Luke resisted the urge to whip around, light saber drawn. Suddenly, he knew the source of the cloudiness of his senses, and understood that any attack would not only be futile (for the man standing behind him was a Jedi Master in his own right) but if anything, would be detrimental to his cause. Instead, he continued to stare out across the horizon and let the words fall from his lips.
"Master Canaille," he said quietly. "Why?"
"Minister Canaille, if you would, Master Skywalker," came the reply. "I gave up that life long before you were born…"
At last Luke turned to face the former Jedi, and he was unable to mask his shock. In the few short years since he had last seen Aubé's father, he had aged at least twenty. His hair, once dark and full was now considerably thinner (as was his face) and a steel grey. His eyes, however, so startlingly like Aubé's, were still as dark and as intense as ever. He was dressed in the smart dark shirt and trousers, and dress robes of his office, but his face looked tired and care-worn. He drew up a chair behind the desk, and sat, his fingers tented beneath his lips all the while watching Luke intently. Expectantly.
"Please," Luke began quietly. "It's just Luke…" Let us speak, just man to man, not Jedi Master to Jedi Master, nor Minister to supplicant…
A ghost of a smile touched Schurke's lips, and he nodded slightly. "All right, Luke," he replied. "But I'm afraid your… quest… has been in vain. My daughter isn't here."
Luke struggled to suppress the anger and impatience that had plagued him as a young man. What are you hiding, Master Canaille? He thought, lapsing into the honorarium. And more importantly, why?
The air in the room seemed to thicken, but Schurke's expression remained carefully neutral. "She is safe, and well," Schurke replied evenly. "Is that not enough?"
NO! Luke wanted to blurt out, but he knew such an outburst would get him no-where. He was walking though a Sullustian minefield without a guide. He would have to tread carefully.
"I love her…" he said at last. "And I've had dreams… visions… of pain and loss…"
Another nod. "As did your father…" Now Schurke's face darkened. "It destroyed him, you know that?"
Are you trying to say that love created Darth Vader?" Luke asked, a little more hotly than he intended. "That love – the very thing that saved him – caused the downfall of an entire Galaxy? I can't believe I'm hearing this from you of all people!"
Schurke raised his hands in supplication. "No…" he replied gently. "But love comes in many forms, it can hurt as much as it can heal…"
Luke fell silent for a moment, realization dawning in his heart. "Are you saying there's someone else?"
Unnoticed by Luke, Schurke suppressed a chuckle, almost as if he were taking delight in Luke's pain.
"Does she love this person?" Luke asked in a choked whisper. "Really love them?"
Schurke rose, and crossed over to Luke, and placed his hand on his shoulder. His eyes sparkled with delight. "More than anyone in the Galaxy, I'm sure…"
"For how long?" Luke sighed, slowly regaining control of himself. "Is she happy?"
Schurke's smile became bittersweet. "From the very first, I think… No, I know… and yes, as much as she can be." Then with unexpected tenderness, Schurke raised Luke's chin to meet his own eyes. "She will always love you, Luke, and you are no stranger to love yourself…"
Luke thinned his lips. "Word gets around, huh?" he sighed. "I guess I should have known…"
Now Schurke's laugh became heartier, genuine. "Of course! Even out here in the darkest corner of the Galaxy, the holo-tabloids sell so very well…" His expression became more solemn again. "I'm so sorry…"
Now it was Luke's turn to offer a sad smile. "Thanks," he said wanly. "I guess I've taken up enough of your time…" He turned to gather his things, but once again, Schurke put his hand on his arm.
"Wait…" he said. "You know that the Holos aren't the only word that we get around here. There has been word… just rumors really… that there is a small community of Force users on Illum… "
For a long time after Luke had left, Schurke had spent a long time sitting in the very chair that Toa and a few members of Corsec had unceremoniously dumped the young Jedi Master into. In one hand he held a glass of Naboo wine, the other one of the many holos that had been quickly stuffed out of sight before Luke had regained consciousness.
If the young man had headed the Healer's advice, he would feel no more ill effects from the stunning drug that he had been hit with. For all of his gentle demeanor, Toa could be a deadly accurate shot. As for the bruised jaw, that had probably been an added gift from Kay'leb, who though far younger than his sister, was fiercely protective of her.
Someday, you'll understand, children. He thought to himself. How love comes in many forms, and causes you to do at the time what may seem to be many terrible things…
In the holo, taken only a few weeks ago, his daughter Aubé stood, holding the love of her life, a giggly, squirmy little girl who had recently celebrated her fourth life day. Although the holo was monotone, you could still see how much the little girl resembled her mother. The determination of her chin, the upturned nose were all Aubé, but oh, those Skywalker eyes…