He was going insane.

Luke knew this, pacing back and forth across his small cell. A single door led out to a small corridor, a single bunk on the opposite side. Coherent thoughts were rather sparse nowadays; at times he struggled not to think at all, lest the memories get to him.

*Mara. Her beautiful face alight with joy and love as she held their newborn son in her arms...*

He shook the memory quickly away. She was dead.

He had awoken in the medbay after the sedative had worn off. The medics had been impersonal at best, treating his wounds and dumping him into this rotting hole to await sentencing. Naturally, of course, ysalamiri had been brought in, severing his connection to the otherwise omnipresent Force.

*The first time I woke up without it, she was there, blaster in hand,* Luke thought to himself, a small smile trying to creep up his face. That had been... what, fifteen years ago? More? And-- since then-- they had formed a wonderful relationship, the depth of love that never failed to amaze him.

But she was dead.

Luke slowly dropped down onto the bed; he would have cried but had run out of tears long ago. Out of tears, out of grief, so that a black hole seemed to have taken up residence where his heart had once been.

Fey'lya. It was his fault, Luke knew without really knowing how. It wasn't the Force that told him-- he couldn't feel the Force because of the ysalamiri, hadn't been able to feel it since they'd thrown him into this damned hole. But he believed it with the conviction of a man holding onto his last hope for survival.

Because he had very little else to live for but vengeance.

*Stars, what am I thinking?* He stopped himself short on that train of thought. *Vengeance?*

"Oh, Force," Luke moaned, "what's happening to me?" His musings, his thoughts, had taken a distinct turn for the Dark after ... after that. But, try as he might, he couldn't seem to lock the anger away anymore. It boiled above anything he'd tried to contain it in, burning a strange void where his heart had once been.

He couldn't touch the Force, of course, but if he could, he had the morbid feeling that he knew exactly which half of it he'd be using.

The New Republic had evidently thought the same. His trial-- if it could be called that-- had been almost entirely composed of accusations and "what- if"s. Those old enough to remember Vader's reign of terror had almost hysterically accused him of following in his father's footsteps, of starting down the same path Anakin Skywalker had taken.

It hadn't been much of a trial by any stretch of imagination. The public imagination, already wild with the prospect of an impending Vong invasion, had been driven over the edge with the "possibility" of another Vader-- of history repeating itself. They had screamed for justice and equity, claiming that all people should be judged the same no matter what, glossing over their own scrutiny of his heritage.

He would receive death. The execution was scheduled for tomorrow.

*They would execute their savior,* a little voice whispered nastily. *They'd destroy their only hope for salvation.*

"Shut up," Luke rasped, closing his eyes and pulling his legs in closer to his chest.

*After all you've done for them,* the voice persisted, *they still destroy you like a commo--*

A sudden sound startled Luke, momentarily silencing the voice. It sounded like... like a tap, almost. A knock...

"Who is it?" Luke demanded, not looking up. Many people had come over the last few days, both officially and unofficially, to see the incarcerated hero of Yavin. Some had tried to offer words of kindness, but the greater portion had spat curses.

"Psst, Luke!" the voice whispered excitedly. A familiar voice.

Luke looked up sharply to see the grinning face of Wedge Antilles peering at him through the slot in the door. "Wedge?" he gasped. "What are you doing here?"

Wedge made a face. "Rescuing you, apparently," he returned. "No, we're just here to enjoy the scenery."

"We?" Luke repeated, somewhat dazed.

"We," Wedge affirmed. "The rest," he added with a significant glance, "are taking care of your little problem."

"My *little* problem? Wedge--" Luke broke off as his senses were suddenly overloaded with more data than he'd felt in a long time.

The Force was back.

"See?" Wedge smirked. "I take that to mean that Tycho and Janson have taken care of the ysalimiri, then..."

Luke ignored him, instead reaching out to the Force he hadn't felt for so long, letting it flow through and caress his senses. He was in nowhere near calm, he knew-- he also, logically knew that he was accessing the Force through anger and a lust for vengeance, but he didn't really care at the moment. Though the icy tendrils of power that flowed through his body didn't heal the pain of his loss, they numbed it and filled the void in his chest with more of the icy darkness...

"What was that?" Wedge demanded sharply, turning away to face something unseen from Luke's vantage-point. Luke frowned, stretching out and feeling the presence of-- "Krath!" Wedge swore. "Looks like your guards want to join in the fun."

Luke smiled. "Leave it to me."

= = = = =

"What do you mean he's *gone*?" Han demanded, barely supporting his shocked and pale wife. They had been called to an urgent meeting with the director of security of the maximum security detention blocks and were now sitting in the man's office, one of many along a long hallway. Vidscreens lined the room and much of the hall outside, showing many of the more criminal neighborhoods of the city-planet. The Director-- Jenkins or some such-- was an almost obsessively neat man, his office the epitome of orderliness.

"Exactly that, Mr. Solo," the Director responded with a raised eyebrow, leaning back into his chair with long fingers steepled. "He fought his way past the guards in the detention block. We have no idea where he is now."

"How could we have gotten out?" Han asked harshly. "You said that the ysalim--"

"We have evidence that the ysalimiri had been previously disposed of," Jenkins cut in with a wave of his hand. "That some outside people may have been party to this escape."

"Who would--"

"The question isn't who, Han," Leia interrupted suddenly, pulling herself upright to look her husband in the eye. "It doesn't matter right now. What matters is where he's going to now."

"Fey'lya," Jenkins hissed in realization. "Captain," he snapped to one of the nearby guards. "Tell the security force to increase the chief of state's bodyguard force three times!"

"Yes sir!" the youngster responded, snapping a quick salute and running towards the main Imperial Palace. Many of the officers now, Han reflected sadly, were no older than his own children. The Vong invasion had wiped out some of this generation's best.

"Forgive me," Jenkins said with a small bow. "I must get the--"

"Of course, Director," Leia responded smoothly, always the politician. "We'll wait for you here."

As soon as Jenkins left the room, though, one of the security monitors on the wall-- the one right behind the desk-- began blinking rapidly.

"Hmm," Han mused, looking at the monitor. "That's pretty close to our home. What could anyone--"

Leia cut him off, having realized the implications before him. "Han," she whispered suddenly, eyes wide and filled with fear, "where is baby Ben?"

= = = = =

The child cried. Ben's wailing echoed not only through the dimly lit room but through the Force as well-- he wasn't shielded, as other Force- sensitives were, so anyone within range-- listening or not-- could quite easily hear.

Luke stood over the crib, unheeding the constant wails, blue eyes closed and brow slightly furrowed as he tried to hear the whispers echoing through his mind. He followed their instructions all the way from the cell-- where to jump, where to swing, where to dodge. The shadowy presence had saved his life more than once; the once-Jedi was in no fit emotional state to reach out the Force as he usually did, and, caught up by the allure of night, had listened to its urgings...

But now it was saying something altogether different.

*Kill him. Kill the child.*