The Protege'Author :
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 :
Darth Vader has an unsettling encounter within the Imperial Palace that changes the course of Galactic history.Timeline :
A few years before the events of ANH
Anakin watched the prisoner sleep. Curled on his side to make himself fit on the narrow cell bed, the old man didn't seem like much of a threat. His thick brown cloak was worn and marked by small holes, and his heavy leather boots were well creased. The prisoner looked more like a refugee than an enemy warrior. But appearances could be deceiving; Anakin knew that from living with Palpatine. However old and decrepit his mentor had looked, the power he had possessed had been nearly limitless.
Being in close proximity to Palpatine had always reminded Anakin of standing next to a event horizon, his mentor's Force signature a black nothingness that threatened to pull whatever it touched into an inescapable pit. The prisoner's presence in the Force was similarly still and unrevealing, but it was also oddly comforting, like a sheltering overhang during one of Imperial Center's rare storms. Standing in front of the cell, Anakin felt the tension he'd been carrying since Vader had left start to ease, and he rubbed a hand over his face in relief. Abruptly he caught himself, and shook his head to break the spell. It must be a Jedi mind trick.
He looked at the prisoner's face and was dismayed to discover the prisoner was looking back through half lidded eyes. How long had the old man been watching him? With surprising litheness the old man sat up, and Anakin put a hand to his lightsaber, even though an energy field crackled between them.
"Don't be afraid, my young friend," the prisoner said. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"I'm not afraid," he said, though he had the disconcerting feeling that the prisoner could see right through him. "The question is, why aren't you?"
"Should I be?" the prisoner said, a wisp of a smile on his face.
Maybe age had addled the Jedi's mind, because anyone in his predicament ought to be concerned for their life. "Vader almost killed you. I
could have killed you."
The old man's eyes twinkled. "But you didn't, did you?"
Anakin bristled at the comment. Was the prisoner implying he didn't have the gett'se
to carry out the task? "You couldn't have known that."
"Ah, but I did," the prisoner said, standing up from the bed and walking towards the energy field. "The Force told me I would be safe. The only time it warned me was when I went to draw my weapon."
"That's your weakness, Jedi," he said, fighting the impulse to back away. "You give up control to the Force."
The prisoner shook his head. "Control is an illusion."
"I'd rather die fighting than give up like you did," he said.
sounds like the Anakin I knew," the prisoner said.
A shiver ran up his neck. He had never considered he might not be the only clone of Vader. "The Anakin you knew?"
"Yes," the prisoner said. "Vader was my padawan in his youth, when he still used the name Anakin Skywalker."
He stared at the old Jedi. That was almost worse than finding another of himself. That was real evidence that Vader had been a Jedi, more disturbing than reading the news on a piece of flimsi. In his mind a picture formed of himself in the long robes, his hands hidden in the sleeves, and it made him feel nauseous. He could see Palpatine's lip curling as he described the self-righteous arrogance of the Jedi, and Anakin remembered being so thankful that he was not one of them
. He had been proud that his mentor was a Sith Lord, with the power to hold the entire Galaxy in his hand. And yet...
"Your thoughts betray you," the prisoner said, his voice low.
Desperately he scrambled to tighten his mental shields and keep the intruder out.
The prisoner stepped closer, making the energy field crackle and pop. "So why did
you kill him?"
"How did you know it was me?"
"Your master told me."
He summoned his indignation as protection against the Jedi's question. "I call no one 'Master'."
"Fair enough," the prisoner smiled. "Then Vader told me. Still, why did you do it?"
Anakin wanted to spit back that it was the way of the Sith for the apprentice to kill the mentor, but he was afraid the Jedi would detect his uncertainty. In reality, it had all happened so fast, he could hardly remember deciding. In fact, he didn't
remember deciding. He had leapt with a speed and strength that astounded him, his hand guided by something outside himself. Something
. Because he had allowed himself to believe what Vader had said. Allowed himself to hope for a different life. He hung his head, feeling the Jedi knew everything already, like Palpatine always did. "Because Vader warned me against him. He said he didn't want me to end up with his fate.""Vader
said that?" the prisoner asked. The old man's calm demeanor faltered, and he paced the short length of the energy field, stopping again in front of Anakin. He raised his hands as if to send them through the field, but the snap of electricity stopped him. "Then why do you keep yourself a prisoner?"
"You're the one in a cell," Anakin retorted.
The Jedi's blue eyes became unnaturally clear. "You're imprisoned by the dark side. Set yourself free."
Darth Vader hesitated outside the door to Luke's quarters. He was thankful for the lack of foot traffic in the corridor, because if any of Devastator's
crew had seen him hesitate at anything, they probably would have fainted in disbelief. He didn't quite understand it himself, but somehow this boy had the power to influence his actions.
When he activated the chime, Luke answered from within, and Vader motioned open the door. Inside, his son was sitting on the floor, back against his bunk and legs outstretched. Luke didn't acknowledge him, instead focusing on a small hessa-ball that he was calling to his hand. The ball skipped erratically on its way to Luke's fingertips, but it eventually reached its destination. Luke picked it up and tossed it towards his feet, and the process started over.
The sight both pleased and troubled Vader. He was pleased that Luke had learned some small amount about the Force, but it was a reminder that his son had learned it all from Anakin. Now that he'd set Devastator
hurtling through hyperspace towards the Seswanna Sector and the Death Star, he intended to correct that deficiency. "Your technique is off."
Luke looked up, his expression guarded. He'd been that way ever since their conversation in the shuttle. "I just need more practice."
"Perhaps," he said. "Or perhaps you have been taught incorrectly. What did Anakin tell you?"
Luke shrugged. "That I should imagine the object in my hand."
No wonder Luke was having difficulties: that directive was only part of the process. "You must first feel the connection...," he began, then realized he was echoing his own early instructions.
"The connection to what?" Luke asked.
What he was about to say sounded so Jedi
, but he didn't know how else to explain it. Whatever he'd learned from Palpatine had been built over his base of Jedi knowledge. He had no idea how Palpatine had first taught Anakin to access the Force. "The connection in the Force between yourself and the object."
Luke looked thoughtful, then turned his gaze upward to the mask. "So what is the Force, anyways?"
At least that part was straightforward. "It is an energy field generated by all living things."
"But this ball isn't alive. I should still feel something?" Luke said, extending his hand again.
"It...uh..doesn't matter," he stumbled, quite glad that Anakin wasn't around to hear this. "The Force connects everything: you, me, your bed, the ball. It surrounds us, and binds the Galaxy together."
Luke nodded slowly, and ran his hand over the metal frame of his bunk without actually touching it. Vader smiled to himself, a glow of pride spreading through him at the way the Force brightened when Luke reached for it. Watching his son made the Force seem wonderous again, instead of utilitarian.
"There are better methods to develop your awareness of the Force," he said. He made a quick assessment of the time remaining before Devastator
exited hyperspace. "Follow me. And bring your lightsaber."
Some things never changed, Bail Organa mused, no matter whether the Galaxy was Republic or Empire. The significance of this cafe' at the foot of the Senatorial Apartments was one of them. Its four walls of glass let in light from all directions, giving the impression that nothing could be hidden here. In fact, this traditional location for the transaction of business without actually conducting business had only grown more important under the oppression of Palpatine's New Order. And with Emperor Vader gallivanting off somewhere in space, making an official senate convocation impossible, the unsettled energy generated by Chandrila's destruction had filled the cafe' to capacity.
"Terrible tragedy," Senator Farru of Sern Prime said, shaking his head as he paused at Bail's table, his fingers brushing against the pale linen tablecloth.
"Yes," Bail answered solemnly. "Terrible."
Senator Farru bowed his head and moved on, leaving Bail and Leia alone again. Bail turned to his daughter. "So what does that make it? About two to one?"
Leia thought for a moment, and then nodded. "About that."
Bail leaned back in his chair and surveyed the room. Two thirds of the senators had expressed sympathy for Chandrila's demise. But that still left a significant number who thought that Chandrila got what it deserved, enough to make an attempt at retaking the Senate a risky proposition. They'd have enough problems fighting Vader without fighting amomgst themselves.
He looked again to Leia, and found her staring into the distance. Following her line of sight led him to a far table, where the senators from Taanab were being engaged by a tall young man in dark clothing. Bail worked to focus, not sure of who he was seeing. The young man looked in their direction, seeming to hold Bail's gaze, then meandered to another table. When Bail glanced back to Leia, she stared at her plate and picked at her salad. "That's him, isn't it?"
Leia seemed startled. "What is that, father's intuition?"
He caught himself before he spoke. In her mind, he shouldn't have recognized the young man. "I have my sources."
"Oh," she said, sitting up straight. She cleared her throat. "Then they should have told you that I haven't been seeing him."
"Mmmm," he replied, too caught up in watching Anakin steadily work his way closer to address her concern. Not only was the face identical, but the clone had the same confident manner and long legged stride that Bail remembered from the old days. No cloak flowed around him, but for a moment Bail swore time had reversed, and he was watching the Hero With No Fear return from another victory in the Clone Wars. The illusion only grew stronger the closer Anakin came. When Obi-Wan first spoke of Vader's clone, Bail had felt a distinct unease. But this face, this boy, he only knew as a hero of the Republic, and it was hard to connect it to the black armor.
Anakin picked his way between the diners and swung gracefully to Bail's table. "Good day, Senator."
The familiar voice only added to Bail's sense of deja-vu. "Good day," he said, shifting his gaze to Leia. "And I believe you've met my daughter."
Anakin blinked. "We've had occasion to speak, yes."
Leia's eyes shot daggers at Bail, but he ignored them. The real Anakin Skywalker never spoke with such polish, and Bail saw what might be Palpatine's influence in the young man. "How may we help you?"
"No need," Anakin said."Many of the other...patrons...are concerned about what happened to Chandrila, and I am here to assure you that the Emperor is doing everything possible to capture the traitor who committed the crime."
"Thank you," Bail said. So, Vader and his clone were definitely working together. He wanted to ask the boy what had become of Obi-Wan, but knew that was dangerous ground. "Is there any word of the Emperor's progress?"
Anakin smiled thinly. "I'm sure you're aware, Senator, that that sort of information is protected. I can only say that everything is going as planned."
Bail raised an eyebrow. Who was this kid? Vader had never shown the acumen to be aware of public relations, let alone to place a representative in that position. But somehow this boy had assumed the role with ease. "Of course. Just out of curiosity, how long have you worked with Emperor Vader?"
"Long enough," Anakin said, his eyes narrowing. "Why?"
"My daughter tells me you have exceptional knowledge of the Senate and its members," Bail said. "That's impressive for someone of your age."
Anakin ducked his head, and an ear-splitting grin lit his face for a moment, and then it was gone. The expression was completely natural and unpracticed, and Bail realized that Leia sometimes smiled that same way. He'd kept her protected from Vader for so long that he'd never associated anything about her with Anakin Skywalker. Until now.
"Politics is a fascinating subject," Anakin said, his face once again a mask of neutrality. "Wouldn't you agree?"
Bail noticed that Leia was patiently holding her tongue with what had to be monumental effort, and her face bore a hopeful expression. Hopeful, he supposed, that he might grant his approval now that he'd met her suitor. Little did she understand that his approval could never come, and that meeting Anakin only made him more puzzling. Bail looked into the face that had both saved and destroyed the Republic. "Yes, fascinating."
Darth Vader examined the lightsaber carefully. Its metal exterior still gleamed, and the controls were unfouled by sand or grit. Wherever it had lain these past sixteen years, it had been well protected. He thumbed it on, and was startled by the blue beam of light. Even though he knew it would be, it had been a long time since he'd seen anything but the scarlet of a Sith weapon. He modified the beam length and intensity before deactivating the saber and handing it back to Luke.
Luke adjusted his stance on the padded floor of the training salle, and reactivated the saber. He swerved it back and forth, making the blade sing, and a grin crept onto his face.
"Remember that a lightsaber will cut through almost anything," he cautioned. "Most alloys, all composites...flesh and bone."
Luke's smile faded, and he nodded seriously. "I'm ready."
Vader waved a hand, activating one of the pile of training remotes sitting on the floor. The remote rose in the air, and he stepped back to remove himself from the range of its motion sensors. It focused on Luke, and spun itself into position near his son's face. Luke narrowed his eyes in concentration, lightsaber extended towards the device. The remote hovered, then zipped past Luke's shoulder. Luke spun on his feet, trying to follow the glittering sphere, but it landed a bolt of energy to his left thigh despite his efforts. He grunted, but didn't give up. With his free hand rubbing his leg, he circled the remote, keeping the tip of the saber pointed at it.Too much motion
,Vader thought. Cin Drallig had told him the same thing, during his first lessons inside the Temple. He'd wanted to chase after the remote, to slice it fom the air, but the swordsmaster had gently pulled him back. A Jedi waits,
Drallig had told him. The other younglings had snickered at him, they who already had many years of instruction under their belts. Red-faced with embarrassment, he had done his best to hold still. But Drallig never laughed, only patiently guided him. He owed much of his skill to the elder swordsman.
"You are worried about where it is," he said. "You should be feeling where it will be."
"But how can I know that?" Luke said, his eyes still fixed on the remote.
is the whole point of this exercise," he said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Don't think. Just feel."
Luke shook his head and frowned, but remained in position. The remote wavered in altitude, then zigged back and forth in front of Luke. Luke swung the lightsaber in big arcs without matching the remote's path, effectively keeping his whole body covered. With precise timing, the sphere dove for the floor, and shot upward, landing a jolt to Luke's right shoulder. "Oww," Luke said, retreating from the remote until it hovered, unable to find a target. "I don't get it."
He chuckled inside the helmet. "Let me show you."
Luke carefully passed him the lightsaber, and Vader took a moment to accustom himself to its feel when ignited. He'd forgotten how good the balance was in this saber. Moving forward, he motioned the rest of the remotes to life, and set their speed to high. He closed his eyes, and reached out into the Force. Each remote tingled in his perception, and he positioned his arm so that the lightsaber was perfectly vertical and directly in front of him.
He felt the constellation of spheres start to circle him, and he waited, completely immersed in the Force. As they began firing, he rocked his arm with absolute certainty in time to deflect the incoming bolts. First right, then left, then up and down. They attacked so fast that a conscious defense would have been impossible. When they swarmed behind him he had to pivot on his feet, but his lightsaber was always there to block the attack. Having faced droidekas in battle during the Clone Wars, this demonstration was remarkably tame, but the feeling of being one with the Force nevertheless made him feel whole.
He let the exercise continue for a brief time, then deactivated his saber. A peppering of zaps made it to his armor before he waved the remotes to the floor and returned the saber to Luke. "And that, son, is how you do it."
"Wow," Luke said, looking suitably impressed. He hefted the saber hilt in his hand a few times without igniting it. "You know, I've been meaning to ask you, what is a Jedi? Anakin couldn't tell me."
A strangled noise made its way out the vocoder as he choked. Having Luke's trust was a two-edged sword. "A Force user who follows the precepts of the Jedi Order."
"I could have guessed that," Luke said. "I was hoping that since you were one you could tell me what it was like."
He should have known a simple answer wouldn't satisfy his son. A barrage of thoughts ran through his mind before he settled on a reply. "We...they
...were guardians of the old Republic. They maintained peace throughout the Galaxy."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Luke said.
"You should go on with your exercises," he said, bringing the conversation to a halt. "Use a two-handed grip. It will give you better control."
Luke's eyes searched the mask for a few moments, and then he took the hint. "Yeah, sure."
Vader watched Luke manually activate one of the remotes, followed by the lightsaber. In his mind's eye, though, a different scene played out. The teenage padawans Whie and Bene lay lifeless at his feet, and Cin Drallig stood in front of him. Anakin, what are you doing?
the swordsmaster had said, his expression only confused, not hostile. Please, stop.
He'd hesitated for a moment, tears forming in his eyes. I'm sorry. I can't.
And then he'd struck down Drallig, one of the few real friends he'd had in the Order. He'd stood frozen, and let the troopers of the 501st rush by, their blaster fire taking out the remaining padawans in the training hall. It had been no surprise that Drallig had been there, even less that he'd put the padawans' lives above his own. Guardians. Peacekeepers. Those were the time-worn descriptions of the Jedi. But he'd forgotten the one word that described them most. Protectors
. And no, that hadn't been so bad.
Anakin stilled his lightsaber against his thigh, and slowed his pace until his boots no longer clacked against the floor. He'd already withdrawn behind his mental shields, but he wanted to give no alert to the prisoner as he approached the cell block. He didn't know why he was down here. The stormtroopers would have notified him if the containment system had been breached, so there was no need to physically check the prisoner. But even as he argued with himself that he had more important things to do, he found himself outside the Jedi's cell.
Inside, the old man had removed his cloak and boots and was moving gracefully through a series of forms. Anakin melted back against the wall, his eyes following the prisoner's movements. He recognized them as combat maneuvers, but the rhythm and flow of the motion imparted a serenity to the scene, and Anakin felt himself falling into a relaxed state again.
"I could teach you a few katas," the prisoner said, never having looked up.
Just as with Palpatine, he was fooling himself to think that he could hide anything from the old Jedi. But whereas his mentor's perception had usually left him feeling like a vivisected specimen, the prisoner's awareness just seemed matter of fact. Anakin stepped away from the wall and towards the cell. "I killed Palpatine, remember. I don't need any help."
The prisoner regarded him for a moment, then bowed his head and swept his hand in front of him in a gesture of deference. "Of course you don't," the old man said before returning to his katas.
Anakin crossed his arms. There was something wrong with this whole situation.The first time the old man had snuck into the Palace, but the second time he'd literally walked right up to the front door. It was one thing for the prisoner to have given up when confronted by Vader, but why did he have to seem so damned content about it? "Why did you come here?"
The prisoner completed a turn, his socked feet sliding across the tiled floor. "To rescue Luke."
"From his own father?" he said. "Why?"
The prisoner paused this time, lowering his hands. "Luke must not become a Sith."
The Jedi were
relentless, just as Palpatine had said. However accepting the prisoner seemed of his fate, he was still at war. At war against the Sith. "Why, because you can't accept the truth of our ways? Because you're afraid of how powerful he might become?"
"No," the prisoner said vehemently, then again, more softly,"no." The old man turned his back to Anakin and picked up his cloak from where it lay atop his bed. After shrugging it on, he sat down and pulled on his boots, fastening them. He lingered at the edge of the bed, staring at the floor. When he looked up, he considered Anakin for several moments. "Because of what the dark side did to his father. I won't let that happen to Luke."
The old man's gaze made Anakin feel uncomfortable. It looked too open, too concerned. As if he were telling the truth. Anakin thought of his conversation with Luke, the one in which Luke had asked, Don't you talk about anything but enemies and schemes and killing people?
He'd never encountered anyone before who thought all those things were wrong. But what if there was more, to life, to the Force? At least Vader had been able to choose between Jedi and Sith.
The old man seemed to sense his confusion. "Give yourself over to the Force. Let go of your hate."
His brow wrinkled with tension, and he gritted his teeth. He could feel the pull of the Jedi's words, but he clung to his hold on the dark side, to the only way he'd ever known.
"Let go," the prisoner urged. "If the Force is truly your servant, you can regain control in an instant."
Maybe the old man was right. It was just a trial, just to see, so that he, too, could say he'd made the choice. "How? How do I do that?"
A noise escaped the prisoner, half laugh, half sob. "Clear your mind. Let go of everything but the Force. Don't think. Feel."
He squeezed his eyes shut, loosening the bonds of control that had always kept him safe. He could feel the tide of the Force lapping at his feet as if it had been waiting, waiting for this moment. It felt warm against his skin, soothing, encouraging him to keep letting go. As he did so the Force rose all around him, a great sea, rising until he was almost submerged. Panic almost pulled him back, but the Jedi's voice was in his mind- don't be afraid
- and he gave over the last of his conscious control. The Force rushed over him, sweeping him away, and to his relief, he didn't drown. He opened himself further and the current of the Force churned faster, taking him with it.
The tightness that was always in his gut and the worry that was always at the back of his mind disappeared, replaced by a sense of peace that was completely foreign. He had the overwhelming feeling that this was right, and that he was meant to do this. How could he have been ignorant of a connection to the Force this strong? Palpatine must have lied about the dark side. But Palpatine always sought greater power, so he would have chosen the light if it was truly more powerful. Maybe that meant the Jedi was lying and this was all an illusion. Anakin's doubt brought a chill to the waters of the Force, and his doubt quickly turned to fear. The serenity that had been such a relief now felt like a trap, and he shed its grip, seizing control the way he'd been trained. He emerged gasping into the reality of the cell block.
"Just like my Anakin," the old Jedi murmured, his eyes glistening in the harsh light. "So brilliant in the Force that sometimes I had to look away."
His heartbeat slowed as he reoriented himself. He still felt as if he were floating, caught somewhere between light and dark. From within the great calm that marked the Jedi's presence drifted a trace of emotion, bittersweet with both sadness and joy. Somehow, his brief journey had been very important to the old man. "You were Vader's master?"
"Like you, he really had no master," the prisoner said. "He was my brother, my friend."
Those were words he hardly knew the meanings of, especially when they were imbued with the reverence the old man gave them. "So why are you telling me all this?"
The Jedi smiled sadly. "Because I lost him. I can still save you."
Darth Vader leaned across the polished black conference table, one hand braced on either side of the Steel Talon's
captain, and stared into the quivering officer's face. The man had to know more than he was letting on. The Steel Talon
had left Imperial Center under the command of Admiral Motti, so if this captain
was now in charge of the ship, there must have been a formal transfer of authority. "You will tell me the location of Admiral Motti."
The captain's eyes darted to the ring of officers flanking Vader. Even though the men were part of Devastator's crew, he apparently thought he might find more sympathy from them. Eventually the captain's gaze fell to the mirrored surface of the table, and he resigned himself to his fate. "M'lord, as I said, I don't know. He left on the Havelon
and simply instructed me to remain here."
"And you didn't wonder why Motti was abandoning his command?"
"It's not my position to wonder, sir."
He frowned. That response was entirely appropriate. "Have you seen any unusual vessels while the Talon
has been in this sector?"
"No, sir," the captain said, shaking his head. "We've only encountered the Havelon
Vader stood up from the conference table and slowly walked the perimeter of the room. The captain sat immobile, waves of fear rolling off of him. Vader's crew stood equally still at the back of the room, hands clasped behind them, and eyes focused anywhere but on the captain. Vader paused a moment, receiving the distinct impression that they all expected him to kill the man seated at the table. And not without cause: many a subordinate who had performed unacceptably had fallen in the name of discipline.
But for whatever reason, he felt no inclination to do so this time. The man was clearly telling the truth; he could feel it in the Force. And while his crew had determined that Tarkin's holonet transmission had been sent from this ship, he was also increasingly sure that the ship had been left purposefully as a decoy. How much time had they wasted boarding the Steel Talon
and searching its records only to determine that Tarkin was long gone? How much time had he
wasted interrogating a man who knew nothing?
"Take this man to the detention center," he announced.
"M'lord?" asked Devastator's
"He is merely a pawn," he said. "Tarkin is our quarry, not him."
"Yes, m'lord," the vice-admiral answered, moving to apprehend the captain.
The captain went easily, turning to face Vader on the way out. "Thank you, sir," the man stuttered, reaching out a hand as if he actually intended to touch the black leather.
He stepped back, embarrassed by the man's display. "The rest of you are dismissed. I will rejoin you on board Devastator
After they had all left, he pulled out a chair and lowered himself into it. He had failed utterly on this mission. Tarkin had obviously anticipated that he would come roaring after the Grand Moff, and he'd performed exactly as predicted. If he'd thought about it, he'd have realized the improbability of finding a moving target in the vastness of the Galaxy. He should have released probe droids, or sent scout ships, anything that would have allowed him to search multiple systems simultaneously. But instead, he'd been foiled once again by his own impatience.
At the limits of his perception, dark rumblings moved through the Force, and dread gathered in the pit of his stomach. Tarkin had no doubt made good use of the time he'd bought here, and Vader knew it was only a matter of time until the Force relayed the waves of pain and distress that heralded the destruction of another world. He picked up his comlink and signaled Devastator
. "Forward Governor Tarkin's broadcast to me immediately."
"Sir, I've been monitoring all channels," came the reply. "There is no broadcast."
"There will be," he sighed. "There will be."
"Garm, you can't back out now," Bail said into the holoprojector. "The Alliance needs Corellia's strength more than ever."
"They destroyed Dantooine. Dantooine!" Garm Bel Iblis' blue image shouted back. "Tarkin seems to know all our secrets. How do you know Alderaan isn't next?"
Bail clenched his jaw. He didn't. But he wasn't about to fold to Tarkin's terrorist tactics. "Isn't freedom worth anything to you?"
"It's not worth much if we're all dead," Garm said, folding his arms across his chest.
"So that's it?" Bail said, his disbelief turning to anger. "Treaty dissolved. Just like in the Clone Wars, Corellia only cares about Corellia."
"You might poll your citizens before you pledge their lives to a danger they can't escape," Garm said, his voice going flat."Senator, you are not to contact me about this matter again. Corellia is a loyal supporter of the Empire."
The hologram winked out, leaving Bail staring at the top of his desk. He felt Leia's hand come to rest on his shoulder, and he put his own hand up across hers. He knew Garm was at least partially right. After all, hadn't Bail had kept Leia with him, instead of sending her home as he had originally planned? What protection could
he offer Alderaan? But how could he abandon the Alliance's dreams of justice, either? The future had never looked so clouded. "The fate of the Alliance is in my hands," he said, turning to look into his daughter's face."Pray that I have the wisdom for the task."