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The Mystery of Grace

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No one quite knew how it happened, considering that the energy shield protecting the Death Star was still up. If anyone had cared to guess, they might have suggested an overeager Imperial pilot, firing his turbolasers far too soon. Whatever it was, something happened to disrupt the power to sector 1138 of the second Death Star. Lights flickered, computers went offline, and turbolifts stopped.

Luke Skywalker looked around, jarred out of his meditations by the sudden stop. On the other side of the lift, his father seemed equally confused. Turbolifts on the way to the Emperor's private throne room didn't just stop.

"That's weird," Luke said. His father didn't answer, remaining as silent as he had been on the shuttle ride up from Endor. Luke tried to settle back into meditation, knowing he needed to be prepared to face the Emperor. But as the seconds turned into minutes and the lift remained motionless, the temptation to ask the question that had been gnawing on his mind since Bespin grew.

"Why did you turn?" he asked finally into the silence. Obi-Wan had told him many things, but he'd never talked about what made Anakin turn to the dark side.

A wave of surprise and sudden anger rolled off Vader, but it was the slight spike of fear that intrigued Luke most. "It doesn't matter," Vader said at last.

"It matters to me," Luke countered. "You are trying to turn me to the dark side."

Vader considered this for a long moment. "Palpatine told me there were powers that could only be gained using the dark side."

Luke turned away, disappointed but not surprised. He should have known all his father cared for was power.

"It is not what you think, Luke," Vader said, his voice a strangely soft rumble. "I was trying to save another."

Luke looked at him sharply. "The dark side doesn't save people."

There was a surge of anger tinged with melancholy. "I believed it could, if I only were strong enough with it." Another spike of anger. "If only Kenobi hadn't interfered..."

Luke didn't answer, sensing that a defense of Ben would be a bad idea. He tried to shift the topic. "Who were you trying to save?"

Vader turned his mask to Luke and Luke could feel the weight of his gaze on him. Then Vader looked away. "Your mother," he said, his answer almost inaudible despite the vocoder that relayed his words.

Luke stared up at him. "What was her name?"

The question hung in the air, even as the tension in the lift seemed to rise to an unbearable level. Luke had sensed Vader's anger before, but this was unlike anything he had ever felt. He wondered if he would be choked like the unlucky officers who stories said had crossed Vader. He tried not to shift on his feet as Vader clenched his fists. But instead of feeling an invisible hand close around his throat, Luke watched as his father punched the wall of the lift, his gloved hand leaving a dent in the durasteel. "Padme," Vader said finally, his voice almost a snarl. "Her name was Padme."

Luke repeated the name to himself, clinging to the only thing he knew about a mother he'd never known. There is still good in him, a voice seemed to whisper from deep within him. He studied his father, trying to see the man within the armor. "You loved her very much," Luke said quietly.

There was a strange sound from within the mask and, to his surprise, Luke realized his father was laughing. "More than anything in the galaxy," Vader said finally. There was an odd calm about him now, something Luke had never felt before. It was almost peaceful, unlike the smoldering anger or unnatural detachment Luke was used to from his father.

"What was she like?"

"Beautiful. Determined. Perfect."

Luke thought of Leia, even if he knew she wasn't perfect. He remembered rescuing her from the Death Star and how she was both the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen and the most obnoxious. She must have inherited her mother's- Padme's- traits.

Vader turned his head sharply, his gaze fixed on Luke. "Twins? You have a sister?"

Luke stared back. He hadn't intended Vader to know that.

Vader clasped his hands behind his back and paced the tiny expanse of the lift, tension building up around him. "Both of my children stolen from me. Hidden." He stopped, his hand unconsciously settling on his lightsaber. "Kenobi's death was far too quick."

Luke wasn't sure what to say, so he didn't say anything at all. It would do him no good to enrage his father further.

Vader stared at the wall. "You would have had the best of everything," he said abstractly. "I would have taught you the ways of the Force. We would have been together, as a family."

Luke found his voice. "And the Emperor? Do you think he would have allowed that?"

"I would have fought him. Defeated him. Taken over the Empire, so that you might one day rule it."

Luke suddenly realized what his father's weakness was. There was good there, but it could only be found through his love for his children.

"We can still be a family," Luke said as the lift began to move again. "But you need to come back to the good, the light."

"It's too late for me, son."

The turbolift stopped and the doors opened. "It's never too late," Luke said quietly, stepping out to meet his destiny.