[A Round Robin by Selinthia Avenchesca (Imperial Vaders sections) & Valerie Vancollie (Dark Jedi's Palpatine, Vader, and Luke sections) ]
Emperor Vader strode down the corridor, his son at his side, speaking to the servant who hurried along after both Royals.
"The delegation will be arriving in the Imperial Hall in short hours. Make sure the Hall is readied for them."
The man nodded in agreement and ran off quickly, already planning, even as Vader turned to Luke and said, "Senator Organa has been raised to her Father's post." There was no emotion in his voice, but a sense of expectation hung in the air.
"Really?" Luke said in mock surprise. "No one saw that coming," he muttered.
"Indeed," Vader replied, "The Alderaanian councilors have been plotting for some time to raise her. They believe she shall be more pliable than Bail."
"She's too idealistic," Luke noted.
"That is true. But idealism has caused much trouble indeed, many times. It was the rise and fall of the Republic."
"Yes, well, at least the smugglers free reign along the space ways will be aborted," Luke said, pointing out a positive note to things.
"Han Solo has been chosen as their representative for this gathering,"
Vader spoke sourly. "A former Imperial Lieutenant. He was discharged for freeing a Wookie slave."
"Bloody traitor," Luke mumbled as they reached the doors leading into the Throne Room.
Luke Skywalker looked up sharply as he felt a disturbance in the Force. He immediately identified it as anotherís Force presence, but he also knew that it was neither his father's nor the Emperor's.
There were only two people it could be, as there were only two Jedi that his father hadn't taken care of yet. And since it was a human presence it had to be Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Just the thought of the man sent a blinding rage through Luke. His father had often told him of the Jedi's failed attempt to keep him hidden from his father and to raise him as a Jedi. Not only that, but it was also Kenobi who was responsible for his father's injuries.
Luke turned around, took his lightsaber from his belt, and started walking east through the forest. Before he had felt Obi-Wan's presence he had been heading for his TIE fighter hidden in a clearing further into the forest. He had just finished a mission for the Emperor, but he knew his master wouldn't mind if he was late because he had killed Kenobi.
Then he focused his attention at the matter at hand as he felt Obi-Wan sense him. He quickly moved forward and soon he reached another clearing. To the left of the clearing a river ran down some rocks and to the right there was a patch of warsperries bushes.
And right in front of him, standing at the opposite end of the clearing, stood an older man dressed in the robes of a Jedi, a lightsaber a his belt.
"Obi-Wan," Luke stated as he stepped into the clearing, activating his emerald-green lightsaber.
"Luke," Obi-Wan replied instantly recognizing the sixteen year old boy.
The Gathering in the Imperial Hall was full to bursting. Vader surveyed them with a sense of both satisfaction and disgruntlement. They were here, which was something, but the meetings would be long and tiresome, of that there was no doubt.
Luke was mingling with the as yet unseated crowd, greeting guests that he found interesting or amusing enough to mingle with.
There was Princess-Senator Organa, looking aristocratic and self-righteous, as usual. Her eyes opened wide in both irritation and indignation as Luke approached her with a mocking smile, greeting her as though she were his best friend.
There, of course, was the Representative from the planet Gerw with his attendance, sneering as his peers, thinking himself above them. So long as he did not think himself above Imperial influence, Vader did not care how much the man sneered, professionally.
Personally, however, aristocrats annoyed him.
A woman smiled as she saw him, laughed and approached with a smile, perhaps hoping to acquire some points with the - widowed - Emperor.
Vader grimaced inwardly and awaited her approach. Ever since his wife had met her end, various noble women across the Galaxy had tried for the eligible, and handsome, Imperial Emperor. Vultures, one and all.
As Luke approached him Obi-Wan reluctantly took his own lightsaber from his belt and activated it. He didn't want to fight Luke, it wasn't Luke's fault that he was dark. It was his fault.
Luke represented two failures to Obi-Wan, his failure to train Anakin properly and his failure to keep an innocent baby whose only fault were his genes safe from the evil ambitions of the greedy Emperor. If he had been able to keep Luke safe then the boy would have been able to grow up happily and free. Now instead he had grown up in darkness, grown up as a slave to Palpatine and the dark side.
Standing but a few feet in front of Kenobi Luke raised his lightsaber, making ready to attack. Obi-Wan reluctantly raised lightsaber, he had no idea what he was about to do but he knew that he wouldn't be able to bring himself to strike down Luke, no matter how dark the boy was.
At that moment Luke lunged forward and caught Obi-Wan off guard. Obi-Wan quickly backed off and set up a defensive position. They fought for a little, Luke delivering blow after blow while Obi-Wan retreated not even trying to return Luke's attack.
"What's wrong?" Luke asked after a short while, disgusted by Obi-Wan's refusal to fight him.
"I won't fight you," Obi-Wan replied. "I'm not going to kill my friend's son."
"Father isn't your friend old man," Luke said as his eyes blazed with anger. "Friends don't push each other into lava pits."
Obi-Wan flinched at the accusation and backed away as Luke once again lunged forward.
"Lord Vader isn't your father," he replied as he concentrated on blocking the boy's blows. "Anakin Skywalker was, but he is dead. Your father is dead."
"No," Luke replied. "Anakin is dead, but my father isn't."
With this Luke quickly changed tactics and nearly managed to take off Obi-Wan's arm, almost. Obi-Wan quickly changed back as he realized that he was going to have to do something or be killed. But suddenly the image of last time he had been in the same position rose to his mind.
He had been fighting Luke's true father, Anakin. He had just turned to the dark side and he was trying to get his student back. But Anakin had refused to listen him and he had been forced to strike his student down or be killed himself. So he had stroke Anakin down, but when he had done so Anakin had slipped and fallen into a pit full of cooling lava.
Now there were no pits of lava, but Obi-Wan wanted to make sure that he didn't hurt Luke any more then was necessary. But just as he was deciding on what to do Luke managed to get past his guard and cut his lightsaber hand off at the wrist. He called out in pain as he looked at his severed arm.
Luke looked at him, a slow, cold smile spreading across his face. He then brought his lightsaber up under Obi-Wan throat.
"It is time for you to join the other Jedi in death," he stated coldly but with a sense of pride. "But first, where is Yoda?"
Obi-Wan just looked at the boy he could have saved and trained. As he saw the pride and triumph in the boy's eyes he closed his own eyes in sorrow. This was all his fault, he had failed and Luke had paid the price. Anakin had fallen to the dark side too, true, but Anakin had had a decision in that choice, Luke hadn't. You are what you are raised to be.
"Where is Yoda?" Luke asked again, an edge to his voice.
"I wouldn't betray Yoda," Obi-Wan replied opening his eyes. "And I'm sorry I failed both you and your father."
At this Luke's anger boiled over the top and he instantly brought his lightsaber down on the man he hated more than any other in the galaxy.
As soon as the elevator door opened Luke Skywalker stepped out of the elevator and into the throne room. He then approached and ascended the stairs to find both his father and his master waiting for him.
As soon as his son stopped at the top of the stairs Vader saw the second lightsaber hanging from his belt. As he looked at it he recognized it to be the lightsaber of his former master and friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi. So his son had met with and defeated the Jedi, good.
Sitting in his throne Emperor Palpatine also noticed the second lightsaber at his apprentice's belt.
"Kenobi's?" he asked looking expectantly at the boy standing before him.
"Yes, my master," Luke replied as he unhooked the lightsaber from his belt and stepped forward to hand it to his master.
"Good," Palpatine praised as he looked at the lightsaber in his hands.
This meant that there was only one Jedi left, namely Jedi Master Yoda. But Palpatine wasn't concerned with the creature, he was an old Master and one who didn't even use a lightsaber. Besides he had the most powerful person in the galaxy standing right in front of him, ready to obey his every wish.
From the moment Vader had brought his new-born son before him Palpatine had known the boy was strong, stronger then even he was. Most people would have had the boy killed on the spot once they learned about his potential, but Palpatine was not most people. He had known that given the right training and upbringing Luke wouldn't even think of trying to over through him.
And so it had been done, he had trained Luke with an iron fist, not allowing the boy even a chance to think of double cross. And it had worked. Luke followed his every command without ever complaining and he was in direct competition with his father when it came to running the Imperial fleet.
As he put Kenobi's lightsaber on the armrest of the throne Palpatine once again studied Luke. And, as he had often done since the day he had decided to keep Luke alive, Palpatine smiled to himself knowing that he had made the right decision.
"My liege, it is good to see you well," the woman cooed at Vader.
"And why would I not be, Lady Fer," the Emperor inquired archly.
"Why, Majesty, I have heard of the recent assassination attempt. Awful, my Lord. Simply awful! It seems that the Rebels have not been completely destroyed."
"Indeed. Sometimes it is not necessary to look for a defeated Rebel faction in such incidents. There are more than they who would see me dead. Contenders for the throne, for instance."
The woman's eyes opened in shock - supposedly. No one could live at Court and not know the mechnications of power and nobility. It was very possible, considering that she had brought the subject up, that she had sent the now deceased assassin, herself.
"Horrors, Majesty," the woman simpered now.
"Yes, horrors. I am sure you would never have thought such a thing possible."
The woman spoke as though she did not know she was being mocked, when she very well did know.
"No, Emperor. It is an awful thing!"
"Yes. If you will excuse me, my Lady," Vader said, tiring of the pathetic game, as he always did, usually sooner than later.
"Yes, Majesty," the woman said in that same annoying simpering tone, batting her eyelashes in a pitiful attempt to be enticing.
Walking away, Vader tugged at the black silk of his fine coat, ice blue eyes flickering in annoyance. Luke was speaking still with the Princess, smiling mischievously at her anger. The match was becoming a contest of snarls upon her part, jabs upon his.
Luke seemed to enjoy these gatherings far more than Vader did, mainly because Luke had been raised to the Court and it's machinations. Outwardly, though, Vader's face showed nothing of his feelings, a blank mask as much as though he carried steel over his face.
There was something odd about that though. . .almost familiar. Though why that should be, Vader could not tell. For a single moment, he felt a stifling covering over his face, confining him, suffocating him. He had to resist the urge to claw at his head. And then it was gone. But Vader was not one to ignore these type of incidents. Perhaps it was prophecy ...
Three days later Luke Skywalker was once again in the Emperor's throne room. Only this time he was there to continue his training, for although he had beat Obi-Wan he still hadn't completely finished his dark side training. Right now he was practising against his father with his lightsaber, his favourite part of the training.
Palpatine watched as they fought. He could see improvement every time they practised and knew that it wouldn't be long before Luke would be beating his father. Even now it came close at times, but Vader always managed to get the upper hand in the end, but it was beginning to get more and more difficult.
Palpatine silently wondered what Vader's reaction would be the day Luke did win. He couldn't be sure, but whatever it was it would be most interesting to watch.
Luke kept his eyes on his father, letting the Force, the dark side, guide his hand as they fought. He had just gotten the upper hand in the battle when, suddenly, he wasn't in the throne room anymore. He was in a room full of people all dressed up, but, try as he might, he couldn't see the faces of the people, they were all blurry and unfocused.
Vader, not knowing anything was wrong, brought his lightsaber up and swung down towards Luke. At the last possible moment he realized that Luke wasn't going to respond and he quickly double pressed the button on his lightsaber. His ruby-red blade disappeared seconds before it would have hit Luke in the neck.
"Luke?" Vader asked, angry.
But Luke didn't hear him. As Luke looked around he could see the details of one person clearly. It was a tall man, with blonde hair and he was dressed in a fine, silk suit. Slowly the man turned around, and Luke kept his gaze on the man as he turned, unable to look away.
Palpatine had known there was something wrong with his apprentice even before Vader had, as Vader had been busy concentrating on Luke's movements and not his Force aura itself. But he had been. And suddenly Luke's Force aura had changed, he couldn't be sure how, but it had.
"Skywalker?" Palpatine said as he approached Luke, but he got no response.
Vader looked up as his master approached and then he looked back at his son. Luke stood frozen in place, his eyes clouded and unfocused, it was almost as if he were looking at something he couldn't see.
"Luke?" he repeated.
Slowly but surely the man in the crowd turned. Luke quickly looked around at the other people in the room, but none of them came into focus. Then he turned his gaze back to the one man who did come into focus. He saw the face of the man for a second before everything disappeared, but a second was all he needed.
"Luke?" Vader repeated starting to get irritated.
Suddenly Luke's head snapped up, he dropped his lightsaber to the floor and he took a step backwards, all in the space of a second.
"What?!" he asked startled and confused.
"What happened?" Vader demanded as the Emperor came up and stood before his son.
"I...I'm not sure," Luke replied shaking his head again. "One moment I'm fighting you and the next moment I'm in a room full of people."
"A room full of people?" Palpatine demanded.
"Yes," Luke replied looking at his master and nodding his head. "I seemed to be among a delegation of sorts, but everybody in the room was blurry."
"Nobody was clear enough for you to recognize?" Palpatine demanded, still trying to figure out what had happened.
"Well..." Luke began and looked at his father.
"There was one man, who first had his back to me, that I could see clearly," Luke explained.
Listening to the conversation Vader stood silently, lost in thought. He had no idea what had happened to his son, but he hadn't liked the look Luke had given him when his master had asked if hadn't recognized even one person.
"He had his back to you at first?" Vader asked.
"Yes," Luke replied looking at his father and the back to his master. "While I stood there he slowly turned around and faced me, I got a look at his face just before everything went black and I returned here."
"And who was this man?" Palpatine ordered.
"He...well....I think," Luke stammered.
"Well?" Palpatine demanded with an edge to his voice, he didn't like the fact that he was unable recognize what had just happened to his young apprentice.
"He looked similar to me, but he was older and had blonder hair."
Vader froze at this, him! Luke had seen him, without a mask and armour! Palpatine, too, instantly knew what Luke was thinking without actually voicing it. He quickly turned around and headed back to his throne, Luke and Vader followed him.
"You will tell if this happens again," Palpatine ordered once he was seated in his throne.
"As you wish my master," Luke replied bowing his head.
Princess Leia Organa's face was so red it could have competed with a beet for pigment. Prince Luke Vader was on the verge of laughing aloud in hilarity and contempt.
She was so easy to bait, he thought derisively.
"Do you have a purpose in speaking to me?" Leia inquired icily.
"Why, a conversation between friends, of course," Luke replied.
Leia knew well that to insult Luke would be extremely dangerous, through both personal and political means. However, her temper did not want to be held.
"I do believe that I have had more than enough of your overbearing attempts at humour and subtlety. If you have nothing relevant to say, I suggest that you leave my side. Now," the Princess snapped, summoning every inch of royal haughtiness within her being.
Luke's eyes narrowed in a tenuous mixture of disdain, annoyance, and amusement, and he opened his mouth to speak. Just then, however, he caught a glimpse of his father, walking by, dignity and power in his step, as ever.
But though his face revealed no emotion, there was cast a shadow over it, and for a moment, Luke almost thought that he could see a mask. Black, metal.
What?! wondered the Imperial Prince.
A moment more, and the room seemed to sway. And then his father was surrounded by a gaggle of Nobels, merchants, Senators, and various other dignity's. The strangeness was gone. But Luke was concerned. This must mean something.
"Your highness seems to have become distracted," Princess Leia's voice was very near a sneer at the moment, distracting Luke. Turning away from his father, Luke once more turned his eyes upon the Princess.
So predictable, he mused. Insisting that I leave, and yet reaching for my attention when I ignore her. So transparent. Always needing to be the centre of attention.
Indeed, that was how she had always been, as long as Luke could remember.
Though Leia lived upon Alderaan, she often visited Coruscant with her father, the - now retired - Senator Bail Organa. Luke had encountered her many times while growing up, and in this, the year in which both would reach their twenty fifth birthdays, she had not once changed. Still had her nose in air. Luke chuckled and said, "Why Princess, I was simply taking a moment to admire the astonishing angle of your nostrils. Positively admirable!" he exclaimed, awaiting her reaction with glee, forgetting for the moment about the vision shrouding his Father.
It wasn't often that Lord Darth Vader removed his mask and the last time he had looked in a mirror had been so long ago that he couldn't even remember when it had been. But now he found himself in front of a mirror, ready to remove his mask. His son's vision had made him start to wonder, could it be that Luke had seen the future?
No, he had hired all the best doctors in the galaxy and they had all told him the same thing, there was no way he'd ever live without his breathing mask or armour, ever. But then where had Luke's vision come from? Someone as well trained in the Force as his sixteen year old son wouldn't just see a vision like that when it meant nothing, but the big question was WHAT did it mean?
Slowly but surly Vader began to take off his helmet. Once the helmet was off he placed it on a table next to the mirror in the air regulated room and then he took a deep breath before he started to remove the mask itself. Once he had the mask was off he held it up in front of him, blocking the mirror, before he lowered it to the table and looked up into the mirror.
A scarred and extremely pale face looked back at him. Since he hadn't looked in the mirror for so long it was only now that he noticed the Luke had inherited his eyes, sure he had noticed the colour similarity before, but there was something other then that... something, but he couldn't place exactly what.
Then, suddenly, everything in his vision but the mirror went black. Startled he looked around, but no matter where he looked the mirror stayed right in front of him. He looked at the mirror, wondering if this was the same thing that had happened to his son.
And as he watched the mirror seemed to stretched out, it was almost as if the mirror had turned into the entrance of a short tunnel. Then, slowly but surely, his image in the stretched out mirror changed. It happened so slowly at first that Vader didn't notice that anything was wrong until the dark smudges under his eyes started to fade before disappearing completely.
Astonished Vader watched as his image started to grow hair and attain a normal skin colour. By the time the image stopped changing he saw an older version of what he had looked like before his accident, just the way Luke had described. Then, as soon as he came to this conclusion, the image disappeared in the blink of an eye and he was once again standing in his room, his own reflection in the mirror.
The Imperial Hall was called to order in short order, indeed. Emperor Vader was most irritated, plagued as he was by the annoying intricacies of Court life. There were many times in which he wished that he was simply a pilot again, sailing through the blackness, grazing the stars. But the responsibility, and the glory, and hardships, all three, were his now, and there was that.
But nothing was so simple as "that was that" sounded. The representatives from factions, organizations, and nobility the Galaxy over were crowding the hall were here to present their cases, their offerings for favour, and to discuss the new order of the Galaxy. Vader had been Emperor for some seven years, since the death of Palpatine in the last Rebel uprising, but it had been a long while before the Empire was reasonably calmed down, and longer still until things were reorganized. Over the last year and a half, meetings with various factions, which Vader invited to discuss their concerns, in a show of good faith. The Empire was still the ultimate power over them all, but there was no need to repeat Palpatine's mistakes.
Vader's philosophy was to give the people an inch, and then reach out and grasp hold of them - hard - so they never had the chance to reach for mile.
Taking his throne, the Emperor nodded to the man standing at the bottom of the dais, who banged the gaffel on the marble floor, and called the gathering to order. Luke, standing at Vader's right hand, smiled mockingly at Princess Leia. Vader inwardly sighed. Luke's game with the Princess-Senator was becoming irritating.
"His Majesty, the Keeper of the Peace, the High Imperial Seat, the Face and Hand of the Imperial Empire, Emperor Vader, calls this gathering of the representatives of the multi-cultured factions of the Galactic Empire, to order. By the Emperor's grace, you may sit."
"By the grace of the Emperor," came the murmured response from the crowd as they took their seats, a smoothing of clothing and shifting of perches echoing throughout the room until silence reigned completely.
Vader's vision, though, blurred for a single moment, as he saw not the gathered crowds, but a darkened room, in which an old man in robes who looked much like Palpatine had at the time of his death, a slight young man with his back to Vader, and a dark clad giant dwelt. They were shadows amidst shadows, and seemed there only for an instant, but the instant was enough for Vader's eyes to meet the eye sockets of the dark giant, and in that moment, he was sure that the dark armoured man saw him, as well. And then it was gone, and he was left with the crowd before him staring at him, and Luke shaking him, trying to stir him from the stupor that had apparently lasted far longer than it seemed.
Palpatine waited in his throne room as he felt Luke and Vader approach. Last night he had felt the same disturbance in the Force as he had felt when Luke had had his vision, only this time it had been stronger and shorter. As soon as he had tried to reach out and touch it had disappeared.
Then the elevator door opened and Luke and Vader stepped into the room. They walked up the stairs and stood before him, waiting.
"Young Skywalker, since Viceroy Bail Organa has not done his best to keep his people under control and suppress the tales of the Old Republic and the Jedi you will go to Alderaan and bring his daughter back to Coruscant. Make it look like a normal kidnapping, without any signs of the Empire's involvement," Palpatine ordered.
"As you wish my master," Luke replied bowing slightly.
He had seen Princess Leia Organa on holos when he had last gone to Alderaan, she had seemed like a normal Princess, namely a pampered, snobby, and stuck up brat. He also knew that she was only slightly younger then him, maybe a by a couple of months, but in character she seemed like she ruled the galaxy. He'd have fun with this mission.
Vader caught the slight smile on his son's face and shook his head. He was about to say something when, suddenly, he thought he saw the man from the mirror again. Only this time he felt like the image saw him too. But, to his surprise, he saw the man, him, sitting on a throne and an older version of Luke stood to his right.
"Lord Vader!" Palpatine demanded as he felt the disturbance again.
Vader was startled out of his vision by his master's voice.
"Lord Vader, what did you see?" Palpatine demanded as Luke looked at his father.
"The same as Luke saw yesterday, only Luke was in it as well, an older version of him anyway," Vader replied not wanting to say anything about the fact that he had been sitting on what looked like the Imperial throne.
Palpatine regarded him for a moment as he thought. The fact that Vader and Skywalker were seeing the same thing meant that there was something going on, but what? Quietly he went over all the information in his mind.
Emperor Vader swayed in the his perch, meeting his son's concern filled eyes.
Luke subtly reaches with a hand and steadies his father in his seat.
"Are you are all right?" Luke inquired in a low voice.
Vader took a deep breath, counted to ten in his mind, and nodded, cautiously. "Yes, I do believe I am. However, this is a problem. It has a recurring bout of strange visions of a sort. Have you noticed anything?"
Luke hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. "I think so. It was a few hours ago. You were walking by, and there seemed to be a dark metal mask completely covering your face. The room swayed, and then it was back to normal. I sort of forgot about it. I was distracted."
"You were taunting the Princess."
"Like, I said," Luke grinned, "I was distracted," a moment more, however, and the mirth slipped from his face. "What do you think it is, Father?"
"I do not know. However, there is an entire gathering here to tend to," Vader noted, "And I've no time to wonder about visions. The Force will have to wait."
"Ha! That's what I've been saying for years," Luke said, just as quietly as he had been, but more pointedly. Luke, though well trained and talented in the Force, had many interests outside of Sith and Dark Jedi traditions, holding various ideas for the skills he wished to perfect. Though it was certain that he would be Emperor when Vader died, he was not so sure he wanted to be Dark Lord of the Sith.
His interests stretched in other directions.
"Indeed you have," Vader said.
A moment more, and the Hall was being reassured that all was well, everything was fine, the Emperor was quite in good health. A number of them, not surprisingly, looked disappointed. There were always those who looked to profit from the death of a ruler, especially one so high as the Emperor. Vader, though, kept the thought of the visions close to him. This did indeed bear investigation. And soon.
Sitting in the cockpit of a small but fast cargo ship Luke Skywalker thought. He was on his way to Alderaan to kidnap the Princess, but even though he liked the mission his mind was elsewhere.
In the last few days both he and his father had been getting these weird visions and he was worried about them. Neither he nor his father had any control over them, so he was worried that he might get one of those visions when he needed to concentrate on other matters.
Like if he got one of the visions while he was on Alderaan there was the chance of him being discovered and failing in his mission, which would mean that he'd be punished by the Emperor. And if his father got a vision at the wrong time then he might be embarrassed in front of the command crew of his ship.
Luke was then pulled out of his thoughts as the hyperspace timer beeped. Luke sat up, reached for the hyperspace levers, and pulled them back when the timer reached zero. His ship immediately jumped out of hyperspace and he then approached the blue-green planet of Alderaan.
"Kowalski's Pride, we have you on our screens now, what is your purpose and destination?" a voice over the com asked.
"I'm here to visit some family of mine at Aldera," Luke lied.
"Very well, do you want any information?"
"No," Luke replied rolling his eyes.
Alderaan was known as the heart of the galaxy, but Luke thought that it was one of the more pathetic planets. Weapons of any kind were forbidden to the population and no visitor was allowed to carry one either. They believed in peace and freedom, thus the problem with eliminating the foolish Jedi ideals.
Luke smiled to himself as he thought about the uproar Leia's disappearance would cause, no one living on Alderaan would even think it possible that someone would even think of kidnapping their precious Princess. It would be a real wake up call to them, until now they had gone about their lives pretending that the Empire didn't exist, ignoring it and continuing their lives as they had done during the Old Republic. But now it was time for them to submit to the Empire, and if they didn't Luke was sure his master would find an appropriate way to punish them.
He then landed his ship at the spaceport and went to the back of his ship. Although he was not yet a Lord he had appeared several times with his father on board the Executor and other places, so his face had become known to many. So just before he let down the ramp he used the Force create a fake image around him, this way anyone looking at him would see a well-off thirty year old man. The Force image also disguised his clothes and his lightsaber.
As he walked down the ramp to the weapons check he reached out with the Force and took control of the man sitting behind the control panel, because he couldn't use the Force to affect the machine itself. He walked through the machine and although it beeped he was allowed to pass.
Quickly he headed for the palace, forgetting the strange visions he and his father had been receiving as he concentrated on his mission.
The Emperor's blade made a sharp crackling sound as it met with extreme force against the blade opposite him. Vader and Luke had a standing appointment to engage in these practice sessions once every week, making room for them in all but the most unworkable situations. They kept them in shape when they were not engaging in actual battles, something that Vader had never stopped doing, even after he took up the duties of the Throne, and Luke had grown up with war in his own right. It was graven in their bones, the both of them. But that did not make these battles any less fun. Luke laughed as he skipped back, his slighter built allowing him to move at a quicker pace, thus avoiding his father's blade effectively. Luke's gold blade hummed as it skipped back from the crimson one before him, darted forward again, under, reaching for Vader's throat, and was batted backwards in a rush of strength and speed from the other man. Before more than an eyeblink could pass, Luke found his blade parried, and his back on the floor. His Father had tripped him to the ground. Vader grinned down at him.
"Well, it seems that I have won."
"I'd say so, but then you have greater experience. Being older," Luke smiled innocently up at the older man, who gave an incredulous snort, and heaved him up by his right arm.
"You should get to your own feet, young one," Vader said. Luke gave a scowl. He'd always hated that particular form of address.
"Okay, okay, we're even," he muttered.
"Even? I seem to recall you being on the floor," Vader retorted.
"Oh, whatever! Besides, we both know you can't play the piano, and I can. So, I guess I am better at you in something," Luke said lightheartedly.
Vader rolled his eyes in mock exasperation and said, "We both know you're better at other things as well. Such as making the faces of dignitaries turn bright red."
"I know," Luke lamented, "I'm sure you are dissatisfied with your own talents in that area. After all, you can only make them shake in their boots!"
Vader, getting into the banter, was about to reply, when suddenly, a strange tingling swept over him, bringing him deeper into the visions than ever.
* * *
The ebony armoured man swung about, cape flaring about him, demanding to know what was going on, the small, twisted, Palpatine-like man appeared in the corner of the scene, laughing, the younger, dark clad version of Luke was in a ship, flying through space, and then Vader saw once more the man in armour. Their eyes met. He was sure of it. Speaking was like running in jelly, but he managed it, the feeling stretched, surreal.
"Wwwhhhhhhhoooooooooooooo aaaaaarrrrrrrrrreeeeeeee yyyyyyyyyoooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?"
And then the vision disappeared, and he was once more in the training room, empty save for himself, and Luke, when he fell over on his face.
Vader was once again standing before the throne and his master when suddenly his entire vision went black. For a moment there was nothing but blackness until suddenly the ruby-red glow of a lightsaber just like his appeared and was shortly followed by the appearance of a gold lightsaber.
"Lord Vader!" the Emperor demanded snapping Vader out of the vision. "What did you see?"
"At first nothing, but then I saw two lightsaber blades one ruby-red the other gold," Vader replied a little angry that his master had snapped him out of the vision, there was more to it then just the lightsabers, he was sure of it.
"Gold?" Palpatine questioned knowing that the ruby-red one probably belonged to the older version of Anakin Skywalker, but a gold one?
"Yes my master," Vader replied just as mystified. "Maybe..."
"Lord Vader!" the Emperor demanded again as he felt the disturbance, but this time Vader didn't respond.
He was back in the dark room with himself and at the edge of the vision he could make out the vague shape of Luke. Once again his eyes locked with those of the man and for the first time Vader could actually sense the confusion radiating from the man.
"Wwwhhhhhhhooooooooooooo aaaaaarrrrrrrrreeeeeeee yyyyyyyyyoooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?" the man asked just before the vision disappeared and Vader found himself facing an angry Emperor.
"Well?" Palpatine demanded.
"I saw him, me, again, and Luke stood to the edge of my vision, just so I could tell he was there. Then I felt the man's confusion before he asked me who I was," Vader replied, feeling just as confused as the man from his vision.
Palpatine just nodded as he tried to sort this new information.
Luke looked in both direction before he knelt down and used the Force to jump to the top of the wall around the palace that was home to Viceroy Bail Organa and his family. At the top of the wall Luke looked around and saw that there were no guards in the garden.
"They definitely need a lesson," Luke said to himself as he jumped off the wall and into the gardens.
He quickly made his way to the palace itself and was just approaching an open window when he sensed someone approaching. Quickly he got behind a tree and waited for the guard to pass. As he did so Luke took at look at the weapons he had, a blaster that was set on stun and a vibroblade at his belt.
Luke snorted silently as he thought of the force pikes the Royal Guards of his master had, that and they were all fully trained in several hand-to-hand combat techniques. This was going to be an easy mission, even without the Force it would have been easy, the hardest part would be keeping the Princess quiet.
"We need to deal with this. Now," Vader's voice was decisive, his famous "Now means now" voice. Luke did not even try to object. He'd grown up with that voice, and knew what it meant.
Vader pulled himself into a cross legged position on the floor, and Luke followed suit.
"Look into my eyes," Vader spoke briskly, "We'll try the traditional methods first. Mind probes."
Luke nodded and concentrated on the blue of his father's eyes, mirroring his own perfectly.
"Okay," his voice was already falling into the serenity that came over him when submerged in the flows of the Force.
Crystal corridors stretched out before them both, sparkling, twisting, glittering, drowning them in calm.
Concentrate upon the visions, upon all possibilities, Vader's words were not spoken aloud this time, or even heard in the mind, but rather, felt in the soul.
Luke acknowledged the other without words. All possibilities...
* * *
There was a younger version of himself, walking across a brightly lit docking bay. He recognized the place. The spaceport in the capital city of Alderaan. His younger self was dressed in the somber, monotonous black that Luke remembered Palpatine always wearing, when the old Emperor was alive.
The lightsabre at his hip was designed differently, as well. The young man moved with a grimness and purpose that was off-cast by the slight grin on his face. He looked like a Dark Jedi. Luke, watching, grimaced. This was what he did not want to be. Caught up in the "dark destiny" tripe that he had always found so annoying. Luke preferred to be his own person, rather than a living metaphors.
The young Luke, around 8 or 9 years younger than the watching Luke was, let out a low chuckle, walking on. Luke's eyes followed the younger self for sometime, tracking his progress through the city. But it seemed blurry, and the next thing he knew, the strange Luke was in what the watching Luke recognized as the gardens of the Royal Palace.
And then Luke was running into a mental wall, and the younger man spun about, and let out a horrified scream, as though in agony. And he passed out onto the grounds. Luke saw some Alderaanians running up to him, and noticed a faint shimmer about him, as though something were fading away. Perhaps to do with the Force?
He didn't know. And then he was crashing into another wall, and agony was consuming him.
* * *
Vader's head was tossed back in incredible pain, and screams emerged from his lips. Luke heard those screams echoing his own. They had no answers, only more questions.
Luke awoke with a start as one of the Alderaani guards touched his arm. He quickly rolled about only to come face-to-face with the end of a blaster mussel. The guard holding the blaster gasped as he saw Luke's face and Luke instantly realized that his Force generated image was gone.
He quickly reached out and took control of the minds of all three guards around him, it was difficult, but he had to keep them from calling anyone else. For if they did he'd be in real trouble, both with the Viceroy and with his master. He winced as he thought of what his master would do if he failed.
"What?" one of the guards exclaimed as Luke's influence over him was lost.
Then the guard's eyes once again fell on Luke.
"Skywalker," he said recognizing the boy. "What are you doing here?"
And although the guard seemed calm and controlled Luke could feel the man's fear of him. He had been seen in the company of Lord Vader, the most feared man in the galaxy, so the guard knew he was dangerous. The guard's fear finally showed on his face when he saw the blank expressions on the faces of the other two guards.
His eyes opened wide and his hand went for his com. He picked it off of his belt, brought it to his mouth, and dropped it as Luke's emerald-green lightsaber sliced through him, killing him instantly. Luke looked down at the two pieces of the guard's body before he turned around to face the other two guards.
He was about to use the Force to make them forget what had just happened when he had an idea. His master had said that he wasn't to leave any signs of the fact that the Empire had been involved, so what better way to do that then make it seem as if some bounty hunter or pirate had done it? Smiling to himself he approached the other two guards and killed them both by slicing them in half.
The marks the lightsaber left behind wouldn't be recognized for what they actually were as nobody had any knowledge about lightsabers. Anyone examining the bodies would say that it was some new kind of weapon, which would make it look like a bounty hunter had done the kidnapping as they were constantly inventing new weapons to help them collect their prey.
Luke then used the Force to hid the bodies so that no other guard would stumble across them before he left the palace. He then stood where he was for a moment, wondering what had happened to him, he had just stepped out of his hiding place when he had felt a pain so great that he had screamed out loud before passing out. He had no idea as to where the pain had come from, but he figured it had something to do with the visions he and his father had been receiving.
He then cast his thoughts aside as he remembered his mission, the Emperor would already be displeased with what had happened, the last thing he needed to happen now was for him to be discovered again. Quickly he scanned the area with the Force before he walked back to the window and climbed in.
As he looked around the room he found that he was in a study. He then used the Force to make sure there was no one in the hall before he opened the door and headed for the Princess's chamber, putting up another Force generated image as he went.
Silently Luke opened the door to the Princess's chambers and stepped in. He looked around and saw that he was in the bedroom itself. He also noticed the door at the other end of the room and the light that showed through the space between the door and the doorframe.
Silently he went up to the door and waited next to it, sensing that the Princess was in the room by herself. A few moments later the door opened and Princess Leia walked out into her bedroom without noticing Luke.
Luke was pleased to see that she hadn't changed into her nightdress yet, it would have been a bother to drag her around in it. He stepped forward and reached out placing one hand over her mouth and pinning her arms to her body with the other. He felt her surprise as he took her from behind and smiled as she tried to break free from his grip, it was pathetic the way she struggled, it was all uncoordinated and Luke instantly knew that she had never been taught any self-defence.
"If you don't stop struggling I'll break your neck," Luke lied whispering softly, but threateningly, into her left ear.
Instantly she stopped struggling and remained frozen in place.
"Good," he said as he laughed softly just before he took control of her mind.
He then stepped back and headed towards the door leading to the hall. He stood still for a moment, sweeping the hall with the Force before he turned back to the Princess and ordered: "You will silently follow me."
"I will silently follow you," Leia repeated, a blank expression on her face.
Luke smiled as he left the room and headed back to the study, Leia following him silently. They only ran into one person on their way out and since Luke had sensed the servant coming he had taken control of his mind before he had even seen him and the Princess. They then made their way to the study, through the gardens and over the wall.
Using the Force Luke made Leia look like a non-descriptive woman whom nobody would notice or remember. They then made their way back to the spaceport and onto Luke's ship. Once on board Luke made Leia go into a cage he had on board and once she was in the cage with the door safely locked he released her from his influence.
"What...?" Leia asked confused.
She looked around, wondering how she had gotten here and then her eyes fell on Luke. Her mouth opened and closed several times as her eyes widened in surprise and terror. But then she seemed to regain control of herself and spoke: "Skywalker, what is going on?" she demanded using all the Royal haughtiness she had within her. "Let me out of here this instant!"
Luke just raised an eyebrow and smiled, amused. Seeing this caused the Princess's face turned a bright red and, for a moment, Luke had another vision. It was barley a second long, just long enough for him to see it before it disappeared. For an instant he saw the older version of himself standing across from an older version of Leia whose face was just as red if not redder then the face of the Leia in front of him. Then he was back on board his ship.
"You'll be sorry when my father is through with you!"
"We'll see, we'll see," Luke replied heading for the cockpit. "Although I doubt your father would be fool enough to stand up to the Emperor."
He then entered the cockpit and left Alderaan, heading back for Coruscant. Leia kept up a constant racket and when they were in hyperspace Luke got up and stormed into the chamber with the cage, no longer amused.
"If you don't shut that Royal hole of yours I'll shut it for you!" Luke warned nearing the cage.
Leia immediately closed her mouth and backed away from the bars as Luke approached. Satisfied Luke went back to the cockpit and fell asleep in the pilot's chair.
Princess Leia slipped along the corridors, silently following the white velvet clad form of Prince Luke. He seemed distracted, and Leia, who harbored no illusions about the quality of her skills in comparison to him, did not think that she otherwise may have followed him unnoticed.
But it was strange. Ever since the Emperor have frozen in the Hall, the delegation had been abuzz with rumours as to what may have happened. Both Vader and Luke seemed distracted, though the Emperor did not reveal any emotion in regards the situation, as usual. Luke, though, seemed concerned, and Leia, though she was not fond of the Imperials, grudgingly admitted that they were human, and that the Imperial Price had every right to be concerned about his father. Still... the Rebellion had been defeated years ago. Leia had to admit that ever since the death of the old Emperor, Palpatine, things had been steadily improving throughout the Galaxy. Vader seemed to care about what happened, if not so much about the beings he ruffled, and hurt during his reforms. There really was no need for a Rebellion anymore. But Leia had grown up on tales of the Republic, and it's end. She remembered vividly one of the only times she had actually had a serious conversation with the Imperial Prince. She had lost her tongue in a moment, and put on a speel about how the Republic was so much better than the Empire. Luke had eyed her flatly as said that he may not have been there, but that there were two sides to every story, that the Republic was no glorious dream, but a government, like any other. Leia had exploded that, if he had not been there, how was he to know. Luke had asked her how did she know it was, and then, without waiting for her answer, said, "History teaches us this. The Republic was rotting from the inside out. If it wasn't, it would never have been so easily replaced."
The argument went on for some minutes after that, but that statement remained in Leia's mind long after the rest had faded. Grudgingly, she admitted, to herself only of course, that there was something to it.
Blind faith and historical worship really had no place now that history, as it were, had moved on.
Leia, caught in her thoughts, looked up just as she realized that Luke had turned around, and was eyeing her directly.
"Lost your way, Princess?" he asked her, the accustomed look of mischief she was used to gone, replaced with grim anger.
As soon as Luke descended the ramp of his ship on Coruscant three guards stepped out of the docking bay and moved towards him.
"Bring the Princess to the detention area," Luke ordered.
"I'm sorry, Sir," one of the guards replied. "But we have orders from the Emperor to bring her before him."
"Very well," Luke replied and picked up his pace as he headed for his master's throne room.
As he entered the elevator he wondered why his master wanted to see the Princess. He then got out of the elevator and ascended the stairs to stop before his father and his master.
"What happened?" Palpatine demanded looking at the youth standing before him. "Rumour has it that three guards were killed during young Organa's kidnapping."
"Yes, my master," Luke replied nervously.
"Well?" Palpatine demanded impatiently, his yellow eyes drilling into Luke.
Vader, standing silently to his master's right, wondered if the dead guards had anything to do with the overwhelming sense of pain he had picked up from his son while he was on Alderaan. But no matter how hard he studied Luke he couldn't see any wounds.
"I was just approaching a window through which I could enter the palace when I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of pain for no reason. I must have passed out, for the next thing I knew there were three guards around me and I was lying on the grass," Luke explained, avoiding his master's gaze.
There was a moment of tense silence during which Palpatine considered this. But then he decided to let it pass as the guards bodies had started up a set of rumours that suggested Alderaan's Princess had been kidnapped by a bounty hunter looking for money.
"And you have no idea as to where this pain came from?" Palpatine said looking at Luke.
"Not for certain, my master," Luke carefully replied. "I'm guessing it has something to do with the visions, but I'm not sure. I also had another vision while I was on Alderaan."
"What of?" Palpatine demanded.
"I had just locked the Princess in her cell and she was yelling at me, her face bright red, when, just for a second, I saw an older version of myself dressed in white standing across from an older version of Organa who also had a red face. And then I was back on my ship."
"Organa didn't notice anything?" Palpatine asked.
"No, my master, she was too busy telling me how sorry I'd be when her father found me."
Vader smiled behind his mask as he heard this, it was exactly as he had imagined the Princess would react. Then the elevator door opened and the three guards stepped into the room with Princess Leia at the centre of the triangle they formed.
The Emperor sat in his throne as various parties came forward to present their cases. Members of the delegation, Imperial nobles not part of such, merchants, and commons. All were welcome during the weekly audience. The next supplicant, however, was one that displeased Vader, though he did not let it show to the man himself.
"Your Highness," the smuggler Han Solo bowed, managing to make even that gesture of deference seem cocky.
"Speak your business," Vader's deep voice rang calmly through the throne room.
"Majesty, we're all loyal servants, you know this," the leader of the smuggler's party in the delegation, expert pilot and Imperial traitor lied bald faced, "But we all have our places in the scheme of things as well. I know you mean to crack down on the smuggling business, and me just being here puts that business in jeopardy, so out in the open. You seem to be forgetting, though, that it is a business with as much part as a weapons smith's works, a farmer's produce, or a merchant's silks."
"Pretty words, Solo," Vader replied flatly. "Smuggling is illegal. It has, however, existed for as long as there has been trade. And so if I cannot abolish it, I will control it's flow. And should you disappear, Solo, your people will simply raise another representative. That is the way the Galaxy is, for smuggler or commoner, or Emperor. All things change."
Solo looked annoyed and dismayed at once, no doubt looking to protest, when a scream of fear and outrage rang from the corridors. A serving woman rushed in, and a crowd poured close to the doors, trying to overhear what may be said. The guards, flustered, looked to the Emperor.
The serving woman was too upset to request permission to speak. "Majesty," she blurted, "Majesty, the Prince! He has gone mad!"
"What?!" Vader roared, standing to his feet in a deadly swift motion. The crowd went deathly silent, and the servant whimpered in terror, but continued.
"The Princess Leia was arguing with him, and he started screaming who are they? though there was no one there but her, and no they whoever they are. And she was angry, but curious, and asked what was wrong. And he screamed at her, and - she just flew threw the air, smashed against a wall, Majesty! And the Prince, he fell to his knees, I tell you! His knees. The Prince should kneel to no one save for you, Majesty, but he was on his knees in pain, screaming at the air! You must help him, Majesty! I know you will. He is your son. You can help him!" the woman was hysterical now, screaming.
Vader gestured to the guards.
"Take her to her chambers and make sure she has all the comforts she needs. Make sure she calms down," he ordered. The guards nodded, gently urging the woman out of the Hall. Vader drew a deep breath, and hurried out of the chamber by the back exit. He had no doubt that this was to do with the visions. Or perhaps he did. Perhaps he simply refused to believe his son mad. Perhaps... perhaps they both were.
The guards brought Leia up the stairs and stopped before the throne, where Luke had stood until he had moved to the Emperor's left. Palpatine looked at the Princess for a moment before he turned to the guards.
"Leave us," he demanded.
The guards bowed and immediately left the room. Leia looked up at the Emperor and Lord Vader in fear, wondering what was going to happen next. Vader eyed the Princess, pleased to see that she at least knew that she was under him and the Emperor, even if she didn't realize she was under Luke too.
"Princess Organa," Palpatine stated after a few moments. "I have had you brought here as your father has not done his best to suppress the tales of the old Republic and the Jedi on Alderaan."
"What are going to do with me?" Leia asked as he eyes drifted to Luke.
"That depends on your father," Palpatine replied. "Until then you will remain here... as a guest."
"You mean as a prisoner," Leia spat before she could stop herself.
Palpatine glared a her and Leia involuntarily swallowed, mentally kicking herself.
"You may consider it whatever you wish to, but unless you show some respect to those above you, you will find your stay here to be most unpleasant," Palpatine stated icily.
Leia nodded her head as she made a mental note of being respectful even when she didn't feel like it. She then looked at Vader and Luke, mentally laughing at how silent they were in the presence of the Emperor, not nearly as intimidating as when they were the highest ranking people in the room.
"Skywalker, take the Princess to her room," Palpatine ordered.
"As you wish my master," Luke said as he stepped forward and motioned for Leia to turn around and descend the stairs.
Leia, knowing that there was no use in resisting, descended the stairs and entered the elevator with Luke following closely behind her.
Luke did not know where he was. He felt the cool marble of the Palace halls under his cheek, smooth and soothing, but the sensation was detached. He saw that darkened room once more, those three people, and one more. A girl dressed in white. Her face was hidden, but he recognized the clothing. The uniform of an Alderaanian Senator. The manner in which her hair was bound, the haughty angle of her chin, the profile of her nose, the slim built and diminutive stature, all were familiar.
Leia. It was the Princess who had been added to his visions. But who were they all? How were they in his head? How was Leia in two places? How was Palpatine there? He was sure it was Palpatine. He was sure. The ebony armoured warrior. He seemed familiar, but completely unfamiliar at once. There was nothing there that he knew, and everything that he knew! Luke sobbed as the visions bombarded his mind, scouring at his brain, rushing through his veins!
Oh please, stop!
Who are you!?
There was a face in front of him, contorting in the horror he himself was feeling, the face of the slim young man of the visions. The face of himself. years younger, completely different, and yet, the same. Luke Vader. The brow before him crinkled in confusion, and the thought echoed.
No, Luke Skywalker.
I'm Luke Vader, Imperial Prince. Who are you?
My father is the Emperor Vader.
The Emperor?! But what of Emperor Palpatine?
He is dead. He has been dead for years. Rebels.
Rebels! the younger Luke spat venomously, even as he screamed.
They were both screaming, he knew. But he couldn't stop. It hurt for them both. Agony, oh agony! But they could see each other, they could speak.
A hand slap into him, a slim white hand, and a slim white hand was reaching for the other Luke. They both screamed warnings to each other at the same time. Flows of Force essence stopped Princess Leia from moving in both realities, stopped her from... whatever she would do. Something. They couldn't think.
Who are you?
I'm Luke. Luke Skywalker. Third of the Empire. Well, I will be, soon.
How old are you, finding his royal command even in this desperate situation, his command and right to rule over even this other self.
A boy, the Prince noted. Barely more than a boy.
How old are you, the other Luke asked, barely hearing the Prince's derisive statement.
How long has he been Emperor? the other Luke asked.
Seven years. How much longer until Palpatine dies?
Forever. He will never die, it seems like it.
He will ruin the Empire. Only Father can rule it, the Prince sighed. I do not look forward to the day when I must take his place, though I know that I can do so when it is necessary. But Father is meant to rule. He was born to do it.
He wasn't injured, the other Luke said.
Injured? Father has been in many battles.
No. Crippled. Put in a dark suit, a living statue he is. Never to escape.
The dark warrior! The black mask! the Prince exclaimed in sudden comprehension.
Yes, so he is now, amongst other things.
I saw him... Father saw him. The mask was smothering him.
Luke the younger screamed again, and Luke the older screamed with him.
Vader had arrived on both sides, pulling both minds apart, trying to save their lives, make them live, preserve their energy, and tear their souls.
Vader gripped his son's shoulder as he tried to sort through the Force jumble that seemed to have connected itself to the boy's mind. When he had first touched it, it had seemed like there was a hole universe there, and Luke's Force presence was almost twice as strong as normal. He carefully tried to find where his son's presence ended and where whatever it was began.
He had been with his master in throne room when he had felt a tremendous pain coming from Luke. He had immediately gone looking for his son and found him lying on the floor of the hall, the Princess frozen next to him, trapped in some Force flows. Luke had been screaming in pain and his eyes were glazed, just the way they had during the first vision Luke had had in throne room.
Then he found what he thought was the end of his son's mind and slowly, carefully he began to push, to separate Luke's mind from what he now realized was another's mind, someone whose mind was astonishingly similar to his son's mind. The older Luke! he realized with a start, it had to be.
Suddenly he saw another vision, it was of the uninjured him and he was doing exactly the same as he was doing, bending over the older Luke who was also screaming. Then the other man looked up, and their eyes met.
"Pppppuuuuuuuuussssssssssssshhhhhhhhh!" Vader ordered, knowing that he had to get his son's mind detached from the other Luke's.
The man looked at him for a moment before he nodded and turned back to his Luke. Vader did the same and pushed, suddenly he felt the two Luke's mind separate as the other man also pushed from his end.
Vader stepped back and Luke stopped screaming as he looked around in surprise, breathing hard as he did so. He looked at the Princess, still frozen in the Force flows, before he looked up to find his father standing next to him, looking down at him, confusion and concern radiating from him.
Luke stood, wobble legged, accepting his father's hand in aid.
"This has gone too far," he whispered. "What could be causing this?"
Vader was about to reply when a messenger ran up to them both.
"Your Majesty, Prince," he nodded to them both, "There is news."
"Speak," Vader said.
"A violet star has exploded very recently, and very near to your Majesty. The vibrations it sent out are apparently disturbing, however briefly, the fabric of reality itself. You would be well to be on guard of any unusual happening, Emperor," man reported, neutral concern lighting his voice.
Genuine concern, Vader noted with an unreal feeling. Luke was sagging again, looking about wildly as though to see what was around him, yet not seeing. Well, at least he had his answer. The reverberations from the star could disturb reality. But how to stop it. Briefly in the time of a star could mean years to a carbon life form.
"Thank you," Vader nodded, "It is well that I know this. You are dismissed."
The man nodded, relieved, almost as though now that Vader knew it, the man believed all would be well. Vader sighed. If only it were that simple.
Standing in the elevator to the Emperor's throne room Vader stood next to his son, lost in thought. Luke hadn't spoken about what had just happened, but Vader could guess, and he also knew that it was time to clear out this whole mess, what would have happened if Luke had been somewhere else when it had happened, or what if he had had something like what Luke had just while on the command bridge of the Executor?
Suddenly Luke swayed on his feet and collapsed to the floor. He just sat there for a moment before he blinked and slowly shook his head, disoriented. Vader looked down in surprise before he reached down and helped Luke to his feet just as the elevator door opened. He kept a hand on his son's back for support as they got out of the elevator and ascended the stairs.
Palpatine looked at his young apprentice for a moment, noticing the paleness of his skin, the slightly dazed look on his face and the way he seemed unsteady on his feet, swaying ever so slightly. He then turned his attention to his servant when he noticed that Vader had not come to stand next to him the way he usually did. It was then that he noticed that Vader had his one hand behind Luke's back.
"What happened?" Palpatine demanded looking back to Luke.
Luke looked at him for a moment, then he shook his head trying to clear it.
"Well?" Palpatine demanded more forcefully this time.
"I... I was bringing the Princess to her cell when..." Luke began as he tried to remember what exactly had happened and in what order, but it all seemed to jumble up. "When suddenly I felt like I ran into a wall."
"A wall?" Palpatine asked incredulous.
"Yes," Luke replied nodding his head and instantly regretting it as it made him dizzy. "Then my vision went black before I felt this incredible pain from nowhere. I then saw several visions each so short that I could only make out that there was a delegation of sorts in a room that looked like the Imperial hall."
"A delegation," Palpatine repeated. "Like the one in your first vision?"
"Yes," Luke replied. "Then I suddenly saw the older version of myself, and he too was lying on the floor, screaming in pain. Suddenly he seemed to see me and then he asked me if I was Luke Vader."
Vader looked at his son at this, Luke Vader? He had wanted to give his son his new last name at birth, but Palpatine had insisted on Luke having the name Skywalker, why he didn't know.
"He also said that he was twenty-four and..." Luke hesitated wondering how his master would react to that fact that Vader was the Emperor in his vision.
"And what?" Palpatine ordered, picking up on Luke's unwillingness to tell him.
"He said he was the Imperial Prince," Luke quickly said.
"Imperial Prince?" Palpatine repeated, his voice not showing any emotion.
"Yes," Luke continued reluctantly. "He said his father was Emperor Vader."
Vader looked up sharply at this, he was the Emperor in wherever? He then quickly turned to his master, wondering how he would react, would he get mad and punish Luke? There was the possibility, which was probably why Luke was so reluctant to speak.
"Did he tell you anything else?" Palpatine just continued as if this last bit of information didn't bother him, while it greatly disturbed him.
"He said the you had been killed by the Rebellion seven years ago," Luke continued nervously, the fact that his master showed no emotion was not a good sign. "He also said that he had been having visions as well, at one point he saw what seemed to be a mask on his father's face. And Leia was my vision as well."
"Yes, she reached out and slapped the other Luke on the face just as Leia reached out to do the same with me here," Luke said.
There were a few minutes of silence during which Palpatine thought, the fact that the older Luke had been having visions as well meant that this other Luke existed and wasn't just a figment of the Force, unless young Skywalker had imagined the whole incident which was highly unlikely considering his training.
"It seems that the visions you have been having are glimpses of another reality," Palpatine stated.
Vader looked up in confusion at this, glimpses of another reality? Just then, for no apart reason, Luke sagged against his arm, unconscious.
"We're too close to them, " Luke said, giving a hollow laugh as he stared at the wall of the chamber. Luke and Vader had retired to a private room to discuss recent events. Luke looked extremely tired, weary and despairing. "We're too close to them, and they're too close to us. We need to push the realities apart, strengthen the wall between us," the Prince continued, "But how? We'll all be destroyed," he chuckled, and Vader frowned in concern. Luke was taking this very badly. Not that he himself was pleased, but they both needed to keep a level head in the situation. It was difficult, yes, and no doubt doubly more so for Luke, who's mind had fused with his counterpart. To be torn apart...
Vader remembered the masked warrior, who's built had seemed so like his own, who's deep voice carried the same tones, who's concern for the other Luke mirrored Vader's concern for his son.
"The masked warrior is myself, in that reality, no doubt," he spoke aloud.
Luke blinked and then said, "Yes. Yes, that is what he said. The other Luke. The other Vader was very badly injured, apparently, and was incased in that suit and mask. Palpatine is still alive there, ruling. And the other Luke's name. It was Luke Skywalker."
Vader stared. Skywalker?
"Does that mean something to you?" Luke pounced upon Vader's incredulous look.
"Yes," he said. He wondered if he should tell Luke about this. It was quite a few years ago, but he also sensed that the time had come for Luke to know. The right time.
"Yes," he repeated, voice firm. "My name was not always Darth Vader. Once, I was a Knight of the Order, and my name was Anakin Skywalker. Times changed though, and they declared me a renegade for following my beliefs..." And as he continued to speak, Luke's expression went from amazed, to outraged ...
Vader quickly grabbed his son and gently lowered him to the floor, but by that time Luke was already coming to.
"What?" he asked looking around, confused.
"The after effects of your mind fusion with the other reality," Palpatine stated as he got up.
Vader looked at his master in confusion, he seemed to know what was happening here. Palpatine regarded Luke for a moment before he looked at Vader.
"Somehow our two realities are moving closer together," Palpatine explained. "They're merging and if we can't stop it we'll be merged together with our doubles from the other reality and then anything could happen."
Vader froze as he looked at his son, so that was what had happened to Luke, for some reason it had effected him first, him and the other Luke in the other reality.
"How?" Luke asked, his voice shaky.
"Nothing has happened here that could have triggered such a disturbance, so it must have been triggered from their side," Palpatine said as he went and stood before the view port overlooking Coruscant.
Vader looked back at his son as Luke shook his head and placed an arm on the floor to steady himself. After a few seconds some of the colour returned to his face and he slowly got to his feet. Luke briefly wondered if the other Luke was taking this as badly as he was and somehow he knew the answer was no. At this he once again shook his head, wondering if he had completely separated from his double.
Luke sighed and leaned back, eyeing his father, who was watching him with an unusually expectant look.
"How come no one recognizes you?" he asked then.
Vader nodded and said, "I had thought you would ask that. The Republic's remnants were thoroughly swept away, but some memories were bound to linger. The Jedi, of course, have been destroyed, so they are not here to recognize me. I have appeared upon holos and such in the past, but those were destroyed, and the masses tend to quickly forget such things. A successful Jedi Knight, a skilled pilot, a Republican warrior. All of these things can be quickly forgotten. However, some do recognize me. Bail Organa, for one, had met me upon several occasions before the Empire rose. Those people, however, have the sense to keep it to themselves, for the most part."
"I suppose they would," Luke murmured and then asked, "What are we going to do?"
"We need to put some distance between our realities. Which, unfortunately, will mean that we must draw them closer together, so that we may work with our counterparts."
"Work with them?" Luke asked, panic rising. "No, we'll merge with them. I know we will. We're too close!"
"It is the only way, Luke. It is our only hope."
"Where is Senator Organa?" Luke asked.
"The Princess has been confined to her guest chambers until further notice," Vader said.
"Good. If we must do this, I'd rather she not stand around slapping me, this time," Luke laughed again. He felt like laughing forever. What was wrong with him? His physical weariness had disappeared, but his mental weariness was overwhelming. He felt like his mind was ready to explode. Was he going mad? What was happening? And now this... they must deliberately seek out the other reality. Deliberately seek it out, and enter it. Leave their own reality, and enter one where they had no power... He let out a sob, mingled with a despairing chuckle, falling from the chair he sat in, to his knees on the floor.
"Father," he whispered, "We're nothing to eternity. Nothing to it all. We could be consumed, and it would make no difference in the long run."
"To give up is to surrender any victory you may have!" Vader flared, "Get a hold of yourself, Luke. Stand up!"
Luke stood, but the despair lingered.
After several minutes of silence Palpatine slowly turned around to face Vader and Luke.
"Skywalker, when you particularly merged with your double, did it just happen or did you do something to make it happen?" Palpatine demanded.
Luke thought for a moment before he replied:
"I was just walking down the hall when it happened, as far as I know I did nothing to cause it."
Palpatine nodded and went to sit back down in his throne, thinking. Since the disturbance had been caused by the other reality there was nothing he could think of to do, if it had happened from this end then he would have had some more control over the situation, but now, now he had absolutely no control over the situation, he hadn't even had any visions.
He hated the fact that things were out of his control, he wasn't used to it and he had no idea as to how it would end. For the first time in years he was in real danger and he didn't have the power to stop it. Before he could have crushed the threat or weeded it out, but now, now...
"We must find a way to communicate clearly with the other reality," Palpatine stated after a short, tense silence.
Luke lifted his head at this and for the first time in a long time he felt genuine fear grip his heart. Vader caught the fear and looked at his son in surprise.
"How?" Luke asked, his voice betraying his fear.
Palpatine regarded him for a moment and instantly decided that he wouldn't even try to make mental contact with anyone from the other reality, for he had trained Luke and he knew the boy wasn't scared easily, and yet here he was terror in his voice. When Palpatine didn't respond Vader hesitated but then decided to speak:
"Master," he began. "When I was separating Luke from the other Luke I briefly made contact with my own double."
"What?!" Palpatine demanded looking at Vader. "Why didn't you say anything before?"
"I forgot about it," Vader replied. "But unlike what happened to Luke I saw a vision and when I spoke it was like running through jelly, my words were all slurred and distorted. Perhaps we can make contact without getting close enough to merge."
Palpatine looked at his servant, wondering. Perhaps, but it was risky, what was close enough to merge and how close did you have to get to make any contact? Those were all questions that needed to be answered before they could attempt to make contact and he had no idea as to where to get the answers.
"In order to contact this reality, we must first ascertain the path to it," Vader said.
"The path?" Luke asked.
Vader nodded and answered, "All realities are possible. However, to all realities, some possibilities remain more probable that others. In order to make a relatively safe contact with this one, we must determine the differences, and locate the paths to join with them."
"Join with them?" Luke questioned warily.
"Not merge. Meet," Vader assured.
"How are we going to do this?"
"First, we must catalogue the differences. I was injured in the other reality. Though I've been through many potentially deadly situations, one of the most likely for the injuries sustained would have been my battle with Obi-Wan. I wonder what would have happened had I not killed him then? Perhaps the other Vader is the answer to that question. Now, the differences between names. Palpatine once suggested that I give you my old name, but I refused to consider it. You are my present, not my past. Perhaps he won the argument in that other reality, however. The other reality is also younger. I wonder if that Palpatine will die there at the same time that he died here? There is a still a year left to them. The other Luke, you said, is a Dark Jedi. At that young age, he must have been very interested in the entire process. Much more so that you are, to have obtained the skills so young."
"You're not disappointed, are you?" Luke asked suddenly as Vader paused for breath.
"I know you wanted me to become a Dark Lord, eventually. Are you disappointed that I won't be? I won't, you know. I wasn't sure, but these visions have decided me. I will learn the Force methods as best and skilfully as I can, but I will not follow the rules of any order. I am sorry if that upsets you, Father, but I have made up my mind."
Silence reigned in the room for a long moment, until finally Vader spoke. "I would be lying, if I told you I was not disappointed. But I am also not surprised. I have been almost certain of what you would decide for some time now. I also understand. The Orders are dead. I am the last of the Jedi, the last of the Sith, the last Dark Knight and Lord. When I die, both orders will truly perish. Perhaps it will soon be time to finally and forever let go of the past that I cannot, because I was a part of it. You are the future, my son. And it is your decision, as you well know."
Luke nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you, Father. That means a lot to me, that you understand. Now, how are we going to use these differences to connect the realities?"
Vader said, "Back to business, then. I suggest that we create ropes or ties of a sort with the Force, both of us, reach out through the weakness in the walls of space, and connect to the differences, pull with them. Perhaps it will bring us close enough. Perhaps it will even work."
Luke eyed him warily and muttered, "Perhaps indeed."
There was a short silence in the room as Palpatine thought. After a while Luke, who was physically starting to feel better, lifted his head.
"Master," Luke began. "What is keeping our two realities apart?"
Palpatine looked intently at his young apprentice for a moment.
"A wall of sorts," Palpatine finally replied.
"A wall?" Luke asked curiously.
"Yes," Palpatine replied absently. "Tell me, when you passed out on Alderaan, did it feel like you ran into a wall that wasn't there?"
Luke looked at the Emperor in confusion for a moment before he closed his eyes, using the Force to enhance his memory. He remembered jumping off the wall and stealing through the gardens, he then remembered hiding from the guard before he slowly approached the window. Then he ran into something hard and fell to ground, after turning and screaming as he did so, and the next thing he remembered was waking to find the guards next to him.
"Yes," Luke replied slowly nodding his head as he opened his eyes. "I think I did."
"That confirms it then, there is a wall between our realities that for some reason unknown to us had been weakened by the other end," Palpatine stated glad that he could finally answer one question.
"But master," Luke continued. "I didn't do anything to make the wall appear."
"Perhaps the older Luke did," Vader suggested. "Perhaps they were messing around, trying to figure out what the visions they got meant, and in doing so they might have pushed against the wall and therefore pushed it against you."
Luke looked at his father at this and Palpatine nodded his head.
"That would be a reasonable explanation," Palpatine agreed.
"Would this wall have a door or window through which we might communicate freely with the other reality without being fused with their minds?" Luke suddenly asked.
Vader and Palpatine both looked over at Luke.
"Perhaps," Palpatine replied. "Perhaps."
Luke closed his eyes, pulling upon his connection with the Force, taking in all he could hold. His heart was pounding, his blood was rushing, his brain was throbbing. Now ... reach! Touch. His link with his father was swirling with intensity, and he grabbed onto that as well, weaving in the various mental directions into one thick rope-braid. Picture it, now ... reach it. Now, go forward ... A wall. It's a wall. Picture the wall, now don't go forward yourself, but touch it with the braid. Sudden impact! Smashing, pain even with this, but not nearly as much pain as before. Right ... now, reach, push intensity, push through the wall. Picture it not as burning, fiery glass with the strength of the strongest steel, but as jelly. Stiffen the rope, make the rope of minds steel. His mind, his father's mind, reaching out, probing the wall, not, like a lance ... Push through! Jelly parting before a lance. Now ... push further ... and suddenly, they weren't pushing anymore. Suddenly, the lance was pulling them along, through the wall. Luke tried to scream, but met jelly before his open mouth, he was suffocating, he was dying! He had no breath, he had nothing!
And then they were falling. Falling, and the world was falling around them. Into darkness, into light, into grey shadows.
There were surprised exclamations all around them, and the Prince, looking up, started to laugh with the intensity of the truly mad. They had not gone halfway. They had parted the realities themselves, which closed solid behind them. They had completely immerged, whole and themselves, and in the flesh, not just the mind, in the other reality.
The living Palpatine, and the strange Luke and Vader were staring down at the Prince and his Father, in absolute shock.
Luke took a step back in surprise. One moment he had been talking to his father and his master and the next moment he had heard screaming before his and his father's double had appeared in the air several feet off the ground before they had fallen to the floor between him and his master.
Vader, standing to his son's left, was so shocked that even with the breathing respirator he missed a breath. Where had they just come from and how had they appeared? Had Luke been right about there being doors and windows in the wall that separated them from this other reality?
Palpatine immediately rose to his feet and looked down on the two forms lying on the floor between him and his servants. He quickly studied them and saw that what Vader and Luke had described was right, one of the two forms lying before him did look like an older and uninjured version of Anakin Skywalker and the boy beside him was without a doubt what Luke would look like in a couple of years, with different clothing of coarse.
As Luke watched his older double began to laugh madly and didn't stop. Wondering if perhaps the gate they had used to get here had done something to them he reached out and touched his double's mind. What he found there amazed him, his double did use that dark side, but it wasn't as strong as with him, it seemed that his older version had started his Sith training and then stopped before he had completed it.
Luke was then abruptly blocked from his double's mind as the older version of Anakin reached out and cut his connection. Luke looked up and locked eyes with the Emperor of the other reality.
"Stay out of his mind, boy," Vader hissed to the young, dark clad version of Luke before turning to his son. "Luke," he murmured, reaching forward with the Force, moving to stabilizing whatever may be wrong. What he found there made him start in shock. A wall created of the Force, circling his son's mind. Luke's various abilities seemed to be floating on the surface, swirling around in puddles of Force power. The wall seemed like the jelly that had been between the realities. Vader still could not believe what had happened. They should have researched things more before hand, but then again, what could they research? What could they do? There were no recorded incidents of such things, and taking the initiative had seemed the best thing at the time. But Luke was taking this very badly indeed. His mind seemed to be separating into it's individual components.
It wasn't working in harmony. It wasn't connecting.
Taking Luke by the arm, he stood his son to his feet, and stood up himself as well. The Emperor faced the three beings before him.
"And so we finally meet. Greetings to you," Vader nodded graciously. "I am Emperor Vader, and this is my son, Prince Luke. But then... perhaps you already know that."
Luke's anger had risen at being called a 'boy,' but he remained silent letting his master handle the situation. He and his father had, however, moved to stand on either side of the throne.
Palpatine's eyes had narrowed when the older version of Anakin had called himself the Emperor but for now he knew it was better to let it slide, unless of coarse he starting acting as if he had complete power.
"Yes, yes we do," Palpatine finally replied as he sat back down in his throne. "Young Skywalker informed us earlier, right after his near mind fusion with your son."
At this the uninjured Vader looked over to the boy who had earlier probed his son. As he studied the boy he once again locked eyes with him, but the boy refused to lower his eyes the way most people did when they made direct eye contact with him.
He then turned his attention to the masked man standing to Palpatine's right.
"And you are me?" he asked already knowing the answer.
"I am Lord Vader, yes," Vader replied studying his uninjured self as he wished, not for the first time, that he could shed his mask and armour to freely walk around as this man before him did.
Luke studied his older self as he tried to figure out what was wrong with him. When he had probed him he had briefly felt his potential, but he had also felt that something was wrong. He couldn't be sure what was wrong, but his mind didn't quite seem whole, it seemed to be disconnected somehow. He wanted to prob him again but knew it was better not to.
"I am aware of the cause of this situation. A rare violet star exploded very near Imperial City in my reality. It caused ripples to exploded through the fabric of space, disturbing reality. I and my son began to receive visions before we knew the cause. Though the ripples were to be effective for a "brief time" that could be very long indeed in comparison to the length of time between humans and stars. We used the Force to attempt to open a window between the realities. However, instead of simply pushing through the wall, it reached a certain point and began to pull us. This is the result. Interesting a study, and valuable in any such future situations, or needs, but potentially deadly, for us," Vader explained to the three others.
"What is wrong with him?" Palpatine questioned sharply, gesturing to the Prince.
Emperor Vader looked at his son and sighed deeply.
"This may have started earlier, but the crossing greatly advanced it. His mind is separating into it's various components. We will both need to concentrate to bring it back together," Vader said softly, more to himself than anyone, regarding Luke with concern.
"And it will need to be done before we return to our own reality. Because if he crosses back as he is, his mind may simply shatter."
'So that was why his mind felt so weird,' Luke thought to himself as he regarded the Prince.
Luke shivered at the thought of a mind being shattered the way Emperor Vader had described it. Emperor Vader, the more he thought about his father's name with that title the more it seemed right, the more it seemed as if it was meant to be that way.
Frustrated Luke shook his head, he knew that if his master knew of what he was thinking that he'd be severely punished, it was treason and there was no way around it. And yet.....
Lord Vader regarded the Prince with a mixed feeling of concern and amusement, concern about what might happen to his son if the Prince didn't make it back to his own reality and amusement at how the Prince was being affected by the reality travel. When he had first arrived he had been laughing like a mad person and now he just stood there, silent and seemingly unaware of what was happening around him.
Vader then looked at his own son and saw him shake his head, a slightly worried look on his face as he briefly eyed Emperor Palpatine.
As Palpatine studied the 'Prince' he was glad of the fact that they had come over first before he had been foolish enough to try to jump into the other reality himself. He could also tell that the Prince's father was deeply concerned about his son's condition, but at the moment there were more important things to discuss, namely how they were going to save both realities from totally merging with one an other.
"You have just told us the cause of all the disturbances in both our realities, but do you know how to prevent our realities from totally merging?" Palpatine ordered not caring that technically the other Vader held just as much power as he did.
Emperor Vader opened his mouth as though to protest the superior manner in which Palpatine had addressed him, but a moment later and he closed it again with a sardonic smile.
"You are in the higher power here, in your reality," he acknowledged, meeting Palpatine's eyes frankly. "And thus have the right to know, as much as the fact of the danger. As to your question - no. I had hoped to pool our resources together, and fix the breach, but I have not the exact manner in which to do so available. The manner which we used to come here was to locate the points we knew of by which your reality was different than our own, and connect to them, pulling the walls closer by that method. However, judging from what happened, I would be hesitant to use this manner to repair our realities."
Palpatine seemed to be eyeing him in something resembling shock. Vader, in his experience, very rarely spoke at anything resembling this length. Then again, Emperor's generally were required to speak more than Dark Lords.
Suddenly, the Prince Luke spoke.
"The walls are falling. Like dominoes. Why are they doing that. I can see them. There are millions of me's, countless me's. Where are they all going. Merging into one. Shutter the walls, rebuild the walls. Use bricks of minds. They're all falling," his voice was a sing-song chant, and his father instantly comprehended the meaning of the words.
"We must act quickly," Vader exclaimed "We are not the only reality in danger! Every wall in falling, and all realities will merge!"
Luke looked up as his double spoke. He was astonished at the tone of his voice, it was nothing like his, nor like the Luke Vader's voice he had heard earlier in the vision. Perhaps his voice had been distorted in the vision or perhaps it was the way his mind was separating that caused his voice to be different. Whatever it was he couldn't be sure.
"All the realities are in danger from one star?" Palpatine asked suspiciously.
Emperor Vader looked at him for a moment knowing the other Emperor had a point. In all the realities that existed it couldn't be that this was the first violet star to explode in such a long time that nobody had any memory of the realities trying to merge before.
"I only said that a violet star exploded near Imperial City in my reality and that has caused the disturbance at our end." Emperor Vader replied. "Perhaps something happened elsewhere and that combined with what happened in my reality is enough to cause all the realities to merge."
"Perhaps the Prince can tell us," Luke suddenly stated as he was studying his double.
"What?" Lord Vader exclaimed, surprised by his son's sudden statement.
"Well he seems to be able to see things we can't see," Luke explained as he briefly took his eyes off his double to look at his father and his master before he turned his attention back to the Prince. "Perhaps he can see the solution or perhaps one of us can tap into what he's seeing as he doesn't seem to respond to anything we do."
"How?" Emperor Palpatine demanded turning his gaze onto his young apprentice.
Luke looked at his master for a moment before he turned to face his father's double, looking him full in the face.
"By finding out how he's seeing it," Luke stated clearly suggesting to enter the Prince's mind.
There reigned a long moment of silence in which the dark clad Vader, the dark Jedi Luke, and Palpatine regarded Emperor Vader questioningly.
Finally, he gave a single, reluctant, but decisive nod.
"Very well. Normally, I would insist that only I do this, but even as closely connected to him as I am, it might upset the balance of his mind. But you," he gestured to the young Luke, "are certainly most like him in basic mind set than any of us, even if you are different from him in personality."
"He is not a Dark Jedi," Palpatine suddenly said, so shocked that he spoke aloud.
Silence descended once more.
"No," Emperor Vader said curtly, "He is not."
No further explanation was forthcoming, and though these people were not from his reality, Palpatine surely disapproved of the fact that the other Luke had not achieved that status. He opened his mouth to interject a comment expressing that disapproval, but Luke, seeing a bad situation coming, jumped in.
"I'll go in his mind," he said.
Emperor Vader turned a sharp eye upon him, almost seemed to change his mind, and then nodded.
"Enter," he spoke, and Luke reached forward with tendrils of the Force, entering in full to the mind of his counterpart.
What he found there astonished him.
Prince Luke was neither light nor dark. The lack of training he'd perceived earlier was falsehood. He'd taken the training, but he'd changed the methods. Instead of just using the Dark Force, he'd use all of the Force in any manner he saw fit. The Force seemed to "mesh," seemed "whole" in him, as it was in very few who followed the disciplines of specific orders.
The different abilities were all coated in this whole Force, all together, all apart.
Where was the vision, where was the seeing, the knowing, that had caused this Luke to speak?
And then, suddenly, a howling vision descended upon him, and he could only freeze in horror.
It was ten long minutes, ten long eternities later, when Luke exited the mind of the Prince, and turned to the three who were watching him with avid attention.
His voice was a low, deathly whisper, the whisper of one who has seen the end.
"Chain reactions," he whispered. "Chain reactions. There is... violet stars. In many. Many possibilities for destruction. Exploded in one, made our realties come closer, exploded in another, two more realities come closer to each other. Attempts to move them apart from others, two more realties. Chain reactions. No, no. He's screaming. He's dying. Can't you see that!?" Luke gestured to the Prince almost frantically, and then slumped to the floor.
"Luke!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he quickly walked over to his son.
As he reached his son's side he knelt down and gently shook his son. Luke moaned and half turned but remained unconscious. Vader quickly probed him but found nothing wrong that he could detect. Then, keeping one hand on his son's shoulder, he half turned to face both Emperors.
"He's all right," Vader said. "It's nothing with his mind, it might have been the combined stress of entering the Prince's mind and seeing the visions he saw there."
Palpatine nodded his head slightly relieved, Luke was a promising apprentice and it would have been a pity to lose him. He then turned his attention to what Luke had said, the chain reactions, so he had been right assuming that one violet star explosion hadn't caused all the realities to start to merge.
"Until the boy comes round I think it would be best that we stay out of my son's mind," Emperor Vader suggested. "We can't afford to lose someone else while we need to save both our realities."
Lord Vader nodded his agreement as he probed his son again, trying to get Luke to come round again.
"It may be a while until young Skywalker comes around though," Palpatine said looking over at Luke's unconscious form. "This isn't the first time he's passed out today and every time he does so it takes longer for him to come around."
Lord Vader nodded at this as he stood up.
"Did either of you know what he was talking about?" he asked looking from his master to his double. "Also the Prince mentioned something about rebuilding the walls with bricks of the minds."
"He did indeed," Emperor Vader said. "I wonder if it was just a rambling or perhaps he saw the solution, as well as the problem. There have been reports of this..." he trailed off.
"Reports of what?" Palpatine questioned, rather snappishly.
Vader regarded Palpatine, so like the Emperor he had once served himself, so like and yet, subtly different. There was a decay about this man, a different feeling, a lack of fullness, a void to his soul that the Emperor Vader's teacher and liege had not held. The Palpatine he had known had more of a ... life ... to him than this man did. There was no other way to describe it. This man seemed dead in ways that were more to do with the mind than any body. He grimaced. This whole reality seemed dead, without the vitality that drove his own.
"Reports of Force sensitives receiving visions of great significance or vast reaching consequences when under extreme pressure or harm. Or if they go mad," this last was more to himself than anyone, and he spoke it as though to deny the possibility. "If he has received such a vision," Vader said again in a firm tone, "The chances are more than certain that the solution is true as well. All we have to do is find out what it means."
"If his mind where entered again -" Palpatine began.
"No," Emperor Vader growled, suddenly deadly threat radiating from him, assuring all here that that was not an option.
Emperor Palpatine's eyes narrowed with anger at this, his life was on the line and something that would more likely then not cause no harm was being denied to him, something that might save his life. Palpatine's anger was clear to everyone in the room, even to Emperor Vader. Palpatine opened his mouth to speak, to demand that Lord Vader be allowed into the Prince's mind when Luke Skywalker stirred and moaned.
"What..." Luke said as he opened his eyes.
"Luke," Lord Vader said as he turned back to his son. "Are you all right?"
Luke shook his head as he stood up, looking around as he did so. He looked at his father, his master, his father's double and then at his own double. Emperor Vader immediately noticed the far off look in the boy's eyes, as though he were here and yet far away. As his eyes fell on his own double Luke froze momentarily.
"Skywalker!" Palpatine demanded as Luke's Force aura drifted.
Emperor Vader, feeling the same thing, immediately put a Force shield around his son's mind as he thought the boy was trying to enter Prince's mind again. But Luke had no intention of entering his double's mind again, no, he was still so weak that he barley had control over his own mind, let alone go into somebody else's mind no matter how similar it might be.
Luke's eyes grew wide as he suddenly saw flashes of what he had seen earlier in the Prince's mind. He saw the walls between the realities breaking and weakening, he saw himself in all kinds of different situations, in different realities. He saw people and something he couldn't quite understand, then he saw the walls strengthening as they seemed to be rebuilt somehow. This was the last of what he had seen in his double's mind and he expected to find himself in the throne room again when he felt someone entering his mind.
"What?!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he felt the Prince's mind reach out and touch his son's this time.
Emperor Vader started as well, he moved to break the connection then he hesitated and decided to wait as realization and confusion dawned on the face of his son's double.
"Bricks of the minds, bricks of the minds!" Prince Luke suddenly, frantically, exclaimed. "Soon! It must be done soon or it will be too late!"
Then the connection between the two Luke's broke and the Prince once again became silent. His double stood frozen in place for a moment, shock written all over his face before he swayed and sagged into his father's arms. Bricks of the minds, finally he understood what had to be done.
"Wake him up," Palpatine said, very irritably. "If he persists in loosing consciousness, you may find that he will not wake up, very soon. Such faints are not natural. They drain his life energies."
Vader stiffened in worry, and held Luke up, searching within himself for the healing abilities he very rarely employed. There ... hidden within the crust of the dark was a silver of healing, a portal to mending energies.
Reaching, he grasped it like a rope, and concentrated upon transferring that silver slit of energy, like an eye slowly opening and revealing it's colour and passions, into Luke. It had been long, but the faint was more than within his abilities to cure. Luke stirred, eyes opening to reveal shocked blue, and once more, his eyes wandered over to his double.
"Don't let them make eye contact! It encourages their minds to link!"
Emperor Vader barked in a sudden, harsh tone. Lord Vader, moving on instinct, shifted his son around so that his back was to the Prince.
"Don't look into your double's eyes," he ordered shortly. Luke, disoriented and increasingly panicky, despite all of his efforts to contain the feelings, simply nodded.
A moment more, though, and he gasped.
"What?" Palpatine demanded. Truly, he was not enjoying the situation, and all of these spontaneous unpleasantries were not improving his mood, either.
"I know what the bricks are!" Luke exclaimed. "I saw it in his mind! I know how to repair the walls!"
"What is it?" Emperor Vader inquired, voice suddenly calm now that hope had dared to present itself. Perhaps the solution was near. His tone, cool command and assurance, drew the need to reply from Luke.
"We need to draw minds from their bodies, use them as patches or bricks of a sort to reinforce the walls, repair them and make them stronger. Only the raw elements though, not the individuals. Think like a sheet to cover a bed. It's one large, seamless piece. But it's made up on thousands of individual threads. We need the sheet, not the threads."
"Minds are very difficult to draw from their bodies without their consent," Emperor Vader noted.
Luke nodded and said, "There was a way he knew. It wasn't a vision, it was an idea he had. His mind is still connected enough to make it. But I didn't grasp hold of it before I left his mind. But I do know one thing. We're all going to be needed for this, every one of us, at top strength, and full clarity. And that means we'll have to repair my double's mind. Somehow. And we need to do it quickly, because he's falling apart fast."
There was a moment of silence as everyone heard this. Palpatine then turned his attention to the Prince, he was fast becoming nothing but a bother, but Luke had said they needed to heal him and if that would save his life, then so be it.
"Do you know how his mind goes together?" Emperor Palpatine demanded looking at the Prince's father.
"His personality, yes," Emperor Vader replied. "But to put his whole mind back exactly the way it's supposed to I'll need to take a look at his mind's basic structure as that should be the same even if their personalities aren't," Emperor Vader continued gesturing to Luke.
Luke looked at him, avoiding eye contact with his double, and seemed to hesitate at the idea of letting his father's double into his mind. Palpatine caught the hesitation and looked at his apprentice for a moment.
"Let him in," he ordered as Luke's eyes wandered to his master.
Luke seemed to cringe at the order, opening his mouth to protest, but then thought the better of it as Palpatine's eyes narrowed in a warning. Reluctantly Luke turned back to face the other Emperor and nodded.
Emperor Vader noticed the way his son's double didn't really dare to speak out against the Emperor Palpatine, even considering the fact that if anyone was in danger because of the order it would be him, and immediately realized that his son's double and his own double didn't have as good a relationship with Palpatine as he had had with the late Palpatine from his universe. Here it was definitely and without a doubt that Palpatine completely ruled them both while he had enjoyed some freedom that neither the Luke and Vader had here. As he thought about this he realized that that was probably the reason his son's double had the last name Skywalker instead of Vader, Palpatine must have refused to even let Vader have his say in the matter here.
Dismissing that from his mind for the moment, Vader locked eyes with the strange Luke.
It was disconcerting in a manner, like looking into a living holopic. The blue was refracting over and over into a shimmering tunnel. It reminded Vader somewhat isturbingly of the Force method that he and his son had first used in attempting to contacting this reality. That had ended in both of them screaming at the top of their lungs in abject agony. Dismissing the memory, Vader reached out with his sense, approaching the young Dark Jedi's mind. This Luke was not pleased with the situation, resentful of the intrusion. In another situation, Vader would have sympathized, but this was simply too desperate to try another manner.
Shimmering darkness, to young for it's depth, surrounded him. Vader worked through that dark like a worm through the earth. The comparison was unflattering, but true at the moment. Luke's resentment hardened the substance of his mind into something which had to be pushed up with every movement. Vader frowned. This was his son's double, and he could not recall his son being this strong in mere resentment. But that was ridiculous. It was essentially the same mind, if not the same reality. Not as strong as Vader's own mind, but not very far off, was this Luke. It was disturbing. Perhaps the differences were more pronounced than he had thought. Or perhaps something had happened along the way to change the power levels of this being's mind, somewhere in his child hood, perhaps?
There were tricks to boost ones power, though they were very rare indeed. Vader emerged in a cavern, hung with shadows that draped the place. Despair blanketed him in an instant. This would never work. The shadows hid the planes, angles and curves of the mind that he knew as Luke's. Luke's mind was a starlight and crystal cavern, but this place, though it might once have been similar, was too shrouded to make out the original components.This would not help Emperor Vader's son in the least. This Luke's mind was suffocating in the essential despair and lifelessness, almost unrealism, that seemed to mark the reality that the alternates lived in. Vader cursed, snarling under his breath in abject rage. This would not work! He barely held himself back from striking out a manner which would have destroyed this Luke's mind, before he withdrew with lightening speed.
"It won't work!" he snarled aloud before he was out enough to even view his counterpart and the others. "His mind it shrouded! This whole reality is shrouded! The original shape is completely obscured!" It galled him, that for all of his incredible power, he could do nothing about this.
Luke's eyes narrowed in anger at this comment. It was their reality that was wrong?
"Perhaps you're just not strong enough to see the original shape," Luke snarled in reply making no attempt to hide his anger.
Emperor Vader looked up at this comment, his own rage still boiling hot, but he refrained from replying knowing that his son's only chance, and so their only chance, lay with this Luke. If he couldn't identify the shape of this Luke's mind then the boy would have to go into his son's mind and put together the basic structure of his son's mind as he would be able to see the original shape of his own mind. Then, and only then, could he go in and put his son's personality back together again.
Lord Vader eyed his son, relieved that he was okay, he had been sure for a second that he had felt a ripple of danger through the Force. It had been a threat emanating from his double, but it had quickly vanished just before Emperor Vader had left his son's mind.
"Now what?" Lord Vader asked after the short silence following his son's comment.
"He has to enter my son's mind and put together his basic mind structure, then I can go in and put together his personality," Emperor Vader replied indicating Luke.
He hated the thought of letting the boy do this, there was no telling what he'd do, but there was no other way, time was running out and if he refused to let the boy do it then his son would be killed when the two realities merged.
Luke looked up at the suggestion and hesitated slightly, his own mental weariness was starting to get overwhelming and he didn't know if this would be such a good idea. He glanced over at his father and when he nodded Luke sighed out loud before looking at his father's double.
"Okay," he said as he sat down in a cross legged position.
He then closed his eyes and reached forward with the Force and entered his double's mind while simultaneously reaching back into his own mind and studying its basic shape. He hadn't the faintest idea of what the Emperor Vader had meant when he had said that the shape of his basic mind was obscured, he could see it perfectly. He quickly let the thought pass as he knew that Emperor Vader wouldn't let him do this unless he really couldn't do it.
He felt the strange sensation that he'd felt earlier when entering his double's mind, only this time it wasn't as strong, it was as if Prince Luke's mind had been separating further since he had last entered it. He quickly found the pieces he needed and started putting them back together again. Fifteen minutes later he was still working on it and he briefly thought of how this resembled putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he quickly put the thought away as he had always hated making jigsaw puzzles.
Ten minutes after that he finally heaved a sigh of relief as he finished putting the last piece in place. He was just about to leave the Prince's mind when suddenly it seemed like a vacuum opened up beneath him and he was sucked down into it despite his attempts to pull away. He quickly called out to his father before he was completely pulled in.
Prince Luke stood in the centre of a shining dark chamber. Stars danced upon obsidian, and he smiled up at the prism that the ceiling was constructed up. Every once a while, a piece of that prism separated from the rest, and shimmered into diamond dust in the air. The ceiling repaired itself, but seemed less stable every time it happened.
Sitting, he wondered where he was. He'd never wondered this before. At least, it didn't seem like he ever had. He'd been here forever. What was forever? Luke's brow wrinkled in thought. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate. He was ... what was? Something about walls.
Well, what about the walls. The walls were just fine. It was the ceiling that worried him. Suddenly, he jumped to his feet. The ceiling! It was caving in! The prism!
No! Glass was shattering all around the Prince, shimmering beautifully in the air, raining sharp shards.
"I've come further in than ever before," a voice said. It sounded familiar, but what ...
"Who are you?" he demanded as he spun about the form which was picking itself up off of the perfectly gleaming black floor. The pieces were picking themselves up, he noticed detachedly, the prisms repairing themselves on the ceiling. But it looked more unstable than ever. Somehow, he knew that if the whole ceiling fell in, he would have some serious problems on his hands. Very serious.
The boy who had fallen through the ceiling picked himself up off of the floor.
"I said, who are you?" Luke demanded once more, impatience and haughtiness in his voice. He blinked in shock, then, as he beheld the face which was as a time-reversed mirror to his own visage.
"I'm the one who's been rooting around in your mind, trying to put you back together!" the younger Luke flared.
His mind? Vaguely, he remembered something ... But he also knew that in the mind, you control your appearance, able to take the face and body of anyone.
"Let go of my face at once!" his voice was harsh, commanding, demanding obedience.
"Your face? This is my face, sorry to disillusion you. Yours is a few years older, hmm? It's been pointed out quiet a few times. Now, you have to get out of here. We have not time to put around in your mind. We have to put the realities back together!"
"Realities?" Luke regarded him somewhat blankly. Something niggled at his consciousness, but he couldn't quite grasp it. An arrogant sneer appeared upon his face then, marring the courtier's perfection.
"This place is sealed. The ceiling grows weaker, but the prison remains. Where am I?"
The younger Luke regarded him blankly for a moment, and then pointed upwards with both hands, lightening flowing from all eight fingers, thumbs pointed inward to avoid the liquid energy. The ceiling glowed briefly for a moment, and the Prince howled in dismay, clutching at his head in agony, screaming,
"No, you idiot! Directing the Force at the walls only makes them stronger!"
"Luke!" Lord Vader exclaimed as he heard his son's cry for help.
Emperor Vader and Emperor Palpatine both took their eyes of the Prince to regard Lord Vader. During the past twenty-five minutes they had felt Prince Luke's Force aura grow stronger as his mind was rebuilt.
"What is it Lord Vader?" Palpatine demanded just as his apprentice's Force presence flickered and was reduced to half its previous strength.
"Luke," Vader replied as he walked to his son's still form. "He called out for help before he was cut off."
At this Lord Vader looked up and with an accusing look that Emperor Vader could feel.
"What happened?" Lord Vader demanded while softly shaking his son.
"How am I supposed to know?" Emperor Vader replied shortly. "Your son must have done something."
"Perhaps it was your son that did something," Lord Vader replied.
"Enough!" Palpatine declared. "Lord Vader what is young Skywalker's condition?"
Lord Vader turned back to his son and quickly scanned him with the Force.
"His mind is still connected with the Prince's, but his connection to his own mind has gotten weaker," Lord Vader replied worriedly.
"This is just what we need," Palpatine stated . "Emperor Vader I suggest that you enter your son's mind if we get no response from either Luke in a few moments."
Emperor Vader nodded just as Prince Luke let out a startled exclamation.
"This is enough!" the other reality's Emperor suddenly roared. "I am going in."
Before anyone could speak, Vader dove right into the mind of his son.
* * *
"Calling me an idiot!" Luke shouted at his counterpart, "You're the one who's caught in your own mind!"
"I have the sense to examine a situation before diving into it!" the Prince sneered.
"I entered in here to save your sanity, and all you can do it sneer at me," Luke barked, "I might as well leave."
"You won't," the other Luke said calmly. "For one thing, you don't appear to like me very much, and thus could not have done so for personal reason. This means that you were either ordered in by a superior, or for a more important purpose. Thus, you will not leave without me."
"Without your sanity restored," Luke muttered irritably. His counterpart apparently spent more time with words than he himself did.
* * *
Emperor Vader walked along the corridors leading up the centre of the mind. They were mirrors, these corridors, and many of them were shattered. The centre was not in sight.
* * *
"We are more tightly sealed in here than I was before you arrived," the Prince said in repetition of his earlier proclamation. "However, you come from the outside. Perhaps you may tell me of the design of the outside, so we may decern a manner by which to exit."
"The design of the outside," Luke stated. "Is your separating mind!"
"What?" Prince Luke exclaimed astonished.
"I came in here to rebuild the basic structure of your mind so that your father could then enter and restore your personality so that we can get about preventing our realities from merging, or had you forgotten about that?" Luke snapped.
Prince Luke stood still for a moment wondering what the boy was talking about. Then, suddenly, it all came rushing back to him, the visions, the pain, the ropes, the wall....
"We came all the way through the wall didn't we?" Prince Luke asked with a sinking feeling in his heart.
"Yes you did," Luke replied studying his double. "But the travel seemed to have a bad effect on you and caused your individual mind components to separate."
As Prince Luke listened to this and as the memories started to come back in more detail, but they were still cloudy, however as they came to him the walls of the chamber they were in seemed to shimmer. Luke looked at his double then at the walls suddenly realizing what was happening and his eyes opened wide in realization.
"What?" Prince Luke demanded looking at the boy standing before him.
"Don't you see?" Luke questioned ignoring the superior tone of voice his double used. "As you remember what happened to you the walls are weakening and fading, you're keeping yourself trapped here!"
Prince Luke looked at the walls and realized that his double spoke the truth.
"What else happened to me?" Prince Luke ordered.
"How would I know?" Luke sneered, his eyes narrowing in anger. "You were already going mad when you arrived in my reality."
Prince Luke's head snapped up and his anger rose at the boy's accusation.
The mirrors around him seemed to shiver, and Emperor Vader stepped more carefully in the corridor as he sensed the instability. What was happening?
* * *
"What do you mean?" the Prince questioned harshly.
"Exactly what I said. Outside of this place, in the physical world, you appear as a madman, a mindless husk. But we need you to help repair the realities, and I assure you, I will not be leaving here without your sanity restored. And that is threat not a promise," the young Dark Jedi smiled sharkishly.
Luke eyed his double irritably. Mad. They thought he was mad? What exactly had happened when he came through that wall? Another memory shimmered somewhere, and the walls shivered with it, as Luke gasped. This had started before the walls. He remembered now. He had started to feel that ... loosening ... there was no other way to put it, of unsciousness before he went through the wall. It had been when his mind had nearly fused with his counterpart. He had felt strange, out of the world, so to speak. When he had went through the walls, he was simply severed from his functions. Luke shook his head, a head he now understood was but part of a spiritual projection of the mind. Which was a contradiction, seeing as this was his mind. But there was no time for that now. The walls were completely transparent as his memory flooded back. The ceiling was growing harder, though. Instinctively, he knew that it was right. The ceiling was a vital representation of some part of his being.
"Come!" Luke snapped harshly as he stride forward, through the walls which were so thin that walking through them was no trouble at all. His double smiled smugly, as though he had accomplished something. Grudgingly, Luke admitted to himself, that by jogging his memory, the boy had accomplished something. Not that he would tell this self-righteous Dark Jedi that.
* * *
Emperor Vader's eyes opened wide in surprise and satisfaction as the mirrors began to heal themselves with extraordinary speed and efficiency. Soon, they were perfect. It was time to go. He reversed his direction.
* * *
As the Lukes departed, the walls of the centre of Prince Luke's mind hardened into perfect obsidian once more, reflecting off of the eternal mirrored corridors.
Luke gasped as his mind completely returned to his own body.
"Luke," Lord Vader said looking down at his son.
Seconds later Emperor Vader returned to his own mind and shook his head before looked at his son's double.
"What happened?" he demanded.
Luke slowly stood up as he looked at the Prince whose Force presence was steadily growing stronger.
"He was basically keeping himself trapped," Luke said just as the Prince gasped and looked around. "I had just finished rebuilding his basic mind structure when I was sucked into a chamber-like part of his mind where his conscience was. As he started to regain his memory the walls of the chamber shimmered until he had remembered everything and the walls were thin enough for us to pass through."
Emperor Vader nodded his head at this explanation as he turned his attention to his son.
"You all right Luke?" he asked.
"Yes," Prince Luke replied looking at his double, his father's double and finally Palpatine.
"Now that young Vader has finally decided to join us we should get to the task we should have started long ago, we need to start rebuilding the walls between our realities," Palpatine ordered giving the Prince a cold, hard, accusing stare.
Prince Luke had known Emperor Palpatine as a surrogate for the grandparent he'd never known on either his father's or mother's sides. The Emperor had been a harsh man when it suited his purposes, as it often did, but he'd always been kind to young Luke. This Palpatine was different in some fundamental manner. Like his father, the Prince noticed the despair of this place, the aura that made it seem almost unreal. Grimacing inwardly, the Prince ignored the strange Palpatine's stringing comments as the air they were. His mind had been damaged in an attempt to stop the disaster that was upon the horizon. He could not be blamed for what had happened. No one could. Satisfied with his logic, the Imperial Nobel smiled tightly and said, "I seem to recall someone rummaging around in my thoughts earlier. Perhaps then you know that the method to patch the walls are to use minds?"
"They know," his double said icily. The Prince nodded curtly, though he'd like nothing more than to strangle his obnoxious young alternate. The Prince did not like the Dark Jedi. He represented far too much of what Luke could have been, had he not used his own common sense. Lip curling in a slight sneer, the Prince directed his next words at the young Dark Sider.
"Perhaps then you are aware that minds are very difficult indeed to pull from their hosts, especially the vast billions that we will need to complete this task?"
"Of course," his double snapped.
The Prince smiled tightly. "I propose then, that the method by which to do so would be to 'seduce' so speak, the minds from their bodies. I've heard that you professional dark siders are all very good at that. You actually seem to talk about nothing but that. The vision, should a man or woman choose to follow it, would lead to a Force trap. Having already consented to follow the original lure, they would have no choice but the continue along with the path set. We would collect the minds, and weave them with the Force into the reality walls, reinforcing and strengthening them as we go along."
Palpatine regarded the Prince for a long moment, and said, "Clever. Perhaps your presence is worthwhile after all," hoping to nettle the Prince into anger.
Luke simply regarded him steadily and said, "Of course it is," confidence in his every tone.
Emperor Vader looked up as he realized what Palpatine was trying to do. Palpatine disagreed with the fact that his son wasn't a Dark Jedi and he was going to try to change him to be as he wanted him to be. He was about to say something when he decided that it was better not to start an argument, besides Luke obviously knew what was happening anyway.
"Since we need billions of minds and since it would be an extra burden to get them from your reality as well as from ours now that you're here we should start with the people from Alderaan and then continue using the minds of non-humans we have no use for," Palpatine stated.
Luke smiled at this, this way his master wouldn't have to worry about the Alderaanians and their Jedi and Old Republic ideals anymore, and he would also be getting rid of all the aliens the Empire had no use for. Briefly he wondered as to what aliens his master had in mind and quickly decided that they'd probably end up using the minds of Sullustans, they had no use what-so-ever to the Empire, they were nothing but a pain. Besides Luke thought once the Sullustans or the majority of them were gone they would be able to strip their empty home world for metals and anything else that could be useful to the Empire.
Prince Luke frowned inwardly as he thought of what Palpatine had just said, using Alderaanians and non-humans? It wasn't that he liked either particularly, but using them just because they were non-humans or Alderaanian's? He suppressed a sigh knowing that if he objected it might only cause an argument and then they'd lose precious time, besides this wasn't their galaxy.
Emperor Vader briefly had the same thoughts as his son, but he too cast them aside.
"Very well," Emperor Vader stated out loud. "We begin with Alderaanians. It would probably be best if two of us concentrated on creating the illusion, two of use on pulling the minds with us and the last one of us should place each mind into the wall."
Luke nodded at this and looked at his double. "As you said earlier us dark siders are good at creating the illusion and taking the minds away, which would leave you out of both of those jobs," he said with a smile on his face. "You'll have to be the one who puts the minds into the walls."
Palpatine smiled to himself as Luke said this, he knew his young apprentice didn't like his double for the fact that he didn't only use the Dark Side. This showed how close Luke was to completing his training, as he was already trying to get the other Luke to lose his temper.
Prince Luke regarded his double, his detest for the boy growing, he wanted to finish repairing the walls as soon as possible so that they could get out of here and back to their own universe.
"Emperor Vader, you and young Skywalker can create the illusions while Lord Vader and I take the minds from their bodies and direct to where your boy can take care of them," Palpatine stated in a voice that meant that there would be no more discussion on who did what.
There was no time for arguments. The Force filled the room with intensity, brilliant light and ecstatic darkness. All five beings soaked in the power of it, drank in the essence of the universe. Weaves of power were grabbed hold of, entwined into the minds of the five, connecting in a manner that ensured that no matter their individual tasks in this matter, they worked as one, a machine, a perfect device of smooth motion.
Emperor Vader drew in a deep breath, relaxed his every muscle, and drew in a single thread of the Force. Within that thread he threw every temptation he could think of - money, power, possessions, sex, manipulations, corruptions and redemptions, cosmic communion, a million other things. All of it, everything, in that single thread, until it pulsed with such power and strength and size that it seemed an overripe, overgrown sun ready to burst.
Gritting his teeth, the Emperor passed it to the young Dark Jedi who stood some feet from him. It felt as though he were trying to pass the universe.
This thread, though he knew it's trap, was so incredibly ... seductive. To hold onto it ... He almost laughed. It was tempting, but he knew better, certainly. This thread would not give these things. This thread, this ocean of temptation, would destroy.
Still, it was so hard ...
Luke Skywalker accepted the thread's other end with a pained grunt, feeling the weight of it all the more as he held it in his will. His teeth ground against themselves. So heavy! Temptation! The will to resist was even more difficult to summon up when he had not created it, when he had accepted this with no understanding of the weight.
Both took a deep breath. One, long breath. Then, another. And another, bringing their life forces into balance. Both held one end. Now ... form the visions of temptation from this thread of seduction.
Luke had agreed with Emperor Vader before hand that he would concentrate on one side of Alderaan while the Emperor concentrated on the other. Resisting the temptation he created visions of different kinds and sent them to the unsuspecting Alderaanians. He found that despite the terrible effort the people quickly accepted the visions and willingly allowed his father and Emperor Palpatine to take their minds out of their bodies and lead them to their doom. He also found that it was easier to seduce the minds of the sleeping Alderaanians so he quickly sent a message to his father's double before concentrated on those first.
Lord Vader pulled one mind after another free as fast as his son could seduce them. He was taking the minds seduced by Luke while Palpatine was concentrating on those seduced by his double. His task was difficult because even a willing mind was hard to take from its body and drag across space to wherever Prince Luke was working on the walls. He found that every time he brought a mind over his son's double was just finished with another and ready to accept the new mind. Vader quickly figured that while it might be hard work Prince Luke had the fastest work, which was good as he was receiving two minds for everyone he brought over. Lord Vader also found that although the minds had absorbed as much of the seduction as they could he could still feel free floating parts of the seductive visions when he entered a mind to take it away and found it hard not to give in. Whatever Luke and his double had created it was most definitely very powerful and almost impossible to resist.
As soon as Emperor Vader received the message from his son's double he started seducing the sleeping Alderaanians first. He was pleased to note the Luke Skywalker was keeping up a good pace, even if slightly slower than his own.
Emperor Palpatine pulled the latest mind from the Alderaanian's body, eyeing the Emperor Vader closely, carefully, all the while. The man was disturbing Palpatine far more than he let on outwardly. A version of Vader who was Emperor? A version of Vader who was uninjured, who's spirits remained uncrushed, who retained the confidence the Vader Palpatine ruled over had held as Anakin Skywalker? He passed the next soul to the Prince Luke - the young man was almost as disturbing as his father. A Luke who was not a Dark Jedi, who used more than the Dark Side, who was true courtier and noble, as well as fighter? He grimaced. The Alderaanians should be running short soon. How long had they been doing this for? How many were now stacked on the walls between realities. Suddenly, Palpatine realized that he was reaching for the next soul, and there was nothing there. A though, transmitted through the room from Emperor Vader, rang in Palpatine's mental 'ears.'
'Switching realities. Alderaanians in another ...'
This gave Palpatine thought. Switching realities. Moving the train of seduction from one reality to another, and reaching out for the spirits of that cursed planet in it's alternates. Could they completely destroy the Alderaanians, in all realities? It seemed an unlikely prospect, considering how many realities had the potential to be, but Palpatine smiled at the thought of trying. And this tool that young Skywalker, and the strange Vader were using! It was amazing! You could convert all the light Jedi in existence with but a touch of this! Palpatine made a mental note of that, though of course it would have to be toned down, for easier handling upon an individual basis. Palpatine was not holding the tool, but he could sense the strain, and see the sweat running down their faces.
On Emperor Vader's order Luke followed his father's double into another reality. They used an extremely weak part of the wall to go throw and were soon busy seducing the Alderaanians from this other reality. Once again Luke started with the sleeping ones as the effort was really starting to wear him down, but he kept up his pace knowing that if he quit he would be merged with his double, something he didn't even want to think about. He detested his double just as much as his double detested him.
Lord Vader eyes his son with concern as he took another mind from a seduced Alderaanian. His son's face was covered with sweat and it was a lighter colour then normal, he could also feel the weariness of Luke's body and yet his son didn't complain, he didn't even slow down. Vader smiled at this, his boy was strong, stronger then he was, all he needed to do was complete his training and then he'd be the strongest man in their reality, maybe even in the other realities, but there was no way of knowing.
Prince Luke sighed as he took another mind from Palpatine and put it into place in the wall, he wasn't cementing them into place yet as he didn't have the time at the moment, they'd have to do that later, together. Prince Luke wasn't particularly looking forward to having his double near him, but he knew that as soon as the walls were rebuilt he and his father would go back to their own reality and then they'd never see their doubles again, ever. The thought brought a smile to the Prince's face as he took another mind from Lord Vader.
The work went on and on, as soon as they finished the Alderaanian's in one reality they went on to another and another. Luke let out a sigh of relief when his father finally stated that Prince Luke said he had filled all the gapes in the walls. Everyone immediately returned to their bodies in the throne room and Luke Skywalker and Emperor Vader both had to sit down and just let the Force flow through them, refreshing them.
"Are you sure you filled every gap?" Palpatine demanded sternly looking at his apprentice's double.
"Yes," Prince Luke replied irritated, for although not as worn out as his father and his double he was exhausted.
"Good," Lord Vader replied. "But how will you get back to your reality now?"
"The walls have all their bricks so to speak," Prince Luke replied. "But the bricks still have to be cemented into place. We need to start that and then my father and I will go back through the wall and you finish cementing the place we went through."
"Then we never see each other again," Luke muttered eyeing his double as he got to his feet.
"Exactly," Prince Luke replied.
Lord Vader looked from his son to the Prince knowing full and well that if the two of them were left alone in a room they would probably end up killing each other. He shook his head at this, he didn't like his double but he didn't hate him either.
Luke stood to his feet, which were clad in soft, mouldable white leather. He had done almost no physical walking this day, and yet his feet ached almost as much as his mind did, not to mention his physical head, which was sporting a pounding migraine. Letting out a breath, the Prince drew back into his mental centre, turning towards the first gap he came across the in the wall. This would surely be the most tedious job. The crack between the "bricks" was crooked and gapping, and Luke, as he smoothed it over with the Force, slowly moving them together. A jarring shudder ran through his body, and Luke nearly screamed in shock. It was pulling at him, like a vacuum! The cracks were dangerous, he backed away into his own mind quickly.
Sending a message to the others - the cracks are dangerous, they'll try to suck you in - Luke slowly emerged again, searching blindly behind him for a handhold upon reality, such as it was at the moment, and began again. Still, with every smoothing motion he made, the sucking grew stronger.
As the work continued all five of them noticed the sucking. As Luke Skywalker worked on the wall he tried to ignore the weariness of his mind and body, the past few days were really starting to take their toll on him. He shook his head and concentrated on his work, he knew that if he didn't pay attention he might be sucked into the wall and that was something he absolutely did not want to happen.
Working on another section of the wall Lord Vader was worrying about a totally different subject, not that he wasn't worried about being sucked into wall, but something was going to happen, something big, but he couldn't place what.
Moving along a weaker section of the wall Emperor Palpatine worked on, his anger growing, this was not the work for an Emperor! He wished that there was somebody behind this mess, for that would mean that he would be able to take his anger out on them, he just loved to make people pay, to hear them screaming, knowing that he had won. Palpatine then turned his attention back to the wall as he heard a loud rumbling sound. Quickly he took a step back and looked at the wall.
Hearing the rumble Prince Luke also took a step back and was about to continue his job when suddenly the slight sucking seemed to grow in strength and pull him in. He called out as he was pulled towards the wall.
Luke had also stepped back at the rumble and heard his double's scream just as he too was being sucked in, he was being pulled closer and closer to the wall. Then, just as he was sure that he was going to be pulled into the wall, he stopped. Reaching out he felt for what was holding him back and quickly touched his double's mind, as they touched minds he could feel that his double was just as confused as he was at being held back from being sucked into the wall.
"We must balance each other out," Prince Luke sent suddenly understanding.
"That would make sense," Luke replied. "It also means father will be safe, but master..."
"Master?" Prince Luke suddenly questioned.
"Palpatine," Luke replied worriedly. "He'll be pulled in!"
"Good," Prince Luke replied honestly. "That means your father can take over the Empire and rule as he was meant to."
But even as Prince Luke said this he could feel that his double was still worried. Suddenly he realized that Palpatine must have demanded totally loyalty out of his double and his father's double, in this reality they were really his servants.
Emperor Palpatine let out a startled cry as he was sucked closer to the wall. He immediately reached out with his mind to try to anchor himself to something to stop from being pulled into the wall. As he reached out he saw that all the others were being pulled near the walls as well, but even as he watched they stopped as if being pulled back by invisible treads. He soon realized that that wouldn't happened to him as his hands made contact with the walls and started to merge into it. He cried out and struggled, but it was no use Palpatine kept being pulled further and further into the wall. Knowing that nothing could save his body he reached out and entered his young apprentices mind and tried to anchor his mind their.
Prince Luke had been trying to contact his father when he suddenly slid forward and inch.
"What's happening?" he demanded speaking into his double's mind.
But even as he did so he felt Palpatine's presence there. Instantly realizing what was happening he started to push at Palpatine's mind.
"What?" Luke exclaimed.
"Drive him out!" Prince Luke ordered. "He's getting between our link, and if he does so we'll all be pulled into the walls!"
Luke Skywalker hesitated for a moment, he had never even thought of disobeying his master, much less try to kill him. He'd sworn loyalty to Palpatine and in return the Emperor had trained him.
"LUKE!!" Prince Luke exclaimed. "If you leave him in your mind all three of us will die! He's got no double and so there is no way for him to survive this!"
Luke hesitated a second more before he started helping his double, trying to drive Palpatine out of his mind.
"NO!" Palpatine exclaimed. "You are mine! I command you! Let me stay!"
Just then Luke Skywalker and Luke Vader managed to dislodge the Emperor's mind and they silently watched as he was sucked into the wall, moments later they felt the disturbance in the Force as his individual mind was destroyed.
Silence was crowned in that moment. Palpatine's vast mind filled the largest crack in the wall, cementing it closed forever, or as close to forever as can be. But the shock was too great for Lord Vader and Luke Skywalker. For Emperor Vader and Prince Luke, it was a respect for all possibilities that may be, for the fact that if they had not had a double, that could have been either of them. The silence stretched onwards, ever further and faster, seeming to stir the air even as nothing was done.
Muscles cramped as they stood in that same position, for how long it was not know. Finally, Lord Vader spoke.
"He is gone," the silence shattered.
Luke Skywalker's breath hissed out and emotion completely overcame him.
"This is your fault!" he screamed at his double. "You wanted me to let go, you put those ... ideas! ... in my head to begin with! You had no right! This is not your world! This is not yours!"
"I understand," the Prince said calmly, not hating his double at that moment, but pitying him. In the end, his double seemed no more than a boy, at war with himself. "You understand. He is dead here, and nothing can change it for you, Luke. Nothing. Not screaming and not accusations."
Luke's eyes went wide with incredulousness. He wanted the Prince to scream back at him, wanted him to accuse in return, so he could strike out and destroy him. But this calm reasoning - he did not know how to respond to it!
Behind his mask Lord Vader blinked in surprise, Luke was reacting far stronger then he had expected him to, far stronger then he was reacting. But then he figured, Luke had been raised to obey Palpatine, raised never to even think of betrayal, and now suddenly he had helped destroy his master. As he lightly probed his son's mind he saw something he had never seen before, instantly he knew that he could only see it now because Palpatine was no longer there to hid it from him, he saw that Palpatine had been suppressing some of his son's ability to touch the Force, leaving Luke with more emotion and power then he was used to, thus the reason for him striking out. Seeing that Luke had calmed down somewhat he turned to his own double.
"You'll have to go through the wall before we completely seal it."
"Yes," Emperor Vader replied as he too felt what Palpatine had done to his son's double.
'The faster we get out of here the better,' Emperor Vader silently thought to himself as he looked at his son.
"I guess this means you're the Emperor now," Prince Luke said looking at his father's double.
Lord Vader nodded silently as Luke looked at him, regaining his composure.
"We'd better finish the walls," Luke Skywalker suddenly said, his voice betraying no emotion.
"You're right," Emperor Vader agreed before they all continued their work.
It was almost finished.
"We are leaving now," Emperor Vader said, turning to his double. Lord Vader, who would no doubt soon be know to the peoples of his reality as the new Emperor, nodded in agreement.
"It was ... interesting," the Dark Lord noted.
"It was indeed," the Emperor's nod was of respect and acknowledgment, before he turned to Luke Skywalker and said, "Luck to you."
Prince Luke turned to his double and nodded curtly, an acknowledgment of existence, wary and irritable, no more. The nod was returned by the young Dark Jedi with the same wariness.
"Luke," the Emperor gestured his son over to him. "Form the spear," he said, referring to the manner in which they had arrived. "And shield your mind."
Luke did not need that reminder of his near fatal first crossing.
The Dark Lord and the Dark Jedi observed as their doubles faded and disappeared.
As soon as their doubles disappeared Vader and Luke finished the cementing and thus blocked the passage between their realities, permanently, or so they hoped. When they were done Luke allowed his self to sink to the floor, exhausted. Vader studied his son for a moment before he spoke.
"You have noticed the increase in your abilities?" Vader asked needlessly.
Luke silently nodded his head and looked up at his father, his eyes asking if his father had known what the Emperor had been doing.
"No," Vader replied shaking his head. "He hid it from me as well."
Luke nodded at this and then turned his head towards the throne, waiting for his father to take his rightful place. Vader hesitated for a moment before he stepped forward and seated himself in the Imperial throne. He quickly found that while the throne had been almost too big for Palpatine it fitted his form perfectly, almost as if it were made for him.
"Emperor Vader," Luke stated as he got to his feet.
His words just hung in the air for a while, reminding both of them of their close encounter with their doubles and how close they had come to merging with them. The silence stretched on for what seemed like an eternity while it was actually only a few minutes.
"Lord Skywalker," Vader finally replied giving his son his former title.
Luke smiled at the title, briefly grateful that he wasn't going to be titled 'Prince' even though that was what he now technically was. He liked the title 'Lord' better, it stood for more then just heritage or a future position, it stood for a current position, a position he had trained and waited for from as far back as he could remember.
"We must inform the others of Palpatine's death," Vader finally stated as he looked at his son.
Emperor Vader looked about, seeing clear starlight streaming down through the open ceiling of the main tower of the Imperial Palace. He took a deep breath, revelling in the fresh air that wafted down from above. His son materialised beside him. Vader reached out to Luke's mind, checking on his condition. Nothing seemed wrong. The Prince smiled then, crookedly.
"I'm fine," he said with a laugh, genuinely delighted. "Force, but it feels good to be home!"
"I know exactly what you mean," the Emperor answered, not at all wryly. He was in complete agreement with Luke at the moment.
"I hope nothing like that ever happens again," Luke continued. "Couldn't agree more. We need sleep, and lots of it," the Emperor noted.
"Days must have passed while we were fixing that damn wall. Panic may have taken hold. So, sleep must wait," he reflected, "At least for me. You can catch some now, though."
Luke was already shaking his head, "I don't doubt that you calm matters, but I'd feel much better if I was there, too."
"Good," Vader had been hoping Luke would say this, but had given the choice as well. "The delegation will still be here, as well. What a time to disappear. They must have put out messages to every contact they have. Force..." the Emperor muttered, "We'll have our hands full. Then again, this could be turned to our advantage. Keep them on their toes. Oh, and Luke. The guards will still be outside Princess Leia's door," he gestured pointedly.
"Damn it," Luke muttered, remembering the matter of the troublesome Alderaanian girl. He wondered suddenly just what realities those Alderaanians had been taken from. Was it from his own? If so, those Alderaanians off their planet at the time may be the only ones left of that race. It was possible, but there was no way of knowing just yet.
There had been a lot of doubt among the highest ranking officers of the Empire as to how exactly the Emperor had died, but none of them was stupid enough to confront the Dark Lord or his mysterious helper with Palpatine's death. Instead they had just prepared everything for the public announcement of Emperor Palpatine's death and of Darth Vader's promotion to the position of Emperor as Palpatine had no children and as he was the second in command of the Empire.
Standing in his room in the Imperial Palace Grand Admiral Tern looked into the mirror one last time, just to make sure that he was ready. Being the present third in command of the Empire he, and everyone else, expected Lord Vader to promote him to the status of 'Lord' and second in command of the Empire after Vader's crowning as Emperor. Smiling at his own reflection Tern briefly thought about someday becoming Emperor and ruler of the galaxy. The thought broadened his grin and he saluted his reflection before he turned and left the room, heading for the Emperor's throne room.
As soon as he entered the throne room Grand Admiral Tern collected himself and walked up the stairs to the throne which was facing him but which was empty as Lord Vader stood before the window looking out over Coruscant.
"Is your speech ready?" Vader demanded as he continued to gaze out the window.
"Yes my Lord," Tern replied knowing full and well that Vader meant the speech he was meant to give before Vader took the throne.
There was a moment of silence before Vader finally turned around to gaze at the Grand Admiral.
"Very well," Vader replied eyeing the man he'd never liked, one of the first things he'd do as Emperor was to get himself and Luke a better third in command. "Dismissed."
Grand Admiral Tern gave a slight bow at this and turned around to leave the room, slightly disappointed that the future Emperor hadn't even mentioned his own promotion to second in command of the Empire.
Back in the throne room Luke stepped out of the shadows as the Grand Admiral left the room.
"He over estimates himself," Luke stated as his father sat down in the throne.
"That he does," Vader replied looking at Luke who was now wearing long, black, flowing robes not unlike those he wore. "I never did understand why Palpatine chose him as a temporary third in command, but we'll soon get a more appropriate person for the position."
Princess Leia was furious. She had been pent up in her room for ten days now, on guard by Imperial Stormtroopers. There had apparently been complains in regards, because she heard arguments every once and while outside, but the troopers had ended it quietly and simply gone back to guarding her. Food and drink had been delivered three times each day. The privy was kept well stocked, and her sheets had been changed once, but never had she been let out, and never had she the chance to escape. Where would she go, anyway? As prisons went, the plush room wasn't at all bad, but that was not the point in the slightest.
Without warning, the door opened. Leia frowned at her watch. It wasn't time for her meal ...
In walked Prince Luke, looking more tired and haggard than ever she had seen him, dressed in the same white velvet she had last seen him in. His hair was mussed, his blue eyes were hollow, and he kept blinking as though to keep from falling asleep on his feet.
"You're free to leave, or continue with the gathering. Nothing has changed since then. My father and I have been absent. The guards have been dismissed," he turned on his heel and walked away, trudging wearily.
Leia was in shock. Just like that. No explanation or anything. She was free, and she could go back to the gathering. Well, she'd certainly have something to say. Absent? Where had they been?
"...and while we will mourn the death of Emperor Palpatine for some time to come we must go on," Grand Admiral Tern said standing on the dias right before the throne in the public throne room.
Although the crowd was respectfully silent there were many among them who were glad that Palpatine was dead. However many of the people in the crowd weren't even thinking about Palpatine, no, they were thinking about Vader and trying to decide whether or not they were glad that he would become Emperor. Vader was leader, there was no doubt about that, but did they really want him to be the Emperor, to be the most powerful man in the galaxy?
In many homes across the galaxy families were sitting in front of holo projectors and watching everything live. Many of the Navy officers watching were glad that Vader was becoming Emperor as it meant that he wouldn't be with the Navy as often as now and that meant that they didn't have to worry about being chocked to death for the slightest mistake they made.
"As our late Emperor had no children the throne automatically goes to his second in command, Lord Darth Vader," with this Tern stepped aside and watched as Vader made his way up to the dias and sat down on the throne.
There was a short silence before their was an applause. Vader looked at the crowd and then at his son standing at the bottom of the dias, just out of sight from most of the people in the room. After a few second of applause Vader motioned for silence and immediately the crowd fell silent.
"As I am now Emperor that leaves my former position free," Emperor Vader stated and noticed Tern, who was standing at the edge of the dias, lift his head in expectation. "I therefore proclaim Luke Skywalker Lord Skywalker and my second in command."
There was a murmur of astonishment in the crowd as everyone heard this. Grand Admiral Tern's mouth dropped open in shocked disbelieve and his eyes opened wide. Luke then stepped forward and walked over to his father's right, acutely aware that all eyes were on him. As he took his place he looked over at Grand Admiral Tern and smiled.
Leia Organa stalked out of her room, catching up with the Prince is short order.
"What is the meaning of this? Where were you? Why was I locked up?"
He looked at her with those weary eyes, and despite herself, she shivered. He looked so tired.
"An urgent trip was made," he said, "We had not time to give instructions in regards to you or anyone. And you know why you were imprisoned."
She scowled. She knew. She had been sneaking around, but damn it she a right to know things! They couldn't... they could keep things from her.
She was Alderaan's Princess and Senator, but Emperor Vader ruled the galaxy, and Prince Luke was his father's chief advisor. In their eyes, she was not much.
"If you'll excuse me, Princess," Luke nodded, and trudged off.
Leia scowled and turned in the direction of her travelling companion's quarters.
Shock greeted her, screams for attention from people who had served her family diligently for years.
"Princess! Princess, it is horrible! Alderaan! The people!" the woman who shouted these things broke down in sobs after every word.
"They're all dead!"
* * *
Emperor Vader stood before the assembly some hours later. The people stared at him in expectation.
"I have heard of Alderaan's mysterious misfortune. I am saddened by these circumstances, but nothing can be done for the dead save for to figure what has happened. I will investigate this. In the meantime, Alderaan's dead will be lain to rest in proper fashion, and those surviving off planet will be notified."
Questions assailed the Emperor, and he answered, and no one noticed the white clad woman who's face was drawn right with grief. Her father had been on Alderaan. Bail Organa was dead.
Sitting in his throne in the throne room Emperor Vader regarded his son.
"When you were seducing the souls of the Alderaanians did you ensnare Bail Organa?" the new Emperor suddenly asked.
"No," Luke replied smiling. "I purposefully left him alive to see the consequences of his actions."
"Good," Vader replied. "Our Princess will have quite a welcoming commitee when she returns to her home planet."
Luke's smile grew at the thought and then he watched his father turn the throne away as three storm troopers brought the young Princess into the throne room. They guided her up the stairs and stopped before the throne.
"Leave," Luke ordered and the storm troopers turned and left.
Leia looked at him for a moment as she noticed the new clothing Luke wore.
"Well you definitely look better then the last time I saw you," Leia replied referring to when he had fallen screaming to his knees. "A pity you didn't die."
Luke regarded her silently for a moment and was about to reply when Vader turned the throne around to face a visibly shocked Princess.
"A little more respect," Emperor Vader ordered. "Or we could just punish your planet even more."
It took a few minutes for Leia to get over the shock of seeing Vader in the throne, and when it did she realized that Luke had taken his former place. After this had sunken in Leia finally had time to think about what Vader had said, punish her planet even more?
"What have you done?" Leia demanded weakly as she finally found her voice.
"You'll see when you arrive back home," Luke replied.
"You're letting me go?" Leia asked in astonished disbelieve.
"Yes," Emperor Vader replied. "We needed you here to make your father control his people, but... that is no longer necessary."
Leia's eyes narrowed with worry and suspicion at those words and was about to say something when Luke stepped forward and lead her out of the room through the Imperial Palace to a shuttle waiting outside.
"Take her away," Luke ordered to the storm trooper waiting at the base of the ramp to the shuttle.
"As you wish my Lord," the storm trooper replied as he took Leia's arm and lead her up the ramp.
Three days later and both Emperor and Prince were quite refreshed, dressed in clean clothing, bathed, and well rested. Colour returned to them, and weariness banished, they were both ready to begin the false investigation into Alderaan's mysterious attack. Though the deaths of so many was highly suspicious, especially upon Alderaan, long thought to be Rebel sympathizers when that faction existed, and beyond was difficulty to brush aside, they would put their best efforts to it, and hopefully it would soon be history.
Lamented, faded, history. The surviving Alderaanians, who numbered in the bare thousands, would return to their planet once the current inhabitants were put to rest, cremated, it would have to be, considering the numbers, and that would be that.
"Assemble the investigation team. The best we have," Emperor Vader ordered Prince Luke. "Tell them nothing. They are to search as they have never before searched. Make it seem urgent and an extreme concern. They will find nothing, of course, but at least this way we cannot be accused of brushing things under the rug."
"People are going to want vengeance," Luke noted.
"Yes," the Emperor replied. "Just as they're about to give up, we'll give them a scape goat. A suitable one, one that no one is fond of."
"What's that?" Luke asked.
"Father?" Luke asked as he re-entered the throne room.
"Yes," Emperor Vader replied not bothering to turn away from the window.
"What about Alderaan?"
"What about it?" Vader asked turning to face his son who now stood several feet behind him and slightly to his right.
"Well what are we going to do for an explanation?" Luke questioned looking out of the window.
"I see what you mean," Vader replied as he went to sit in the throne. "Well the Princess knows that we're behind it one way or another as we told her that our problem concerning Alderaan was solved. Let's just leave it at that."
At this Luke turned to face his father as he lifted an eyebrow questioningly.
"Think about it," Vader stated. "If we don't bother to even investigate the matter then everyone will know that we either did it or know how it happened, and since people know that we were displeased with Alderaan nobody will dare defy us the way they did for fear of ending up like the Alderaanians."
A smile slid across Luke's face as he thought about this, people were always scared of the unknown. Generally if you knew what had happened you had a target to attack or to hid from, but if you had no idea what had happened there was no way to protect yourself from whatever had caused it to happen.
"So we just let the rumours run wild," Luke said after a moment of silence.
"Exactly," Vader replied. "Now, I've been thinking about a new third in command and I have two people in mind, however as you'll be working with them more often then I will you can choose."
Luke just nodded his head and waited for his father to name both men.
"The two men I've chosen are Grand Moff Subik and Grand Moff Losren."
Luke was silent for a moment as he thought about both men, he had been expecting his father to name those two. Grand Moff Losren was a capable man who could take charge in almost any situation, but he also knew when to be silent and follow orders. He had seen Losren at work several times when he had been with his father. Grand Moff Subik was also a very capable man and always ready to take charge in any situation, but Luke had run into him a few times and there was something about the man that he didn't like, he wasn't sure why, but he didn't like the man.
"Losren," Luke finally stated.
"Very well," Vader replied regarding his son before activating the com on the throne arm. "Inform Grand Admiral Tern and Grand Moff Losren that I want them in here in five minutes."
"As you wish your highness," a voice through the com said at which Vader turned the com off and looked up at his son.
"The faster Tern is moved down the better," he stated.
Luke just nodded his head in agreement as they waited for the two men to arrive.
Time passed, and the Imperial Gathering disbanded from the Palace, wandering back to their planets, and their organizations. Emperor Vader and his entourage saw each and every representative off with such ceremony that even those picky beings were satisfied. All save for Princess Leia, who remained upon Coruscant, waiting for Alderaani from all over the Empire to draw to her, to come to her, so that they may reestablish themselves, repopulate their home world. And the investigations, hard working, desperate, and sincere, turned up nothing, as predicted. Absolutely nothing. Even Leia could not fault them. She had kept tabs on their every move, and it was obvious that this was no cover up. And they had found nothing. It was frightening. A planet hit, cleared of all human life? Only human life? All other animals were perfectly fine, plants were healthy.
Nothing should be wrong. But the fact of more than thirty million rotting corpses contradicted that. What other planet may be possibly hit by this mysterious affliction. And then the investigation team came back to Imperial City, bearing bells. Their eyes were afire with revelation, marching straight to the Emperor. They'd found something, they said. Found something? What was this? Evidence that the Hutts were behind it. And the Empire screamed it's outraged, and it's satisfaction, The Hutts, hmm? Hutts had never been trusted, and now they'd proven themselves for good. Emperor Vader turned his sights, and his weapons, upon the giant, slug like creatures.
Luke stood at his father's former place on the right hand side of the throne and waited. Any moment now the two men should be entering the throne room. His father had already turned the throne away as Palpatine had done before him. Then the elevator door opened and two men stepped into the room. They quickly made their way forward, ascended the stairs and stopped at the top, waiting to be acknowledged by the Emperor.
Luke eyed them as they stood there and noticed the evil glare the Grand Admiral gave him when the man thought that he wasn't looking. After a few minutes of tense silence Vader finally the throne around to face the two men.
"Your Majesty," they both said as they gave a short bow.
Vader nodded his response as he studied the men. Grand Admiral Tern was wearing his usual dark blue uniform, which was only worn by the third in command, and Grand Moff Losren was wearing his usual green uniform.
"I have brought you here as Lord Skywalker and I have decided to make another change in the power structure," Emperor Vader said indicating Luke when he mentioned his son.
Luke immediately noticed the angry glare Tern gave him, and inwardly he smiled, Tern was already mad at him for the fact that he had become the second in command of the Empire instead of him, and now his anger would grow when he learned what Luke had helped Vader decide.
"Grand Moff Losren, from now on you are Grand Admiral and third in command of the Empire," Vader stated as he watched Tern closely.
At first Tern's face showed no reaction as the meaning of the words took a minute to reach him, but then his face paled before it turned a bright red and he turned his eyes on Luke. It was clear to even to the new Grand Admiral Losren that Tern blamed Luke for what had happened.
"Lord Skywalker did not in anyway make the call here," Vader stated warningly. "He only helped me decide who to replace you with."
Tern obviously realized that he was on dangerous ground as he quickly turned his gaze away from Luke and looked back at Vader.
"You will take Grand Admiral Losren's former place," Vader continued.
"As you wish your highness," Grand Moff Tern said even though it was clear to everyone that he wasn't glad about it.
"You're dismissed Grand Moff," Vader ordered putting a special emphasis on the title.
Grand Moff Tern bowed, turned around and left the throne room. As soon as the Grand Moff was gone Vader turned his attention to the man standing silently before him.
"Grand Admiral Losren," Emperor Vader said. "Unless otherwise ordered you will remain on Coruscant to preform your new duties."
Losren nodded his head as he glanced at Luke. From what the Emperor had said earlier he knew that while the young Lord might not like him a lot he certainly didn't despise him as he had helped choose Tern's successor. Vader noticed Losren was studying his son.
"You will mainly be in contact with Lord Skywalker and from time to time with me, but you are to obey Lord Skywalker at all times," Vader ordered. "Even if his orders may contradict with an order I gave you earlier, is that understood?"
"Ye...yes your highness," Losren replied shocked.
At that moment he knew that the Emperor totally trusted his second as he was giving him the perfect opportunity to betray him. Losren knew how rare it was for someone in Vader's position of power to completely trust someone and to give them the perfect chance at betrayal. There was something about the young Lord that he didn't know, something very important, but he knew better then to ask questions, but perhaps he'd find out some day, perhaps.
In a strange twist of fate, the destruction of the Hutts was to be the final straw for any thought of Rebellion. In vindictiveness as strident and vicious as though he truly believed the Hutts had destroyed Alderaan's people, Emperor Vader destroyed the Hutt worlds, outlawed dealings with Hutts, and placed a bounty upon every last Hutt in the Galaxy. The peoples of the Empire watched in blood thirsty satisfaction.
The "evidence" of Hutt foul play was of course destroyed before it was put under too much scrutiny. Soon enough, Alderaan was repopulated by the remaining Alderaani, and generations it was nearly completely restored to it's previous numbers. With one exception to it's peace loving character - it was completely loyal to the Empire. And so was the Galaxy. After the Hutt extermination, Emperor Vader ruled for decades to come, and the people loved him. He was a hard man, it was said, which was true, but he also cared for his Empire, his peoples, which was also true.
After he died, which happened not fading away in his sleep, but in battle with a faction that had thought to usurp the Emperor, a faction which was put down by Vader's final blow, Prince Luke was soon raised to the position of Emperor. A gracious ruler, it was agreed, though his father's rule was the talk of legends for generations to come.
And the stars twinkled in their places, silent, eternal witnesses to the continuance of Imperial rule, cold, brilliant light shining over the Galaxy.
Few indeed ever guessed what had truly happened, that the universe had come to the edge of destruction, and was put back in it's place with the sacrifice of countless souls.
As soon as the shuttle flew over the capitol of Alderaan Leia knew something was wrong, normally Aldera's streets were full of people going about their lives, but now, now the streets were empty and deserted. Leia's heart stopped for a moment as she remembered the Emperor's words: 'Or we could just punish your planet even more.' What had the Imperials done?
The shuttle then approached the Palace and set down on the single landing pad in the gardens of the Alderaanian Palace. Leia quickly went to the front of the shuttle and got out meeting with no resistance from the storm troopers.
As soon as she was walked down the ramp of the shuttle she heard her father's voice: "Leia!" Bail Organa called out as he came running out of the Palace.
"Father," Leia replied as she walked up to him.
As soon as he reached his daughter Bail Organa pulled her into a his arms and hugged her while tears ran down his check.
"Leia, Leia, I was so worried about you when we found out you had been kidnapped," Bail whispered.
"Father," Leia said as she pulled herself out of his embrace. "What has the Empire done?"
Bail looked at her for a moment, almost as if he didn't want to tell her, but then he knew that she must know.
"Well I'm not certain who did it, but all the people are dead, they're corpses lying all over the place, in the palace too, everyone but me is dead" Bail said looking around as if expecting someone to jump out of nowhere and kill them too.
"It was the Empire," Leia stated firmly. "Emperor Vader told me before I left that he had punished Alderaan."
"Emperor Vader?" Bail questioned.
"Yes," Leia replied as the shuttle took off. "It's a long story....."
Lightsabers clashed as Vader and Luke fought, they were practising, just like they had the week before, only this time there was no one watching them, monitoring them. Luke had quickly gotten used to his new powers and he put them to use as his father could clearly tell as he was being forced back. Suddenly changing tactics Luke managed to rip his father's lightsaber from his grasp and send it flying across the room. There was a moment of silence during which Luke waited for his father's reaction. Finally Vader nodded his head as he stretched out his arm and called his lightsaber back to him.
"Good," Emperor Vader praised his son. "Very good. I knew from the moment you were born that you'd beat me someday."
Luke stepped back and deactivated his lightsaber as he watched his father walk back to the throne and sit down.
"Tomorrow you will take the fleet and to the Sern system," Vader ordered as Luke approached him. "There have been rumours of Rebels in the area, make a quick example of them."
Luke nodded his head as he thought about the future of the galaxy, a future he and his father would decide together as they ruled the Empire and so the galaxy.
Selinthia Avenchesca & Valerie Vancollie