by Shinholster "Shady Shin" Funderbunk

Category: Novella

Prologue

He was surprised by its beauty. His view in every direction was dominated by artificial structures representing the influences of thousands of alien races. Natural plants and rocks were used to accent each edifice, but they were used sparingly. Only being close allowed the organic beauty to be perceived by the viewer. As the cityscape stretched beyond the horizon in every direction, and indeed covering the surface of the entire planet, the creations of sentient beings were all he saw.

And yet, the scene was quite beautiful, at least outside the buildings and above the surface. He knew of the ugliness in the levels deep below. Even the buildings above the surface housed their dirty secrets in places. There is always a balance of dark and light, and if you can only see one, you can rest assured the other is somewhere close, even if hidden. This knowledge has always given him hope in the dark times and kept him vigilant as recent events seemed to heralded the age of galactic peace.

He wasn’t supposed to be here yet. Mas Amedda had only just formally surrendered after the events on Jakku, and the transition from Imperial rule to Republic was in its infancy here. Military teams were still clearing this area. Governmental offices were searched to prevent any traps left by the previous occupants from being triggered, at least by important people. Far fewer sabotage devices had been found than had been expected. Most had been disarmed before going off. Those that could not be disarmed were triggered under controlled circumstances. Only three had detonated before being discovered, resulting in one death, one loss of limb, and one concussion.

The secondary duty of the teams was to confiscate any data left behind by Imperial officials, and this is what concerned Luke Skywalker. The Emperor had two personas. One was the military leader of the Empire. The Senate and Republic Navy were eager to comb through all the information to determine many things, not the least of which was ensuring there were not unaccounted for fleets of ships still hiding in space and discovering facilities and projects which could be used to help the citizens of war ravaged worlds.

Luke was not interested in those things. The Senate would do a better job of determining how to use the resources left behind. It was the second role of the Emperor, that of a Sith Lord, which interested Luke. The Imperial Palace was the former home of the Jedi Temple. How much of the Jedi knowledge had been destroyed by the Emperor could only be guessed, but Luke did not want those files and artifacts crated up and sifted through by bureaucrats. Nor did he want Sith items and knowledge to fall into the wrong hands. This was a dangerous and delicate task the undertaking of which, as far as he knew, could only fall to him. For that reason, Luke could no longer wait for authorization from an overwhelmed and, at least in this respect, an incapable government. A liaison from the Senate was supposed to have escorted him earlier in the day. After waiting two hours past the appointment time and failing to raise the escort on his com, Luke found himself traveling to the Imperial Palace alone.

His decision wasn’t made in haste or anger and really hadn’t felt like a decision at all. While meditating to ease his frustration, a presence in the Force seemed to reach out to him, pulling him to the former temple.

Now just outside the huge structure with many military personnel and Senate staff securing and transporting their booty, Luke saw an older woman of no discernible rank or office standing alone and looking straight at him. Immediately he recognized her as the presence in the Force calling to him. The closer he got to her the stronger his connection to her grew. When he got within two meters of her, he seemed to know her and her connection to the temple.

“You studied long ago. You were here the same time as my father,” Luke said. Without waiting for her confirmation, Luke asked, “What can you tell me about him?”

Eliana responded, “There was only a brief span of time that your father and I were in the in the Temple concurrently.”

She paused long enough to see the confused and disappointed look cross Luke’s face. “Although I spent very little time him, I knew him better than anyone else ever did. I will tell you all you desire to know,” she said in a voice that sounded tired and not at all eager.

Chapter 1

“But I don’t want to jump,” Eliana said in a soft voice, matching the tone Obi Wan Kenobi had used in his request . As part of his Padawan training, Obi Wan had to participate in general training of younglings in the ways of the Force. To become a Master, every Jedi would need to demonstrate the ability to tutor a Padawan. Each youngling was to attempt a jump to a high platform in a corner of the training room. The platform was on a level that each youngling would have to use the Force to reach it. The room’s walls and floors were safely padded because no one ever made the jump the first time.

Obi Wan paused. Relaxation glided through all the muscles in his body.The thought crept into his mind that maybe it was too early to insist each youngling attempt the jump. In the Jedi Order, unlike the Sith, there was freedom for individuality, wasn’t there? “Surely there is no harm in allowing each trainee to come around to attempting each task at each trainee’s own speed,” Obi Wan thought. Obi-Wan began to consider what other lesson he should begin to teach Eliana. “Alright then, what would you like to do instead?” The realization dawned on him. The idea to change activities was not an original thought. At least it wasn’t original to him.

Eliana started to respond, but she was interrupted by Obi Wan before she could sound the words. “No, never mind,” he said feeling a bit perplexed. Resolve returned to to his voice, but his insistence remained calm. “We are practicing using the Force to aid in jumping.”

Obi Wan nervously checked his periphery to see if Master Qui Gon had noticed his self contradiction. Qui Gon sat motionless, deep in his meditations.

Obi Wan returned his attention to Eliana. “Jump up onto that platform,”

“I won't do it!” Eliana shrilled. This time, the youngling’s ability to use the Force to manipulate Obi Wan’s mind was not used stealthily. She had used all the strength of her voice to show the intensity of her conviction, and the same intensity was applied to her use of the Force. There was no relaxation. There was no subtle counterargument to the direction Obi Wan had given. Her presence barged into his mind, and the connection was so strong, it did more than bend Obi Wan’s desires to match those of Eliana.

He was not being influenced on a superficial level but felt that every part of his mind and memory had been invaded. As he pushed back against the intrusion, he realized the connection was not communicating only one way. He found Elina’s mind laid bare to him. Youth and inexperience meant her mind was a sparsely filled, unorganized space. This made it easy for Obi Wan to grasp the main concerns of Eliana’s life. The strongest desire he felt was for her to be able to control her own life. As Obi-Wan followed the path deeper into her mind, he found a memory at its root.

The memory was confused and not well formed because it was from her infancy. She had not yet learned to speak at the time the memory had been formed. Obi-Wan could feel it mostly through waves of emotions, but also through a few strong images. He felt her fear, sadness and anger. She was losing something. She screamed at the top of her lungs but could not use words to express what she wanted.

Two people in Jedi robes flashed through Obi Wan’s mind. Then the image of a woman. Outside a home as a door is shut. Being held by one Jedi as the other opens the entryway to their ship. The flickering lights of Hyperspace. The cacophony and blurred images of Coruscant. Calmness in the the Temple nursery.

Obi Wan used all his conscious thought and discipline in the Force to pull himself back into his own mind. He felt as if he had been submerged and was striving to break the surface as his lungs burned. So strong was the feeling, he actually gasped for breath as the connection between the two minds was broken.

His mind was still in a haze as heard himself say, “Alright, we can try something else.” Obi Wan took another deep breath and felt a little more clear headed. Realizing he had said what Eliana wanted him to say, he quickly and awkwardly added, “As soon as Eliana attempts the jump.” He tried his best to make the two statements appear to be one sentence, but he feared at least Master Qui Gon had seen through his hasty cover-up. His quick glance informed him Master Qui Gon was in the same meditation as before.

He turned back to Eliana and saw her mouth begin to form new words. “Not another word,” he said gently. She paused momentarily. An idea sparked in his mind to clash saber with saber. He extended out with the Force to touch her mind but was cautious not to be pulled so far in again. He also mentally guarded himself to prevent her from reaching back into his mind as he began to influence hers. “You do not want to speak. You want to attempt the jump,” he said with authority as a smile eased across his face.

Obi-Wan turned to face the starting point for the jump in anticipation of Eliana moving in that direction to set up for her task. His confidence in finally gaining control of the situation was soon dashed when he heard her soft voice. “But I don’t want to.”

Obi Wan faced Eliana again, but before he could speak, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye coming from the direction of Master Qui Gon’s position. Shifting his focus, he saw that indeed Master Qui Gon was uncrossing his legs, standing up, and walking toward Obi Wan and the group of younglings.

“Now would be a good time for a meal break,” Qui Gon said as neared the group. “Everyone let’s proceed to the viand hall.”

Obi Wan started to speak, but Qui Gon gave a look to wait until the younglings all passed through the door. Once alone, Qui Gon gave his attention to Obi Wan.

“I’m sorry, Master Qui Gon. I did not expect her to be so strong with the Force. Please, if I could only. . .”

Qui Gon motioned him silent and said, “Obi Wan, you must always be mindful of those around you. Be aware of not only what they are doing but also of their potential.” Qui Gon hesitated, the continued, “You must learn to look past the person and see how the Living Force is working through the individual.”

Qui Gon turned to leave and join the younglings for the meal. He turned back to Obi Wan and touched him gently on the on the forearm. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Obi Wan.” “Master Qui Gon, how can I hope to complete my Padawan training and someday become a Jedi Master if I cannot guard a my mind from an untrained youngling?”

Master Qui Gon’s face grew stern as he spoke, “You were closer to losing that dream than you think.” He read the concern on Obi Wan’s face and smiled to ease his worry. “When I rose from my meditation and began to cross the room, for some reason, my first thought was to tell you to stop trying to make that girl jump or I would kick you out of the Jedi Order myself.”

Obi Wan exhaled as stress and concern left his body. His smile faded into thoughtfulness. “Master Qui Gon, have you ever known a Jedi to be able to influence the minds of others so easily?”

“A Jedi Master, yes,” Qui Gon responded, “but never an untrained youngling. I will tell Master Yoda about what occurred here today. He and the Jedi Council will know what to make of it.”

Chapter 2

“Master Yaddle, I don’t want to go,” Eliana said with an effort to influence the mind of her Master.

“Trying to control the thoughts of others, you must stop.” replied Yaddle. “Open to the questions of the rest of the Council, you must be.” The two continued walking toward the Jedi Council Chamber.

“But...” Eliana started. Yaddle stopped walking and closed her eyes. Eliana slowed, at first slowed to determine why Yaddle had stopped, but soon felt so tired that she came to complete stop herself.

“A great ability to trick the minds of others, you have, but there is more to the Jedi than being a one trick fathier. Long enough have I studied that trusted with the power of morichro have I been. Slow an opponent's life functions to the point of death I can.” She watched as Eliana braced herself against the wall to keep from lying down and going to sleep. “Useful for making rebellious younglings tired, it also is.”

Yaddle ceased her morichro, and, using the Force, she eased Eliana away from the wall and held her upright. Eliana’s eyes began to open as energy returned to her body. “Much power in you there is,” Yaddle said as she stopped holding up Eliana and allowed her to stand under her own power. “The One we have been waiting for, you might be. To what is said to you in there today, listen carefully. Decide you must whether being a Jedi Master, you desire. If so, other abilities you must develop and hiding behind just one, you must stop.” Yaddle turned and entered the Council Chamber as the doors opened. Eliana took a deep breath and followed her mentor. For the first time, a sense of pride entered her mind as the idea of being the One generations of Jedi had anticipated was an enticing thought. She would listen. She would be open to the recommendations of the Council. From this day on she would seek to be as powerful in all aspects of the Force as she was in mind influence.

The first to speak to her was Master Mace Windu. He asked her to tell him the random images appearing on a data pad only he could see. It was easy for her to glean the information from the mind of Master Windu. “A ship. A cup. A star. A ship.” Her confidence grew with each image. If reading minds was the test to determine if she was the Chosen One, she knew she had nothing to worry about.

As the test continued, she could feel Master Windu using the Force to prevent her from seeing into his thoughts. The training of Masters Yaddle and Ginn aided her. After the unrestrained connection with Obi-Wan, Eliana had been working on probing the minds of others more subtly. An aggressive reach into the consciousness of another could cause damage and limited her ability to keep her mind guarded.

She relished in the sense of accomplishment she felt as she carefully increased the effort used to push back against Windu’s defenses. She matched him point for point as she overcame his resistance and continued to correctly identify each image. “A planet. A tree. A river. A speeder” With every answer, another thought of Master Windu was becoming clearer to her. He was impressed. Not only was she breaking through his manipulations where most others would stumble, she seemed to do so with no added stress or strain. Although it would never show on his face or in his body language, Eliana could feel the difficulty Master Windu was experiencing. He had not reached the limit of his Force abilities, but it was as far as he was willing to go without feeling he was risking the safety of the youngling. Eliana liked the way she felt at this moment.

“How do you feel?” Master Yoda asked.

“Very happy, Master Yoda,” she responded.

Master Ki-Adi-Mundi picked up the conversation. “Your thoughts dwell on yourself. You are proud of your accomplishment and of how impressed others are with you.”

“Shouldn’t I be proud of how strong I am with the Force?” she asked.

“No!” Yoda said emphatically. “Pride leads to entitlement. Entitlement leads to subjugation. Subjugation leads to suffering.”

Eliana became self-conscious for the first time since beginning the test. She searched the other faces in the room for reassurance. “Why doesn’t one of the other council members come to my defense?” she thought. “Won’t one of the few female members speak for me? Surely Master Yaddle will aid me if no one else will?” Only silence greeted her.

“You may know leave,” Master Windu said. “The Council would like a moment to deliberate in private.”

Eliana’s moments of elation had given way to the sting of rejection as she exited the chamber alone.

**********

“Why didn’t you speak in my defense?” Eliana asked. Her question was directed at Master Yaddle who joined her for a meal in the viand hall after the Council meeting had been adjourned.

“Usually lead, those three do. The way, it just is.” Yaddle responded.

“But why?” Eliana asked.

“A small group of leaders, every incarnation of the Council has had.”

Eliana continued her questioning, “Have any females ever led?”

“Not in my time,” Yaddle answered, “but none ever have, that does not mean.”

“No one but Master Yoda has served longer on the current Council,” Eliana stated with an edge to her voice. “If you have never seen it, what makes you think it has ever happened?”

“Good question, that is,” Yaddle answered in a sullen tone looking down at her plate of food.

“If females never lead, why would a majority of the Council ever accept me as the Chosen One?” came Eliana’s desperate question.

After a long pause, Yaddle answered. “No effect on the truth, their opinion about you has. Whether you are the Chosen One, the Force will determine. Wait on their acceptance, the Force will not.”

Eliana remained quiet during the rest of her meal, wishing she could believe Yaddle’s words.

Chapter 3

“I hear that Master Qui Gon thinks he might be the Chosen One,” Sung’Se said in an excited tone. The younglings were doing their rotation in the laundry room. Sung’Se paused her conversation long enough to levitate a appliance used to remove wrinkles from the newly cleaned robes. Using the Force, she began smoothing the garment. The Masters encouraged the younglings to use the Force to complete everyday tasks as a way to develop a better control of the power. She picked up where she left off. “Do you think it’s possible, Charrum?”

Charrum was using the Force to fold the robes nicely once Sung’Se flattened out every crease. He had lifted a robe in the air, but left it there unfolded as he switched his concentration to focus on the conversation. “I don’t see how. That boy has been living on a dirty desert planet in the Outer Rim with no Jedi training. He could never be the Chosen One.”

“I don’t know,” Krem countered as he tied the finished laundry into neat bundles. “He wasn’t here a day before he was taken in front of the whole Jedi Council in a closed meeting.”

“And we all know how Master Qui Gon has his own ideas about how things should be,” Esther interjected, “even if the Council doesn’t agree with him.” She continued to process the wet clothes through the dryers that removed all dampness within seconds.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Arius said as she ran the dirty attire through the cleaning solution. “As many times as a ‘Chosen One’ has been rumored, none has ever panned out. The last one won’t ever reach the level of Master because she can’t proficiently use the Force for any task other than influencing minds.”

WIth that comment, Eliana dropped the basket of dirty robes she had been carrying in her hands. She had carried the laundry through the entire room and heard the conversation. Because the robes were stacked to height that obscured her face, the other younglings did not realize it washer that had entered the room. She turned to walk back across the whole length of the room to retrieve another load. The tension the room was palpable as past each person, with every face staring at her with a blank expression.

She had grown to loathe interacting with her peers. She had loved the notoriety she received when the rumors about her possibly being the Chosen One had started. Reverence slowly turned to reproach and then to ridicule as she lagged behind every other student in using the Force physically. She felt shame as most in the Jedi Temple doubted she would ever actually be a Jedi, much less the Chosen One.

So broken was the concentration of each individual in the laundry room that each task was frozen in place. The younglings’ connection to the Force lapsed as she passed each one. Several pieces of clothing fell into the tub of cleaner so that it overflowed. A robe stayed in the dryer much longer than it should have. The wrinkle remover hovered over one spot for an extended period of time. Unfolded laundry as well as completed bundles fell to the ground. “You might want dispose of the apparel that’s burning before you pick up and reclean the what’s on the floor,” Eliana said as she exited the room.

As awkward as the moment was, Eliana was, in a small way, grateful for it. She was glad the others were aware, at least this time, of how their thoughts about her cut her deeply. She just wished they knew that whether or not they expressed their feelings verbally, Eliana heard them clearly just the same. The realization that the others would never be able to stop the thoughts from going through their minds during every encounter with her led Eliana to make a decision about something she had been contemplating for a very long time.

Chapter 4

` “You wanted to see me, Mater Qui-Gon?” Eliana said as she entered his quarters.

“Yes, Elina, come in,” Qui-Gon Jinn invited as he rose to greet her.

Eliana sat down in a chair facing Qui-Gon and nervously looked around the room avoiding eye contact. When her eyes would momentarily look in his direction, she could see a patient smile resting on his face. “He summoned me, but he hasn’t told me what he wants,” thought Eliana. “Why won't he tell me the reason he wanted me here?”

“I can feel you,” said Qui-Gon, pausing momentarily mid-sentence, then continuing, “trying to get into my mind.” He pointed to his temple. “You are so powerful. I wish you would change your mind and stay to complete your training.” Eliana’s furrowed brow was all the response Qui-Gon needed to know there was no need to push any further on the subject. HCe refocused on the issue at hand. “You want to know why you are here, yet you burrow into my mind instead of asking me. Why?”

“I’m sorry, Master Qui-Gon,” Eliana stammered. “When I feel nervous or stressed I sometimes don’t even realize I’m reaching out with the Force to find answers that will comfort or relax me. I don’t mean to invade the minds of others.” She saw Qui-Gon begin to speak, but she interrupted him before he got a word out. “And I know you are going to tell me to always be mindful of those around me.”

“And you didn’t even use the Force that time,” joked Qui-Gon. “Am I that predictable?”

Eliana laughed and allowed herself to relax.

“Now that I disarmed you, I will tell you why wanted to see you. Master Yaddle tells me you will be working at hospital on Naboo.” “Yes sir,” Eliana answered timidly. “Once Master Yaddle realized I was not going to change my mind about leaving, she told me many who leave the order still feel a need to serve others.” Qui-Gon moved to pour two cups of tea while she spoke. “She said many Force users find fulfillment in police, rescue or medical departments. You know I have no physical gifts, so I thought I would be most useful in the medical field. I have no medical training, so I will be working in the Palliative wing.”

Qui-Gon handed her the warm beverage, and Eliana accepted it with a polite nod.

“So you will be using your ability to influence the minds of others to help relieve pain in patients who have incurable illnesses?”

Eliana had begun to sip the tea. Being hotter than she anticipated, the liquid burned her tongue. She pulled the cup away from her mouth and tried to swallow the tea before it burned her mouth further. It almost spewed out of her mouth as she responded affirmatively to his question amid a fit of coughing.

“You may get to practice by relieving your own pain,” Qui-Gon teased.

Eliana grinned broadly as she set the tea down.

Qui-Gon continued his questions. “Do you have any fear of helping others deal with pain as they pass on from this life?”

“Death is a part of life,” Eliana said, repeating back the montra all early Jedi trainees were taught.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Qui-Gon responded dismissively. “You were always a good learner of knowledge, but have you thought about how it will feel to you, with your deep mental connection, to be in someone’s mind as they die?”

An expression of shock and horror came across Eliana’s face. “No,” she whispered in a haunted tone.

“Don’t despair,” he reassured her. “I have been meditating and attempting to master an ability that I think will help you in that type of situation. If you still feel like you want to follow this path, I can teach you to deal with death. Do you want me to show you?”

Eliana was no longer comfortable with the idea of easing the pain of others while they died. As dreadful as the thought was, failing in another endeavor weighed on her heavily. If this was to be her only Force ability, there was no more noble way to use it. She had to put the comfort of others above her own. “Yes, Master.”

“Good,” said Qui-Gon. “Now take off your shoes and get comfortable. We have very much to accomplish before you leave.”

Chapter 5

Eliana exited her apartment building and began her walk to the hospital, the same route she had taken for almost forty years. The apartments were furnished to hospital workers as part of their compensation but also as a way to have staff in close proximity. The walk took an average of ten minutes with only slight variations in time for most species, depending on their mobility. Some of the more affluent workers opted for their own private domiciles away from the communal living quarters, but Eliana never desired anything more and was content with the arrangement.

Turnover among hospital workers was common enough that the occupants of her neighboring apartments had changed several dozen times over the years. This suited Eliana well, because she never desired to make deep, lasting friendships. Her interactions with coworkers and neighbors was limited to politely responding only when addressed by others. Over time, she had developed a reputation for being reserved and eventually, even newcomers were warned not to try to interact with her.

It wasn’t that Eliana didn’t like other beings. She had enjoyed her friendships from her days at the Jedi Temple. At least until everyone stopped thinking of her as the Chosen One. The arrival of Anakin Skywalker may have marked the end of the time when she was considered by anyone to be special, but a few had doubted the moniker months before that. Eliana herself felt the weight of the responsibility of being fulfillment of a prophecy and felt like a fraud before most Jedi lost faith in her.

She never wanted to feel that way again. She had participated in the niceties of introductions when she first arrived on Naboo, but the conversations always ended in the same place. When asked about her past, she could never avoid telling others about her time in the Jedi Temple. She wasn’t the first to leave the order, but outsiders couldn’t help but wonder why someone would leave the respected life of a Jedi to come and live a mundane life with the commoners.

By the time the Jedi had been eliminated, Eliana’s self imposed social quarantine insulated her from being connected to the Jedi at all. She appeared to be an ordinary caregiver, and no one realized how much she helped others with their pain and fear as they left this existence. Giving information about herself had gone from being merely awkward to being dangerous. Eliana usually left earlier than needed to be punctual for her shift, and today was no exception. She usually took different routes when she had time, to enjoy the beauty of the city. She took her favorite route which took her past the tomb of Queen Amidala. The tomb itself made her very sad, but she could not help but to be drawn to it. Amidala had been Naboo’s most beloved citizen during her life. She had lead her planet through its most difficult time in recent memory and united the two sentient species of her homeworld.

Her untimely death only increased the love people felt for her and increased her legend, as such things often do. The most devastating blow came when her body was stolen from the tomb within a year of her burial. Her body was never recovered, and to Eliana’s knowledge, the reason it was taken had never been determined. She suspected that, because of how well preserved the bodies of Naboo dignitaries were kept after death, Amidala was now a trophy of a high powered enemy. Eliana could never decide if it had been orchestrated by the Trade Federation or a member of the Senate who did not like her stance against the war.

As she passed by the tomb, she looked at the makeshift memorial which was at the gate which separated the public from her tomb. She noticed some new additions since the last time she had passed. There were a few more floral arrangements. A stuffed Ewok and a Porg doll were now residents of the village of tributes left by children. There was a new painted insignia of, what looked to Eliana to be, a phoenix. These types of public outpourings of grief tended to be temporary. Eliana could not help but be amazed that, even after more than twenty years and continuous removal by authorities, this memorial kept being resurrected. This thought gave her a feeling of deep satisfaction for the phoenix insignia.

As sad as the tomb made her feel, Eliana could not resist the pull it had on her. She did not know exactly why she was drawn to it. She lingered until a feeling of satisfaction filled her, and then she proceeded to the hospital.

Her shift at the hospital was uneventful. She was preparing to leave when she was summoned to the triage ward. A Togruta male had just been brought in as an emergency. He had been severely injured. His body had many burn marks and cuts. His right hand and left montral were missing. Doctors had done all they could for him, but death was unavoidable. Eliana agreed to sit with him until he passed.

Once she was left alone with him, Eliana began to do what had become second nature to her. Even though he was unconscious, Eliana could feel his terror. She reached into his mind with the Force to ease his pain and calm his fears. Years of practice helped Eliana to be gentle. She slowly wound her presence around his troubling feelings. Little by little, she bore more and more of the burden. It was only the lessons Master Qui-Gon had given her all those years ago which kept her from being overtaken by the fear of death. He had taught her to see it as a door to another plane of existence. The calm and acceptance she had eventually transformed the panic of her patient to ease his transition. Eliana was almost through with the process when a new fear seized the mind of the Togruta. Only on rare occasions had she lost her grip on her patient’s mind to the point of having to start the interaction over again. In those instances it was because she was tired or lost concentration. This one was different.

Eliana extended out further with the Force. The fear was coming from another part of his mind. She had relieved him of his immediate trauma to the point a secondary horror had room to reemerge. Eliana followed the feeling to a deeper memory.

A hooded, dark face came into focus. Eliana’s pulse quickened as she recognized Emperor Palpatine’s disfigured visage. She took two deep breaths to calm herself. She probed further into the memory.

As she tapped into the memories, she did not experience them in real time. Instead, as soon as she was exposed to the experience, she instantly knew all of it. She was remebering the event instead of learning about it.

The Emperor wanted the Togruta, who Eliana now knew was named Shi’holter Fabruch, to steal the body of Padmé Amidala.

The revelation sent violent shivers through Eliana. The man groaned as she temporarily lost control of his pain and fear. Alarms on medical instruments shrilled their warnings as Fabruch’s heart began to fail, but quickly fell silent as Eliana soothed him with Force.

She used all her concentration to minister to her patient, while at the same time following the trail down which the memory led. Farbruch never fully understood the reasoning of his master. Eliana could only gleen the impressions Palpatine left upon his servant. Fabruch’s interpretation was that a great secret was hidden within Amidala. His master did not want the body to be destroyed and did not want to know where she was hidden. As powerful as he was, the Emperor did not want to inadvertently reveal her location, especially to his closest ally.

Fabruch would satisfy the pledge he made to give his life to the Empire. It would not be given up in an instant in battle as was the case for most soldiers. His life would be spent guarding the body of a beloved public servant and avoiding interaction with other beings as much as possible.

The plan to hide the body was his decision alone. Staying on Naboo was a gamble, but Fabruch believed trying to get her off-world risked discovery by customs officials. Palpatine wanted the mission to be so secret, Imperial officials would not know to protect Fabruch. He also believed officials would expect the thief to get away from Naboo as quickly as possible. Sometimes, hiding right under somebody’s nose was the most effective. It was successful. For decades Fabruch lived in his isolation, alone with one of the most sought after beings in the galaxy. As time went by, Fabruch became less vigilant. He began visiting local cantinas searching for company. His social circle widened as he became a regular at a popular cantina. This thought was tied closely to his memories of his attack that brought him to the end of his life. It flowed through his mind as he wondered how Darth Vader had found him.

The discovery of this memory by Eliana set off the medical alarms again. Exhausted, Eliana could not calm her patient and continue her investigation into what he knew. Finding Amidala’s location was more important, and she was running out of time. Eliana focused more on the secrets Fabruch had buried.

As Vader attacked him, Fabruch managed to fight back. The Emperor had picked him because he had some knowledge of the Force. Palpatine never developed it, but it was enough to surprise Vader and escape.

Doctors began to enter the room and check Fabruch’s monitors. “You’re going to have to move away from him,” Eliana heard one voice say. She couldn’t stop now, not until she knew the location.

During his attack, Fabruch never gave away where she was hidden. He didn’t even think about. Eliana had to pull out and explore another area. The noise in the room and doctors shouting orders made it difficult for her to concentrate. She jumped from memory to memory with no luck. Hands grabbed her. She resisted. Deeper into Fabruch’s mind she plunged. She hand no more time for a gentle touch, and the stress caused Fabruch to scream in agony. More hands reached and pulled her away. The monitors beeping changed to one steady tone. A doctor moved to the space Eliana had vacated, but it was too late. Fabruch was dead.

Eliana had no time to deal with the aftermath of his passing. She was already out of the room and heading for the location she had seen in Fabruch’s mind. Her only concern was whether he had moved her sometime after the memory Eliana discovered.

Chapter 6

Eliana found the room. It was secured, but luckily she had discovered the security code in Fabruch’s mind. She entered the code, then entered the room. She burst into tears from sheer joy and exhaustion. She crossed the room, walked behind Amidala, and knelt beside the unadorned queen. Now facing the door, she knew she must contact the authorities once she gathered herself. She only needed to rest for a little while. That rest would not come. She realized she must have been followed. Darth Vader walked through the door. He walked over to face Eliana, with the body of his wife between them. He removed something from his belt.

Eliana placed both of her hands on Amidala, She took a deep breath and began the meditations Master Qui-Gon taught her so long ago.

Vader singed the air as he ignited his saber. It reached its apex before the blade had extended to its full length. The anger of years fueled what would be the down stroke. Over two decades of searching for the woman he betrayed the galaxy to save. His failure fanned the flame of his rage.

Eliana never stopped her meditations.

His betrayal made his anger grow into an inferno.

She never looked up to face the death blow she knew would come.

Thoughts of the Emperor’s manipulation and lies caused the wrath to burn inside him like the core of a star.

Steadfastly protecting Amidala was her only goal. She wanted see something worthwhile through to the end. For once in her life, she did not want to fail.

Anger was a powerful conduit for the dark side of the Force for any Sith. In Vader, in this moment, it transformed him into a sentient kyber crystal.

Facing death, Eliana let go of every other thought and gave her entire self over to the Force. She felt as if her energy was a waterfall cascading and engulfing the bones of Padme.

The coiled spring of Vader’s muscles twitched as he began the downward arc of his saber, but then he heard her voice.

“Anakin, stop!”

With all of his will, Anakin cried out in anguish as he halted his blade just before it struck its target.

He would not have been able to stop himself if he had only seen Eliana before him. She was there, eyes closed, chanting, but she was not alone. Her head was bowed as she sat cross legged on the ground with her hands resting on Padmé, but the color was gone from her. Not so much gone, but distorted by a translucent energy. He could see the shape of Eliana through the energy. The energy appeared in the form of a woman overlaying the body of Eliana, but in contrast, she held up her hands and looked straight at Vader. She was the one really speaking.

“You’re breaking my heart!” “Padmé?” Vader said, humanity almost returning to his voice. “Annie, why are you doing this?” she asked, while tears rolled down her ghostly face.

“Don’t call me that,” he said in a voice as gentle as possible. He averted his eyes so that he did not lookat her. “I don’t deserve to hear you call me by the name of a man who no longer exists.”

“He’s in there,” she responded pointing to his chest. “You’re still in there. You do exist.” “Anakin Skywalker is dead,” he said with a little more edge to his voice. “You’re alive. Why can’t you see that!” “I died the day I killed you,” Vader said slowly.

“Oh Annie, is that what you think, that you killed me?” Padmé said through heavier sobs.

“My master told me I killed you,” he said. “I wanted to die. I gave my complete will over to him.”

WIth anger in her voice for the first time, Padmé asked, “How could you do that? Was that how you honored my memory? By serving the man who killed me?”

“What?!” Vader shouted.

“Yes, you’re Emperor killed me,” she said in a confused tone. “I don’t know how I know. I guess it has to do with our connection,” she said as she motioned to Eliana, her head still bowed and her eyes still closed.

“How?” Vader yelled, but deep down he knew the answer.

“Through the Force,” she said. “I don’t know any more than that.”

“I do,” was his response. “He told me he was able to prevent death. He promised to save you, but he used that power to take your life. He killed you to manipulate me” His voice grew louder with every passing statement. “I will kill him!” He abruptly turned away from her. She reached out to him. Although she had no physical form, his sensitivity to the Force allowed him to feel her hands on his face. The face that had felt nothing but a mask for years sensed her hands cupping his head and then turning him to face her. Even so, he would still not look her directly in the eyes.

“He’s too strong, isn’t he?” she asked. “You are not powerful enough to confront him, are you?”

“No,” came the reply in a calmer voice, “but I must try anyway. It‘s what he deserves. It’s what I deserve.”

“Anakin, Look at me,” she commanded. He did not respond. “Look at me.” He refused. “Vader,” she said firmly, and the use of that name jolted him into looking in her eyes. “I forgive you.”

The words broke his will. “Padmé,” he said through sobs, “I can’t be forgiven.”

“I forgive you, Annie,” she repeated. “You can’t face your master. You must stay near him in case he drops his guard.”

“It won’t work,” he desperately responded. “This hatred for him is too strong. He will sense my emotion and know my intent.”

“She can help you,” she said, indicating Eliana again. “She is able to manipulate minds well. When I’m gone, she will help you.”

“Don’t leave,” he exclaimed.

“I must. She is losing strength, and she will need it to help you.”

“I can’t lose you again,” he moaned.

“Become the man you once were,” she said as she faded. “Become the man I once loved.”

The words stung, but she was gone. Eliana stirred as if she was waking from a long slumber. She sat motionless on the floor, making no effort to escape Darth Vader.

“You must help me,” he commanded. “Were you aware of our conversation?” “Yes,” was the reply. “Can you do it?” he asked. “To conceal your feelings, “ she said cautiously, “I must shield them from the rest of your mind.” She paused to see if he understood the implication. “You will have to let me enter your mind.” When he gave no reaction, she continued, “That means you won’t remember any of what happened today.”

“Proceed,” was his only response.

She began to call on the Force, but stopped to say one more thing. “I don’t know how strong it will be. A stressful situation may cause it to break, and all of these memories will flood back.”

“Let’s just hope if that happens, it happens at the right time,” were Vader’s last words to her.

********

Vader felt disoriented. He was standing outside his shuttle, but had no recollection of how he got there. His pilot greeted him, “Lord Vader, the Emperor has requested that we leave immediately, and he has a private message recorded for you.”

“Very well, captain,” Vader said while entering the shuttle. He pushed down any doubt and confusion he felt. He knew he could not let the Emperor sense any weakness in him. The Emperor had many candidates lined up to replace Vader should he ever falter, and Vader knew it. He settled in and listened to his message as the Shuttle broke Naboo’s atmosphere.

When they finally reached their destination, Vader had ceased dwelling on his earlier unease. A man unable to live without the aid of machines must expect to feel disoriented from time to time. This was not the first time, nor would it be the last. Burying them deep in his mind was the best way to keep the Emperor from losing his trust in his closest ally.

The ramp of of his shuttle lowered and he disembarked. As exhaust vapers cleared, the base commander greeted him.

“ Lord Vader, this is an unexpected pleasure,” said Commander Jerjerrod. “We're honored by your presence.”

“ You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander,” Vader snapped. “I'm here to put you back on schedule.”

Jerjerrod’s complexion went pale as he responded, “I assure you, Lord Vader, my men are working as fast as they can.” “ Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them,” was Vader’s ominous response.

Jerjerrod’s nervous voice began, “I tell you, this station will be operational as planned.”

“ The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation” retorted the dark lord.

“ But he asks the impossible,” Jerjerrod said. “I need more men.” The amusement in Vader’s voice could be heard as he taunted the commander. “ Then

perhaps you can tell him when he arrives.”

“The Emperor's coming here?” Jerjerrod questioned in a quivering voice.

“That is correct, Commander. And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.”

The commander tried to sound more confident and stated, “ We shall double our efforts.” “I hope so, Commander, for your sake,” said a very displeased Vader. “The Emperor is

not as forgiving as I am.”

Epilogue

Luke stared at Eliana in disbelief. “So that’s how you know my father so well?”

“Yes,” she replied.”But before you ask about him, let me ask you a question.” She took Luke’s silence as acquiescence. “So who really was the Chosen One, you or your father?”

Luke, “I was never really comfortable with that title. I know some say that I am, but I prefer to think of my father that way.”

“But if you had not pushed him, he would have never restored balance, “she countered.

“Let’s just call it a tie,” Luke said trying to be diplomatic.

“Then again,” she said wryly, “if I hadn’t been there to channel your mother or help your father hide his emotions from the Emperor, Palpatine might still be alive today.”

“Maybe,” Luke said slowly as a new idea was forming in his head, “it takes several people, all doing their part, to be the Chosen One?” A huge grin spread over Eliana’s face. “I think I was the most successful failure of all time. Now, what would you like to know about your father?”

“I’ve met a few people that knew him, and they’ve told me what they could,” Luke said. “But now I think I have a different question. One that I never imagined I could ask. Now that I can, there is nothing else I would rather hear about right now.”

He paused to punctuate the importance of the moment. “What can you tell me about my mother?”