Chapter 20: Saving Mara
For the longest of moments, Luke stared,
speechless, at the ominous silhouette of his father
as he stood at the foot of Mara's bed. The darn
monster had set to work with Mara, too! But he was
catching him red-handed this time, and he wouldn't
let him change her the way he had the others! He
wouldn't---- "You! Get away from her!" he
exploded as he hurried at his lover's side; he
purposefully interposed his presence between the two
of them even as his hand hitched for his lightsaber,
which he had yet to recover. "Haven't you done
enough already? Leave her alone! She's mine!"
"'Yours', son? 'Yours'?" the Dark Lord
repeated coldly before he leaned forward to tower
over the defiant youth. "She isn't a 'thing' to
own," he stated, his voice suddenly filled with
"Not mine to own, then, but yours to play
with?!" Luke countered with animosity.
"Like you did with everyone else?"
Vader reared back to his fully-standing posture.
"What nonsense are you talking about?" he
rumbled, clenching his hands around his belt as he
Luke instantly saw red and took a step closer to
the hulking man. "What 'nonsense'? What about
Han? Leia? Kyp? What have you done to them? And what
have you already done to Mara, too?"
"Luke," Mara tried to intervene.
"People happen to make choices and change,
son, even if this displeases you."
The young Jedi growled lowly in his throat and
meant to physically pounce on his tormentor of a
father--- when Mara's free hand latched onto his
closest arm and jerked him back to her side.
"Luke," she told him firmly. "Look
"No!" he struggled against her hold; she
countered his movement by twisting his arm just
enough to cut through his strength. "Mara, you
don't understand! He's brainwashed everyone, has
changed them into people who serve his purpose and
now he'll do it with you and I, too! I can't let
She had pulled a little harder than necessary on
his already twisted arm. "Luke, stop! It's
madness. Look at me."
In front of him, Vader didn't move at all, much to
The monster was going to deny everything, damn----
He was suddenly whirled around when Mara let go of
his hand and gripped him by the front of his shirt.
"'Look' at me," she ordered him, locking
her emerald green eyes with his distraught blue eyes.
"Vader didn't do anything to me; 'I' asked him
to grant me a moment of his time. As for this
morning... It was my doing only, not his." She
averted his gaze for a moment.
Luke's anger and hatred fled from him the moment
that he saw the regret in her eyes. What? Her doing?
But... "Why?" he asked, his voice cracking
from all his buried pain.
Mara took a deep breath,... another one, and then
sadly looked back up at him. She had yet to release
his shirt, but her grip on it had somewhat loosened.
"I'm sorry, Luke... I thought that it was the
only way to spare you more pain... I... I was
wrong..." She took another deep breath to gather
her courage. "I wanted to save you from the pain
of losing me soon, so... I tried to make you stop
loving me." She searched his tear-filled eyes
with hers. "I'm sorry, Luke... but even that
word is too small a word to truly express how
horrible I feel about my even thinking about such a
cruel plan... I can see now that I was terribly wrong
and that I hurt both you and Jemma worse than I ever
have before... Please, forgive me. I love you so
much... both of you..."
Luke was speechless. She had tried to make him
turn his back to her because she had wanted to save
him the pain of her loss? And she loved him still?
She even loved Jemma, too? Unable to formulate any
coherent thought, Luke gave way to his profound
relief and enlaced her into an embrace of reunion.
"Oh, Mara," he half whispered as she
held him to her with her free hand and arm.
"Don't you know that nothing will ever separate
us? I won't let anyone take you from me, I
promise." He squeezed his eyes in relief and
fresh tears spilled down his cheeks. "I love you
so much... Please, don't ever do that again. Just
talk to me and we'll always work things out."
She nodded against his chest. "I will...
because you'll teach me, right?"
Luke sighed in weariness and relief.
"Yes," he half-whispered as he kissed the
crown of her head. "Yes, we will work on this
Now he understood that he had been wrong about
Mara and Vader while Cilghal had been right. Mara had
been highly imbalanced by the pregnancy hormones and
had taken a rash decision of her own 'free' will; his
father had not had anything to do with it at all.
The Dark Lord also seemed to have talked some
sense into his lover since she was now apologizing
and coming back on her decision since the Mara Luke
remembered would have been 'way' too proud to ever do
this, at least not after only twelve hours of making
the initial decision to ditch him.
He held her closer to him, resting his cheek
against her short hair and drawing strength from her
loving presence. He hadn't lost her; he hadn't lost
her 'yet'. "We'll find a way to save you, Mara.
I give you my word on this."
She smiled sadly. "Oh, Luke... I want to be
with you and Jemma; I want to be a family with you.
So much..." She tilted her head up toward him at
Luke met her earnest gaze, and then turned his
gaze toward the calm figure of Vader who hadn't moved
an iota from his initial position at the foot of her
bed. Had his father truly talked with Mara? Had he
helped her see the mistake of her initial reaction?
Had he also changed his mind about her fate?
It was time to find out what the Dark Lord had in
mind for her.
"She's the only person I have left,
Father," he said beseechingly to the tall
black-clad man. "Please, save her. I can't lose
His father tilted his helmeted head to the left as
he straightened up somewhat. "What do you mean?
Leia, Han, and your students are all well and
Luke noticed a trace of animosity in his father's
voice, or was it annoyance? He shrugged inwardly as
he let go of his close embrace with Mara yet kept her
in the crook of his arm. Luke threw a side-glance at
her and noticed that she was looking at Vader, her
lips pressed thinly together.
Was she trying to understand Vader's reaction? He
wondered before he spoke again. "It's true that
everyone is alive," he began glumly, "but
they are not the people I used to know. They have
changed, and I am not sure that I like what they have
become. I..." He locked his gaze with his
father's. "I thought that you had done something
to them... but I was wrong. I'm sorry."
Vader nodded easily. "No offence taken."
"However," Luke added quickly, "I
do know for certain that I don't want to become like
them. I don't want to be a highness, a lord, or any
other aristocratic figure, or even someone I won't
recognize as myself after a while. Heck, I'm not even
sure that I still want to be a Jedi Master anymore...
I'm no master, anyway," he grumbled, humbled by
the past year of his life. No, he agreed with
himself, he was not a Master Jedi yet because he
still had 'much' to learn. Besides, he snorted at
himself, he was still too bad tempered to be
considered a wise man. "The only thing I'm sure
of is that I want to be with Mara and to raise Jemma
in a place where we'll be able to lead a simple and
quiet life, where my daughter can have a normal life.
There won't be anymore struggles for power from
either me or Mara, I promise." He exchanged a
glance with his lover, and then let go of her to step
closer to his still silent father. "Please? Help
me save Mara?"
The Dark Lord tilted his head once again.
"'Help' you or 'save' her?" He inquired
Luke frowned in confusion. "That's the same
"No, son," the Dark Lord minutely shook
his head. "If you want me to help you, I'll
simply arrange for you to meet with Jade's lawyer
while all the documents related to her trial will be
made available to you."
"That's not what I mean, Father," Luke
growled with returning animosity. Even though he was
ready to make peace with his father, the older man
simply missed the whole point of his plea. Damn, he
swore inwardly, why did Vader have to approach
'everything' in his cryptic/cool-headed way.
"Just let her go, please."
Vader visibly stiffened at his plea and dropped
his hands from his belt. "Impossible."
Luke understood that the other had fallen back on
the defensive and scoffed in disdain at his father's
heartless take on this very personal situation.
"Since when is anything impossible to 'you'?
Besides, you're the emperor. You only have
"To what? bend the law?" Vader offered
surly, leaning forward to once again loom over him.
Luke sighed in worsening irritation. "Why
not? We will behave from now on; we'll stay away from
politics, military, Jedi, anything but our personal
family. You can still trust me, can't you?"
Vader sighed heavily. "I'd like not to, but
unfortunately I do."
Luke frowned at him. "Unfortunately?"
"Yes. Despite everything that happened, I can
still trust you. However, whatever your claims are,
you too have also changed, my son, and I don't like
it in the least."
The young man sneered in derision. "My 'love'
changed me, nothing else... but I forget," he
went on, his voice taking on a cutting edge as his
irritation kept growing by leaps and bounds,
"you don't know what love is about, do you,
Father? You did say so yourself on many occasions so
it's really no wonder that you perceive the changes
it brought into me as unnatural."
"Luke..." Mara tried to cut in, but Luke
just shook his head.
"No," Vader replied calmly. "My
lack of love is not in question here, son. However,
your selfish and irresponsible attitudes - which are
unnatural for you - 'are' in question, and 'those' I
know very well, indeed."
"Selfish and irresponsible attitudes?!"
Luke sputtered in indignation. Of all the insults his
father had ever thrown at him... "How can I be
either of those when I'm only trying to save my
'family'!" He was now really beginning to lose
whatever control he had left on his anger, yet he
didn't care. He simply couldn't understand how his
father could treat him like... like a pure stranger
with no connection whatsoever with him.
Or worse, like a damn 'kid'.
"What you're trying to do," said Vader,
"is to force my hand into breaking the law
without any regard for consequences. You also plan to
discard your students for a quiet family life in the
same time, and 'that' is selfish and
Luke snorted at his words. "The students will
understand and agree with me."
"I'm not so sure about the latest, though I
can imagine the former. However," Vader
interrupted himself, "this is irrelevant because
Jade will face the trial to the end and that's
Luke stared at him incredulously. "How can
you... So I really mean nothing to you?!"
"It is childish of you to throw a tantrum
only because I've refused to grant you your
irresponsible whim," stated Vader.
Luke glared daggers at his father. "Stop it!
I'm not a child, and don't you dare call my desire to
happiness a whim! It's the only thing I've ever asked
in my entire life, the only thing I've ever really
wanted for myself, yet you'd stand by and do nothing
to prevent its abrupt ending?? It would be 'so' easy
for you to just grant me my wish..."
"Hence destroy everything I worked for all
this years," the Dark Lord stated, some emotion
sneaking into his voice at last. "I am not
Palpatine, Son. I am not 'the' Law; I am the Law's
'protector'. As such, I can't break it, not for
myself, not for anyone."
"I agree with him, Luke," Mara's firm
voice cut in.
Luke whirled around and stared at her in
She looked back, her face hard. "He is right;
I must face my trial as would anyone else in my
"No, he isn't right!" the Jedi argued
with her. "You deserve to live!"
She shook her head in disagreement. "I 'want'
to live, but I really don't deserve it because no
amount of changing can ever make up for the past.
There's too much blood to be forgotten."
The youth snorted angrily at her comment.
"Ah, you forget that they managed to forget the
blood that 'he' spilled." He pointed a
derogatory thumb back at the Dark Lord of the Sith.
"It's not about 'them', Luke," Mara
countered before Vader could reply to his son's open
provocation. "It's about 'me'! 'I' can't forget
it. I can't forgive myself, yet I also want it to be
over and done with---
"And it will be once you are free," he
retorted earnestly and turned back toward his father.
"No one needs to know. Please. You're my father,
do it for me..."
The Dark Lord hooked his thumbs back in his belt.
"So you openly refuse the responsibilities of
being a prince, yet you 'do' claim its
privileges." Vader's voice was cold as he
watched Luke step closer to him at the new insult.
"Like a spoiled child, indeed."
The two of them glared at each other for a moment.
Luke was near boiling point, the previous moment of
peace doing nothing but fuel his emerging anger and
hatred of this man... this Dark Lord of the Sith who
dared judged him and control his life anyway he
As if to prove him right, Vader shook his head in
negation. "No," he stated with finality.
"I will not give in to your puerile
"Then I'll force you!"
Luke's forward movement was lightning fast even
without the assistance of the Force, and Vader's
lightsaber was suddenly in the Jedi's hands even as
the youth jumped back and out of the Dark Lord's
reach. He then turned on the weapon and aimed it at
the Sith's chest. "Promise me that you'll
Vader, who remained silent, stepped closer to his
child, his gaze locked on Luke's eyes.
A rapturous madness was rising in them, like a
storm cloud... an all-too-familiar storm. Even though
the Force was blocked from the room, he knew
extremely well what was suddenly happening in his
son's mind as he had had front-row experiences of it
on more than one occasion.
The rush, the feeling of incredible power and
freedom as all the restraints seemingly fell down as
if they had been burned away by his anger and the
true and only Dark Side. The trill of his true
personality unwrapping itself...
In such a dangerously intoxicating state, nothing
seemed impossible, and nothing was immoral for moral
didn't exist anymore.
'Nothing is as important as my own desires,' Luke
told himself with firm, one-track minded conviction.
"Don't move!" he warned Vader sharply,
steadily waving the crimson blade to raise it to his
father's throat level. "Or I'll... I'll kill
Fire was literally burning into Luke's chest, a
cold yet strong fire that whispered unsung promises
Promises he was finally willing to listen to.
'See what you've made of yourself,' Vader silently
called to Luke, taking another step in his direction.
'Wake up, Son. I know you can. You must. Or nothing
will be important anymore.' He kept his gaze locked
on his son's feverish eyes. 'Wake up, my son.'
"I'm not joking!" Luke threatened,
taking a step forward and forcing his father to back
a step. "I'll strike you down - you're not my
father anyway for what father would torment his own
'Yes,' Luke thought, his arms moving the sword
already as he prepared a killing blow, 'what father
would hate me so, say such things! He'll die, and
no-one will be sorry because he is nothing but a vile
murderer. Then, we will run away - myself, Jemma and
As he thought of his wife, he shot a brief glance
in his back and discovered that she was looking at
him, a shocked expression disfiguring her beautiful
He refocused on his nemesis and dismissed her
horror from his mind. 'She will understand,' he
reassured himself. 'I'm doing this for her anyway,
and we will be happy, and anyone - anyone - who will
try to go against us - I'll kill. Han, Leia, Cilghal
- anyone, because love is most important thing,
Yes, he answered himself, his love for her was the
most important thing in the universe and anyone who
didn't agree with him would die.
They were not worthy of living anyway.
'Right?' his still dubious self inquired to his
stronger, rising darker side.
The inner darkness rose his head further and gave
him a feral grin---
And Luke physically recoiled with horror from this
- his own! - distorted face --- and the reality of
his words and actions fell on him like a torrent of
It was such an unreal scene, Mara reflected with
what she had left of a functioning brain. The rest of
it was simply frozen still by the sight of a mad-eyed
Luke swinging the red blade on the dark form of his
father. She watched, both fascinated and horrified
She was frozen in the movement she had initiated
when Luke had made a move on the Dark Lord, her hand
still immobile in mid-reach; she simply wasn't able
to even move it because she couldn't believe that was
Not Luke... he couldn't... wouldn't...
Then, without warning, the red blade suddenly
switched off and Luke reeled backward before he
dropped the weapon and fell on his knees.
She watched him, still stupefied and more than a
little confused, as he slowly looked up at his
father, his cheeks glistening with newly-shed tears
while his face was a pure, horrible mask of
Her heart clenched at this, yet she also breathed
deeply in relief as she saw that his eyes were once
again clear - obviously shocked and horrified to the
utmost, but still his own.
He was back to himself, she sighed in relief; he
was back to being the gentle-eyed man for whom she
had fallen for, more than a year ago...
She sighed again, the tension dissipating from her
body and leaving her spent.
Her left hand hurt like hell, she noticed dimly
while she kept looking at Luke's face. She dimly
reasoned that she might have tugged too strongly on
the securely-locked manacle.
"Luke Skywalker," the Sith Lord's voice
rumbled, betraying none of the emotions that he might
have felt a second before, "meet the Dark Side
of Luke Skywalker. Do you like what you saw?"
"It's also you, my son."
Luke's eyes opened wide in fear. "No!
The Dark Lord nodded regally. "Glad to hear
"Don't want..." Luke muttered, wrapping
his arms around his midsection before he started
rocking back and forth.
He was in shock! She realized even as she
reflexively lunged to jump off the bed to go to his
side--- but was held short by her still cuffed hand.
"Ah..." she groaned, and then extended her
right arm to try and reach Luke.
She then felt the Dark Lord's gaze focus back on
her --- and then a sudden freedom of her left hand as
he touched a button at the foot of her bed; he had
released her from her cuff!
She barely managed to retain her balance before
she rolled from the bed and wrapped Luke in her
embrace. Reflexively welcoming her presence around
him, her husband closed his eyes and surrendered
completely, burying his head in her shoulder as he
wept for all his worth.
She silently kissed the top of his head, rocked
him a little as he continued to cry in misery and
shame. She remained silent to allow him to compose
himself at his pace. As she did so, she gazed up at
the still silent Vader as he bent down and retrieved
his lightsaber from the floor where Luke had dropped
Even though he didn't say a word, she understood
that he was weary, and very much so. Strange, she
mused, he wasn't supposed to have any human weakness,
And yet she had 'seen' his hurt when Luke had said
that she was the only person he had left. At least,
she had thought that he had looked hurt, but, of
course, there was always the possibility that she was
reading too much into his body's expressions.
Still, her... father-in-law - there was just no
way around that fact now - was looking at his son
with a very unique composure that even his mask
seemed to express... was it sadness?
She sighed in resignation for what she had to say
next. "Charge this attack on me as well,"
"What?" he sounded as if she awakened
him from his thoughts.
"The attack. Luke tried to kill you and
that's high treason. Put it on me. After all, one
more, one less..."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Vader.
"Well, that's the law," she smirked.
"I provoked him," the Sith stated,
"and this was the wished outcome. High treason
law doesn't apply to practical psychotherapy."
His bitter humor startled her. "Why?"
she asked, confused.
He understood her meaning. "I once promised
him that I would never let him to to the Dark Side,
and he was going there. You saw it."
"Yes," Mara admitted although she wasn't
convinced by his reasoning. "But...wasn't it too
extreme a medicine?"
"He was too far gone for anything else to
work. You don't seem to realize the extent of the
"I 'know' what the Dark Side is like, believe
me," she retorted firmly.
Vader nodded. "You do, but your personality
is not destroyed by it, nor is mine. We may overstep
the borders but we'll never lose ourselves
completely. Luke's personality, however, is steeped
in the Light. Hence, were he to surrender to the
darkness - and it's so easy to do so when it's
speaking through your purest emotions..."
Memories of the previous encounter came back to
her and she shuddered.
Yes," he answered, having noticed her
reaction. "Luke would have disappeared- and what
would have taken his place... I do not know how to
"A monster," Luke roughly whispered as
he partly unfolded himself from her embrace; he
looked up at his father. "No other word for it.
Would you have killed me if I fallen completely? If I
had become it? Would you?"
Vader stilled completely.
"Father?" Luke's gaze was intense and
pleading, but, Mara wondered, for which answer was he
"Yes," said Vader finally. "I would
Luke smiled a little. "Thank you."
Mara, for her part, could but stare at the Dark
Lord. Was he lying? Would he have really been able to
kill his own son?
"I still don't understand how it happened,
though," whispered Luke. "I just can't see
when I made a mistake."
"When you place your own desires above
everything," shrugged Vader. "It's like a
written invitation for any monster to come in."
"But how can love..."
"Luke," Mara said firmly, looking into
his eyes, "are you sure that it was love you
were feeling? You were possessive, overprotective,
and even blind to the truth of my reality and
Luke blinked, surprised. "Mara..."
"Either you accept me as I am - guilty of
everything I've been accused of - or ... I don't want
to see you ever again."
Luke looked at her - dishevelled, harsh and
pleading at the same time - so heartbreakingly
beautiful. "I don't care if you're guilty or
not," he answered earnestly, "I can only
love you. I can't judge you."
She smiled and pecked his lips in a chaste kiss of
reconciliation. "Now, that's my Luke. I love you
"Does your offer to help me still stand,
Father?" Luke turned to Vader again. "Or
"Yes, it still stands and I'll help you.
However, the trial will still continue to the end of
"Fine with me," Mara replied. "And
with you", she looked at Luke intently, warning
him not to try anything else on her behalf.
"I still don't like it at all," he said.
"But I don't have any other choice, do I?"
"Nope," she smiled, "you
don't." She suddenly yawned deeply. "Sorry.
Guess it's the after-reaction to all the stress you
just put us through."
Luke pecked her cheek in repentance, and then
turned back toward his watching father.
"Father..., may I..." Luke hesitated.
Vader chuckled and moved to leave. "Yes, you
may stay for the night. I'll order another bed to be
brought in. However, the guards will remain
"Thank you. We won't do anything
"The ysalamiri's cage can't be moved and it
is in a force-field that can't be turned off from
here. There is also another guard posts with cameras
in the corridor, not to mention the alarm on the
"Honestly, father." Luke glared at him.
Truce or not, Vader's patronizing attitude was really
pushing his buttons sometimes.
"Well, after all that happened, how can I
predict what act you may consider as
"He is right, you know," Mara chuckled
"Don't side with him now..." Luke
groaned in annoyance, but there was some lightness in
"Can you really blame me for wanting to
protect you from yourself?"
"I'll schedule your meeting with the lawyer
for the evening," Vader interrupted their
playful exchange. "That way, you'll have time to
look though the case beforehand. Good night."
He was gone without waiting for Luke's answer.
The night was wonderful, one of the happiest of
Luke's life. They merely lay next to each other and
talked - but he felt as if it had bound them together
so tight that they were much more than lovers now,
they were family - and he finally really felt like it
When Luke left her in the morning it was without
heartbreak or reluctance. He was going to work for
her freedom, and was now firmly determined to win his
Thus he spent the day reading what reports his
father had provided, barely paying attention to his
hunger as he studied the inner workings of Mara's
At eighteen hundred, he finally shut the computer
down; his eyes hurt, he felt a slight headache behind
his frontal lobe, and his inner center felt as cold
as a knife's blade.
The case was huge. The details of the word plays
and meanings were too elaborate for him, but he had
gathered the overall complexity - and for the first
time, understood the extension of the consequences of
his decision to follow Mara.
It was like looking into a completely foreign
Indeed, he felt like an alien as what was the most
important to him - feelings and evolution of
another's soul - was meaningless in the legal
world... in the Imperial world. Here, people thought
in terms of financial movements, of economical
necessities, of political motivations and human
losses by hundreds.
What was to him a movement of love and compassion
suddenly became a betrayal.
Hence - in this world - it 'was' true that he had
betrayed his father, for he undoubtedly has gone
against him... against the ruling Emperor. He had
joined the terrorists - and that he himself hadn't
acted against the Empire meant nothing because he
hadn't tried to stop them. He had taught Mara, true,
but even if his influence 'had' changed her, the
change itself hadn't influenced much in the end
because were it not for Vader, Bespin would have been
Logic of this world made him a traitor - and he
could but understand the arguments, yet,
astonishingly enough, he was completely unable to
feel any guilt. He was able to feel guilt for killing
Kyp's pet - but not for Balti, which was indirectly
also his responsibility.
That level of connectivity just didn't exist in
Now he understood his father's motives better. Han
was right; Vader 'did' protect him. Had he been on
the trial, he would 'not' have agreed so readily with
the interpretations of his words and actions.
Worse, he had discovered that everything that he
had said to Mara when they had foolishly thought
themselves alone had been registered by Piett and had
been twisted by the lawyer - the very same he was
about to meet in two hours - and he had emerged from
those explanations as a person marked by the past
torture, with a 'prisoner syndrome' that explained
his attraction to Mara.
The lawyer had also pushed the insult to the
utmost, stating that his trauma had been so deep,
hence his love for Mara so complete, that she had
been able to manipulate him without him registering
that had been committing treason.
Of course, Luke conceded, it wasn't exactly a lie,
yet the truth was so aptly twisted that even he
wouldn't be able to explain the difference anymore.
The lawyer's skills had most assuredly saved him
from a place near Mara on the accuseds bench.
As had his absence.
Still, this borderline-truth unnerved him. Had he
been present then, all these games would not have
worked because he would have denied them with his own
version of the facts. Hence, it was undeniable that
Vader's action had saved him - yet Luke couldn't
forgive him for these stolen months, not even now
that he had read the case.
Mara had pleaded guilty on half of the accusations
- something that he would have never permitted - and
the verdict was all but pronounced.
Time was irrevocably lost... taken from him
without even concerting with him about this.
If he possibly could have done something in the
earlier stages, it was now too late because the
monster castle of the case needed but a finishing
brick to be complete. He couldn't see any breach in
the accusation either - all that could be said had
She was very apt, indeed, this Deanna Tyr, yet her
way of thinking also felt so alien to him that he
wasn't sure how he would be able to even talk to her.
Not unlike with Leia sometimes, he suddenly
realized. Or this new Han. They just lived in this
strange world he hadn't noticed before - yet it was
And - nothing more.
Luke felt a sudden lightness as an invisible
weight of doubt vanished from his soul, and laughed.
They were just 'different'.
Not that he liked the changes better - but at
least he could now see them for what they were
instead of some horrible manipulation that twisted
his friends. It felt as if his family was
part-Twilek - but now that he knew that their
'alien features' were natural, it would be easier to
accept and adapt his perception of it.
He had to speak with Leia, he decided. At the very
least, he had to present his excuses again, the right
way this time.
He found her in the internal garden of her
Leia was sitting on the stone bench that was
covered with something white and furry, a datapad
propped on her knees. However, instead of watching
the screen, she was looking at the perpetual movement
of the fountain that sat in front of her.
Luke approached her. "Hi. Winter told me I'd
find you here."
"Hi," she turned her head and gave him
the shade of a smile. She seemed very tired.
"Sit down for a moment?"
"Thanks." Luke lowered himself on the
bench, hesitated a second - and covered Leia's hand
by his own. "I love you so very much," he
said to her curious gaze. "I was a stupid, cruel
"Forgiven, forgotten," Leia smiled. She
seemed livelier this time.
"How are you?"
"You mean considering that I look like
hell?" she offered. "I know. The children
cried all night. Thank the Force for Winter or I
wouldn't have been able to sleep at all."
"Then what are you doing here?" he
rebuked her gently. "Just go to sleep."
"This speech will not write itself, you
know," she sighed. "The journalists' trial
closes tomorrow. My presence will be mandatory, as
will be my reaction, and that's not the thing I'll
leave to improvisation."
"So you know the verdict already?" he
blinked, caught off guard by yet another level of
intricacy in this 'other' world he was now
"Of course not," she gave him a stern
glance. When he hunched his shoulders in silent
apology, she gentled. "That's why it's so
difficult; I have to write not one but many speeches,
with changeable parts... that is so tedious."
"Will it be in the same spirit as those I've
read?" He winced despite himself at the thought
of having to compose anything like what he had read,
let alone an interchangeable speech.
"It's unavoidable," Leia sighed heavily.
She looked so fragile to him right now, completely
different from the Ice Princess of the holos.
"Why do you need this mask?" he blurted,
and then locked his gentle gaze on her confused one.
"The mask of Lady Vader?"
"Oh, family tradition, I guess" Leia
Luke pouted at her reply. "And
"I 'am' serious. These 'journalists'
presented me as a foolish deluded girl, so my image
needed mending. I have to be perceived as a strong
figure not to be crossed; it is mandatory in my
position, or next year we'll have not one but a dozen
Another world, Luke nodded to himself. Purely
political reasons - no wonder that she had been so
surprised when he, of all people, had fallen for this
mask. He really should have known her better. And
what better way than to ask directly?
"Leia..." he began hesitatingly. "I
have a strange question. Just... don't be offended,
"Alright. Shoot away."
Han's word, Luke dimly noticed and smiled
inwardly. 'Old' Han's... so did it mean that 'he',
too, was still alive in the new Han?
"Do you really think that Han is the same
person that you've met?"
"That I fell in love with?" Leia asked
and paused. She looked at the water, thinking.
"No, he isn't," she finally said. "But
I'm not the same person either, and neither are you.
And... I didn't fall in love with a smuggler and a
hotshot pilot, you know."
"Huh?" blinked Luke.
"I didn't, just as you didn't fall in love
with Palpatine's hand and a terrorist. Don't you see?
It was with 'Han' that I fell in love, with his soul.
And his soul didn't change. If anything, it emerged
"Really? But now he is like... an imperial
"He 'was' an imperial officer before he met
Chewie. He was going to be promoted - and he wanted
this promotion. He told me himself."
"But he said that he hated the Empire!"
"He did. Like a man betrayed by a woman he
loved comes to hate her. He was hating it because its
treason to its own ideals hurt him much, and I
understand how he felt because I felt the same
"Didn't you know that I was an imperial
idealist at my beginnings in the Senate?" Leia
smirked and time seemed to disappear from her tired
face for a moment or two as she looked at him as
impishly as she used to when they had shared a moment
of improper confidences in the Rebellion.
"No..." Luke was staring at her. How
little did he know... Was he so self-absorbed in his
own drama, and then in his own life, that he just
took Leia's love for democracy and Han's anarchism
for granted? As something stable and unmovable?
"Well, I was. Sort of a teenager rebellion
against Bail's opinions. I guess I'm returning to it
again, just in a more cynical version."
"So... Peace and Order?"
"Peace and Order," she agreed with him.
"The first we already have - hopefully for long
- but the latter..." she sighed. "By the
way, I wanted to ask you..."
"Father said that you want to refuse your
status of a prince."
"Yes. Honestly Leia, it's not for me. Not my
life, not my 'world'."
She nodded. "I understand. But... please,
Luke, don't. I mean - don't refuse your place in the
line of throne inheritance, at least not before the
kids are of age."
That request surprised him. "Why?"
"I know that it's an incredibly selfish
request, but... if something were to happen to me and
Han, you could be a regent and keep all this from
collapsing on the children's heads..."
Leia, Han - his father - all gone? Impossible.
Especially his father, he thought. The Dark Lord was
a rock, unchanging, eternal. "Nothing like that
will happen, Leia."
"We don't know that, and that's the point.
So, just in case, please?"
"But Leia... Me? Regent of the Empire? Are
"You will never be brilliant," she said
with a touch of humor. "However, you don't need
brilliance, only enough talent to make it all work,
and that much you do have. You are excellent in
working with people, Luke. You can easily find people
for the work you're unable to do, people who will be
'loyal' to you. What happened between you and Jade is
proof enough of that."
Luke failed to imagine himself in such a position,
but then, maybe she wasn't completely wrong. He
surely wouldn't choose such a life on his own, but in
this nightmarish situation, only to protect the
children - he couldn't say that it wasn't possible.
"Okay," he finally agreed. "I won't
refuse it, but I sure hope that we'll never come to
"And how do 'I' hope... Thank you. Ah, by the
way, I have good news for you."
"Yavin Four has been declared a neutral
territory by both instances of the Coalition and the
Jedi Academy has been granted a five million
international fund. That's fabulous, Luke!"
He could only grin in agreement with her as five
millions was truly more than they would need to keep
the Academy running for longer than even his own
"I knew, you'd like it," she ribbed him,
and then grinned mischievously. "See? We 'do'
accomplish something useful sometimes, not only
'repress the liberties'."
That comment brought Luke's mind back on its
initial track as to why he had come to speak to her
in the first place. "Leia...," he paused
briefly, "do you ever regret accepting father's
Leia thought for a moment. "No. I don't. I
expected I would, but... You know, I'm finally given
the 'real means' to make my dreams come true. Of
course, it will take a lot of time, but... it's 'so'
worth it... worth dedicating my life to."
"And what about your other dreams? Of
democracy and freedom?"
She shrugged easily. "We'll still have it, in
time. For now, the Senate doesn't have a real power,
but in due time, the situation will change.
Personally, I believe that in some twenty years from
now, we'll have a stable constitutional monarchy,
which isn't possible at the moment because the old
politicians must first leave the scene before any
real changes can be implemented. Besides, people must
learn to live with freedom and use it... and it's not
as obvious as it seemed in my rebellion days. Still,
it's not impossible, at least not with the means that
are now at our disposal thanks to Father's
Luke nodded, understanding her better. Not that he
agreed with everything - but then he couldn't even
see the whole picture, nor was he sure that he would
understand it even if presented with it. Hence, as
far as he was concerned, he was best to leave
politics to those who understood them. After all, he
thought, neither Leia nor Han never said anything
about the way he directed his academy, therefore he
should acknowledge their competence in their own
field as they did his.
"A credit for your thoughts," Leia said
in the silence.
"They are too banal, they're not worth
it," Luke smiled, then shrugged as she raised an
alderaani-cultured eyebrow at her. "I thought
that I really shouldn't judge the matters I don't
understand at all."
"Bah, don't worry too much, Luke. 'Everyone'
thinks that there's nothing to understand in
"Meaning that 'I' should have known better
than to think as I did," he retorted,
matter-of-fact. "I mean, considering our rather
unique family, I really shouldn't have pretended to
grasp the meaning of what you had chosen for
yourselves. Now, though, I 'do' know better --- yet
I'm about to infringe myself into another matter that
I don't understand very well." He shook his head
ruefully at that; was he really growing wiser? Or
Leia tilted her head at him. "Mara's
"Yeah. It's so huge, and I'm so...
well," he blushed slightly, "I 'really'
feel stupid when I think about it. I mean, I barely
grasp even half of it, the rest being far beyond my
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Leia shook her head at
him in anything but a rebutting manner, "how
lazy of you to not become a brilliant jurist
Luke laughed, surprised by the teasing.
"Well, put like this..."
"Seriously, Luke, we all have our own fields
of expertise, and not excelling in other ones doesn't
make us less intelligent than we actually are. Father
told me about the conversations you had with him in
regards to studying while I was in coma. I agree with
him. Being a Jedi doesn't automatically mean that you
perfectly know everything in the world, let alone
that you should. The lawyer will help you for that;
it's her job."
Luke nodded for a moment, contrite. "What is
He nodded again.
"She thrives on 'impossible cases' and her
clients are composed of just about everyone from
Mafioso and serial killers to Rebels."
"How many wins?"
"She is still alive and in the top twenty of
the richest people on Coruscant, so I let you guess
the answer. She is the best, Luke, and she'll be very
glad to help you."
"Yes." His sister smirked knowingly at
him. "She'll adore to pull a stunt like this in
the last session; it's pretty much how she defines
Deanna Tyr was an elfish, fragile-looking woman
with big, deer-like eyes. However, her appearance was
deceiving as Luke could feel her aura of strength and
energy, two characteristics that regular beings felt
through her strong and self-assured voice.
Luke didn't need to tax his imagination to see her
winning in court.
She silently looked through the speech that he had
written in preparation for his testimony, failing to
comment in any way. Once she was finished, she set
down the readerpad and calmly looked at him.
"So, you want her to be declared mad and
not-responsible," she stated, matter-of-fact.
Luke sputtered. "No! I'm just
"Mr. Skywalker," she interrupted him
with a gentle yet firm shake of her head, "I'm
only telling you how it sounds to someone who doesn't
know and doesn't 'want' to know anything about this
'Dark Side' business." She took a slow breath.
"What you're describing is, plain and simple, a
split-personality disorder from which she recovered
without any medical assistance, only with your
teachings. Believe me, 'no one' will take you
"Master Tyr," he tried to defend his
credibility, "I'm a Jedi, and I know what I'm
talking about. The Dark Side's influence is very
"It may be," she shrugged, "but the
fact is that you are the only expert in the matter
and you love her. As such, you can tell anything that
"Then ask my father; he's 'quite' familiar
with the Force and will support my statement."
Deanna smiled. "Lord Vader's title is 'Dark'
Lord of the Sith. Does that mean that he is a
"Well, yes, but..."
"Then your own argument cancels whatever he
has to say. And - by the way - it will not look good
if you indirectly accuse His Majesty of
Luke blinked. Oooops, he hadn't thought of that.
"Mr. Skywalker," Deanna began patiently,
"I don't hope to win this trial, but," she
lifted her right index finger, interrupting his
burgeoning protest, "I do intend to save her
life. Does this suit you?"
"Can't we have both?"
The petite woman sadly shook her head. "I'm
afraid not. Miss Jade pleaded guilty on half of the
accusations. We have won some of the remaining ones,
but I'm sure that we've lost the 'high treason' and
'mass murder' so the question now is not 'guilty or
not', but how she will be punished. And that is where
'you' come in."
Luke frowned, confused. "But on which basis
will I claim that she is changed and worth of living
if you forbid me to talk about the Force?"
She chuckled. "Mr. Skywalker, you are
actually in an ideal position to plead for her life.
Jedi Knight, pure soul, captured by her and tortured,
but who managed to wake up her ability to love, and
thus changed her, and now pleading to save her life.
You are just perfect for the job."
"It sounds like a summary of a sitcom,"
he grimaced, not feeling like a 'pure soul' at all.
"People watch sitcoms, Mr. Skywalker, because
they understand them. They will understand love, and
forgiveness, and mercy - especially coming from her
victim - but they will not grasp the intricacies of
your Force. It's that simple."
"And they will believe me, and free her on
The law-expert nodded confidently. "It may be
the last thing we need to shift the balance."
"Can we win on 'maybes'? Don't you have
anything more substantial to offer?"
"That is my work," she retorted in
assent. "You just do your job, and we'll
"Don't you trust me?"
"I need your candor, your freshness and your
spontaneity. To put it more bluntly, Mr. Skywalker, I
want you completely ignorant. Your piece will
function better that way. Do you understand me?"
"I guess," Luke muttered, feeling a bit
"Excellent. Now. You call miss Jade
'defendant' in your speech. We need something much
more intimate, something that will help everyone
understand your attachment to her."
Luke's eyes flashed. "Attachment? Then I'll
call her my 'wife'. Is that close enough for
you?" he inquired with just a hint of animosity
in his voice and eyes.
Deanna stared at him and then burst in laughter.
"It's absolutely perfect, Mr. Skywalker.
Three days later. Coruscant, Republican
The audience was held in a small meeting hall in
the Republican Embassy, in deference to the main
victims of Jade's war.
Three of the six judges were Republican; all of
them were civilians, which wasn't the case of the
There were no audience and no press allowed in the
room; the only non-participatory person admitted in
the hall was Vader - in a non-formal status - and he
was sitting near three imperial observers.
The Force was blocked by ysalamiris but he could
easily read the others' thoughts anyway. They were
trying to figure out what they should tell afterwards
in their rapport to not anger him, and the very idea
amused him somewhat.
As if there was anything 'they' could tell that
would make him react in any way whatsoever.
The last session of military court on Piett and
Veers had been held the previous day, and he felt as
if his emotional reserves were empty.
His once finest officers had been found guilty on
all charges and sentenced to death, yet some
sentimental part of him still saw them as 'his own'.
Therefore, seeing the sentence pronounced by others
had felt incredibly wrong, but the worst was yet to
come as they would be executed by republicans on
On the other hand, without that sacrifice, the
current trial wouldn't unfold the way he wished, so
he did not dwell on what had had to be done for his
son's and granddaughter's sakes.
Today he knew what would happen. Deanna Tyr was an
intelligent woman, Luke would play his part, 'he'
would help in his own way, and then it would be up to
the judges, who were very intelligent and would
assuredly understand the hint, if they didn't
There was a very little probability that anything
would go wrong.
Jade would live - and he wasn't opposed to it
Of course, she still wasn't his first choice for a
daughter-in-law, but then he wouldn't choose Solo
either, yet their relationship was turning out to be
quite manageable. Hence, if this new situation was
anything alike - and it seemed so, as Jade has indeed
displayed some hidden depths - it would turn out
Besides, if only for his grand-daughter's sake, he
was quite ready to tolerate Jade, as the child was
well suited for the woman's last name.
He smiled briefly. Strange how appeasing it was to
think of his grand-children - the very future
The final speech of the prosecutor finally came to
Jade closed her eyes and nodded before Deanna Tyr
stood and began to walk toward the judges.
"Esteemed colleagues, Your honors," she
bowed respectfully. "Yesterday, when I was
thinking about today's speech, a visitor came to me
with a plea of help and I found that anything I can
say was just a dead weight when compared to his words
and feelings. Your honors, I humbly ask you to hear
Luke Skywalker instead of me."
That caused a stir between the judges. The
prosecutor, for his part, frowned before he looked at
Luke, then at Vader; the Dark Lord noticed how the
man carefully kept his face schooled as he turned
away from him before he sat very still once again.
'Another intelligent person,' thought Vader
approvingly. But the man had still made an erroneous
conclusion, assuming too much.
Luke stepped forward and came to the witness
Since Vader had read his speech before the
audience - courtesy of Deanna - he only half-listened
and mostly watched as Luke went, again, through his
heartfelt arguments that were meant to save Jade's
His son was a pleasure to see; calm and
determined, convinced of his own rightness. Then, the
young adult looked at Jade and proudly said the word
'What a difference with the way he saw his father'
the Dark Lord dimly thought, and then sharply
chastened himself. It was simply unfair of him to
want anything more than what he was able to give
himself. But still... still.
After two years of 'family' life, he had come to
take his son's unquestioned love as granted. Hence,
losing it now, of all times, was a deep wound that
took time to heal. He didn't expect it would be so...
'Stop it,' he ordered himself. 'You sound like a
sentimental old lady.'
Luke's speech came to an end and it was now his
turn to intervene in the procedures. He stood up and
silence instantly fell over the hearing hall, all
eyes turning toward him.
The sudden hope that shone in Luke's eyes made him
close his own to not see it.
"Your honors," he bowed a little,
"I have a personal request."
"Please, speak, Lord Vader," answered
the main judge.
"I request the defendant to be called Mrs.
Jade-Skywalker in your verdict."
A small pause marked a time.
"The court will grant your request, Lord
"Thank you," he sat back down, ignoring
Luke's glares of disbelief, which seemed intent on
piercing his heart as if they were vibroblades.
He had just given to the judges the last piece of
valuable information that he could provide - namely
that he officially accepted Luke's marriage and thus
wasn't against sparing Jade's life - yet at the same
time, was not pressing them for any decision.
After all, any more pressure would have been
disastrous, something that his son 'still' failed to
Meanwhile, the judges retired to deliberate.
Nobody spoke, and time suddenly seemed suspended for
everyone left in the room. Luke and Jade naturally
looked at each other as if they were both afraid that
they would never see each other again.
Vader, however, believed otherwise and, when the
judges returned briefly after leaving their seats, he
'knew' that he was right.
They had returned after a very short yet
acceptable time - no more that half an hour has
passed - and remained standing.
At the motion of the first judge, Jade stood up,
as did Deanna. Jade was almost imperceptibly
trembling yet she was doing her best to hide it from
Luke, who had also stood up behind her.
"The court has deliberated and reached a
unanimous decision. The defendant, Mrs.
Jade-Skywalker, is found guilty of high treason of
the Empire and mass murder of republican
Jade nodded and closed her eyes in acceptance
while Tyr put her hand on her shoulder. Luke's face
"The court has taken into account the
testimony of Mr. Skywalker and came to the following
verdict." A heavy silence hung over those
present in the hall, feeling more pervasive to two of
them than to the others. "From this moment
onward, the civil person of Mrs. Jade-Skywalker is
declared dead. She has no right to elect or run for
election, no right to present her opinion to whatever
organization in the Coalition, no right to possess
any property apart from her own body, no right of
presence in the Coalitional space without her
husband. She has no right of residence on the
Coalitional planets for more than one week per year
even with the presence of her husband. Her children,
while considered as legitimate, will not have the
right to be in the positions of power in the Republic
and the present court highly recommends the similar
politic to the Empire." The talking judge gave
them a moment to digest this information, and then
went on: "The non respect of this verdict will
make Mrs. Jade-Skywalker a persona non grata in the
Coalitional space and anybody will have the right to
shoot her on sight. Do you understand the verdict,
"Yes," Jade managed to half-whisper
hoarsely. "Thank you for your trust."
"Don't make us regret it," the judge
"I won't," she promised solemnly.
The judges left the hall without further ado while
Luke was suddenly all movement and jumped the barrier
so as to hug Jade tightly against himself. The
soldiers of the guard gave them their space as Tyr
looked at the lovers, a wistful smile playing on her
Vader, for his part, stood calmly and walked down
to her. "Good work, Master Tyr."
"Thank you, My Lord. It was a most enriching
experience," she grinned.
"I would presume," Vader replied, then
reflected that considering her fees, it had, indeed,
been enriching in more than one way.
Not far from them, Luke finally broke his hold on
Jade and looked directly at Vader, his gaze anything
but warm. "We are immediately leaving for
Yavin," he declared.
Deanna Tyr and Jade stepped back almost
synchronously, giving room for the men to discuss.
The two women looked at each other and smiled thinly.
"I've done a lot of thinking, father,"
Luke went on. "And I understood something. Your
'care' just isn't enough for me. We will always be
family, and I'm grateful that you helped me spare
Mara's life through your dubious intervention, but
for now, I don't want to see you. Don't come to
Yavin, don't contact me. When I'll be ready to see
you again, I'll re-open contact."
"As you wish. My son."
Without even a nod of acknowledgment, Luke took
Mara's hand in his prosthetic one, gave a bow of
gratitude to the petite lawyer, and then led his wife
away from Vader and out of the Justice Hall.
Vader quietly observed as the guards escorted Luke
and Jade out of the room.
"But 'why'?" he heard the shocked Deanna
whisper at his elbow. Whatever she had been expecting
to witness, it had obviously not been this.
'Because he thought that if I can influence the
judges to spare her life, I could also have made them
declare her innocent. Because he doesn't see the
difference between using the law's holes and bending
it to one's will. Because he perceives me as a
manipulator and a liar. Because the love is gone and
it's fortunate that hate didn't take its place,'
Vader thought but didn't say out loud.
Instead he ignored the lawyer and strode out of
the hall, and then the building.
He had so much work to do.
To be continued.....