That Which RemainsAuthor :
jedinemoRating and disclaimer :
Rated PG-13. The Star Wars Universe belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd, and I have gained nothing but satisfaction from this fanfic.Summary :
A sequel to Come With Me
. It's been two years since Vader destroyed Palpatine at Endor and helped the Alliance reforge the Republic, but swapping allegiences has not made his path any easier. Chapter Four
Somewhere, a womprat was caught in a turbine, a turbine like in his old X-34 landspeeder. Luke wished someone would pull it out of there, because the sound of its shriek was unbearable. Then his eyes opened a little, and he realized he was in his own bed on board the BlueSaber
. That made womprat flat out impossible, so the screaming whine must really be the ship's alert system.
Throwing off the sheets, he stumbled out of bed and silenced the alarm with a flick of his hand. After crossing the room, he braced one arm against the desk and rubbed his eyes. The blinking comm light glowed amidst the darkness of his room, and he punched the button. "Skywalker here. What is it?"
"Sorry to wake you, sir, but there's been an unauthorized departure from the main hangar."
Unauthorized departure. Maybe he was still asleep, because that didn't sound right. "Someone has taken a ship?"
"Yes, sir. One of the lambda
That was odd, because a shuttle wasn't much of a joyride, especially compared to the TIEs parked right next to it. "Did the flight officer see anything?"
"That's the strange part, sir, because all he'll say is 'I don't need to report this.' Every time we've asked."
Luke was suddenly wide awake. "Are you tracking the shuttle?"
"No, sir. It went into hyperspace right after the bridge crew spotted it. Then I commed you."
"Thank you, Commander. I'm on my way up."
Luke motioned on the room lights and pulled on the pair of trousers that were slung over the desk chair. As he finished dressing, he reached out with the Force, seeking the presence he knew was no longer there. He tried to comfort himself by thinking that perhaps his father was in a deep meditation, and that when he burst into his father's cabin, he'd get a chiding. Except that they could never block themselves this completely from each other. Never.
The door to his father's cabin yielded to him, and he shivered as he entered the room. It felt so...empty. He quickly looked through the cabin, but its small size didn't offer many hiding places. The bed was made and he could detect a trace of warmth in the pressurized shower. The desk had been cleared off, and he rummaged through the drawers, looking for something, anything, that might give a clue as to his father's destination. Then a thought struck him, and he logged on to the datapad, but there were no new messages for him. His father was just gone
And that stung most of all, that his father hadn't trusted him with his plans. Hadn't even said goodbye. He wished it were the old days back in the Alliance, because then he would have jumped in his X-wing and gone after him. But now he had a ship full of men to think about, and an imperative direct from the Senate to follow. His search for his father would have to wait, and that, he thought glumly, might have been the whole point.
A Star Destroyer was simply a conglomeration of duralloy and doonium, a Super Star Destroyer just more of the same. It shouldn't be possible to tell one ship from another, but nevertheless, this one felt different. Energized. Special somehow. As the Supreme Commander of the Combined Forces, Firmus Piett had trod the decks of every Star Destroyer in the fleet, but none of them made him homesick for space the way that Executor
It gave him a little twinge to see someone else in charge of her, but he had to admit Admiral Torren was doing a fine job as the Executor's
new commander. With the inspection almost over, Piett was savoring his remaining time on board before his return to Coruscant. Around him, the men were giving him extra wide berth and especially curt nods as he and Torren parted the sea of staff making their way through Executor's
corridors. Ahead, though, he caught sight of a cap bobbing through the crowd, as if the owner of the cap was at a dead run. Then a face appeared with the cap, and he recognized the look of earnest determination it bore. It was the look of a serious problem, and it seemed as if Torren was about to have one last test.
The young lieutenant skidded to a halt in front of them, eyes averted, and breathing hard. "Excuse me, sirs, but there is a problem in the forward hangar."
Torren glanced at him nervously before replying. " What is it?"
"Sir, Captain Rydan requested that I inform you that an unauthorized vessel has landed in our hangar," the lieutenant said, raising his head.
"What?" Torren said, scarlet creeping across his cheeks. "How did they get past the shields?"
Piett remained silent, content to watch the admiral struggle through his embarrassment. Not that there was any real danger, because only a fool would break in
to a Super Star Destroyer.
"A transmission was detected coming from the shuttle which apparently instructed the hangar doors to open," the lieutenant said.
Now the young officer had his full attention. To his knowledge, only one other person knew about the override to the automated hangar control system, that being the person who installed it.
"We have the vessel surrounded," the lieutenant continued, "but the pilot requested to speak to you, Supreme Commander."
Luke leaned his head back and stared at the grey ceiling. There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is...
"Captain Skywalker, just tell us your father's location. You're going to tell us eventually, so why not make it easy on yourself?"
He brought his eyes down and glared at the Republic Intelligence agent on his left. Gevan
, according to the patch on the man's uniform. "How many times do I have to tell you, I don't know where he is."
Gevan leaned forward across the table that separated them. "So you're going to stay with your story that he stole a Republic vessel, and then disappeared into hyperspace?"
"Yes. No. He didn't steal it," he said. "Whatever else he's done, he's not a thief. He'll bring it back."
"Ah, so you do
know where he went, and that he's going to return," said the agent to his right, a man wearing the name Nall, who looked as drab as the room around them.
"No, I don't."
"But you just said you knew he was going to return."
"I said he's not a thief."
"Mmmm, so you merely believe
he's going to come back, but you don't know," Gevan said smugly .
To hear his own doubts voiced by someone else gave them strength, and Luke fought to push them away. "But I know him."
"And that raises an interesting point," Nall said, rising from his chair. He walked around the table and leaned over Luke. "You've probably been privileged to hear his private thoughts. Anything we need to know for the safety of the Republic?"
"He hasn't been plotting against the Republic," he said, studiously ignoring Nall's presence. "You've been plotting against him. I don't blame him for taking off."
"So you're sympathetic to his actions, " Gevan said. "Are you sure you didn't help him to escape the BlueSaber
"No, I didn't help him," he said. This attempt to catch him in a lie was really starting to annoy him. "Ask my crew. I was asleep in my cabin when they discovered the shuttle had left the hangar."
Nall returned to his seat and the two agents leaned their heads in, whispering to each other. They sent him furtive glances, and then nodded as if in agreement. Gevan put his folded hands on the table and focused on him. "Now, it is our understanding that you Jedi use some sort of mental communication. I think it's possible that you're in touch with him as we speak."
"It's not that simple," he said. It was amazing how many people thought the Force was some kind of magic."You can hide behind your shields. If he doesn't want to be found, I can't make him respond."
"So you're saying that he doesn't want you to find him?" Nall said, glancing at his partner.
"Apparently not," he said, crossing his arms.
Gevan leaned back in his chair. "Captain Skywalker, this is disturbing news. We believed that you would always be the Republic's link to his location."
"I don't know why you thought that," he said."I can't control him any more than you can."
"The Chief of State will not be happy to hear that he's roaming the Galaxy unfettered," Nall said, looking anxious.
Luke shook his head."Well, maybe the Senate should have though of that possibility before they took everything away from him."
Gevan abruptly put a finger to his ear piece and appeared to listen intently. He nodded and looked at Nall, and then both men stood and walked out of the interrogation room. Luke stared at the the reflective pane next to the door, which he could tell concealed more than just the two agents who had interrogated him. After reporting his father's disappearance even before the BlueSaber
arrived at Coruscant, he never expected to be led away from his ship by members of Republic Intelligence. For all they were counting on his loyalty, they weren't doing much to earn it.
After several minutes, Gevan returned to the room. "Skywalker, you are free to go," the agent said, "but you must remain on Coruscant until you receive your next assignment. In the meantime, if you have any contact with your father, you are to let us know immediately."
"Yeah, sure thing," he said, as he rose from his chair. It was easy to agree to something that probably wouldn't happen.
This might be the worst part of all, the fact that he had to sneak onto his own ship. And Executor
was his ship, no matter whose insignia was painted on her side. Watching the platoon of stormtroopers surround the shuttle brought back fond memories of the days when every man on board jumped at his command, and when every vessel in the Galaxy feared Executor's
approach. So much had changed since then, but thankfully, there was still at least one constant in this whole mess : the loyalty of the lone man who was now crossing the hangar.
As he watched Piett order the ring of stormtroopers to retreat from the shuttle, he knew the Supreme Commander had figured out who had so brazenly boarded Executor
. He lowered the shuttle ramp and moved from the pilot's seat to the passenger compartment in the midsection. He heard Piett's boots hit the ramp, and then his former admiral appeared in the cabin, blaster still holstered.
"I knew it had to be you," Piett said, a hint of a smile playing on his face.
"Please join me," he said, motioning towards the row of seats opposite his own. "And then tell me how bad it really is."
Piett's smile faded as sat down on the black synthleather. "That whole business, it's not right. I would have never allowed your commission to be withdrawn, but they went completely over my head."
He held up one hand."I know. We both served too long under Palpatine to expect anything but treachery from those in power. Are they looking to arrest me? "
"No...there's been no talk of that," Piett said, "although there is a good deal of concern about your disappearance from the BlueSaber
"Yes, I'm sure there is," he said."I hope they have not been too hard on Luke."
"I'll make sure he's treated fairly," Piett said."Is that why you're here?"
"No, not exactly," he said. "I need something from you."
Piett bowed his head. "Of course, m'lord. I am in your debt."
He smiled inside his helmet. "I am no longer your master, and I would not ask you to compromise the position you have earned. What I require is of a more personal nature."
"If you think I can help," Piett said."What is it that you need?"
"In a moment. But first I must ask if anyone has been inside my old quarters."
"No one would have the gell'se
to go into your quarters."
"Good. Then all my files should be intact," He reached into the slit pocket on the inside of his belt. "This data chip contains the passcode to a file on my computer. A file that contains the plans to the Maw Installation."
Piett's eyes narrowed."The what?"
"Tarkin's weapons facility," he said, leaning forward. "And the source of the four Star Destroyers we identified on the BlueSaber's
last mission, I am sure of it."
"And you think the facility is still operational?," Piett asked.
"I could not bring the BlueSaber
in close enough to determine that. But if it is, it would be a significant threat to the Republic," he said. "A prototype for the first Death Star was built there."
Piett shook his head. "I had no idea this facility existed."
"Few did. Tarkin believed that even I was unaware of it," he said. If there was one thing he missed not at all about the Empire, it was the political maneuvering that had been necessary to survive. "I kept the information stored, as currency. A habit I learned from Palpatine."
"Fortunate enough for the Republic," Piett said, frowning. "The Senate doesn't understand the knowledge they're losing with your dismissal. I'm going to insist that they restore your commission."
"Do not plead on my behalf. They cannot harm me," he said. "I am only concerned that Luke not become collateral damage."
"What would you have me do?" Piett said.
"Send Luke on the mission to retake the Maw Installation. It sits in the center of the black hole cluster, and navigation in and out is extremely difficult," he said. "It will be much easier with a Force-sensitive pilot."
"I suppose I'll have to send him, then, because he's now our only
Force-sensitive pilot," Piett said."Think he's ready to navigate a Super Star Destroyer?"
"He can fly anything that can get itself off the ground," he said, thinking fondly of Luke's talents.
Piett smiled. "Just like his father."
"Yes. But I do not want him to be too much like his father," he said. "This mission will reinforce his value to the Republic. And keep him out of trouble from trying to rescue me."
"It's as good as done," Piett said. " And now that you have once again helped the Republic, what is it that I can do for you?"
"In the storage closet in my cabin, you will find numerous small containers of liquid," he said. "I need you to bring them all to me."
"Of course," Piett said, nodding. He lowered his eyes for a moment before continuing."May I ask what they are?"
There was a time when he would have never tolerated such an inquiry, but now there seemed to be no harm in indulging Piett's long contained curiosity. "Nutrition designed to be consumed with my helmet in place," he said."I have had little need for it the past few years, but that is about to change."
"Why? What's going to happen?"
"I'll tell you what's not going to happen," he said, with a conspiratorial grin."I will not go meekly to Coruscant to sign whatever document they have waiting."
"I had no expectation that you would," Piett said, relaxing against his seat."In fact, I almost told the Chief of State that I'd seen men die for lesser expressions of insolence."
"Yes, he would not have lasted long in the Empire, would he?" he said. "You may tell Marest that I declined his invitation and am otherwise occupied."
Piett's expression grew serious."And where will you be going?"
"It is better that you do not know," he said. "I would not ask you to lie for me."
A ripple of sadness came from Piett, and then he stood."Well, then, I guess all that's left is for me to bring you what you requested." Halfway to the door, Piett paused. "I can't tell you how strange it will be to know that you're no longer out amongst the fleet."
Anakin rose from his seat to face his former second-in-command, and the reality of his choice began to hit him. No ship, no position, no master
. "Know that it will be equally odd for me. May the Force be with you, my friend."
The first time he saw it, Luke hadn't know what it was. Sitting alone, its five spires reached for the sky in a design unlike any of the other buildings he had seen on Coruscant. But beyond its unusual appearance, there was something about it that called to him. He had followed it with his eyes as their speeder zipped towards the governmental center. His fascination had been broken only by his father's answer to the question he had not asked. It's the Jedi Temple.
In the time since then, he had landed on its broad plazas and walked its grounds alone. Once he had climbed the great staircase at its base, imagining that he was a Knight returning home. But the feeling of dread that grew stronger with every upward step almost made him turn around. Soon after, he discovered the whole building was like that, permeated by strong currents in the Force. In some places he felt roiling waves of despair, and in others, a serenity more complete than anything he had known. It was as if the building was alive, and trying to tell him all its stories. He had never found a way in, though, its doors guarded by locks which no one in the Republic knew how to open. No one except Anakin Skywalker, and so he had waited patiently for the time when his father would reveal the Temple's secrets. After the last mission, he had thought that time had finally arrived, until the Integrity Act blew everything apart.
A tingle of irritation from Leia brought him back to the present, and he turned away from the row of windows in her apartment that faced the distant Temple. "Did you say something?"
"Yeah, I said, Coruscant to Luke."
He lowered his head. "Sorry, I was just thinking."
"I could tell," she said, crossing the room to join him at the window. She put a hand to his forearm. "He didn't say anything about where he was going?"
"He didn't say anything about leaving
," Luke said. "In our last conversation all he talked about was making sure I didn't screw up my career."
Leia looked away. "Maybe Han was right."
"Oh, nothing," she said, giving a thin smile. "But you can feel him in the Force, can't you?"
"I can tell he's out there somewhere. Not much else," he said. "He hasn't tried to contact me at all."
"I'm sorry, Luke," she said, her forehead lined with furrows of concern."This is such a mess. I tried to fight the Act, but it had overwhelming support."
"I know you did," he said, hoping she sensed how much it meant to him that she had stood up for their father."It's just so disappointing. They didn't even give him a chance."
In the adjacent room, the holotransmitter began to chime. "Excuse me," she said. "I should take that. That ring means an official call."
Leia straightened her clothing and smoothed her hair as they walked towards the apartment's small office. When she activated the holoprojector, he settled into a side chair, making sure he was out of range of the transmitter. A face familiar even to him materialized in blue.
"Prime Minister Cosara," Leia said, bowing slightly towards the image,"how can I be of service?"
"You can tell me who it is exactly you represent."
Leia stiffened visibly. "I have always represented the citizens of New Alderaan."
"One would not get that impression from reading the roll call on the vote for the Integrity Act."
"I believed New Alderaan wanted a government that could be counted on to keep its word," Leia said in a diplomatic voice that concealed the turmoil Luke felt coming from her. "In the end, I abstained from voting merely to avoid any question of a conflict of interest."
The prime minister leaned so far towards his transmitter that his image became distorted. "If there was no conflict of interest, you would have voted "yes". It's a slap in the face of our people for New Alderaan to appear to support the man who destroyed our homeworld."
Leia's facade cracked, and her voice took on an edge. "He didn't destroy Alderaan. It was Tarkin. I was there, remember?"
The prime minister glared at Leia as he sank back into his seat. "I didn't want to believe it, but apparently blood does win out. You should know that New Alderaan is reconsidering whether or not you should be our Senator. Good day."
Luke didn't wait for the holo to blink off before rushing to Leia's side. He put his arms around her, and they held each other in silence before she relaxed and stepped back from him. "So, this is what it's like to be a Skywalker, hmm?"
He gave her a broad smile."Welcome to the family."
She smiled back and shook her head. "Did they try to throw you out, too?"
"No," he said, his smile disappearing. He turned away and ran his hand through his hair. Maybe he should have had her strength of conviction. "I was going to resign, but then Supreme Commander Piett commed me directly. He said I was needed for a special mission. Since it came from him, I agreed."
"That's not disloyal, Luke," she said."If it came from Piett, then I'm sure it's something Anakin would find important, too."
A wave of warmth and relief rushed over him. "That's what I was thinking. But once it's over, I'm going after Father whether he wants me to or not."
As his shuttle cleared the edge of Executor's
hangar and its wings locked into flight position, Anakin thought about his next destination. What he needed was a place to lay low while the uproar over his disappearance subsided, and Luke adjusted to serving in the Combined Forces without him. Someplace where he would not draw attention, and Force knew that was going to be difficult. Then it struck him. He would go where the Galaxy's outlaws and fugitives had always gone, to the world where neither the Republic or the Empire had ever exerted much influence. He would go home