Out of the blue, everything came back to him and he jumped out of bed, regretting it the moment a wave of dizziness made him sway on his feet. He took deep, calming breaths until it passed.
He was in nothing but his underwear. He looked around cautiously, but there was no sign of his clothes.
As if on cue, the door of his room slid open and a very familiar form walked in.
“Good morning, sir,” an extraordinarily polished and shiny Threepio greeted him.
“Good morning, Threepio,” Luke greeted him back, unable to help a smile at seeing his protocol droid again.
The droid walked over to the easy chair in the corner of the room, and deposited the clothes he was carrying draped over his arm on it.
“Your clothes are clean and ready to wear. And you can use master Anakin’s spare pair of slippers,” he put them on top of his clothes.
“Thank you,” Luke nodded at the droid.
“You’re very much welcome, sir,” the droid bowed his head courteously. “What would you like to have for breakfast?”
“Ah, juice and any piece of fruit you have will be fine,” Luke said, reaching for his clothes.
“I will prepare everything in a moment, sir.”
“I’ll be out in a few minutes, Threepio. Thank you,” Luke assured him, following the droid with his eyes when he exited the room. So much like his old Threepio, but not quite. And that not quite translated into a piercing feeling of sadness.
Shaking it off, he quickly got dressed and put on his father’s slippers. They were almost the same size. He picked up his lightsaber from the bedside table and left the guest room with a little grin on his face.
He didn’t know how he’d expected it to be, but the apartment was an immense surprise. Big, spacious and simply decorated, but so stylish. An occasional picture or sculpture decorated the corridor. When he entered the living room, he had to hold back a gasp.
The wall-wide windows and the crowded, bustling city life outside shocked him breathless. Mesmerized, he walked up to the nearest window and looked out in sheer wonderment.
There were buildings everywhere, massive skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. Thousands and thousands of speeders zoomed past in every direction. All technology, all civilization. That was Coruscant, planet-city and capital of the galaxy.
Blown away, Luke could do nothing but stare and try to take it all in. It was inconceivable, so beyond anything he’d ever imagined...
Luke gave a start and turned about.
“Coming, Threepio,” he replied as nonchalantly as he could manage.
The floor of the whole apartment was carpeted, and the decoration in cream tones was almost minimalistic, but strangely warm and cozy. The kitchen was just as bright as the other rooms, with a huge window on one side and white furniture, including the table and the four padded chairs.
He sat at the table and proceeded to enjoy the breakfast Threepio had prepared for him. Corellian apple juice - his favourite - and all sorts of pieces of fruit he knew, plus others he’d only heard about.
“Is there something else you need, sir?” Threepio asked him when he was about to finish.
Luke took the final sip from his glass and wiped his mouth with the exquisite light blue napkin, that felt like Aquarian silk.
“No, thank you, Threepio. I think I’ll go out to the veranda now and try to meditate.”
“Understood, sir,” Threepio said, taking the tray with Luke’s leftovers and empty glass. “Master Anakin always meditates at the veranda. The few times he’s home, at least.”
Luke’s ears pricked up at that.
“He doesn’t spend much time here?” he asked the droid.
“Whenever the war allows him,” Threepio replied. “He’s usually out for months in a row.”
“I see,” Luke nodded ruefully. “It will be hard for M... senator Amidala.”
“Yes, sir. It is,” Threepio turned to him and met his eyes. “She misses him terribly.”
There was a pause where Luke almost thought that the droid could read him with those rounded, bright, eerily soulful eyes.
“I’m so sorry for both,” he said softly. It had to be a heartbreaking situation for two people as young as his parents were.
To be honest, he’d never expected his parents to be so young. For some reason, he assumed they’d be in their late twenties or early thirties when they conceived him and Leia. He was obviously mistaken.
“If you won’t be needing me, sir, I’ll close down for a little while,” Threepio threw him out of his reverie.
“Oh, no, go ahead, by all means,” Luke said, holding back a smile. What an endearing feeling of deja vu.
He rose from the chair and left the kitchen, calmly retracing his steps and continuing to the end of the corridor, where a massive semicircular veranda opened before his eyes. Giant dark sculptures and tall columns connected by flimsy curtains flanked it, and a small bubbling fountain stood right in the centre. Two semicircular sofas faced each other right behind the fountain. It was a beautiful setting, perfect for peaceful contemplation.
He stopped when he reached the fountain and looked around, familiarizing himself with the place almost immediately. How different and sophisticated his parents’ lives had been, compared to the simple, uncomplicated life of a moisture farmboy on Tatooine!
His attention was drawn towards the inferior steps of the staircase. They were chipped several metres across, and several blocks had been torn off. That was clearly the spot where he had crashed his X-Wing.
He winced at his helpless situation. Everything inside him cried out that he couldn’t stay, but whatever he did, he was trapped. If he stayed, he could change history by interfering with his parents’ lives, and if he went away, he could change history in countless different ways out there.
Turning around, he headed for the semicircular sofas. He sat down and leaned back against the small cushion behind him, deep in thought. Only the Force could provide the answers he was in desperate need of, so making up his mind, he stood and walked to the front of the veranda, right at the top of the wide staircase. After several deep intakes of breath, he sat down cross-legged on the floor and allowed himself to be swept away by the endless activity out there and the quiet murmur of the water at his back. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his calm centre, that special place within where everything stopped, and it was only himself and his inner voice whispering to him in the form of infinite shapes, textures, scents and colours, flashes of images and sounds that floated before him.
‘Luke is special, Owen, you know that. He can’t help seeing things before they happen.’
‘Our duty is to protect him, Beru. From himself, if we have to.’
‘The Force is what gives the Jedi his power.’
‘Is the Dark Side stronger?’
‘I don’t want to lose you to the Emperor the way I lost Vader.’
‘Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.’
‘Son, come with me.’
‘Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force.’
‘Anakin was always a tormented individual.’
‘He felt things very deeply.’
‘He just couldn’t take no for an answer.’
‘Something pushed him over the edge and he chose the Darkness.’
‘I won’t give up on him.’
‘I have to save him.’
Progressively, his deep level of meditation began to shift and his senses opened, beginning to encompass the reality that surrounded him as well, incorporating it in his perceptions and seeking answers through their resonance into the Force.
The vilest, most repugnant wave of Darkness, like viscous tentacles of insatiable greed and lust for power threw him out of his meditative state, sending him dashing for the bathroom. He could barely hold it until he reached it, and he vomited his entire breakfast down the toilet.
When the nausea stopped and he managed to calm down, he flushed and stood up on shaky legs, all bathed in sweat and trembling like a leaf. Reaching over, he removed a moistened towelette from a dispenser on the wall and wiped his mouth.
“Are you all right, sir?” Threepio’s voice asked, sounding muffled from his side of the door.
“Yes,” Luke rasped out, filling a glass with water and quickly rinsing his mouth. “I’ll be out in a moment. Don’t worry, Threepio.”
“If you need anything, just let me know, sir.”
“I-I will, thank you,” Luke replied, putting the empty glass on the narrow crystal shelf under the mirror and studying his reflection warily. He had rings under his eyes and his features were drawn and drained, as if something had sucked the life out of him. Swallowing hard, he straightened his back and turned to the door. He needed to lie down for a little while.
Back on the bed in the guest room, he stared at the ceiling in silence, wondering what had happened. A veil of throbbing, breathing Darkness seemed to be closing in on him, suffocating his lifeforce. But the strangest thing was that the sense of it wasn’t really foreign to him. He’d felt it strongly in the cave on Dagobah where he had confronted Vader’s illusion, and every single moment since leaving the planet. But it was more like a weak background signal, something he could easily block from his mind and ignore.
But the instant he had expanded his Force awareness here, it had pounced on him like a predator on its natural prey.
Whatever it was, it was close. Very, very close.
He sat up on the bed when the answer became self-evident.
He was on Coruscant. The galactic Senate was located here. Therefore, Chancellor Palpatine must be here also! It was his presence into the Force that he was perceiving.
He would have to strengthen his mental shields if he wanted to remain undiscovered. The shroud of the Dark Side was so intense all around that it made him physically sick.
This revelation posed a very disturbing question, however. Why couldn’t his father feel it too?
‘He knew him since he was a child, and considered him a mentor and a friend.’
A trap! The most elaborate, cunning trap. One that had been orchestrated methodically for years, with one sole purpose in mind.
Absolute control. Absolute power. Absolute domination of the galaxy and all the beings that inhabited it.
‘Anakin was always possessive about the people he cared about.’
Could that have been the key, or one of the keys, of his father’s turn? Was his father forced to choose between loyalties and he chose the Emperor? Why? What did he have to gain by choosing the Dark Side? What was so important to turn his back on a lifetime of iron principles and unyielding concepts of good and evil?
And now that he had been thrown into the most critical moment of his parents’ and the very galaxy’s lives, what was he supposed to do? What role was he supposed to play? Was he supposed to play any role at all? Was he here as a mere witness? Was this the Force's way to answer his question: “What happened to him?”
Whatever the answer was, he needed it now, so he knew what to do.
He lay down on the bed again and turned onto his right side, exhausted beyond belief. He opened the blinders through the Force and looked at the tall skyscrapers in the distance, and the speeders zooming back and forth. So many millions of people out there, and he had never felt so utterly, so devastatingly alone. So lost.
He didn’t know he had fallen asleep until he heard the sound of someone knocking on his door. He sat up, rubbing his eyes.
“Enter,” he said.
The door slid open and Threepio walked in, as composed as ever.
“Excuse me, sir, I thought you’d want to know that Senator Amidala just arrived. If you’re keen to meet up with her, she would be delighted to spend the evening with you.”
Evening? Was it evening already? He must have slept longer than he thought.
Luke felt something pull at his heartstrings at the invitation.
‘Mother. Oh, Mother...’ he moaned inside.
Personal needs aside, he had to proceed with extreme caution. He didn’t know what kind of damage being around his pregnant mother could cause to her, his twin sister and himself.
“Tell her it’ll be my honour to meet with her, and I’ll see her in a few minutes,” he told the droid, slowly rising to his feet.
“Very well, sir,” Threepio nodded, turned about and left.
Luke slid his hand through his hair, feeling a bit hesitant; yet, he couldn’t put off meeting his mother now, so he went to the bathroom and washed up. He made himself as presentable as he could, squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.
The young woman looking pensively out of the large window in the living room was more strikingly beautiful in daylight, if that was possible. She wore the most amazing dress he’d ever seen. Thick, dark brown velvet that touched the floor, and a thin red band around her waist. Her dark curled hair fell all the way down her back.
‘So much like Leia,’ was the first thought that came to mind. ‘The same stance, the same quiet authority, tempered by an inner gentleness that’s less noticeable in Leia’s character, but that runs just as deep.’
Feeling him coming, his mother turned her head and smiled. Luke returned her smile from the core of his being.
‘Mother!’ his heart cried out.
“Good evening, Luke,” she greeted him when he joined her.
“Good evening, Senator,” he greeted her back.
“Padme,” she corrected him for the second time, holding out her hand to him.
“Padme,” Luke nodded in acquiescence, squeezing the small hand between both of his.
“How was your day?” she asked.
“Very pleasant, thank you,” Luke replied, releasing the soft hand reluctantly.
“How’re you feeling?”
Padme tilted her head sceptically.
“You look a bit pale and haggard to me. I hope that’s not your normal look.”
“Oh, no. I’m much more handsome the rest of the time,” the words were out of Luke’s mouth before he could actually think them. ‘Look at that, now I sound like Han.’
Padme burst out laughing.
“That’s good to know,” she chuckled. “Cause Threepio said that you got sick in the afternoon,” she was furrowing her lovely brows at him now.
“Threepio is somewhat fussy,” Luke stated the obvious.
“So I’ve been told,” Padme agreed, giving him a knowing little smile that he returned.
“Would you like to sit down?” Luke asked her politely.
“Yes,” she nodded, falling into step with him. “The baby’s kicking my stomach with a vengeance,” she rubbed her belly, trying to calm down the fetus.
Luke stiffened and accompanied her to the couch, trying to keep himself as inconspicuously away from her as he could. They sat next to each other.
“In case you’re wondering, Anakin took your ship to a body shop this morning,” she informed him.
Luke’s jaw dropped open in surprise. He had forgotten completely about his X-Wing, and he’d been out on the veranda a few hours ago!
“I-I totally forgot about it, can you believe it?” he told his mother.
“I can,” she smiled at him. “You probably had other things on your mind,” she gave him a prolonged intense look.
Luke picked up on what she was hinting at.
“Anakin told me,” she confirmed with a nod. Taking a deep breath, she turned fully to him, conveying a vivid interest. “Are you really from... another time?”
“Yes,” Luke said. “Where I come from, the Clone Wars already ended,” he explained evasively.
He could see in her eyes what the next question was going to be, and he shook his head.
“Please, ask me no more,” he pleaded. “My being here is an anomaly, and I can’t take the chance of revealing too much. Force knows what the consequences could be.”
“But the Force made possible for you to be here,” she argued with incredible insight.
“That’s true,” Luke admitted. “And until the purpose of my presence is clear, I can’t tell you any more. Please understand,” he met the beautiful dark eyes in earnest.
Padme held Luke’s gaze, trying to come up with an argument to persuade him, but the look in those breathtaking blue eyes that seemed to appeal to her innermost feelings stopped her.
“All right,” she dropped the subject, sighing in frustration. “Anakin’s occasional cryptic statements about the Force are just as annoying. I see it’s the same wherever you’re coming from,” she looked away.
Luke smiled, adoring that endearing persistence.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Padme’s eyes turned to him.
“For welcoming me into your home. For believing me and my story, as insane as it seems.”
Padme smiled against her will.
“I’ve been around the Jedi for too many years to know that there are things beyond our experience. This is a galaxy of wonders... and horrors too,” her features darkened, but she quickly drew strength from somewhere deep inside. “But when I look at you...” her eyes roamed his face for a very long time, biting her lower lip at her inability to put a name to her feelings when looking at that young man. “I believe you. My heart believes you.”
Luke ground his teeth, blinking hard to hide the tears that threatened to come.
“I...” he suddenly turned his head to one side.
“What is it?” Padme asked, looking behind him uneasily.
“He’s coming,” Luke said after a brief pause.
“F-Anakin,” Luke caught himself in time. His father’s inner turmoil resonated with the Force like an undercurrent of troubled waters. “He’s upset,” he muttered to himself.
“How do you know that?” Padme asked, in wonder.
“I can feel it.” Luke breathed hard, quickly regaining control of his emotions. “I shall leave you now,” he smiled poignantly at her. “Talk to him. You’re the eye of the storm for him. Only you can settle his mind and his soul.”
“But...” she began, her head boiling with questions.
Luke grasped her hand in her lap, brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it. Then, he stood.
“Make him talk if you have to. He needs you now more than you know.”
Luke had no idea where the things he was saying were coming from. Something was putting the words in his mouth, but as he spoke them he could feel just how true they were. How singularly true they were.
As he turned around to go, he felt his mother rising to her feet and heading in the opposite direction, to the veranda, to wait for her husband.
Anakin got off his vehicle, followed by Artoo. He climbed up the steps of the veranda and greeted his wife with a sweet kiss on the lips. He was too distracted to focus on one single thought, but that didn’t stop him from placing his left hand on her belly and caressing it lovingly, as it had become his customary greeting to their child.
“You’re worried,” Padme said, holding the hand on her belly and interlacing her fingers with it.
“Life’s becoming too complicated, just when I need to keep my head cool more than ever,” Anakin led her to the sofa and they sat there together. His gaze got lost in the distance and he finally heaved a bitter sigh.
“What happened?” Padme asked.
“The Chancellor appointed me to be his personal representative on the Jedi Council.”
“He wants me to be the eyes, ears and voice of the Republic,” Anakin turned his eyes to her.
“I think he wants the Jedi to have a say in the peace negotiations when the war ends. With our guidance, the Republic will establish itself as a system that every planet in the galaxy can trust.”
“So?” Padme prompted him when he didn’t continue.
“The Council elects its own members. I don’t think they’ll make me a master without some... dissension. And it’s an added stress I don’t need in my life right now.”
“Can’t you just turn down this appointment?” Padme suggested.
“Do you think I won’t be able to fulfill my obligations as the Chancellor’s representative?” Anakin’s stare hardened out of nowhere.
Padme drew back a little, taken aback.
“I didn’t say that. It’s you who just said it was going to be an added stress you didn’t need.”
A pained look appeared in the blue depths. Anakin shook his head and looked down contritely.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you,” he clicked his tongue, looking thoroughly discouraged. “I’m overwhelmed by the Chancellor’s trust in me, but it doesn’t feel like the right moment. The Council won’t accept it.”
“Why shouldn’t they?” Padme reasoned. “You’re Palpatine’s right-hand man. You could become the link between the Senate and the Jedi Order. It would save us all a great deal of time.”
“I know, but...” Anakin shook his head again in exasperation. “There are too many irregularities in the way of doing things. And when you circumvent the procedures, you’re undermining the very basis of the Republic. I don’t like it.”
Padme reached out and squeezed Anakin’s shoulder.
“We can only hope it will help to put an end to this war sooner.”
“The end doesn’t justify the means; and besides, I have... other considerations,” Anakin’s voice trailed off and he withdrew into himself for an instant. “Never mind,” he straightened up. “How’s our guest?” he smiled at his wife with true warmth.
“He seems to be fine, more or less,” Padme returned his smile lively. “We were talking when you arrived. He left to give us privacy.” Her face sobered when she remembered something. “It’s strange. He could feel that you were coming.”
Anakin raised his eyebrows in surprise, but then he turned inwards again, and something in him softened.
“I’ll go see him.”
Padme grinned softly at him.
“Good evening, master,” Threepio’s voice interrupted them. “Dinner will be ready in thirty minutes.”
“Thanks, Threepio,” Anakin acknowledged with a fleeting look at the droid.
“I’m going to lie down until dinner time,” Padme told her husband.
Anakin nodded and brushed his lips against hers.
“Come in,” Luke invited his father, half-turning towards the door.
Anakin walked in, feeling self-conscious at the sight of the young man looking out of the window. He was levitating a dark marble ball, keeping it still a few centimetres above his palm, exuding an inner peace that he envied.
Even dressed in black, the Light surrounded him like a halo, and it warmed Anakin’s heart like the morning sun. It was as if all the problems in the universe disappeared in his presence.
“How are you?” he asked unnecessarily. He could feel it through the Force. It was as if that stranger’s physical and emotional wellbeing was a part of him.
“I’m doing fine, thank you,” Luke replied, placing the ball back on its base and turning fully to him.
A dark, stinking shadow lingered around his father like a greedy temptress, draining him of his psychic balance.
He recoiled mentally and physically from it, swaying on his feet.
“Luke!” Anakin exclaimed, hurrying to his side and steadying him. “What’s wrong?”
Luke shuddered and steeled himself against the blackness surrounding his father’s aura.
“I’m all right,” he calmed Anakin, meeting his eyes. “I felt a disturbance in the Force.”
“I didn’t feel anything,” Anakin said, releasing him gingerly.
“Maybe it’s got to do with my... not belonging here. I’m being pulled back to my time,” Luke tried to offer an explanation his father could believe.
How could Anakin not be aware of the Darkness around the Chancellor and himself? Did he spend so much time in Palpatine’s company – like today - that he was blind to it? And what about the other Jedi?
Somehow, Anakin found Luke’s explanation hard to believe, but nothing else seemed to fit. And the look in those otherworldly eyes... Force, it was as if all his answers were contained in them.
“Your ship will be repaired in three or four days. Do you think you’ll be able to hold on that long?” he asked.
“Yes, I’ll manage,” Luke affirmed, nodding at his father.
Anakin accepted Luke’s word, even though everything he was kept telling him there was more to that young Jedi than it seemed. Much more.
“Are you all right?” Luke returned his question.
Anakin looked at him and ended up shrugging.
“This is a time of war. How could anything be all right?” he replied ironically.
Luke cocked his head and gave him a kind, understanding smile.
With a sigh, Anakin relented.
“I feel lost, and confused. And alone.” He turned his back on Luke and concentrated on the life out there. “That was always my greatest fear. To be alone. And at this moment, I feel as if everything I love could be taken away from me.”
Luke stepped closer to his father, drawn to the need for comfort he gave off in waves.
“Why do you feel like that?” he asked.
“I had a dream.”
Luke’s blood ran cold in his veins.
A long silence followed.
“I’m alone in this. If the Jedi found out I’m married, I would be expelled from the Order,” Anakin said at last. “No one can help me, but myself.”
Luke’s heart filled with a bone-chilling feeling of foreboding. He could only guess at what his father was talking about, but whatever it was, it was taking him to the brink of despair.
He could feel the danger. He could smell it. And it smelled like... death.
“Can you...?” he began to say.
“I tried to speak to master Yoda about it,” Anakin kept talking as if Luke wasn’t there beside him. To all intents and purposes, he was having this conversation with himself. “And he only said that I must learn to let go of everything I fear to lose.”
Luke just stared at his father’s back, letting him speak his heart out. Just being there for him.
“But how can I do that?!” Anakin turned to him unexpectedly with fire in his eyes. “It’s the striving for improvement, to beat the odds, to make things better that pushes us forward. It’s our duty to try, to keep trying, even when it seems there’s no hope. Especially then! It’s not a matter of fear but of protecting life!” His outburst faded as quickly as it came, and he turned back to the window. “If I had thought like that when I was a slave on Tatooine, I don’t know if I’d have survived.”
Luke gasped aloud.
“You were a slave?! On Tatooine?” he asked in shock.
“Both my mother and I were slaves,” Anakin said unblinkingly. His eyes didn’t move from the window. “I was freed after winning a pod race. My master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his master Qui-Gon Jinn took me with them, so I could be trained as a Jedi. I was nine years old.”
Luke couldn’t believe what he was hearing. So many things that he hadn’t been told! So much light that was being shed with every spoken word.
“This has been my life since then,” Anakin continued his tale. “This is what I am.” There was a short, intense silence. “This is who I am.”
“I... I understand,” Luke whispered, looking inside himself. Upon leaving Tatooine four years ago, he had believed he wanted to be a Jedi because of his father. To be like him, to be the kind of man his father could be proud of; but it had turned out to be far more than that. On following his father’s steps as a homage to him, he’d come to find his true vocation, the very thing he was born for.
It ran in the Skywalker bloodline.
So many things made sense now. So many things he and his father had in common. Not only because they were family, but because their characters were also similar in many ways. And he was glad that it was so.
Here before him was a very conflicted man, but one he was proud to call father. A man of great courage, deep compassion, and a high set of values.
‘What happened to you?’ he wondered for the umpteenth time. ‘How could Palpatine turn you? It seems impossible!’
Anakin turned his head to look at him and when their eyes met, the connection between them reasserted itself with the most profound sense of peace and homecoming.
“I-I know you do,” Anakin said softly, mesmerized by those eyes that observed him like... like they knew him. These weren’t the eyes of a stranger. They were the eyes of a kindred spirit, of someone who knew well the level of commitment and sacrifice that being what they were demanded of them. This was a Jedi he could relate to, a Jedi who asked himself the same questions and didn’t offer obscure answers that didn’t solve anything.
He felt he could tell this young man... anything.
“Will you join us for dinner?” he invited, pulling himself together with effort.
Luke blinked a few times, getting a grip on himself just like his father.
“I’d love to. But I don’t want to intrude into your daily lives more than I already have.”
“It’s the most welcome intrusion,” Anakin’s eyes came alive with unfeigned joy. “This is the first time we’ve had a guest in our home. Our first opportunity to act like a normal married couple, sheltering a friend and inviting him to stay for as long as he needs.”
Luke’s eyes skittered all over his father’s features, committing them to memory one more time.
“Thank you,” he murmured hoarsely, through the lump in his throat. “It’ll be my honour to sit at your table.”
The bright smile he received made him want to draw his father into a hug.
TO BE CONTINUED...