Walking the Edge
Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me, sadly enough.
Special thanks to Red, my very capable beta and to Kee for her input.
Anakin Skywalker smiled as he felt his daughter´s mindtouch. At last she had forgiven him. At last he would have peace and freedom, the two things he treasured most, apart from the love for his children, the love for his wife. Content, the spirit of Anakin Skywalker, one with the Force, began his journey to the Jedi Realm. And then something went wrong. Suddenly he felt weakness, pain and confusion. But I am dead, am I not ? he thought, uncomprehending. His mind seemed to slide, seemed to become heavier, his touch on the force lost ist effortlessness.
I am dead ! he screamed soundlessly and shook his head.His eyes snapped open very suddenly and he gasped in shock at the sight greeting him next. He lay on some floor, feeling the cool touch of tiles on his naked skin. Disbelieving, he tried to get up, but he was too weak to even move his head. Where was he? And how, he thought in horror, did I come to live again? There was only one answer to that question and it was that answer that shook him to the bone. Clones. "Welcome back, my servant," the Emperor´s voice sounded at the same time satisfied and amused. Anakin shuddered with revulsion at that voice. Hatred and fury suddenly blossomed in his dazed mind and he wanted nothing more than to kill that...No. Not again. Never again would he join the Dark Side. Never. He didn´t react when hands gripped his arms and lifted him upright.
But his blue eyes burned with an icy fire, as he gazed up at Palpatine, who bent down to his kneeling prisoner and cupped his chin in youthful hands. "Ah, but I will break you again. You know I will," he promised softly. "Never," Anakin hissed and spat in those yellow eyes. Palpatine merely stepped back and nodded in satisfaction. Realizing what he had just done, Skywalker lowered his head and pressed his eyes closed. No, he reminded himself desperately, don´t give in to hatred and fury. "Move him to his cell," he heard the Emperor order. He didn´t resist the guards dragging him forward. But he made an effort trying to map down his surroundings. He noted every corridore, every door they passed. But nothing was familiar. Finally they reached a massive steel door. Palpatine worked the controls and the door slid open to reveal a high-vaulted steel chamber. In its middle stood a steel bed, complete with steel manacles which snapped close around Anakin´s wrists and ankles. He was surpised to find himself facing a multitude of screens which seemingly showed different views of the building he was in. He could see the clone lab where he had `arrived` and even himself in this very chamber. "Well, Skywalker, do you like the view ?" Palpatine asked with false concern. Anakins eyes focused on his old Master and he allowed himself a tight smile. "It is surely better than your ugly visage," he stated calmly and was rewarded by a look of pure hatred from Palpatines yellow eyes. "Perhaps you will enjoy this more," the Emperor said briskly and brought the resurrected Jedi´s attention to a glass container built into the steel wall to his right and filled with some blue liquid. A transparent tube was attached to the container and Anakin´s gaze followed it´s lenght right up to the sharp needle point that marked ist ending.
"Tell me, Skywalker, why do you really think did I made the effort to resurrect you ?"
"Revenge?" Anakin prompted.
"You know me very well, my servant," Palpatine laughed.
"I do not serve you anymore," the Jedi replied with just a hint of anger in his voice.
"But you will again. And before you do, I promise you a sea of pain, just to please me. You will beg to be my servant again. And this," he held up the tube´s sharp end," will be your undoing."
With these words he thrust the needle into Anakin´s jugular. And just after he had removed his hand again, the last manacle snapped into place, holding Anakin´s neck and sealing the wound. Shock was replaced by fiery pain. The Jedi closed his eyes and bit his lower lip in concentration, seeking the calm of the Force to ease the pain. His disbelieving eyes snapped open just seconds later.
"Yes," Palpatine smiled, "this room´s walls are energized. Touching the Force here is impossible. That is, it is impossible to touch the Light Side of the Force. But I know a brave little Jedi like yourself would rather bear the pain than touch the Dark Side, wouldn´t you ? Although I should mention that the pain will increase over the time. Still, no worries, eh?" He patted Anakin´s shoulder in mock understanding. But the former Dark Lord wasn´t even aware of the touch. A sea of pain. Indeed.
6 years later on Byss
Luke Skywalker stepped out of the energized cage, his head held high.. Yes. His enemy was waiting for him..in that direction. Next to him Artoo beeped worriedly But he was a Jedi Master now. He did not have to fear anything. Artoo didn´t seem to share his master´s view, but there was nothing he could do but follow Luke into the palace. The corridores were barely lit and full of shadows. There was an eerie silence throughout the palace, but Luke didn´t care. His purposeful strides took him swiftly to the throne room, but Luke was ill prepared for what was waiting for him there. "You!" he exclaimed, as he faced the Emperor Palpatine again.
"Somehow I knew..But I saw you die!" he shook his head slightly. The Emperor smiled:
"Yes, you knew..You´ve grown very strong in the Force since last we met..But then, so have I ! It was not the first time I died," Palpatine explained," nor will it be the last. Such are the mysteries of the Dark Side of the Force." Luke Skywalker took a step back and viewed his enemy with new understanding. But Palpatine continued his little speech:
"You see, my friend, flesh does not easily support this great power. For many years I have been under a dire necessity ! My body has decayed again and again..and each time I have needed to take another. A humble clone of the man I once was.."
"Clones! Then it is true," Luke wondered aloud, thinking back on his unfortunate meeting with the cloned Jedi Master Joruus C´baoth. The Emperor smiled again.
"Yes, young Skywalker.The dying is painful..the transition is not an enjoyable experience. But the suffering is a small price to pay..for eternal life! After all...I live primarily as energy...formlessness...and power. And now, my young apprentice..your father is dead. Have you come to join me ? Will you take the place that rightfully belongs to you, at my side ?"
Several levels down a tortured prisoner closed his eyes in dismay as he watched the Emperor carefully place his net to entrap the young Jedi Master in the Dark Side. Luke, Anakin Skywalker thought desperately. He knew very well, that his son couldn´t hear, but how he wished for him to listen to his warning. Luke, don´t, he pleaded, when he realized Luke´s intent. But then he saw his son kneel before the Emperor, and say:"Yes. My father´s destiny is my own." Palpatine had won. Anger tore through Anakin´s pain and there, just out of sight he could feel the Force, the power of the Dark Side. But surely Luke had a plan, surely his father would not have to turn to the Dark to save him ? Anakin hoped very much for it. For if he failed, the galaxy would not only have to face the Emperor, but also two very powerful Dark Jedi. And that truly was too high a price. So he could only wait and hope.
Days passed and Anakin´s hope dwindled. He could see Luke´s attempts at sabotaging the Emperor´s World Devastators, but he also knew that this only postponed his fall to the Dark Side. Just like his father before him, he was deceiving himself with his `noble´actions.
"Isn´t he touching ?" Palpatine asked from where he was sitting on the edge of Anakin´s `bed`, as they both watched Luke studying the Emperor´s Dark books."He thinks he can defeat me by learning my secrets. Do you think he might succeedd ?" Anakin didn´t answer. This close to the Emperor, his rage was a barely controlled beast. As Palpatine knew very well. He turned his head towards his one-time servant and leered : "Don´t you hope for him to succeed and free you ?" Still no answer. And there would be none. Not this time. The Emperor enjoyed his little visits almost as much as Anakin hated them. The past six years had been hard on the resurrected prisoner. But he had learned to cope with his new existence. At the beginning of a new month the dosage of the blue drug would be increased and the pain intensified. But after a while his body would grow accustomed to a certain pain level, which made the torture bearable.
At least until the next month. And all the while Anakin held on to the Light. Although he didn´t see any hope for himself he sought to protect himself from a renewed fall to the Dark Side, if only to spare the galaxy the return of Darth Vader. But now, now everything had changed. If Luke didn´t shed the Emperor´s influence really soon, all of Anakin´s efforts would be for naught. Anakin would have to decide wether to take the risk and save his son or hope for another solution. The other solution he was thinking of was his daughter Leia. She loved her brother dearly and would try to rescue him, he was sure of it. Just like Luke had saved him on the second Death Star. Anakin Skywalker smiled. His father´s destiny, indeed.
Alone in his own quarters but for Artoo, Luke Skywalker suddenly snapped out of his dark broodings and raised his head. He could feel a warm presence nearby, a loving presence come to seek him out. "Leia," he whispered. She shouldn´t have come, he thought angrily as he stood up and made to leave the room to greet her. Artoo whistled an inquiry. "It´s Leia," Luke explained, "And I´m sure she has brought Threepio," he added with a dark smile at the droids worried sounds.
The Emperor was pleased. Now he had not only father and son in his grasp, but also the daughter. And Luke Skywalker was about to learn just how deep he had wallowed into the Dark Side already. Too deep, in fact. This was proven to the Emperor by a little exchange of words in his cloning labs.
"Leia. Han," Luke said gravely, "you shouldn´t have come here. I told you that my destiny is not yours." But it will be, Jedi, Palpatine thought gleefully.
"I can see you´ve really gone off the deep end this time, kid. Looks like being a Jedi was too much for you." That from the smart-mouthed Corellian. He was in for a surprise, as Luke would have none of it:
"Be quiet, Han," he hissed viciously," There are things far beyond the mind and powers of a space pirate...Things you´ll never understand."
Han Solo frowned:" Wait a minute. I can read a face, farmboy. You´ve come a long way from the idealistic kid who couldn´t wait to get off Tatooine and join the rebellion. A long way down."
This was going too far for his wife. "Han, take it easy. You don´t know what he´s been through," Leia said with a calmness she didn´t feel at all. Her uneasy gaze was drawn to her brother who seemed so distant and dark.
"Lord Skywalker. The Master wishes to meet our guests," one of the clone masters said suddenly.
Alone in his cell Anakin screamed his rage and tried to break his bonds with brute force. But they held tight. No ! he roared helplessly and groaned with fear for his children. Not Leia too. She stood, lightsaber ready and poised for action, facing both the Emperor and her brother.
"Leia! Don´t be a fool !" Luke warned. But Leia had her mind set on finishing this whole affair.
"I don´t know what´s happened to you...But get back," she replied, unsure of who to attack.
"Excellent," Palpatine whispered," Strike you brother ! Then you´ll see what new powers he has won from the Dark Side of the Force."
Don´t you dare, Anakin thought furiously, don´t you dare harm my children.
"No!" Leia shouted and struck at the guard holding Han." Let go of my husband, you overgrown freak!"
Anakin closed his eyes. He knew the Emperor would tolerate only so much defiance in his prisoners. And none in his servants. He was unable to shut out the words though.
"Look at you, brother and sister, Jedi. The last of your kind." Another lie that burned in Anakin´s mind. "And I have you both !" Palpatine concluded.
Not for much longer, the former Dark Lord swore. He listened to the old man´s promises, promises he himself had fallen for. But his children had learned from their father´s mistake. Or so he hoped. Don´t prove me wrong now, he begged them both silently. Then Leia made her move, janking some kind of ventilation pod out of its socket and dropping it on Palpatine´s head with the power of the Force. But the Emperor had anticipated that. And his patience was at it´s end.
"Luke ! Help me!" Leia screamed, as blue Force lightning played over her body, driving her to the floor. And Luke stood by, doing nothing. Elsewhere a concerned father was trembling with rage, cursing and screaming, but not daring to take the last step, to take the power that was just out of reach. To take the power of the Dark Side and smash the Emperor´s evil presence once and for all.
In the Emperor´s quarters, about the only place not connected to the wall of monitors in Anakin´s cell, Leia Organa Solo touched the Emperor´s Jedi Holocron and watched the ancient Jedi Master Boda Baas materialize as a holocron. "Jedi, hear the words of Boda Baas" the apparition said," Some among us have thought to conquer the Dark Side by learning ist secrets. Three to my knowledge, three have tried this...Perished, every one of them perished." Leia turned towards the Emperor. "This is a Jedi teaching device,"she stated," You have no right to this." Palpatine´s face turned ugly:"Oh, but I do ! Aren´t I the master of all the Jedi ? Your own father was my apprentice !" And will be again."Give me the Holocron." But Leia didn´t comply: "My father died because of you. And my brother...My brother is in great danger."
Leia ran from the Emperor´s quarters, the Holocron clutched safely in her hand. How dare he threaten her unborn child ! She had to get away. But she wouldn´t leave without her husband...and Luke. Anakin watched her go and smiled briefly. So much strengh in this one. If anyone could turn this mess into a victory it was her.
And Luke ? Just as expected he had a plan. He had fed the master control code to the World Devastators into Artoo´s circuits. But still, Leia didn´t seem at all convinced when he assured her he was free of the Dark Side again. Neither was her father. He knew the Dark Side too well. For now though they were save and leaving. Leaving, that was the most important thing. Once they were free of the Empereor´s grasp, Luke could fully redeem himself.
Feeling his impending death the Emperor had retreated to the now deserted cloning labs. He sat in his chair in silence, staring into nothingness. Anakin was watching him intendly. What was he up to? He wouldn´t let the Skywalker twins get away easily. And then Palpatine spoke: "Skywalker. I sense your presence. How did you get in here ? The clone lab is sealed. My moment of transference is close. Noone is allowed in here."
Anakin´s heart skipped a beat. Luke here ? Was the boy insane
"I have come to prevent that transition," Luke Skywalker said grimly and ignited his lightsaber. But he was too late, too late.The Emperor shed his aged body and though Luke tried to prevent the inevitable by destroying the clones in the laboratory he missed one of them. And one was enough.
"Did you really think you could conquer me by coming here to my throne-world ?" the young Palpatine sneered at the Jedi. The following battle was short and fierce. It saw a defeated Luke Skywalker on his knees before the Emperor who held the tip of his lightsaber at his adversary´s throat. "Now get up.." Palpatine snarled, "we are going to find your sister! I want my Holocron. And I want your sister´s child ! I am going to crush the rebellion once and for all !" Those last words were all but lost on Anakin Skywalker who barely retained consciousness, as a new month had begun, bringing a fresh wave of incredible pain with it.
When next he opened his eyes all the screens were filled with the Emperor´s youthful face. He looked just like six years before, when he had resurrected Anakin Skywalker. "You are awake," he said without preamble. "like the view ?" Half of the screens suddenly showed a giant planet with hundreds of rebel ships orbiting it. Anakin frowned. He didn´t understand. "This, old friend, is the new rebel headquarters. Take a good look. It will be the last time you´ll see this hopeless planet. I will take your daughter and make her mine, just as I made you and your son mine. And you will watch. You will enjoy it."
Palpatine stood and turned towards a door opposite the one-way screen. "Here comes your son." At the sight of Luke´s broken eyes his father felt his own heart tighten with grief. Why hadn´t he acted earlier ? Why was he so afraid to use this power ? The Emperor had moved to the comm desk and punched in a few commands. Luke stood behind him, watching. "Leaders of the Rebel Alliance," Palpatine began," I have no quarrel with you. Give me the woman Jedi, sister of Skywalker...Return the precious object she stole from me. A shuttle is waiting. Send her to my ship. And I will discuss a truce with the Alliance."
Liar. He was a liar. All depended on Leia now. What would she do? Whatever it was, the Force would be with her. And then she stood facing the Emperor again. She was so strong, so calm although the Emperor threatened her unborn child again. With ease she deflected his attack, enraging Palpatine no end. And then the Emperor ordered Luke to break his sister. Anakin´s breathing stopped when his children´s lighsabers crossed in a crackle of sizzling power. "Leia. I don´t want to hurt you," Luke said apologetically."The last thing I´d do is hurt you, Luke," Leia replied and continued: "What´s happened to you is not final. Clear your mind. Look at the future." Yes, daughter. You can bring him back. Together they could shed the Emperor´s influence and challenge him. "I made a big mistake," Luke was saying," I thought I had to save the galaxy all by myself. But the way of the Jedi is not a solitary path. Many have died defending the truth. Many are together in this great war. Together in the Force!"
Yes. And I am with you. He is defeated. Nothing can stand before the power of the Force. He saw his children turn the Force Storm the Emperor had created into a deadly trap for the despot. Yes. Anakin did enjoy the view very much. Just as the Emperor had forseen. He felt like laughing again. The first time for six years. And though it hurt against his ribs he didn´t stop laughing for quite some time.
Executioner Sedriss was in charge now, awaiting the Emperor´s return. An event, which hopefully would never occur, Anakin thought. Sedriss was a Dark Jedi, one of several Palpatine had created. He was extremely loyal to the Emperor and, surprisingly, an admirer of the late Darth Vader. Perhaps this could turn into an advantage. With Palpatine gone it shouldn´t take long for someone to find his secluded prison and set him free. With any luck it would be Sedriss.
But the Executioner was facing his own problems. Treasonous elements in the Imperial hierachy sought to punish him for failure in bringing the planet Balmorra to heel. Even now they were destroying the last clones in the other clone labs. Anakin watched Sedriss stride grim-faced through the Citadel´s somber corridores, the rest of Palpatine´s Dark Jedi right behind him.
But upon reaching the clone labs he waved them to stay behind. "Nefta, Sa-Di," Sedriss adressed the two traitors, "What´s going on?" he demanded. Nefta turned to face him. He eyed the Executioner coldly. "Sedriss. You dare to show your face in the Citadel, after your shameful defeat on Balmorra?" he sneered. This promised to become interesting Anakin mused and wriggled around his bonds to see better. "It is you who have spread the rumor that the Emperor is gone for good. And now you hope to make certain of it," Sedriss observed correctly. "My intuition was right...none of you is to betrusted," he finished. Anakin mentally shook his head. This man still had a lot to learn. "Someone has to rule the Empire, Sedriss !" Sa-Di was just saying. "Yes, that´s true...one powerful individual must rule. But certainly that won´t be you." Lightsabers clashed. And Sedriss was surely a better fighter than experienced leader. First Nefta, then Sa-Di fell to his lighsaber. Anakin smiled. Nice performance. He always liked to watch a good fight.
"Yes. He is just as fervently loyal as you once were," a familiar voice said from the doorway.
"Palpatine," Anakin hissed between clenched teeth."You have a nasty habit of always coming back."
The Emperor laughed. "You haven´t lost your humor, Lord Vader, that is a good thing."
"Don´t call me that. And what do you know of humor, Senator?"
"Don´t call me that."
Amazingly, the two adversaries shared a silent smile over the comical exchange. First display some weakness, then strike, Anakin reminded himself. For now he was defenseless, but that might change. Perhaps he could win the Emperor´s trust...But at what cost?