Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars.
A Second Chance
"The Force is indiscriminate when it comes to dealing out punishment. It shows no favoritism, no restraint. If you have committed a grave sin, then you will be punished according to that sin. Many would say that it is heartless in the way it deals out punishment; however I see it as firm but fair. It sees in black and white; commit evil and you will be made to suffer for your transgressions, live a life of goodness and you will be properly rewarded. It will always be that way, for as long as beings are able to define good and evil. That being said however, there are times when even the Force must adjust the punishment to fit the circumstances." – Darth Vader
Darth Vader, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet, Dark Lord of the Sith, was dead.
Anakin Skywalker, the Hero with No Fear, legendary Jedi Knight, husband of Padme Amidala, and father of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, was alive again. It felt good to be himself again.
That was the thought that ran through his mind as he and his former dark master Sidious plummeted down the shaft that housed the elevator to the throne room and eventually led to the reactor. Sidious was screaming bloody murder, but Vader – Anakin – wore a smile under his black mask. After twenty years of misery and slavery he was finally free, all thanks to his son Luke. He closed his eyes in silent regret at the thought of his son. He wished he could go back and start fresh with his son, that he could actually be a father to the boy. Then again, there were a lot of things he wished he could start fresh on.
As he fell, the faces of all those he had held dear drifted into his vision. His mother, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, Ahsoka, Padme… He would be seeing them again soon, he knew it, and he took comfort in that knowledge as the heat of the reactor began to engulf him.
As his body was atomized by the forces of the Death Star's reactor, Anakin Skywalker was finally at peace.
Anakin opened his eyes as he lay in the middle of an endless white expanse. Had he moved on to the Living Force? It seemed so, as this definitely wasn't the Death Star and he was no longer in his life support suit but in his old Jedi robes. Aside from the fact that it had none of the architecture and color of the space station's halls, this place felt less… heavy than the Death Star. There wasn't any darkness here, only life and warmth. But surely this wasn't all there was to it was there? Where were all those who had died before, where were the features of paradise that were said by the Jedi to exist here?
A door appeared before him, causing him to take a step back in surprise. It was rather plain, simply a gray metal door with no markings or visible means of opening it save for a handle. Was he supposed to go through this door to get to the Living Force? Was this empty space simply a transitional area perhaps? A place where one fully crossed over to the other side? He'd never heard of such a thing, but what did it matter? He would be leaving here soon enough. The Jedi reached out to the door intending to grasp the handle, and the fingertips of his right hand brushed against it.
As soon as his hand touched the handle however, something strange happened. The door wouldn't move no matter how hard he pushed, and he moved to step back from the door to contemplate on why this was. When he tried to though his hand would not let go of the handle as if it had been glued on. He pulled with all of his might yet it did nothing. Somewhat disturbed by this, Anakin willed himself to calm down and think clearly. However, soon the experience moved from disturbing to downright terrifying.
An inky black liquid sprouted from the door handle and latched onto his hand, causing his eyes to widen in horror as he yelped in panic. He grabbed his right arm with his free hand to try and pull himself free, but all that succeeded in doing was getting the substance on his left arm as well. "What is this?!" he shouted, his voice tinged with uncharacteristic fear. "What's going on?!"
He finally managed to pull himself free from the door, trying frantically to get whatever this substance was off of him. It was to no avail as the liquid had by now reached his elbows and was advancing rapidly up the rest of his arms. When he looked down at his arms his terror increased a hundred fold as he saw their new form. His forearms were garbed in the same fabric of the suit he had worn as Darth Vader, and as the substance continued to move up his arms he could see that it was leaving whatever parts of his body it touched covered in a piece of the life support suit. No, this couldn't be happening! He had turned away from this! He had chosen the Light Side! He wouldn't go back to that miserable state of being, not again!
"Not again!" he shouted as he continued to try and rid himself of the horrifying substance. "I won't go through it again!"
As if in response to his shouts a hole opened up underneath Anakin, and he screamed at the top of his lungs as he fell into a black abyss. The hole closed, leaving him smothered in darkness as his fall was broken by a virtual lake of the inky substance. He screamed out in terror as he felt the liquid smothering his entire body, thrashing about wildly as he desperately tried to escape. It was to no avail however, and soon the last bit of his body that the liquid had not reached, his left eye, was swallowed by a substance as black as the void of space itself.
After an indeterminable amount of time Anakin awoke, and he darted up as he remembered what had happened. A door, a black substance consuming him, darkness… He put his hand to his face as he sagged in relief, glad that it had only been a dream. As soon as his hand touched his face however he jumped in shock. His face felt… wrong. It felt angular and mechanical, and it was a hauntingly familiar feeling. As he realized that not all was well he noticed a mirror that he was sure hadn't been there before. Dreading what he would see, the Chosen One turned to face the mirror, and when he saw his reflection he felt his world shatter. For in front of him stood not the reflection of Anakin Skywalker, but of Darth Vader.
At once it all came crashing down. His vision was shaded with the red of his suit's visual scanners, he felt as if the weight of the outfit would make him collapse, and the sound of that accursed breath filled his ears. He sank to his knees as his face was buried in his hands, a sob retching itself out of his throat. The vocalizer of his suit caused the sound to be distorted into a mechanical sounding growl.
"Why," he half asked, half sobbed. "Must I be made to suffer more? Was twenty years not enough?"
"No, it was not enough."
Anakin sprang to his feet at the unexpected response, his masked head darting around as his hand instinctually drifted to his lightsaber. "Who's there?" he demanded, his voice echoing. "Show yourself!"
A collection of a million voices answered in unison. "Very well."
A shape began to take form in front of the ex Sith Lord, and he gripped his lightsaber tightly yet at the same time leaving it deactivated. Eventually the shape resolved into a robed figure with a ghostly blue glow. Its face was hidden by the cowl of its hood; in fact not a single part of the entity's body was visible from under the robe except for the lower face which resembled a human's. The mouth of the face was contorted in a sharp frown.
"What are you?" Anakin demanded, raising his still inactive lightsaber in warning. "Answer honestly or I will destroy you."
The being's frown only deepened, and it once again spoke in its voice(s?). "You presume to have such strength? Before us you are nothing. We are eternal, boundless, unequaled in reach and power. We are your judge and punisher. We are the limitless Force itself."
Anakin recoiled as if he had been struck. What this being said made no sense! The Force was not a single entity! "How is that possible?" he asked. "You cannot be the Force incarnate! Such a thing is imposs-"
"Your preconceptions of impossibility do not exist in this realm. We can assume any form we wish, be it the figure you see now or a force that spans the entire galaxy. Even in this limited form our reach is still incomprehensible to you. We can feel the thoughts of everything from the lowest bacteria to the highest gods. Do not doubt who we are, Chosen One."
Anakin stood there for a moment before assuming a more relaxed stance. While he normally wouldn't just take someone's word for it, he could feel the power radiating from this entity. It contained the strength of thousands of galaxies and countless individuals and he was not even a speck before it. For one of the few times in his life the Jedi was truly humbled.
"Why are you here?" he opted to ask, deciding to ignore the fact that this entity was referring to itself in the plural form. "Surely one dead being does not warrant the attention of the Living Force itself."
"That is where you are wrong," the Force shot back, its million voices showing no emotion. "You are an extension of us. We created you to restore balance. And you failed. Spectacularly."
"Don't remind me," Anakin muttered, before replying louder. "So is that the reason you've come to see me then? To personally oversee my punishment?"
The Force nodded, its lower face still showing no emotion.
"What shall it be then?" he asked, resignation lacing his voice. "Shall I be doomed to some Force Hell along with the rest of the Sith? Or will I be forced to wonder this space for all time?"
The Force simply shook its head in a negative to this before answering. "Yours will not be the usual punishment. We realize that the circumstances of your fall are… unique. Therefore, a unique action to fit the unique nature of the crime is required."
It made a gesture, and suddenly the Hero with No Fear was enveloped in chains of an ethereal quality. They looked transparent but were harder than any durasteel vice. At first he struggled, but he soon gave up on the act. He deserved whatever punishment the Force had seen fit to give him. He would take it with dignity.
He turned his masked gaze to his judge, his face resolute under his face plate. "What is to be my fate then?" he asked.
The Force raised its hand at him with the fingers splayed, as if gesturing to a crowd. "Your punishment shall be twofold," it declared, its million voices booming. "Henceforth, we strip you of the name Skywalker. That is the name of a champion of the light, and you have forfeited all rights to it. You shall now bear the name of darkness you so willingly took upon your descent."
He nodded grimly. He was no longer Anakin Skywalker. For now on he would forever be known as Darth Vader. It was fitting. "And the rest?"
"As your dark deeds are as numerous and severe as they are, we see only one course that is adequate for your redemption. You must prevent your past self from falling onto the dark path. You shall dedicate every breath to insuring your mistakes are not repeated."
This declaration was followed by a long moment of silence, which was finally broken when Anakin – Vader, he corrected himself – lamely replied, "Pardon?"
For the first time the Force seemed to show emotion in the form of exasperation. "Need we repeat ourselves? We are sending you to the past, to repair the damage you have done."
His mind finally caught up with what the Force was saying, and he felt a surge of immeasurable joy. How he had wished for the chance to be able to do it over again! And now here it was, handed to him on a silver platter!
But wait, how was giving him what he wanted a punishment? He asked this to the Force, whose reply came in the form of a small grin. "Is is not obvious? You will fix your mistakes not as Skywalker, but as Vader. All who have known you will see only a Sith Lord. All of those you love will shun you, revile you, loathe you, and will seek your destruction. This is your true punishment; to be utterly alone. Fitting is it not?"
The simple indifference that the Force answered with didn't detract from the impact of the words. Right then it clicked in Vader's head. The Force wasn't doing him a favor at all; in fact it was giving him one of the most severe punishments it possibly could. While it may not have appeared so, Vader's heart recently was very fragile. He had lost everything: his wife, his master and friend, his apprentice, the ability to simply breathe on his own was even taken away. His heart had been shattered a long time ago, ever since that day on Mustafar, being held together only by sheer strength of will and being buried under the Dark Side. It had been brought back to the surface when he had discovered that his son was in fact alive, and for all those years he had struggled to keep himself together as he attempted to reunite with Luke. Granted he was thankful that he had been unsuccessful as it would have meant Luke falling to the Dark Side as well, but he had still sought to get a piece of his old life back all the same.
Now, he would be so close to all of his loved ones again yet at the same time so far away, unable to touch them or smile with them for a very long time, perhaps never. Instead he would have to fight them, perhaps even kill some of them. … No, he refused to do that no matter what the situation turned into. He had already hurt his friends and loved ones once; he would die before he did it again.
He looked up at the Force, his eyes glinting in determination and resolve under the black mask. He took on an air of dignity in spite of the suit. "I accept this punishment," he answered, his baritone voice ringing out. "Are there any specific conditions I need to be aware of?"
Outwardly the Force's face remained blank, but on the inside it grinned. It hadn't expected Skywalker to be so accepting of his punishment considering his history. Perhaps he had underestimated his resolve to make up for what he had done.
"There are two conditions," it replied. "First, no one must realize the truth of your purpose until the time is right. Do everything in your power to make sure they buy the ruse of you being a Sith Lord, even if it means killing Jedi; otherwise, all will come crashing down. Is that understood?"
Vader nodded somewhat reluctantly, rather uncomfortable with facing the prospect of killing his fellow Jedi once again but at the same time steeling himself. Many Jedi would die during the war with or without his interference. He would just have to make sure he saved as many as he could, especially those who shouldn't have died in the first place.
"Excellent. The second provision is less of a rule and more advice. We will permit you to use the Dark Side in order to maintain your identity as a Sith Lord so long as you do not delve too deeply into it. Remember to keep one foot firmly in the light or you will be forever lost."
Vader was surprised at this. He would be allowed to tap into the Dark Side? "Aren't I being punished for using the Dark Side in the first place?" he asked.
The Force nodded. "You are, but you misunderstand. You are being punished for delving too deeply into the darkness, not for the simple act of using it. The Light and Dark are two sides of the same coin," the Force said as it gestured to itself. "We cannot exist without the other. The Darkness is a part of us, one that is misunderstood and shunned. We would have you change that."
Vader pondered over this for a few moments before nodding in acceptance. What the Force said made sense. And besides, if the Living Force itself was saying that it was okay to use the Dark Side (at least in moderation) then who was he to turn down the chance? "I accept these terms," he finally said. "I am ready to begin my punishment."
The Force nodded in satisfaction before waving its hand. With that, the chains that had been holding Vader down disappeared, and Vader himself seemed to disintegrate into a million shards of light as he was brought back to that flat and limited realm called the "Real World."
"Go, Chosen One," the Force said as it began walking off towards a recently appeared door. "Go and defy Destiny, as you are wont to do."
Author's Note: Against my better judgement I've decided to go ahead and post this now. As you undoubtedly know this is a time travel fic featuring Anakin, except I've decided to put my own spin on it. I'll be honest, I haven't read that many time travel fics featuring the Chosen One, but this concept has always intrigued me regardless. That, and the idea of Vader appearing in the Clone Wars is plain awesome.
Due to my other projects this story is at the absolute bottom of my priorities right now, and honestly I'm putting this up to test the waters on what people think of this idea. So don't be expecting regular updates, if any, for a long time. Nevertheless, please tell me what you think and don't hold back on any critiques you might have.
Til next time.