Luke Skywalker stared at the blue-white image of his sister, remembering a similar scene he experienced another lifetime ago when he first set eyes upon Princess Leia Organa's image coming from R2D2's holo-projector. Many things have happened since that day in his Uncle Owen's garage.
At the moment, he was sitting in front of a console in the wide cockpit of Jade's Fire, Mara Jade's prized starship. Within the last standard week, Luke had defeated the Dark clone of Jedi Jorus C'Boath while Mara had killed Luuke Skywalker, the clone C'Boath created from Luke's severed hand he had lost on Cloud City. Luke shook those bad memories in a quick fashion. He focused back on Leia.
"This came off of a datacard found at Mount Tantiss?" he asked her.
"Yes," her image answered. "It's a journal of Palpatine's. I sent a copy of it on an old encrypt that Artoo will know." She paused and added, "I also added coordinates for where I will meet you in a few hours. From your position in the Outer Rim, it won't take that long to get there."
"Where is it?" Luke asked casually. He received an answer that he wasn't expecting from Leia Organa Solo.
"You'll find out."
Luke lowered his brow at his sister's image. "Is everything all right? What's in this journal that has you being so secretive"
"Sometimes I wish it wasn't so easy for you to read me from this far away."
"Consider it a gift. Is there a new threat mentioned?"
"No, it's nothing like that. It's...something that should be shown in person and not through million miles of space."
Even through those miles of space, Luke could still sense her sadness through the Force. Whatever it was that was on this journal was personal to her.
He nodded at the image and replied, "Ok. Well, I guess I'll see you...wherever in a few hours."
"Thank you, Luke. This is very important for both of us and for my family."
Luke felt just a little embarrassed as Mara was at her pilot's seat hearing everything. He made to mention that to Leia.
Leia answered, "That's ok. She was closer to Palpatine than any of us. She may be useful."
"Leia," Luke started, "I have to know–"
"As I said," she interrupted, "you'll find out." Her image fluttered then disappeared.
There was a moment of silence in the cockpit where the only sounds were the faint beeping of the navi-computer alerts and the repulsorlift engines running at low speed. The time between the silence and Mara speaking felt like an eternity to Luke.
"Sorry, if I heard, but I am just right here. I've known Leia only a handful of months, but she never seemed that distant until now. And I don't mean that in a literal sense."
"I know," Luke sighed his reply. "I'm just intrigued as to what's in ths journal."
"Despite, what she implied, I really didn't know Palpatine that well. I just followed his orders." She paused as she thought of the last order the Emperor sent to her before his death. YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER. Essentially, she did what he demanded. It was just that it was a clone of Luke she killed. She shook her head sending the memory to the corner of her mind. Her red-gold hair brushed across her shoulders as she gestured toward the console. "I never knew he kept a journal. There's no telling what's on that."
"Only one way to find out. Artoo?"
The R2 unit was previously sitting in the corner of the wide cockpit. He beeped awake and scooted over to the console, almost as if he anticipated what Luke wanted. Sometimes, Luke felt like some of his Force sensitivity leaked into the droid over the years.
He told him anyway, "See what you can do with that file Leia sent."
Artoo extended his data arm into the computer's socket and started encrypting.
Mara commented, "Must be a powerful encrypt to keep inside an R2 unit."
"It's the old Gamma encrypt we used to use on Hoth. Leia knew Artoo would still have it in his memory."
"You know, that's not the first time I've heard you refer to that R2 unit as a 'he'".
Luke smiled. "I think of Artoo more as a family member. We've been through a lot together. Which some of it you've been with us on as well. The Myrkyr forest?"
"Don't remind me. A Gamma encrypt. Those are hard to come by. It'll probably take Ghent hours to break that."
Luke added, "When it would take a several weeks for any normal slicer." While Artoo kept encrypting, Luke took the opportunity to express to Mara, "I want to thank you for picking me up so I could receive Leia's message. I've always said I wanted to install a holo-projector on my X-wing. I never got around to it."
"You're in hyperspace so much it wouldn't be worth it. As far as picking you up, I was on my way to meet up with Karde anyway."
"You're still working for Karde?"
"When New Republic Intelligence doesn't need me. I don't think they will for a while since Thrawn is dead."
"The Empire is still much alive. Don't think they aren't. We made that mistake after Endor."
"Yeah, I made a mistake at that same time, too."
Luke allowed the masked compliment pass, yet he stated, "The New Republic could use you, Mara." He wondered if his hidden meaning that he could use her as an ally in the Force got through to her. If it did, she didn't make it known. Mara Jade was one person who Luke considered very hard to read in the Force. She had built a wall around her emotions for as long as Luke had first known her since that night on Myrkyr in one of Talon Karde's jail cell's. Nevertheless, Mara did not reply and it was then when Artoo twittered indicating he was finished with the encryption.
Luke shifted so he could be in front of the view screen but kept far enough back so Mara could see over her shoulder while piloting the ship. "Ok, let's see what Palpatine wrote about."
Mara chuckled and joked, "'What I Did On My Summer Vacation.'"
"Cute," Luke replied. He flipped a few switches on the console and there on the screen appeared four separate entries along with the addition of Leia's coordinates below them. Luke studied the dates closer and his eyes widened. "Mara, these entries are dated at the time of the Clone Wars. In fact...if I'm not mistaking my history...before the Clone Wars started."
She bent her head away towards the screen to see the dates herself and upon doing so, she remarked, "Vader's ghost."
Luke chuckled himself and stated, "Taking Leia's reaction to this, and these dates, I'd figure that Vader may, in fact, be the subject."
That fact alone rendered both of them silent.
Finally, Mara broke it by demanding, "Well, what are you waiting for, Skywalker, read it!"
He clicked on the first entry and both read to themselves.
BEGIN SIDIOUS ENTRY: 0603 - 21:00
I have just been returned to Coruscant by Anakin and Master Kenobi. The "kidnapping" scheme was a success. Lord Tyrannus played his part well. But, alas, his loss was inevitable. Count Dooku was a fine leader and an excellent figurehead for the Separatists. He was no Sith. When Anakin held the two blades across his neck, and I gave the order for his death, I could feel his fear of death. Sith are not afraid of death.
Grievous is another matter. He will soon join Dooku in Oblivion once the Jedi Council decide which Master will be in charge of hunting him down. I so hope it will be Master Kenobi. That would compliment my plans perfectly. It will separate him from his former Padawan long enough for a permanent separation.
As for Anakin Skywalker… he gave in to his anger reluctantly, but did so nevertheless. It will be a difficult task for him to unlearn what he has absorbed in the last thirteen years. Difficult, but not impossible. Anakin is more powerful than I have foreseen. He will become an excellent Sith apprentice. Dooku was a seasoned Jedi Master disillusioned with the direction of the Jedi. Maul was an excellent swordsman and fighter. Neither could match Anakin's raw power in the Force. It has been reported that his midi-chlorian count is twice that of even Master Yoda's. The fact about Anakin that had disturbed me most often is that he has no father. Curious. Is it by coincidence that the death of my own Master Plagueis happened not long after a time when Anakin would have been born? Difficult to say. Difficult to prove. Midi-chlorians do not have fingerprints.
The question becomes, how do I teach him to use that power out of his own freewill but which is also to my advantage. A true challenge. Though Dooku used the powers I had taught him rather well, he would never have been fully turned. Even during his final battle I could sense his yearning to disappear and free himself of all power. Darth Maul I had trained since early youth, yet he still held a bestial attitude. There is, of course, a time of over-aggressiveness. Skywalker is at an age where the information that has been taught is starting to settle and contains a great deal of stubbornness. Worse yet, Anakin is loyal. He treats loyalty as an obsession. Loyalty to his friends and especially to his wife.
Ah, Anakin Skywalker will be a challenge. No matter. I will find a way. The time will come when Anakin will be mine.
END SIDIOUS ENTRY: 0603 - 21:10
When Luke finished reading, he was speechless. He couldn't tell if Mara was finished for she had not said anything yet either.
Could it be that this is a journal Palpatine kept on the rise of his father into the Dark Side? He had already known how the Emperor attempted to seduce him and failed by relying on Luke's anger. That wasn't enough to turn Luke Skywalker. Was it enough to turn Anakin Skywalker? From the journal, Palpatine mentioned Anakin had killed in cold blood. No, hate alone doesn't do it. Something else entirely combined with hate. Loyalty to his friends and especially to his wife. His wife, Luke repeated in his mind. Luke's mother?
Luke was starting to understand Leia's distant sadness.
What was Palpatine talking about Anakin not having a father? Was that even possible?
Mara blurted suddenly, interrupting Luke's thoughts, "With his talk of the Jedi Council, this must have been before he declared himself Emperor."
"I don't know any of the other names he mentioned. Except, of course, Kenobi. We can look up the names of the HoloNet."
"This Count Dooku and Darth Maul have to be former apprentices. Maul or Grievous I've never heard of before. There was a Dooku from Serrano I had read about a long time ago. According to Serrano legend he was inherited a fortune and was involved with the Separatists after he was a Jedi."
"Was a Jedi."
"Apparently, he quit."
"Jedi don't just quit. What happened to him?"
"It was never known. The details are fuzzy, but legend says he disappeared."
"I'd say he quit the Jedi and became a Sith follower alongside Palpatine."
"Good guess." Luke gave no reply, so Mara gestured to the screen. "Go ahead, click the next entry. Maybe he'll identify the others for us."
Luke did so and they both individually started to read.
BEGIN SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 22:17
As I suspected, the Jedi Council did, in fact, send Master Kenobi to hunt for Grievous. I knew they would even despite my request that Anakin receive the task. It may be that my request actually made them decide on Kenobi. I can sense the start of their mistrust for me. I can feel their frustration that they do not yet know the identity of the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. Will not they be surprised? That mistrust will be essential to my plans. Within days the Jedi will be obliterated and my new Empire will begin. For now, my attention must concentrate on Anakin.
I believe that I have found a way to fulfill my needs where Anakin is concerned. He has expressed to me in confidence, in so many words, his desire to cheat death. Not so much as to cheat, but to prevent. He does not fear the death of himself, but fears it in the people he cares about. I remember distinctly when Anakin first came from Tatooine and the Jedi tested him. Even then I could sense the young boy's fear of losing his mother. That fear should have disqualified him from becoming a Jedi. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Council either overlooked or ignored that fear. All the Jedi are so emphatic about Anakin being "the chosen one". Prophecies are so abstract that many are very hard to interpret. Yet, the Council has chosen to believe their own interpretation so closely, that it has blinded them. Of course, the Jedi have been blind for over a thousand years. Why should they start thinking differently now?
Tonight, at the Mon Calamari opera, I will summon Anakin to my box and I will tell him the tale of Darth Plagueis and of his ability to create life and prevent death - all death but his own, as I vividly recall. It will be a glorious sight to see Anakin's reaction. There is still much confusion inside his mind. Yet, there is one constant thought: Amidala. It has been long thought by the Sith - and by Jedi for that matter - that love is a form of insanity. Hence, the Jedi and the Sith banish of all life attachments. Compassion, love, friendship are not Sith traits. Ironically, it may very well be that these same qualities in Anakin will be the instigators needed for his transfer of power.
I will plant the idea in his head that I have the key to immortality. That is what he wants for himself and Amidala. He will do anything to unlock that power. And when the Jedi distrust me fully and act upon that distrust, it will be up to Anakin alone to choose between immortality for Amidala or allowing her to suffer through her pregnancy. I have foreseen his choice.
END SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 22:25
After Luke read the second entry, there was one thing in it that he focused on. It had nothing to do with Palpatine using Anakin's emotions to trigger his turn to the Dark Side. It had nothing to do with the myth of Darth Pleguis that he could manipulate the Force to create life and prevent death. It also had not to do with the eerie fact that both he and his father hailed from the same planet of Tatooine.
No, Luke's focus in this entry was just one word. One name, in fact, that he had never heard before in his life, yet he always yearned to. Amidala. The one constant thought of Anakin's which Palpatine spoke of. It will be up to Anakin alone to choose between immortality for Amidala or allow her to suffer through her pregnancy.
Pregnancy. Pregnant with twins, perhaps? Amidala was the name of his mother.
He didn't know how much time lapsed when Mara could sense his hesitation and quietly asked, "You never knew her name, did you?"
Luke mumbled his answer. "No. Never."
Mara sighed. "I never knew the names of my parents. What I wouldn't give to know." She nodded toward the screen and said, "You have something special there, Luke."
Luke. She called him Luke. Usually, she referred to him as just Skywalker.
She did his sanity a favor and changed the subject. "What do you think about the Tale of Darth Pleguis?"
"It sounds impossible." He hesitated, then added, "Then again, I have in the past seen what I had previously thought impossible happen right before my eyes.Anything can be possible with the Force. It is still such a mystery."
"Too bad there isn't a thousand-year-old instruction manual," she quipped.
"There may very well be. I plan on going through the deep archives on Coruscant to locate something on the Jedi of the past. I have read what I could already. Much of their history had been lost after the Clone Wars."
"Right about the time the Emperor and Vader wiped them all out."
Luke shifted awkwardly. He ignored it as he noted something else in the entry. "Palpatine mentions the Council searching for a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious. Look at the entry title."
"Yeah, I saw that too. Sidious and Palpatine...one and the same? He was Chancellor at that time. He would have controlled the Senate. I could see him hiding his true identity under the Council's noses."
"Why couldn't the Council see through that?"
"Well, it's similar to your statement before about things seeming impossible. To the Council the possibility of Palpatine being the Sith Lord was too impossible for them to list him as a suspect. It's just like Palpatine said. The Jedi were blind."
"From what I have read of that era of the Jedi, they were strict with following the Order. Including one rule about avoiding any life attachments. Those found with Force sensitivity were taken away from their family at a early age. They were brought up knowing only of the Jedi code. They never knew of love."
"Or if they did, they would have to hide it. Anakin must have had to do that if he was married. Wonder how he got away with that?"
"I don't know, but knowing my father and a little of him in myself, we tend not to like following rules. He and I are also similar in that we started our training at a much later age."
"Each with different results. Wonder what brought Anakin over the edge?"
"The usual combination. Hate, anger, fear, and a need for power. Palpatine seemed to give Anakin the idea that it is possible to control life and death."
"And what could be more powerful than that?"
"I'll give Palpatine this much–he knew how to read people."
"He was famous for it. He could tell what a person wanted even before they did just by looking at them."
"It's more than that. He seemed to know what people's weaknesses were. He knew mine." Your faith in your friends is yours. "But I knew his." Your overconfidence is your weakness.
Mara offered a reply. "Anakin only knew him as a Chancellor. You already knew him as the Emperor. Anakin didn't know to look for any weaknesses."
"Maybe he did anyway."
Mara mimicked Luke's words earlier, "Only one way to find out."
Luke gave her a crooked eyebrow and then proceeded to click the next entry.
BEGIN SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 23:54
Much has happened. Much to report. Everything has gone as planned. It is finally the end of my war. More to the point, I have my new Sith apprentice.
I shall explain.
Anakin came to me last night during the opera as I requested. I informed him that my sources reveal that Grievous was now known to be found on Utapau. It was information that I could have disclosed to him in the morning, but I required a need for him to be at my side. It was there that I told him the tale of Darth Plagueis. His demeanor was calm, yet I could feel the excitement stir within him. Soon. So very soon. He even asked me who could teach him these abilities. I kept my answer obscure, for now. I let the question stew within him for the night.
It was not until this early afternoon that Anakin finally saw through my facade.
He came to my office euphoric about the news that Master Kenobi had eliminated Grievous. That death was inevitable. He, or rather it, was a hybrid of alien and machine. Organic material combined with mechanics. Dooku had taught it the ways of lightsaber dueling in all forms. A thing cannot learn the ways of the Force. But it is of no matter.
It was then that I realized it was time for the war to end. The Separatists and the Droid armies had now lost their respective leaders. All that was needed now was my new apprentice and then Order 66. I attempted to persuade Anakin with the idea that the way of the Sith would allow him to be what he had always wanted: powerful. Yet, after he learned of my true identity, his loyalty was to the Council. His lightsaber was drawn and I was unarmed. My weapon was still lying dormant inside my Nubian sculpture. But I did not fear, for I knew that the inevitable must come to pass. I could feel his hate flowing through him. But he left my office in haste to alert the Masters of the identity of Darth Sidious.
I was ready.
Four Jedi came to my office with the intention of arresting me. Mace Windu and Kit Fisto were the only two that I knew. The names of the other two Jedi there escape me. With quicker motion than they, I exterminated three of them with almost no effort. It was exhilarating to finally duel against an opponent after so many years. I was afraid that I would be rather rusty. This was not the case. Only Master Windu was left and I must admit that he was a challenge. His Vaapad, form seven, style was most aggressive. I could not project Dark energy at him with his saber in hand. It almost defeated me. I had almost given up. Windu would have killed me with no remorse. He knew any trial held against me would be useless. I could see murder in his eyes.
Then the sweetest presence came into the room: Anakin. Mace was clever to not include the young man in the group chosen to arrest me. He may even have known of my deception of the boy. But when Anakin entered the room, it was too late for the Jedi. He had defeated Windu's purpose for excluding him in taking me down. I feigned dying as my own Dark energy reflected back at me, something that would disfigure me forever. It was excruciatingly painful. I pleaded to Anakin to save me, for I alone held the secret of immortality for Amidala. Anakin tried to persuade Windu to not strike me down, citing that it was not the Jedi way. How ironic that it was Anakin's loyalty to the Order that saved me. Mace Windu attempted to make a final cut but Anakin swung his own blade to sever the Master's wrist. I immediately unleashed my full power on Windu and the Master was enveloped in Dark energy, falling out the window into the endless void of Coruscant night.
Then... finally... Anakin weighed the Jedi treason against his love Amidala. He chose to fulfill his destiny and become Sith. At last, he made the commitment I had worked for. He would now serve as my apprentice in the Sith Order. He could no longer be Anakin Skywalker, of course. That was the name of a Jedi Knight. He needed a new name which will fit his new-found power. I then proclaimed him…Lord Darth Vader
The first task I gave Lord Vader was to eliminate those who acted treasonably against the Republic. All Jedi had been purged from the Jedi Temple with surprising ease and celerity. Vader was boundless rage mixed with raw power in the Force. A weapon to be reckoned with, certainly. Lord Vader may even possess more rage and power than even I. Then I ordered him to Mustafar to eliminate the remaining leaders of the Separatist party. I sensed even through his hologram, Lord Vader's joy at the thought of murdering Viceroy Nute Gunray. That had been a few hours ago.
In that time, I gave to the clone leaders across the galaxy the final strike against the antiquated Republic. Order 66. I had this order injected into the clones' consciousness at an early stage, to be carried out only by my word alone. In those few moments directly afterwards, I could feel the life force of the many Jedi across the galaxy fade. It was then time for my greatest performance. And for the introduction to my new title.
Emperor Palpatine of the New Galactic Empire.
It was greeted with thunderous applause. No longer will the Republic squabble and make empty decisions that progress nowhere. It will be I alone delineating policy. I will appoint a Senate made up of humans only, whom I can control. Alien minds are tainted.
Wait... I feel a strong presence approaching. Could it be? No. Surely, the clones took care of him on Kashyyyk?
Apparently not. I will soon have a guest: Master Yoda. It will be a pleasure to give him the benefits of an emperor's hospitality.
END SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 23:65
When Luke was finished reading, he glanced at Mara who looked at him bewildered. Luke then turned his head to the main view screen showing the vastness of space before him. He stared at a red-green nebula that took up the whole screen, admiring its beauty.
Moments passed before he finally spoke. "When I allowed myself to be captured by the Imperials on Endor, they took me directly to Vader. It was there when I finally admitted in front of him that he was my father. When he first told me, I didn't want to believe it. I told myself that he is just trying to seduce me the way the Emperor seduced him. I knew when I had asked Yoda later straight out if it was true, he hesitated. I knew it was true even before Yoda admitted it was. Yoda never hesitated at any question I put before him."
He paused a moment to let his words sink in. He continued. "When I told Vader on Endor that I believed he was once Anakin Skywalker, he said that the name no longer held any meaning for him. Can you imagine someone denying their own identity so much that they hate the sound of their own name?"
Mara replied, "It's what kept Vader in the Dark Side."
"Leia never understood that. How anyone who is a kind-hearted and good natured person could be seduced so easily into a world of evil and horror. I think, because of that misunderstanding, she has never come to terms with Vader being her father."
"Skywalker! Can you blame her? She lived most of her life knowing and loving one man who she called father, and out of the blue she's told that a half machine half human monster is her true father. Just like you, she wasn't tickled at the news. But, she didn't have Yoda to validate the information. Vader told you outright. Leia only had your word." She paused and continued to ask, "You were with him when he died, weren't you?"
The memory of the pale and disfigured head slumping down on the Imperial shuttle ramp bled back into him. "Yes," he replied hoarsely.
Mara nodded and added, "There you go. The reason for Leia's misunderstanding."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You had closure. She didn't."
The pain of the revelation struck him like a vibro-blade. He just realized that Leia never saw Vader as a pale disfigured man underneath the mask. He could tell her. Yet, that was something that had to be seen. He could only describe the pure love in his eyes finally looking upon his son essentially for the first time. How could she see him now. Luke had burned the body long ago on Endor. Physically, Anakin Skywalker is now part of Endor's atmosphere. How can she have closure now?
Sensing his want to change the subject, Mara asked, "What do you think of this Order 66 Palpatine gave the clone troops?"
Luke straightened and replied with a new found confidence, "It gives a new angle on history. Have you noticed there's not much in the history books in schools that tell exactly why the Clone Wars were fought and how they actually ended?"
"Thank Palpatine for that misinformation. Among the many things he controlled was the media. He would have had the historians say that the Separatists fought the Old Republic, Palpatine declared himself Emperor, and the Old Republic dissolved into his new Empire. No one was the wiser and it was never questioned. Soon, the cause was forgotten."
"Not by Mon Mothma. Or Bel Iblis."
"I'm talking purely from an Imperial view. Your Rebellion started and just the fact that the two of us are in the same cockpit together tells the effects of that."
"That Order 66 also answers a question I had for many years since Ben told me about how the Jedi were wiped out. It always seemed inconceivable to me that two men, despite both being deep in the Dark Side, could wipe out thousands of Jedi."
"According to Palpatine, Anakin took care of the Jedi at their Temple." She paused for effect then added solemnly, "That includes children."
Luke winced at the thought. "All the more reason to hate oneself." They allowed a silence in before Luke continued. "So, your answer to what brought Anakin over the edge to the Dark Side is not the usual causes. It was my mother. His want to protect her."
"His compassion was his undoing."
Luke shook off the idea for the time being and said, "Well, one more entry. Let's see how his encounter with Yoda went."
"Probably well if Yoda had to flee to Dagobah," she replied.
"Let's see," he said as he clicked to the last entry.
BEGIN SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 24:15
I sit here now alone. The war is over. The Republic is finished and all but a few Jedi are wiped out. I am the new Emperor. I have forced the remaining Jedi into hiding. Not one of them will dare oppose me now. Yet, with all of my accomplishments in the last several hours, I am wrought with concern for my new apprentice.
To begin, my duel with Master Yoda was insignificant. With all his power, he still could not defeat me. He will no longer be able to show his little green face in public, why even if he were, with my new legislation he would be forced to submit to a leash, the disgusting creature!
My apprentice did not fare nearly so well in his duel. A duel between Kenobi and Skywalker would be no less than epic. Despite their age difference, they are equal in skill. Alas, it was Kenobi who came to victory. He left Lord Vader a crumbling hulk of burning flesh. Legs and one arm severed. His lungs collapsed. I foresaw that Vader was in danger, but I arrived too late. Medics managed to create a revolutionary environ suit which permitted him to breathe. He is now but a shell of the former man. As far as I can tell, his new condition has not diminished his power in the Force. It may have actually strengthened his Dark Side leanings. His appearance now is one of terror. I cannot think of a better disguise. Neither I nor Anakin have retained our original features after the wars' end. An appropriate change for the changing times.
Sadly, during his rage on Mustafar, his beloved Amidala was weakened by Anakin's own Force grip. She later died on an operating table. Or so the public record says. Senator Padmé Amidala was officially buried with her unborn baby inside of her.
I know differently.
I could feel the newest additions to the Force as soon as they were born. They are now too small and weak for me to attempt to locate them. I suspect Obi Wan and Yoda will take them far away to hide from me and their father. They will not be raised Jedi, much like their father was not. They will not pose a threat. Yet, will the offspring of Anakin be as powerful as he? What might it take to seduce them to the Dark Side? Anakin's passion for Amidala proved to be the key for his transformation. What will be the passion of...Luke...and Leia? Only time will tell.
END SIDIOUS ENTRY 0603 - 24:30
He knew, Luke thought as he read Palpatine mention his and his sister's own name. He knew and never told Vader. Why? So to detatch Vader from any further life attachments? If Vader knew of his son and daughter's existence, he would be obsessed at finding them. The Emperor had other plans for Darth Vader. When exactly did Vader know, then?
Without asking if she was finished reading, Luke suddenly asked Mara, "On your mission on Tatooine at Jabba's Palace as a dancer, did Vader know of it?" Luke didn't mention that the mission's objective was to eliminate him, but Mara didn't either. That was now her past.
"I see where you're getting at. The Emperor called me in alone and personally gave me the mission. Maybe he was afraid Vader would listen in if he sent it by the Force. No one else was in the room besides his royal guards. I don't see them running to Vader. Then again, extracting information from people unwilling to give it was Vader's specialty."
"I don't think he'd have a reason to. I think the Emperor purposely held back any information about us from him until the time was right. When Amidala died, he simply indicated that his children died with her. I'd just like to know when did Vader finally know."
Mara slowly responded. "I can answer that. It wasn't until after you blew up the first Death Star. A captured Rebel pilot told Vader your name."
"How do you know this?"
Mara sighed and said as casual as she would if passing the tomo-spice, "I headed the team that captured the Rebel." Luke nodded but kept silent at that remark. Mara started to look at him in anticipation as if she were waiting for the obvious next item in the journal that should spark his interest. When he kept on being silent, she nudged, "Anything else in there that's interesting?"
Luke shrugged. "Finding out exactly why he had to wear the environ suit is rather interesting."
Come on, Skywalker!Tell me that your mother's full name isn't affecting you."
Luke smiled wryly. "It is. I just like seeing you all riled up."
She gave him a nasty look and quipped, "You're such a charmer, Farmboy."
After Luke allowed himself a innocent chuckle, he stated, "Senator Padme Amidala. My mother the Senator. Like mother, like daughter."
"She sure didn't get her leadership skills from her father."
"Wonder if Leia found anything on her yet. There would be plenty of data on a past Senator on Coruscant."
"Who says she doesn't already have the data?" Luke stared at her blankly. Mara sensed his confusion and mentioned, "Where are you meeting Leia in a few hours?"
"Oh, the coordinates." Luke clicked the screen to the main menu and found Leia's set of numbers that made up the coordinates. Luke examined them. "Hmmm...looks like somewhere along the Middle Rim almost to the edge of the Outer Rim. She was right that its not far from here. In fact, it's not far from my home planet. Do you know where that could be?"
Mara only had to look at the numbers once and know because she had made trips there several times on personal missions for Palpatine. She nodded and admitted, "I do."
Luke was inside his X-wing a few hours later, minutes from the point of destination. He was just setting the navi-computer to automatically come out of hyperspace once it was reached. He thought back to his farewell to Mara. As usual with Mara Jade's greetings and goodbyes, they were short and to the point. He attempted a sincere "thank you" for her help and silence. She acknowledged it with a small nod. Someday, he would get her to really open up. That would take time.
The information in the journal was personal to Luke and Leia. There was some data there that may be of some interest to historians. Luke figured the data didn't really matter now. The New Republic was thriving. Thrawn, the greatest strategist the Empire ever had was dead. More and more systems were bailing out of the Empire day by day. The New Republic could breath easier. Nothing in Palpatine's journal would change any of that.
Still, Luke preferred that the data be limited to himself, Leia, and her family. Mara would never tell. Leia did mention that the utility man who originally found the datacard read it, unbeknownst to him as to its contents. It was luck that the utility man wasn't the sort to seek out any monetary reward for his finding. It was scary to Luke to think what value would be placed at the information of Darth Vader's true identity. He cringed at imagined headlines splattered on the HoloNet.
The proximity alert sounded and Luke felt the inertial dampeners kick in as the molted starlines of hyperspace dissolved into the blackness of space. Before him was his destination.
The blue-gold color of the planet Naboo looked majestic even from a distance in space. The terrain report he read on the way told him it was fresh with mountains and many bodies of water. He had barely heard of the place. It was not a planet that played any role in the war against the Empire. He mentioned that to Mara and she seemed surprised he didn't know why.
"Because, Skywalker," she had told him in the Jade's Fire, "they almost feel responsible for the Republic's ruin. Palpatine was from Naboo."
For all his triumphs and pains he went through where the Emperor was concerned, it never even occurred to Luke that the man had to have his origins from somewhere. How ironic was it that his father's wife came from the same planet.
As he approached closer to Naboo, Artoo suddenly beeped and whistled. Luke looked at the translation screen and was puzzled. "What are you talking about, Artoo? We've never been here before." Artoo beeped what sounded like a question. Luke answered, "No, I don't see how you can remember being here. Is there anything in your data banks that say you were?" Artoo beeped a negative. "There, you see. You've never been here." Which Luke suddenly thought, that may not be true. When his Uncle Owen bought the droids from the Jawas, he didn't get a bill of sale which would have included an age. The Jawas worked very much off the books so they wouldn't have had one. For all Luke knew, Artoo's memory was flushed and he may very well have been here before. He had never heard of a droid "remembering" anyplace when his data told him he was never there. Then again, Artoo wasn't any normal droid.
Luke entered Naboo's atmosphere and soon received clearance to land at a specific landing zone. He was greeted by name which meant he was expected. Leia and Han had already arrived. He took the next few moments to admire the vast scenery of the Naboo landscape. He could not believe the enormous waterfalls and rich green terrain surrounding them. Combined with the natural landscape but no less elegant, were the ornate Classically designed buildings. One in particular looked to be large enough to be considered a Palace. He neared the platform and he started the landing cycle. As he landed he saw in the next platform sat the unmistakable shape of the Millennium Falcon.
He got out of the cockpit and climbed down their ladder they provided. A crane droid lifted Artoo and set him down softly. The air Luke breathed smelled sweet, containing much moisture. He looked toward the ship hangar behind him and saw an entourage of people coming to him. The head figure was a girl no more than what looked like her teens. She wore an elaborate cream colored gown with intricate green jewelry on her neck and in her hair. Her face was made up in white makeup. Beside her was a man in a dark brown and black uniform and was armed. Obviously a security figure. Behind her walked four girls who may have been a similar age. Luke couldn't really tell since their bright orange robes hid their faces under pulled down hoods.
The teenage girl stepped forward and greeted him. "Welcome, Jedi Master Skywalker. I am Queen Shashaka of Naboo. It is an honor to be in your presence."
"Thank you. It is an honor for you to welcome us here. This is a most remarkable place. I have rarely seen anyplace to equal its beauty."
"You are most gracious. We have a tour planned later with one of my handmaidens, however, I suspect there is someone with which you would like to meet."
"Ah, yes, my sister."
The Queen smiled and corrected, "I was speaking of our beloved Amidala."
Luke nodded and said, "Of course. Lead the way."
He followed the group's lead and as he involved himself in small talk with Shashaka, he pondered how could Palpatine come from a planet of such beauty and peacefulness yet still become the epitome of evil. The same way his good-hearted father became his tool of terror, Luke answered himself.
They passed through a vast courtyard with fountains lined at various intervals along its edge. They turned to the right side of the courtyard and ahead he saw at one end stood a shiny silver statue that he could not make out just yet. In front of the statue stood two familiar figures embraced in each others arms both facing the statue. Leia and Han. Leia wore a gown similar in elegance as the Queen. Han, of course, was still in the dark vest of his pilot's gear. That was as formal as Han Solo reached. Luke could sense her as soon as he landed, but he suddenly felt her elation even before he saw that she noticed him. Luke reached closer to the courtyard and Leia ran a beeline to him with such youthful quickness that it reminded him of their fast running to their getaway on the first Death Star.
He greeted her with open arms and she did the same as the twins united. Leia parted to ask, "Have you read it?"
"Are you ok?"
"I'm enlightened," he replied.
Leia smiled and said, "Come and meet our mother." She led him by hand closer and Han greeted him.
"Hey, kid. I see you didn't want to miss this momentous occasion."
"Once in a lifetime event."
"Seems we have a lot of those in this family."
"He's back on Coruscant on babysitting duty with Winter. I wanted him to come, but even he thought it was just for us."
Leia spoke, "We can always bring him and our children here when they grow up." She suddenly had a worried look on her and she glanced at the Queen. "Oh, I'm sorry for overstepping my bounds. It would be up to you to invite them."
Queen Shashaka smiled and replied, "Nonsense. The children and grandchildren of Padme Amidala will always have an open invitation."
"Thank you," Leia said.
Luke finally looked up at the five meter tall silver chromium statue. It was of a figure of a woman with similar dress of the current Queen, but with an added elaborate headdress. He would have liked to have seen the colors of the outfit, for now it was monochromatic. The woman's stance was both stoic and gentle. On a small plaque at its base read the words: Padme Amidala Nabarrie–Queen and Senator of Naboo.
All were silent in their respects which were decades late. It would have had to be a great honor to have a statue erected in one's memory. Just that alone told Luke and Leia that Padme was more than just a special woman. Luke turned to address the current Queen. "We want to thank you again for allowing us to visit."
"The honor is ours. It has been long believed that Amidala's child died with her. She had been laid to rest looking as if she were still full term. My guess is that was a ruse made to be kept in secret."
"Yes, it was," Luke admitted solemnly.
The Queen continued, "When Leia contacted us and told us who her real mother was, it should have occurred to us that Amidala's offspring would have played a hand in saving the galaxy."
Something occurred to Leia and she turned back to the Queen. "You seem young to know how she was laid to rest."
"Yes, it was my grandmother who had told me. She told me many stories of Amidala. She knew her well. She acted as her decoy once."
Leia look brighter. "We would like to speak with her if we could."
"You can in a few minutes." Shashaka gestured with her head to the opposite side of the courtyard from where they entered. "She is coming now."
All of them turned towards where the Queen was indicating and they saw an elderly lady coming towards them. She wore dark robes that were elegant as well but in places they looked tattered. The Queen continued to say, "As soon as I told her why you were coming she was more elated than I have seen her in years. She has been in a depression for so long. She said she wanted to meet you but she had to fetch something she wanted you to see."
"What would that be?" Leia asked in anticipation of the answer.
The Queen shrugged. "Actually, I have no idea."
As the old woman reached closer to them, she made to remove her hood to reveal a weather beaten face with wrinkled skin. Her hair was a light grey with streaks of dark which indicated it had been jet black in her youth. When she reached close enough to Luke and Leia to look upon their features, she stopped in her tracks and moved much slower. Her face was frozen in memories long past. Luke found evidence of the awe he felt from her in seeing her eyes watering.
"Grandmother," the Queen called to her. "Are you all right?"
The woman edged closer to them as if seeing someone she hadn't seen in ages. She looked first to Leia and muttered, "You have her eyes. And her beautiful hair." She then turned to Luke. "You have the same eyes as Anakin."
"You knew our father?" Luke asked.
"Not very well. It wasn't as if any of us were supposed to know him in association with Padme. But, I knew. Padme was my best friend. If their marriage had been made public it would have ended both of their careers. It was such a shame about Anakin. Lost during the battle at the Jedi Temple. He was such a brave young man."
Luke and Leia gave themselves quick knowing glances at each other without saying a word. The Queen then introduced the woman. "Master Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, this is my grandmother, Dorme."
Luke took Dorme's hand to gently shake it, "A pleasure to meet you." Leia did the same
but added, "Your granddaughter mentioned that you had something to show us."
"I do, but we need a holo-projector to show it. We can use the one in the Palace."
The Queen suggested, "Why don't we use the one in the conference room near Captain Typho's office. There's much more privacy there."
They all proceeded back into the expansive Palace entrance and at one end there were a series of corridors which rooms were lined. The Queen led them to the first one she came to. Inside was an rectangular shaped office with a long table in the center lined with chairs at both sides. At the far end was the holo-projector and as Dorme went to it, the rest each took their own chairs. Dorme revealed a holodisc that she at first struggled with to inject into the projector. Luke was the closest to her and was about to help her but she got it to go in. Dorme then addressed the small group.
"This is a short recording I have had in my possession for decades. Within a few weeks after Padme died, I used to watch it constantly. It reminded me of her remarkable combination of strength and gentleness. Time had gotten away from us during the Empire and I have not looked at it since those few weeks."
"What is it a recording of?" asked Leia.
"It is a session of the Senate in which Amidala addressed an assassination attempt on her life. The attempt actually did murder her double, Corde. I only have a short section of it where she talks about the Senate's decision to go to war. It is eerie to listen to now because this is dated about a few months before the start of the Clone War. She was very much against it."
Han quipped, "Now, why does that sound familiar?" Leia scowled at him and he knew that was her silent cue for him to keep quiet. As usual, he didn't. "So, this is the Senator in action, huh?"
Dorme laughed. "Yes, you could say that." She pressed a button on the projector and it started.
The blue-white image was scratchy from old age but they could still see a young woman in a dark outfit with the same type of jewelry that the Queen wore. The twins immediately saw Leia's resemblance to the girl in the image. In no time, Senator Amidala spoke to the unseen Senate.
"Wake up, Senators–you must wake up! If we offer the Separatists violence, they can only show us violence in return. Many will lose their lives, and all will lose their freedom. This decision could well destroy the very foundation of our great Republic. I pray you do not let fear push you into a disastrous decision. Vote down this security measure, which is nothing less than a declaration of war! Does anyone here want that? I cannot believe they do."
The recording stopped but Amidala froze her pose as if suspended in time. The room was silent. Not for very long. It was Han who broke the silence and tension.
"If I hadn't seen it with my eyes, I would have thought that was Leia up there. At least we know now which of the family traits you inherited," he said as he glanced at his wife.
Normally, Leia would have said or done something to quiet her husband. This time, she stayed silent as she looked at the frozen image of her real mother with sadness. She stood before the Senate to defend the Republic. Just as Leia herself had done many times.
Just as Anakin had done once, as well. Before the mask. Before he needed an environ suit to live. Before...he lost his one true love.
Leia started weeping.
Han was the first to console her. "Hey, hun, it's all right. She would have been proud of you. I know it."
She shook her head as the tears continued and she lowered her head in her hands.
Their hosts were stunned and didn't know how to react. It wasn't until Luke felt Leia's guilt when he realized the true reason for her tears. He spoke to all, "Could you excuse us, please?"
Queen Shashaka motioned to the others to exit the room. When she herself was in the doorway, she comforted, "We understand. Take your time."
When all had left, Luke noticed Han stayed. Luke carefully requested to Han, "Could you please give me a moment with my sister?"
Luke could tell he didn't want to. He did not want to see his wife in pain. A common theme in Skywalker marriages, Luke thought. Han didn't fight it and said, "Ok. I understand too." He got up and bent to kiss his wife on the head. He silently walked out of the room leaving the Skywalkers alone with the still image of their mother hovering among them.
"Leia," he started in a soothing voice, "I know why you feel guilty."
Between sobs, Leia muttered, "I...never...thought of him as human. I only saw the monster. Luke, I was tortured by my own father!"
"He didn't know us then. He was still deep in the Dark Side He wasn't our father. Palpatine never told him of us. All along, Anakin had believed his wife and children died by his own hand. That is what gave him enough hate to go deeper into the Dark Side and become the terror he created."
"What could he hate so much that would make him do that?"
"Himself," Luke whispered the answer, finally realizing he had said it aloud for the first time.
Leia brought her head up and went on. "We never knew the man before all of that. Why couldn't we have known that good man and hero?"
"Who said we don't? We have his spirit as Anakin inside of us."
"When Han and I were on Tatooine chasing after that painting, Killik Twilight, I learned of a time when Anakin was a boy. He was strong in the Force even then. He ran a race no other human could endure and he won it. Now...now I find out he had loved someone so truly. He loved her, Luke. He would do anything to protect her."
Luke nodded and replied solemnly, "Unfortunately, he was betrayed by a master manipulator in his attempt in doing so. To Anakin, joining the Dark Side meant he could reveal the secret to preventing her death. The Emperor used that belief of Anakin's to his advantage. By the time Padme died and when the Emperor withheld the information about us, it was too late. His hate took over." Luke paused and said casually, hoping to cheer her a little, "Until roughly two decades later when we showed up on the scene."
Leia did crack a smile and she used the edge of her gown on her arm to wipe away tears. She then straightened and said, "I promoted Doj Nadee into a better position. He'll start to work on our floor next week."
Luke stared blankly at her. "Uh...who?"
Leia smiled and answered, "He was the utility man who found the datacard. He will never know what he has given us. He deserves so much more." She sniffed and continued, "On Tatooine I went in search of a priceless Alderaanian painting and came back with the realization that my father was once a boy. Doj Nadee gave me the datacard that showed me that my father was human. I can't think of a greater gift."
"The fact that all four of us are represented inside this room comes to mind."
"Four? Anakin's spirit?"
"Oh, much more than his spirit." Luke reached inside his tunic to grab his lightsaber. Although Leia immediately noticed it was not his.
"Whose is that?"
"Technically, it's Mara's. I gave it to her after her own battle she dealt with last week. I persuaded her to allow me to swap lightsabers until she gets back to Coruscant in a few weeks." He paused and said, "This was Anakin's last lightsaber he made as Anakin Skywalker. Ben gave it to me on Tatooine those many years ago. I trained with it alongside Yoda. Then I lost it and my hand at Cloud City, only to be found again by another Dark Jedi."
"It's been through a lot."
"Yes, it has. It was made well."
He moved to stand in front of his mother's image and he ignited the blade. The familiar snap-hiss filled the room along with the glow of the blue-white blade. It almost echoed the same color as Padme's image. "You see," he said, "now all of us are represented."
Leia came up behind him to wrap her arms around his waist. Luke held the blade straight up and out and they took in the scene of the image of their mother and their father's lightsaber as one.
And so it was. Mother. Father. Brother. Sister.
The Skywalkers were reunited as Family.