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The Clone Emperor: Star Wars Alternate Universe Trilogy Volume 1

By SonicSculpture

Adventure / Scifi

An Unanticipated Outome

A nearly starless night had finally fallen upon Endor. Luke Skywalker sat upon a tree stump at the edge of the Ewok village and frowned at the featureless sky. A very slowly dissipating cloud of dust and debris from the recently destroyed Death Star had hidden the heavens. Unbidden, an alien expression passed through his mind: the shroud of the Dark Side is descending. It seemed like an overreaction to so easily explainable a thing.

Upon the Alliance’s announcement of the Emperor’s demise, prolonged celebrations had ensued. Along with the other leaders, Luke had initially been afraid that the remnant of the Imperial Fleet, which was still in orbit above Endor at the time, would simply elect to decimate the forest moon. However they’d been afforded no occasion take advantage of such an opportunity. The rebels had quickly broadcast the news of their victory across subspace, and the cruisers abruptly had more pressing matters to which to attend as the revolution radiated out across the cosmos. It had spread like wildfire throughout the Core systems of the Empire, which necessitated the recall of every single ship in the Imperial Fleet. Their departure deepened the feeling of success, and everybody believed that the long campaign had finally culminated in a victorious conclusion.

But then, the tone of the reports suddenly changed. All those organizations that had once helped to facilitate interstellar commerce had been replaced by the Empire. And as a result, there was no infrastructure to support the transition. The federations, clans, and unions no longer existed. In addition, because membership in the Republic had basically enabled their incorporation into the Empire, there were those who saw that allegiance as now being undesirable. Some of the previous Republic’s strongest supporters were now espousing the Separatist philosophy. And with so much suddenly in dispute, there were those who were so afraid of losing territories or business holdings that they were actually acting preemptively and initiating aggression. And of course there were also opportunists who were hoping to come out ahead in the reshuffling. It was almost like the Clone Wars all over again. The rebels had not really restored the Republic. They had instead opened an occasion for cosmic chaos. Battle fatigue and this extremely troubling realization had finally brought an anticlimactic close to their celebration. Knowing that the real work was only about to begin, everybody else had wearily retired. Jedi Knight Skywalker had been left alone.

At the edge of the dark clearing, Luke now communed with his mentors, Yoda and Obi-Wan, both of whom had transformed into the Force. As he confronted their ethereal appearance, he could see other apparitions around them. Names entered into his mind, Windu and Qui-Gon. Those utterly unknown to him even by name were hardly more than featureless shapes, but Anakin was also with them. Of those assembled, Yoda seemed the most deeply distressed, not a thing for which his previous Padawan was prepared.

“Disturbing this is,” rasped the diminutive shape, “and unexpected. No reason was there ever to think the transition would be completely peaceful, so for this cause alone I am not concerned. But not brought into balance has the Force become because of the Emperor’s removal. Understand this I cannot.”

“Despite my disfigurement, I was the Emperor’s junior by two generations,” Anakin observed. “So I expected to inherit the Empire, even though I had no perception of him actually grooming me for the position. But he had no other apprentice, I’d have known.”

“Misled were you in the matter of understanding the intentions of the Jedi Council,” Yoda cautioned him. “Unwise it might be to assume that you knew his ultimate agenda. Near the end of his life he most certainly was; yet, no thought did he take concerning his successor? Something amiss there is in all of this; not yet fulfilled has the prophecy been by all these events.”

Luke was preparing to ask about this prophecy, of which he had not previously been aware, when suddenly something happened. It was as if a storm cloud rolled through the very midst of the assembled specters, dismissing them from his sight and replacing them with a lone figure. It somehow seemed familiar, since he had just faced it in an older and disfigured form. But he was far too horrified at first to accept its only possible identity.

“I’ve been reborn as Darth Chrysalis,” the image intoned. “It is not the Jedi who have found the path to immortality. Only I have achieved that, although there is yet a place for you at my side. By now, you must surely understand that you’ve not rescued democracy. You have only unleashed anarchy. Your assistance could be invaluable in reassembling the shards of my Empire. Embrace alliance with the Dark Side and step into the future.”

“I saw my father kill you! And even if you somehow survived the fall, I saw the Death Star explode!” Luke angrily objected. “How are you doing this? Even as Darth Vader, my father did not have the ability to appear to me as you’re doing!”

“The Dark Side is a path to many abilities some consider to be unnatural,” the Clone Emperor darkly replied. “Does it surprise you that I did not make the mistake of teaching everything I knew to my rebellious apprentice? I knew about his mutinous ambitions from the start. After all, they were only natural. Sith Lords desire dominion, not lives of selfless service like the Jedi. If I had taught him how to exploit his ancestral relationship with you, he could easily have contacted you the way I have. In fact, I think he’d started to explore such a possibility anyway. But I knew he’d seek to use you to overthrow me. So it was in my best interest to limit his interactions with you.”

“You thought he might exploit his ancestral relationship to contact me the same way you have?” Luke repeated hollowly. He was noticeably more troubled by this declaration than by anything else the Emperor had said.

“Using the Shroud of the Dark Side, I was able to keep him from even questioning the possibility of a relationship between myself and Padme,” the Emperor boasted. “We were both from Naboo, both members of the aristocracy. He never even suspected that she was my niece. This is how I knew about her pregnancy and the identity of the father. Anakin believed it was only because of the power of the Dark Side. I knew that a series of choices on his part could place her life in danger, so I helped him make those choices. His visions were a warning. But the exact actions he took, believing it was the only way to save her, were the ones that guaranteed her loss of the will to live at the critical time. And this left his service to me as his only reason to live, until you came along. I suppose I should thank you for helping me get rid of him, but you were only playing your assigned part. You have been serving me much longer than you know. The opportunity now is for you to actually enjoy the benefits of that service, by making it voluntary. Honestly, you’ve already taken your first steps down the Dark Path. You know that it will forever dominate your destiny. And you tasted its power in defeating your father. Not even an army of Jedi knights would be able to put the Empire back together again, but the two of us can!”

“But I saw you die,” Luke repeated weakly.

“The Kaminoans did more than just create a clone army for me,” the Emperor finally admitted. “And the biometric implant, though it remained undamaged, acted almost like a lightning rod during my battle with Master Windu. Since it was installed, it’s sent all of my experiences through a subspace relay system to a hidden facility in the Kamino system. When the transmission was interrupted by my predecessor’s demise, I was brought out of stasis. I know everything he knew, right up until the moment of his death. And I am far more powerful than he could ever have been. Using his genetic sample, they were able to isolate the midi-chlorians. They learned to replicate them. My count is higher than that of anyone who has ever lived. Of course, I’ll never allow the count of your clone to equal mine; but I’m offering you almost unlimited power for nothing less than eternity!”

“You have openly admitted that you deceived your own apprentice!” Luke accusingly replied. “Is that not the greatest lesson I could hope for you to teach me? So, why should I allow you to manipulate me the way you did my father? Why should I expect a different reward than the death of the people I care about? That’s how you rewarded him!”

“If you truly value your Jedi precepts, then you must understand how wrong it is for you to hold the lives of your friends above all others,” Darth Chrysalis answered. “Is it not true that they’re asleep only because they simply could not bear the reports, which were coming in from all over the Empire, of open conflict erupting between previously peaceful systems? People are dying right now, even while we’re speaking. And it’s almost entirely the result of your actions. There is no piety in refusing to accept responsibility for all the damage you’ve done. If you will not help me to restore order, all of this blood is on your hands. If however you will aid me in accomplishing that which your conscience should be insisting that you do; one day you will be reborn in an even more powerful form, and with the hand that you lost in your first fight with your father. The way to restore yourself and the security of civilization itself are one and the same. It is time for you to fulfill your destiny!”

“Your Death Star was destroyed; and your fleet, while doubtlessly still substantial, is significantly diminished,” argued Luke. “Even with my assistance, how could you hope to restore your control?”

“Have you forgotten that it was I who allowed the Alliance to learn the location of the new battle station?” Darth Chrysalis laughingly inquired. “Do you suppose I would really willingly risk the greatest weapon in my arsenal? I’ve always known that it would take an ever-increasing amount of control to maintain my Empire. And you must’ve been aware that many of the outlying systems, which would not directly support your rebellion, were much more interested in simple secession. This sentiment is a remnant of the Separatist Movement, which I initiated and then couldn’t entirely annul; however, even the ability to destroy an entire planet cannot thwart the threat of expansive star systems with facilities hidden all throughout. But after decades of research, the technicians on Geonosis have developed a weapon system that can actually destroy a sun. I call it the Star Killer. One example of its abilities against a separatist system at the outskirts of the galaxy, with the fleet in orbit around key planets at the heart of the old Republic, and we could begin to restore order. I understand how appalling would be such a loss of life. But with things the way they are, attrition is currently unchecked. This destructive illustration would actually have the effect of minimizing the eventual total.”

“Of whom do you plan to make this terrible example?” Luke asked, with breathless revulsion. “The asteroids of Alderaan are still raining death in the surrounding systems!”

“Even if the selected target is somewhere along the Outer Rim, many worlds will be within the effected radius,” Darth Chrysalis replied. “My only condition is that you stay as far away as possible from Kamino and Geonosis. Beyond that, you can select whatever target you think will make the best example. For the purposes of your first assignment, I will give you command of the Star Killer. Once you’ve completed your mission, you’re to return to Coruscant. There, I’ll begin your training. You’ve no ambitions for replacing me; and, because I am now deathless, it would do you no good to eliminate me anyway. This is why your reward will be different from that of your father. I’ll give you time to consider what I have said, but bear in mind that innocent people will continue to die until you help me restore the security that you and your friends destroyed. We’ll speak again soon.”

The frightening figure faded into the horrific fog from which it had emerged. With one hand still on the hilt of his lightsaber, Luke slowly stood. It did not escape his notice that none of the other images, with whom he had previously been in conference, reappeared. It was as if he was now beyond even their aid.

There was much to consider. He knew the servants of the Dark Side used deception as a weapon, but Darth Chrysalis had been very forthcoming about all the lies with which he had manipulated Anakin. Was he now so powerful that he no longer required such an unseemly device? Learning that Darth Vader was actually his father had nearly been the death of young Luke Skywalker. He desperately wanted to dismiss the inference that he and the Emperor were also related, but it explained many things; not least of which was the appalling ability to appear as he had, dismissing Luke’s mentors in the process. But he feared that it might even be the means by which his father had first learned of his real identity. When Darth Vader set the trap for him at Cloud City, there was no doubt that he already knew whom he meant to ensnare. No one in the Alliance could have leaked any such information without also giving away much more critical data, making the release of the Imperial probe droids needless. This, then, was how Anakin had learned about Luke.

The Clone Emperor was also unfortunately correct about the unexpected aftermath of the rebel’s hard-won victory. The leadership of the Alliance had idealistically assumed that the assassination of the Emperor would essentially restore the Republic. In order to keep safe its supporters, no infrastructure for guaranteeing such a beneficial result could be constructed. Yet now, it looked as if decades, or perhaps centuries, of interstellar war would precede any such possibility. Luke could hardly exonerate himself from culpability in the catastrophe; at least, not without also taking definitive steps towards the resolution of the unacceptable situation. And tragically, he could come up with no alternatives to at least giving the appearance of aiding in the installation of a reengineered version of the very regent whom he had only just dethroned, as repulsed as he was by the possibility.

He had only recently come to understand, at least on an intellectual level, that Leia was his sister. He had been looking forward to instructing her in the ways of the Force. It now looked however like that education was going to have to be accelerated. He had no idea how much time the Clone Emperor would actually afford him before an answer was demanded. And it was true that lives were being lost in the interim. Perhaps, he thought, he could take Leia down the path of the Padawan learner at least far enough for her to discern Luke’s own mentors; and then, they could take over her training. He feared that he was going to have to at least feign an affiliation with evil.

The Clone Emperor’s summation had alarmingly echoed that of Master Yoda: once you start down the Dark Path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke urgently needed to believe that all such inclinations had reached their resolution in that showdown on the Death Star. However, he found that he was not happy about the possibility of needing to rely on his trophy. His father’s lightsaber, hewn away with one of his mechanical hands, had preceded the Emperor’s plummet into the guts of the spherical doomsday machine. But when Anakin hefted the grizzled regent up from the deck plate, in order to also hurl him into that exact abyss, the Emperor’s lightsaber had somehow been dislodged. Luke had retrieved it, along with his own, as he was assisting his fallen father.

He had intended to keep it only as a prize, continuing to use his own and fashioning another to give to Leia for her training. But now it seemed more expedient to give her the one that he had wielded so victoriously. This, perhaps poetically, would leave him to face the Clone Emperor with the very same sword of which his perilous predecessor had only just been relieved. But it worried Luke that he felt somewhat cheated in being required to surrender his own lightsaber for use by his sister. Possessiveness, as well he knew from his training, was an extremely undesirable characteristic for a Jedi knight, an evidence of dangerous inclinations. Uncovering such covetousness in his own character caused him considerable concern. He worriedly wondered if there was actually an underlying truth in the Clone Emperor’s summation about his precarious proclivities. Only the very thinnest of lines lies between prudence and self-doubt, as he also knew, and any misstep on that path could also lead to the Dark Side. Disaster seemed to dog his every emotional step.

It took an unusual amount of time for him to clear his mind so he could communicate with his mentors. The desperation of their circumstances seemed to completely preclude the application of patience. He felt that his choices were being forced upon him, and this reminded him of the impetus that had driven him to his disastrous duel at Cloud City; but there did not appear to be any alternative to immediate action. And yet, Yoda seemed to be trying once again to discourage him from something inexplicably inescapable.

“Behind this outbreak of warfare the Emperor may be,” Yoda cautioned him. “Unlike the animosity that led to the Clone Wars this situation is not. Learned we finally did of the Dark Lord’s hand in all of that, and too late we were. But responsible therefore is he. Not to be blamed are you. This ploy he may well have set up in advance. The appearance of coming to society’s rescue it gives the successor. For you, rushing to face him may be a part of his plan. To do what you must, as the Force allows, is your only responsibility. All the lives now being lost are not your burden to bear.”

“But Master Yoda, this clone has only just been brought out of stasis,” Luke carefully said. “He will only grow stronger. He’s at his weakest right now. He may not yet have full command of his amplified abilities. There will never be a greater opportunity.”

“To precisely what opportunity do you refer?” Obi-Wan asked insistently. “I still don’t understand what it is that you’re planning to do. Do you?”

“It does no good to assassinate him again, not unless the cloning facility has already been eliminated,” Luke answered heavily. “He intends to put me in command of the very craft that’s capable of such a strategic strike.”

“Destroy an entire star system will you?” Yoda demanded. “Understand what they’ve done even the Kaminoans who aid him may not! Not deserving of death can they all be!”

“Destruction of that system would also stop the supply of Storm Troopers,” observed Anakin, unexpectedly speaking out in agreement with his son’s scheme. “They were only ever supposed to be the Army of the Republic; defenders of democracy, not enforcers of the Empire. Even if it didn’t offer the advantage of eliminating the Chancellor’s clone, the Kamino system would still be the most tactical military target. Destroying it might actually save more lives than it would cost to kill its inhabitants.”

“It’s certain to be heavily defended!” argued Obi-Wan. “And I doubt that the station’s compliment is going to be okay with targeting such a critical system. I suppose you must be planning to kill the crew almost as soon as you go aboard, and that might not be such an easy thing. But you’ll then have to operate all of its unknown systems alone, including its defensive ones. Because as soon your approach is detected, you’re probably going to find yourself up against a squadron of Corellian cruisers! And while the Star Killer might just be a match for such an armada, you’ll have to both fly and defend your stolen battle station at the same time!”

“I might know a certain astrodroid that could help me out with that,” Luke slyly said. “In fact, R2 might even be able to decompress critical compartments of the battle station and help me to take it over.”

“More murder in your scheme you cannot contrive?” Yoda sardonically asked. “Can satisfied you be with the deaths of only the compliment of an untested battle station and the inhabitants of an arguably neutral star system?”

“I’ll admit that the plan calls for a lot of killing,” Luke patiently replied. “But it’s hardly constructive for you to merely criticize my scheme, Master. However, you’ll find me quite responsive to your suggestions, if you can by any means imagine an alternative.”

“If afforded an opportunity to examine other options, succeed in making suggestions we just might!” Yoda emphatically answered, sounding uncharacteristically angered, “But time for us to appropriately contemplate this matter you’ve not allowed.”

“So then,” Obi-Wan sarcastically summarized, “your plan is to exterminate the entire compliment of the Star Killer, destroy the Kamino system, and use your commandeered craft to reach the confrontation on Coruscant? I must say that I am almost surprised you haven’t suggested just using it assassinate the Emperor. You could hardly fail to kill this clone if you destroyed the Coruscant system. The outcome would be far less uncertain.”

“I won’t be in the Star Killer when I make the journey to Coruscant,” Luke answered as evenly as he could, not being familiar with the teasing that had commonly been a part of the conversations between Obi-Wan and Anakin. “If I fail to kill the Clone Emperor, it would not be wise to leave him with a doomsday device parked in orbit. After I’ve used it to destroy the Kamino system, I’ll have to scuttle the ship; but if R2 and I can’t figure out how to rig it to self-destruct, I’ll program it to fly into the nearest star.”

“You mean,” asked Obi-Wan, pausing for effect, “the nearest star you’ve not already destroyed?”

“There are a number of uninhabited systems in close proximity to the Rishi Maize,” Luke pensively replied. “I could just use one of them, to avoid possible repercussions.”

“Repercussions aplenty at this point you have already amassed!” Yoda very heavily observed. “Approve your plan the Council of Transformed Masters cannot. Another way will have to be found.”

“There is no other way,” Anakin very angrily interjected. “And since my son will need some specialized instruction in order to go up against this engineered enemy, I will make certain he gets it. We accomplished the assassination of the Emperor with no assistance from your so-called Council. And we’ll take care of his darker duplicate as well.”

“However, there is something I need to ask from all of you,” Luke very carefully said, pausing to look at each of the shimmering shapes before him. “Before I leave, I intend to train Leia at least enough for you to take over with her instruction. With no way to create a cloned successor, if I fail to defeat the Emperor, he will most certainly take on another apprentice. Then, the only way to utterly stop the Sith would be if Leia were to become a powerful enough Jedi Knight to assassinate him as soon as he inherits the Empire. Will you undertake her training?”

“If at that pass we finally arrive, to assist in this training you may yet be able,” Yoda answered. “But while you are away on your ill-advised errand, do what we may we most certainly will.”

“Would I be correct in assuming that she knows nothing at all of what has transpired concerning the Emperor?” Obi-Wan asked.

“Yes, I was planning to tell her in the morning,” Luke tentatively replied.

“Awaken her now you should!” Yoda insisted. “If so limited you believe is the time in which you may train her, then at once should she be made aware of what has happened and the part she may have to play. Rush you do towards the thing that should wait, while postponing the most important. Not commendable is this consistency.”

In actuality, Luke was much more afraid of facing his sister’s disappointment than of the perilous expedition he was about to undertake. He had not emerged unscathed from the duel on the Death Star, nor had he rested since escaping from its destruction. But he knew Yoda was right. How better to show her that a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force than by demonstrating it the face of his own fatigue?

He knew where Lando had landed the Millennium Falcon and, from a conversation earlier that evening, he also knew Han and Leia had retired to the ship. They had invited him to bed-down there as well, but he insisted on sleeping in the A-wing in which he had escaped from the Death Star. He knew the relationship between Han and Leia had been blossoming in his absence, and he wanted to give them as much privacy as he could.

For this reason, he felt as if it would be inappropriate to simply show up on the ship. He opted to use his communicator instead. It seemed likely that one of the droids would respond, but then it would become the recipient’s unhappy duty to awaken the princess. He smiled as he considered how Yoda would probably insist that he was still shirking his responsibilities.

C-3PO responded to his transmission. The protocol droid did not seem particularly pleased at having been put in the position of having to summon the sleeping princess. Luke gave assurances of how important it was to do so, while being careful not to give any indication of trouble. It was several minutes before Leia’s voice finally greeted him.

“I’m not sure why 3PO didn’t just have you come aboard,” she tiredly admitted. “Is something wrong?”

It did not surprise Luke when Leia asked the question that C-3PO had not. He knew she had senses that were already beginning to assert themselves. There was a concern evident in her inquiry that exposed misgivings about the manner in which he had chosen to contact her. He could clearly hear its echoes, despite the haggardness of her tone.

“If Han is awake, I’ll just come in and talk to you both,” he replied, knowing that she would understand how he was affirming her suspicions. “If not, perhaps it would be best if you would come out here. There’s no point in disturbing him; at least, not yet.”

Since Han and Leia knew the droids would alert them if anybody came aboard, they had elected to leave the ship’s ramp in its lowered position. As it worked out, this made it possible for Leia to leave the vessel without waking its captain. She emerged after only a few moments; seeming to somehow sense the correct route to take in order to make her way directly toward Luke in the nearly total, Death-Star-debris-induced darkness.

“What’s happened?” she quietly inquired as she finally stood before him.

“The Emperor had himself cloned, and the Death Star was not his ultimate weapon,” Luke replied, knowing it would be pointless to try and soften the blow. “I’m going to have to undertake a very risky campaign; and I probably only have a few days at best before I have to leave. But before I go, I need to at least begin your training. There’re others who will help you complete it if I should fail, but you first have to reach a point where you can communicate with them. The pathway of the Jedi knight is laid out before your feet. I will take you as my Padawan if you will let me show you the ways of the Force.”

“I was already awake when 3PO came to get me. I’d been disturbed from sleep by a dream,” she softly answered. She then surprised him by concluding, “If I am supposed to do this, then there’s something you’re also expected to give me.”

Luke reached down and ceremoniously disconnected his lightsaber from the clip by which it hung from his belt. After giving it to Leia, he then replaced it with the one he had recovered from Darth Sidious. In the midst of her awed examination, Leia barely noticed what Luke was doing as he extracted the other lightsaber from his pouch. He looked on, fondly recalling his own fascination, as his sister activated her weapon’s bright blade.

“A padawan would normally be required to construct one when the time came. But my first lightsaber was given to me, and there simply isn’t time to do things traditionally,” he said. After stepping a few paces back from her, he then forcefully said, “As fiercely as you can, attack me with it!”

Leia was not known for backing away from a challenge. There was a brief moment of disbelief written across her incredulous face by the light of her saber’s shimmer; and then, without the requirement of any additional encouragement, she attacked. Her initial onslaught was that of the unskilled, and it was easily averted. Luke moved in closer and forced her to be more methodical and less heavy-handed in her attempts. At the timely moment, he somersaulted over her head and attacked her from behind. She instinctively spun and precisely intercepted the blindsided strike. He could see her surprise as Leia recognized what she had done. She looked in awe at the weapon she had so wielded.

Stepping back in order to disengage from the skirmish, and deactivating his recently acquired weapon as he did, Luke said, “The Force is with you, my sister. But the journey of the Padawan comes only with complete commitment. Will you finish what you begin?”

“Is it permissible to begin under one instructor and finish with another?” Leia asked. “I have studied something of the lore of the Jedi Order. I believe it was common to place each Youngling in an apprenticeship under an eligible Jedi Master, to whom they would then be joined until passing the Jedi Trials. Considering that the Order has existed for as long it has, I’m compelled to do this correctly. Can an apprenticeship be transferred?”

“Mine was,” Luke readily replied, gratified to see just how meticulous his sister was being about the details of the tutelage. It definitely implied the level of dedication he had hoped to find in her. “Obi-Wan began my training, but Yoda completed it. And once you have progressed to the point where you can commune with them, they are ready to help you finish the transformation into a fully fledged Jedi knight.”

“You don’t expect to come back, do you?” she intuitively pressed.

“Whether I succeed and am able to return to you in the flesh or not, we shall meet again,” Luke assured her. “I will be able to communicate with you from the netherworld of the Force once you have accomplished its alliance. If you wish it, you’ll even be able to speak with our father. As I said, he’s really the one who killed the Emperor; though it unfortunately didn’t altogether eliminate him.”

“Then I’m honored at being placed as your Padawan, Jedi Master Skywalker,” Leia replied, bowing in the traditional manner of the Order’s members.

Luke was caught off guard by his sister’s use of such a title. He was thinking about how it had not been his intention to offer her any ulterior motives in mentioning that she would be able to communicate with both him and with their father. No one else had ever ascribed this designation to him before. He was nearly overcome with the emotions that welled up in response. The involuntary reaction was yet one more thing that caused him concern. He had refused to be turned, even with his defeated father helplessly sprawled before him; and yet, he was constantly aware of the way in which the Dark Side pulled at the peripherals of his personality.

Luke spent the remainder of that night instructing Leia in the ways of the Force. She was an extremely quick study. When, after a series of unsuccessful attempts, she finally succeeded in moving something with her mind, he put together a remote and tested her by having her wear a helmet with its blast shield down. After getting stung several times with its low level emissions, her lightsaber became an unavoidable obstacle for the little robot’s attacks. While she was thus engaged, Luke spent some time with his mentors.

He remembered how Yoda had objected to training him because of his age. As his twin sister, Leia was now older than Luke had been at the time. He wanted to be certain there were no such concerns. Yoda finally told him of the prophecy, and that he and his sister were both the children of the Chosen One. Nine hundred years of wisdom told the Jedi Master that age was not a concern when it came to the twins; in fact, very little was.

While Luke was having this conversation, dawn broke over Endor. Coming from the Falcon and coming upon the clearing where Leia was training, Han could barely believe what he was seeing. Moving silently, for fear of distracting his blinded lover from her duel with the remote, he was quite startled when she turned briefly toward him and addressed him by name, wishing him a good morning. His reaction was almost predictable.

Cocking his jaw questioningly, he inquired, “You too?”

Surprising both Han and her instructor, who had just completed the meeting with his mentors and was approaching to assign a new exercise, Leia slashed her way through a series of rapid-fire laser blasts as she quickly closed on the remote. Though it should not really have been possible to outmaneuver the robot in such a way, she cleaved it cleanly in half. It emitted an extremely short-lived mechanical scream as its smoldering sections separated before her onslaught.

“Good thing R2 and 3PO weren’t here to see that!” Han observed, teasingly scolding her. “But then again, you always have been kind of hard on droids, haven’t you?”

Removing the helmet with one hand while deactivating the lightsaber in the other, all in one fluid movement, she impishly asked in reply, “You did bring breakfast, didn’t you?”

Showing her his empty hands as he shrugged, Han turned to Luke, asking, “What is going on here? Last night, as her attitude obviously still implies, she was a princess. And now, she is a Jedi knight?”

Suggesting that breakfast was indeed in order, Luke patiently explained the situation to Han as the trio headed for the Millennium Falcon. Leia watched in silent concern as a range of extreme emotions played out across the spaceship captain’s face. However, he seemed uncharacteristically at a loss for words as Luke finally concluded his account.

Having boarded the familiar ship and programmed the dispensers according to their respective selections, Han Solo sat in silence for several moments before finally asking, “So, unless you aren’t completely successful in everything you’re about to attempt, then she may never even have to use her new powers?”

“My mentors are developing a much more complete plan,” Luke carefully answered, not wanting to dash his friend’s misplaced optimism any more than he wanted to confess that he was now at odds with the Council. “I don’t yet understand its particulars. Leia and I will rest for a few hours; and then, we will resume training. Tonight, I hope to be able to present her to the Council. After that, we should have a much better idea of the parts we might each have to play.”

By his presence, after Luke and Leia arose, Captain Solo gave his silent support to the various exercises that consumed the rest of the day. When evening came, since he understood that he would not even be able to observe all the participants and really had no place at such a gathering, Han remained inside the ship while Luke and Leia headed for the clearing. They quickly learned that the Jedi Council did indeed have a plan.

“So, Princess Leia, we finally meet,” said Obi-Wan, bowing. “As I’m sure you know, I honored your request for assistance; and now, I must ask for your aid. Unfortunately, the Star Killer cannot be scuttled immediately after it’s used to destroy the Kamino system. It is the best chance of drawing the clone away from Coruscant. Luke probably wouldn’t be able to reach the central systems after destroying the Star Killer anyway. All the Imperial Fleet will surely be sent to intercept him, but the Star Killer could eliminate most of them instead while they’re disabling it. After that, the Emperor will probably board it to try and take it from Luke. We need for you to go to Coruscant and change a transponder code to summon any remaining Jedi. We’re also hoping that you can use your father’s influence to recall the Galactic Senate.”

Luke was grateful that his mentor didn’t mention the fact that the Council didn’t truly approve of his plan. But being confused by the assignment that was being given to Leia, he objected, “Yoda, I thought I was the last of the Jedi. Isn’t that what you said?”

“Different my vantage point now is,” Yoda answered. “Escaped some of the Jedi did. Changed the code to warn them did Obi-Wan and I. Joined us now they have, due to old age, but apprentices some took and trained. If called upon they now are, come they will to defend the Senate.”

“Obviously, this all totally depends on your ability to defeat the Clone Emperor,” said Obi-Wan. “And your father will provide you with additional training to help you overcome such a servant of the Dark Side once you’re underway to the Star Killer. But for now, you need to focus only upon instructing your sister.”

“My Masters, if I may be so bold as to ask,” began Leia, carefully pausing to receive nods of approval before continuing, “where must I go to change the transponder code?”

“The Emperor transformed the Jedi Temple into a museum, with himself serving as curator,” Obi-Wan answered. “It was an odd thing to do, considering how urbanized and industrialized is the rest of the planet. When the facility fell into disuse, he must have had plenty of highly profitable offers regarding its possible renovation. We think he must have wanted to keep it as a trophy. The server for the transponder system is in the basement. Once you’re close, we’ll guide you to it.”

“There is a matter of considerable importance that I think we need to discuss,” Luke said insistently. “The Clone Emperor could contact me at any time. I am going to have to appear to acquiesce to this awful apprenticeship. Deception is a design of the Dark Side, and he is exceptionally perceptive. I know the idea for this plan was mine; but now that it comes to it, I’m uncertain of my ability to truly deceive him.”

“Clever your question is, and wise are you to wonder,” Yoda answered, nodding in obvious appreciation of the inquiry. “Honesty you must employ in your persuasion of the Clone Emperor. But consider this you should, are not indeed murderous your designs?”

“I see your point, Master,” Luke carefully agreed. “However, my intent includes his assassination. Just because I present the side of myself that is resigned to eliminating others, I’m not sure he won’t also see that part of my plan.”

“Expect it he will,” Yoda replied. “Doubtful am I that any apprentice of the Dark Side entered into the service of a Sith Lord without also intending to replace him. Balance the two sides of the Force must you, as only have we ever seen you do, if finally dissuaded from this dangerous course you cannot be.”

“Fear of failure is not an option,” Obi-Wan agreed, holding Luke’s gaze. “And we will have an alternative plan in place just in case. If this Emperor should succeed in wresting control of the Star Killer away from you, it’ll hopefully be too damaged to be an imminent threat; and, with it, you will also have almost entirely eliminated the Imperial Fleet. Then, it will be up to the Alliance to engage and eradicate what’s left. With the Jedi surrounding the Senate, even if Darth Chrysalis should somehow survive the conflict and return, they may be able to hand him his final defeat and restore the Republic.”

At the risk of alarming Leia, Luke quietly suggested, “It might be possible to destroy the Star Killer as soon as he comes aboard to fight me for it, thus assuring the outcome.”

Luke could feel the tension in his sister as he suggested such a desperate course of action. But she rightly remained silent as she awaited the Council’s reply. It appeared as if Obi-Wan were about to speak. The siblings had both seen him sacrifice himself on the first Death Star. But Yoda raised a green hand and silenced the specters all around him.

“Believe in your ability to defeat the Dark Lord you should. Foresee your failure you should not,” he insisted. “Prepared however your astrodroid could be to perform such a final service, if unexpectedly the need were to arise.”

“Of course, Master Yoda,” Luke agreed just as casually as he could. He could sense how relieved Leia was by the wisdom of the Grand Master’s ruling. The ethereal eyes of Anakin were aglow, and even Obi-Wan appeared placated.

“At some point, you must remind me to tell you about my many adventures with your astrodroid,” Anakin added. “Obi-Wan and I both had our skins saved on no small number of occasions by that little droid. I’m glad you’re now able to rely on such assistance.”

“You’re acquainted with R2-D2?” Luke incredulously asked. But before Anakin could respond, he added, “But wait a minute. Now that I think about it, R2 originally insisted on being the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re saying all three of you actually have some kind of history together?”

“I actually programmed R2 to look for Obi-Wan in order to give him the plans for the Death Star,” Leia volunteered. “But my father had told me about their prior relationship.”

“I suppose you would be even more stunned to learn that I am the one who actually built C-3PO,” Anakin added. “After I left Tatooine, to go and be trained as a Jedi, C-3PO and my mother both became servants of the Lars household. Both droids were with your mother and me when we went to Geonosis, which is where the Clone Wars began. They remained in our service until we were ultimately separated on Mustafar, and that was the last time I ever saw her.”

“Senator Organa had the protocol droid’s memory wiped, which is why C-3PO didn’t recognize your home on Tatooine,” Obi-Wan interjected. “But both droids had been there before.”

Returning to his father’s last statement, Luke asked, “How’d you and my mother get separated on Mustafar?”

Anakin perceptibly paused before finally replying, “I tried to kill my mentor, Obi-Wan, and fortunately failed. At the conclusion of that duel, I’d never have believed that I would live and she would die. I wish it could have been otherwise; but then, we would not have this chance to finally restore balance to the Force.”

“Luke, return to your Padawan’s instruction now you should,” Yoda concluded.

“Thank you,” Luke and Leia answered in spontaneous unison as they ceremoniously bowed before the vanishing specters.

The training session that followed was brief, but very intense. Neither of the siblings had enjoyed much in the way of rest since the destruction of the Death Star. Since Leia was progressing so well, Luke deemed it appropriate for them not to risk exhaustion. He needed to be sure that he was strong enough for his upcoming encounter with the Clone Emperor. He felt certain that it would be very soon. Not surprisingly, he was unmistaken.

No sooner had he said goodnight to his sister, leaving her to spend quality time with Han aboard the Falcon, and turned to make his way towards the commandeered A-wing than he was subjected once again to the Clone Emperor’s unnerving image. Evidencing his murderous intent in accordance with Yoda’s suggestion, he informed the Sith Lord of his decision to accept the offered apprenticeship. He was unsettlingly certain that all his other ambitions were also appallingly evident, but the clone’s reaction was unreadable.

“Your real reasons are irrelevant,” sneered the insidious shape. “Once you’re under my tutelage, you’ll come to appreciate the correctness of this course. The power of the Dark Side is the ultimate instructor of the Sith. The Star Killer is in orbit above Geonosis. Its crew has been informed of your imminent arrival. Whatever star system you choose to obliterate will help bring peace to the Empire; therefore, show no remorse. Know that you are required to kill in order to truly ally yourself with the Dark Side. Fortunately, this initial assignment actually accomplishes both aims; and, as a consequence, you should experience no conflict in completing this task. Come and join me on Coruscant after you have finished.”

Many thoughts crossed through Luke’s mind at the conclusion of that conversation. He considered an immediate lift-off; after all, he was on his way to the same ship that he intended to take to the rendezvous. It would also, although unfairly, save him from what were sure to be some very difficult goodbyes. Both droids were however on the Falcon. He needed to take R2-D2 with him. It would raise suspicions to unexplainably summon the astrodroid.  He also found that he really wished to enjoy one last night surrounded by the idyllic environs of Endor. Climbing aboard, he sealed the hatch, stretched out on his bunk, and dreamed of a universe where any form of oppression was utterly unknown.

Even under normal conditions, sunrise over Endor would be almost too breathtaking to describe. The debris from the Death Star had been dissipating for days. Little was left of its solid rubbish in orbit; but the dwindling dust cloud was still producing a spectacular, multi-hued halo around the ascending alien sun. As Luke lowered the landing-ramp and walked out from the A-wing into the dazzling dawn, an envoy of Ewoks approached and greeted him. Their furry faces looked almost artificial in the curiously colored light.

As Luke was well aware, the natives were quite enamored of Leia. Eventually, they came to understand that he, and not C-3PO, was really the source of the magic they had witnessed. From afar, as they were on their way to visit Leia and all their other friends on the Falcon, they had observed her training in progress. Understandably uncertain of their situation, they had elected to stay at a distance. Now that there had been an interruption in the intense schedule, they decided it was time to come calling. They were not alone.

Han had taken care of informing the rest of the rebels about the Clone Emperor and the Star Killer. As he slowly came to understand the siblings’ emergent scheme, through his sporadic conversations with Leia, he had also relayed that information to all the other leaders of the Alliance. After learning the outcome of their meeting with the Jedi Council the previous evening, General Solo had called for a special briefing. Everyone wanted to display their willingness to do whatever was now required. An impressive army of rebel soldiers was with the Ewoks, and they had brought breakfast.

He had been so fixated on instructing his sister, there had not been time for Luke to understand just how much he was missing the friendship of his familiars. Bear hugs and boisterous back slaps abounded as the smiling assembly enveloped him. At length, Han finally managed to move alongside the Jedi Master and explain that the show of support had been at his suggestion. Although Han did not understand the immediacy, he knew it would not be long before Luke had to leave. Han thought it would be wise to provide him with the opportunity for a speech before the anticipated departure.

As Luke was filling his plate with food, Wedge Antilles came alongside him, saying, “These Emperors must all be idiots. They keep building doomsday weapons and we just keep destroying them. You’d think they would finally see how pointless it all is. You know the old saying though – third time’s a charm. Maybe the destruction of this Star Killer will ultimately bring an end to the Empire. And then, I guess we’ll have to go out and get real jobs!”

Luke laughed uproariously. And it felt good to do so. He had forgotten how flippant some of his friends could be. Stepping into the buffet line just behind them, at that point, Lando Calrissian chuckled too. Chewbacca was right behind him.

The former owner of the Millennium Falcon gestured at the Wookie and said, “You might just want to warn our mutual friend about that. Han would probably rather face the entire Imperial Fleet that be consigned to such a fate. I guess there’s just no accounting for tastes. Poor Chewy.”

The Wookie did a wonderfully good job of making the subsequent collision look like an accident; but, by the time Lando had regained his footing, Chewbacca had assumed his place in line behind Wedge. The commander of Rogue Squadron was so amused by these antics that he nearly upended his plate of food. Nobody took the slightest notice of the almost imperceptible movement of Luke’s hand or the way the contents of Wedge’s plate defied the force of gravity and remarkably remained in place.

Han and Leia joined the foursome, bringing their plates with them. The conversation was lighthearted, especially considering the perilous campaigns they were each about to embark upon. Everyone was deeply aware of the many members who were now missing from their assembly. The series of successes, which they had enjoyed, had only come at extreme cost. However, they knew the best way to honor their fallen friends was not with long faces, but with revelry. And, as soldiers, they also knew how to excel in celebration.

The Ewoks excelled as entertainers. Some of them were going around and filling up everybody else’s goblets. Many were demonstrating some very demanding dance steps. Obviously, they all understood that at the conclusion of the banquet the rebels would all be on their way. They were attempting to keep their new companions around just as long as they could. Despite the attrition in their tribe, which had been considerable, they were celebrating as well. They had all seen the evidence of the Death Star’s destruction in the sky, and it made them feel as if they had participated in a war between heavenly powers. In fact, they felt quite justifiably as if they’d played a significant part in helping the power of good overcome that of evil. They knew they were living in their glory days and would look back longingly at the time that was about to end. So, they were trying to prolong it.

As the consumption and the camaraderie both began to taper off, Luke stepped part of the way back up the ramp of his ship, to put himself in view of everyone, and said, “As you probably already understand, the Emperor has unknowingly given me an opportunity to eradicate the cloning facilities in the Kamino system, bringing to an end the line of his dominion and his supply of Storm Troopers. He’ll have to regain control of his doomsday weapon. It will probably take the better part of the Imperial Fleet to disable the Star Killer sufficiently enough for him to be able to board it. In the process, I hope to almost entirely eliminate his armada. If he should succeed in killing me, and R2 is unable to destroy that dreadnaught, it’ll then be up to the Alliance to obliterate both the Star Killer and whatever remains of the Imperial Fleet. My sister’s mission is to recall the members of the Galactic Senate and secure them with all that’s left of the Jedi. Even with the Emperor away, she will probably need your help in reaching and then achieving her objectives on Coruscant. I encourage you to give whatever aid you’re able. To the restoration of the Republic!”

A chorus of cheers spontaneously erupted from all the onlookers. In response, Luke lifted his wooden goblet, obviously of Ewok design, and drained it, completing the toast. Han and Leia climbed the gangplank and lingered long enough to say their farewells as their two droids maneuvered through the crowd in order to make their way to the ramp. It seemed to C-3PO that R2-D2 was about to accept a suicidal mission. Many times had such seemed a most logical calculation, but on this occasion it appeared almost certain.

“R2, please do everything you can to keep Master Luke safe. It would be just terrible if anything where to happen to him,” the protocol droid insistently said. “And please take good care of yourself as well. Things simply would not be the same without you.”

The meaning of the stream of mechanical sounds that issued forth in response from the little astrodroid was unintelligible to all the other bystanders, but the humanoid robot seemed to be satisfied with the enigmatic answer. C-3PO remained near the base of the ramp, demonstrating with abrupt posture shifts something that looked like emotion, while R2-D2 slowly rolled up the incline. In the meantime, Chewbacca had taken advantage of the brief delay and joined Han and Leia on the A-wing, giving Luke a bear hug goodbye. Lando and Wedge had taken the opportunity to shake hands with Luke as the meal was coming to its conclusion. They stood at the base of the ramp beside C-3PO and looked on as the Jedi knight prepared to take his leave of Han, Leia, and Chewbacca.

Luke advised his three friends to evacuate the Alliance from the system. And as the trio was descending back out of the ship, each took the opportunity to pat the astrodroid on its domed head. As they did so, it whistled in appreciative response.

Having raised the ramp, Luke proceeded directly to the cockpit and began preparing the craft for liftoff. R2-D2 dutifully followed. Moments later, as the ship soared up into the sky, Luke angled the A-wing fins for flight. And after having completed the programming of the course into the navicomputer, he finally turned to R2.

“I’m going aft. I need to talk with some old friends,” he told the droid. “I need you to keep a close watch on the scanners. We’re in an Imperial A-wing, which would normally deter most marauders. But as far into the outer rim as we’re going, we could encounter some creatures to whom that might mean nothing. Inform me if anything approaches.”

R2-D2 obediently beeped its intent to comply with the request. Luke made his way to the rear of the craft. There, he entered a meditative state and summoned the specters of his mentors. In mere moments, he was communing with his old instructors: Obi-Wan and Yoda. Anakin was with them as well.

“Together, my father and I were ultimately able to defeat the previous Emperor; but I nearly died, and he actually did,” Luke stated matter-of-factly and as unemotionally as he could. “The successor has been intentionally engineered to be even more powerful. How then can I hope to overthrow him all alone?”

“Not alone are you in all this,” Yoda countered by way of correction. “The Force your ally is. Condone your scheme we do not. But withholding our help will only make matters worse. Act as your advisors we will.”

“Each of us engaged in combat with servants of the Dark Side,” Obi-Wan informed him. “Some of us were able to defeat them. The best way for you to truly understand the types of techniques involved requires us to directly show our experiences to you. Open yourself to our examples.”

 Through the eyes of Obi-Wan, Luke then witnessed the battle with Darth Maul. He felt his friend’s grief as Qui-Gon Jinn was slain before him. He saw how Obi-Wan Kenobi mastered his emotions and was finally able to turn a near defeat into victory. He watched with satisfaction as the separated sections of the Sith Lord slid down the shaft along with the peculiar weapon he had wielded.

From the perspectives of Obi-Wan and Anakin, and then Yoda, Luke saw the initial battle with Count Dooku, also known as Darth Tyranus. He was particularly interested to see how Obi-Wan and Yoda used different techniques to counter the Sith Lord’s attacks, Obi-Wan with his lightsaber and Yoda with a much more hands-on approach.

It surprised Luke to learn that Anakin had actually slain a Sith Lord. He watched with apt attention, through the eyes of each, as Obi-Wan and Anakin faced Dooku again. Obi-Wan’s early elimination from the fight left Luke immediately alarmed, but then he saw his father defeat and behead his foe. He recognized the man who ordered the execution. He had already seen this enemy in two different forms. And it was unsettling to see just how oblivious the Jedi Council was to the Chancellor’s true nature.

Anakin and Obi-Wan elected to spare Luke from witnessing their fateful encounter in the Mustafar system; but, although he had failed in his attempt to eliminate the Emperor, Yoda allowed Luke to witness that heartbreaking battle. Once it finally finished, they sat silently for several minutes.

“Not stronger are the servants of the Dark Side, only more opportunistic,” Yoda said, summarizing. “Defeat to them all did finally come.”

“Is there a chance the Clone Emperor is aware of how you’re all helping me?” Luke inquired, recalling a concern that had occurred to him earlier.

“Detect our presence this Emperor may, but our councils he cannot infiltrate,” Yoda said, reassuringly. “Shrouded however by the Dark Side are this clone’s intentions. And not yet revealed to his apprentice do I yet believe them all.”

“From what we’ve been able to discern, Dark Lords tend to test their apprentices in some highly unorthodox ways,” Obi-Wan explained. “He would have no misgivings about putting your life deliberately in danger, just to see if you really have the wherewithal to be his student. We’ve even heard of potential trainees being used to eliminate each other.”

“Promotion by proxy, ascension through assassination,” Anakin agreed. “That is, in fact, how I replaced Dooku; although I can’t say that I see its relevance in this situation.”

“Luke, from what you’ve told us, the Emperor called your command of the Star Killer your first assignment,” Obi-Wan continued, choosing not to directly respond to Anakin’s statement. “This may be a test for you in more ways than we’re expecting. He will accept nothing at face value. Doubtfulness to him is almost a weapon. It failed him in the matter of your father’s last-minute betrayal. He will not make that mistake again. You are almost certainly walking into some kind of trap.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” Luke anxiously asked.

“Spring the trap,” Obi-Wan simplistically replied.

“He cannot believe that you’ve turned wholeheartedly already,” Anakin added. “You resisted that impetus on the Death Star. But you must convince him that you have such a propensity. Whatever happens, you have to respond with aggression. Be empowered by your anger. Unless you demonstrate that tendency, perhaps repeatedly, he will reject you as his potential apprentice. You must set aside remorse, kill without conscience, and be helped by your hatred. To really balance the Force in this way, embracing an alliance with both of its sides, has never before been achieved. But you must use the darkness to hide the light of your true intent. This is how he failed to understand that I had become a danger to him. If there is a shortcoming in the teachings of the Jedi, it is this: it is not evil to deceive the darkness.”

“This lightning Dooku and the Emperor unleashed,” Luke tentatively began, “I didn’t see any of that in the duel with Darth Maul or in either of my encounters with you. Could you explain why?”

“Some of my abilities were biologically compromised,” Anakin explained, “although I could still deflect laser blasts with my mechanical hands. I honestly believe the Emperor foresaw my disfigurement, and he allowed it to happen so I would no longer be capable of confiscating his kingdom. It may be that Darth Maul was simply not strong enough yet with the Dark Side of the Force to utilize such offensive options. In order to achieve such ability, you’d have to become altogether evil. You must find some other way to defeat the Emperor. Be aware that it’s also possible to strangle somebody by using the Force.”

“Listen to your father you must,” Yoda insistently agreed. “Swallowed up by it are all who thirst for power. To such a dark end you must not allow yourself to be led. Become the next Emperor you would.”

“I have now seen that electrifying ability thwarted both with and without a lightsaber,” Luke replied. “And I’m much more optimistic about facing the Emperor again. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me.”

Most of his ephemeral instructors dispersed. But Obi-Wan and Anakin stayed as did another member of the Jedi Council, a man whom Luke knew as Master Windu. They all had specific techniques that they wanted to be sure he had indeed apprehended.

“Levitation is only one aspect of how the Force can be used to defy gravity,” Windu began. “Some of the gymnastics you used in your final fight with your father come close to what I’m talking about, and the option you used in order to ultimately escape from him at Cloud City may come closer still. It is possible for a Jedi knight to almost approximate flight, and the ability to execute a death-defying leap can create an unexpected means of escape. In fact, it can even leave your enemies to assume that you met your demise.”

Master Windu then allowed Luke to experience, first-hand, the incredible bound he had performed from the platform and into the arena on Geonosis, all while removing his flaming garment. Obi-Wan shared the example of how he and Qui-Gon had leaped down from a lofty ventilator shaft and into one of the landing bays of a Federation ship. He also showed Luke how supernatural speed, yet another application of the Force, had enabled them to escape from a pair of destroyer-droids. Master Windu asked Luke to excuse him at this point, leaving Jedi Master Skywalker alone with Anakin and Obi-Wan.

“Using the Force, you can also create a concussion wave,” Obi-Wan continued. By way of example, he showed Luke the final confrontation with General Grievous. After he had stripped the cyborg of most of his lightsabers, Obi-Wan had then hurled his enemy into a distant wall with such a wave. Luke was also able to see how this same technique had been very effective on several occasions against battle-droids.

“I was a fool to let Dooku use levitation against me the way he did in that last battle,” Obi-Wan continued. “You must always be aware of the Force around you. A concussion wave can be used to nullify the effects of such a levitation attack, but only if you counter it before you are in its grasp. I’d have died that day had it not been for your father. Learn from our examples and, most of all, from our mistakes. These techniques could make all the difference in your encounter with the Emperor. And there is one other thing.”

“What’s that, Master?” asked Luke.

“There are ways to use the Force between yourself and the surfaces that surround you,” Obi-Wan replied. “You did this on impulse when you attacked Jabba’s ship as you did, climbing up its side when there really was no purchase for your hands or feet. It was a similar method that allowed Anakin and me to keep from being sucked out into space when General Grievous smashed one of the windows on the bridge of his ship. You can sometimes use it to disguise your presence, especially from those who aren’t particularly perceptive, and blend into the background. This application served me well on a number of occasions, including our incursion of the first Death Star; although I doubt that it’ll help hide you from the Clone Emperor. Like the old Jedi mind trick, it really works well only on the weak-minded. Now, you need to rest. You have a very busy day ahead of you. And I need to return to your sister’s training. She is also being instructed in these techniques.”

“Thank you for all of your additional instruction,” said Luke. “I now have a great deal of peace about the coming encounter. And I realize that you and the rest of the Council are also instructing Leia, so I suppose I shouldn’t keep you. I’ll contact you again, soon.”

“The Force will be with you, always,” Obi-Wan answered before disappearing again into its netherworld, leaving the father and son alone.

“No matter how repulsive this might be for us both,” Luke hesitantly said, “I need to understand what happened to you.”

“My fall was actually facilitated by a series of bad decisions, several of which were in direct disobedience to specific instructions,” Anakin answered. “I will try to outline for you just how I was led astray, for led I most certainly was. I regarded Chancellor Palpatine as a mentor, which I’m sure is precisely what he intended. And I wasn’t able to see through his cloak of deceit any better than my superiors.”

“How did it begin?” Luke pressed.

“Padme Amidala, your mother, was the Queen of Naboo when we first met,” Anakin wistfully replied. “After rotating out of that office, she served as their representative to the Galactic Senate. Obi-Wan and I were assigned to protect her after an attempt was made against her life. When it became clear that the plot was much more complicated than we had assumed, he was dispatched to determine its source while I was sent to escort her back to Naboo. The Jedi Council believed it would be easier to safeguard her there, and my mandate was to do exactly that.”

“But that’s not how it worked out?” asked Luke, intuitively leaping to the conclusion.

“No,” Anakin uneasily answered. “I’d been having nightmares about my mother, your grandmother, for some time. They became distractively intense while I was on Naboo. In my rashness, I told Padme that I was going to have to leave her in order to try and save my mother. When she told me that she’d go with me, I thought that made it okay. But we were both disregarding the Jedi Council’s instructions at that point. And so it was that we went to Tatooine. After tracking my mother, Shme, to the Lars residence, we discovered that Tusken Raiders had kidnapped her. I went after her alone. I finally came upon her in the very last minutes of her life. She died in my arms. And in my anger, I killed the entire tribe; men, women, and children.”

“After the Alliance fled the Hoth system, I was trained on Dagobah by Master Yoda. While there, I had a disturbing vision of Han and Leia in danger,” Luke pensively replied. “I believed that I needed to interrupt my training in order to go and save them. Yoda and Obi-wan, who’d already transformed into the Force, both tried desperately to discourage me. I wouldn’t listen. This is what brought me to Bespin and Cloud City. As I’m sure you know, nothing good came of that diversion either. I lost my hand. What happened next?”

“Obi-Wan tried to contact me on Naboo, only I wasn’t there,” Anakin admitted. “But Padme and I went to Geonosis, thinking we could get there first and rescue him. Again, we essentially circumvented the Council’s instruction. We consequently found ourselves in the middle of the Clone Wars. And as if that wasn’t bad enough; when Obi-Wan and I caught up with Count Dooku, I raced to engage him in combat. If I had only followed my Master’s lead instead, perhaps it wouldn’t have cost me my arm. When we survived that initial battle, I was sent to escort Padme back home to Naboo. We were secretly married there, totally contravening the Jedi Code, despite our prior agreement to the contrary.”

“That must’ve made your lives quite complicated,” Luke ventured.

“Exactly as she’d said it would,” Anakin agreed. “She also said it would destroy us, and maybe it did. Not long after she told me she was pregnant, I began having dreams about her death. In my visions, she died in childbirth. I became obsessed with finding a way to keep it from happening. Somehow, Palpatine became aware of our relationship and my fears about our future. When he revealed himself to me as a Sith Lord, he also insisted that he alone could help me save her. I had told Master Yoda something of my dreams, without revealing whom they were about. He told me to train myself to let go of all that I feared to lose. I was unwilling. I turned Palpatine over to the Jedi Council. But I could not force myself to remain behind while they went to arrest him, as instructed. And so, I came to the Chancellor’s chambers just in time to intercede and save him from the lightsaber of Master Windu. Believing the Dark Side of the Force offered the only answer for saving your mother’s life; I sided with an abhorrent abomination. I never guessed that I would become at least as repulsive myself. I thought I was saving Padme.”

“And having made that fateful decision, you saw no choice but to carry it through to its conclusion?” Luke asked.

“At that point, I had essentially sold my soul, opening myself up to the Dark Side and its most insidious deceptions,” Anakin answered with obvious anguish. “I was without the means to determine if my new Master had deceived me, nor could I dare to consider that he might. I simply accepted everything he said and I did whatever he told me. It was like ruling the universe and saving the woman I loved had become the same thing. I actually thought that the power of hate could somehow be made to serve the purpose of love. In my refusal to accept the possibility of losing Padme, I came to the point where I actually sacrificed everything else instead. And in the end I lost her love as well. She couldn’t be the burden for which the remainder of my humanity was traded. Of course, I should have seen it coming. All I could see however was what my Master showed me, because it was all I really wanted to see.”

“So, when we finally met, you had lived with remorse for almost two decades,” Luke concluded.

“Be very careful that you don’t give too much credit to what I’d become,” Anakin said in reply, surprising his son. “My only remorse was for the loss of Padme. Aside from that, my only option was to absolutely believe in the validity of my hatred. It defined me, giving justification to everything I’d done. I didn’t experience real remorse until I saw what I was doing to you. Like Padme, you believed in me. I couldn’t let you die for that too, although I had no idea how I’d live with the knowledge that all my choices had been wrong. It was really a blessing that I didn’t have to. Here, my faults have met their forgiveness. If such were not the case, I couldn’t even speak of these things to you. And I hope you’ll forgive me for drawing this session to a close. I’ve said enough for now. You must be given time to mediate on all that’s been disclosed. But you’ve only to call on me, Luke, if you need.”

Luke had only just recently awakened from the first really good night’s sleep he had enjoyed in a long while, so he elected to return to the cockpit. R2-D2 seemed grateful for the company as the familiar figure dropped into the pilot’s seat, greeting the spacecraft’s only other occupant with a series of electronic sounds. After smiling appreciatively at the astrodroid, he reached over and dimmed the interior lights. He then sat in the darkened cockpit and watched the starscapes slip by, recalling the dreams of his youth.

Despite not being tired, he managed to doze off. He was awakened by a sound from R2-D2. Moments later, after noticing a distant object on the scanner’s display screen, he heard the static burst of a signal coming in. They had entered the Geonosis system. The Star Killer was already discernible as a radar return, orbiting the planet before them. The signal was coming from the distant ship. A male voice abruptly announced itself over the ship’s speakers.

“We have you on our scanners,” the voice unemotionally droned. “Identify yourself.”

“This is the Imperial Shuttle Narcissus,” he rejoined, making the most of the fact that he was actually on the late Emperor’s ship, “commanded by Luke Skywalker. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are prepared to receive you, Commander,” the voice evenly answered although Luke believed he detected duplicity in the radioman’s reply. “Please follow the beacon to the designated landing bay.”

“I will need the officers assembled,” Luke authoritatively intoned. “We need to select an appropriate target against which to demonstrate the power of this battle station. Bring all of your latest intelligence reports. I need to know where the Separatist systems are.”

Luke was not lying. He wanted to know which star systems he should defend while drawing the Imperial Fleet into battle. And his request was, of course, the expected one.

As he maneuvered his commandeered vessel along the indicated approach path, he wondered what insidious reception actually awaited him. The communication officer was definitely withholding important information from the ship’s new commander. He recalled the words of Obi-Wan as he brought the stolen shuttle to a stop in the center of the bay: spring the trap.Start writing here ...
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