Igniting the Stars

The young boy shivered in the darkness, hands wrapped around himself tightly, squeezing himself tightly in futile attempt to make the cold tears on his cheeks just go away. Everything thing in space was cold: his hands, his face, his body and his heart. Something cold had wrapped itself around the thing that his heart used to be, and would not let go. If only…if only Mom was here.

Anakin Skywalker's body convulsed with the double blow of loss and cold.

Suddenly, there was a sound behind him, and the angel arrived, landing at his side. She wrapped her jacket around his shoulders, giving heat back to both his extremities and to his frozen heart. She reassured him with her kind words, and he gave her the gift he had spent all of his precious time carving. The angel lifted it to her neck and draped it across her perfect shoulders.

"Thank you, angel," he whispered softly, as he lay down onto a nearby sleep couch, after she had embraced him and had encouraged him to go to bed "Thank you for saving me."

She smiled at him, with a gentle amusement far beyond her years. "Saving you from what, Anakin?"

Eyes already growing heavy with the weight of sleep, his answer was but an echo in the night. "From the darkness," he murmured, drifting away to the netherworld of dreams, "And from the cold."

"I'll always come for you, Annie. I'll always save you from the dark."

As the waking world gave way to the tender embrace of sleep, he could see the japor snippet reflect the cabin's dim light, shining as a beacon in the night.

The young boy shivered in the darkness, his hands wrapped around himself in a vain attempt to defend himself from the infectious cold. In this new dark, there was no japor snippet, no angel to comfort him in the emptiness. The void extended around him, approaching infinity, covering and smothering him with the evils of the world. He'd been here forever, locked in this eternal prison without hope and without light.

"Please, angel," he whispered, reaching out with cautious hands into the void, "please, help me."

The endless expanse offered no comfort, and his hands met nothing but the deadness in the air.

Anakin awoke with a shudder, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest and his lungs burning with the raw sensation of fear. It was only a dream… he reminded himself, using the Force to calm his heart and slow his breathing. A dream.

He lay back down onto his sleep pad, still shaking slightly from the fright. A Jedi shall not know fear, he whispered, hoping that the timeless adage would offer some relief from the pain. Still, though, when he closed his eyes once more, all he could see was that lifeless orb hanging still in the eternal dark, dead in the absent light of space.

Even stars burn out…

"Anakin?" called out a voice, soft and gentle.

The use of his name made the boy jump, and he turned to find his master standing above him. Anakin Skywalker's mentor gazed down with concern for his young charge, and seated himself on the edge of the bed, cerulean eyes locked onto the sky blue ones opposite him.

"What is it, Padawan?" he asked, just as gentle and as inviting as before.

The Chosen One, the last great hope of the Jedi Order and of an entire galaxy, met his mentor's concerned gaze and tried not to cry. In this moment, he was not the prophesized Jedi savior, just a boy whose nightmares had awoken him in the dead of night. "The stars, Master," he whispered, looking up through the translucent ceiling of their residence on Marunis Prime and seeing the twinkling echoes of those gas giants in the sky. "Even the stars burn out."

The Jedi Knight rose then from his perch on the boy's bed and moved forward, pulling the blankets back up and over the shaking and shivering frame of his Padawan learner. "Stars die out, Anakin, but more stars are born. Even when the darkness takes one of us, the light will give birth to another. A balance exists between every single thing, my Padawan; it is the balance of the universe."

Anakin gazed into the caring and reassuring eyes of his pseudo-father, but could find little comfort in his words. "I don't want you to die, Obi-Wan," the boy whispered, as if he was afraid that the invisible force that had strangled the light away from those dead husks of stars would come and do the same to his master.

A strange silence enveloped the space between them, and it was a long moment before his mentor spoke once more. "All things must die, my Padawan," murmured his master, "but all things live on. The dark is strong, and it is resilient, and it will push and pull us deep into its embrace. It will frighten us with the fear and threat of death, and it will fool us into its temptations." The man that was to Anakin a father leant forward, and it was then that the boy noticed the age in his face, the hidden years in the depths of those cerulean eyes. "But remember, my Anakin, that the light will always prevail. Even in the darkest and most sinister of nights, the dawn will always come." The Jedi smiled then, and the premature aging caused by a responsibility thrust onto him so young disappeared, leaving only the gentle grin of a father and of a friend.

"The dawn will always come," whispered Anakin as they both settled back into their beds. But even as the words still resonated in his heart, he looked up into the expanse above and couldn't help the shiver that hit him suddenly and despite the warmth of his bed.

A voice, metallic and not his own, whispered in his ear: "Even stars burn out..."

"The dawn will always come," the boy repeated, if only for his own benefit, the words spilling out of his mouth and vanishing into the black hole that surrounded him. The night had been so long though, so long it felt like forever, trapped in land devoid of any warmth or light or hope.

"You promised," he called out, "you promised that the dawn would come."

As always, there was no response.

"I know there is still good in you, father."

A lie, thought Vader, there is no good in me now. I am a creature of darkness, a tool of the Force. I am a weapon for power, and the promised triumph of the Empire. My master-

For a single infinitesimal moment, a different face came to mind. Auburn hair and beard, with those blue-gray eyes and that damned patronizing smile. A dead man's smile, he reminded himself, and the face that remained beneath the obsidian mask twisted into a pathetic facsimile of a smirk. The old Jedi was dead, slaughtered with his own blade; that day was a great victory for the creature that had once been addressed as Anakin Skywalker.

Another face came to mind though, unbidden and unwanted. An angel's face, the greatest beauty he had ever seen. She was the love of his dreams, the great love of his life ever since that fateful day on Tatooine so long ago. She was the mother of his children.

His children.

At that moment, something within the Sith Lord snapped, breaking away from his heart and plunging deep into the black abyss of the Force. Luke writhed before him, succumbing to the torturous lightning wielded by his master.

"Father!" screamed the boy, his features convulsing into expressions of horrific pain. "Please!"

The plea echoed in Vader's mind, and from where there had only been darkness for so long, light emerged, born from his only son's desperate call.

Anakin, preparing himself for his imminent death, reached out and grabbed the old man in front of him, throwing the once Chancellor of the Republic into the endless shaft below.

The boy smiled up into the new light, both blinding and illuminating all at once. The two figures bathed in the ethereal glow smiled, and beckoned for him.

He grinned at them, and moved towards the radiance before him. "I knew you would come." His outstretched hands finally met their companions, as the light enveloped him into its embrace.

"You promised."