by MJ Mink
Sometimes I wish you had a name. Actually, sometimes I wish you were a real person. I feel sort of dumb talking into you like this all the time, but it seems to help. Anyway, I'm in trouble. And it's confession time. Confession first, then you'll see why I'm in trouble. Here goes: I lied to everyone -- Han, Leia, Chewie, the Alliance, everybody. But even worse, I lied to you. That's got to be the height of self-blindness! I have no excuse other than that I never wanted to officially record The Lie.
It was one of those lies that just happened. It wasn't premeditated. It happened five years ago when Han and I rescued Leia from the first Death Star. In my defense, all I can say is that it was a traumatic time for me -- my first battle, my first killings. I wasn't in great shape mentally to begin with, after seeing Owen's and Beru's burned skeletons, but then to see Ben cut down -- ! So when we escaped, when we were safely aboard the Falcon and Leia had her arm around me and was telling me about Alderaan and Tarkin and Vader...I'll admit it, I was scared. Not as scared as I am now, but scared just the same.
The first time she said Vader's name, the way she said it all full of loathing -- I froze. I wanted her to stop, yet I wanted her to keep talking about him. I wanted all the information I could get, no matter what it was or how bad it was. I heard how he tortured her, and I cringed. But when she said that it was Vader who killed Ben, that it was Vader in that black get-up, that it was Vader I had run away from, I couldn't stop myself from blurting: "Vader! That was Vader? But Vader's -- " And right then, before I could say the next two words, a dozen thoughts ran through my mind. I knew I couldn't tell her Vader was my father. She hated him, everyone hated him. I'd just met her and Chewie and Han -- I didn't want to lose them right at the beginning because I didn't have anybody else. (And, hey, I was trapped in the Falcon with them and why the Sith wouldn't they kill Vader's son?) But I had to say something, so I said "Vader killed my father". Stupid, right? But what was I supposed to say? "Hey, that's my dad you're talking about"? Anyhow, as soon as I said it I knew it was a big mistake and that it was the biggest lie I'd ever told in my life. It was The Lie. Aunt Beru used to warn me about lying, she said that someday I'd say the wrong thing and it would come back to haunt me. I thought she was talking about me lying to Uncle Owen about sneaking off with Camie and stealing beer from the store, that kind of stuff. Now I know she was right -- it's come back to haunt me, all right.
So I said The Lie, and suddenly it was the most important thing in my life. It gave Leia and me an instant bond. Then somehow everybody on the base found out about it. Han must have told them; I don't think Leia would have. Everybody knew that Vader killed my father so naturally everybody assumed that I hated Vader. I spent a lot of time cursing Ben -- dead or not, he deserved it. I'd mutter stuff like "Why did you tell me, Ben? Why didn't you just lie to me? Why did you have to tell me the truth?" I mean, why tell a kid that the galaxy's most hated man is his father? Oh, and by the way, kid, you have to kill him or the galaxy will go down in flames. Wonderful. I really hated Ben for awhile. Now...I don't know. I guess I understand why a Jedi should always tell the truth. I mean, I told The Lie and look at the mess I'm in now.
I should admit that it wasn't so bad for the first while. It made me kind of a glamorous figure -- not everyone has their father personally murdered by the Dark Lord! But it stopped being glamorous right around the time I went to Cloud City to do another rescuing routine. Because he was there. Father. Waiting for me. Waiting to exterminate the last Jedi. We fought with lightsabers (his idea, not mine) and he was good, damn good, much better than I. I was losing and scared in the worst way because I didn't want my father to kill me, but I didn't want to hurt him either. Because despite everything, despite the way everyone else felt about him, I couldn't bring myself to hate him. No matter what, he was -- and is -- my father.
So I told him. He had me cornered at the end of a narrow gantry -- chopped off my hand, damn him! -- and I was hanging on by the other hand and he was getting ready to end it. So I just threw The Lie to the winds and said, "I'm your son! You can't kill me! Do you hear -- you're my father!" He lowered his saber. I knew he didn't believe it, but then I felt his mind touch mine and then I felt him know. It was a strange, wonderful sensation, like there was a chain in my head that was missing a link and his head was the same way and all of a sudden the link was there and we were together. He raised his lightsaber again, and for a minute I thought he was going to kill me anyway. But then he dropped it -- literally dropped it, and it fell and fell and fell! He just stared at me. Then he shook his head and kind of whispered "No!" like he was scared and mad at the same time. Then he turned around and stalked away -- or flew, I couldn't tell which with that big black cape he wore! And I got off that gantry as fast as I could and ran like hell back to my x-wing and got out of there! Because Father wasn't happy about having a son, I could sense that! No, he was pissed. Royally. I didn't understand why. Then.
That was damn near three years ago. I haven't seen him since, though I nearly had a confrontation with him last year before we blew up the second Death Star. I knew he was on the Endor moon looking for me, but we were able to blow up the force field generator and the flight team destroyed the Death Star and the best part was -- my father didn't die. He'd come to the moon looking for me and that saved his life. It still didn't matter to me what he'd done -- well...it mattered, but he was my father and I loved him anyway. And sometimes, when we talked (something else I never told you, Journal, we used to talk to each other in our heads and it made me so happy -- until he stopped answering me awhile back) I felt that he'd grown to love me. He was angry at first and afraid, it turned out, because of some old Jedi prophecy about the son killing the father, but I don't think he believes it anymore. Maybe he should.
Maybe he should because of the mess I'm in now. My father is Emperor, having taken control of the Galactic Empire after Palpatine died on the Death Star. Yeah, he's Emperor but not an old stay-at-home like Palpie was. Dad likes space too much to let himself be grounded. Which brings me to the problem.
The Imperial fleet is on its way. The Rebel fleet is waiting for them. We're going for a final showdown. Father is with the Imperial fleet. I'm with the Rebel fleet. The plan is -- and can you believe this was Leia's bright idea? Sith, she can be hard when she wants to be! -- that I, personally, am supposed to confront Emperor Vader, personally. Why Ben told Leia that only another Jedi could kill Vader, I don't know! Oh, hell, I do know -- he was afraid I wouldn't follow through with my mission. And he was right.
So here I am. Mon Mothma has come up with this elaborate scenario for the "engagement" (she likes to call it) and everybody's gearing up for this Good Jedi versus Evil Jedi symbolic, ritualistic, execution thing (Sith, I heard somebody's taking bets on how long it takes me to kill him!) and I don't know what to do. I'm scared. I'm angry. I feel like I've been set up. Should I tell Father? Should I warn him? Was Ben right all along -- does my father have to die in order to save the galaxy? Save it from what? Damn, damn, damn, Journal -- what am I going to do? I've got to tell Han and Leia the truth. I have to. Maybe they can help me figure a way out of this. Because, no matter what the consequences, I can't kill my father. I'll die myself, first, before I'll kill him.
I will if I have to. Die, that is.
I set the password and put the diary aside. Scared. The galaxy's Only Hope was a coward. Maybe that's what I should say. Maybe I should tell them I'm afraid to face Vader and that we should run away. Let them believe I'm a coward. Wouldn't that be better? Maybe they'd despise me, but at least I wouldn't have to face my father and he wouldn't have to kill his son. Does Father know? These last few years, did he figure it out? Does he accept the coming confrontation? Do Jedi prophecies always come true?
Maybe the timing's wrong. Maybe it's not about us, about me and Vader. Maybe my son will kill me someday. Or maybe --
Or maybe nothing. I leaned my head back against the wall. I will not kill my father. I might die, but I won't kill him. We might die together. We might both live. So many possibilities. My growing clairvoyance was no help. Maybe my friends would be.
I sat up and drew a deep breath. Whether they helped or not, they had to know the truth. If I died, I didn't want The Lie to be my legacy. No fraudulent legend, no unworthy martyr. No false Jedi god. Everybody needed to know the truth about me. And my father.
The three of them were playing sabaac -- Han, Chewie, and Leia. Han was, as usual, cursing the day he'd taught Leia the game because she was beating the proverbial -- and probably literal -- pants off him. It seemed pointless, though, because I knew they'd let Chewie win in the end. But they were hours away from finishing, and I couldn't wait. I stood next to the table and cleared my throat.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but...I need to talk to you."
I'd never interrupted a game of sabaac, so they knew it was serious. I felt their thoughts. They were thinking that I was nervous about the coming battle, about my role in it, but none of them guessed The Lie. Chewie was going to hate me because Chewie loathed Vader for enslaving so many Wookiees (and torturing his precious Han). And Han and Leia? Well, after Vader tortured them in Cloud City, their theoretical hatred had turned into something much more personal, and I couldn't really blame them for it. My Father, the Torturer. Terrific.
Leia looked at me with concern in her pretty eyes. Once upon a time, I'd been a little bit in love with her. Good thing I'd never fallen hard, because it was Han who'd won her. I'd never stood a chance. "You're thinking about meeting Vader?" she asked gently.
"You'll be fine, kid," Han said gruffly. "We'll be right behind you."
Some comfort. I shook my head. "That's not it. I, um...have to tell you something."
Hell, the worst part, the most embarrassing part, was that I worried that I was going to cry before this was all over. It had been too many years, too much tension, too long trying to keep it inside -- "I lied to you."
That got their attention. The vibrations in the room changed from simple concern to uneasiness. What's wrong, cub? Chewie asked.
"Cub" never bothered me as much as "kid". I really wished Han would stop calling me that. I hadn't been a kid since I'd learn my father's identity. And now I sort-of wished Chewie hadn't called me by that nickname because in a minute he was going to hate me and no one would ever call me cub again.
I looked down at my fingers like they were seriously interesting. "I've lied to everyone. I..."
"Luke?" Leia laid her tiny hand across mine. Somehow, her touch made me feel very alone. Just the opposite of what she'd intended, I was sure. "Is this about Vader and you?"
She knows? I lifted my head and my eyes widened in surprise. "Yes!" They all know, I don't have to tell them? They love me anyway? They'd don't care who my father is? For just a second, a stupid, naive second, I felt happy and relieved.
"It's all right to be afraid," she continued, spoiling everything. "You don't have to pretend you're not frightened. Goddess, Luke, no one expects you not to be worried about fighting him. But we have faith in you -- "
"That's not it," I interrupted impatiently and withdrew from her touch. "It's -- " And once again, my courage failed. I wrapped my arms around my torso and hugged myself. I was cold. I was going to throw up. Maybe I'd have coronary failure and die right here before they could get me to the medcenter. I almost wished it would happen. "I lied about Vader," I said finally, nearly choking on the words. "He didn't kill my father." My throat tightened before I could finish, and I had to stop again to regain control of both my voice and my stomach.
"What?" Han put down his cards. You're never supposed to put down your cards in sabaac! "He didn't kill your father?" he repeated slowly. "You told us he did. What the -- ?"
"I lied," I repeated, putting off the inevitable revelation.
Han looked at me a minute longer, then he shrugged. "Everybody lies, kid. So if Vader didn't kill him, what happened to your dad?"
This was not going the way I'd planned in my head. "He's alive." Now I really was going to be sick! I must have looked a little green, because Han got up and made me sit in his chair and hovered like he did sometimes with Chewie. Especially when Chewie was mad. Like he was going to be in a minute. I sighed. "He's a Dark Jedi."
Well, that stopped all those budding questions real quick! Leia's eyes were huge. "But I thought there weren't any -- " She stopped, her skin paling.
I looked first at Chewie, then at the other two. I might as well say it before she did. A Jedi's supposed to be brave, right? "Vader didn't kill my father," I repeated so softly they had to strain to hear me. "Vader is my father."
No one said anything. I thought they'd yell or say "no, no" but they were quiet. Scary quiet. Their emotions battered the Force like laser fire. Incomprehension, astonishment, disbelief -- finally anger. Revulsion, even, from Leia. I closed my eyes against the looks on their faces because it hurt to see them. Chewie growled, and Han grabbed his arm. I didn't ever remember Chewie growling at me before. Except that time on the first Death Star when I tried to cuff him. But we didn't know each other then. Now we were friends. "I didn't intend to lie." I opened my eyes as I spoke to Leia. "I almost told you that first time. But when I heard you talk about how much you hated him, I just made up The Lie. And then...everybody believed it. I couldn't...I didn't want you to know...I didn't want you to hate me, too."
Here was the part where they were supposed to reassure me and tell me they loved me no matter what. But they all just sat there staring into space, not looking at me, not even looking at each other. Except for Han stealing glances at Chewie. In shock, I suppose. I wet my lips because they were very, very dry. "The thing is...now...now I'm supposed to fight him. But no matter what he's done, he's my father." Oh, Sith-hell, I didn't want to say this, but I had to! They had to know. "I love him. And I'm supposed to kill him. I'm sorry -- but I just can't do it. I'm going to see Mothma tonight and tell her."
I couldn't stay a minute longer. It was like waiting for judgment. Damn them, why hadn't they supported me immediately! I didn't wait to see what would happen, what they would say, I couldn't, because I wasn't going to cry in front of them -- I'm a Vader and Vaders don't cry! so I whirled and left that room faster than a womprat ran across a canyon floor.
Oh, Aunt Beru, you were wrong! Sometimes lies are good things, necessary things! Sometimes the truth destroys your world!
When I get back to my room, I almost cried. But I didn't. I told the truth and lost my friends. I almost wished I hadn't told them, except... Except for the first time in years, I felt clean.
Well, a fat lot of good all this confessing did me! I might as well have kept my mouth shut! After I got done whimpering, I put on my Jedi "uniform" (wouldn't it kill everyone to know that it was Vader who told me about the black robes Jedi wore?) and went to face Mothma. I was waylaid by Han and Leia. The best part of this whole rotten day happened then -- they hugged me! Yeah, they didn't care about my father! They didn't even care that I lied to them. They still trusted me. Leia said she understood why I lied, and Han said it was the smartest thing I ever did and why do something stupid now like telling Mothma? It would ruin my future with the Alliance, he said. But what else could I do? I asked him that, but he didn't have an answer and neither did Leia -- though she asked if I was sure I couldn't kill Vader? I knew it was mean, but I asked her if she could have killed her father. She got a little pale and a little mad, but she shook her head. They both said they'd support whatever I wanted to do. I asked about Chewie. Han said it would take Chewie a while longer, but he was certain Chewie would be okay about this. I wasn't so sure.
Anyway, to make a long story not hardly any shorter, right about then the emergency alarms went off. It was the Imperial fleet coming out of hyperspace practically on top of us! It was pretty hectic for the next while and, what with one thing happening after another, I never did get to talk to Mothma. The whole plan went ahead like it was on greased wheels. She basically dared Vader to face me and this time I did what Han suggested: I kept my mouth shut. So it was to be the battle of the decade: in this corner, the dreaded Emperor Vader and in that corner, the lightweight Jedi contender Skywalker. Sith!
So that's what I'm getting ready for now. We'll see, old buddy Journal, if I get back here to talk to you again. If not, Han or Leia will find you. I'm not locking you this time.
May the Force be with us all.
I was so nervous I almost set the lock anyway. But I didn't and I put Journal aside, right on top of the desk so somebody would find it, just in case. I wished I could see the future better, but it was only a jumbled mix of scenes that didn't make sense. It was almost time to leave for the freighter we were going to use as an arena. Neutral territory. The idea was for me and Vader to fight in front of an audience. Mothma, Rieekan, and Leia -- and I asked for Han to be there -- and four Imperials. Like a jury, I thought, or a panel of judges. Maybe we'd be rated for swordsmanship and how well we bled. I closed my eyes and said a little prayer (if that's what you call it when you talk to the Force) and then concentrated on my father. He didn't answer me. I sent my love anyway, just in case he was only pretending not to listen.
So, despite my efforts to avoid it, I was being forced into a confrontation with my father. I was my own fault for not talking to Mothma. And for telling The Lie in the first place. On the other hand, maybe it was like Ben said and the future was set. I liked Yoda's idea, though, that the future was always in motion. That gave a person hope. I didn't know exactly what would happen, but I knew I wouldn't kill Father. Beyond that...I couldn't see.
I sat between Han and Leia on the shuttle. They were flanking me like Imperial stormtroopers. Chewie had come to see us off. He hadn't been real comfortable with me, but he'd tried which was a damn sight more than I'd hoped. Mothma knew something was up -- or was I being too sensitive? Maybe she was just nervous about the confrontation. Maybe she was having second thoughts, as in: can this scrawny kid really defeat the Dark Emperor in a duel? I didn't know the answer to that one either. But, no matter what, it wouldn't come to that. I had sort of decided that I wouldn't draw my saber. Because if I drew it, something might happen. It might explode and kill Vader. It might sprout wings and fly out of my hands and kill Vader. Then the damned prophecy would come true anyway. I thought about leaving the saber in my room but knew I couldn't get away with that; some helpful big mouth would be sure to point out that I'd forgotten it. Too bad there wasn't a way to disconnect it. Well, I would just keep my hands away from it. Nothing would happen.
I was nervous and scared -- but it felt good to have Han and Leia with me! And I was glad to be seeing my father again, even under these nerve-wracking circumstances. Maybe I could talk to him, maybe we could figure a way out of this. I was thankful old Palpatine had dismantled the HoloNet; otherwise, they probably would have broadcast our confrontation to the whole galaxy. Sith-hell! I knew I wasn't supposed to ever ever ever get angry (because Jedi are saints, right?) but I couldn't help it. I felt like...a weapon, I guess, instead of a person. The Alliance treated me the same as they treated blasters and cannons and torpedoes. Aim me in the right direction and fire. I was getting pretty tired of it.
"We're almost there," Leia said. I don't know why she said it; nobody on board the shuttle was blind. We could all see the freighter. And the Executor. I'd like to see the interior of that ship someday...if I lived long enough. I started fiddling with my lightsaber; maybe there was a way to turn it off that I'd never found. Damn thing. Why did Ben give it to me? Why did he tell me about Vader? Then it hit me -- he'd treated me like a weapon, too. Strange I'd never thought of it that way before. It was so obvious.
We docked in a large bay. An Imperial shuttle was already there. Vader, flanked by what looked like highest ranking officers of the Empire, was standing at the far end of the bay. I had a sudden urge to run down the ramp yelling "Daddy! Daddy!" It almost made me laugh, but I didn't because Mothma was already looking at me funny. So I acted like a Jedi -- and had this weird feeling like I was playing dress-up -- and marched solemnly off the shuttle and toward them. Mothma cleared her throat to remind me that she was supposed to go first -- fine, go ahead. You walk into the lightsaber, lady!
I stepped back and let the diplomats do the talking. I looked everywhere but at my father. I felt so...I don't know. I was feeling a lot of things. Mostly like some kind of animal, I guess. My masters were entering me in a race. Everybody was placing their bets. First a weapon, then an animal -- where were all these unflattering comparisons coming from? I wished I could ask my father some questions in my head, but he'd cut me off totally. Maybe he was going to kill me. Maybe he didn't want to know what I was thinking when I died.
We all walked to another room. There were chairs at one end. Chairs, for Sith's sake, so the audience would be comfortable while they watched us kill each other! I felt disgusted. I let that feeling flow and, by the Sith, the Sith heard me! I knew he smiled under that mask, I felt it! I grinned at him. Mothma turned around and saw me. I coughed and covered my mouth, cleared my throat, made a great show that probably didn't fool her.
Eventually the talking ended and it was time for the big fight. Everybody else retreated to their chairs (hey, they didn't want to get hurt!) and left Vader and me in the center of this big empty storage room. He ignited his lightsaber.
That surprised me. I didn't think he would really fight me. I bounced lightly on the balls of my feet (ready to run?) and flexed my hands. I let them dangle loosely. I stayed just out of range of his saber as we circled each other warily.
"I'm not going to fight you," I said. I heard Mothma gasp.
"Are you so certain?"
I hesitated. He was baiting me, and I didn't know why. "Yes. If you intend to strike me down, then do it now." I wondered if I could really stand here and let him kill me. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the Force, let my breathing match its rhythm. I could feel it filling me. It made me calm. It made me think that I could just stand here and die. Because dying didn't matter; dying was nothing. Dying was the Force.
I opened my eyes and smiled at my father. "I love you," I said, loud enough for everyone to hear. I didn't care what they thought; I was way past caring what they thought. Hell -- they thought I was just an extension of my lightsaber!
Mothma jumped out of her chair. Rieekan yelled, "Skywalker, have you gone mad? What are you doing?"
Their anger didn't touch my calmness. "I'm telling my father how I feel," I said quietly, still smiling. And that shut them up!
Vader shifted the lightsaber to his left hand. He held out his right hand toward me. I looked at him, not even asking the obvious question. "How strong is your faith?" he inquired.
I didn't have any doubts. It's funny -- I didn't have to fight him and defeat him to know that I was a Jedi. I could feel it. For the first time, I could feel it. I took a few steps forward. The lightsaber singed my hair; I could smell it burning. Vader didn't draw it away. Another step and it was hot near my cheek, not touching, but very hot. Some logical part of me said I was going to get hurt, but that part didn't touch my Force part. Another step and the saber barely brushed my face. My skin started to sizzle. On some level, it hurt like hell. But I didn't stop. One more step and I put my hand in his big palm. For a moment he let the very edge of the saber's energy beam rest on my face. Then he turned it off and hooked it on his belt. His left hand touched my cheek, and it felt so cool and soothing.
"Your faith in the Force is strong," he acknowledged. "What of your faith in me?"
In a way, he was asking if I would join him. He'd asked it before, when we'd talked in our heads, and I'd always said no. Something was different today. He was different. I was different. "My faith in the Force let me touch your lightsaber. My faith in you let me take your hand." Which didn't exactly mean I would join him, and he knew it.
He didn't release me. He looked down at our clasped fingers. "I do not intend to continue this war," Emperor Vader said. "No surrender, no victory, for either side. Massive compromises, of course, which will necessitate strong leaders to speak for each faction. A voice of reason from the Rebels. You, not Mothma. She is too unyielding."
I laid my other hand on top of our joined ones and shook my head. "I don't understand."
"I am being very distinct."
"Not about the political stuff." Wonderful. Stuff. Language, the stuff diplomats are made of. "I don't understand about us. About the prophecy. I thought if I didn't kill you, the galaxy would come to an end."
"Ah, the old Jedi prophecy, the son destroying the father." Vader chuckled -- the Dark Emperor actually chuckled! "The prophecy is already fulfilled, my boy. Had you not hidden from me on the Endor moon, you would have known a year ago. Palpatine did not die on the Death Star."
My heart beat a little faster. Palpatine was alive? "What do you mean?"
His fingers squeezed my hand. He leaned closer and whispered, "I killed him before I came searching for you. He was the heart of the galaxy's evil. He was its promise of destruction."
He didn't need to say more. I understood. Palpatine was his father. My grandfather. The prophecy had come true, and it wasn't us. I didn't have to kill my father! On the heels of that wild relief came another realization: "Why didn't you tell me? You let me suffer for a year, worrying about this?" I was pretty damn indignant.
The black helmet tilted to one side. "Until this moment, I did not know for a certainty that I had truly honored the prophecy. I was aware that you might still have killed me."
Well, okay, I guess I could accept that reason. Then this little tiny niggling thought bounded into my head and got stuck there: If I came from a family of emperors -- did that mean I'd be Emperor someday? I sort of liked the idea.
My father heard me thinking and laughed aloud. He liked me -- I could tell.