've always wanted to have me, haven't you? To
turn me to dark side."
"Palpatine wanted me to turn you. To feed you to his god: the Chaos. The result
is most fitting though... He was observing me at Bespin, and lost control, and
was eaten himself. Now, you can forget him. As for me..." Vader sighed, stood
and began to pace with his hands behind his back. "After Bespin I lost any hope
that any of my children would ever be Siths. You've chosen your god, and it is
fine with me. I will not interfere with your religious decisions as long as you
will not interfere with mine. And yes, I've always wanted to have you." he
admitted, then quickly added: "To have you at my side; nothing more. It's
absolutely understandable that you don't share my opinion on this matter," Vader
conceded, gazing straight at his son, "but if you think that I'll force you to
stay with me, you're wrong. You and your friends are free to go, if you can
assure me that all of you will be alive and well in 2 months or so."
For some time Luke looked at his father speechless ; things were not developping
at all as he had expected.
It slowly deemed on him that he didn't know his father, only the monster who had
served Palpatine for years... but underneath all, an interesting, caring if cool
character had been hiding and seemed ready to reveal himself, at least to his
children.
But now was not the time to wonder about this.
Later, he told himself.
For the moment, he had to decide on a course of action. One thing was sure, Han
wouldn't be able to abandon Leia. He would be constantly trying to rescue her,
which left them only one other option, to go with her... and Vader.
After what the dark lord had done to him in the pirates' base, Luke had no doubt
that his friend would deem him for crazy for even thinking about such an option,
but... on the other hand, his friend's irrational love and protectiveness gave
him no other choice...
Han's love for Leia..., he mused. There was the key to convince Han to
'behave'.
"I guess that we're going to have our hands full with rebel attacks and problems
of all kinds if we escape your custody, right?"
"That is why I am asking you if you can guarantee---"
"I guess I could." he admitted. "But if Mon throws everything she's got at us...
I can only do so much."
"Which leaves us which option?" his father asked him, leaning his hands on the
top of his desk.
"To go with you." Luke said shortly.
If his answer surprised his father, the dark lord didn't show any outward or
emotional sign of it.
"Are you sure?" he asked him, straightening up slowly.
"Yes." Luke said in a steady voice.
"What about your friends?"
"Chewie is not a problem: once Han will make a decision, he will stick around
and do what he can to keep him out of trouble." he explained.
"The problem still remains though." his father pointed out. "How do you plan to
convince Solo not to attempt any escape?"
Luke shifted in his chair, crossing his arms.
"Like I've suggested before. We tell him everything about the situation, except
our family secret. Once he knows that Mon is a traitor, he won't think about
going back to the rebels, and he would do anything for Leia."
Vader unconsciously mimicked him by crossing his arms.
"In short, you are suggesting to challenge the depth of his love for your
sister." he surmised.
"Yes. I know Han; he will be stubborn until he is convinced that there is no
harm done with the situation, then he'll distrust you but won't bite anymore."
"Unless he thinks that he can influence the situation..." mused Vader "How will
you explain my sudden interest for Leia? Or your too easy acceptance of my offer
for that matter? He will probably think that I'm messing with your mind." he
reminded him.
"Well..." Luke thought out loud. "I could explain to him that it's a Jedi thing
and that being a Jedi makes it much more difficult for you to do so... He knows
me and he'll trust me." Luke finished, feeling confident that Han would 'behave'
for Leia's sake.
"Perhaps. But he will most probably think that you're influenced."
Luke tilted his head in agreement.
"What else do you propose then?"
"Let him think what he wants." his father coolly answered.
"What?" Luke gaped at his father. "Why?"
"Let him think that I need you and Leia alive and well for some plan against
Mothma, to destroy the rebellion. I must admit that I'd like to do so..." he
said in a slightly lower tone of voice, then continued: "Let him think that
you're influenced by me. It will be easy since he'll think about it anyway.
Then, if I understand him right, he will accept my offer for two reasons.
First, to keep an eye on Leia, and attempt an escape when she is well enough.
Second, to keep you from succumbing to my influence."
Luke pursed his lips in unhappiness.
"I don't like your manipulative plans, Father." he said seriously.
"This isn't manipulation, Son," Vader corrected "merely suggesting
misconceptions."
Luke could bet that the Dark Lord was smiling behind his mask.
"It's up to you to decide." Vader told him as he sat back in his chair.
Luke took a moment to ponder his thoughts, then a slow smile crept on his lips,
one of unexpected amusement at his father's cool humor.
"Are you 'sure' that you're not messing with my mind?" he asked his father.
"Like you've said yourself a minute ago, it's not easy with a Jedi..." his
father reminded him. "No, I am not and I never will. Besides, it is not
necessary: your good will is doing all the work for me." Vader commented, both
teasing him and scaring him with the truth.
"Yeah, I've already heard it." Luke sneered at himself.
With an heroic effort, he kept himself from laughing out loud.
Surprisingly enough, he really enjoyed this weirdly teasing conversation.
His father was dangerous, and he knew it, but he also knew that he was
completely safe with him.
A really strange feeling, he reflected.
"I'll think about your proposition." he finally told his father.
"Thank you. The question remains through, how do you plan to keep him in line?"
"I will be there with him, remember? and if you allow him access to Leia once or
twice every day, he will be very happy to just keep an eye on her. It should
occupy him enough to keep him from thinking about too much mischief." he
finished with a slight smirk.
"Very well."
"By the way, we'll need hard data to prove Mon's betrayal." Luke commented.
Vader picked a red disk from his desk and tossed it to him.
"Will this do?" he asked him as he caught the card in his right hand.
Luke loaded the disk on his discarded pad.
It was what his father had found out and it showed without any doubts Mon's
links to the Massacres.
"Yes, it will. Can you have him brought here too? Gently." He told his father.
He felt his disgruntled mood, but he gave orders to bring Solo unmolested.

******

Luke was watching his sister's stabilizing bacta treatment when his father
brought Han in the small observation room, unlocked his friend's cuffs, then
left them alone without a word.
"Good riddance." Solo snarled before the door was completely closed.
Then, they were alone. The mask of defiance became one of worry and he walked
up to the observation window.
"Do you know how she is doing?" the pilot asked his friend.
"Yes..." Luke nodded sadly. "They can't heal her here... she will need very
advanced treatments..."
Han remained silent, his eyes never leaving the indistinct features of his
lover.
Luke saw the glints of tears in his eyes, then Han angrily brushed them away
with the back of his arm.
"Sith, Luke... why did they do that to her?" he asked as he turned toward his
friend. "What could they possibly gain with such cruelty?"
"I... I can't tell you----" Luke began as if trying to hide something.
Solo lost his temper and grabbed the Jedi's shirt. "The hell with that crap.
You know ; that black monster has told you, so tell me."
Luke took hold of his friend's wrist while locking his eyes with his.
"Han, I will tell you, but the situation is much more complex than Leia being
kidnapped. You'd better take a seat."
Han was about to retort that he didn't need a Jedi babysitter when he saw the
look of loss and despair in his friend's eyes. He let him go but didn't sit
down.
Vader... he realized.
"What has he done to you this time?" he growled angrily.
Luke shook his head. "Vader has nothing to do with our unhappiness this time,
Han... we've been betrayed, all of us."
"Yeah, to him."
"No. The betrayal is more than physical..." he began forlornly. "someone has
played with the hearts and feelings of thousands of men and women for the sole
purpose of a private war... someone we all know very well,... Someone we would
never have suspected..."
Solo's brows were crossed in a furious frown. "What the heck do you mean, Kid?"
he asked in frustration.
Luke turned back toward his sister's unconscious form.
"Leia must have found out the truth, and instead of risking her future throne,
the betrayer has set the Massacres loose on her."
It then dawned on Han that Luke's crushed feelings were coming from the loss of
delusions more than from the loss of a concept such as freedom.
Luke was trying to tell him that the betrayal had come from the Rebellion...
"Who?" he asked, his voice sounding like a predatory growl.
Luke gave him his datapad.
"It's Mon Mothma." he sighed.
Too shocked to answer, Han read the pad, asking it to deny what his friend had
just told him.
"Artoo has uncovered similar information during my search, Han. Mon has been
playing us all for fools from the beginning."
"How do you know that it hasn't been forged by the Empire?" the pilot asked him
seriously.
"It wasn't. Artoo has checked for such manipulations himself, but in the end,
the fact remains..." he explained glumly. "I could also feel it when I last saw
her... It's her, Han... I wish it were different, but it isn't."
Han was speechless now. He stuttered.
"But... I mean... How--- What..."
"What are we going to do about her?" Luke supplied.
The young Jedi shrugged, suddenly feeling wearier than he had ever felt in his
entire life. The Rebel dream was truly dead now, not only because Mon Mothma
had been using them, but also because the Empire was also dead, in a way.
He had never felt so very confused in his entire life.
Han continued to gape in disbelief and horror at him. Luke pursed his lips in
understanding.
"Quite honestly, Han, I don't know what to do about it just yet... my only
concern for the moment is Leia."
"What is going to happen to her?" Solo asked worriedly, turning back toward his
lover.
"Vader will bring her to Coruscant and will personally see to her tending. She
will be fine."
Han's eyes grew darker in hatred. "Like Hell he will. I'm not letting that
fiend touch her anymore than he already has, or use her for some twisted plan of
his for that matter."
Luke turned toward him. "You mean that you want to stay with her?" he offered.
This might be even easier than he had thought.
"Nothing is going to separate me from her." Solo growled, throwing an askance
look at the door behind them.
His threat and ill-disposed mind came clearly through that glare.
"As a matter of fact, Han, Vader has offered us to stay with him until we have
dealt with Mon. He knows that she will throw everything that she's got at us."
Han meant to snicker until he saw how serious Luke was about the offer.
He scolded the Kid. "No, don't tell me you're thinking about accepting, Luke.
No way, we're not staying with him." he warned darkly.
"He doesn't mean us any harm, Han." Luke defended.
"Sure, he's just tortured Leia, you, frozen me, cut off your hand, and tried to
do many other things that we're just glad we've escaped from." he sneered, then
turned dead serious. "Can't you see it's just another trap to keep you in his
claws?!"
Luke's temper flared slightly.
"It is 'not' a trap." He took a deep breath and forced himself to relax; he had
to remember that Han didn't know the truth between Vader and himself. "Many
things have changed in the Empire, things that Mon Mothma knows about but won't
reveal to anybody else." he finished in a calmer tone.
"Oh yeah, like what? Vader doesn't destroy entire planets anymore?" he sneered.
"Like the Emperor is senile and insane." Luke cut in. "Vader's in command now
and he's slowly deactivating the imperial war machine, but he can't do it
completely because of Mon."
"Sure, and he is also growing flowers in his garden." The Corellian sneered
contemptuously. "Luke, I can't believe that you believe any word of what you've
just said. He is a monster and you know it. You also know that he wants us for
some plan of his and that after this plan is ended," Solo mimicked a shot "We
are cold dead."
Luke forced himself to relax. Hearing his friend speak of his father in such
terms was strangely painful and provoked an urge to defend him.
But to make Han agree now he needed a cold head.
"I know that he is a monster, yes." he agreed, "And he wants our help to deal
with Mon. I don't know what you think, but in this matter I agree with whatever
he has in mind."
"Yeah, all right, but..."
"And he will heal Leia. Han, I'm not talking about joining Empire or Vader." he
pointed out. "All I'm saying is that for Leia's sake, we have no choice but to
be his... 'guests', for the moment. He's assured me that he would let us see
her, just like right now, and that he will let us go once she's better. His
quarrel is with Mon, not us. After Leia is better, we'll have more... options,
don't you think?"
There, he had said everything. He couldn't argue anymore without repeating his
arguments, and he could only hope that he was right about Han.
That his father was right.
Han looked at Luke, and suddenly snickered.
"You really believe in this, eh, Kid?"
Luke half-glared at him.
Solo sighed, ran his fingers through his hair then turned back toward Leia.
"We don't have any great choice, do we? and I bet that he knows it as well as we
do."
Luke nodded but remained silent, letting Han work things out by himself.
"We are in his hands and Leia... What a mess. Are you sure that he is not lying
about healing her?" Solo asked him, not taking his eyes off of his lover.
"Yes. I can feel when Vader tells the truth or lies; he isn't lying this
time."
"Yeah. If he is not messing with your mind..."
Solo ran his hand along his jaw, continued to study his wounded girlfriend, then
sighed yet again. "I don't like it, but there's no option. I just hope that
you're right, Kid, or you'll answer to me and Chewie."
Luke held his hands up as if warding off his warning. "No need to bring out
your super star destroyers, Han." he joked half-seriously. "We'll be fine,
trust me. 'She' will be fine."
"I sure hope so, Kid, cause once will be there, it will be difficult to find a
way out."
"Don't worry, Han."
Solo waved his finger at him again. "No, I will worry. And one more thing;
don't expect me to be nice with our 'host'."
Luke smiled at him. "Don't worry. I don't think that he'll expect it from any
of us."
Indeed, strange events were about to take place, Luke reflected. Here they
were, sworn enemies to the Empire and its minions, finding refuge in the private
and secret castle of their arch-nemesis.
Destiny sure brought about strange twists of fate.
His father came in the small observation room a few minutes later. Han's first
reaction was to move on the dark lord, but Luke set his hand on his shoulder,
wordlessly telling him not to attack.
"What is your decision?" his father asked them.
"Do you guarantee us that you will let us go once she is better?" Luke asked
rhetorically.
"Yes." The dark lord turned slightly toward Solo. "do you agree with him,
Solo?"
Han waved his finger at the dark lord. "If I see the slightest sign that you
are playing with either Luke or Leia, I swear that you will regret taking us in,
Vader."
"I would expect nothing less from you, Captain Solo." Vader said in his
coolly-modulated voice. "I remind you though that for the sake of secrecy, I
will restrain you to a certain area of my castle."
"As long as I can see Leia..." Solo growled.
"You will, all of you." Vader said, turning back toward the Jedi. "Now, I will
have to send you back to your cells for the time being. We should be on
Coruscant in a little over three days."
Luke and Han exchanged a look, then shrugged. They knew that free prisoners
wouldn't look normal aboard an Imperial vessel.

Han swore to himself that if Luke displayed even the slightest black and blue,
aside from his already healing one, Vader would have a taste of his boot's heel
in a judiciously chosen place.
The two men accompanied the tall man into the anteroom of his quarters.
"Sorry." Vader said from behind them, then nothing.
Troopers came in and collected their inert bodies.

*******

*Luke, Luke, wake up... Luke...* his father's voice droned in his head.
Luke groaned, brought his hand to his head and rubbed his temple.
What was going on now? he grunted to himself.
His senses returned slowly, step by step.
The darn voice continued to buzz in his mind.
He finally became aware that he was laying on the hard platform of his cell, his

head hanging toward the floor.
And his father was trying to contact him.
*Okay, okay... I'm up.* he complained.
Well, he was not completely up, he corrected, but his mind was awakened now.
He weakly pushed himself up in a more normal lying position, then laid his head
back on the cool steel.
*Are you okay?* Vader asked him.
*I've felt better. What have you done this time?* he slurred.
*I've kept you and your friends unconscious for the remnants of the trip.
We're---*
*You've what?!?* Luke exclaimed, immediately regretting his loud outburst.
His head was throbbing from the effort.
*I've saved you the boringness of being locked up for days. Would you have
preferred to be awake during three days?* he asked.
*No.* Luke admitted.
He scratched his head and tried again to sit up. He managed to push himself to
his elbows.
*As I thought.* his father commented. *We're coming up on Coruscant now. In an
hour, guards will come for you and your friends. I need your help to pull off
this part of the masquerade, Son. I have no doubt that Mothma has spies nearby,
or else she has means to know what is going on around me. If I were in her
boots, I would.*
Luke adopted a sitting position, fought his dizziness, then refocused on his
father.
*All right, what do you want us to do?*
*Put up a fight. The guards will have the order to mildly stun you if you're
raucous.* he explained seriously. *To any spy, it will look as if you truly are
prisoners here. Warn Solo and the Wookiee to not push it too much though.*
*Okay. What about Leia?*
*She's stabilized for the moment, but she hasn't woken up yet. Once we will be
alone, I will allow you and your friends to see her.*
*I'll tell that to Han.* he told his father.
*Excellent. I'll see you---*
*Father?..* Luke called before his father cut the link.
*Yes?*
*Would it be possible to send some food our way?* he inquired hopefully. *I'm
sure that Han and Chewie are as starved as I am.*
Through their link, Luke felt something that he had never though his father
capable of: Vader shied in foolishness.
*Sorry about that, Son...* he apologized. *I had forgotten that you wouldn't
get any food for so long... I'll send you something.*
*Thanks.*
The link was cut.
Almost immediately, a ration bar dropped from the food slot of his wall and onto
the hard floor of his cell.
Better than nothing, he reflected.

******

Once he was done eating his 'meal', he contacted Han and Chewie through the
Force and told them what the plan was.
Throughout the mental contact, Luke felt Han's resent directed at his father for
keeping them unconscious. No matter how Luke tried to justify his action, there
was no changing his friend's mood.
In the end, Luke accepted that Han and Chewie were going to be truly 'dangerous'
rebels until they would be controlled.

While Luke waited for the troopers to collect him, he reflected that Chewie
hadn't been too hard to convince to go along with the plan. He supposed that it
had to do with the fact that Han had agreed to cooperate in the first place.
So now, they were about to be taken inside his father's castle, the last place
that he had ever wanted to even have nightmares about, and they were going to
hide in there until Leia would be better and that they had worked a plan to
defeat Mon Mothma.
With or without Vader's help.
He shook his head ruefully.
He was definitely loosing it since he now thought of his father, Lord Darth
Vader, as an ally.

******

The sound of clattering steps tore Luke out of his light trance. He opened his
eyes just in time to see his door open.
The imperials trained their weapons on him.
"Stand up." one of them ordered.
Luke glared at them but obeyed. One of the soldiers stepped inside and secured
his wrists in cuffs, then he shoved him toward the short steps. The goal might
have been to make his fall face first in them, but Luke managed to retain his
equilibrium despite his shaky legs.
He was still very hungry.
In the corridor, Han and Chewie were already on their way toward the waiting
turbolifts. Han turned toward him, threw him a conspirator look, then he was
forced to turn away from him.
It had been enough for Luke though to understand that they would act in the
turbolifts. After all, he calculated, it was the best possibility to attempt an
escape ; that was why they would be separated in them.
The vicious push of a blaster's nuzzle in the small of his back convinced him to
walk toward the remaining lift.
Inside, the troopers kept their blasters trained on him. Luke studied his
options.
He had to make this look like a real attempt. The legs would be the most
efficient choice, he decided.
When the stormtroopers began to shift in impatience, he acted.
He kicked out with his foot, aiming for one of the men's knee.
He hit his goal but by the time that he could turn toward the guard, he was
unconscious.
Or rather, incapacitated. He felt pain when his head hit the floor, weakly
yelped in reaction, then the troopers kicked him hard in the midsection.
Twice.
"Rebel scum." his companion spat venomously as he nursed his knee.
The warning that they had reached their destination saved Luke from more hits.
They roughly hauled him up and dragged him by his arms toward the hangar bay.
Luke wanted to alleviate the strain on his shoulders, wanted to recover his
senses, but he couldn't; it wouldn't be wise.
He was very glad when the troopers shoved him on the bench of the prisoner
compartment and locked him up.
When he recovered his senses, he noticed the presence of his unconscious
friends.
"Han, Chewie." he called.
His friends didn't steer. He reached out to check on their status. They had
been sedated.
Mildly outraged, Luke called his father.
*I thought you'd said mildly stunned.* he growled.
*I did, but they've managed to kill a few men. The troopers made the decision
to keep them under for a while. We'll talk later.*
And with that, his father cut off their link.
'You bet we'll talk.' Luke thought darkly.
He had agreed to play along with his charade, but getting hurt had never been
part of the bargain. His father hadn't controlled his troops like he had said
he would.
Luke craned his neck and took a good look at Solo. A telltale bruise was
already spreading under his left eye, and, he could feel some abused tissues
near his midsection and neck.
Having nothing to do but wait, Luke decided to heal his friends as well as clear
the drug from their systems.
By the time that he felt the ship land, Han and Chewie had begun to steer.

Lord Vader didn't interfere with his son's decision to wake his friends up.
His troops had pushed it when they had chosen to drug them.
He couldn't argue with the fact that the smugglers were troublemakers of course,
but a stun blast would have sufficed.
He turned back toward his daughter's stasis unit.
Her face was covered with bacta bandages now, but this treatment would not be
sufficient to complete the healing.
The burns and wounds were so severe that almost nothing was left of her face
lines- it was an inform mass of darkened flesh.
The disfigurement was much too large to justify it by any other meaning but
revenge, he evaluated.
How much Mothma had to hate "the Soul of Rebellion" to do such things to her...
How much she had to hate the Princess, who was everything that she herself was -
intelligent, charming, strong- but who was also so much more. She had the gift
of a heart as bright as the Light.
Yes, he thought, it was a fitting reason to hate for one who had a heart as dark
and cold as the deep water... a fitting reason to try to kill this Light
forever.
He sighed and rested his gloved hand on the glass cover of the unit, then
reached out for his daughter.
He was met by a swirl of emotions--- blue, gray and white--- ice where heat
usually was. The only flame that was inhabiting her at the moment was black-
burning but cold.
Hate, he realized. Mothma had almost been successful in her goal, even now that
Leia wasn't in her claws anymore. The betrayal, the pain, the sojourn in the
Arsharel's Temple - they hadn't gone unnoticed for the Princess's psyche. She
had almost lost her light, she had been eaten by hatred--- her hatred for him,
her father.
It was, he realized in slight sorrow, the only remaining stable point in her
life.
Even her love for her smuggler was ...corrupted ; instead of being a strong
heat, it was barely warm.
And suddenly, he understood why she was losing her heart.
She was preparing herself for the loss of his love as well as the loss of
everything that she cared for ; she was ready to lose any trust that she had
ever earned.
*What did they tell you, my lost child, these voices in the dark night?* he
inquired softly in her mind.
Surprisingly enough, she answered him.
*My legacy is pain, my blood is poison--- you're the poison. You're the pain.
You're in me. I hate myself. Everybody hates you, so everybody hates
me.*
Strangely enough, she almost seemed to care for him now. Then he realized that
he had to be there, to be alive, so that she could hate him, hence stay alive
herself.
*Hate me.* she ordered him.
*I love you.* he answered instead.
*No!* she defied, her feelings flaring like a firework made of thousands of red-
gold stars. *There's no love.*
*I love you, child of my blood* he sent her with all his care.
*You're lying... You're lying.* she moaned in despair.
*I love you, Leia. Let me help you.* he begged with her.
*No.*
*Let me lead you to the Light.*
*There's no light. There's no way. There's no love.*
*Trust me.* he entreated her, trying to breach through her moat and touch her
soul to comfort her.
*There's no trust.*
*I love you. Let me in your fortress, daughter.*
*I hate you. I will not let you in, Father.* she defied him.
*Leia, please, I love you.* he begged desperately.
He could feel her slip through his fingers now.
*I HATE YOU!* she screamed angrily, then the 'door' was shut.
"Mothma," Vader growled lowly as he recovered his full senses, "you'll pay for
this..."
He needed the acceptance of Leia to be able to help her. She would have to
endure many operations ; the Force healing, while not all powerful, would be of
a great use.
He didn't want her to spend a year in treatment; not if there was a possibility
to accelerate her regeneration in a way that the same treatment would take only
a couple of months.
But he needed her trust to do so.
It was even more important to have her trust since he was the only one capable
of performing such a healing. Luke wasn't knowledgeable enough about the very
advanced techniques. He also had never had to heal himself for months; Vader
had.
And last, but not least, Leia's hatred was killing her soul.
Restoring her body would mean nothing if her spirit would be lost.
Someone 'had' to be able to make her trust again, he reflected earnestly.
Someone who could make her believe, that she was loved.
Then he realized that he would need Luke's help after all for who else but her
brother could reach her soul?
The shuttle began its landing approach.

A trooper came inside the small medunit.
"We'll be landing at your palace in five minutes, my Lord."
"Excellent. Have the Princess transferred to my personal medcenter; lock the
others in the high-security cells and you'll leave me alone with them."
"Yes, Lord."
Darth Vader walked out of the room and took a look at the awakening pilot who
was in the prisoner compartment.
What in the Force had Leia seen in him? he wondered yet again.
His son seemed to feel his wondering; he threw him a quick look.
*In time, Father, you'll see him like we do.* Luke told him.
Vader didn't reply, merely shrugged his large shoulders.
The ship settled down on the landing platform. The ramp lowered immediately;
the dark lord walked down from the ramp even as it lowered itself to the
'ground'. He took a moment to look around himself.
Located high on his castle, his private landing platform allowed a fantastic
view of the surroundings. The setting sun glinted on the window panes of the
countless aircars that composed the traffic lines, the skyscrapers punctuated
the horizon with their elegant glories, and the red-gold color of the sky gave a
special hue to the sight of the bustling capitol.
He was home.
Curses and sounds of fight attracted his attention back toward the shuttle.
"I want to see her!" Solo argued, straining against the troopers' hold.
Luke was also trying to free himself, but he wasn't making as much trouble as
his friends were.
Vader noticed that the troopers were about to hit his 'prisoners.'
"Hold." he ordered.

Luke looked up just in time to see his father's gesture.
'Here we go again.' he thought as his senses eluded him once more.

******

To be Continued in part 2

Well, liked it?

Copyright 2001, Skyjade and Tatiana
Webmaster : (skyjade@oricom.ca)(Any positive stuff is welcome,
but any mean stuff won't even be read.)