The Truth - Chapter 46 (Conclusion)
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Yeah, right. As usual, the luxury of time was denied him. It ended abruptly with the arrival of the smuggler Han Solo later that day, as Luke and Jovay discovered when they were hauled into HQ to confront Solo, his Wookiee copilot, and-- big surprise!-- Princess Leia.
"Hi!" Luke exclaimed, unreasonably happy to see her again. "Where have you-- Oof!" Chewbacca squeezed him in a tight hug, growling that he was glad to see the cub. "Okay, okay! I'm glad to see you, too. Now lemme go!"
Leia's fists balled on her waist and her eyes widened in an incredulous response. "First you're a spy, then you're a Jedi-- and now Vader has traded me for you!" She whirled on Narra. "We can't give this boy to Vader! Commander, what's going on?"
"Who're you calling a 'boy'?" Luke grumbled, accepting his backpack from a guard and shouldering it. Trading him? His dad had captured Leia and was letting her go? Luke was willing to bet that Dad Vader was not happy about that!
"I really don't know," Narra replied grimly, presumably to Leia, "but we have something more serious than Luke to worry about." He nodded to the security guards. "Take them to Solo's ship. With any luck, if we keep our word, Vader will keep his." He paused as if he would add more, but shook his head. "Solo, you need to get out of here-- now. Get Luke to Vader before he attacks."
"Wait!" Leia protested. "Commander--"
"No problem," Solo interrupted. "I got paid up front. Let's go, my Imp friends."
"I'm not an Imp," Luke mumbled under his breath as he and Jovay were escorted outside by guards and the two smugglers. He wished there'd been a moment to talk to Leia alone. Not that he had any idea what he would have said to her. He looked back over his shoulder, but since he hadn't perfected the skill of seeing through walls, he couldn't catch a final glimpse of her.
"Doesn't matter to me one way or the other," Solo gave him a careless shove. "Get moving, kid! We haven't got all day."
"What's the big hurry?" he complained as Solo hustled them up the ramp and into his old ship.
"Ah, Vader's got some big Imp weapon headed this way-- and we're gettin' out of the way before the shooting starts!"
"Big weapon?" Luke came to such a sudden stop in the hatchway that Jovay ran into him. He looked at the Imperial. "The Death Star?" he asked flatly.
Jovay's face was unreadable. "Get inside, Luke."
He shook his head, responding both to Jovay and to what his own mind was asking: Did my dad lie to me?
No, that wasn't possible. His dad hadn't said anything about the Death Star coming here, where all these people were, where his friends-- and Leia-- were. His dad hadn't said--
...One great victory will feed his arrogance...
"Oh, krit!" A victory over the Alliance's ground troops! His dad meant for the Death Star to destroy Dantooine, then move on to finish off the rest of the Rebel fleet where they hid. That was when Palpatine would come, hovering and spying like a carrion bird to watch the death of the Alliance. And if Luke and his dad couldn't destroy the Death Star, if the rebellion was defeated, there would be no one was left to oppose Palpy, not even Darth Vader. The galaxy would live in fear of the Emperor's displeasure. After Palpatine died, there would be another tyrant to take his place... maybe Vader, maybe someone else.
Some things are worth dying for.
"You said it, kid," Solo muttered nervously, glancing upward as though he might be able to see the Death Star in space. "It's one hell of a monster. Let's get a move on."
"No!" He pushed past Jovay and broke free when the officer grabbed his arm. Racing down the ramp, he set out toward the base's HQ at a dead run.
"Luke, wait!" he heard Jovay call, then add quietly, "Take off and you're a dead man, Solo. I'll bring him back!"
"No, you won't!" he shouted into the rushing wind, barreling downhill to his Rebel friends.
Yeah, they were his friends, and he'd be damned if he'd zip safely into space while they were being slaughtered. Anyway, after Dantooine, no planet would be safe! His dad said he could destroy the Death Star-- all right, then he'd do it! He didn't know how, but his dad said there was--
He faltered and his frantic race stopped. His dad had said there was a way and that Luke would know. But he didn't have a clue. Oh, krit, why hadn't he paid more attention!
Well, fine, he'd protect the Rebels in whatever way he could, even if his efforts were futile, like Garven said. Luke tore off his backpack just as Jovay reached him.
"Come on, that's an order."
"You're not the boss of me!" Flinging open the pack, he began searching through it, pulling out the clothes and throwing them aside until he found what he wanted. "I'm going to stop the Death Star."
"Oh, yeah? With what?"
"With the only thing I have-- this." He stood and waved the lightsaber in Jovay's face.
The officer gave a disgusted grunt. "Don't be childish. We don't have time for games. That thing doesn't even work. We've got to leave."
"I'm not going!" His dad wouldn't let this place be blown up if he stayed here. No way! That was the answer! All Luke had to do was contact his father and-- No, then the Death Star would still be a threat. In that case-- "Hey, hold on a minute!" he exclaimed suspiciously. "How do you know my lightsaber doesn't work?"
"You told me," Jovay said easily-- too easily.
"I did not." His eyes narrowed. "Are you in on my father's plotting, too? What else do you know?"
He stared at Jovay, then at the non-functioning lightsaber. His dad had said there was a way and Luke would know. And, quite suddenly, he did know.
"Holy Sith!" He looked into green eyes that reflected his own agitation. "We're going to stop the Death Star here, today. Or are you really prepared to stand by and let the Rebellion die? That would put an end to your 'third side', too, wouldn't it?" Luke stopped and caught his breath. "Or is that part of your plan? Do you think the destruction of a planet will rouse the 'third side' into action?" He shook his head. "There'll be no stopping Palpatine after he uses the Death Star, no matter what my father thinks. He knows he can't do it alone. He needs me. And I'm not leaving Dantooine."
Jovay's cool exterior was cracking. He put his hands on his hips, shook his head and looked around. The indecisiveness on his face changed abruptly, first to frustration, then decision. "Damn it, Luke!" His arms shot out, fists clenched. "All right! But if we live through this--"
"I won't let you be in hot water with my dad." He grinned. "Let's go!"
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Jovay was damn good. It was momentarily disconcerting to see the swiftness with which he disposed of the security guards. Luke blinked, then pushed inside the hangar, running toward the group in the center-- as fast as he could, though it appeared no one even noticed, let alone cared to stop him.
"--whether it was an accident or sabotage, I thought we'd seen the last of the Death Star a decade ago," Willard was saying bitterly, "but he's built another one. How did he find us? It's over. Everything is over."
Sabotage? For a second, the room became distant, and he could see his father clearly. Had there been another Death Star? And his father had--? The vision faded before he could interpret what he had seen.
"Luke!" Leia exclaimed.
"What the hell is he doing here?" Willard snapped.
"This!" Carefully, Luke laid his lightsaber on the table. While the others watched in a silence born of desperation, he removed the protective caps and unscrewed the pins, carefully disassembling it until he reached the activator. There, blocking the connection, was what he suspected he would find: a tiny silver cube. He pried it out and held it up.
"If I'm not mistaken, this contains the technical readouts for the Death Star."
- - - - - Epilogue - - - - -
They were all dead behind him-- Boss, Porkins... even Biggs. Only Wedge escaped, his fighter crippled and useless. Now all that could stop Luke from firing the torpedo that would destroy this vile battlestation was one very persistent TIE fighter piloted by the most persistent man in Luke's personal universe.
Darth Vader. Dad.
No, Luke! It's too soon! Palpatine is safe on Coruscant. If you destroy the Star, he will build another. And another and another! Pull up, you must pull up!
He tried to focus on his unfamiliar targeting computer, struggling to ignore the voice in his head that alternately raged, reasoned and pleaded.
Luke! You're making everything worse! Pull up now! It's not too late!
It is too late! he lashed back. I won't let everyone on this base be killed!
Everyone on the base! Vader shouted in his head. If you're so worried about killing, what about everyone on the Death Star?
You're willing to sacrifice them anyway! he shot back. The only way to stop me is to shoot me down-- are you willing to sacrifice me?
There was a terrible silence. It lasted only seconds, but to Luke it felt like hours. Then: So... You will betray me, too?
The tone was heavy, lethal. He felt the blood rush out of his head, leaving him nauseous and dizzy. She betrayed me and I killed her. No, no, no --
Dad-- no! I'm not betraying you! I love you! We can still destroy Palpatine, but I can't let all these people die. This isn't right-- I can feel it's not right!
Young one, you are a fool! Vader answered bitterly. A blind fool! If you think I'm going to allow you to ruin everything I have --
From nowhere, two TIE fighters swooped toward him, lasers slicing brilliant lines across his vision, aiming for Luke with frightening accuracy. Even before he could take evasive action, his father blew them into sparkling bits that vanished from his vision as he continued speeding toward his goal.
Luke smiled tightly. He had his father's answer. Thanks, Dad. Look... let's get together later and re-think this plot of yours, okay? Maybe you could help me target this thing, back me up? I can't get a lock on the exhaust port and it's coming up --
It's coming up now, young one! Damnit! We won't get another chance now that they know we can penetrate its defenses! Luke, your targeting computer is unnecessary, it only hinders you-- use the Force! Remember what I taught you. Clear your mind. Focus!
He closed his eyes, seeing the port through his mind. It was simple, then, to find the target, to aim his torpedo, to wait for the right millisecond to fire the --
His head echoed with a mental shout of rage that jolted his concentration. Over his headset, he heard another voice. "Okay, kid, you're clear! Now let's blow this thing and get out of here!"
It wasn't until the torpedo was speeding on its way and he had pulled out of the trench that he realized what had happened. Solo, of all people, had come back to help him and had attacked his father--
Dad! Luke called frantically, wincing as the repercussions from the horrific explosion hit his x-wing. He held tightly to the controls, riding out the waves of turbulence as he tried to out-race the hurtling debris. Dad, are you okay? Where are you?
He didn't relax until he heard the slightly dazed reply. Damned pirate. I appear to be intact, as does my fighter.
Relief flooded him. Father...
Son. Come with me. I will hide you, teach you, and when you are ready...
His relief faltered. This wasn't a decision he could put off or avoid entirely. In an instant he had to weigh his alternatives: his lifelong desire to be with his father against his awareness that his father's path might not be his path. Darth Vader was walking somewhere that Luke didn't want to go... somewhere Luke didn't belong.
I can't, he sent, hoping his dad could hear his regret. You're going somewhere I can't follow. I'm not Luke Vader. I'm Luke Skywalker. I want to learn about the Force and become a Jedi... like my father.
To his great sadness, there was no reply, not as he followed the Millennium Falcon back to the base on Dantooine, not as he landed the x-wing on a bare strip of ground that led to a hanger. People rushed out to meet him, shouting, grinning, yelling his name. He popped open the canopy, tossed aside his helmet, and jumped down without the aid of a ladder. He was hugged and patted and both his hands were shaken by Rebels he'd never met. Apparently he'd achieved the goal that he'd once selected so frivolously: he was a hero.
It didn't feel as good as he'd thought it would.
"Luke!" a familiar voice called, and he looked up to see Karas Jovay climbing down from the Millennium Falcon along with Solo and Chewbacca. He smiled faintly as the Imperial officer pushed through the crowd.
Jovay reached him, clapped his shoulder and grinned, then sobered as he studied Luke's expression. "You're a lot like your father, you know," he offered quietly, and Luke's heart sank.
"You think so?" he asked dully.
"Yes. Stubborn." The corner of Jovay's mouth quirked. "Determined to do what you think is right. That's all he ever did, you know."
The din of congratulatory shouts was ringing in his mind as well as in his ears. "That's supposed to make me feel better?" he asked angrily, hissing under the cover of the noisy celebration. "I'm exactly like him, is that what you're saying? That I'll become what he is-- do what he did?"
Jovay tilted his head and shrugged. "I guess that depends on what you believe is right," he answered softly.
He stared, feeling a warm wash of understanding fill him. That was it, the difference between him and his father. The truth was, what he and Vader believed was completely different. His father needed power and possessions-- people, planets, even an entire galaxy; he thought ownership would make him feel safe, but Luke doubted that anything could ever do that for Darth Vader. Luke didn't need safety; he believed there were causes more important than his personal needs, even more important than his life. That was why he could walk away from his father, abandon the one person in the galaxy who understood. He finally accepted that part of himself, and that self-knowledge hurt.
His dad would never understand. They would be enemies now, not by their choice. Sorrow erupted in his heart, and he bowed his head. He couldn't expect Vader to accept his decision. He knew he could never see his father again, and a great hole grew inside him, bigger and bigger until--
Until, in the midst of the non-stop yelling and talking, a voice rang clear and crisp in his head.
Very well. Since you insist on being foolish and disobedient, you must be properly trained. You will go to Dagobah. There you will find Yoda, the Jedi master who refused to train me. He will not repeat that mistake, for he knows you are the last hope for the galaxy. When you are trained, remember my words: return to me, my son, and we will conquer the Emperor together.
"Sounds like a plan," he answered, both aloud and in his head, but didn't share his misgivings with his dad. That wouldn't be fair, because mixed with the misgivings was a growing hope that the Jedi Vader had once been was still alive inside him, waiting for someone to set him free. Someone like his son.
"Talkin' to yourself, kid?" Solo asked, coming up behind him and slapping his back so hard that he staggered.
Luke recovered and shook his head. "No. To my father." He met Jovay's understanding gaze and smiled. "I think he's proud of me today."
- - - End - - -
Thanks to everyone who read the story, for feedback, encouragement, nagging, and keeping me going. I've been asked if there will be a sequel. Anything is possible, but right now I'd like to work on other things. However, there may be more updates to Truth: Interludes, also posted here. The Truth is posted in one document on my homepage. Also, the nice folks at "bastcastle dot com" have posted it in several smaller, more manageable sections.