A Journey of Discovery -- Book One: Pendulum

Summary: Ever wonder what might have happened if Vader and Palpatine hadn't died at Endor, and Luke had met Mara before she received that Last Command?

Spoilers for the original movie trilogy, Shadows of the Empire, By the Emperor's Hand, and even a couple of the old Marvel comics. Forget everything else you've read after that.

Disclaimer: All these wonderful characters belong to George Lucas. No Imperial or Republic credits are being made off this story.

Author's Note: I decided to finally take the plunge and try posting something other than one-post vignettes here at ff.n. Unfortunately, I don't have anything new to put up, so I'll practice first posting some oldies. I'm not going to expect a lot of replies, since many of you have read this tale on other sites. I plan on posting a new chapter every couple days.

Chapter One

"I'm sure Luke wasn't on that thing when it blew."

A troubled frown filled Leia's face. "No. He wasn't. And neither was the Emperor or...or...Vader."

"What? How do you know?" Han felt confused. She was displaying that same expression Luke was always having.

"I can still feel their aura of evil. And Luke is in the middle of it. They've captured him." Leia gripped Han's hand tightly, but kept her eyes turned toward space.

"You're sounding like you have this Force business." Han was hoping against hope that she'd tell him the very idea was ridiculous.

"I think I do, Han. At least, Luke said I did." She paused in thought. "I've always felt a connection with him. But on Bespin, when he called to me, I could hear his voice in my head. In a way it felt strange, and yet, it also felt completely natural."

Han did his best to push down the twinge of jealousy he was feeling. She was supposed to feel a connection with him, not with Luke.

"We'll get him back, Leia. I promise. Heck, I've rescued his behind so many times, what's once more."

Leia finally turned to face Han, and he could see the tears threatening to spill out.

"Thank you, Han," she said hoarsely, then looked back skyward. "I don't know what I'd do without him," she added in a whisper.

The next day, Han and Chewie found themselves working on the Falcon, attempting to rig a substitute for the sensor dish Lando inadvertently lost during his seemingly suicidal run into the Death Star.

Han has been unusually quiet all day, Chewbacca thought. He and Leia had barely made an appearance at the victory celebration the night before.

/You're brooding/ Chewie commented finally, as he watched Han tighten the same bolt for twenty minutes.

Han's shoulders slumped in resignation. "Chewie, I need to ask you something, and I want an honest answer. The truth, not just what you think I want to hear."

/I would not lie to you./

Han took a deep breath. "Just how close have Leia and Luke grown? While I was in the carbonite, I mean."

Chewie could tell Han was worried, but he had promised to tell the truth. /Many times I saw her crying in his arms./

"And Luke was right there to comfort her. How convenient." Han threw the hydrospanner into the toolbox with a loud clang.

/She was crying for you, Han./

"I'm not so sure. Maybe she was crying 'cause she didn't know how she was going to dump me when I thawed out."

/Then why would they help rescue you at all? They were both frantic to find you./

"I don't know. Guilty consciences?"

/The princess loves you, Han. I can see it in her eyes./

"Yeah, well, she loves Luke too. I can see that in her eyes."

In the throne room of the Imperial Palace, Darth Vader listened attentively as his emperor outlined his intentions for their newest, and most valuable, prisoner of war.

"We've already seen he touches the dark side when he loses his temper." Palpatine steepled his fingers together as he sat in his throne, looking upon his servant. "And what brings out the anger in him? The threat of harm to his ... friends," he said, spitting out the last word as if it were repulsive to him.

"I believe that threat would no longer be effective. His friends managed to escape at Endor." Vader stood at the foot of the throne's dais, in deference to his master.

"Just so. Therefore, we shall introduce someone new for him to care about." Palpatine turned ever so slightly and closed his yellow eyes, apparently communicating through the Force. Moments later, a young woman with red-gold hair glided silently into the room, kneeling to the Emperor on one knee.

"Jade?" Vader questioned his master, though he knew who the woman was.

"Yes. My Hand. Just returned from Svivren." Palpatine then directed his attention to the newcomer. "Since you failed to carry out your assignment on Tatooine, I am offering you a chance to redeem yourself. One ... last ... chance."

The woman nodded, but remained silent, her head respectfully bowed.

"Skywalker is now our prisoner," Palpatine continued. "You will go to him in the guise of a fellow Rebel prisoner. You will gain his confidence and invoke his sympathy. When he believes you to be tortured during interrogation, he will become angry. And anger leads to the dark side, is this not so, Lord Vader?" the Emperor hissed, keeping his eyes on the woman's motionless form.

"You believe he will accept ... her ... as a compatriot?" Vader dared to question his master.

"He is quite trusting," Palpatine responded with unusual patience. "His compassion for others will be his undoing." He then turned back to the woman. "You understand your importance in this matter?"

"Yes, Your Excellency, but ..." The woman hesitated.

"You question your role?"

"No, Your Excellency. But I am trained as an assassin. You no longer wish him dead?" Jade lifted her eyes slightly.

"He may be of more use to us alive, my dear. The Rebels would still lose their figure-head Jedi, and with a third dark lord, we will easily crush this cursed Rebellion." Palpatine favored his young servant with an appraising look. "You and he are of the same age. He should enjoy your ... companionship."

Jade bowed her head to her master. "As you wish," she said in submission.

"Good," Palpatine cackled. "Now go prepare yourself."

The woman rose gracefully, bowed once more, and exited the room without even a glance at Darth Vader.

"You sent Jade to eliminate my son," Vader said flatly, purposely posing his words as a statement, not a question. He carefully hid his indignation at this discovery of Palpatine's secret scheming.

Palpatine waved his hand in dismissal, ignoring the reverberating sound of his servant's harsh breathing. "At the time, I did not believe he could be turned. I still have my doubts, Lord Vader."

"He will join us or die, my master," the Dark Lord intoned, remembering saying those exact words before confronting his son on Bespin.

Luke Skywalker lay on a small cot in the semi-darkness. Only a thin shaft of light streamed in through the small grated opening near the top of the door. His captors kept his cell dark except when his single meal was brought once a day.

Darkness leads to despair. Despair leads to darkness, the young would-be Jedi mused to himself. Luke had been so sure he could turn his father, that there was still good hidden in him, but events had transpired against him. He had found himself the one in danger of being turned, and dread still churned deep inside him, for himself and for those he loved. He dared not stretch out to Leia for fear of betraying her presence. She was safe; she had to be. He was certain he would know if she had perished.

When Luke had finally regained consciousness the previous day, the first thing he felt was a familiar touch on his mind. He had immediately erected a mental barrier, blocking out the intrusion. He wasn't in the mood to converse with Father. Not yet. Father... Vader... Even in his most private thoughts, Luke wasn't sure how to refer to his parent.

Unbidden, memories of his capture invaded his thoughts. No, not capture. Surrender. Foolhardy surrender. He had walked right into the Imperial encampment, boldly proclaiming to be the only Rebel on the Sanctuary Moon, demanding to be taken to Lord Vader.

His own words echoed mockingly in his head. 'That's why you won't take me to your Emperor now.' Which was precisely what Father proceeded to do. Took him straight to the Emperor like some long-sought-after trophy. Probably had a good chuckle at Luke's feeble attempts at voice-manipulation, as well. Naïve. Naïve with a capital N, just as Han had proclaimed him to be so many times in the past.

Luke recalled entering Palpatine's makeshift throne room on the Death Star. Even then, Luke had felt an air of confidence within him. He was a Jedi; he could withstand anything thrown at him. All he had to do was resist, distract the Sith long enough for the Alliance fleet to attack, and the battle would be won, perhaps even the war.

"Your overconfidence is your weakness," he had brazenly told the Emperor. But it was Luke's own overconfidence in his strength of will that had nearly been his personal failure. How could he have given in so easily to Palpatine's goading? Be strong, he had been repeating to himself. Han and Leia will take the shield down. Be strong, hold on ... And yet there his hand was, outstretched, calling his lightsaber.

Desperation had driven him to attack the Emperor, to battle Vader. It had taken all his strength to drive out the hatred that was consuming him more and more each moment.

Jedi ideals centered on protecting others. They were the guardians of the galaxy. How ironic that his thoughts of the one person he most wanted to protect would be the catalyst to his near downfall. And how in the galaxy he'd managed to bury the fact that Leia was his sister, Vader's daughter, he may never know. Luke squeezed his eyes shut, replaying the scenario in his mind.

"Princess," Vader had intoned tauntingly. "So, your thoughts dwell on the princess. After we have taken care of you, she will become our primary target."

At that, something had snapped inside of Luke. His fear that Leia would be subjected once again to Imperial interrogation and torture, or that Vader would somehow discover his relationship to her and strive to corrupt her to the dark side also. Regardless, Luke's self-control had disappeared in an instant as, filled with rage, he'd leapt from his hiding place to challenge the man who had sired him.

It wasn't until he had severed his father's hand, artificial like his own, that he realized how much the dark side was swirling through him. It was only then that Palpatine's cackling penetrated the haze of Luke's mind. "...take your father's place at my side ..." "...take your father's place ..."

The memory of his vision in the cave on Dagobah had washed over him then, of his own face in Vader's helmet. It was coming to pass. Somehow, from somewhere, Luke had found the strength to resist, to throw down his saber in defiance. He had not turned then, and he never would, no matter what the future held for him.

Luke rose and paced slowly around his chamber of incarceration. His bones stilled ached from the Force lightening Palpatine had subsequently inflicted on him. His last memory was of writhing in pain, calling out for Father. He'd awakened to find himself imprisoned here in the darkness, alone. He wasn't even sure how many days he'd been unconscious. He no longer wore a glove on his right hand, and he could tell that the blaster damage it had received on the sail barge had been repaired.

Was he still aboard the Death Star? Had the fleet failed to destroy it, then? Luke sat back down on his bunk and reached out tentatively with the Force. He could feel a strange jumble of a multitude of minds, millions, billions, ... Too many to be contained on the Death Star, and too diverse. On a planet, then. Taken to Coruscant, perhaps. Did Leia and Han know where he was? Had they been ultimately captured themselves? If not, would they mount a rescue? He fervently hoped not, on all counts. He was the last person anyone should be risking his or her life over.

Later that day, Luke heard the sounds of prisoners being herded down the corridor outside his cell door. He recognized the swishing of doors opening nearby to admit captured Rebels, accompanied by their angry retorts to the stormtroopers' brusque commands.

At least now Luke knew he was actually in a detention block of some sort. There was an empty cot on the other side of his forced accommodations, and he briefly wondered if another prisoner would be incarcerated with him. Probably not, he decided. They would want to keep him isolated. In fact, he was mildly surprised to be held so near other prisoners. Was he overestimating his importance? But why, then, was he being kept alive at all?

Luke could hear yet more pairs of stormtrooper boots approaching down the hallway.

"Watch it!" A sharp female voice rose defiantly above the metal clanking. Luke smiled to himself in the darkness. For some reason, Han's words from so long ago came to him ... "She's got a lot of spirit."

He was jolted out of his reverie by the sudden whooshing open of his own door. Two troopers stood silhouetted in the doorway, each grasping the upper arms of someone.

"Got a roommate for you," one of the guards announced.

"Get in there, you Rebel scum," the other said with a snarl as they shoved a woman in unceremoniously onto the floor. The cell door slid shut, immersing the room once more in near darkness.

Luke made a move to help the woman up, but she was too quick, springing up on her own.

"Who's there?" she questioned, as her eyes strained in the sudden gloom.

"Your Rebel scum roommate," Luke quipped, suddenly feeling glad for the company.

"A man!" she snapped. "They put me with a man?" She jerked toward the door and began pounding on it. "Hey! You made a mistake! You can't leave me in here with a man!"

"No mistake, sister," came a guard's curt reply. "I hope you two are very happy together."

The woman stood near the door a moment, perhaps reluctantly accepting her fate, perhaps just sizing up the situation.

"Don't be afraid," Luke assured her softly. "I won't hurt you."

The woman carefully made her way over to the empty cot, as far from Luke as she could get. "Who are you?" she finally asked.

"Luke," was the quiet response.

"Oh, yeah? Luke who?"

"Just Luke." After a moment's silence, he added, "Who are you?"

"Jade. Just Jade," she added before Luke could voice the obvious question.

"Were you captured at Endor?"

"Yes," she answered briefly. After a momentary pause, she must have decided it wouldn't hurt to give out a little more information. "I was a pilot at Endor. A-wing. My ship was disabled and I had to eject. I hoped someone would pick me up. I guess I just wasn't specific enough as to who should rescue me. What about you? Pilot too?"

"No. Well, yes." Luke strained to see her face in the dim light. He knew several A-wing pilots, but her name didn't sound familiar.

"You don't know if you're a pilot or not?" Jade asked, snickering.

"I am a pilot. X-wing. But I wasn't flying when I was captured."

"So what were you doing?"

Luke hesitated. Even if the cell were bugged, he figured the Imperials already knew what he was doing on Endor. "I was part of the strike team to take out the shield generator on the moon."

The woman mulled this over. "But your team was successful. I mean, the generator was shut down. How were you ...?"

"I was taken prisoner soon after we landed. The rest of the team apparently was successful without me." Luke smiled in relief at this revelation that Han and Leia had succeeded. "And the Death Star?"

"Destroyed," she confirmed. "The fallout is what damaged my ship."

"We won the battle, then?" Luke persisted, curiosity filling him.

"I ... suppose." The woman faltered, and Luke sensed pain radiating out from her. "If you call losing half your forces a victory. Things weren't going well just before the station exploded and I went EV." Her voice lowered perceptibly. "My best friend was on the star cruiser that monstrosity blew to bits."

"I'm sorry," Luke soothed. "I know how that feels. My best friend was killed at Yavin, in the very first battle I was ever in."

Jade didn't answer, but Luke thought he felt a note of surprise from her. He decided to turn the conversation in a new direction. "Do you know where we are?"

"You don't know?"

"I'm guessing Coruscant, but no, I'm not sure. I was knocked out after ... after I was captured, and woke up here." Luke leaned forward. "How many days ago was the battle?"

"Four days ago," Jade answered, sounding slightly baffled that her new cellmate was so in the dark, figuratively as well as literally. "And yes, we're on Coruscant, in some kind of maximum security prison."

Their conversation was halted when the overhead illumination suddenly came on, flooding the cell with blinding light.

"Stang!" Jade exclaimed, covering her eyes.

"I forgot to tell you, they turn on the lights when dinner is served," Luke joked. "Probably as added punishment so you can see what you're eating."

Jade squinted, staring at his back as he bent to retrieve the meal tray. "That doesn't look like an Alliance uniform," she said warily.

Luke turned toward her, and her eyes widened as recognition slowly came to her. "You're Luke Skywalker," she whispered, a touch of amazement evident in her voice.

"Well, yes," came the reluctant reply.

Suddenly she bolted to her feet, snapping her hand up in a sharp salute.

"Commander Skywalker," she declared. "Sir."

Luke looked at the tray with the two bowls of gruel he was still holding, then set it down on her bunk. He brought his own hand up in a return salute.

"At ease, uh," he glanced at the rank insignia on her collar, "Lieutenant."

"Lieutenant Jade Maiwara, Sir." Jade relaxed slightly, but continued to stare at him in apparent shock and awe.

"I think I liked it better when I was just Luke," he finally said. Luke gestured toward the tray. "Mind if we eat?"

Jade shook her head, and slowly sat back down on the edge of her cot. Luke picked up one of the bowls and crossed back to his own bunk, her eyes following his every move.

"You know, I'm still the same person I was five minutes ago," he said.

"Yes, Sir," came the reply.

"You don't have to call me sir."

"Yes, Commander."

Luke forced down the urge to roll his eyes. "I would prefer you just call me Luke."

"All right ... Luke," she replied, then lapsed into silence.

They ate the tasteless stew in slow motion, both surreptitiously stealing glances at each other. Though her face was smudged, her uniform dirty and torn, and her hair disheveled, Luke decided Jade was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Stray locks of red-gold hair framed a delicate, yet strong-willed face. And her eyes! Her eyes were a deep emerald green, sparkling like twin gems. How in the galaxy did he manage to get a cellmate like this?

Luke sat cross-legged on his cot, his back leaning against the cold ferrocrete wall. It had been several hours since their empty bowls had been retrieved, and darkness once more claimed its place in the cell. Jade had seemed rather hesitant every time he tried to start a conversation, especially after learning his identity. But Luke was by nature an amiable person, and he felt responsible for her unease.

"You're curious about me," he spoke into the shadows.

"How ...?" she began, then bit off the rest. "Are you reading my mind? I've heard rumors ..."

"No, no," Luke assured her warmly. "I would never do that."

'Would' never. Not 'could' never. Jade's mind swirled with the implications of his statement. Was he capable of entering her mind? She tightened the mental barriers she had erected just before arriving here.

"I just felt ..." He paused, wanting to make her feel comfortable. "Most people seem to have questions about me, but are afraid to ask me directly, especially of late. So I'm inviting you to ask away, anything you want to know."

Oh, she had questions, all right. Lots of them. But not necessarily the kind a low-ranking pilot who should only know him by reputation ought to have. She was doing her best to project feelings of surprise, sorrow, pain, and puzzlement both now and during their earlier conversation. He was apparently accepting those feelings at face value, as she could sense sympathy and understanding rolling out of him.

"And you'll answer any question I have?" she ventured shyly.

"As many as possible." His voice sounded warm and sincere. "I'm sure only about a tenth of those rumors you've heard are true.

Jade debated. How much would he actually reveal to her, a stranger? Would he alter the truth to make himself look good? She knew he was devious and clever. All Jedi had been. Not clever enough to escape the Emperor, of course, and this one sitting across from her was no exception.

"Did you really blow up the first Death Star?"

Hmmm. Luke was expecting an inquiry about 'magic powers.' Odd, but he could go with the flow.

"It was really pretty much a joint effort," he explained. This was not one of his favorite subjects anymore. "All the pilots that day contributed, plus the crew and strategists on the ground."

"But didn't you actually fire the torpedo? I saw holo-footage of the award ceremony once." She had, too, as part of her briefing before going to Tatooine. The happy-go-lucky kid in that holo was worlds apart from the Jedi here.

"It was a lucky shot, though I've been told there's no such thing as luck. That was the first time I'd ever been in an X-wing, or a battle of any kind."

He almost sounds embarrassed. Not arrogant at all. Not even as self-assured as he appeared at Jabba's.

"Your first battle?" Something he had said earlier occurred to her. "This was when your friend was killed?"

"Yes." Luke bit his lip as those memories surfaced painfully. "He was covering ... for me ... when he was shot down."

Jade could feel sorrow seeping out of him, though he seemed to be trying to hide it. She almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Luke cleared his throat. "Any other questions?" On a different subject, he hoped.

"Well ..." Jade pondered her next inquiry. What else would a star-struck junior officer ask a war hero? "Do you really know the princess of Alderaan?"

"She's one of my best friends."

Another 'best friend.' Jade had never had a best friend. Didn't really even have any friends, or close acquaintances. She didn't need any, she told herself. Would just be someone to get in the way. She smirked to herself in the dark, then quickly chastised herself. Though he couldn't see her face, he was probably perceptive enough to detect any change in inflection in her voice.

"I've only seen holos of her." Another comment that actually was the truth. "She looked rather ... serious, even arrogant."

Luke chuckled softly. "Not arrogant, not at all. She's a very friendly person, really. Serious? Yes, I suppose so. She has to be. She has a lot of responsibility. She takes a lot of responsibility upon herself. She's smart, brave, ... beautiful."

He sounds smitten with her, Jade thought. Interesting. Guess it was time to get to the questions he was no doubt expecting. She was a bit curious herself as to how he would explain his Jedi powers.

"Is it true ...? That is, I heard ... you can do magic tricks."

"Not magic," Luke quickly corrected. "It's called the Force. It's a kind of energy field, created by all living things. It's all around us. A few beings are lucky enough to be able to touch it, and use it, to an extent. Or unlucky enough, depending on how you look at it. I'm still learning." He waited for Jade's reaction to his explanation.

All right, so he didn't exactly brag about being special. "So ... then ... can you read people's minds?"

"I can sense emotions from people. Sort of a heightened intuition, really."

A rather evasive answer, Jade thought.

"Can you make people do what you want them to do?"

"Jedi don't go around controlling people."

Another evasion. Typical. Once again, she reminded herself to bury the contempt she had for him. She had been congratulating herself since she'd arrived on how easily she was deceiving the mighty Jedi. The glib lies flowed from her like a sparkling stream cascading down a mountainside.

"So if you have all these powers, how did you manage to get captured?" she asked boldly, hoping she wasn't overstepping the bounds of a junior officer.

Luke laughed ruefully. "Now that's a very good question. One I've been asking myself for two days now." She could hear him shifting in the darkness, probably stretching his limbs. "Like I said, I'm still learning. And the Emperor and Vader are very powerful. They murdered all the Jedi before me, after all."

Not murdered, cleansed from the galaxy, Jade thought to herself. This was the first hint of bitterness she had really detected from the Jedi, though. At least he acknowledged the superiority of the Emperor and his dark lord.

Skywalker's voice shook Jade out of her reverie. "So, now do I get to ask questions about you?"

"Of course, what would you like to know?" Jade gritted her teeth. She had reviewed her fake background story endlessly, and undercover assignments had always come easily to her. But she had never actually tried to fool a Jedi before today. She couldn't afford to let her guard down, just because he seemed to be believing her so far. She knew without a doubt, Luke Skywalker wasn't dumb.

"How long have you been with the Rebellion? How did you get involved?"

Okay, Jade, easy enough. "I was a freighter co-pilot, on Fondor. About three years ago, things got so tough with the Imps there that I bailed out. Every job I got after that was ruined because of the Empire. It was down to join them, or fight them. I decided to fight them."

Luke listened to her brief explanation with interest. "Hmmm. I was on Fondor about three years ago, on a mission."

Jade sat up a little straighter. This hadn't been in her briefing. "You were? What were you doing there?"

"Just ... investigating ... a big ship being built."

Shock spilled out of Jade before she could clamp a lid on it. That was ... him? She'd heard about there being a Rebel spy on the Executor, collaborating with a group of treasonous admirals. But she hadn't known it was Skywalker. Why wasn't she told this? Did no one know? She took a deep breath and composed herself.

"Really? I, uh, guess you've been on a lot of dangerous missions?"

"Enough. I thought it was my turn to ask questions." Luke injected a hint of good-natured humor into his admonishment, but he hoped she got the message. Talking about his secret missions in a no-doubt monitored cell wasn't too smart. He'd probably already said too much.

"Uh, right. Go ahead." Keep your cool, Jade. He's just wondering about you. He doesn't suspect anything.

"How long have you been flying A-wings?"

"About three months. Endor was our first major deployment."

"I know."

Of course he would know that, Jade. He's a military commander.

"Which squadron are you in?" Luke continued.

"Green Wing." That's it, keep your answers short and to the point.

"Green Leader's a good man. Did he ...?"

"He didn't make it," Jade supplied. At least she'd been informed of this much. Not that Skywalker would know the difference, of course. He hadn't even known how the battle ended.

Jade made a pretense of yawning loud enough to be heard. She'd been cross-examined enough for tonight.

"I'm sorry," Luke apologized. "You're tired, and I'm keeping you awake.

"That's ..." She yawned again. "... all right. I guess I am tired. Goodnight, Commander. I mean, Luke."

"Goodnight, Jade."

Jade rolled away from him, berating herself inwardly. He'd rattled her with that admission about Fondor, and she'd lost her composure for a second. She should have never allowed that to happen. Even through the darkness, she had felt like he was examining her, studying every word she uttered, every sound she made.

She found this whole assignment loathsome, to say the least. To be ordered to befriend a hated enemy was bad enough, but for it to be an enemy that she herself had failed to eliminate previously was the height of indignity.

In her mind's eye, Jade compared the image of him sitting on his bunk, quietly watching her as they ate, to what she'd seen of him at Jabba's. He seemed more vulnerable now, but that was to be expected. He didn't look dangerous at all, but looks could be deceiving. Why was Palpatine so interested in him? What made him special? And why go from wanting him dead, to all of a sudden wanting him to join the Empire?

A sudden thought seized Jade's mind. Was the Emperor planning on replacing her with Skywalker? Would he become the Emperor's Hand, while she would be reduced to the role of a mere courtesan, or worse, Skywalker's concubine? It was no secret that Palpatine believed men were superior leaders over women. Mara had been convinced that her high position was evidence of her excellent skills and diligent service. But what if the Emperor had just been using her as a fill-in, biding his time until a male Force-user could be lured to the dark side? Someone young. Someone less ... conspicuous ... than Darth Vader.

Jade pillowed her head on her forearms, burying both her feelings of contempt for the blond-haired, blue-eyed man lying across the small room, and her suspicions of betrayal by the only man she trusted in the galaxy. She tightened her mental barriers once more before drifting off in a restless sleep.

Luke lay awake for some time, listening to the even breathing of his new cellmate. He had a lot of questions about this mysterious woman that had suddenly been thrust into his world. Ones he wanted more than her standard pat answers to. Green Wing had been present during the briefing on Sullust. Even in the preoccupied state he was in then, he didn't think he could have missed her. Her very presence seemed to call to him.

And then there was the shock she manifested at learning he was the spy at Fondor, which she tried so hard to hide. No common freighter pilot would have any knowledge of an undercover mission like that, nor would any A-wing pilot.

No, Luke thought, something's not right here. Even the fact that she'd been put in his cell seemed out-of-place. Was she an Imperial spy, then? Very likely. He bit his bottom lip in contemplation. But not an ordinary spy. Not by a long shot.

Stilling himself, Luke reached out tentatively with the Force. Perhaps ... Whoa! He jerked back reflexively, sucking in a breath. Even in sleep, she had a wall built so solidly around her thoughts, he couldn't begin to penetrate it. She was a Force user!

Luke rolled over on his back. Another Force user, barely two meters away from him! And she'd managed to hide the fact from him all evening. So she'd had training; she knew what she was doing. But had Father trained her and sent her here, or Palpatine? No, this wasn't Father's style. Darth Vader was never subtle. This entire ruse had Palpatine's gloveprints all over it. Luke let go a quiet sigh. He'd been surrounded by deception all his life, you'd think he'd be used to it by now. At least he'd recognized this feint. He smiled faintly to himself. Maybe he wasn't as naïve as Han thought. His smile turned to a look of regret. Too bad he wouldn't live to tell Han about it.