Luke Organa was playing a very dangerous game. He sat in darkness contemplating his next move.
Historical records concerning the Jedi were sketchy—probably a result of Emperor Palpatine's manipulations. Nearly twenty years had passed since the destruction of the Jedi and they had quickly become the stuff of legend, a scapegoat for some and a source of inspiration for others. Luke's opinions on the Jedi favored the latter, however Vader was a mystery.
His Jedi powers were unmistakable, yet there was something else to his connection to the Force. It was malevolent and angry. While Luke had only been able to brush the fringes of the Force once or twice under Vader's training, what he had felt had been warm and reassuring and fulfilling. Despite Vader's insistence that Luke allow his anger and fear to forge his connection with the Force, Luke knew there had to be something else.
His decision to agree to Vader's training had, at first, been a distraction. It had kept him alive for longer and had given him time to contemplate an escape. As the days had passed, Luke had noticed something else. Vader was lonely. There was an intense need for companionship and recognition that Luke could sense even without the Force. Though Luke's training had been very slow and he had not really accomplished anything so far, Vader seemed to almost enjoy their time together. That gave Luke pause.
What was his next move?
Should he escape and suffer Vader's wrath at what would surely be seen as a betrayal, or should he forge a connection with this being that had caused so much pain and destruction to those he was fighting for?
His train of thought was interrupted as Vader entered the room. In response to his arrival, dim lighting sprang into existence. For the first time, Luke could see just what the room was. Weapons from a thousand different worlds adorned the walls and inhabited glass-covered displays that made the room seem like a forest of malice and violence. A chill crept up Luke's spine.
The energy of expectation crackled invisibly throughout the chamber. Following Luke's fleeting experiences with the Force, he had begun to see Vader differently. It wasn't immediately visible, but if he closed his eyes, he could almost see a vicious crimson aura surrounding the cloaked being. Luke realized, suddenly, that he wasn't even sure what species Vader was. Cyborg species weren't uncommon, but Vader was unlike anything Luke had ever seen before.
"Your progress has been slow, young Skywalker."
Luke blinked. "Surely…"
Vader cut him off. "Open yourself to the dark side. Feel it flowing through you and you will have the power at your fingertips. Give in to your anger and fear. Shape them into a weapon. Don't let them control you. You are their master now."
"I don't understand."
"Call me master, my young apprentice. Only through me can you achieve a power great enough to overthrow the Emperor."
Luke spread his hands. "What must I do?"
Without warning, several of the weapons detached themselves from the walls and sped towards Luke with deadly accuracy. They weren't being controlled by any kind of remote control, either, Luke realized as he dashed for cover. Vader's mind was in control of this entire room. A humming vibrosword passed within centimeters of Luke's ear.
Vader raised his hands and the weapons rounded on Luke. "Let your anger destroy them!" Vader commanded. "Hiding will not cease their attack."
Luke rose and faced the approaching weapons, but ducked at the last second as several sharp edges whizzed by. His mind was an unfocused blur. Vader was a still, quiet pillar of control. He barely had to gesture to control the vibroswords and axes, yet Luke could only think of not getting sliced to ribbons.
His heart thudding behind his eyes, Luke reached toward an approaching axe and willed it to change course. His hand reached out and he imagined grasping the axe from the air and sending it toward the ground. Nothing happened. The axe continued to approach him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a slender vibroblade heading towards his left ear. Giving up on the axe, he ducked and tried to grasp the smaller blade with his outstretched hand. He felt his fingers brush the smooth hilt, but at the last second the blade angled toward the ceiling. His fingers closed on air. A second later a searing pain ripped through his clenched fingers as the tip of a ceremonial saber of some kind drew a red line across his fist.
Frustration and anger boiled up inside him like escaping magma. He stood, ignoring the pain in his hand. "Stop this!"
Vader gestured again and, though most of the weapons fell to the ground, a lone spear traced a deadly line straight toward Luke's midsection. He turned to avoid the weapon, but found himself up against a glass display. He was trapped.
"Stop this!" he said again, panicked. The spear was going to skewer him. Stretching out his hand, he struggled vainly to arrest its movement. "Stop! Stop!" Sweat sprung out on his forehead as the spear whizzed closer and closer. "Stop! STOP!" A rush of sheer, animalistic terror coursed through him, arcing through his outstretched hand like electricity. A sensation of falling combined with a giddy elation blossomed inside his chest as he felt himself reach toward the spear.
The spear did not slow down. Instead it seemed to impact against an impossibly resilient barrier. The shaft splintered into fragments as the ornate spear head skittered across the tiled floor. The breath Luke had been holding suddenly whooshed out of him all at once and his knees very nearly buckled.
Vader lowered his hands and approached Luke, his strides even. "You have just tasted the unlimited power of the Force. I can feel the dark side coursing through you. You have done well."
Luke relaxed all at once and could do the only thing his mind was capable of at that moment. He laughed.
Commander Matau lingered at the rear of the odd procession towards the hermit's desert home. The girl, Leia, walked quietly behind the old man, while the Wookiee and the smuggler followed her. Hardly anyone spoke.
The smuggler, Han, turned over his shoulder to take in the erstwhile stormtrooper. "You know, I'd be much more comfortable if you were in front of me."
Matau grinned. "If I wanted to shoot you, I would have done so, already. In fact, I could have taken you all out before you had a chance to even blink."
Han adopted a condescending smile. "Now that's interesting, friend. Based on my experience, you Imperial drones couldn't hit the broad side of a bantha if you wanted to."
"That's because it's more fun to aim straight for the eyes." He mimed taking a shot at Han.
The smuggler seemed to try hard to come up with some kind of appropriate response, but ended up just looking confused and turning back towards the Jedi and the girl.
Matau's smile faded. A thousand voices rose up in his memory. The diminutive green Jedi general who had first led him into battle. The legendary Commander Cody, pride of the Republic army. The lithe Ayla Secura, the only being to ever catch his eye and the only being who had flat out refused his advances. The secretive Kaminoan, Fen Groa, who had handled his training, and who had been exiled by the prime minister himself for tampering with clone development. He saw the agonized face of the citizens of Nar Shaddaa when news of the Jedi rebellion and purge reached them. The listening post he had been guarding had suddenly seemed a triviality.
Ignoring the searing heat, Matau shoved the helmet back onto his head and hid his terrible memories along with his face.
Ben Kenobi's home was small, but cool. Unfortunately, there was little room for the whole troupe. Han and Chewie went out back to bicker with the stormtrooper some more. Leia watched them leave, her mind filling to the brim with a million questions to ask the mysterious Commander.
She turned to Kenobi. "How do you know him? The stormtrooper, I mean?"
"That," he said lowering himself into a seat, "is probably a story best told at a later time. For now, I'm curious to know how you came to be embroiled in such an outlandish confrontation out in the middle of the Jundland Wastes."
She smiled. "I have been asking myself that same question over and over since we met you."
"The Force is mysterious in its workings."
"The Force? You mentioned that earlier."
Kenobi leaned forward. "It is an energy field created by all living things. It binds the galaxy together at its most basic level, surrounding us at all times. It is what gives a Jedi their power."
"And you were a Jedi?" she asked.
"Oh, a long time ago."
"So, you must have fought in the Clone Wars."
"Along with your father, yes."
She shook her head. "My father was hardly such a warrior. He was a captain on a spice freighter. He died a meaningless death before I was even old enough to talk."
Kenobi shook his head, his eyes suddenly clouding over with something heavy and dark. "That's what your uncle told you. It wasn't a meaningless death, either."
Leia leaned back slightly. The elderly man's words seemed pained. "I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken."
Kenobi shook his head. "Anakin Skywalker was one of the most gifted Jedi I had ever met. He was a skilled pilot, a cunning warrior," he paused slightly. "And he was a good friend."
The truth and subtle emotions contained in Kenobi's simple statement were so genuine; she couldn't help but believe him. Her father, a Jedi? Images of the embarrassing, unimportant man she had distanced herself from seemed to flicker. "How did he die, then?"
The older man looked her straight in the eyes. "A pupil of mine called Darth Vader fell into the clutches of the dark side of the Force. He betrayed and murdered your father."
Leia leaned back, stunned. Not sure if she believed Kenobi's words, the realization that her uncle had lied to her—probably to protect her from the evil truth—shook her to the core.
Kenobi suddenly smiled and rose to his feet. "That reminds me. I have something for you. Your father wanted you to have it when you were old enough, but your uncle forbid it. He was terrified that you would rush off with me to fight in some war—what he called a 'damn fool idealistic crusade'—as your father did." He reached into a storage trunk and pulled out a metal cylinder, which he handed to Leia. "It's your father's lightsaber."
She thumbed the activation switch on the side and a shimmering blue blade lanced into existence. The energy blade hummed as if it was alive. Leia stared into the blade's gleaming white core, hoping to find some kind of lingering sense of who its previous owner was. She turned to Kenobi, but before she could speak, the golden protocol droid crashed through the door, waving his arms wildly. Han and the stormtrooper dashed in after it.
"What part of 'private conversation' don't you understand, Goldenrod!"
"I'm so sorry, sir, but it's Artoo. He insists that he must speak with Obi-Wan Kenobi at once. Something about a secret mission."
Leia turned to Kenobi. "Obi-Wan?"
He smiled. "A name I have tried my very best to hide from. It seems it has caught back up with me." He turned to the droid. "Bring the astromech in."