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After encountering Darth Vader on Bespin, Luke must accept the knowledge that his father is a Sith Lord. Meanwhile, an Imperial officer dreams of a past that never was, and a future that can never be.

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Inverse: n. something that is the opposite or reverse of something else.

Throughout the galaxy, as directed by the simple order of things, an endless battle of light against dark rages on. This clear-cut battle of nature - used in many an illustration - has always been, and always will be. It cannot be otherwise, because they are opposites and must always battle for control. One may seem to triumph over the other for a time, but domination can never be fully achieved—some remnant will always endure.

Somewhere, near the edge of an immense spiral galaxy, a small, brown planet glowed under the light of a binary sun system. The suns guided the planet in its long journey through space, and baked its surface until the only lifeforms that could survive on the surface were as tough, hardy, and pitiless as the planet itself. The planet was called Gala'shesh by its most ancient inhabitants, but was known as Tatooine on census records - when a census bothered to mention it at all.

The peoples of Tatooine had been in a constant state of upheaval ever since the first starship had entered the dusty atmosphere. First, the conqueror had overthrown the indigenous tribes, casting many of them into the deep desert and treating the few that remained as a subject race. And these newcomers had brought with them many things - new diseases, technology . . . slavery. Even the Jawas, the lowly scum, traders, thieves, wandering gypsies of the desert, looked with pity at the bent, scarred backs of the slaves, their blank eyes, and the way there never seemed to be any slaves older than a couple dozen years of age.

The Hutts were still the overlords on Tatooine at that time. Never the friendliest of creatures at the best of times, the dry desert air dried out their moist, spongy skin, aggravated their enormous eyes, and made them more irritable than ever. Thus, their slaves were even more scarred, bent, and fearful than the common lot.

One of these slaves was new to Gardulla the Hutt's palace, a young woman of no more than twenty years. She had dark hair, raggedly cut to just below her ears, and a soft cultured voice, though she spoke very little. She had been sold by a family that had no use for a semi-skilled mechanic, especially one who carried a child about with her always. Gardulla was pleased with the woman's skill, and she put up with the boy-child because he was quiet, and because he was already showing himself to have an almost instinctive knowledge of the inner workings of machinery. Such talent, when recognized, would become very useful in a slave, very useful indeed.

The mother had known the taste of the whip, and her brown eyes darkened as she considered her precious child under the same fate. She held her tiny son, rocked him, loved him with all her heart, but wondered endlessly how he had come to be. One night, when all was quiet in the palace, she crept close to the pile of rags her son slumbered on, one hand thrown over his eyes, and she stared at him until her eyes began to fill.

"I'm sorry, so sorry, Ani," she whispered, reaching out gently to touch his tousled fair hair. He stirred, but did not wake. She continued. "I never meant to bring you into this foul existence, when you were destined for the stars. I would never have cursed you to this fate." She mopped at her tears with one ragged sleeve. "If I only knew, my Ani, how it is that you came to be . . ." She sighed. "Anakin . . . who is your father? What am I going to say to you when you grow old enough to wonder? Will you believe me when I tell you the truth? Well," she said practically, for she was of a practical mind, "I may never know, and you are a living child, not a specter, and I must care for you. And I will always love you, no matter where you came from."

A sharp call caught her attention—a harsh, guttural voice calling for her: "Shmi!"

She looked once more upon the peaceful face of her slumbering child. "Sleep, my Ani. I'll leave the light on."

The dark, coming, is heralded by dark things; such as death. Death is the ultimate darkness—it is completely obscured. People fear the dark, as they fear death.

Innocents are hurt in these battles of light against dark. Sometimes there are many casualties; sometimes, only a few. The dark would have all believe that these are necessary; that for the good of the many, the few must be sacrificed.

Life is a harbinger of light. Life seeks to enlighten, and what a person knows, he cannot dread. When the light comes, everything becomes clear.

Dark is fear; light is the absence of fear.

As the light goes out, people huddle in the dark, reaching out to hold their friends and family. But what happens to the hands that reach, but find themselves alone?

Obi-Wan Kenobi stepped forward into his apartment, dreading what he might see; knowing it would be the same as the others. The morning sunlight gleamed silently off the bare walls, a tomb as surely as the rest of the temple was. He was careful so as not to make a sound—it seemed wrong now, to break the silence. Except—maybe, with just one word.

"Rosa?" he called. "Rosa?" He looked into her half of the apartment.

It was no different than he had expected and dreaded.

Little Rosa lay on the floor on her side, her 'saber in her hand. A single long, blackened slash across her chest spoke of how she had died—painlessly, that much Obi-Wan had, at least. Tears blurred the Jedi Master's vision, and she swam and twisted in his eyes, almost looking as if she was moving—Obi-Wan dashed them away.

"No," he whispered, dropping to his knees beside her. He began to speak, hardly knowing what he was saying."Not you. You can't have died—not you too. No . . . why did . . . how . . . no, no. You were my apprentice, my daughter. First Qui-gon, Siri, now you . . . you have to tell me—where Anakin is—he cannot be dead, he was much too good a duelist . . . please do not let him be dead too, do not leave me alone . . ."

His voice cracked and he bent, a few tears escaping his tightly closed eyes. He staggered to his feet, looking at the cold, pale corpse of his apprentice. "I'm so sorry I wasn't here to protect you," he whispered thickly. His eyes traced the singed arc the lightsaber had scythed across her chest . . . "If I were not a Jedi I would be able to avenge you. But I am a Jedi, and vengeance . . . I hope justice will be enough for you, Padawan. I hope . . . that I will be able to keep the distinction between the two."

A strange fact that few people of the Galactic Republic understand is how like light and dark the Jedi and Sith are. Destined, or doomed to fight wherever they meet, they each follow the side of the Force to which they have given their allegiance, and have the qualities of their respective sides.

Some wonder which is the stronger of the two—the light, with its boundless, ceaseless energy and swiftness, its terrible power and stunning beauty, its sharp-edged brilliance and color . . . or dark; ancient - ponderous almost - but cunning. Dark with its strange, entrancing promise of power, exotic and magnetic, but . . . terrifying at its heart. Colorless, cold, empty . . . yet alluring.

When the light and the dark clash, as they so inevitably do, there is nothing that can stop the ascension of one or the other, but where there is no balance, there is no order, and the galaxy is thrown into disarray. The light cannot completely illuminate any more than the dark can totally overshadow all things. But there are periods of great luminosity . . . and there are also times of deep darkness.

The little family trudged down the street in the midst of the procession, walking through the deepening gloom of twilight. The mother walked tall and straight, her brown hair gleaming in the last rays of the sun. A noise by her side attracted her attention, and she looked down to see her son choking on his sobs. Reaching over, she put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Long habit made him draw away from her touch, but after a moment, he stepped to her side as if seeking comfort. The people all around them walked on silently, heads bowed, clothing ruffling softly.

"Mother," he said, looking up at her with pain-filled brown eyes, "I don't understand. Why would the Jedi kill Aunt Padme?"

Sola Naberrie straightened, looking up ahead at the casket, floating in the air, containing her beautiful sister's cold, pale body. "I don't know," she said to her son, voice expressionless. No, she didn't know, not for certain. Bail Organa's message had been short, but she had caught an underlying thread of tension as he mentioned "the Jedi" who had always protected Padmé in her short, eventful life . . . in point of fact, Sola had known that the Jedi Order had taken Padmé somewhat under their wing, but the only Jedi who sprang effortlessly to Sola's mind in connection with Padmé was also a hero of the Republic . . . praises sung in every cantina from Coruscant to the Rim . . . the man who, although Sola couldn't prove it, was also the father of the children Padmé had hidden from the galaxy and who had died without even breathing their first breath . . . the man whose passionate, fiery nature had simultaneously frightened Sola and drawn Padmé to him . . . who, along with all the other Jedi, was now being hunted down by the new Emperor and his second-in-command, Darth Vader . . .

"Skywalker," she breathed, without realizing she had spoken aloud, but her thirteen-year-old son, walking close beside her, heard her. His breath caught, and he glanced first at his mother's face, then at the casket. Slowly, a terrible, burning anger seeped into his soft brown eyes, and his fists clenched.

Skywalker . . .

21 years later

Stars. Hundreds, thousands, millions, stars beyond count. Reaching into the vast reaches of space, pinpricks of light.

A soul of darkness stared out into the haze of the stars, eyes peering out from underneath the obscurity of a black hood, cold and calculating. A brief, chilling smile touched his withered lips as his mind felt the approach of another dark soul. Behind him, the door chizzed open.

"Lord Vader," he said, savoring the words. Mine. This darkness, I fashioned it. This life, I ruined; this soul, I maimed. Mine. I am Sidious, the subtle one. "You returned later than anticipated, my friend."

Vader did not answer, although Sidious felt the uncertainty in his mind as he walked with his long strides to stand just behind and to the left of his Sith Master. Sidious was a bit piqued by this silence, and by the apprehension in his apprentice's mind. "You found the Rebels?" he snapped, allowing some anger to creep into his voice. Anger. The mainstay of the Sith.


It was too quiet, Sidious suddenly noticed, and he snarled, "Lord Vader—your breathing apparatus?"

"My lord . . ."

Sidious stiffened at the sound of the long-forgotten voice. It was still light and husky, although the damage his lungs had sustained gave it a rougher edge. It was Anakin Skywalker's voice.

"I . . . was wounded, my Master," Vader—or was it another?-said. "A lightsaber wound on the organic part of my arm."

Sidious did not turn, but his mind began to gently probe, searching . . .

"I just, I healed myself," Vader continued. "I went further, and the damage, Master, it is all but gone . . ."

So familiar a voice. Once again, the breathlessness of a ten-year-old, the eagerness of a child. How dare you, how dare you, Sidious's mind breathed. You are no longer that, no longer him, you are MINE. "Vader," he said, cutting him off coldly, "you are in error."

"I . . . Master?" Vader said.

Sidious turned. His glacial gaze took in the four inches of curly dark hair, the gleam of wary blue eyes, the soft glint of the starlight off a jawline and a fuzz of stubble. "Grave error," he hissed. "You have forgotten what . . . such deeds . . ." he spat out the words, "can do. That is the path of the old Jedi Order, or have you forgotten?" He had found what he had been seeking within his apprentice's mind—a faint, a minuscule, a tiny breath of light. He advanced a step, and Vader took an unsteady step backwards, staring.

"No, Master, I swear—"

"Your pain reminded you of the folly of those ways," Sidious said, taking another step. Vader mimicked the movement in reverse. "Have you forgotten Padmé?"

"Master . . ." Vader choked out, tripping on the stairs and falling heavily to his knees.

"And your old Master, who gave you that pain, in his arrogance?" Sidious raised his hands. "Lord Vader, you disappoint me." Drawing upon the power that sparked invisibly all around them, he sent brilliant blue-white tentacles of fire flickering across Vader's pathetic, cringing body. Vader writhed, collapsing against the railing, the lightning dissipating across his cloak and over the floor, and breath hissed through his teeth.

"Master!" Vader screamed, "I—I'm sorry!"

I do not want you to be sorry, Sidious snarled inwardly. Sorrow is not of the Sith. He pressed harder, a terrible smile twisting his withered lips, and the lightning intensified.

With a final shriek, Vader collapsed, his body still twitching spasmodically as the energy pulsed through him. Sidious thoughtfully kept the lightning going for a moment longer, then released the power. Steam was rising from the breathing machinery on Vader's chest—or was it smoke? He was still breathing, but it was harsh and broken.

Vader jerked and his eyes slid open, glazed with pain. He looked for a moment at Sidious, then his gaze slid towards the window through which Sidious had been gazing when he arrived.

Anakin stared at the stars, and it was as if he were nine again, sitting outside his simple home, rejoicing in putting off his bedtime, marveling at the abundance of stars.

There are so many of them! Are there planets around all of them?

Probably. Sometimes, when he was alone, he still allowed himself to miss that long-departed voice.

Has anyone ever visited all of them?

H'm! Not likely.

I wanna be the first one to see 'em all!

Then the stars blurred, and pain dragged him into its dark depths.

Sidious knelt next to Vader, his greatest apprentice—greatest so far, a small voice told him. Vader was alive, in pain once again. I only give you the same gift as Obi-Wan, Sidious told the unconscious man silently. The gift of endless remembrance. You will not try something so foolhardy again—but you will not have to wear your mask always, anymore. Your "Jedi" tricks have ensured that.

He motioned to the Red Guard, and they came forward in unison, silent and watchful.

"Remove him from my presence," Sidious hissed. "Tell the medical droid to replace his breathing apparatus. And—when he wakes . . . inform him that I have news for him." He paused. "Tell him it concerns the son of Skywalker."

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