Masquerade

Part One

The man woke with a start, sweat sheening his body, his breath coming in hard gasps. The darkness still pulsated with the scream that ripped from his throat and woke him.

"Lights," he rasped, and the automated lights sprang up, blinding him. The terror receded like dune sand upon the wind of his waking. He sat up slowly, swinging his legs off the bunk and onto the cold metal of the deck. He could feel the floor thrum through the soles of his feet. They must have just left hyperspace, which meant they were close. He rubbed at his tired face with both hands. The right one-the mechanical prosthetic-looked real enough but lacked the sensory perception of the original, pressing too hard into his cold-chafed skin.

He pushed off from the bed and padded to the monitor on the small desk opposite. Yes, only a few hours away now. Soon, very soon he would be there and this nightmare would end. Soon there would be no more sleepless nights. Soon enough the murderer would pay...


If there was a funeral service for a Jedi Master Luke did not know it. He closed his eyes, feeling his ignorance keenly. Yoda had said his training was complete but there was so much he still didn't know. And now he would never have the opportunity to find out. He was the last Jedi...the only Jedi.

He was alone.

Luke stumbled out of the hut and into the misty night, the tears burning the back of his throat finally breaking forth.

I'm not ready, he thought miserably. I don't know nearly enough. Master!

He fell to his knees outside the door, his grief and loss overtaking him. Alone...always alone.

Luke? He felt the tentative brush on his mind and grabbed at it with all the strength of a lone man in a sandstorm.

Ben?

No, came the flat reply. No, it did not feel like his old teacher. The Force presence felt too strong to be from one already dead. But who-

Luke gasped as he realized, standing quickly.

You!

Yes, my son.

Don't call me that!

There was a long silence. Very well...Luke.

What do you want?

I felt you call to me. You are in pain. It wasn't an answer but it was the only thing he was likely to get.

Master Yoda is dead.

Yes, I felt his passing. He was completing your training?

Luke considered his answer. It would do no harm to admit the truth.

Yes, he Sent.

There was a long silence and Luke thought that he had gone. He had just turned back to the hut when he heard the voice sound in his head once again.

I am sorry for your loss.

A thousand thoughts floated through Luke's head-Why? Wouldn't you have killed him if you'd had the chance? - but they were unworthy of a Jedi and he gave them no voice. He broke their contact and went back inside.

The hut seemed smaller and darker without it's eccentric occupant. Luke's eyes roved over the sturdy, short-legged chairs, the knobby Gimer stick standing by the door, and the tiny bed, all empty and absent. Luke sighed and gathered his things. It seemed wrong that so vital a being had ended life on this swampy rock; it seemed to mock Yoda's life, to make it meaningless. Luke shook his head and took his black flight-bag outside.

Mist hung from the dripping trees. Twilight was coming on fast and the cold was coming with it. Luke shivered, feeling the chill seeping into his bones, into his heart. He walked back to where his ship rested on the damp ground. Artoo met him with a brief whistle. Luke threw his flight-bag into the cockpit and sank down onto a fallen tree limb, his head in his hands.

"I can't do it. I can't go on alone."

"Yoda and I will always be with you."

Luke started up, sure of whose voice he had heard this time.

" Ben!" He turned swiftly to see the shimmering image of Obi-Wan Kenobi standing behind him. And suddenly all his grief and loneliness turned to anger. "Why? Why didn't you tell me the truth? You told me that Darth Vader betrayed and murdered my father!"

The image of Ben had the grace to look chastened. "Your father, Anakin, was seduced by the dark side of the Force. When that happened he ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. The good man that was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true...from a certain point of view."

"Certain point of view!" Luke repeated the words incredulously. The betrayal that he had felt when the Force had told him Darth Vader was, indeed, his father was nothing compare to hearing Ben cavalierly explain away his lie.

"Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view." His voice was filled with his customary gentleness but Luke turned away, unable to let go of his hurt just yet.

"I don't blame you for being angry," Ben said. "If I was wrong in what I did, it certainly wouldn't be the first time. You see, it's my fault that your father turned."

Luke turned back to his one-time Master, eager to hear anything about his father.

"When I first encountered you father he was already a great pilot." Luke remembered the TIE fighter that had dueled him above the first Death Star. He had suspected that it had been Vader; now he was sure of it.

"But I was amazed at how strongly the Force was with him," Ben went on. "I took it upon myself to train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi. My mistake was thinking that I could be as good a teacher as Master Yoda. I was not." Ben paused, gazing into the middle distance. Luke felt his anger fade as he saw the sorrow and regret in Ben's eyes. Ben smiled again, a wry, self-deprecating smile.

"Such was my foolish pride," he said. "The Emperor sensed Anakin's power and lured him to the dark side. My pride had terrible consequences for the galaxy."

Luke sat in silence, reflecting on the times he had met his father, from that first firefight above Yavin to the conversation they had had barely an hour ago. He didn't kill me, Luke thought. On Bespin he had the opportunity and yet he didn't.

"There is still good in him." Luke said slowly.

Ben shook his head remorsefully. "I also thought that he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn't be done. He is more machine, now, than man- twisted, and evil."

I t was Luke's turn to shake his head. "I can't do it. I can't kill my own father." Even as he said it he felt a ripple of the Force, the same buzzing sensation that had filled him when Vader had declared himself Luke's father. It was as though he was trying to remember something just on the periphery of his consciousness.

"Then the Emperor has already won," Ben said sadly. "You were our last hope."

The feeling was growing stronger, clearer. "Yoda spoke of another."

"The other that he spoke of was your twin sister." Luke startled to his feet, opening his mouth to ask but Ben held up a restraining hand, "To protect you both from the Emperor you were separated at birth. The Emperor knew, as I did, that one day Skywalker's offspring would be a threat to him. For that reason your sister has remained safely anonymous."

With an almost audible -snick- the truth clicked into place. Luke sat back down heavily.

"Leia! Leia is my sister."

Ben's smile grew warm. "Your insight serves you well." Luke smiled back, a thousand feelings tumbling through his heart. Gratitude, companionship, and love...love most of all. He finally had a family. A fractured one, but a family nonetheless. He felt the joy of that thought fill him.

"Bury your feelings deep down Luke," Ben's stern voice cut across his thoughts. "They do you credit but they could be made to serve the Emperor."

Luke nodded, realizing the implications of what Ben was saying. If the Emperor knew that there were two Skywalker children he could use the one to insure the other's cooperation. "He will try to turn her too," Luke said aloud. He couldn't let that happen. He had to protect his sister. "Ben, I-" he looked up but Ben was no longer standing in front of him.

Luke stood up. Ben? he Sent.

But there was no answer. Ben was gone.

Luke stood there for a long time, watching the light fade and pondering all that Ben had told him. Was it really his destiny to kill his father? It felt wrong; an evil to punish an evil. He did not know if he was capable of such a thing.

And then he thought of Leia and the threat that would hang on her if he failed.

There must be another way, Luke thought desperately. I have to find it, that's all.

Artoo trundled over to him, whistling a warning.

"Yes, you're right. I don't want to spend another night here either."

Luke climbed into the cockpit of his X-wing. He powered up the thrusters as he heard Artoo settle in behind him. The ship began to vibrate as the power built up in the engines and then the small craft jumped up, slipping free of gravity and ascending towards the sky. Soon they were skimming the tops of the trees, flying higher and higher until they broke the stratosphere and were suddenly among the stars.

"Artoo, plot a course for Sullust." Luke heard Artoo humming behind him as he charted a course that would have them rendezvous with the Rebel fleet. Luke glanced down at the instrument panel, mentally calculating how long it would take them to meet up with the fleet, and with Leia and Han.

Sister, Luke thought, staring into the starry void. My sister. Mine.

A light on his console was blinking. He'd been so distracted by Ben's revelations that he'd missed it. Luke frowned at his own carelessness. He punched the button, thankful that it was only a missed message and not something much more important, and routed the audio to his helmet.

As though in answer to his thoughts, Leia's voice came over the comm. "Luke, I don't know how to tell you this, but I thought you should hear it from me. You're father has been located. He is on Tatooine right now. I'm sending you the information picked up by our informant there. Go and find him Luke. Bring him back with you, if you can. Meet us at the rendezvous point as soon as you can. Leia out."

Luke opened the attached file on his console. It consisted of a report from Nal Pelidin, a Twi'lek mole that kept the Rebellion informed on the movement of the Hutts. It was amazing what one could find out if one watched where the Hutts put their money. The rapid reinvestment of several million credits presaged the rebuilding of the Death Star and tipped off the Rebellion long before the Bothan spynet had been put in place. And it was her information that had helped Luke and the others gain access to Jabba's palace.

Luke looked over the report and the included picture, a flat image of a man with dark eyes and a gaunt, lined face. Could this man be his father? Could Yoda and Ben have been wrong? Was it possible that Vader had tricked them somehow? But it hasn't felt like a trick.

Ben? Luke Sent out the thought. There was no answer. He tried again.

Father?


Yes, my son?
The deep drawl of Vader's mind voice immediately answered back. Luke backed off, severing the connection quickly. Artoo hooted at him, telling him to prepare for the jump to hyperspace.

"Artoo, change course. We're going to Tatooine."