Catriona Campbell Boyle
The scream faded slowly as it echoed across the barren landscape, each repeat a little quieter than the last as it was carried away on the light wind.
He stumbled over the dusty ground staring with dread-filled confusion at the scenery around him. It was flat, empty. Dead. Only a few rocks littered the terrain and broke the grey monotony of the area. The sky was dark; black, bloated clouds had gathered, threatening to release their load over the neutral territory.
The cool current of air shifted dirt around his feet and he shivered as it tugged at his white work tunic. Something was terribly wrong. Only a moment ago he had been angry, upset. No. Not angry. He had been furious, out of control; his raging emotions had carried him…
Where was this place? What was this place?
With sudden sickening realisation, he glanced down at himself. He was wearing his Tatooine farm clothes! He hadn't worn these since he had left his home world and with growing apprehension he looked to his surroundings - this was not his desert homeland, and his hand closed over the lightsabre hilt that was hooked to his belt, and he took some comfort in its presence.
A flicker of movement caught his eye and he squinted in the dull light, trying to see into the distance. He started forward, footsteps soft and muffled by the grainy surface, and all the while trying to quell his growing unease.
* * *
This was where he wanted to be. This was what he wanted. This was darkness and he gloried in his evolution from the weakness of the light.
But there was something wrong. There was something unresolved. He looked with confusion at his surroundings, at the grey, empty landscape. Then he turned his gaze to the ignited lightsabre in his black-gloved hand, its green glow throwing little light on his situation. He de-activated the sword as he slowly turned around, taking in the bland terrain.
Where was he? Why was he suddenly so unsure of himself? He kicked, unconsciously, at a stone lying at his feet. It skittered across the dirt, coming to rest near a larger brick. He shivered, inexplicably feeling fear for the first time.
The breeze tugged at his black tunic and he turned on his heel, suddenly sensing movement behind him in the distance. He squinted as he tried to make out the approaching figure. Then he smiled and started forward.
* * *
When he had first been able to make out the figure of a man, he had felt relief - he was not alone in this terrible place; he had companionship, someone to answer his many questions. Now, however, the other had spotted him and although he had at first felt fear from the man, that emotion died, to be replaced by a quiet, frightening sense of satisfaction.
They drew nearer to one another.
There was something familiar about the black-clad figure; the walk, the height, the build. The silence was suddenly split by the hiss and vibrations of an activating lightsabre, and the approaching man eagerly quickened his pace.
The man’s lightsabre was green! His mind reeled with the horror of insight and his panic-driven fingers fumbled for his own sabre. He stared at the metallic grip. This was wrong!
It was the wrong sword! This was the sword he had lost on Bespin along with his hand. He activated it and a blue-white shaft of light grew from the hand grip. Sweat beaded on his brow, formed on his upper lip.
It should be green! I made it myself. It should be green!
Then he looked at the hand that held the sabre. It was pale, the skin appearing to be devoid of colour in the poor light. There was no glove to cover a blast wound obtained on Jabba the Hutt's sail barge. There was no blast wound in the cybernetic hand fitted to him to replace his own, lost during a sabre duel with his father. There was no cybernetic hand. This hand was his own flesh and blood.
And it was all, suddenly, so clear. He looked back to the approaching figure and, from him, he felt the same understanding slide into place.
* * *
He smiled when the white blade came to life. He knew who his opponent was; it was his light self; his weak, emotion filled self. He halted in his advance and stood his ground, letting his prey deliver itself.
He knew the figure before him. He knew his loves, his desires, his wants and his fears; the advantage was with him, with the dark. He was the stronger, more powerful self. The Emperor was right; the dark side was the greater. A chuckle grew in the base of his throat as his opponent took his stand and raised his sword in the classic first position.
With a roar of belligerence he attacked, running with sabre held above his head.
* * *
He stumbled back as his dark self attacked, his blade raised above his head in a wild attempt at an early kill. He crouched low, throwing his arm up in reflex and his own blade blocked the blow.
He fought the panic that threatened to cloud his mind; fought to remember everything Ben and Yoda had taught him, but it was so hard, so difficult to think like a trained knight when he felt like an inexperienced farm boy.
The other attacked again, sabre low, swinging toward his waist. He somersaulted over the blade and heard it slice through the air inches from his head. He landed and brought his own sword up - ready for the next assault.
Steady, let the fear rise. Let it dissolve.
This must be a vision, it must be! A trick by the Emperor!
But his opponent did not fade. Instead, the dark Jedi walked slowly around him, sabre swinging low, almost leisurely, at his legs; the black cat stalking, playing with the white mouse.
* * *
He was bemused, yet a little unsettled, by his enemy's lack of aggression. His light self had defended, but not retaliated. It was as though the other knew what to do but lacked the will to carry it through, so he could only defend himself. He had lost the stronger emotions, the feelings that charged a man with the will to fight. He could still fear, he could still have anger, but they were muted, their cry dulled under the softer emotions.
This realization pleased the dark Jedi. He was the stronger. He was the one more likely to survive this battle, and yet...
And yet, there was that same sense of unease. That small, insistent voice at the back of his mind that whispered and argued. If his light self had lost so much, then what had he lost by taking to the dark?
He smiled at his opponent as he pushed away the thoughts. He had only lost weakness and found strength!
With a furious cry he attacked again, intent on ending the battle.
* * *
Their blades locked in a crackling of energy. An eerie light thrown out by the blades illuminating the sweat on their faces. Each identical to the other and yet displaying different emotions; one deep sorrow, the other sheer hatred, and yet both were afraid of the same thing - the outcome of this fight, and the implications for himself and the Galaxy should either die.
The white Jedi stumbled under the pushing weight of the darkness; he fell and his sabre tumbled from his grasp. He looked up sharply at the man who stepped forward and placed his sword at his throat. No words were exchanged, pleas for his life would fall on unsympathetic ears, he merely waited, with pain-filled sadness, for the death blow.
* * *
It had been a short fight and he was almost sorry it was over.
He gazed down at his light half and their eyes searched each other’s. There was that same uncertainty. He tore his eyes away, furious with himself for hesitating, and raised his weapon for the final stroke.
* * *
He closed his eyes as the sabre rose and it was then he heard the gloating voice.
He opened his eyes and looked at the figure above him. The dark Jedi hesitated again, this time at the sound of his master's voice. Using the extra moments given to him so unexpectedly, he rolled quickly to the side, his feet kicking the legs out from under his other self. His hand reached for his sabre, the sword flew into his grasp, and he gathered himself to his feet.
It was now his weapon that was at the throat of his opponent.
Luke Skywalker stared at the figure that lay sprawled at his feet and watched with some confusion as his dark self faded along with the barren land and the wind. It was Vader who lay, beaten, on the smooth polished floor of the Emperor's domain. Vader, his father, whom he said he would not fight.
He turned and looked at the black-robed dictator, noting the man's glee.
"Your hate has made you powerful. Now fulfil your destiny and take your father's place at my side!"
Luke turned back to look down at his father. He lifted his right hand; the glove was back, covering his damaged cybernetic hand. He clenched his fist, recalling Obi-Wan's words.
"He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil."
He looked back at Vader's mechanical stump. This could not happen; he could not sacrifice himself to darkness. He took in a deep breath to calm himself - his own dark side defeated, pushed back to its proper place. By speaking, the Emperor had interrupted the battle, causing Luke to hesitate, making him aware of what he was doing, of what was happening. By speaking, the Emperor had defeated his own purpose. Darkness had defeated itself.
Luke stepped back from Vader, deactivated his sabre and hurled it away.
"Never!" he announced, turning his
back on Vader and walking toward his enemy, unarmed but with a strength
of conviction he never knew he possessed until now. "I'll never turn to
the dark side. You've failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi like my Father
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