INTERLUDES
By Kathryn Olsen

He felt the mental summons even before he recognized their origin. He was needed urgently
on the balcony.

Governor Sterhaven turned towards him and smiled. "Have you seen the Princess? I have
someone who would like to meet her."

Commander Luke Skywalker nodded. "I was just about to go find her. I'll let her know
you're looking for her."

After traversing the room, he stepped onto the balcony and stopped short as he saw Leia,
his best friend, and Darth Vader, his father, conversing. Vader bowed deeply, which Leia
returned, then brushed a gloved hand over her face.

Luke stiffened. *If he harms her in any way, I'll kill him myself, Dark Side or no.*

"Leia," he called.

She turned as he approached and smiled. His eyes narrowed as he saw blood covering
her hand and upper lip. She shook her head slightly, a clear signal to keep his anger at bay.
He nodded fractionally.

"The Governor is asking for you," he said quietly.

She took his hand and kissed his cheek gently. "Thank you."

Breaking the physical contact, she turned and courtesied elegantly to their worst enemy.
"Lord Vader, it was enlightening. Until we meet again, may the Force be with you if no one
else will."

*She certainly has a way with people,* Luke thought wryly as she turned to leave. As
she passed, her hand brushed against his and she squeezed his fingertips, a gesture of reassurance
and thanks.

Lord Vader watched the retreating form of Princess Leia. "I must compliment you on
your choice of friends, if not careers."

Luke turned to face him, his face hard. He'd heard nothing of their conversation, only
felt the mental urgency that accompanied it and saw the blood streaks on her face. It was enough
for him. "What did you do to her?"

"She attacked me. I was merciful."

Luke smiled in spite of himself and folded his arms across his chest. "She's one of
the few people with enough courage left to do such a thing. I think it's why she's our inspiration."

"I see you've improved your diplomatic skills since we last met."

"I see you've improved your restraint since we last met," Luke countered coldly, clenching
his right hand into a fist without even thinking about it.

Vader turned his masked head towards the ballroom, where the Princess was visible.
Luke followed his gaze and caught his breath at the sight of her; the sight could still
awe and inspire him, even after he'd come to know and love the soul beneath the regal stance.
Her tension had disappeared under the mask of diplomacy. She was smiling broadly, engaging
in playful banter with the Governor. She put everyone at ease and Luke was again reminded of
just how deep her title went.

"She reminds me so much of your mother," Vader said quietly.

Luke's eyes hardened and the skin around them tightened. His jaw clenched as he fought
for control of his emotions and partially failed.

"Do not speak of that to me," he said in a voice so low and bitterly harsh that it seemed
to surprise Vader as much as himself.

"Don't you have any interest in who she was?"

"I doubt I would find an unadulterated version from you," Luke snapped.

Vader snorted. "If nothing else, you inherited her stubborn pride." He moved closer.
"You had a family at one time, you know. Hating me will not change the connection our blood
supplies to us."

"I am an orphan. I always have been and I always willbe. No matter what blood relation
I may have to you, you are *nothing* to me."

"How can you say that," Vader interjected. "You have the same reckless abandon, the
proclivity towards hatred, the intense need for vengeance. You have much more of Vader in
you than you're willing to admit."

Luke hissed out through his teeth. "There is no Vader in me," he said a bit more calmly.
"I have Skywalker in my veins. There is a vast difference. I am the self-controlled aspect
of those traits. You take the traits that make me a great warrior and overprotective friend
and twist them into what make you the most feared monster in the Galaxy."

Vader bowed his head slightly, then his shoulders lowered slightly. If Luke hadn't
known better, he would have read the motion as a sign of accepting defeat or a show of remorse.
But Vader, whether or not he had started out as monster or man, was not even a residue of the
man his father was.

Luke inhaled deeply. "I accept that a man named Anakin Skywalker sired me. I bear
his name and have heard of his legacy. I was allowed to attack the Death Star on the force
of it. I accept that who that man was died over twenty years ago at the hands of the servants
of evil.

"I will never accept that there is any connection between the name of Darth Vader and
the good man who was my father."

He let his arms drop to his sides. "After that moment on the gantry at Bespin, all
I could think of was why Ben Kenobi lied to me. I have come to understand that he was not lying.
He said that the man named Darth Vader had betrayed and murdered my father. It is the absolute
truth."

Vader lifted his chin so that the eyepieces of his soulless mask were fixed on Luke's
own ice-blue eyes. Off-hand he wondered if he had inherited his father's looks.

"Why do you fear me," Vader suddenly asked.

Luke turned away from the ballroom and gazed out over the moonlit savannahs. "I do
not fear you, nor the Emperor, nor the Imperial Starfleet. I do not even fear death. What
I fear is myself.

"Uncle Owen used to say that he was afraid there was too much of my father in me. I
thought that it meant I was too adventure-crazed. Now that I know the truth, it's given me
an entirely different perspective on his fear.

"When I was training with Master Yoda, I had to face an apparition of you in a cave that
was strong with the Dark Side. I killed it, but when the mask blew apart, it was my own face
that stared back at me.

"I am afraid of myself because what I am now, you once were and what you are now, I
can become. But I will not become it because I will not let myself become you. Those who do
not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."

He held up his hand. "This lesson will never be forgotten. You may have taken my hand
that day on Bespin, but you reawakened the strength that keeps me from tapping into the forces
that created the wraith that you are.

"I was once told that the guilty do not remember their names. I have not forgotten who
I am. I am Luke Skywalker, proud heir to the tradition of justice and mercy that the Jedi
swore to protect. I have friends and they are more of a family to me than I could ever have
hoped for. They will never be my blood relations, but they honor and protect and guard me
so that I can do the same for them.

"The Dark Side of the Force may be caused by fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, whatever
you call it, but I am firmly rooted in the Light Side because I will never doubt the power of
love."

He caught a flash of sadness in his father's sense. "Not even love can prevent evil,
Luke. And not even evil can rob a person of the ability to love.

"You have much to learn about life. You and the others who support your cause still
think of me as a soulless monster, but you do not realize that a monster is a man with a corrupted
soul. His soul is not lost, just altered. And even an altered soul has the capacity for the
same emotions that anchor you to the Light Side."

Luke hesitated, then lowered his voice. "Did you love her?"

"More than I ever thought was possible," Vader replied. "She was for me what your
Princess is for you--an anchor, a constant. But it wasn't enough."

Luke leaned against the railing and gazed up at the stars. "Evidently."

For a moment, the only sounds were Vader's modulated breathing and the distant sounds
of the reception. Vader's mental barriers seemed to go up and Luke suddenly lost all sense
of him.

"Why did you jump from the gantry?"

Luke lowered his chin to stare at Vader, but that mask was directed towards the sky.
"Because I would rather die than become my father."

The modulated breathing ceased for a moment as Vader seemed to catch his breath, then
returned. "You and I are very much alike," he said finally. "We are both orphans in our own
right, left to have our lives shaped by public relations. For me it was the regimen of the
Jedi Order. For you, it is the Rebellion. The man I was would have rather died than become
the machine I am now. And he did. Anakin Skywalker had to cease to exist."

"I see," Luke said. "You were anchored to the Light Side by love as I am, but the
great difference between us is that, despite my weakness and confusion and foolishness, I am
anchored by the love of who I am and who I can become."

Vader turned his head to look at him. "Well, at least no one can ever accuse you of
trivializing the momentous, but you have a flair for complicating the obvious."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Luke said wryly.

"Falling to the Dark Side is not an event, Luke. It is a process, day by day, with
every choice one makes. If you'd rather die than become your father, keep that at the front
of your thoughts as your spiritual barricade. It is not a failsafe, but it can help."

Luke stared at his hands, not sure how to respond, then slowly nodded. "I'll keep that
in mind."
* * *
Leia looked up from her position on Luke's bed. "Looks like we both had an exciting
night."

He handed her an ice pack and grimaced. "That's one way of putting it."

She rested it gingerly against her nose. "You finally got to talk to him without an
ignited lightsaber or your finger on the trigger."

"And you," he said wryly, "became the first person to survive attacking Lord Darth
Vader."

She let the ice pack drop and smiled warily. "Maybe he's not as frightening as we
all thought."

Luke nodded. "Maybe."

She hunched forward, her smile vanishing. "Wait until Han hears that Darth Vader
was named Anakin and has a sense of humor."

There was a flicker of surprise and horror in his eyes. "How did you find *that* out?"

She smiled. "Interesting things can happen on the dance floor, especially when dancing
with the demons."