The Final Iteration

Chapter 20

The wind never really stops in the upper reaches of Coruscant. Up here, where the glittering spires of wealth and commerce rub elbows with the very tops of blocky, efficient government buildings, at the level at which all offices are corner offices and the lights stay on at all hours of the day and night, and the skyhooks of their dilettante sons anchor off of anywhere out of sight of the offices of the leaders of industry, the wind is a constant push, and Luke was knocked off balance by its sudden disappearance as a dome closed over the rooftop on which he stood.

"So. You again," Luke said to Lord Luke as the Sith Lord walked toward him. "Nice illusion. Doesn't feel like White Current, though."

"It's not. And it's not an illusion, exactly. It's a pocket universe, in fact."

"So Caedus can't see this sudden new architecture right next to his GAG headquarters?"

"No. Caedus had a very complete education in various ways of using the Force and other paths of power. But manipulating time and the fabric of the space-time continuum is beyond even his power."

"How much of a risk are you taking, doing this? For the universe, I mean."

"Not as much as the Queen would think, I'm sure. So you still care about the universe?"

"Of course I do." Luke's voice was expressive as ever, despite his new wardrobe, which looked rather like Lord Luke's.

"If you're here, now, then you're watching GAG headquarters, waiting for Caedus to come out."

"Yes."

"You're on the brink of becoming Darth Vengeus."

"Yes I am, and don't try to stop me. Is that why you're here? Is this going to ruin your plan to defeat Caedus? Well, too bad. I'm sure I can kill him."

"You're not sure, but that's beside the point. The potential of Darth Vengeus is limited. The potential of Lord Luke has no limits."

For the first time, Luke really looked at Lord Luke. He turned away from watching GAG HQ. Lord Luke was white-haired, and so wrinkled his tattoos had become a little hard to read. Of course, Luke already knew what they were. The two of them were dressed alike in black bodysuits and black capes. The only shiny thing in either ensemble was their silvery lightsabers dangling from their belts. Luke's, a black military web belt; Lord Luke's, black snakeskin from Sith-ta, a souvenir of the court of Queen Dije.

"You don't want to save me from turning to the Dark Side. You just want to be sure I become the right kind of Sith."

"Almost." Lord Luke paced closer until he stood close enough to put his hands on Luke's shoulders. "That's a very trusting gesture, on Sith-ta. Allowing a Dark Lord to touch you palm down. You do trust me, don't you, Luke?"

"Why should I?"

"That's not the question. You do trust me. You always have."

"Alright, yes. Mostly. But you want something. Is this the dark design we spoke of when we parted?"

"It is." Lord Luke dropped his hands but remained inside Luke's personal space. Luke did not seem to mind, as if in some way he felt he and Lord Luke were the same person.

Lord Luke sighed and gathered his breath for a practiced speech. "I've had many years to think about this moment. What I would say, how I would convince you to let me fulfill my plan. I finally decided on the unvarnished truth, frightening as it is. Luke, have you ever wondered how I managed to live for a thousand years?"

Luke shrugged a little. "How?"

"Not in the same body, obviously. No. I've found a way to, to house myself in living flesh. It can only be done in a genetically identical body. The Emperor Reborn used clones. I've been inhabiting the body that belongs in whatever timeline I'm in when I come close to death."

"You want to steal my body?" Luke asked, incredulously, taking a step back.

"Not steal. Share. I pick up the native souls as I go along. You would become immortal too, as I am. It would not be a matter of you and I competing for one form, no. We would become one. Like pouring two glasses of water together in the same pitcher. After that they are just water, inseparable. But larger. As my soul becomes larger, more powerful, every time I jump hosts."

"I wouldn't be me anymore. I would be Lord Luke."

"The person we would become would indeed be Lord Luke. Is that so bad? You were ready to become Darth Vengeus, and for what? No better power than what you could access by yourself, just with less moral constraints on your actions. Let me in, Luke, and you will have access to all my power. Even the power to bend time, stop it at will, step out of the universe into a pocket universe like this one, and then erase it when you're done. You'll have more power than any Jedi ever had, more power than any Sith ever had, even the First Sith. I've surpassed even them. I don't need the Great Machine. Not anymore. That's how I got here, despite having its co-ordinates burned out of my mind."

"You've become a master of time?"

"I have become a god! Will you join me? Will you ascend with me? Will you hold the beating heart of creation in the palm of your hand, stretch forward and backward and become a nonlinear being? Will you step beyond light and darkness into dimensions where the Force is a child's plaything and the White Current is an appetizer for powers beyond the imagination of beings of linear thought? Will you pluck the fruit of immortality from the tree of life and savor the juice that runs down your arm as the lifeblood of the universe, to be scattered or pooled or sucked dry at your whim?"

Luke looked into Lord Luke's weathered face. He saw the fire that burned in his eyes. It was not merely the mad light of the fanatic, obsessively dedicated to Caedus's destruction, although the two of them shared that feeling. No, Luke saw that Lord Luke spoke the truth. That was god-light in his eyes. Or demon-light. Perhaps it was the same thing. From a certain point of view.

Luke said, "Yes."

"Then drop your shields and open your mind to me. Receive me with open arms. And prepare to become Lord Luke."

Luke willed away his shields. He trembled slightly, as if cold. Then the great onrushing mind swept into him. For a moment Lord Luke's soul appeared like a great dark bird, its wings reaching outward like a billowing cape.

Lord Luke's body crumpled and fell and disappeared before it hit the ground. His mind filled Luke's younger, stronger body now, filled it out to the final cells of his skin.

It was a great light, or perhaps a great darkness. Such categories had no meaning now.

Luke was Lord Luke now. He had all the power, all the wisdom, and none of the outward marks of Sithdom, save his clothes and the red lightsaber. What a foolish gesture that had been. Weapons, hah. A true Sith Lord needed no weapon but his mind.

He dismissed the pocket universe with a gesture.

Luke had come up here plotting to kill Caedus himself, but Lord Luke knew that destiny belonged to Jaina. His role was the subtle direction, not the slicing sword.

At that moment, Darth Skywalker, son and heir of the Queen, appeared at the top of the ladder over the side of the building, and stepped out onto the rooftop.

"Come back to the light," said the little boy, his love for his father radiating outward like pure golden sunbeams.

Foolish child, thought Lord Luke. Now I truly know, father. That appeal only works for those who already have decided.

"I am no more Darth Vengeus," said Lord Luke with all the kindness he could muster. "I will take the ruby out of my saber and let it go green once again. I am still Grand Master of the Jedi Order. I will not kill the thing Jacen has become."

"That is the right decision, father! I am so proud of you!" The boy hugged him around his legs. Love poured off of him.

"Thank you, youngling." Lord Luke raised his eyes and saw his other son – his other acknowledged son. "Ben. If you've come to save me, there's no need. Everything's going to be alright now."

"You're sure?" Ben asked.

"I'm sure. Everything in the universe is going to turn out just fine."

Lord Luke walked back inside, ignoring the scuffling behind him as his sons sorted themselves out. Let them find their own paths to power. Lord Luke had more visions to send to Caedus. And a young woman to encourage. It was time to subtly point Jaina down the path to apprenticeship to Boba Fett. Yes, indeed, this time, everything in the universe was going to turn out just fine. Lord Luke smiled.