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 Three
Leia could feel her heart thumping as the elevator carried her up the few floors that separated her apartment level from Mon Mothma's. As fearless as she was in taking opponents head on, this was different. This was a friend. She wasn't sure what she was going to say; she just knew that she couldn't let this breach of trust go unacknowledged.
The elevator made its stop, releasing her into a foyer that was near identical to the one on her floor, all plush carpets and tall windows. Not quite as elegant as 500 Republica had been in its heyday, but damn close. She walked down the hall to the end apartment and activated the chime. When the door slid open, Mon greeted her with a faint smile. "I knew you'd be here sooner or later. Please come in."
She'd been in Mon's apartment many times and she gravitated towards her usual chair in the living area, the overstuffed one that faced out towards the windows. Mon returned from the kitchen with two glasses filled with a hazy liquid. She handed one to Leia before sitting down on the couch adjacent to Leia's chair. "Here, try this. It's from a mineral spring on Corulag."
Leia took a sip, then set her glass on the side table. "You obviously knew this bill was coming up, so you must have a good reason for not telling me about it."
"I thought you'd be upset, and I wasn't sure you'd be able to talk to me about it rationally," Mon said, curling up on the couch and leaning back against its cushions.
"Ah, which left blindsiding me as your preferred option. Thanks."
"What would you have done if you had known about this earlier?"
"Maybe had some time to stop this bill from going through. As it is, it's only two weeks to the vote."
"You heard them today, Leia. There is no stopping this. It's the will of the Republic."
"We made a deal," she said, moving forward to the edge of her chair. "You and I sat across the table from him and made promises as to what the Alliance would do in exchange for his cooperation. Now you want me to tell him we're going to break those promises? That's not the Republic I set up."
Mon took a sip of water. "Hopefully you noticed that his immunity from prosecution is still intact. You can thank me for that provision. There were many who wanted to withdraw that immunity."
"I'm supposed to thank you for only violating half of the agreement?" she said. "Do you know where we'd be without his help? Not sitting in an exclusive apartment on Coruscant, that's for sure. We'd still be dueling it out with the Empire and burying our dead."
"There is no doubt that the Republic owes him a great debt," Mon said calmly. "On the other hand, there is also no question that he owes the Galaxy a similar sum. All this bill will do is have us part ways while we're still ahead."
"Still ahead?" Leia shook her head. "Name one thing he's done since Endor that hasn't been for the good of the Republic. Need I remind you that he signed that agreement as Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader?"
"Unfortunately, that distinction doesn't give me the same comfort it gives you." Mon's expression tightened, and she unfolded her legs and leaned forward. "The problem is, Anakin Skywalker was the hero of the Republic once before, and that didn't stop him from being part of its destruction. Can you honestly tell me that you don't hear the ticking of a thermal detonator when you're around him?"
She did know that feeling, and realized that she was now the one retreating into the cushions. "But if power was his goal, then he'd never have helped us."
"I'm really surprised that you're defending him so strongly," Mon said, sinking back into the couch. "I actually had some hope you might see the necessity of this bill."
"And I still can't get over that you would have the Republic break its word," she said, frowning. "Where's the integrity in that?"
"Is that really
why you're so upset?" Mon was leaning forward again. "Because I can tell you, no one else in the Senate is thinking of this as a violation of ethics."
"Well, yes," she said. Isn't it?
" Because I personally made those promises. I'll feel like a traitor."
Mon's eyebrows raised. "A traitor? To the Republic, or to your family?"
"Both, I guess," she said, letting her eyes wander to the twinkling lights of the traffic lanes. "This will absolutely devastate Luke. And Anakin will think I lied to him."
"I never knew you were so concerned about his opinion."
"I've tried not to be, but it's complicated." Her anger was no longer fueling her, and she sought comfort against the bolsters of her chair. The memory of binders cutting into her wrists and of her face striking a cold hangar floor crept into her mind, and she turned back towards Mon. "You weren't there on Executor
. It was hopeless. I was resigning myself to the fact that Luke would die and I would be Palpatine's prisoner, and then...and then he appeared. He never slowed down, he never hesitated, he just walked right into Palpatine's reach and cut him down. He risked his own life to save us."
Mon lowered her head and nodded. "I'm sure it was a very powerful experience."
"And ever since then, ever since he's known that I'm his daughter, he's only been kind to me, even when I'm not kind to him." She didn't know why she was saying all this, but she couldn't stop herself.
"Leia, I'm sorry this complicates your family life," Mon said softly. "But I have to think of the Republic. With his history, he can't be left in a position of power. If he did something terrible again, I couldn't live with myself knowing that I allowed him to have that position."
She felt too unsettled to reply. It all seemed so clear just an hour ago. Her opposition to the Integrity Act was completely objective, wasn't it?
"You must see the truth in what I'm saying," Mon continued."You were Bail Organa's daughter long before you were Anakin Skywalker's. You know the Republic must come first."
"Admiral Skywalker, two vessels will be arriving shortly to relieve you from your patrol duties. Once they arrive, you are to take the BlueSaber
to Kessel. Republic ships have spotted unidentified Star Destroyers in that sector, and your assignment is to investigate those sightings."
"Understood," he replied, and switched off his cabin's holoprojector.
"Another Imperial remnant?" Luke asked.
He nodded. " Quite possibly. Tarkin was in charge of a secret installation outside Kessel. At least he thought it was secret. Just like he thought the mistress he kept there was secret."
Luke gave a sly grin. "Tarkin? A ladies' man? Leia always said he was as tough and dry as ten year old nerf."
"Son," he said, as they headed out of the cabin towards the bridge, "women can be a greater mystery than even the Force."
Dawn was a magical time on Coruscant, when the soft light of the rising sun matched the intensity of the building lights, bathing every corner of the city in a warm glow. Leia usually savored the sunrise, but today it had a different meaning, and it made her aware that she'd been up for at least two hours. She rose from the couch and headed back towards her darkened bedroom.
She paused in the doorway, comforted by the sight of Han's big frame filling her bed. He was lying on his side, the sheets bunched under his arm, and his hair tousled across his pillow. As she slid in next to him, the steady rate of his breathing never faltered. She cozied up to the broad expanse of his back, warming herself against the heat of his skin. When she pressed her lips to the nape of his neck, he murmured in response.
Her eyes drifted shut and she tried to replace the turmoil in her mind with the simple pleasure of being with Han. She was almost asleep when she felt his hand reach up for hers, and pull her arm down across his belly.
"Where'd you go?" he said, in a voice that sounded not quite awake.
"Couldn't sleep. Didn't want to keep you up, too," she said.
"Hmmm," he sighed. "Must not have done my job very well if you're still thinking about the vote. Thought you'd be dreaming of me."
She squeezed his hand."No, you were... wonderful. I'm so glad you were able to take some leave. The past two weeks have been awful. "
"Well, what's the use of being a general if I can't pull some strings every once in awhile?"
"I just wish I'd been able to get in touch with Luke. Or Anakin. Neither one of them have answered my comms."
He rolled onto his back and looked up at her. "Those black holes near Kessel always screw up your transmissions. I'll bet they don't get your messages 'til they're clear of that whole area."
"And by then, it will be all over." She laid her head against Han's chest. As if the Integrity Act wasn't bad enough, its provisions were going to be played out on a completely unsuspecting Anakin. The Emperor's advice to her on board Executor
floated through her mind : He doesn't deal well with betrayal
. Great. If Mon was so afraid of him committing crimes against the Republic, then maybe she should think twice about provoking him. "Do you think people can really change?"
"Well," he said, his hand stroking through her long hair, "you seemed to have made an honest man out of me."
She smiled. "Maybe I should be more specific. Do you think Anakin has changed?"
His hand paused. "Let's see. Since Endor, he hasn't palmed my blaster or tried to strap me to an interrogation table. Yeah, I'd say that's a change."
She thumped his chest. "I'm serious!"
"So am I," he said, gesturing with his free hand. "The thing about him is, it just depends on which side he's on. If he's on your side, everything's great. If he's against you, good luck."
"So, besides breaking a promise, the Integrity Act is a very stupid idea because it will pit the Republic against him?"
"Hasn't anyone talked about that? I wouldn't want to be the one to tell him."
"No, it's never come up. I guess they think if he's stripped of his ship and his troops that he won't be a threat."
"Lock a few senators in a room with him and that lightsaber and they'll change their minds," Han said. He slid his shoulder out from underneath her head so that they were lying face to face. "On the other hand, maybe he won't do anything."
She rolled her eyes."I doubt that."
"You'd be surprised what a man would do for love," Han said.
"Love? What are you talking about?"
He looked askance. "With your new Jedi skills I thought you'd have it all figured out."
"Quit being so mysterious! What are you getting at?"
"Why do you think Anakin negotiated with the Alliance in the first place?" he said, propping himself up on his elbow.
She shrugged. It was obvious, wasn't it? "He wanted to restore order to the Galaxy, and undo some of the damage he had done."
A wide grin split Han's face."Not even close. He did it for you and Luke."
"That's not true," she said, quickly looking away.
He tilted her chin up with a finger until their eyes met."The guy could have been the Emperor. He could have set up his own Senate, if he wanted. I'm telling you, there's only one reason a man gives up that much."
The knot that had lived in her gut the past two weeks was now awake. She rolled away from Han onto her other side, drawing her knees up and folding her arms tight against herself. Her mind went to the one and only time she had seen Anakin unmasked. Luke had been absolutely insistent, and she had at last given in, though she had refused to go inside the chamber.
When Anakin was ready, Luke had led her into the cabin, and at first she kept her eyes glued to the floor. In her peripheral vision she could make out Anakin behind the transparisteel panel, still an imposing figure without the armor. She raised her head to meet his gaze, but this time it was he who averted his eyes. Luke had warned her about the burns and the scarring, but he hadn't prepared her for the beauty that still resided in Anakin's ruined face. She walked trance-like to the transparisteel panel, now unable to take her eyes from him. He slowly lifted his head, and looked at her through lowered lashes.
In all the times she had faced the black helmet, this was never what she had imagined lay beneath it. Unwanted emotion threatened to take hold of her, and it was everything she could do to keep from bolting out of the cabin. She looked down to regain some self-control, but found herself drawn back to Anakin's face. Tears were forming in his blue, blue eyes, and he placed one black gloved hand to the inside of the panel, resting it opposite her cheek. The sadness and the longing in his expression transfixed her for a moment, but then it was just too much, and she had
run out of the room.
Luke had been waiting in the hall, and she fell into his arms. Anakin never offered to talk to her unmasked again, and she had never asked. It was just easier that way.
As the memory faded, she clutched herself even more tightly, and then Han put his arm around her and pulled her to him. "Are you okay, sweetheart?" he whispered in her ear.
She nodded, and quickly wiped her eyes. "I should get up. Get ready for the session."
Anakin sank into his desk chair and activated the datapad. It had been many years since he had guided a ship though the maze of black holes near Kessel, and the process was just as difficult as he had remembered. It was a relief to complete the final hyperspace maneuver that freed them from the powerful gravitational forces, and he hoped his navigation skills had left Luke suitably impressed.
Now all that stood between him and some well-earned rest was the usual backlog of holotransmissions that had poured into the ship's communication center upon their return to normal space. What was not usual was the number of high priority messages. Luke had several urgent messages relayed to his personal comlink as well, and they had looked at each other on the bridge, puzzled. It was if the whole Galaxy had fallen apart while they were gone.
One number repeated itself on his message log, an unfamiliar number with a governmental prefix. Each time it was signified of highest importance
, so he positioned himself within range of the holotransmitter and switched on the projector. As the figure on the other end resolved into electronic blue clarity, his brow furrowed, and he gave a nod into the projector."Chief of State Marest."
Marest gave a start, then appeared to gather himself. "Admiral Skywalker. You've returned from Kessel."
"We are still in the Outer Rim, but the mission has been completed," he said. "What do you require?"
The Chief of State swallowed visibly. "Yes, umm, we require
your immediate return to Coruscant."
"A debriefing with Supreme Commander Piett is already scheduled in two standard days. What has changed?"
"This directive does not come from the Combined Forces, but from the Senate itself," Marest said. He stared into a piece of flimsi. "Additionally...I must inform you that you have been removed from your position and are instructed to surrender command of the BlueSaber
to Captain Skywalker."
"What? On whose order?"
"A direct vote of the Senate enabling the Galactic Integrity Restoration Act."
"Is that a convoluted term for a court-martial?"
"Oh, no...no. There are no charges against you," Marest said. "The Republic has simply dissolved its relationship with you. Once you have conveyed official agreement with terms of the Act, you will be free to go."
"And you expect me to believe that you will not alter the deal further upon my arrival on Coruscant?"
"Well, yes. The Republic does not lie," Marest said. "And Admi...uh, Mister...Skywalker, please have Captain Skywalker contact this office as soon as possible."
The holo blinked out, and he leaned back in his chair. He had known it would come to this, eventually. From the first time he sat across from the Alliance's nervous leaders, he had known they would withdraw their support as soon as they felt the balance of power shift in their favor. But he had no regrets, because accepting that risk had given him everything he wanted. Even if the time had been far too short.
He felt Luke's anger just before the cabin door slid open. His son strode in, eyes ablaze, and he marveled at the sight of him, as he always did.
"Can you believe this?"
"Unfortunately, yes," he said. "Politicians are never to be trusted."
Luke paced the length of the couch. "Leia says the Act is illegal. We can fight this."
"We?" he said, standing up from the desk. "We
are not doing anything. You
are taking this ship back to Coruscant."
"I won't do it," Luke said, shaking his head."I won't betray you, Father."
He ignored the flash of warmth that his son's loyalty gave him, and stepped towards Luke. "You will do as I tell you."
Luke snorted. "That might have worked when I was five, but it certainly won't work now."
He sighed. There was no doubt the boy had inherited his mother's stubborn streak. "This is my battle. I will not have you jeopardize your future in the Combined Forces."
"Who said I wanted a career in the military?" Luke said. "I don't care about a future in the Combined Forces."
"Have you learned nothing from me?" he said. He looked at his son, golden haired and whole, and a true hero in the Republic's eyes. "You still have everything, as I once had everything. Do not throw it away as I did."
Luke paused, and then his head sagged. "But what they're doing to you is wrong."
"Everything will be all right," he said, putting a hand to Luke's shoulder. "But for now, this ship needs a commander, as do the men. Now go. The Chief of State is expecting your comm."
As he watched Luke nod and head out the door, sadness swept over him. Such a fine boy. He was going to miss him.