Anakin and Luke Skywalker

The Hardest Test

Type: Post ROTJ A/U
Rating: PG
Summary: Anakin Skywalker is the Vice President of the New Republic.  An unknown menace will threaten not only the newborn peace, but the very core of Mon Mothma's government.
Acknowledgments: Thank you, Fiona, my wonderful beta.

Captain Ylek entered the Great Hall, escorted by heavily armed guards. He calmly took a seat, facing his questioners, who happened to be his former associates in the government.

Everybody stood up formally.

"The meeting to question former Captain Ylek, ex-member of the Senate and the New Republic, is opened," Mon Mothma declared ceremoniously.

"I want it to be noted that I don’t recognize this Council’s authority to question me," Ylek spat, his voice oozing hatred.

"Your objection will go on record," the President replied coldly.

All members of the Council took their seats as one, staring at the man who had been their ally for over six months, who now appeared before them as a total stranger.

The moment the members of the Council took their seats, Ylek stood up, in a blatant gesture of provocation.

"You may stand, if you so wish," Mon Mothma’s voice was full of disdain, as if addressing a rebellious child. "This isn’t going to be a real questioning, anyway. We all know very well where we stand, and thankfully, we have been able to arrest most of those involved in this conspiracy to bring down the Republic. We know everything we needed to know."

The corner of Ylek’s mouth twitched in a lopsided, nasty grin, and Anakin’s blood ran cold in his veins.

"As you can imagine, I won’t answer any questions that incriminate me," he said.

"You don’t have to. The evidence against all of you is overwhelming. You will be locked up for a very long time. Probably for life, if you don’t open your eyes to the wrongness of your ways," Mon Mothma’s words came strong and assured.

"I fail to understand what am I doing here, then." Ylek squared his shoulders.

"You are here to try and explain what prompted you to turn against every law and moral across the galaxy. What did you expect to gain? Do you condone indiscriminate slaughter to vindicate... whatever you’re trying to vindicate?" Mon Mothma’s face reddened in outrage.

"And why do you presume to be the keepers and bearers of all morality and goodness in the galaxy," Ylek’s voice was full of venom, "when you made the biggest butcher in the known universe your Vice-President?"

"And you expressed your disagreement with our decision by risking innocent lives on Veltra, killing Lieutenant Dobson and a married couple? Planting land-mines where anyone could step? Trying to blow up the Millennium Falcon and Captain Skywalker’s X-Wing?" Mon Mothma’s eyes flashed with barely controlled anger. "You’re nothing but a bunch of ordinary terrorists. Don’t come up with stock excuses, for that’s exactly what they are. Excuses to commit mass murder."

"I didn’t admit to being a part of this so-called conspiracy, your Excellency," Ylek reminded her mockingly. "I am merely humouring you for the sake of discussion."

"Why you...!" Mon Mothma reached the limit of her endurance for the first time in her life.

"Excuse me, Mrs. President," Luke Skywalker spoke for the first time, rising to his feet. He looked at Mon Mothma and bowed his head, asking her permission politely. Then, he exchanged the fastest look with his father. "I am personally interested in this ‘discussion.’" He pronounced the word with as much irony as he could muster. He came down the few steps separating him from Ylek and stopped right in front of him. "For the ‘sake of discussion’," he tilted his head to one side, in an obviously sarcastic gesture, "am I to understand that you are against former criminals’ rehabilitation? Do you believe that a redeemed life doesn’t deserve a second chance, if it shows repentance and proves its worth and usefulness? Do you consider it a threat to your personal beliefs and principles? Do your beliefs and principles condone indiscriminate killing instead?" He took one last step forward and his stare intensified. "Do you honestly believe that other people’s crimes justify your own?"

Ylek met his stare challengingly, without saying a word.

"If you thought so, why did you stand with us and implicitly agree with our President’s words on the day of this government’s investiture before the entire galaxy? Why did you agree to be a member of this government in the first place?" Luke raised a very revealing eyebrow. "Perhaps you had already begun to plot overthrowing the government, when it became obvious it wouldn’t be what you and your... associates wanted it to be. It gave you the best vantage point. You had full access to everything you needed, and you were always up to date with how close we were getting." He inched even closer to Ylek, until they were face to face, with Ylek looking down at the slightly shorter man, his face a mask of hatred and conniving malice.

The ego contest lasted for several seconds, until a warm hand settled on young Skywalker’s shoulder.

Luke didn’t have to look to know who was touching him. That touch was forever imprinted on his skin, heart and soul.

The gentle hand moved him away from Ylek, and only then did Luke look up at his father. Anakin was smiling softly at him, all of him radiant with love and pride. His hand moved from his child’s shoulder to his cheek, cradling it in sheer adoration.

Luke’s eyes misted for a moment, but then, he pressed his father’s palm to his face, nodded at him and moved calmly behind him.

"What’s the matter?" Ylek asked venomously. "Can’t your son fight his own battles?"

"My son was fighting for his life all the years you were sitting comfortably on the bridge of the Executor, searching for coded Rebel transmissions," Anakin replied, his voice full of contempt. "It just makes me feel uneasy to see him that close to you," he wrinkled his nose, as if Ylek smelled.

"Now," Anakin went on after a brief pause. "For the sake of discussion," he pursued the increasingly hateful exchange, "would you so be kind as to tell us the names of those we still haven’t arrested, and where they are hiding?"

"You’ve been playing too much with your lightsaber if you think I would tell you who’s involved. If I knew, that is," Ylek smiled maliciously.

"We already know who’s involved," Anakin smiled back, just as dangerously. "We just want to know specific names and places."

"You already know?" Ylek asked in a sickly voice and with a fake expression of shock. "You must be a bunch of geniuses, then."

"As a matter of fact, most of us sitting at this side of the table have very high IQs," Anakin pointed out in a surprisingly light-hearted manner. "But it doesn’t take a genius to see it; we only have to look at the people we have arrested so far. This threat is a combination of two different forces: the former Empire and the former Alliance’s forces."

Ylek’s eyes bulged and his body stiffened noticeably in reaction to the older Jedi’s words.

"The Empire half never wanted peace to begin with. They wanted total annihilation of the Rebellion. And the Alliance half considered unacceptable a truce with their arch-enemies, especially when Darth Vader was made Vice-President."

It was the first time that Anakin referred to himself by his Sith name, but his voice never wavered or showed any emotion. He was merely stating a fact. The fact that to millions of beings across the galaxy, he would always be Darth Vader, no matter what he did. A fleeting look of infinite sadness crossed his eyes, but it passed quickly.

A loving hand came to rest on his forearm, and moved him aside gently, as Luke stepped forward and took over.

"And now that we put our cards on the table, it’s useless to deny it any longer, Captain. Your body language gave you away. Have a final gesture of decency and cooperate."

Ylek’s features contorted with outrage and hatred.

"Cooperate?! Cooperate with a government made of pardoned criminals from both sides and preaching hypocrites?" he spat. "Cooperate! That word is not in my vocabulary."

"It was in your vocabulary, when you didn’t hesitate to form an alliance with your enemies to bring down the Republic, and sacrifice all those who stood in your way; men, women and children, if necessary." Luke’s face reddened and his eyes flashed with more hatred than he had ever felt. "Instead of working together for the common good and helping to close the wounds separating both sides, you all cooperated in perfect harmony to disrupt and destroy the peace that took so many lives." He moved back, disgusted, unable to stand that stranger’s nearness. "Of course, your new government would be made of angels with clear consciences and no blood on their hands, right?"

Ylek made a gurgling noise from deep in his throat and a second later, a blob of saliva ran down Luke’s face.

Anakin hissed like a Corellian python and lunged forward, but Luke put up his arm, holding his father back with that little gesture.

"I rest my case," he said, wiping away the liquid running down his cheek.

"We have seen and heard enough," Mon Mothma’s voice was uncharacteristically clipped and low. "Take him away. He and his accomplices will be judged and convicted once this conspiracy has been fully uncovered and defeated."

A long silence followed Ylek and his escorts’ departure.

"There will be true peace one day?" Mon Mothma said at last, shaking her head dejectedly.

"There will be periods of relative calm, but occasional bouts of violence will arise here and there, that is inevitable," Anakin replied softly. "Hopefully, this government will be given a chance to prove itself, and that will put many fears at ease. Until then..." he trailed off, shrugging expressively.

"It doesn’t matter how old I get," General Dodonna spoke for the first time. "I will never understand criminal behaviour. Their mental processes to justify indiscriminate slaughter. No remorse, no second thoughts, no..."

"To them, we are the guilty party, as simple as that," Rieekan butted in. "In their eyes, we had no authority to form a government. We are a hypocritical and self-righteous bunch, with no power to tell anyone what is right and what is wrong. We left them no choice but to get rid of us."

"Captain Skywalker hit the nail on the head with his words," Mon Mothma’s voice joined in the conversation, after a few moments of soul-searching. "Instead of voicing their objections, they automatically resorted to violence to dispose of a government they considered illegal and downright criminal." She let out a dry laugh, overwhelmed by the irony of the situation. "Both sides worked together, proving that true cooperation is indeed possible, to destroy instead of creating." She shook her head and looked down. "Pathetic."

"Are you all right?" Leia asked her brother when Luke took his seat beside her, wiping away the remaining wetness on his face with her fingers.

The young man nodded, smiling absent-mindedly at her.

"That bastard seemed to hold a personal grudge against you." Han pounded the table with his fist, releasing all the pent-up anger he had accumulated during the questioning. "I swear that if..."

"I had to force him to sit several times," Leia told Luke, stroking his hand soothingly.

"I don’t blame you," Luke said glumly. "I was this close to losing it, too."

"Some people have the ‘gift’ of bringing out the worst in others," Lando commented ruefully. "That guy’s a real psycho. I can’t believe he fooled us all for over six months."

"Thanks to Leia’s gift, we were able to uncover some of them." Anakin walked up to his daughter and placed a hand on Leia’s shoulder, proudly. "But there are others. A scheme of this magnitude cannot be carried out with just eleven people. Dozens are needed, at the very least."

Everybody nodded silently, in total agreement.

"They will be off Coruscant, ready to strike as soon as the word is given," Rieekan pursued the logical reasoning.

"And they will have to strike soon, now that their plan is out in the open, and some of their master minds have been arrested," Madine completed it. "We must assume they have ships and weaponry at their disposal they still haven’t made use of. I recommend for all our posts to be put on alert, and our planetary defences to be activated."

"Do it," Mon Mothma ordered without hesitation. "This building, among others, is to be considered a primary target."

"The drills will be resumed tomorrow," Anakin voiced his President’s implicit order.

"We must be prepared for an imminent attack. All the Squadrons will be on standby until further notice," was the President’s final order.

"As Captain of the Red Squadron, does this include me, your Excellency?" Luke asked.

"Not yet." Mon Mothma walked up to the immediately standing young man. She placed a warm hand on his shoulder and squeezed it affectionately. "I know this is not going to sound too Presidential, but you do us proud, Luke Skywalker. Your wisdom and integrity are an example to us all."

Luke blushed bright red and his eyes turned to his father, as if looking for help. Anakin chuckled softly and winked at him.

A heartbeat later the President was back, as she faced her executives.

"I will not sit here and wait. Have Intelligence working day and night. We must find out where are they hiding and when they plan to attack, if that is their intention. Democracy will prevail this time."

"Yes, your Excellency," was the fierce chorus answer.



It was hot. Unbearably hot. Heat came out of him in waves. It wrapped itself around him, suffocating him. And then, it was suddenly cold. He struggled to breathe with increasing difficulty. And that smell... That ugly, nauseating smell... Burned flesh...

He half-closed his eyes, desperate to focus, desperate to see beyond the fog around his eyes. He couldn’t see, but he could feel. He could feel them all, huddled round him. He could feel their fear, their shock, their horror...

His senses began to abandon him gradually. He felt dizzy, as if he was floating, detached from himself and his surroundings. He tried to stay conscious, but he lost the battle. He floated away, and away... and then, there was peace. Peace as he had never known...

"NO!" he cried out, sitting up in his bed with a brutal start. His hand instinctivey searched for the lights, but he stopped in mid-gesture.

No. It was time to stop running and get to the bottom of this dream. He knew it meant something, he only had to concentrate and figure out what it was.

Perhaps he was handling it wrong. Perhaps, deep down, he didn’t want to know what it meant. Perhaps he was too scared to open his mind to it and its real meaning.

No fear. Just curiosity, as master Yoda had taught him. He only had to let it come to him.

The young man relaxed and slowly, curiously, opened his mind to the feelings and images in his dream. It wasn’t quite there, yet. He had to reach deeper. Deeper...

And then, in a flash of merciless insight, the significance of the dream became clear.

All colour left his face, leaving it pasty white. His body froze as his soul fled in pure terror.

He remained as he was for what seemed like hours, but in fact were only a few minutes. At last, his spirit returned to his paralyzed body and he blinked.

Silent, resigned tears streamed down his cheeks.



He could feel the warmth of the sun on his face. A new day had come. A long, busy day, full of uncertainties and who knew what else. Just like any other day.

Anakin’s mind awakened slowly, and as usual, he took the first few minutes of every new day to shamelessly enjoy the feelings his skin transmitted to his brain. He rejoiced in those sensations every single morning of his new life. The soft, delicate feel of the sheets on his body, the fluffy comfort of the pillow under his head, the weight of something lying across his chest...

That one was new. Whatever it was, it was heavy enough for his ribcage to make an extra effort to keep him breathing. And it was warm, too. Heavy and warm, and somehow... familiar. From a very long time ago.

Past and present came together in his mind, and unable to tell the difference anymore, Anakin opened his eyes to make certain he wasn’t going mad.

The sight that greeted his eyes was a mop of dishevelled blond hair sticking out from beneath the sheets.

The older Jedi’s heart imploded and then exploded in a bubble of love and tenderness as he had never known. His eyes filled with tears, and the most overwhelming feeling of protection rose in his chest. His arms moved automatically to wrap themselves around the body resting on him. One hand grabbed the sheets and moved them down a little.

Luke’s head appeared before him. The upper half of his body was lying on him, his left hand forming a fist and clinging to his pyjama top like a frightened baby. His face was hidden in his chest, where he seemed to have buried it, seeking refuge from something.

Overcome by more love than his soul could contain, Anakin caressed the already ruffled hair, feeling it between his fingers as he had never done before. It was soft and thin, like Aquaris’ velvet. He bent his head a little and sniffed at it. It smelled of cleanser and something else, something that was uniquely Luke.

He knew that newborn babies learned their parents’ scent and engraved it in their memories, so they could recognize them when their other senses weren’t as sharp and developed. He wondered if that was also true for the babies’ parents, even if their ‘babies’ were in their twenties. He only knew he would recognize Luke’s scent anywhere and for as long as he lived.

"My little angel. My reason for living," he whispered, safe in the knowledge of not being heard. He pressed his lips to the top of the tousled hair.

He didn’t know what had brought Luke into his bed. His intuition told him it had to be either a nightmare, or a discovery that had disturbed him so much that it had forced him to seek out his father’s comfort. Whatever it was, he was almost grateful for it.

Long, blissful minutes passed thus for the older man, drinking from his child’s totally unexpected but infinitely welcome presence. One of the dreams he didn’t dare to dream, because he knew it would never come true, had been realized today. Now, if only Luke would grant him the other... One little, insignificant word, that to him would be the greatest gift no one would ever grant him.


Then, much too soon, Luke began to stir in his arms. Anakin felt him rubbing his face against his chest, like an awakening cub. He set to watch him, revelling in every cute little gesture he was so privileged to witness.

Luke turned his head to one side, resting the right side of his face on his chest. The blond lashes fluttered open. A few moments passed, as the young man took in his unusual surroundings. Anakin prepared himself for the instinctive stiffening of the smaller body.

When it came, he could barely hold back a grin. But it took his child longer than he expected to relax, and instead of relaxing fully, Luke enfolded him in his arms and clung to him like a drowning man to a lifesaver.

Frowning suspiciously, Anakin’s own arms responded to the searing distress emanating from his son’s body. He enveloped his child in his long arms and held him intensely.

It was then that Luke realized his father was awake. Embarrassment poured out of him, and a deep blush covered his face and neck to the roots of his hair. Even the little ears were bright red.

Anakin’s hand buried itself in his child’s hair.

‘Like this or you’d rather talk?’ he sent mentally.

Luke squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, as if trying to get rid of a scary image in his mind.

"That nightmare again?" Anakin asked out loud.

Luke nodded.

"Calm down, Son. I am here. You are safe." Anakin kissed the blond head, nuzzling the soft strands comfortingly.

"I’m sorry I ended up here. My room was collapsing on me. Metaphorically speaking, of course," Luke’s voice was muffled against his chest.

Anakin smiled. Luke’s ironical sense of humour chose the funniest moments to surface. Usually, the more upset he was.

"The only positive aspect of it is that it brought you to me," he whispered in a cheerful manner, stroking his child’s back soothingly.

"I see my teachings are bearing fruit, at last," Luke smiled, looking away.

"Better late than never," Anakin replied.

"Indeed," Luke nodded, his voice deeper than usual.

They stayed like that for a little while, in silence, each of them drinking in one another’s love and devotion.

"What are you afraid of?" Anakin asked gently.

"I sense great danger," was the clipped reply.

"When? How? In what way?" Anakin bombarded his child with questions.

"I don’t know." Luke closed his eyes. "Something big is going to happen, and I fear we won’t be ready for it when it does. All I know, is that we must stick together and fight as one. Everything’s chaotic and jumbled... I cannot describe it."

"One’s never truly ready for things like this, but we are forewarned. And..."

"...Forewarned is forearmed," they said at the same time.

"We’re a walking encyclopedia of proverbs," Anakin chuckled. Then, he got deadly serious as he looked down at the cherished head he cradled. "Have you tried meditating about this dream during the day? It’s easier sometimes."

"I will," Luke nodded, a deep shudder running up and down his body. "I can’t help getting this feeling of foreboding."

"I know how it is." Anakin shut his eyes, holding back a hiss and turning his mind away from those terrible memories. "And the worst part of it is not knowing if you’re meant to do something about it or not. And if you are supposed to change it somehow, what are you exactly supposed to do."

Luke nodded again.

"What’s the point of having these dreams anyway, if there is nothing we can do to change them, or we have no idea what do do?" Luke’s hands grabbed his father’s top desperately.

"It’s a needless torture," Anakin swallowed the bitter, burning lump in his throat.

"Yes, needless." Luke lay limp on his father, dejectedly.

No more words were needed. They were on the same wavelength, as always.

Anakin knew it was time for them to get up, but a part of him was reluctant to give up this blissful closeness. Now that he had had another glimpse at the beauty of yet something else he had missed, he just couldn’t let it go. Not so soon.

And judging from the way Luke burrowed into him, his son was just as reluctant to move.

"What is it, Luke?" The question was out of his lips before he even thought about it. He wondered why.

"I need you," was the heartbreaking answer. "I will always need you." Were there... tears in that voice?

"Oh, my precious little angel!" Anakin’s heart ached as if a merciless fist was squeezing the life out of it.

"Hold me," Luke begged unashamedly.

"For as long as you need, my baby. Forever, if you want," Anakin promised fervently, increasing his already strong hold on his child’s body, until he thought he could hear Luke’s ribs crack.

"I don’t know what’s happening to me. I— I just..." Luke tried to explain himself.

"Shhh, it is all right. We don’t have to be strong all the time. We all feel alone and scared. We all need each other, never mind how old we are. Don’t be ashamed of needing this. This is what living is about." Anakin cuddled his child. "I need it more than you do."

"I love you, Father," Luke whispered against Anakin’s chest.

"And I love you, Son. Even if at a time like this, you’re still refusing to call me ‘Dad,’" Anakin tried to bring some levity to the moment.

It worked. Luke let out a sound halfway betwen a laugh and a sob.

"The right moment will come. Fear not," he replied cryptically.

They stopped worrying about the time. This was all that mattered. All they needed. All they would ever need.

"I am complete," Anakin murmured into his child’s ear.

"Me too," Luke sighed into his father’s chest, wiping away his tears there. "I am the most fortunate being in the galaxy. Life granted me the only thing I ever wanted. I have a father now. My Father. Mine!" In a final burst of need, he clung to Anakin, almost hurting him with the strength he pressed up against him.

‘My treasure,’ Anakin thought to himself, wiping his own tears away in the soft blond hair.

Unexpectedly, Luke raised on his elbows and looked down at his father with a wistful smile on his face.

Anakin had caught his child looking at him that way several times in the last few months, but there was such an unbearable intensity in his stare this time, that his heart skipped a beat.

"Luke..." he began, reaching up and framing his son’s cheek in his palm.

"Just want to look at you. To remember this moment forever," Luke interrupted him, wrapping his arms around his father’s neck and embracing him one last, desperate time. Then, opening the sheets impulsively, he jumped off the bed.

"Captain Skywalker, ready for duty, sir!" he saluted Anakin formally.

Anakin contemplated his son, shaking his head patronizingly. His pyjamas were so rumpled that he looked like a dishevelled five year old. This young man was like quicksilver. He left him dizzy with his changing moods. Part child, part man, part innocent, part worldly, all wisdom. All Love.

But the older Jedi had also learned his lessons well. He was an expert on smoke-screens. And even if Luke was good at it too, he still had a few things to learn. Things that only experience of life could teach him.

Anakin could read his child like an open book. Luke was extremely disturbed about something. Something he was loath to share with him.

He figured that Luke would have his reasons, and even if everything he was, screamed at him to push, he also knew that Luke would only tell him when he was ready to talk about it, not a moment before.

He would wait until tonight, not a minute longer. Today would be an especially hectic and busy day. He would ‘attack’ Luke when he was most vulnerable, all sleepy and tired, right before going to sleep.

His decision already made, Anakin got up too, returning the formal salute.

"Very well, young man. Report to me when you are washed and dressed. Dismissed."

Luke nodded, and a flicker of raw fear crossed his eyes, one heartbeat before turning about.

"And thank you for coming to me." Anakin’s voice was sweet and loving like a soothing caress now. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a father for you. You know you’re always welcome, don’t you? Always."

Luke stopped in mid-step and nodded slowly. Then, he headed for the door, with heavy steps.

"Luke," his father called when he was about to reach the doors.

This time, the young Jedi turned around and faced Anakin.

Anakin’s features lit up with love and he opened his arms wide. An instant later, he was holding an armful of little Jedi, cuddling up to him as if his very life depended on it.

"You know I would die a billion times before hurting you or having you disappointed in me, don’t you, my son?" Anakin whispered into the soft hair. "You know I love you more than anything, and I won’t let anyone hurt you. You know...?"

"I love you when you get all topsy-turvy, Father," Luke silenced the nervous babbling, burying his face in the strong chest, feeling as if he could live there forever. "Thank you for putting up with my fears and insecurities. Thank you for this." He filled his lungs with his father’s scent. How reassuring and calming it was!

"I wish I had to ‘put up’ with this every day of my life," Anakin replied out loud.



The mess hall was full to bursting. Today would be a very strenuous day for everybody, and they were preparing themselves for it by having lengthy and heavy breakfasts.

One of the tables was occupied by ‘the Skywalker Bunch,’ as every Squadron called it fondly. They had taken that particular table from day one, and it was implicitly acknowledged by everyone that it was the Skywalker family’s table. It wasn’t the best table of all, by any means. It was just... theirs.

Everyone was welcome at that table, in any case, whenever they wished. There were always a couple empty seats, in quiet invitation. And quite often, someone accepted the invitation.

Today, though, no one did. It was as if they felt that the Skywalker family needed to be alone together.

"So, how many children do you intend to have?" Luke asked Han and Leia out of the blue.

Everybody but the young Jedi choked on their breakfast, and they had to slap each other’s backs until they caught their breath.

"Jeeez, kid, talk about subtle!" Han commented, blushing to the roots of his hair.

"I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see you blushing," Luke smiled naughtily. Then he shrugged. "I was just curious, that’s all."

"Well, ahhh... we haven’t talked about it, yet," Leia replied with apparent nonchalance, but quite flushed herself. "I guess..." she looked at her fiancé and they maintained a short and fast conversation through their eyes. "At least two," she voiced for the two of them.

Han nodded eagerly.

"Three, most probably," he settled the matter. "But we’ll wait a little before having any children. We want to enjoy our married life for some time first!" He took Leia’s hand in his and smiled lovingly at her.

Luke nodded to himself, and took a spoonful of his breakfast in silence.

"And when do you intend to get married?" Anakin asked now.

"Why is everybody so eager for us to marry, all of a sudden?" Han asked, unable to hide his embarrassment.

"Because we love to see you blush, buddy," Lando joined in the teasing. "Did you know that colour becomes you?"

"And did you know that black around your eyes becomes you even more?" Han retorted.

Lando chuckled, totally unrepentant, and continued with his breakfast, as Chewie ruffled his friend’s hair and did some teasing of his own.

"Do you want me to set your fur on fire?" Han threatened, pointing his fork at the giant Wookie.

Chewie showed Han all his teeth in a feigned innocent smile that triggered everybody’s laughter.

"Please, don’t start throwing food. We have an image to maintain," Leia told her family, grabbing her stomach.

"What image?" everybody replied at the same time, setting off their laughter again.

"Oh, well," Anakin commented at last, wiping his tears away. "Nothing like good, healthy laughter to start the day."

"Right," Han smiled happily. He had a bad feeling this morning, but after this laugh, things looked definitely brighter. It was funny how happy and alive some silly banter with his family could make him feel.

Family. A feeling he only began to understand after meeting Luke and Leia. He watched Leia totally enraptured as she finished her breakfast. How beautiful she was! But it wasn’t just her beauty that drew him to her. Her strength of character, her resilience, her stubbornness, her spirit... so many things made her the extraordinary person she was! She would fight a hungry wampa with her bare hands to save any of them. And the wampa wouldn’t stand a chance.

He admired her, besides loving her. And there weren’t many people in the galaxy he truly admired. As a matter of fact, most of them were sitting at that table this very moment.

Life had taught him that the bravest, worthiest people weren’t those who ventured into danger headfirst. Those were simply reckless fools. Great deeds didn’t impress him anymore.

He admired people who were capable of admitting they were wrong, and decided to change their ways, never mind how hard it was. Those were the bravest people. People whose pride meant less to them than Truth.

Lando had been the first, and then... Anakin. The Corellian’s eyes went from the first to the second, and a wave of affection filled his heart. It amazed him how easily he had forgiven. It wasn’t that he was a resentful person, but as time went by, it was harder for him to see past people’s acts. It seemed to him that grown people should be more mature and realize that one’s acts had consequences. And some were irreparable.

What Anakin had done went beyond anything Han would have ever imagined. The heartless monster who had chased them implacably for years, the galaxy’s biggest mass murderer, was sitting before him right now, a loving father, a loyal and caring friend, more upright and decent than many he would have vouched for only a few hours ago.

He would never thank Luke enough for recovering that apparently hopeless soul to them and the entire galaxy. He hoped that one day, most of the millions of beings who still distrusted Anakin Skywalker, would open their eyes to the Truth that was so plainly obvious for him to see, and he rejoiced in with every fibre of his being.

Luke. His eyes turned to his soon-to-be brother-in-law. The gentlest, kindest... the best human being he had ever known, and was so proud to call friend. No law would bring them closer than they already were. No law would make them more brothers than they already were. Brothers in spirit if not in blood.

"Ahem... Luke," he found himself speaking.

Luke’s eyes turned to him, open and loving, as they always were.

"I was wondering..." he began clumsily, "well, we were wondering..." he corrected himself, looking briefly at Leia and blushing as he had never blushed before, "...if you would like to be my best man at our wedding." He cleared his throat sheepishly.

Luke’s eyes misted, but he quickly blinked the tears away. He softly placed his knife and fork on the table and swallowed hard a couple times, before answering, in the weakest voice.

"It would be my greatest honour, Han."

The Corellian’s face illuminated with joy and love, and the two friends stared at each other, unable to look away.

"Hey, Luke. Will you fly with us this morning?" Wedge interrupted the terribly moving moment, making everybody jump. "Oh, I’m sorry for intruding!" the young man apologized sincerely.

"No intrusion," Luke swallowed again, smiling up at his flustered friend. "And no, not this time."

"Higher duties, huh?" Vaughan joined in the conversation, in his usual straightforward manner. "Well, it’ll do us good. I was beginning to feel a little bit rusty."

"You feel rusty ten minutes after jumping off your X-Wing," a young pilot named Jesse teased him, wrapping an arm around Vaughan’s shoulders and shaking him affectionately.

Vaughan straightened his back, proud as a peacock.

"What can I say? I’m an action man," he boasted exaggeratedly, returning the one-armed hug.

"You’re a showoff," Wedge ribbed fondly.

"That, too." Vaughan smiled from ear to ear, unashamedly.

Everybody burst out laughing.

"Well, we gotta go," Kashee, another pilot, slapped Vaughan and Wedge’s backs warmly when the laughter subsided. "We will miss you up there," he told Luke wholeheartedly. "And you too, General!" he looked at Anakin, his eyes shining with respect.

"Yeah!" all the squadron agreed as one, all of them crowded around the Skywalker table by now.

"That is very kind of you, thank you," Anakin smiled, genuinely moved.

When the exuberant bunch left, Leia turned to her brother.

"What do you intend to do after breakfast?" she asked him.

"I intend to meditate about a recurrent dream I’ve been having lately," Luke replied, all too casually.

Leia raised a suspicious eyebrow.

"Something we should know about?"

"When I figure it out, you will be the first to know," Luke smiled at her, holding her hand in his and kissing her cheek. "I love you, little sister," he winked at her.

"I love you too, little brother," Leia teased back.

Luke chuckled and stood up.

"Where will you be?" he asked his family.

"The drills will be resumed at 13:00 PM," Anakin replied. "I would like to visit Areen for a little while," the older Jedi shrugged self-consciously.

Luke nodded approvingly and squeezed his father’s forearm.

"I would like to train this morning, but since my two masters will be busy, I’ll join Han, Lando and Chewie, correlating all data with Intelligence. The more we’re looking, the more possibilities we have of finding something."

"Yes," Luke nodded again, emphatically. "Follow your instinct and your intuition," he instructed with a loving smile.

"Do you think I could use the Force to try and guess where are they hiding?" Leia’s eyebrows skyrocketed.

"Of course. You have to concentrate and reach out with your feelings."

"That’s what we all do, Force-sensitive or not," Han waved his hand, dismissing Luke’s instructions. "The only problem is that when I concentrate too hard, I fall sleep."

Luke stared at his friend with a pretended compassionate expression.

"You shouldn’t abuse your brain like that, Han. It’s not used to such draining efforts," he smiled at the Corellian, his eyes bright with mischief.

Han stuck out his tongue at the young Jedi.



Anakin entered the Headquarters’ sickbay, and headed directly for the bed where Areen Worzzlek had been lying for the last two days. He stood there, contemplating the still form, unable to hold back a wave of affection. He didn’t know where it came from.

As he had done before, he grabbed a chair and sat by Areen’s bedside. He watched the sleeping man for a few minutes. Thinking. Pondering. Struggling...

"I don’t know what am I doing here again," he suddenly found himself speaking. "I guess... I guess that if I was in your place, I wouldn’t want to be alone, even if I had no way to know I *was* alone."

His eyes settled on the apparently calm face.

"Did I hurt you personally in any way when I was Darth Vader? Did you think I hadn’t really changed and I was deceiving you all? Is that the reason why you never accepted me as the Republic’s Vice-President?" he asked, even though he knew there would be no answer. He shook his head. "I cannot believe you wanted that position for yourself, and that was the reason why you turned against your friends. You must have thought you were doing the right thing." He let out a dry laugh. "Believe me. I know how it is. I degraded myself beyond anything you can possibly imagine. I murdered men and women and children without second thoughts, without looking back, because I believed I was serving a greater good." He snorted, disgusted with himself. "I wanted to save my family from certain death, and I lost it all. My family, my dignity, my honour and my soul. And when everything you’ve ever loved, has died because of you, you’re an empty shell that only hatred and anger are strong enough to fill. You revel in total devastation and the sight of destruction, because that sight is the perfect mirror of what there is inside you."

The Jedi master bowed his head and swallowed hard. He ran his trembling, sweaty hand through his hair nervously.

"I was beyond salvation from the first innocent life I took, or so I thought. Until Luke," he pronounced his son’s name as if it was the holiest word in any language. "He reached out to me in a way I had never seen, and I’ll probably never see again. Unconditionally. He knew who I was, what I was, and he still had faith in me." He bit his lower lip and looked up, taking a long, deep breath. His chest felt full to bursting. "Do you know what it is like to be trusted again, after so many years and so much depravation? The glorious feeling of being needed, of being loved and accepted as who you are, despite everything you have done? My son’s love saved me. He found-in-me," he hit his chest repeatedly with his fist, "what everybody else had given up on. Especially me. His love cleansed me, made me believe that I could turn back. I only had to want it. That was all. I only had to want it, and he would be there, waiting for me. Embracing me with all the love he had to give," he wiped away the wetness on his face. "He loved all the ugliness inside me first. The ugliness that had mutilated him." He choked on his words. "He loved Vader before loving Anakin. That’s why Anakin returned."

Instinctively, Anakin took Areen’s hand in his own.

"I hated you for turning against us. For joining those who had planned to destroy what I love the most. My son, my friends, and a system I can finally believe in. But I realized I can’t do any less than my Luke. He’s my guiding star, the example I live my life by. Both my children are. Leia saw there is goodness in you, and it would be a crime to give up on you. I won’t leave you, Areen." He raised his eyes to the unresponsive man. "Maybe you still hate me. Maybe you don’t give a damn about my forgiveness. But if deep down, you do, it’s all yours, Areen. I forgive you with all my heart, as I know everybody does." He smiled sadly. "If it’s true what they say, that people lying in a coma can still feel and hear what’s being said in their presence, then you must know how many people have come to visit you. Our President, who loves you dearly. My children, my friends, who are still your friends."

The older Jedi’s eyes filled with tears once more, and he squeezed the warm hand.

"Yes, we are still your friends, Areen. We want you back. You only have to want to return."

He looked away, an ironical expression on his face.

"Yes, I know. That is the hardest part. To forgive oneself. To believe in your right to be forgiven, when you don’t believe it yourself. But I trusted Luke before trusting myself. That is the key. To trust others and rely on them and their judgement, when you’re not sure you can trust yourself." He squeezed Areen’s hand again. "We’re all waiting for you, Areen. We are the reason why you must return. You must give us the chance to get to know you better, and learn from you. Your thoughts, your feelings, your self. You have so much to give!"

Silence answered his heartfelt words.

"Also, you must learn to let go, Areen. Let go of your pride and stubbornness. Those feelings can be the worst barrier against forgiveness. I know from bitter experience," he sighed tiredly. "I need you to let go of those feelings so you can forgive me, if I hurt you in any way. Please, Areen! I need your forgiveness to have peace, too."

Silence stretched on for several minutes. Finally, with another long sigh, Anakin squeezed the other man’s hand for the last time.

"I have to go now. There are a lot of things that have to be done. Everybody sends their love. They want you to wake up as much as I do." He let go of the still hand. "I’ll be back as soon as I can. If I can’t tonight, then first thing in the morning. I promise." He stood up. "Be well, Areen."

The older Jedi put his chair aside, and headed for the door.

"A-An-Anakin," a male voice called weakly.

Anakin froze in his tracks and turned about sharply.

Areen Worzzlek’s eyes were half-open and glittery, and looking at him. Tears collected in his lower eyelids, and finally spilled.

"Areen," Anakin uttered, unable to believe what he was seeing.

The two men stared at each other for a long moment, until the infinite pain and remorse coming out of Areen brought Anakin to the man’s bedside, and he sat down on it.

He knew those feelings. They would accompany him for as long as he lived, and he deeply regretted that from now on, they would also have to accompany his friend.

Without thinking, he reached out and held the broken man in his arms. Areen returned the embrace weakly, too emotionally exhausted and ashamed to ask for more.

The older Jedi didn’t have such compunction, and increased the pressure on Areen’s ribcage, comforting him with everything he had.

"I am sorry. I’m so sorry!" Areen moaned. He had no words. There were no words to express the horror and shame he felt.

"It is all right. It’s all right, Areen. Everything’s all right now," Anakin soothed as if to a child, petting the man’s hair compassionately.

"I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave after the land-mine on Ansion," Areen exploded at last, "but they said they would kill you all, even if their plan was uncovered because of it. Ylek said he would kill us all in the Great Hall, and I knew he would."

"Yes, I know he would be more than capable of doing it," Anakin nodded. "He and the others would take our places after an unfortunate accident, an inexplicable droid malfunction, or an unnamed terrorist attack had disposed of us. The Republic would go on, without those they considered evil and unworthy, or simple sycophants."

Areen nodded against Anakin’s shoulder.

"When the bomb in the Falcon failed, Ylek lost it. Until then, some considered killing you one by one, and others in one go. But after the Falcon, almost everybody agreed it was time to take drastic measures."

"What about Luke’s X-Wing, then?" Anakin asked.

Areen swallowed hard.

"That one was planned after the ambush on Veltra, but when the big attack was plotted, they forgot about their plan to sabotage your son’s ship." Areen moved back and looked at Anakin, fear and apprehension in his eyes. "Is Luke all right?"

Anakin had stiffened and paled like a ghost.

"Yes, he is," Anakin reassured him. "But... what ‘big attack’, Areen?"

"You don’t know?" Areen frowned. "When you said that you knew about Ylek, I thought you had found out about the conspiracy and arrested them all."

"We have arrested eleven people so far, Ylek among them," Anakin explained. "Is he the master mind?"

"One of them. But there are hundreds involved," Areen replied. "Their secret base is on Wayland. That’s where they’ve been hiding the Star Destroyers and all the ships they will use to attack Coruscant."

Anakin’s blood ran cold in his veins. An attack was to be expected any time now, but...

"Star Destroyers? What Star Destroyers, Areen? The few remaining ones were dismantled after the war."

"Not all of them. Somehow, Ylek found out that the Emperor had ordened the construction of a final consignment of Destroyers, several months before the battle of Endor. They were to be built on Zhar. But the construction of the second Death Star took precedence, so the Star Destroyers weren’t ready on time."

Anakin let out a dry smile. So, his former master had kept his own secrets from him. It was not surprising. It was flattering, as a matter of fact. It showed that Palpatine had distrusted him long before Vader realized he wasn’t to be trusted.

"And they are ready now," he stated more than asked.

"They’ve been ready for weeks," Areen nodded. "The attack will take place in two days. On the nineteenth."

Anakin’s face was ashen in a matter of seconds.

"Areen, today is nineteenth. You’ve been in a coma for two days."

"What?!" Areen exclaimed, in shock.

Anakin tried to keep calm and think rationally, but every alarm inside him was ringing deafeningly... and something else. Something else he couldn’t pinpoint...

"W-what time are they going to attack?" he cursed his sudden nervousness. He had to get a grip. He had never feared going into battle. Quite the contrary.

Areen seemed totally knocked out by Anakin’s revelation, but he met the Jedi’s eyes bravely and regained his composure.

"If they haven’t changed their plans, it was scheduled for noon," he replied. "What time is it now?"

Anakin’s eyes had closed, in a gesture that said it all. But he quickly opened them again, fierce determination hardening his features.

"Hopefully, not too late," he muttered, jumping to his feet. "You stay here and let the doctors examine you!" He dashed for the doors.

"But there’s also...!" Areen cried out after the already closed doors.


Luke was sitting in a cross-legged position on one of the soft floor cushions in the Observation Hall. He had been meditating for half an hour, and some future events were clearer to him now, even if others still remained in the shadows. He had opened his mind to his vision wholeheartedly, unafraid, but it had been useless.

He could feel the tears streaming down his cheeks, but he paid no attention to them. They would be of no help when...

Suddenly, he was thrown out of his meditative state by his father’s abruptly overwhelming presence in his mind.


‘Yes, Father?’ he replied instantly.

‘Meet me in the Great Hall at once. Areen woke up and informed me that a massive attack has been plotted for noon today!’

‘I’m on my way!’ The young man darted for the doors.

‘Alert everyone you pass!’ Anakin ordered. ‘We must evacuate all official buildings. They will be primary targets.’


‘Where is the President?’ Anakin asked. ‘We must take her to the bunker.’

‘I think she was scheduled to visit an exhibition at Coruscant’s Gallery of Art. She insisted on not allowing them to interfere with our daily lives. Let’s pray she’s not gone yet.’

‘I will look for her. Set off the alarm! The first to arrive will use the PA system. We must evacuate Coruscant’s streets, as well. They’re likely to be bombarded.’

‘Bombarded?’ Luke’s mind froze, in shock. ‘With what? How did they get the ships and weapons necessary for an attack of this scale?’

‘A final shipment of Star Destroyers that Palpatine ordered built and I was never informed about. Somehow, Ylek found out about them.’

‘But... but, this isn’t a string of calculated murders anymore. This is a rebellion!’ Luke’s mind could hardly cope with what was happening.

‘Exactly,’ was Anakin’s subdued, glum reply.

Luke burst out of the lift and and bumped into Areen Worzzlek, who intended to enter. The two ended up on the floor in a tangle of limbs.

"Areen!" Luke exclaimed, standing up with effort, and helping the other man up. "What are you doing here?"

"I was on my way to warn you," Areen replied, trying to catch his breath. "Your father left sickbay before I could tell him."

"Tell him what?"

"They plan to blow up this building, and several others, too!" Areen said, grabbing Luke’s upper arm and shaking it.

Luke’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets, and he was speechless for a short, horrifying moment.

"W-w-what?! HOW?" he asked.

"Did you arrest Keyholm, the Security Chief? He’s involved," Areen explained.

"Yes, we did. He was one of Mon Mothma’s most trusted men, and a genius, as far as computers and explosives are concerned." The young man paled, as the implications of his own words became evident.

"He’s been planting explosive charges in the basements of several buildings for months. As Chief of Security, he and his men have got access everywhere, on any planet."

"The traffic droids on Veltra," Luke understood now.

"Yes," Areen nodded. "And the land-mine on Ansion. The bomb in the Falcon was planted by the two traitors in your personal escort who shot me."

"Those are dead. They committed suicide," Luke said.

"I see," Areen’s eyes looked absent for a second. "Many other rooms are bugged too, not just your father’s! Even the Great Hall!" he remembered suddenly.

Luke smiled and placed a hand on the other man’s shoulder, squeezing it affectionately.

"We know, my friend. We’ve been searching the building discreetly for the last couple days. Most of it is secure now."

Areen’s eyes misted at the sound of the word Luke had used to address him. He looked down, in shame.

"You shouldn’t call me that. What I did..."

"...was proving to us that you are our friend," Luke’s voice left no room for discussion. "Now go back to sickbay and help to evacuate the ill and all those you can. We’ll take care of the rest. Hurry!"

"Yes, sir!" Areen obliged, sprinting for Sickbay, still dressed in his sickbay gown.

Luke ran down the corridor, until he reached one of the alarms. He set if off.

A deafening noise echoed in the walls, and the young man winced. This would bring people out of their rooms, and it would be easier to warn them, until either he or his father reached the PA system.

He headed for the Great Hall.

‘Father!’ he called.

‘Tell me,’ Anakin replied, less than a heartbeat later.

‘I just met Areen in the corridor. He told me that our Chief of Security has been planting bombs in the basements of several buildings, including this one. They’re going to blow them up!’

‘Holy Force!’ Anakin exclaimed. ‘We must evacuate them at the double!’

‘Their own men are locked up in this building’s cells,’ Luke tried to rationalize the situation. ‘Do you think they’ll still blow it up with them inside?’

‘At this point, I don’t think they care about a dozen of their men, Ylek included.’ Anakin replied sadly.

‘Yes, you’re right,’ Luke agreed dejectedly.

Right then, he saw Han and Leia turning a corner. They saw him too and ran up to him.

"What the hell’s going on here?!" Han demanded to know.

"Everything," Luke replied. "Areen woke up and told Father that the attack we were expecting, will take place at noon today."

"WHAT?!" was the joint exclamation of utter disbelief.

"They have a shipment of Star Destroyers at their disposal that no one knew about. We can only guess at their weaponry. And Keyholm has been planting explosive charges in the basements of several buildings, including this one."

"We must evacuate!" Leia cried out.

"Father ordered an immediate meeting in the Great Hall. He was looking for the President. Do you know if she’s left for the exhibition already?" Luke asked his sister.

"I think not," she replied.

"Then, he will find her." He set off running for the Hall, followed close behind by his friends. "We must evacuate all non-essential personnel and all the civilians."


Five minutes later, the emergency evacuation was proceeding uneventfully and Anakin and Mon Mothma were the last ones to enter the Great Hall.

"What measures have been taken so far?" she asked, hurrying to her seat.

"The evacuation of this building and several others is progressing smoothly," Thazzel replied, rising to his feet.

"Every holochannel is warning the population to stay at home, shut doors and windows, and hide in the safest rooms of their buildings," Madine continued.

"All Squadrons have been warned. Our planetary defenses are on full alert. When they come out of light-speed, we’ll locate them," Rieekan informed. "We’re ready."

"When will the Fleet arrive?" she asked Ackbar.

"In 20 minutes," the Mon Calamary replied.

"Lando, Chewie and I volunteer to go down to the cells, and ‘persuade’ Keyholm to tell us what other buildings he has planted with bombs, and how to deactivate them." Han looked at his President, a feral smile on his lips.

"Go," was Mon Mothma’s answer.

When the three friends were heading for the door, her voice resounded anew, strong and firm.

"No harshness, General!"

"No problem," Han turned his head and let out his infamous crooked grin. "My gift of the gab will be enough."

"Take a comlink with you. All teams will carry one to stay in touch with each other. In case our frequencies are monitored, we’ll code our transmissions. Code Delta."

"Acknowledged!" Lando replied, before the doors closed after them.

"How long?" Mon Mothma asked.

"21 minutes, 35 seconds," Madine answered.

A deafening alarm started ringing at that very moment.

"Or maybe not," Madine amended his own words.

Ackbar opened the communications channel.

"All Squadrons, report!"

"We’ve got visual contact," Wedge’s voice came through.

"How many?" Rieekan asked.

"One squadron so far. Must be the advance patrol."

"Do not open fire. I repeat: do NOT open fire, unless they do," Mon Mothma ordered. They had to give non-violence a last chance, even if it was useless by now.

"Understood," Wedge said.

A few seconds later, an explosion filtered through the static.

"We’re under attack! We’re under attack!" someone’s voice cried out.

"Repel the attack! Repel the attack!" Mon Mothma cried out in an unwavering voice.

"Acknowledged," replied Wedge’s surprisingly calm voice.

Right then, a cacophony of screaming, explosions and ensuing orders made everybody give a start.

"It has begun again," Mon Mothma bowed her head, a shade of infinite sadness in her voice.

"Justice will prevail," Anakin reassured her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "This will be the final challenge to the Republic before true Peace becomes a reality."

"How can you be so sure?" she asked, raising her misted eyes to his.

"I am a Jedi, and we Jedi know about these things," he shrugged coyly.

She smiled, despite herself.

"I pray you are right." She let out a tired sigh.

"We must leave, your Excellency," Anakin reminded her softly. "This isn’t a safe place anymore. We must go to the bunker. At least, until this building is secure."

Mon Mothma nodded resignedly.



The door of the cell 021 burst open. The man sitting on the bunk stood up immediately, facing Han, Lando and Chewie.

"Why, why, why. Look who’s here," he smiled at the newcomers with a nasty smile. "Two men and a Wookie."

"Yep, that’s us," Han replied, smiling back warmly.

"Don’t tell me. Let me guess," Keyholm looked up and pursed his lips, as if in deep thought. "I know!" he snapped his fingers. "You want to ask me something."

"You’re a genius, Keyholm. Did you know that?" Lando praised, walking around him, and looking at him up and down.

"It doesn’t take a genius, but thank you for the compliment." The tall man placed his arms behind his back proudly.

Right then, a deafening alarm made everybody jump.

"Look at that!" Keyholm’s eyebrows shot up in pretended shock. "Seems like we’re under attack."

"For a second, you almost seemed honestly surprised." Han advanced closer and closer to the still man.

"Not really," Keyholm shrugged. "So, to what do I owe the honour of your visit?"

"Nothing big, considering what’s happening up there right now," Han commented, his eyes flashing for a moment. "We know you’ve planted bombs in the basements of several buildings, including this one. We just want you to tell us which buildings, and how to deactivate the explosives, in case you’ve included any ‘surprises’ in the bombs’ mechanisms."

"And why should I tell you?" Keyholm asked.

"Because it would be very rude of you not to?" Lando replied.

Keyholm shook his head.

"I’m afraid not. I’m tired, and I’d like to take a nap. These bunks are very uncomfortable, but I think I’ll manage. Good day, my friends." He half-turned, but Chewie’s bulk stopped him in mid-gesture. The Wookie’s big paw settled on his shoulder, and squeezed it brutally with a bone-chilling growl.

"Ah!" Keyholm cried out.

"C’mon, Chewie, don’t be so impolite," Han tried to calm down his favourite Wookie. "Remember what the President told us. No harshness."

Chewie nodded and obeyed, releasing Keyholm’s shoulder. His huge hand combed through the prisoner’s hair, leaving it impeccable.

"You know, Han?" Lando turned to his friend. "I think we should give Keyholm a break. After all, he’ll have all the time in the world to sleep when this building blows up."

"You’re right, buddy!" Han slapped Lando’s back enthusiastically. "We should leave him alone to prepare himself." He turned to the Wookie. "Let’s go, Chewie."

The three headed for the door.

"Excuse me," sounded Keyholm’s slightly shaky voice behind them. "The Galactic Convention on the Rights of War Prisoners states that in the event of an attack, all prisoners must be taken to safety."

"Really?" Han asked, holding his chin. "I don’t remember that one. Do you remember, Lando?"

"No, I don’t," Lando shook his head. "In any case, when they find Mr. Charm’s body among the rubble, we can always say that we were in such a hurry to evacuate everybody, that we forgot about this cell."

"Good thinking," Han applauded. "And if we’re defeated, who cares? We’ll all be dead, anyway."

The three friends were leaving when Keyholm lunged forward.

"You CAN’T do that, you bastards!!" he cried out, grabbing Han’s black vest from behind.

"And who’s going to stop us, you little piece of shit?!" Han turned around, grabbed Keyholm by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall, his forearm across the man’s neck. "Certainly, not you!" he spat.

The two men looked daggers at each other.

"The way I see it, you have two choices." Han inched so close that he ended up breathing on the other man’s face. "Either you tell us what we want to know, or this building will be your grave."

Keyholm’s face twisted in sheer hatred as he ground his teeth, trying to guess if the Corellian was bluffing.



Above Coruscant’s atmosphere, an unevenly matched battle was being fought.

More and more Rebel Squadrons broke out of hyperspace. They were mostly TIE fighters, but some of them had been modified, and it was plain to see that they now had dangerously higher manoeuvrability and fire power.

"Remember, we must hold them back at all costs until backup arrives," Wedge reminded them all, blowing up a TIE fighter.

"And when will that be?" Vaughan’s voice asked.

"Soon," Wedge eluded a direct answer.

"That means much too long," someone’s voice translated unnecessarily for them all.

"Just my type of battle, against all odds," Vaughan commented with a chuckle, spinning maddeningly past a fighter’s slipstream, making it lose control and crash against another fighter.

"Worthwing, you’re crazy!!" Kashee cried out, momentarily blinded by the big explosion.

"YESSSS, that’s why I’m so handsome!" Vaughan roared.

"I’ve got an idea," yelled Green Leader. "What do you say to Spider’s Web?"

"It could work," Wedge nodded. "We can’t afford for them to get past our perimeter."

"And if someone gets past it, the ion cannons will take care of them," Red Four said.

"Don’t count on it. They’re too small," Kashee replied.

"Stand by to close up formation, on my mark," Wedge ordered.

"Copy, Red Leader," everybody acknowledged.

"Now!" Wedge cried out.

It took less than fifteen seconds for all squadrons to form a living net of X-Wings that maintained a steady formation, shielding Coruscant behind them and blasting into oblivion everything that came near it.

But more and more fighters were pouring out of hyperspace. They knew they wouldn’t be able to hold them off forever.

Things were beginning to look grim, when two squadrons of Y-Wings came out of hyperspace.

"It was about time," Red Six commented.

"Hello, there," the Y-Wing Commander greeted his comrades. "Are we too late to join the party?"

"Just in time," Wedge replied. "But I’m afraid we’re expecting more guests."

"Such as?" the Commander asked.

"Such as the Star Destroyer that just broke out of light-speed, point three four," Kashee’s suddenly deep voice sobered them all.

"Oh, crap!" Green Leader summed up everybody’s feelings to perfection.

"I think we’re going to need more backup," Vaughan muttered to himself.



Han, Lando and Chewie burst out of Keyholm’s cell. Lando took out the comlink he carried in a pocket.

"Team Two to Team One. Come in, Team One," he called.

"Go ahead, Team Two," Anakin’s voice replied.

"Keyholm was happy to cooperate with us," Lando informed. "We know what buildings he planted with bombs, and where he planted them. We already alerted the Bomb Squads. They should start deactivating them in a few minutes. They’re set to be detonated in sequence."

"Well done," Anakin’s smile shone through the comlink. "Now join us in the bunker. We’re on our way there. Did you give orders for the cells to be evacuated, too?"

"Yes," Lando said. "The droids will take care of that."

"Good," Anakin approved.



Ylek checked the time and stood up from the bunk where he had been lying. Everything was progressing as planned.

He opened a panel on the wall, revealing a hollow niche. He took out a tiny blaster and two small devices. He hid the first in his pocket, aimed the second at the door and pressed the button.

The door slid open.

Ylek verified no one was coming, and went out onto the corridor. One by one, he opened the doors of the other cells.

"So, this was the ace up your sleeve, eh?" Keyholm asked, joining Ylek in the corridor. "It would have been nice of you if you had told us sooner."

"Stop whining, Keyholm. I told you everything was under control," Ylek dismissed his partner’s complaints disdainfully.

"Everything but the strength of a Wookie’s paw. My shoulder will be black for weeks. I didn’t know about your little plan, and I had to tell them where I placed the bombs," Keyholm grumbled.

"It’s all right. They won’t leave this building alive," Ylek smiled viciously.

"What do you mean?" Keyholm asked.

"If my calculations are correct, they should be on their way to the bunker right now. In that case..."

"SH! Someone’s coming," a voice warned.

Everybody hurried to find a hiding place.

"It’s the Security droids that are supposed to take us to safety," whispered Commander Jayson, from the Gold Squadron.

"Oh. No problem, then," Ylek shrugged, coming out of his hiding place.

"Ylek, what the hell are you doing?!" someone whispered angrily.

"Hello, guys," Ylek greeted the approaching droids.

The droids turned their heads as one, but they never had time to draw out their weapons. Ylek took out the second device from his pocket, pointed it at the droids and pressed a button.

The droids froze on the spot.

"Execute Order 66-A," Ylek ordered.

Immediately, the droids turned around and left the same way they had come.

Thunderstruck, everybody came out of their hiding places.

"Order 66-A?" Keyholm asked, in obvious amusement.

Ylek shrugged casually.

"I figured that if we’re going to kill the two remaining Jedi alive, among others, we can pay our particular homage to the guy who started it all. Palpatine was a monster, but he had class."

"You can say that again," Keyholm nodded ironically.



The lift stopped and the doors opened. Anakin exited first and had a quick look.

"It’s clear," he informed the others.

Everybody followed suit.

"How long do you think it will take the Bomb Squads to deactivate all the bombs, Father?" Luke asked.

"I could do it faster," Anakin admitted, immediately getting the hint.

"You are not going anywhere," Mon Mothma ordered categorically. "You are not expendable. It is time to put those drills to the test, and hope for the best."

"Yes, your Excellency," Anakin obeyed reluctantly.

Right then, synchronized steps began approaching them.

"The Security droids," Leia announced, taking a fast look to her right. "Will we wait here for Han and the others, or will we meet them at the bunker?" she asked her father.

"I told Lando to join us in the bunker," Anakin replied. "However, they’re bound to cross this corridor, so..."

A sudden silence made the older Jedi look in the droids’ direction. They had stopped dead twenty metres away from them. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, and he frowned in foreboding.

The hatches on the droids’ bellies opened.

"RUN!" Anakin cried out without thinking, drawing out his lightsaber. "NOW!"

Next to him, Anakin heard the buzzing sound of his son’s lightsaber being ignited.

Two seconds later, all hell broke loose.

"Go to the bunker!" Anakin cried out to everybody. "We’ll cover you!"

"We can take care of ourselves, thank you!" Thazzel yelled back, drawing out his blaster.

"Darn it!" Leia muttered to herself. "When I accepted training and gave up my blaster, I never thought I’d end up weaponless against a bunch of reprogrammed droids."

Just then, one of the droids rendered useless by Anakin and Luke’s deflected fire, collapsed. Its blaster slid on the polished floor and ended up a few metres in front of her.

"Talk about having one’s wishes granted!" she said to herself, using the Force to summon the blaster to her hand. "Since I still have to build my own lightsaber, this will have to do, even if it isn’t the Jedi way," she justified to herself, beginning to open fire. She ran to Dodonna’s side, who was flat against the wall, totally defenceless.

"Thank you, Princess," the old man expressed his gratitude in one breathless gasp. "How unfortunate that I don’t have a blaster to protect myself."

"Be my guest, General," Leia handed him her own. "I’ll find myself another."

"How?" Dodonna asked, arching his eyebrows.

"Like this," she replied, holding out her hand and summoning a second blaster on the floor.

"Like Father, Like Daughter, I see," Dodonna couldn’t keep the admiration from his voice.

"Precisely," Leia said, blasting a droid’s head off. "You stay behind me and shoot at every piece of metal that moves. I’ll cover you."

"Thank you, young lady. My legs and my aim are not as strong and good as they used to be, but adrenalin is pumping good."

"You’re telling me," she rolled her eyes.


"Can you hear that?" Luke asked Anakin, deflecting a blaster bolt that was heading directly for his father’s head.

"Yes," Anakin replied. "More droids are coming. We have to get moving." He used the Force to throw two droids backwards and slam them against the wall.

"Back up!" Luke ordered. "Hurry!"

"What about Han, Lando and Chewie?" Leia shouted.

Anakin threw the comlink at his daughter.

"Warn them! Tell them to head directly for the bunker, and beware of all droids!"

"Do you think they’ve reprogrammed them all?" Luke asked.

Anakin looked into his son’s eyes for a millisecond. Anything was to be expected.

"We must assume the worst and be ready for it," Anakin advised.

Blaster fire threw the two Jedi against the wall, looking for cover.

"They’re surrounding us, Father!" Luke cried out.

"I know! We’ll have to find an alternate route to the bunker!" Anakin replied. With so many people to defend, they couldn’t display all their Jedi abilities. They couldn’t leave their friends unprotected.

"This way!" Luke yelled, indicating a small corridor to their left.

"Artoo, plug in to every terminal along the way, and find out if they have meddled with the computers in any way. We don’t want to come across any surprises," Anakin told the small droid.

Artoo beeped assent.

The group ran down a narrow corridor, with Leia and Thazzel on the front, and Luke and Anakin covering their rear.



In space above Coruscant, the intensity of the battle had just increased another notch.

"Star Destroyer number two, point four six," Red Seven reported.

"Wonderful," Wedge muttered to himself, checking the time. Four minutes for the Fleet to arrive.

"I think you mean Star Destroyer number three, point two five," Vaughan corrected his comrade’s announcement.

"Erm, right," Red Seven cleared his throat loudly.

"Someone said anything about backup?" the Y-Wings’ Commander asked Wedge.

"I thought *you* were backup," Wedge replied.

"True. I forgot."

"At this rate, I don’t think we can maintain our formation for too long," Kashee stated the obvious.

"Any ideas?" Wedge said.

"What about the classic, old-fashioned confrontation, that consists of blowing up any enemy vessel that we come across?" Vaughan suggested.

"We must protect Coruscant at all costs," Wedge reminded them.

"Some ships will get past our perimeter sooner or later," Vaughan acknowledged for them all. "Our planetary defenses will take care of that eventuality."

"You’re correct. But the later the better," Wedge decided. "We’ll hold on for as long as we can."

Right then, a huge laser beam vaporized two Y-Wings.

A horrified silence befell them all.

"We’re in big trouble." Vaughan couldn’t believe what he had just seen.



Han, Lando and Chewie stopped in their tracks. Dozens of Security droids lay on the floor of the corridor, and many spots on the walls were burnt from deflected blaster bolts.

Han dropped to one knee and examined the disabled droids. He looked up at his friends.

"Well, here’s where everything started."

Lando nodded.

"Let’s trust they made it to the bunker safe and sound," he wished out loud.

"I don’t dare to contact them again, in case they’re fighing more droids and I distract them," Han stood up.

"Let’s get moving. Hopefully, we’ll meet them halfway or in the bunker," Lando suggested.

"Right." With a last look at the droids, Han hurried down the corridor, drawing out his blaster just in case, Lando and Chewie close behind.



The main group had painstakingly advanced several levels. It seemed as if all the droids in the galaxy had gathered in that building. Five blasters and two lightsabers seemed hardly enough.

"Artoo says he didn’t find traces of any meddling with the computers so far," 3PO translated his little friend’s beeping sounds.

"Let’s be thankful for small mercies," Anakin commented, deflecting blaster bolts like a madman. The broken piece of a droid hit him squarely on the forehead, and a tiny trickle of blood ran down his nose.

"I feel uncomfortable standing here, watching you all protect me," Mon Mothma cried out above the deafening blaster noise. "Any chance I can get a weapon?"

"Your Excellency, it is our duty and our honour to protect you," Madine replied respectfully. "You are already helping, just by staying back and allowing us to do our job."

"Well spoken, but impractical," the President shook her head. "Will you please hand me that blaster on the floor?" she asked her General.

"But, your Excellency..." Madine’s eyes opened like two saucers.

"Now." Her voice left no room for objections.

Promptly, Madine complied with his President’s order and gave her the weapon.

"Where to next?" Dodonna yelled.

"The lift would be faster," Ackbar replied.

"But if we take it and they’re waiting for us when the doors open, we’ll be sitting ducks," Luke reminded them.

"True," Anakin agreed with his son. "It will be better if we stay out of lifts."

"It will take us ages to reach the bunker, then!" Rieekan complained.

"Not really," Anakin let out a naughty smile. "If we reach the hangar, we can take the goods lift to the bunker. It goes there directly."

"It doesn’t. It never did!" Ackbar contradicted the older Jedi.

"It does now," there was a mischievous gleam in the gentle blue eyes. "I had it installed secretly when we decided to take new security measures to ensure our buildings’ safety. You won’t find it on any plans."

There was a momentary silence of sheer astonishment.

"Man, you’re a gem." Thazzel was the first to speak, his voice dripping with unashamed admiration.

"Thank you," Anakin chuckled. "Tell Han, Chewie and Lando that if they can’t make it directly to the bunker, try the hangar detour instead," he instructed his daughter.

Leia nodded, her eyes shining with total awe at the man who had sired her.

"Which way?" Madine asked.

"This one," Anakin indicated, finding himself in front of the team for the first time.

"No, Father!" Luke cried out. "More droids are coming that way!"

"This is the only way," Anakin replied.

Father and Son looked at each other, and it was as if they maintained the quickest conversation through their eyes.

"How do they do that?" Mon Mothma muttered to herself in wonderment.

The two men turned their heads to them in unison.

"Stay here. We’ll take care of them," Anakin told them.

For an instant, Mon Mothma was about to object, but her inner voice overrode the words before they reached her lips. She nodded and with a gesture, ordered her Generals to obey.

Anakin and Luke ventured a few metres into the corridor and assumed a back-to-back position, holding up their ignited lightsabers in one hand, the other arm hanging loosely at their sides.

The droids’ steps resounded closer and closer.

A big hand looked for a smaller one and squeezed it intensely. The smaller hand squeezed back with the same passionate intensity.

The shy, infinitely delicate gesture of love and mutual support didn’t go unnoticed by the expectant onlookers.

Drawing strength and focus from that small, but fiercely fervent touch, the two Jedi let go of each other’s hands softly, and closed them around their sabers’ handles, too.

The noises got louder and louder, and everybody winced. The number of droids approaching had to be bigger than any group that had attacked them until then.

‘Get back here!’ Leia sent mentally to her brother. ‘Must be at least 30 droids! You won’t be able to outmanoeuvre them!’

Luke smiled, as if he had picked up her thoughts, and winked at her. Then, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and straightened up, totally in synch with Anakin’s mirror movements.

The droids appeared before them one heartbeat later and, on seeing the two Jedi, immediately aimed their blasters at them.

Anakin and Luke began turning around, always back to back. When the droids opened fire, they began deflecting the laser bolts steadily, unfalteringly. There was something mechanical in their movements, non-human; for no human could move with such relentless precision.

The droids spread out, shooting them at will, dozens of blaster bolts a second, and yet, they still deflected them, turning around faster and faster.

"I’ll be..." someone’s voice reached Leia’s ears despite the tremendous noise. "Their eyes are closed!"

Leia noticed then her father and brother’s eyes. They were indeed closed. Sheer instinct was guiding them.

No. Not instinct. The Force. They had synchronized their movements and reactions to perfection through the Force. They had become one.

As if she hadn’t been sufficiently blown away, her amazement reached unprecedented heights when Anakin and Luke began levitating and turning around faster and faster.

It became increasingly difficult to make out their forms, as they got more and more blurry the faster they moved. Leia had to half-close her eyes to try and see them more clearly. Force, they even seemed to glow!

Shocked gasps behind her didn’t distract her for an instant from the sight unfolding before her entranced eyes.

Anakin and Luke became a devastating tornado that floated a metre above the floor, wiping out every droid that stood in their way.

Everything was over in a matter of seconds. Dozens of droids lay in a smoking pile before the now motionless Jedi, who turned off their lightsabers, looking down at their work, blinking in disbelief, as if they couldn’t understand what they had done.

Little by little, people pulled themselves together and slowly approached them, in total silence. Too stunned to utter a word.

Leia walked up to her brother and stared at the disabled droids. She felt Luke’s eyes on her, then he looked back at the droids, and then back at her. She returned his blank look.

"Yes, you can stop looking. You made mincemeat of them all," she answered his unvoiced question.

The young man let out a weak, dazed half-smile and turned his eyes to his father, who returned his incredulous stare, blinking in absolute perplexity.

Thazzel patted the two Jedi’s backs warmly, with a wide smile on his face.

"Well done. I’ll remember this next time I feel like teasing you."

The others were still too dumbfounded to say anything coherent, so they followed the two Jedi down the corridor, trying not to trip over their own feet.



Above Coruscant’s atmosphere, X and Y-Wings were being methodically blown up by the Star Destroyers’ improved laser beams.

"When the Fleet arrives, it’ll become these monsters’ main course," Kashee cried out.

"I know," Wedge agreed, resigning himself to the fact that they would lose at least one of their frigates the moment it came out of hyperspace. "But perhaps, together, we’ll be able to come up with a strategy to defeat them. Rack your brains, my friends."

"I’ve been turning over an idea in my head for a while now," Vaughan butted in. "Gimme a minute to flesh it out."

"What?! Can you think and fly at the same time?" Red Six teased.

"C’mon, guys. You know I can multi-task better than anyone," Vaughan boasted, blowing up a TIE fighter that had just got on Kashee’s tail.

"Worthwing, you’re the biggest show-o..." was all Red Six could say before exploding in a ball of fire.

"No!! Jesse!" Vaughan cried out with shock and horror for the loss of one of his closest friends. "You bastard!" he yelled, manoeuvering his X-Wing to chase the killer.

"The Fleet’s here!" Wedge announced. "Vaughan, get back here and maintain your position!"

"I will get that son of a bitch," Vaughan hissed, forcing his ship to its very limit, until it got right behind the enemy fighter.

"We can’t afford to lose you, Vaughan!" Kashee tried to reach his distraught friend.

"I know what I’m doing!" Vaughan shouted back.

What was left of the Red Squadron watched in horrified fascination how Vaughan hunted Jesse’s killer implacably throughout the most impossible manoeuvres, until the fighter ended up cornered between a huge enemy frigate and a savagely determined Vaughan. The TIE fighter attempted a last desperate pull up, but it wasn’t enough. Vaughan shot him with an animalistic scream of victory.

Just when everybody was heaving a collective sigh of relief, the huge laser beam of a Star Destroyer hit Vaughan’s X-Wing squarely.

"NO!" All Wings cried out at the same time.

A heartbeat later, the Star Destroyer exploded in flames, blown up by its own shot.

No one could believe what they were seeing. Vaughan’s X-Wing was intact. Intact!

"W-what happened?" Wedge stammered.

Still a bit dazed, it took a few seconds for Vaughan to reply.

"I think that laser beam hit the glass of my cockpit, and it bounced back."

"Basic Optics," Red Seven said, automatically remembering his school lessons. "The laser must have hit the polished surface of the glass at such an angle that it was reflected back."

"Which answers the final question to the plan I’ve been plotting," Vaughan’s voice was strangely calm all of a sudden. "We can line up the ring of satellites orbiting Coruscant, and use their crystal panels as a huge deflector shield."


"Hey, guys, you still there?" Vaughan asked when no one answered.

"Mr. Worthwing, you are a great asset to the Republic," replied the voice of the Commander of the Fleet. "Give me a few minutes to get the satellites in position."

"Wait a second," Wedge chimed in, struck by a sudden idea. "If Vaughan’s idea works, and I think it will, we’ll only have one shot at this. The moment those Destroyers see what we’re up to, they’ll take evasive action and it’ll be almost impossible to hit them again."

"What do you have in mind?" Vaughan asked.

"Let’s create a diversion. Let’s fight them with everything we’ve got, until the satellites are lined up."

"You’re saying that we should use ourselves as bait?" Vaughan quickly caught up with his leader. He grinned dangerously. "I like that."

"And if we can get them to shoot us at the same time..." Kashee was smiling now from ear to ear.

"They’ll blow themselves up," Wedge finished for them all.



Team One was only two levels away from the hangar. They had lost count of how many hundreds of droids they had disabled so far, but even more extraordinary was the fact that none of them had more than a few cuts and scrapes.

"Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it," Leia seemed to read everybody’s minds.

Luke and Anakin continued putting droids out of commission tirelessly. If it wasn’t a life and death situation, they would be the most awesome sight to behold. They had stopped communicating verbally for some time now. Most of the time, not even a look was necessary. They just acted. Simultaneously. As if they thought the same things at the same time.

Mon Mothma had consented to let them be. It was obvious they were infinitely more efficient when they were on their own, and didn’t have to worry about them. Her Generals were covering the rear, and taking care of the few droids that escaped the two Jedi’s lethal blows.

Little by little, they were making it to the hangar. But when they were only two corridors away from it, father and son came to a dead stop in unison.

Something was off. Everyone could feel it.

For the first time in a while, Luke opened his mouth and whispered something to Anakin. The older man nodded as he pressed his back against the wall and took a peek at the intersection. He nodded again.

Quietly, Luke walked back to his friends.

"There are droids guarding the hangar doors," he said.

"Do you think they’re expecting us?" Thazzel asked.

"I doubt it," the young Jedi replied. "I think they’ve been posted there to keep anyone from escaping the building."

"How many of them?" Mon Mothma asked.

Luke didn’t know, since he hadn’t looked, but his eyes became absent for a second.

"About forty," he promptly said.

Everybody knew who had told him that, and how.

"What’s your plan?" the President asked.

Luke smiled and looked down shyly. It made him feel terribly self-conscious that the President of the Republic was relying on his decisions.

Anakin’s hand settled on his child’s shoulder, and squeezed it fondly. They seemed to be connected at a molecular level.

"Just the same as we’ve been doing so far," he replied. "You stay here and cover our backs, as we take care of the droids."

"You got it," Madine nodded emphatically, getting his blaster ready.

"Father, the doors are 30 metres away. They’ll see us coming," Luke reminded Anakin.

"I know," the Jedi master replied. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. "Well! It has been a long time since I tried my most acrobatic fighting style, but I guess this is as good a time as any." He sighed and made a funny face. He looked at his child and held out his hand courteously. "Shall we, my son?" he invited.

Luke bowed his head, pursuing the light mood.

"Let’s go, my father," he replied teasingly.

The two Jedi crossed the intersection and placed themselves in full view. They only had two seconds before the droids spotted them. They looked at each other, and everybody could feel that strange communion of souls taking place again between father and son. Something clicked loudly between them as they drew out their lightsabers, ignited them, and took a Force-enhanced leap together. They landed right in front of the droids, that hardly had time to raise their weapons before a dozen of them fell to the floor, sliced in several pieces.

Their friends were seeing it with their own eyes, and it still seemed impossible to believe. It was as if the two Jedi had half a dozen arms each. They blocked the droids’ shots, deflected them, and cut up the droids into pieces at the same time. They twisted, turned and jumped at breakneck speed, but always maintaining their position, back to back. They never intruded on the space the other was covering.

Still, it was as if they could see somehow what the other was doing, and they could feel when the other would need them. Anakin suddenly invaded Luke’s field when a fallen droid shot point-blank at his child from the floor. He kicked the blaster off the droid’s hands, and deflected the blaster bolt to the droid’s head, disabling it for good.

They swung their lightsabers round, destroying droids with a brutally devastating precision, but also with a grace and elegance that felt strangely odd. Even out of place.

"It’s as if they were executing a dance," Mon Mothma whispered to Leia, her voice dripping with awe and admiration.

Leia just nodded, absolutely speechless. They were simply mesmerizing. If this was the level of unity two people could achieve when they opened up completely to one another, holding nothing back, then she had just found out what she wanted to become one day.

There was peace in them. Even now. Even facing a mortal danger that could kill either of them any second, they were totally at peace, full of love for each other.

That was where so much strength came from. There was nothing more powerful in the entire universe. No force could stand against her father and her brother’s love for each other. The thought hit her so abruptly, that she almost fell flat on her back. Nothing would ever be strong enough to separate them, and if one day... her mind recoiled in horror at the mere thought of it, neither of them would survive the other for too long. Especially if Luke went first.

Leia shook her head, casting away the morbid thought that she refused to contemplate, even as a possibility.

Watching this, you could almost believe that death was no contest.

Blinking, the astonished Princess realized that everything was over. Every single droid had been rendered thoroughly inoperative, and a huge pile of smoking, broken pieces, made it almost impossible to walk among them.

Nobody said a word as they approached the two silent Jedi. There was nothing to say, really, except rejoice in that wondrous connection, and feel blessed by the honour of witnessing it. All of them felt lighter inside somehow, excited like little children. Purer and special. As if they had just seen the resurrection of a myth, the return of something that should never cease to exist.

When the group was reunited again, loud, hurried steps made everybody turn their heads.

Han, Lando and Chewie turned the corner and froze in their tracks on seeing them.

"We wanted to arrive in time to give you a hand," the Corellian raised an ironical eyebrow, walking up to his friends at a calmer pace now, "but I see it wasn’t necessary. We only had to follow the trail of massacred droids to find you."

Leia hugged her beloved for all she was worth. These last few minutes had changed something inside her. They had opened a door in her heart that had always been locked, and she wasn’t even aware of it. After witnessing such beauty, it was as if the ugliest part of her had been thrown away.

Han returned the hug and looked down at his fiancée, feeling the change in her. He softly caressed her hair and pressed her head to his chest, wondering what had brought this about.

The emotionally exhausted group took a little while to pull themselves together. Some of them hugged, others just smiled at each other meaningfully, and all of them shook each other’s hands warmly, grateful beyond belief to see their friends alive.

For a moment, Luke’s eyes turned to the hangar doors, and he shuddered from head to foot, not knowing why.

Anakin felt it and grasped his child’s forearm questioningly. Luke met his father’s eyes and shrugged, obviously not understanding his own weird reaction.

Anakin smiled and squeezed his son’s arm reassuringly. Adrenalin was beginning to wear off from their systems. He knew the feeling.

"What are we waiting for?" Rieekan asked all of a sudden. "Until we hear from the Bomb Squads, this building could still blow up at any moment."

"You are absolutely correct," Anakin sobered immediately, and berated himself for the momentary distraction from his duties. They were still in danger. "Let us go."

The group gathered round their President and Artoo opened the hangar doors at Anakin’s signal, verifying first that the central computer was still untouched.

The massive doors began to open slowly.

"The goods lift is in the far right-hand corner. You must enter the password 1-1-3-8 to activate it," Anakin informed them all before the doors opened completely.

The group burst into the hangar. Dozens of ships, speeders, and the Presidential Shuttle appeared before their eyes...

...and at least two hundred battle droids, their weapons ready and aimed at them.

"Oh, my goodness," was all 3PO managed to whimper before the nightmare came alive.



"NOOO!" everybody cried out when the Raven, the Fleet’s best frigate, was reduced to dust by one of the Destroyers’ massive laser beams.

"300 sentient beings," Green Leader mourned, swallowing the lump in his throat.

"Commander, how’re those calculations going?" Wedge’s voice was edgy and angry beyond belief.

"Just a few seconds more. The computer’s about to short-circuit, sorting out so many variables," the Commander replied, just as upset as the Red Leader.

"We can’t afford to lose anyone else," Vaughan’s voice sounded uncharacteristically clipped and vulnerable.

"Coming up... coming up..." the Commander’s voice rose excitedly. "Here it is!" he exclaimed at last. "Stand by to receive all data."

"Roger," Wing after Wing acknowledged the transmission.

"50 seconds to get in position. Lock your computers," the Commander ordered.

All remaining X and Y-Wings forced their ships to the maximum, presenting themselves as easy targets before the six Star Destroyers. They could only hope for them to take the bait.

"30-29-28..." the Commander counted down the seconds it would take them to find out if their crazy plan would succeed or not.

All of a sudden, the Mon Calamari watched in abject horror as two Y-Wings were blown up by TIE fighters. The same Wings that happened to be the baits for Star Destroyer number four.

"Change course to 2-7-2. Fast!" he ordered his navigator.

"But Admiral...!" a controller began, immediately realizing his Commander’s intentions.

"Now!" his superior officer ordered. "Let’s pray we get in position in time," he muttered to himself.



Luke and Anakin doubled over involuntarily when they felt the deaths of all those aboard the Raven through the Force. That saved their lives, for the droids shot at them first.

Once on the floor, the two Jedi rolled apart from each other, shaking off the shock of their comrades’ deaths.

"We’ll distract them!" Anakin shouted at his friends. "Take the President to the bunker! We’ll join you there!"

Generals Madine, Rieekan, Dodonna and Captain Thazzel almost lifted Mon Mothma off her feet, carrying her to the farthest right-hand corner of the hangar. When they were only twenty metres away from the goods lift, a dark shape emerged from the shadows, pointing at them with a small blaster.

"What do we have here?" Ylek smiled teasingly. "How untimely of you, my friends. Just when we were about to leave."

"You bastard!!" Thazzel cried out.

Ylek pulled the trigger and Thazzel collapsed with a moan, a big hole in his chest. His friends ground their teeth, horrified, barely holding back the impulse to help their badly wounded friend, and strangle Ylek next.

"I hate it when insults get personal." Ylek’s voice was even and controlled. "But then, I guess all insults are personal. That is precisely the point, isn’t it?"

Mon Mothma, Dodonna, Rieekan and Madine set their jaws and met the Twi’lek’s cold expression bravely.

"And be grateful that the blaster wasn’t set to ‘fry,’ as I call it. I made a few changes in it, you know? The highest setting could burn a hole in your chests big enough for a Wookie’s paw to fit in." He adjusted the weapon’s setting with his thumb. "See? Now it’s set to ‘fry.’" He raised the blaster and pointed it at Dodonna. "Who will be next? You, old man?"

Dodonna squared his shoulders and prepared himself for the inevitable.

That never came. Instead, something fell on Ylek from above, throwing him to the floor and making him lose his weapon.

A very determined Corellian grabbed the Twi’lek and punched him squarely on the face.

"Take her to the bunker!" Han yelled to the already running Generals.

"I don’t think so," Keyholm appeared from behind a shuttle, placing a blaster’s muzzle on Han’s temple. "Hello again, Mr. Solo," he greeted. "Long time no see."

"Stuff it!" the Corellian replied, with his usual bravado.

Keyholm hit him over the head with the butt of his blaster. Han fell to his knees, bleeding from a deep cut on his scalp.

"Tsk, tsk. That was so rude, man!" Keyholm shook his head.

Ylek got to his feet, wiping away the blood dripping down his nostrils, his recovered blaster in hand.

"Let’s stop beating about the bush," his eyes flashed with anger and hatred, pointing the weapon at Mon Mothma’s head. He made a false apologetic face. "A shame, your Excellency, but..."

From his kneeling position, Han swept Keyholm’s legs, making him lose his balance and fall on Ylek. The deflected shot made a big hole on the wall and sparks and smoke came out of it.

Just then, the buzzing sound of a lightsaber announced Luke’s arrival. He cut Keyholm’s blaster in two and kicked him in the chest, slamming him against the wall. The man’s head hit it heavily, and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

Taking advantage of the commotion, Ylek escaped, sliding under the shuttle.

"You okay?" Luke asked Han, placing his hand on the cut on his friend’s bleeding scalp.

"Yeah, yeah, I’m fine," Han nodded gruffly. "But he’s not," he pointed at Thazzel, still on the floor. "Help him."

The young Jedi hurried to the Captain’s side, squatted down and turned him softly on his back. He winced at the sight of the hole in his chest. Bringing a sudden, inexplicable tremor under control, he placed his hands on the gaping wound and closed his eyes.

Lando ran up to them.

"Luke, you must help your father! The droids have cornered him!"

Luke’s eyes opened at once. Still, his hands didn’t move away from Thazzel’s chest.

"The prisoners have escaped," Han informed his old buddy, pointing at Keyholm, knocked out on the floor. "We got rid of this, but Ylek and all the others are in here somewhere, trying to get away."

"This looks like a big surprise party, only with a lot of unwelcome guests," Lando commented.

"All of them," Han made a face of disgust.

Luke stood up, his ignited lightsaber in hand.

"He’s all right now," he said, looking down at Thazzel. "Take the President to the bunker," he told the Generals and Ackbar, who had just joined them. "You two and Chewie look for the prisoners."

"Roger-Roger!" Han stood at attention before his friend with a crooked smile. "But first, we must handcuff this creep, in case he wakes up." He knelt down next to Keyholm, and bound his right wrist to the railings with a pair of handcuffs that Chewie handed him.

Rieekan and Madine helped a semi-conscious Thazzel to his feet, and held him up by his armpits, as Dodonna entered the password.

Mon Mothma handed her blaster to Lando.

"I expect you all in the bunker soon. You’d better follow my orders," her look hardened fiercely.

Everybody nodded solemnly, as the President and her escorts entered the lift and the doors closed after them.


In the meantime, Anakin had been trying to attract the attention of as many battle droids as possible. That way, the President and her escorts would have more possibilities of getting to the lift safe and sound.

He had succeeded, but soon enough, it became obvious that he had attracted more attention than was safe. Jedi or no Jedi, the most gifted in history or not, he couldn’t handle 50 droids all by himself.

When he was beginning to seriously fear for his life, he heard a loud clang a few metres in front of him. Artoo had knocked over a barrel of fuel. The liquid spread all over the floor. A few seconds later, all droids were standing on a pool of highly flammable fluid.

Immediately understanding the little droid’s intentions, Anakin frantically looked for a spot free of fuel, while deflecting more and more blaster bolts with increasing difficulty. It was only a matter of seconds before a laser shot penetrated his defences.

One of Artoo’s little arms reached out, coming into contact with the liquid on the floor. A spark instantly set the fuel on fire. Two seconds later, a wall of fire, two and a half metres high, began to consume the droids.

Artoo rolled to one side, waiting for Anakin to jump over the fire and land safely on the other side.

Nothing happened.

Artoo beeped worriedly.

"What did you do, you stupid lump?" 3PO scolded his small friend.


Luke had just left Han, Lando and Chewie, and was running like a madman towards his father. All of a sudden, he froze on the spot. Anakin’s paralysing fear hit him like a shockwave.

‘Fire! Fire!! FIRE!!! NO!!!! Burning, burning, BURNING!!! NONONONONO!!!!’ Anakin’s distraught mind repeated time and again, trapped in a spiral of horrifying memories, impossible to shake off.

‘FATHER!!’ Luke called out mentally. ‘I am here! I’m on the other side of the fire! You must jump!! Don’t be afraid!!! I am here, with you! You’re not alone! You will never be alone! But you must jump. NOW!!’

‘Luke! Luke, help me!!’ Anakin implored, in a paroxysm of terror. ‘I cannot move!!! I’m frozen and it’s getting closer! Please, help me, my son!! I will burn! I will burn to death again!! NO!!! NONONONO!!!!’

Luke didn’t hesitate.

‘I’m coming, Father! I’m coming!!’ he shouted, sending an overwhelming wave of love and reassurance, and jumping over the wall of fire. He landed on the other side, right in front of his petrified father.

Anakin was in a catatonic state. His eyes were open wide and fixed on the flames, lost in a dark corner of his mind, reliving the most excruciatingly traumatic experience of his life. His whole body seemed to have turned into stone. His articulations were rigid, and Luke felt they would snap if he tried to make him move by force.

Their time was running short. He turned off his lightsaber and attached it to his belt. Then, he did the same with his father’s, after snatching it out of his stiff hand. Reaching up, he took Anakin’s head in his hands and forced him to meet his eyes.

‘Look at me!’ he commanded, in a tone of voice he had never used with his father before. ‘Look into my eyes NOW!’

Somehow, his mind-voice reached Anakin, wherever his frenzied mind had retreated into. His bulging eyes immediately turned to his child’s blue orbs.

‘Don’t stop looking at me, you hear?’ Luke instructed sternly. ‘It’s just you and me. Nothing but you and me in the entire universe. Nothing will harm you. Nothing! I will not allow it.’

Almost hyperventilating, Anakin gave a sharp nod.

‘Do you trust me?’ Luke asked.

‘With everything I am and I will always be,’ was the automatic, heartfelt reply, from the depths of Anakin’s soul.

Luke crushed the immediate emotional response that his father’s words stirred in him. There was no time.

‘Then hold my hand and close your eyes. You will do as I say. You will NOT open them again until I tell you to. You understand?’ He brought one hand down and clasped Anakin’s.

‘Yes,’ was the shaky, weak reply.

Luke couldn’t help moving the wavy fringe away from the wet forehead lovingly.

‘All right. Close your eyes. Now,’ his mental voice was soothing and comforting, like a tender caress.

Anakin obeyed.

‘Good,’ Luke approved, his chest constricting with more love than he thought he was capable of feeling. ‘Hold my hand tight, and when I tell you, jump with me. Jump high. As high as you can.’

Anakin nodded again, like a little, frightened, but infinitely trusting child.

Unable to help himself, Luke kissed his father’s forehead. Then, he moved away and stood next to Anakin, interlacing his fingers with him.

‘When we jump together, remember to draw out and ignite your lightsaber, for we don’t know how many droids will be waiting for us on the other side,’ he reminded his father.

Anakin nodded for the third time, with more conviction.

‘Okay, here we go. At the count of three.’ The young man squinted at the brightness of the fire. It was less than two metres away from them. He quickly shielded his father from the instintive fear that gripped his heart. ‘Ready?’

‘Yes,’ Anakin replied.

‘All right. One...’ Luke squeezed the big hand, in fierce support. ‘You can do it. You WILL do it!’ he sent all the trust and love he felt for his father in a searing, overpowering wave. ‘Two...’ his muscles tensed, and felt Anakin’s tensing beside him as well in preparation. "THREE!" he cried out, both mentally and out loud.

A heartbeat later, they landed on the other side of the wall of fire.

Blindly obeying his son’s command, Anakin’s lightsaber flew to his hand and ignited halfway.

Thirty droids awaited them, and instantly adopting their back to back position, they began deflecting the fire and decimating them, slowly but relentlessly.


Meanwhile, from her vantage point behind the Presidential Shuttle, Leia had seen the escaped prisoners trying to make it inconspicuously to one of the ships in the hangar. A small, irrelevant cargo ship, perfect to go unnoticed anywhere. She counted six of them, as they practically tiptoed into the ship, despite the madness around them.

A few seconds later, two more shapes walked up the open ramp.

The Princess approached the fugitives’ ship cautiously, a playful, hard smile on her face. It would be a pleasure to catch this bunch of rats like fishes in a net.

"Han, come in," she whispered into the comlink.


"Do you see that scum?" Han asked his two friends.

"Nope," Lando replied.

Chewie shook his head.

"Dammit!" the Corellian cursed. He felt guilty for not helping Luke and his father, but they couldn’t let that disgusting group of traitors get away.

Leia had just told him that eight of them had boarded a small cargo vessel, and they seemed to be waiting for the other three. He doubted they were waiting out of loyalty, but more probably out of fear, especially of Ylek. That Twi’lek bastard had turned out to be a real psychopath. The mere thought that he had been able to deceive them all for so many months, and the fact that he had formed part of the government of the Republic, made his skin crawl.

This was something personal for all of them. They wouldn’t escape.

"Number nine, Jayson, just entered," Leia’s voice announced through the comlink.

"That only leaves Ylek. Keyholm’s out cold and handcuffed to the railings," Han informed his fiancée.

"That creep is too cunning to just get away without trying something first. You’d better find him, just in case," Leia recommended to her friends.

"Right," Han agreed wholeheartedly.

Lando and Chewie nodded at the Corellian, in total agreement.

"Let’s see. If I was a psycho and I wanted to leave mayhem here behind me when I escaped, what would I do?" Lando muttered to himself.

"Han, come in. Something’s wrong," Leia’s voice filtered through the comlink all of a sudden.

"What do you mean?" Han asked.

"I think the Gang of Nine is getting ready to take off. They ignited the retrothrusters."

"And what did you do about it?" Han knew his beloved only too well.

"Oh, not me. Artoo." Leia explained. "He locked them inside, and reprogrammed the ship to take off after introducing a password. The retrothrusters just switched themselves off."

Han’s infectious chuckle made Leia smile. Those nine bastards were trapped inside their escaping vehicle. Beautiful.

But then, it occurred to Han that there was something even better than that.

"Tell Artoo..." he began.

" secure all the ships in the hangar," Leia finished for him. "He’s already working on it."

"Great minds think alike," Han’s delighted grin was obvious through the comlink.

Lando tapped the Corellian on the shoulder.

"I got him," he said.

"Where?!" Han asked.

Lando shrugged somewhat apologetically.

"Well, I didn’t spot him, exactly," he explained. "I figured that hating us as deeply as Ylek does, he’d try to lock us in the hangar, and blow it up behind him somehow when he escaped."

"Sounds nasty enough to be exactly what Ylek would do," Han agreed with his friend. "Let’s look for a terminal."

The trio went from one terminal to the next, with no luck.

"This is the last one," Han said, after checking the last terminal. "Either you’re wrong, or..."

"No, wait! There is another," Lando suddenly remembered. "He could access the main computer from the goods lift’s panel, couldn’t he?"

"You’re right!" Han exclaimed. "Let’s go!"


"All set, Artoo?" Leia asked the little droid.

Artoo beeped affirmatively, unplugging his little arm from the computer terminal.

"All right. Let’s go find Han and the others," the Princess instructed.

On their way, she blasted into oblivion a few droids that Luke and Anakin had missed. For a second, she was entranced again by the sight of her brother and her father, fighting more droids than seemed possible. She guessed they were using the Force to attract their attention, because none of the droids had seemed interested in anything but the two Jedi since the moment they arrived. Their stamina and power of concentration would never cease to amaze her.

Snapping herself out of her admiring contemplation, Leia continued looking for her fiancé and her friends.


"I’ll be..." Han bared his teeth in seething anger, when he took a look from behind a speeder, and saw Ylek and a free and conscious Keyholm bent over the lift’s terminal, obviously manipulating something. He exchanged a fast look with Lando and Chewie, who had seen them too. They nodded to him in immediate understanding.

They walked up behind the two traitors, spreading out a little.

"Ahem," Han cleared his throat out loud.

Ylek and Keyholm stiffened, and Ylek turned about slowly, facing them with a nasty expression on his features.

"Hello again, guys," he greeted them.

"I suggest you stop what you’re doing, whatever it is," Han smiled, shaking his head. "We’ve secured all ships and locked the hangar doors. If you intend to blow up the hangar after escaping in one of these ships, you can forget about it. We’ll all die here, and you don’t seem the suicidal type to me."

"You’d be surprised," Ylek shot back, the corner of his mouth twisting in an ugly, ironic sneer.

"Don’t tell me. You have a plan B," Leia butted in, joining her friends and pointing at Ylek and Keyholm with her blaster. She smiled dangerously. "Keyholm, get away from that panel. Now," she threatened.

"As a matter of fact, we do," Keyholm replied, obeying the Princess’ order and nodding at Ylek.

"See that cargo ship over there?" Ylek asked, pointing at the biggest ship in the hangar.

"That ship is secured too, Ylek." Lando didn’t take the bait.

"Not anymore," Ylek smiled, pointing discreetly one of the tiny devices he had in his hand at the ship.

A second later, the main hatch opened, and a big ramp descenced to the floor.

"I fail to see how you intend to escape, since we’re holding you at blaster point," Han pointed out.

"That’s an easy one," Keyholm replied. "You’re going to be very busy, dealing with them." His chin moved in the ship’s direction.

Mechanical sounds made Han, Lando, Leia and Chewie turn their heads to the ship.

Dozens of droidekas rolled down the ramp, in perfect formation.

"You bastards!"

In an explosion of anger, Leia used the Force to slam the already fleeing Ylek and Keyholm against the wall. She took off running toward Luke and Anakin, who were directly in front of the droidekas, taking care of the few remaining battle droids. They were sitting ducks.

"Luke!! Father!! Look out!!!" she cried out.


The two Jedi had already felt the danger. Thinking - and moving - as one, they threw themselves to the floor, letting the droidekas dispose of the remaining battle droids when they opened fire.

Leia shot at the droidekas, but it was already too late. They had activated their shield generators, and the blaster bolts died on them.


Although momentarily stunned by their violent slamming against the wall, Ylek and Keyholm still hurried to get away and enter the ship the droidekas had vacated.

Lando, Han and Chewie had had enough. They ran after them and fell on them, delivering all the range of blows, kicks and punches they had. They could have used their blasters, but it was too much anger and too much irreparable damage for the fight to be over so soon. There were too many ugly feelings to release. A few cuts and bruises were no comparison with the hundreds of people who were dying because of those two.

Ylek and Keyholm fought back with everything they had, but it was not enough, especially when they were fighting two very determined and enraged men and a Wookie.

Han revelled in every blow. He punched Ylek’s stomach and face as if his very life depended on it. And it was never enough. Even the few blows that crossed his defences and reached him, only fueled his anger.

Beside him, Lando and Chewie employed the same ‘treatment’ with Keyholm. The man was an expert in street fighting, and he put up one hell of a fight. Finally, losing his patience, Lando kicked the man’s privates and that was it. Two seconds later, Keyholm was handcuffed again, howling on his knees, against the hull of a small ship.

A little while later, Han punched Ylek’s jaw so hard that he heard the bone crack. Ylek collapsed senseless, like a broken puppet.

"It was about time, dammit!" the Corellian exclaimed, wiping away the blood on his lower lip.

Lando handed him his last pair of handcuffs and Ylek joined his partner in crime.

It was then, when the three friends turned their heads and saw what was happening on the other side of the hangar, that every hair on their bodies stood on end.

Luke and Anakin were surrounded by fifty droidekas that were firing at them at will, with absolutely no chance of winning the battle. Every deflected bolt was useless against their shield generators. They were merely holding back the attack and protecting themselves and each other, but that situation couldn’t last for long.

Han barked at 3PO and Artoo to guard the prisoners, and ran as close to his friends as he could, followed by Lando and Chewie.

Leia was shooting at the droidekas like mad, but it was futile.

"Luke! Anakin! It’s over!" Han cried out over the deafening noise. "We got Ylek and Keyholm, and the others are locked up in a ship! Get out of there and let’s go to the bunker!"

Immediately, a few droidekas turned to him.

"Uh-oh!" Han muttered to himself, running for cover. A round of blaster bolts hit the floor where he had been standing a millisecond before.

Right then, everybody realized that was the key. To distract the droids’ attention away from Luke and Anakin, so they could escape. Lando, Chewie and Leia began crying out to the droids and waving at them.

It worked. Some droidekas abandoned their formation and began shooting at them.

"To the lift!" Lando yelled. "Go, go, go!!!!"


Keyholm tried to take advantage of the situation and attempted a desperate escape, but Artoo quickly extended one of his little arms. The electric discharge was strong enough to render the man unconscious.


The droidekas moved fast and soon enough, Lando, Han and Chewie, Leia and the two Jedi were fighting four groups of droids that chased them implacably. And so, the most dangerous game of cat and mouse began.

Leia was the first to see the lift, directly in front of her. All of a sudden, a droideka blocked her path, and she had to hide behind a speeder.

Lando arrived next. After catching his breath, he took a quick look.

"Blast it!" he cursed.

"What is it?" the Princess asked.

"I just counted six droidekas blocking the lift’s doors."

"Damn!" Leia hit the speeder with her fist.

Lando saw Han and Chewie running up to them, and he gestured for them to look for cover somewhere else. It would be safer for all of them if they spread out.

The Corellian and the Wookie nodded in agreement, and sought refuge behind a small ship on the left.

"They’re blocking the lift!" Lando shouted.

"I can see that!" Han replied. "Any suggestions?"

"None whatsoever. This doesn’t look good," Lando replied, a dejected edge to his voice.

Han and Leia’s eyes met over the distance separating them, and shared a look of love and infinite regret.


‘Father, what are we going to do? We won’t be able to hold them forever,’ Luke’s mind touched his father’s.

‘I know,’ Anakin’s replied. He made a short pause. ‘There is something I saw Barriss Offee and Luminara Unduli try once. They generated a Force field around them and...’ he began hesitantly.

‘Let’s try it!’ Luke simply said.

‘But, Son, we never tried it before! I have no idea how to do it. How could we possibly figure out...?’

‘And we’ll never have the chance to figure out how to do it if they kill us. We have no choice, Father.’ Luke’s mind-voice reminded them both.

‘You’re right.’ Anakin sighed in resignation. ‘All right. We will only have one shot at this. Let’s have the others bring the droidekas to one place, where we’ll be waiting for them,’ he instructed.

‘Got you,’ Luke nodded. ‘The centre of the hangar seems the best place. It’s mostly cleared.’

‘I agree,’ Anakin concurred. ‘Warn your sister.’

Luke concentrated and reached out mentally to his sister. She was quite proficient at telepathy already, but he didn’t want to distract her and put her in danger.

‘Leia,’ he called.

Several metres away, Leia stiffened at the sound of her brother’s voice in her mind. She still had to get used to it.

‘Yes?’ she sent back, bringing down her blaster and hiding behind the speeder. She couldn’t divide her attention between the droidekas and mind-talk at the same time, yet.

‘Father’s got an idea. Try to bring the droids to the centre of the hangar. We’ll be waiting for them there.’

‘And then what?’ she asked, less-than-convinced of that so-called idea.

‘Cross your fingers,’ was all Luke said before shutting their mind-link for the present.

The Princess shook her head. Well, at least one plan was better than none at all. There was nothing else to be done.

She explained Luke and Anakin’s plan to her friends. The four of them nodded at each other, and Leia cried out mentally to her brother that they were ready.

‘Whenever you want, Father,’ Luke said.

‘All right,’ Anakin took a deep breath, preparing himself. ‘Now!’ he yelled.

The two Jedi jumped over the droidekas and ran as fast as their legs allowed them. Now, it was their friends’ job to bring the droids to the centre of the hangar, where they were heading.

Father and Son met a few seconds later. They paused for a moment to catch their breath. Mentally, Anakin explained to his child what they were supposed to do, but he had no idea how. They could only improvise and do what felt right. And above all, trust the Force, their instinct, and their bond.

They attached their lightsabers to their belts and assumed their back-to-back position. It had become second-nature to them to fight like this. Even more so than single fighting. Their different styles had found a way to merge and become more one than they ever thought could be possible.

But now they wouldn’t be using their lightsabers. They were relying solely on their capacity to feel the Force and project it in a deadly wave.

Were they really that powerful? Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee had been, but this was going to be their first time, and they had no idea what they were doing. Their extreme Force gift was irrelevant in this instance.

They concentrated as hard as they could, getting in touch with the Force as they had never allowed themselves before. They reached out with their feelings, opening their hearts as much as their minds.

Their hands moved of their own volition and sought each other. Their palms touched behind them, and they immediately interlaced their fingers. A strange tingling sensation began spreading all over them, as if they were energizing one another. Their eyes rolled and they threw back their heads. Their bodies started vibrating uncontrollably.


Meanwhile, Han, Leia, Lando and Chewie were taking their time to bring the droidekas where Luke and Anakin waited for them. They wanted to give the two Jedi as much time as possible to prepare themselves, whatever it was they were up to.

Finally, they headed for the centre of the hangar, zigzagging along ships and shuttles.


Luke and Anakin stood in the exact centre of the vast room. Their bodies shook brutally, frighteningly stiff. Their hands were clasped so tight that they were white. Their eyes were squeezed shut and the veins and tendons in their necks seemed about to snap. They were raw power on the verge of exploding.

Leia froze the moment she saw them. Her eyes bulged and her jaw dropped open. What the hell...? But then, she remembered that she had a dozen droidekas on her tail. She reached out through the Force and felt Han, Lando and Chewie approaching the centre of the hangar from different directions, shooting back at the droids.

They had to synchronize their arrivals to the second.

A heartbeat later, something told her this was the right moment.

"DOWN!!" she cried out at the top of her voice.

Immediately obeying her, Han, Lando and Chewie threw themselves to the floor along with the Princess, and rolled to one side.

Not expecting that, the droidekas overtook them. Momentarily disoriented, they stopped, a few metres away from the two still, and apparently defenceless Jedi. Their programming was clear: to destroy. So, they aimed their weapons at them.

And that was it. Anakin and Luke let go of each other’s hands and they thrust them forward violently, palms out, releasing a Force-wave that devastated everything in its path. All droids were thrown backwards and their forms were instantly flattened out, as if an invisible, overpowering mass had squashed them. Even the ships and shuttles closest to the two Jedi suffered the effects of the destructive Force-wave. Everything within a radius of fifteen metres was thoroughly crushed.

It was over in a matter of seconds. The sudden silence in the hangar was almost unbearably loud.

Hardly daring to move a muscle, Leia, Han, Lando and Chewie opened their eyes and took a look around them. Unable to believe what they saw, they jumped to their feet.

Luke and Anakin’s eyes opened too, and they almost popped out of their sockets at the incredible sight.

Walking among the squashed remains of the droidekas, the four friends approached the two stunned Jedi, who seemed unable to move, shocked at what they had done.



"10-9-8..." the countdown progressed relentlessly, as everybody forced their ships to their limit to reach their assigned positions.

"Will we make it?" the Mon Calamary Commander asked the controller nearest to him.

"It’s problematic, sir," was the less-than-precise reply that said it all.


"May the Force be with us," the Commander prayed, closing his eyes.

"One... Zero!!!"

The next few seconds witnessed a display of terrifyingly lethal fireworks. All six Star Destroyers shot at what they believed to be easy targets, only to see them move away at the last possible second.

That was the last thing they saw, before their laser beams bounced back on the almost invisible satellites’ crystal panels, and five and a half Destroyers blew up in a series of massive, bone-chilling explosions.

One of the deflected laser beams wasn’t a direct hit, and it blew up a big part of Star Destroyer number one. The lower part of it was immediately attracted by Coruscant’s gravity.

The incipient screams of victory were short-lived, as everybody noticed the imminent danger.

"We can’t allow this monster to crash into the planet!!" Vaughan cried out to his fellow Wings. "C’mon, guys! Let’s fry this thing into oblivion!"

A myriad of X and Y-Wings followed the young man in his dizzying descent, trying to prevent the lower half of the Destroyer from plummeting into the surface of the planet.

"Watch your crossfire! We don’t want to kill each other while trying to blast that thing down there!" Wedge warned.

Seconds later, all Wings reached the falling Destroyer and shot at it with all their fire power, almost disintegrating it. What was left of it burned in the atmosphere like a shooting star.

"WE DID IT!!!" a chorus of exultant voices filled the communications channel.

The Commander of the Fleet immediately contacted Mon Mothma.

"Mrs. President, this is the Freedom. The threat to the Republic has been successfully neutralized," he announced formally. "We won," he added unnecessarily, the raw, naked emotion in his voice impossible to disguise.

"Well done, Commander," Mon Mothma’s voice replied, barely able to hold back the intensity of her feelings. "Well done. Thank you for the most brilliant performance I have ever seen. Your courage and our brothers’ sacrifice will never be forgotten."

All those listening closed their eyes, and observed the most respectful silence in memory of all those who had died today, protecting everybody’s liberty and right to live in peace and true Democracy.



In the hangar, Luke and Anakin couldn’t seem to stop blushing, as they received the most outrageous congratulations for the "mind-blowing Force trick they had pulled."

Han and Lando especially, seemed to be enjoying thoroughly their merciless teasing of the two red-faced Jedi, who didn’t know where to look.

Leia noticed then that her comlink was beeping, so she moved aside, to get the message without any loud background noise.

"It was a miracle you didn’t flatten us out, too, given what happened here," Lando commented, looking at the devastated area surrounding them.

"I cannot explain it, either." Anakin seemed just as much at a loss to understand what Luke and he had done.

"In any case, I’m very happy to keep the same volume," the Corellian cracked, feeling his torso exaggeratedly.

Luke spluttered, shaking his head. Some things would never change, thank heavens.

"YESSS!!!" Leia cried out excitedly, making everybody turn their heads to look at her.

"What is it?" Lando asked, praying that it was what he was already suspecting.

Leia rushed forward.

"It’s over!" She grabbed Luke and Han’s arms, and looked at them all one by one. "The Fleet just suppressed the insurrection and the bombs have been successfully deactivated!" She looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes, sighing out loud. "It’s over!" she repeated to herself, as if she couldn’t believe it.

The sudden quiet moment was shattered when everybody threw themselves into each other’s arms with a cry of joy. It felt as if they had won yet another war against the Empire. Although this time, the war had been against the dark side of the very Republic.

They prayed that everyone had learned their lesson for good this time. Life was too precious, and far too short, for any more lives to be lost because of something as petty as greed, ambition and thirst for power. Because, in the end, everything had come down to those.

All of a sudden, a loud mechanical scream made them move back with a start and listen.

"It’s Artoo!" Anakin and Luke exclaimed at the same time, recognizing the droid’s unmistakable sounds.

The two Jedi took off running towards the place where the scream had come from, followed close behind by the others. They reached the area where they had left the prisoners, guarded by the two droids.

3PO’s right arm had been blasted off, and Artoo had a huge hole in the centre of his rounded body.

Keyholm was lying on the floor, still unconscious; but Ylek had disappeared.

Everybody looked around them, looking for the escaped prisoner. They spread out little by little, beginning their search.

"He’s close. I can feel him," Leia said softly to her friends. "But where?" she said to herself. Something wasn’t quite right there.

A sudden intuition made Luke look up. Standing on the top of a small shuttle, still handcuffed, Ylek was aiming what seemed to be a small blaster... at his father!!

"FATHER! FATHER, LOOK OUT!!" he cried out, jumping into the air and covering Anakin with his own body.

Ylek fired.

Anakin and Leia let out a horrible scream. Leia doubled over and fell to her knees, as if the shot had hit her squarely.

Luke collapsed on top of his father, knocking all the air out of Anakin’s lungs.

The world seemed to stand still as everybody stared at the horrible gaping hole in Luke’s chest, as he lay, inert, on Anakin.

"LUKE!!" Han yelled, his heart bleeding with more pain than he thought he could feel in a million lifetimes. The pain turned into seething anger, and turning about, he shot blindly in the direction of where the blaster bolt had come from. He shot and shot and shot like a madman, not looking, not wanting to see and feel anything but the roar in his blood. A few seconds later, they heard the dull thud of a dead body hitting the floor.

No silence had ever been so filled with abject horror, as they looked down at the young Jedi, half-dead already, lying on top of his shocked father.

Summoning up his strength somehow, Anakin moved out from beneath his child with infinite care, and held him against his chest.

"Luke! Oh, my little angel, what have you done?" he moaned time and again, rocking him as he would a baby.

Struggling to focus, Luke’s eyes rested on his father, shining with love.

"Covered you. Partners are supposed to do that, aren’t they?" he replied with a little smile.

Snapping out of his state of shock somehow, Anakin took immediate action. He rose to his feet with his son in his arms.

"Hold on, Luke. Hold on, little one. I’ll take you to Sickbay. They’ll heal you there. They’ll... They will..." Anakin was beyond words, beyond thoughts. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t hear anything, except the sound of his heart and his soul breaking into a billion little pieces.

The older Jedi headed for the hangar doors as fast as his legs allowed him. The sound of his frenetic heartbeat was deafening. It banged on his eardrums mercilessly, and he couldn’t hear beyond that. He couldn’t... until the faintest sound reached his ears, and the roaring quieted down.

"Dad. Dad... Dad..."

Anakin’s legs stopped functioning and his eyes, that were focused on the doors right ahead, looked down at his child, open wide in absolute horror.

"Dad." A tear rolled down Luke’s cheek.

The powerful Jedi dropped to his knees and burst into tears, understanding at last.

"You knew!!! Oh, Force!! You knew all along!" he exclaimed.

Luke’s deadly pale face smiled peacefully. He nodded.

"It’s all right. It is all right," he whispered. His head turned to his friends, who knelt down beside them, their faces reflecting total horror and disbelief. His eyes rolled for a second, but they focused again on Anakin. "I knew, but I didn’t know how... exactly." He smiled in relief. "I was... afraid to die. But I’m not afraid to die... for you."

Anakin broke down and buried his face in his child’s shoulder.

"Oh, my goodness! This can’t be happening! It can’t be happening!" he cried. "My dearest, foolish boy," he moved back and his trembling fingers began caressing the soft cheeks feverishly. "Don’t you know that the son must never die for the father? It is the father who must die for the son!"

"You already did that," Luke reminded him. "And I swore I would never go through that pain again."

"And you want me to go through it instead? That is not very kind of you, my child," Anakin smiled through his tears.

Luke smiled at him adoringly. He tried to breathe, but his lungs wouldn’t fill. He made an agonizing attempt to draw breath. His time was running short. His eyes immediately turned to his sister and his friends. His family. His greatest treasure.

"Lando," he softly called.

"I’m right here, Luke." The black eyes were red and tears streamed down the dark face. He reached out a trembling hand and caressed the blond hair.

"Take care of them," he swept his family with one look. "They will need your strength. Try to be strong, and when you can’t, turn to them for comfort. They will take such good care of you."

"I will," Lando promised, holding back a sob and biting his lips until he drew blood.

Luke nodded and blinked back his own tears. His eyes turned to his Wookie friend.

"Chewie," he smiled weakly and reached out a terribly shaking hand.

Chewie edged closer, wailing and howling softly.

Luke’s hand touched the Wookie’s fur and scratched it one last time.

"You must be strong, too. For Han, for Leia, for all. I..." he rolled his eyes, in frustration this time. "I wish I had something... illuminating to say, but dammit... I can’t think of anything. How... embarrassing," he gasped.

Anakin cradled his son’s head in the crook of his arm, making it as comfortable as he could. The backs of his fingers stroked the drawn cheeks endlessly. Part of him was numb, deep in denial. This was too sudden, too unthinkable to be real. His child couldn’t be dying in his arms! He had to be in bed, sleeping, deep in the most horrendous nightmare, like those that always made him wake up all drenched in sweat and on the edge of his sanity.

"I’m cold," the young man moaned all of a sudden.

Immediately, Lando took off his jacket and covered Luke’s torso with it.

"Thank you," Luke’s eyes softened in gratitude. Then, they turned to his dearest, best friend in the universe.


Smiling tenderly, the Corellian reached out and took a cool hand in his.

"Hey," he whispered in an endearingly pathetic attempt to cheer them all.

"You must take care of Leia and my father. I entrust them to you," Luke squeezed the strong hand feebly. "You’re like a son for my father. Be with him. C-comfort him. Please."

Han looked up at Anakin. Unable to stand the torment in those blue eyes, he reached out and squeezed the older man’s shoulder.

"Luke, I... Luke..." he choked on his words and broke down. For the first time in his life, the cynical pirate with a heart of gold dissolved into tears.

"You’re the brother I never had. My big brother," Luke’s eyes illuminated in fond remembrance of their years together. "I love you, Han. Thank you for the most beautiful friendship I never dared to dream."

Han shook his head and met the misted blue eyes, unable to utter a single word. His chest was racked with powerful sobs. Nothing had ever hurt so much. Nothing would ever hurt so much.

"I love you too, little brother. Always did and always will," he forced himself to speak, cupping Luke’s cheek in his hand and pressing his palm against it desperately, wishing for something that was beyond his ability to get.

Luke cuddled his face up to the warm palm with a faraway little smile.

"Leia," he called, his suddenly unfocused eyes looking blindly for his sister.

The youngest Skywalker grasped her brother’s hand, brought it to her lips and began kissing it in despair.

"My dearest Leia," Luke smiled, a look of infinite calm and peace crossing his features. "My journey began the moment I first saw you on a tiny holograph. You became a part of me before I knew you were a part of me. My family. You were always my strength and my focus." His badly damaged lungs fought to keep on breathing, but it was becoming more and more difficult. He knew he shouldn’t be alive at this point, but he thanked whatever was responsible for these few minutes more with his loved ones.

Anakin sat him up, placing the lolling head on his shoulder with infinite tenderness. The image of his mother, as she expired in his arms twenty five years ago, superposed onto his child’s, and he thought he would go mad with grief.

Leia hurled herself at her brother and held on to him, as if by clinging to him for all she was worth she could keep him alive. She soaked the collar of his top with her tears. Luke returned her embrace as best as he could, hiding his face in the loose strands of long brown hair, sniffing at it.

"Leia, I would like to give you something," he whispered into her ear.

Leia clung to Luke even harder, as her crying intensified heartbreakingly. Finally, Han had to force her away.

"I want you to have my lightsaber. You must continue what I began." He tried to look down at himself, but a wave of searing pain made him desist. "Take it."

"No!" Leia shook her head.

"Please. Please, dearest Leia. We don’t have... much time," Luke begged, an expression of utter panic crossing his features for the first time.

Giving up, destroyed inside, Leia’s trembling fingers unclipped the lightsaber from her brother’s belt.

Luke smiled, calmer now, and nodded at her as he tried to reach out one hand.

Immediately, Leia took it in her own and brought it up to her face, caressing herself with it.

"Leia, there is... something I’d like to ask you," Luke’s stare intensified, showing how important this request was to him.

Leia nodded in silence, returning his stare and imprinting her brother’s touch in her brain forever.

"Please, Leia. Please... open your heart to Father fully. You’re all he’ll have left when I am gone. Losing me will kill him inside," he looked up at Anakin, wetness rolling down his face once more.

Anakin kissed Luke’s forehead, bathing it with his tears. He buried his face in his son’s hair, wanting to lose himself in it and die with him.

"Whatever he did to you... to me... to millions of people, is in the past. You only have the present... and the future. You are his entire life. Don’t forsake him when he will need you most," he implored with all his soul.

Leia pressed Luke’s palm against her cheek, and her eyes turned to Anakin. And for the first time, she saw him as he really was. A man. A strong, weak, limited, powerful, fallible, brave and intelligent human being, with his strengths and his faults, who was losing what he loved the most... just as she was.

Anakin returned her look, letting her see the depth of his agony, that no one and nothing would ever be able to soothe. Not even her.

And in that searing, unbearable pain that was theirs and only theirs, they found each other at last.

The Princess reached out her free hand and cupped the side of Anakin’s face, wiping away the tear tracks on it with her thumb. She looked into his soul, and the final barrier collapsed within her.

Seeing the unspoken permission in the brown eyes she had gotten from her mother, Anakin reached out too, and his hand cradled his daughter’s face for the first time. His fingers caressed it all over, revelling in the privilege he had been finally granted.

Leia cuddled her cheek into the loving palm and kissed it, not afraid anymore to return her father’s love in a physical way.

And Father and Daughter touched, really touched, for the first time.

"I promise," she vowed to both of them.

Luke took a deep breath. He could go in peace now. He could feel the bond taking deep root in his sister’s heart, giving implicit permission to Anakin to open up to her completely.

The three-way link was the most beautiful thing she had ever known, and Leia broke down, realizing they would never be able to enjoy it. She collapsed and sought refuge in Han’s arms, cuddling up to him, like a little girl who had lost it all.

Luke’s senses began to abandon him, and frantically turning to his father, he reached up and grabbed the front of his top, as if clinging to what remained of his life.

The sight of that big man, crying and sobbing, was more than he could bear. The intolerable pain he was suffering was nothing compared to the invisible fist that gripped what was left of his heart, and squeezed it ruthlessly. He reached up and caressed Anakin’s chin with the backs of his fingers.

"Don’t cry, Dad. Please, don’t cry," he begged. "It breaks my heart to see you cry."

"You are my heart. You are my soul," Anakin said, holding the caressing hand in his and kissing the palm. "How will I live without you?" Just then, the knowledge that these were his last moments with his son hit him fully. An excruciating explosion of pain took any remaining sanity away from him. He shook his head from side to side spasmodically. "No. I won’t. I won’t live without you!!" he cried out.

"You must," Luke reminded him quietly. "For Leia, for her future children. Your grandchildren. The next generation of Skywalkers... must be trained. And you are the only one who can do it." He released his hand from his father’s grasp and wiped away the tears that streamed down the much-loved face. "You must live for yourself, too... for all the good things you still can do, for all... the lives you will save and influence positively." He looked down for a moment, and finally dared to say the words that would seal Anakin’s fate. "And you must live for me. My death must not be in vain, Father."

The words came out harsher than he had intended, but he couldn’t control his throat muscles anymore. He knew he was hurting Anakin beyond belief with those words, but he had no choice. Neither of them had.

Anakin looked away, so wounded by those cruel words. He shook his head and looked down into his son’s barely focusing eyes.

"I lost my mother. I lost your mother," the tears fell now on Luke’s face, and he wiped them away hastily. "I can’t lose you too. I cannot!"

Luke smiled sadly and his fingertips felt the soft, wet face he could hardly see anymore. He stroked the smooth, good-looking features all over, reading them and memorizing them as blind people did. He knew them by heart, but he felt a sweet thrill inside at the feel of them.

His hand stopped when it felt the small wound on Anakin’s forehead. He pressed his index and middle fingertips to it, healing it.

Anakin moaned out loud, thinking that he was dying of pain and love.

"Why don’t you heal yourself instead?" he admonished.

The young man smiled again in bitter regret.

"I wish I could, but you know I can’t. That was the will of the Force. This... is the final gift I can give you. Don’t reject it," he asked.

"I would die a million times before rejecting you!" Anakin exclaimed, taking the trembling hand in his again. "You showed me that generosity, compassion and love could conquer all. They could forgive even this," he shook the bionic hand, "and save even me. I will never stop believing in miracles, for you are my most wondrous miracle." He framed Luke’s face in his palm and covered it with kisses. "My baby, my angel, my beautiful little angel!" Brutal sobs shattered his spirit again.

Anakin’s falling apart was killing Luke. Literally. He had to do something. He had to offer some hope, as tiny and insignificant as it was. He had to give his father a reason to want to go on living.

"Don’t be afraid. I will always be with you," his voice came out slow and infinitely peaceful. "In here," he touched his father’s chest and cuddled up to it, "and in here," he touched his temple. "And maybe... I’ll be able to come to you occasionally, like Ben did." He sighed. "It won’t be the same... I know, but you know there is no death. I will live... as long as you remember me. A part of me will always remain." He caressed the swollen, bloodshot eyes. "And when your time comes... one day far, far away... I will be waiting for you."

Anakin let out a heart-rending sob and rested his soaked cheek on his child’s forehead.

"Don’t leave me, my angel. Don’t go. Don’t go, I beg you!"

Luke smiled, his eyes looking at a spot on the ceiling.

"I love you, Father." He made a final, titanic effort, and moved his head, looking for Anakin’s face. He couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see anything anymore. A growing part of his body was numbed, unfeeling. His lips finally came into contact with something soft and warm, and he bestowed a soft kiss there, putting all the love in his being in the kiss. "I love you, Dad," he whispered. "Oh, Force, I love you so...!" A final tear rolled down his face. "Thank you for... the happiest seven months of my life."

Anakin stiffened as he felt his son’s essence beginning to slip away. The shining place that Luke’s consciousness inhabited within his mind started to fade away.

"NO!" he cried out, feeling as if a clawed hand was ripping his insides apart. If he lost this he would cease to exist, too. He couldn’t live without this precious light anymore!! He couldn’t live without Luke’s warm presence inside him, making him worthy. Worthy of being alive, worthy of deserving his own dignity and honour. Worthy of love.

He clung to the dwindling light with his very life, ready to follow it unto death.

"NO! You won’t leave me!" he ordered, turning Luke’s face to his forcefully, scaring everybody. "Look into my eyes!! You will look into my eyes, and won’t look away until I tell you to, you hear me?!" His voice was guttural. Almost inhuman.

And unbelievably, Luke obeyed with a small nod.

"That’s it," Anakin nodded. "Don’t stop looking into my eyes. I will keep you with me." The big, powerful body was shaking like a leaf, on the verge of its endurance and its sanity. "I won’t let you go. You will stay! You will stay with me and... and..."

Suddenly, the older Jedi realized that Luke’s eyes weren’t only looking at him. They were also looking past him, into infinity. There was a smile on his lips. A sweet, peaceful, loving smile.

Instinctively, possessively, everything he was held on to the white light of his son’s consciousness, ready to follow it.

"No," he moaned. "Stay. Stay! Stay!!! STAY!!!!!" he screamed.

The white light died away.

Anakin and Leia wailed in unison as the light died inside them too.

A bottomless hole seemed to swallow them. They had never known such emptiness, such unfathomable nothingness in their hearts. This was what it felt like to be dead in life.

Luke’s friends crumbled. Han grasped Luke’s lifeless hand in his, weeping quietly, as he held Leia to him with one arm, pressing her head to his chest. The Princess was clinging to his vest, barely conscious. There could be no life for her after Luke. No life after losing her anchor and the closest, dearest thing to her heart.

Lando reached out slowly and closed Luke’s eyes with the utmost tenderness and respect. As he moved back his hand, he couldn’t help one final fond caress to the blond hair. Then, he hid his face in his hands and dissolved into tears.

Chewie looked up and let out a heartbreaking howl, as his huge bulk began shuddering uncontrollably.

Anakin was beside himself. He couldn’t stop staring at his son. He was frozen. He was dead. He was just as dead as the body he cradled in his arms.

The only movement that revealed he was alive were the countless tears that rolled down his cheeks and fell on Luke’s face, like raindrops.

It was his fault. He should have felt this! It made no sense that Luke had been the one to foresee his own death. What was the point of Luke’s needless suffering? What was the point of Luke’s death?

Luke’s death.

The mere thought broke something inside him. His frantic mind cried out to their lost link. His head snapped back and he screamed, like a mortally wounded lion demanding the universe to give him his cub back.

He embraced Luke’s head to his chest and kissed it all over. His mind spiralled in a whirlpool of incoherent thoughts and shattered love.

He couldn’t accept this. There had to be a deeper meaning in this that he couldn’t comprehend. There had to be something he could do, even now! That was what made him what he was, who he was. His refusal to accept things as inevitable. Even death. It had been his downfall once, but he had taken the wrong path then. He had turned to the Darkness.

He knew now that the Light was the Truth. Therefore, the Light must hold the answer he so desperately needed. Light was warmth, and compassion, and Love as he had never known. Light wasn’t cruel or unfeeling, even if it looked like it sometimes. It was them, imperfect, limited beings, who couldn’t see the bigger picture. There had to be a reason why the Light allowed for the best human being who had ever existed to die, sparing someone as unworthy as him.

He had to trust the Light. The Light surrounding them, and especially the Light inside him. That’s where the real Truth lay. He carried his Truth, his own answers, deep within.

His eyes turned to the oh-so-loved face and he cupped it in his hand.

‘Padme!’ he called out in his mind. ‘Padme, help me! I need him so! He’s my life! He’s my reason to live. Without him, there is no place for me in this realm. Force, help me! I cannot live without my children. I must die first. I have to die first!’

He closed his eyes tight and pressed his face to Luke’s, soaking up the warmth of his skin, the overwhelming feel of his son’s body in his arms.

Random thoughts, voices, images and memories coalesced in his brain, in a deafening background of madness. He focused on it, welcoming it. Anything was preferable to the infinite void that filled the place where the purest, most beautifully selfless Love had resided before.

‘What does your heart tell you?’

‘Will I ever see you again?’

‘Our baby is a blessing.’

‘Father, please!’

‘Come with me.’

‘Sometimes, there are things no one can fix. You’re not all-powerful, Ani.’

‘I should be. Someday I will be. I will be the the most powerful Jedi ever. I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying.’

‘Luke’s not the greatest Jedi ever and neither are you. The two of you are the greatest Jedi ever.’

‘The two of you are the greatest Jedi ever.’

‘I will even learn to stop people from dying.’

‘I promise you.’

‘I felt as if a soft breeze had brushed my soul. And it felt like you.’

‘Do you feel any different?’

‘You changed something inside me. You passed on something to me. I can feel it.’

‘Maybe it’s something you needed, or you will need in the future.’

‘Whatever it is you did for me, we’ll find out in its own good time.’

‘In its own good time.’

‘I will even learn to stop people from dying!

‘From dying!’

‘Maybe it’s something you needed, or you will need in the future.’

‘You will need in the future.’

‘You passed on something to me.’

‘I promise you.’


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" Anakin’s scream went on and on and on, until his throat was raw. He pulled Lando’s jacket away from his son’s body, revealing the huge hole in the centre of Luke’s chest.

Instinct! He had to follow his instinct, and his Love, and the voices in his head!! If he stopped now, he would lose it all.

Gently depositing his child on the floor, he covered the hole with his palms, pressing down.

"You won’t go! You won’t leave me!! You will come back to me!" he exclaimed, tears running unnoticed down his face in rivulets. "Come on, Luke! Come on, little one! Come back to me! Come back to me!" he began chanting.

He lost track of time, calling upon the Light to assist him, to guide him, to show him the way in the darkness of a lifetime without his greatest blessing, lifeless on the floor beside him.

He suddenly felt someone’s hands on his, trying to pry them away from Luke. He shook them off roughly.

"NO!" he barked. "He will come back. I will bring him back! He passed on his healing gift to me that morning. I understand now." He paused a second to brush his sweaty palm across the soft fringe, and caressed the smooth face with his fingertips. "Show me how to do it right. Show me, my son! Don’t go away just yet. Wait for me. I will bring you back." He placed his hand back again on Luke’s chest and redoubled his efforts.

Everybody looked at the distraught Jedi, terribly upset by the disturbing scene, not knowing what to do or say. Anakin was beyond reality, deep within his insane fantasy that he could bring Luke back. It was more than they could stand, but they knew that no force would make him stop. He would go on, until he passed out or died.

"Come on, my boy! Fight! You have so much to show me. I have so much love to give you. Everything will be even better than before. You’ll see." An endless stream of tears poured out of his eyes.

Han cuddled Leia, trying to shield her from the shockingly violent sight of her father, almost gone by now, convinced that he could resuscitate his child. He understood the older man’s need to believe, to hope against all hope, but... Wiping away his own tears, he looked at Lando and Chewie, regretting it immediately. The horrified expressions on their faces unsettled him even more.

As crazy as it could seem, Anakin’s contorted features were the only ones that transmitted what he needed the most at this very moment.


"Come on, Luke! Don’t do this to me!" Anakin continued unrelentingly. "You shared your gift with me, show me now what to do with it! I won’t stop until you come back." He was sweating and panting, on the brink of a physical and emotional breakdown. "Please, please, my baby! Come back to me. Come back to me. Come back to me..." the litany was back, as he pressed down even harder. "You will come back to me. You will come back to me. YOU-WILL-COME-BACK-TO-ME!!!!!!" he yelled, with the last spark of sanity he had left.

The five of them jerked back with a muffled scream when Luke’s eyes opened wide all of a sudden, and his body sat up with a start. The young man began drawing deep and fast intakes of breath, filling his lungs with badly needed oxygen.

Their eyes were instantly drawn to the hole on the young Jedi’s top. Pink flesh could be seen beneath, where before there had been a hole big enough for a fist to fit in.

No one could blink. No one could breathe. No one could believe it. They just stared at Luke’s face getting its colour back, as he breathed more and more easily.

Finally, Luke swallowed the lump in his throat and turned his head. He looked at his friends, who gazed at him, their eyes bulging open, in a state of shock. They didn’t dare to move. They didn’t dare to touch, in case they were only dreaming.

Leia was the first to react. She could feel the warmth of her brother’s lifeforce within her mind again. It was no delusion. It was real. As real as he was, sitting up right in front of her.

She reached out a shaking hand, and touched Luke’s cheek. She trembled and let out a little groan, a part of her still refusing to believe the miracle.

Luke’s eyes filled with tears, and he reached up, holding Leia’s hand in his.

"Hello, little sister," he greeted her self-consciously, kissing the back of her hand.

Letting go, Leia hurled herself at her brother. The lightsaber clattered on the floor, forgotten.

The two siblings hugged desperately, so hard they almost cracked each other’s bones.

Slowly realizing they weren’t dreaming, Han, Lando and Chewie reached out hesitatingly and touched Luke, comfirming the wondrous reality.

Luke’s head moved up from his sister’s shoulder where he had buried his face, and smiled at them shakily. He reached out one arm at them and that was it. There was no stopping the heartfelt, devastating embrace between them all.

Anakin watched the scene, his mouth half-open, and his body quivering brutally. He looked down at his hands. They felt alien to him. He turned them, studying his palms, his fingers.

He... He had done it. He had healed his son. He had healed Luke.

No. More than that. He had resurrected him. He had brought him back from the dead!

The concept felt surreal. Even preposterous. But it was exactly what Luke had done with him only a few months ago.

He felt eerily disconnected from the here and now. Disconnected from his own feelings. His respiration accelerated at an alarming rate. A searing pain in his chest made him wince, and he bit his lower lip to hold back a moan.

His eyes turned to the sight before him. Luke, passing from Han’s loving arms to Lando’s, and from them to Chewie’s.

And then, it was as if a door burst open inside him. Luke’s living essence filled the hole in his heart and his mind with light and joy.

Force, he had never known such need!! Everything he was cried out for the comfort of Luke’s touch and love. He felt as if he had aged a century in the last few minutes. He felt like dying, and only Luke could save him.

He hugged himself, as an implacable, merciless cold wrapped itself around his being.

Luke’s body shuddered savagely, and the young man immediately turned to Anakin. His features softened, and all of him illuminated from within with love. The most sublime, all-encompassing love.

He knelt up in front of his father and reached out. His hands rubbed the cold arms, stroking up the long limbs.

The moment Luke touched him, Anakin returned from the chilly place where he had retreated into. His eyes focused again on his child, and a hopeful, wistful smile lit up his face.

Luke’s eyes misted once again, and the happiest, most grateful tears streamed down his cheeks. His hands moved up to Anakin’s head. Their eyes met.

It was the most glorious communion of souls. They touched until there was no single recess of their spirits that wasn’t totally wrapped around each other. An explosion of Light made them feel dizzy for a moment, but it didn’t deter Luke. His father needed him.

He bent forward and his lips brushed Anakin’s forehead like the soft wings of an Alderarian butterfly. Then, following his heart blindly, they settled on the awfully swollen and reddened eyes that had cried so much for him today, and he kissed them deeply, lingeringly, wishing to take upon himself all the horror and agony his beloved father had suffered.

Moving back just enough to meet those awesome blue eyes again, his thumbs wiped away the tear tracks on Anakin’s cheeks.

His features twisted in pain. He didn’t know it could be possible to feel so much pain and so much love, and still be alive.

"I love you," he whispered to his father. His chin began to tremble. "Thank you for bringing me back."

And those were the words that released Anakin from his invisible, icy chains. He unfurled himself and crushed the smaller body to his chest, wanting to fuse it with his own.

"My baby!" he exclaimed. "My precious little angel!" His lips began kissing the boyish face everywhere. "My dear cherished soul! I love you so much!"

Luke returned the primal, impassioned embrace for all he was worth. He enveloped his father in his arms, dispelling their fears in the most basic way, through touch.

They clung to one another, unwilling, unable to let each other go. They pressed hard against one another, glorying in the overwhelming intensity of each other’s loved presence in their arms. They uttered incoherent, soothing words that made no sense, except to them. They held. Closer. Tighter. It was never enough.

They were, literally, each other’s life. But they were more, so much more than that. They were One. The greatest Jedi ever, as Leia’s incredibly powerful insight had rightly foreseen days ago.


As a myriad of X and Y-Wings flew on Coruscant’s sky, drawing rainbows and setting off fireworks in the sunset, reassuring the population that cheered them from their balconies that they were safe, and Peace was safe once more, no fireworks, no rainbows, and no extravagant explosions of joy were more heartfelt and honest than the quiet, silent image of the two overwhelmed Jedi who, lost in each other’s arms and each other’s tears, rejoiced in the miracle of life, and the only power that truly bound the Universe together.