Author's note: Thank you very much, all those who have reviewed, alert'ed, or favorite'ed throughout this story's long life, especially Jen De Clan and Promised Flower, whose astute reviews have helped me look at my own work in new ways.
Luke slammed the joysticks of the Lambda forward. The landscape of Dantooine below pulled away from him as the craft rose, whirring, into the sky. But the smoke and milling stormtroopers and walkers seemed overlaid by another image, one that was burned like a sunflash into his eyes: himself as juggernaut.
He had stormed into the Imperial ship, lightsaber lit, and given the ship's pilots the fright of their lives. "Lord Vader," the co-pilot had murmured after Luke knocked out his superior, pushed the man out of the ramp, and headed for the cockpit. Propelled by his fear, Luke had pointed his blaster at him. As the pilot realized the invader wasn't Vader he also realized that it was nevertheless a very good idea to vacate the ship. Luke had chased the man out and sealed the doors.
The Imperials had feared him, just as if he had been Vader.
That instilled confidence in Luke, just as flying on Duros had. It made him think of regaining Han from the Hutt in a different light than before…by pure intimidation, a language the gangster would certainly speak. It was as if Luke were copying what Vader would do, planning as the Dark Lord would plan, even as the light side was still strong within him…
Vader would walk up to the Hutt and demand his ally freed…
The plan would not be as simple as that at its completion, but with the thought fresh in his mind Luke felt a new confidence. A new mastery, of himself and the world around him. He resisted the urge to label it dangerous. All that was powerful was not dark.
The clouds of Ba-ion embraced the ship as he spurred it upward. No one was tracking him, but behemoth Star Destroyers were waiting in space. He deleted the immediate exit from the atmosphere which was programmed into the navicomputer and curved around with the horizon on manual controls, aiming for the other side of the planet, where fewer Imperial eyes would be watching. When the ship was steadily soaring among the whips of clouds, he typed in hyperspace coordinates and spread his fingers over the levers that would take him out of the Imps' reach as soon as he cleared the gravity well.
He had not seen the Hawk disappear, but a taste in the Force told him that time had taken back its own. Gwen Bolwyn would be all right. She was as strong and protective as a mother rancor. She would get her crew home.
Except not Anna. Not as she had been before.
That sadness segued, began to recall the death of Yoda. Luke could have learned so much, if Master Bolwyn and the other Jedi had stayed, or if they had had time to teach him more. He would have to forge his own body of knowledge now, just as he had tried to do after Ben's death.
And again, he was missing more than a teacher; he was missing friends. My time-traveling siblings-in-arms, Luke thought, taught by example.
The skies above Ba-ion opposite the vale of the Force, were clear, and although Imperial sensors brushed by the rogue Lambda they did not have time to hail Luke before the ship disappeared into hyperspace.
Ships filled with stormtroopers filed offworld like beads sliding on strings, and, poised on a Star Destroyer above the reverse staging, Darth Vader felt oddly lonely. He turned from the sweeping bridge viewport and retreated into blacker halls, finally sinking to his knees in a room whose door locked in three different ways behind him. It was as secure as a holo-comm room that flung the words of its user light-years across space could be, and today Vader instructed it to call his master.
Emperor Palpatine blossomed into existence, hunched and gnarled inside the blue caging of the holo, his ragged frown seeming to know already what report Vader was going to impart. "How went your mission, Lord Vader?"
"My master, Darth Revan did not turn to the dark side."
The frown slowly twisted. "And Skywalker?"
"He escaped into hyperspace in a stolen ship. Revan and her subordinates disappeared." Vader felt his mask dip toward the floor under its own weight. He was angered and embarrassed by admitting a defeat so far beyond his understanding. "I believe that they traveled back to their time." How Vader rued that they had, according to Fett's recording, taken their method with them!
But, Vader realized, we do not even know whether one can time travel to an era in which one is, already alive.
"I am disappointed in you," the emperor wheedled, and Vader could almost feel the plastic tubes that held his trachea open squeezing in on the burn-scarred natural tissue of his throat. "Return to my ship. I have new plans, which may yet gain us both Skywalker and the extinction of the Rebellion."
"Yes, my master."
The hologram flicked off, and Vader remained kneeling for a moment, ringed by the dimming blue lights of the holoprojector pad.
Leia met Luke in the hanger bay of a Rebel cruiser where she had been living. "Don't bother it", she had told the ship's gunners when the Lambda had entered the fleet. They kept the lasers hot nevertheless, but Leia knew, and then Luke commed in.
Now, Leia threw her arms around Luke's neck and shouted his name. He smiled sheepishly, touching one hand to his ear while the other patted her shoulder. She pulled away as techs and med droids neared the Lambda and its pilot. Her smile glowed. "Welcome back, commander."
Jedi Master Luke Skywalker ducked his head slightly, reverently, as he passed under the shadow of the cave where he had incorrectly pronounced Anna Sacul dead. The Force here was now even stronger, more nuanced and extraordinary, than he remembered, as if with his power its joy had grown. His apprentice hesitated outside the cave, examining the dirt walls that out of the corner of one's eye suggested carvings, but Luke had come for the past, and so he walked on.
A holocron was buried in the wall of the sanctum, one four-planed corner poking out of the dirt wall beside the crystal's socket as if erosion had excavated it just prior to Luke's arrival.
The Jedi wriggled the device free, brushed dirt from the faces. He touched the Force, like a geneticist touching just one strung of the double helix to make recombinant strands braid together.
At first, the holo was only blue smoke, but then it resolved into three figures: Gwen Bolwyn, Carth Onasi, and a young man who had some of the lines of Carth's face under his skin. Luke smiled at the forgotten familiarity of the two he had known, and was also saddened; although in the recording they looked little older than he remembered, they were four thousand years dead.
They looked happy, and more normal than most of the families Luke had ever known. The boy adjusted his collar, nervous as if in front of a relative he had never met.
Gwen spoke, formally at first. "This message is for Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. I do not know whether it has been, for you, a handful or days or many decades since we last met; for me, it was about a year ago." Her voice softened. "In that time I married, and began to get to know my husband's son, Dustil Onasi. We placed this holocron here, in a place known to you and I, Luke, but to few in any time, so that our paltry goodbye would not be the last you knew of me."
Luke could see that the boy with the hesitant smile, with the happy eyes and stiff lips, was not of Gwen's blood. He remembered that Gwen or Carth had told him about this son, briefly. They all looked happy, although the mergence must have been difficult, since the son had been estranged. But the family was complete now, and in ways Luke envied them.
Gwen did not dwell on herself. She continued, "I wish that you and I, Luke, had had more time to learn about one another, and to train in the Jedi ways I know. You brimmed with power, and controlled it well, with a true spirit of the light side.
Contained in this holocron are recordings of classes held at the Jedi Enclave which Anna founded, my home. Many are about Force powers I thought would be appropriate for you, and some are lessons on history. They will show you not just skills, but methods of teaching as well. "
"Thank you," Luke murmured. The timing was excellent. His academy on Yavin IV was in its fledgling days; its formation, and, previous to that, the series of wars that rocked and formed the New Republic, had kept him from coming to this valley again to commune in whatever way the Force would give him with the beings who had changed his life in the Galactic Civil War.
"I do not know," Gwen continued, resting a hand on her stepson's shoulder. Carth gave a thin smile as he looked at them, and she smiled as she looked at Luke, "whether you are in the process of creating the Jedi Order you spoke of so passionately, but I hope that I have helped you to achieve it, even from so far away. You showed such promise, more than many Jedi of our age that I have known. I wish that we could have known you longer."
The holo faded, and Luke sat back on his heels to sigh for the past. Gwen's voice continued for some final syllables, disembodied.
She said, "Keep from the dark, Luke. As tempting as it may be, we are all too good for it. May the Force be with you."