SUMMARY: Facing the Alliance Council, Luke can't keep quiet (really, did we expect him to?) and gets mired in more politics than he expected. Then he needs alone time to think about his Dadakin.
Bail's cloak: "Velvet Senate Robes" from Revenge of the Sith
# # #
"Belay that order, Commander," General Rieekan said. "We need ground rules established. Luke—"
Oh, sure, the rules would be for him. "Yes, sir?" Nothing threw them off as much as when he was stunningly polite. Plus the concentration it took to be nice would distract him from the constant stings from his silver band. He had expected they would be monitoring this meeting, so he didn't bother making a drama of it. However: "I hope it's just you who's recording," he muttered, resentful that he couldn't turn off the damn bracelet.
You can, but I suggest you don't, his father offered.
I CAN? You could have told me that before!
Rieekan hesitated and cleared his throat. "I hope so too. Luke, is this when you begin using your real name?"
The very question he'd been agonizing over. But now that he had to make a decision, the answer was easy. "Not yet. I need to hear the Council first and understand their motives and if they're united in the desire to overthrow Palpatine."
Organa snorted. "What unites them is the desire to not be overseen and controlled by the Empire. Their motives are economic and based on the desires of their constituents and their donors."
Constituents? Were Alliance Council members elected? Appointed? Funny, he'd thought they were volunteers like himself. Patriots, even. "That's… cynical. Everything can't be about greed."
"You're correct." The senator sighed. "It's not. There are many good people involved. It is frustrating to me when the politicians want to dominate the Alliance."
"I guess it's a good thing you're not a politician then!" Luke smiled cheerfully, then shrugged. "Fine. I'll be quiet in the background." He ignored Commander Narra clearing his throat. "If anyone asks about me, tell them I'm your bodyguard. Security." Luke pulled himself as straight as possible so he would look official and menacing.
"Sounds like a good idea." Narra's fingers twitched on the arms of the chair. "Shall we begin? We shouldn't keep them—"
"They can wait," Luke and Organa said together.
After an uncomfortable pause, Luke held up his hands. "Whoa, boys! Hold it. We can't all do the call from here. The senator and I should be elsewhere."
"What's your logic?" Rieekan folded his arms.
"Security. That's my job." Had they forgotten already? "They don't need to know that their new leader is at Yavin Base in case some of them decide to rise up against him. Mothma may have a strike team assembled already." He snickered softly. "Which would be ironic since she can't manage to strike much of anything on behalf of the Rebellion."
It was such a logical suggestion, he could see they were taken aback. "That's a good idea," Narra repeated, and Luke thought he should take advantage of such agreeability by asking for something outrageous.
"I agree." His Serenity nodded, adding to the overwhelming agreement with Luke. "General, do you have another room available?"
"Let's do it on a ship!" Really, would his brilliant ideas never end? He hoped his dad was listening.
"A ship? I don't have my cruiser, and the battle squadron isn't set up with holo transmitters."
"Yahoo is." Luke smiled proudly. "And it has the advantage that no one will recognize it."
The other three exchanged looks. "I'm fine with that," the general decided, pretending he was in charge.
"Then we should hustle." Luke flapped his hands to gesture Organa toward the door. "I'll stand slightly behind you and look protective and alert. You have to stand, too, no sitting because that would mess up the—the lines of that… nice… robe." Nice? No, it was a glorious robe that left the senator's arms free. It would be perfect for easily reaching a lightsaber. You should have something like this, Dad. Pleated velvet teal draped in deep folds from gray metal shoulder armor that extended partway down his chest. It was the kind of cloak he would have grown up wearing if he'd been the prince and Leia had been stuck on Tatooine.
She might as well have lived there since white was all she ever wore anyway.
"Good thinking, Luke," Narra said quietly since no one else seemed willing to praise him.
"Thinking like both a dresser and security," Organa commented, which Luke supposed was intended to be nice, but relegated him to the status of a servant.
# # #
All these people do is argue! Luke fumed to his father.
Politicians. Disagreements are their life's blood. They are not interested in progress or philanthropy or anything that improves the lives of those they consider lesser beings.
He continued studying the flickering holos. Most of the attendees were obviously at different military bases, but another site with fewer people was broadcasting from what looked like an ornately appointed marble chamber.
It appears to be a secure room in the lower level of the Senate.
Huh. He kept his expression impassive as he studied each person. Fifteen minutes in and there was so much anger and dismay and— ruffled feathers, he Sent. Mothma wasn't there, and her name hadn't been mentioned— unless he counted two 'the former head' as mentions, which they obviously were. There were one or two people at each location who didn't speak and instead watched everyone else. They blended easily into the groups, and Luke supposed they were intended to be inconspicuous. But their gazes flicked across the holos, pausing frequently on Organa and— he guessed he shouldn't be surprised— even skimming Luke. Or rather, their new leader's bodyguard.
Most of the Council members were human. It wasn't surprising because even the Rebellion wasn't immune from xenophobia, no matter how often they proclaimed that every species should be represented equally. Right now in the Senate room a human male, brown-bearded and loud, was ranting about changing leadership without consulting them, that they had rights too, blah blah blah—
Luke clenched his hands behind his back and frowned, then realized immediately that he shouldn't have done that. One of the Watchers was Watching him and whispered to the speaker who tilted his head to listen.
The speaker nodded. "Your 'security man' appears to disapprove, Senator Organa."
"Many people disapprove, Representative Quwrent," Bail responded neatly. "You are arguing that we should be resigned to the status quo, which makes me wonder why you are a member of this Council."
Smooth. Too bad the Senator couldn't hear his thoughts.
"I am a member because I want to maintain stability in the galaxy, not to randomly replace leaders helter-skelter without so much as a roll call of yeas and nays."
It was getting harder to stay uninvolved. Luke kept his hands behind him and squeezed.
You're doing well, Bug. This is informative. There is more dissention within the Alliance Council than I'd realized.
Most of them seem to agree about Organa, though. There are just a few loud ones who don't.
The loudest are always heard. If anyone tells you that speaking quietly forces people to listen closely, that is a lie.
Well, yeah, he had been told that as a child in school. Although that had probably been the teacher wanting kids to shut up.
"I want to hear from your 'security man'. Let him be the voice of Everyman at this moment."
Great, just great, henceforth he would always be known as Security Man. (Luke Skywalker, remember? Security Man!) Organa nodded. "Speak your mind, son."
Son!? That one word threw his thoughts into turmoil. He looked down, trying to corral his shock enough to speak coherently. I'm not your son!
But you could have been, a voice in his head that did not belong to his dad whispered, one decision made differently and you could have been.
He felt his dad suddenly subdued and uncertain, and that made him angry— or something, he wasn't sure. He just knew that right now he had to curb an emotional reaction and channel his thoughts.
And, damnit, he would speak quietly and they would listen!
"I am a citizen of the galaxy, like billions of other beings who are being held in the grip of a tyrant," he began clearly. "We are slaves, if not literally, then figuratively, our lives and futures dependent on the whims of the Emperor and his enforcers— who are also slaves. How many soldiers have been sacrificed for Palpatine's pleasure? How many of them long to be free? How many of the Imperial military would walk away if they could? How many share our goal and would ally with us? The potential is endless. Yet here you are, government officials, the people who are supposed to chart the path to freedom for every citizen, arguing like children, enmeshed in petty squabbles about which planets will get the mineral rights to which asteroids, and you don't acknowledge that people will be mining those asteroids for your profits. Even slaves— how many of you use slaves to add to your wealth?"
Okay, he was getting a bit off-track, but he was wound up. "And you, the military— what are you doing? Why are you allowing politicians to guide the Rebellion? Because they supply money to buy the weapons so you can die for their profit? How many of these politicians care about you or even consider your lives? How many of them have fought in battles? How many of them have been sitting on their asses, reaping profits for twenty years while other people sacrifice? It's long past time to put an end to this self-described 'monarch'. Mon Mothma has been scared, unwilling to engage in battle— hell, her pacifism has furthered Palpatine's agenda. We know what needs to be done— Palpatine has to be eliminated. He's been pulling the strings and manipulating everything since he was a senator from Naboo. It's time to end his reign. We need to reunite the galaxy."
Well. Maybe he'd said enough. Many people were nodding. Some were looking down. A few were applauding and a few more were scowling at him.
Nicely said, his dad whispered, and Luke felt warmed by his approval.
An older officer whose uniform was worn and less than pristine said, "Senator Organa, if this really is your security person, he could take the place of some of our orators."
Hell, no. "You don't need orators, sir," Luke responded. "The Rebellion needs people of action like yourself. People who believe that they can restore the desire for freedom that has been muffled but not silenced."
Organa moved his hand in what Luke suspected was The Royal Dismissal Wave. "Please excuse his youthful exuberance. He has much to learn about diplomacy."
When we don't need him any longer, I will throttle him, his dad growled.
"He doesn't appear to fit as part of your usual security detail." So practiced at avoiding the argument at hand, Representative Quwrent smirked. "You look very young, boy."
Him too, Vader added.
"Thank you." Luke nodded slightly, answering both the politician and his father. "I've been told my species ages well, apparently at a slower pace than some humans."
A few people at the military base chuckled and low-voiced amusement swept through.
Quwrent frowned, likely because he remembered what he looked like in a mirror. Saggy and wrinkled! "I'd be interested to know the true identity of your 'security', Organa. He doesn't look like he could provide much protection." The guard standing next to the annoying politician shifted to display blasters on both hips.
"Oh, yeah? Bring it on!" Luke growled, and Organa raised his hand again.
The representative chuckled. "He's obviously not a passive Alderaani. Who is he?"
Obviously!? "As you said, Representative," Luke said smoothly before His Serenity could reply, "I am EveryBeing. I am speaking for the galaxy. Even you, whether you agree with what I say or not."
"Okay, that's enough, Quwrent." A fully-armed woman in uniform stepped to the front of the military holo. She looked fierce. In a good way. And in a bad way. "You sound like an Imperial sympathizer, Security. Senator Organa, are those views shared by you? Are you letting your man speak your words?"
Your MAN?! Honestly, was that a put-down or some kind of backhanded compliment? At least they figured out he was a man. Boy. Young Adult.
"I am no Imperial sympathizer and neither is my aide," Not-So-Serene snapped back. "I have spent years—"
"Working in the Senate. Working with the Emperor. True, you have brought us some useful intelligence, but—"
"Oh, please!" Luke interrupted.
"Settle down," Organa muttered.
"I will not." He moved next to the senator's shoulder. "You've spent years propping up an ineffective leader. Now someone is finally stepping forward and you think he's the problem? And if you think I speak for anyone but myself, you're wrong!"
Well… his father breathed.
"I don't sympathize, but I empathize with Imperial soldiers who are conscripted and trained to die because one greedy man and equally greedy politicians and business moguls and military leaders want more and more power and don't care how many lives it costs— as long as it's not their own."
"Ah, the idealism of youth," Quwrent mocked.
"Shut up!" the military woman snapped. She frowned at Luke. "This type of humanitarian argument was popular with the pre-Clone Wars Jedi. Compassion for others, though they had difficulty putting that belief into practical application and it—"
"Became a dead end. The Jedi created this army that the Empire inherited," reminded a man beside her. "Sha'ra, you need to stop talking about Jedi, they're long gone."
Luke sighed and edged behind Organa again as the woman continued.
"What are we arguing about?" Sha'ra snapped. "Mothma's out, Organa's in. We finally have a leader who will actually fight."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence," His Serene Highness said. "I believe our discussion is at an end for now. I have plans and ideas that I will share with you in the coming weeks."
Weeks? Luke managed to not react. 'Days' was more like it, but maybe his father had changed the plans again.
Organa gave the holos a royal nod. "I appreciate your support. If you are among the Council members who do not support me, I trust you will put aside your personal feelings and uphold the vow you made to free the galaxy from its oppressors."
"Specifically Palpatine," Luke mumbled under his breath. No one appeared to hear him, but just the movement of his lips had drawn a Watcher's attention again, so he turned his expression into a smile.
All the holos switched off. The Senator looked down at him. "Was I supposed to expect a speech from you?"
Luke stared back defiantly. "When they were being so— such—? Yes, you should have! Anyway, I'm right and you know it!"
Organa inclined his head in what might have been an acknowledgement. "Thank you for the use of your ship. I'm returning to the Command office."
"So am I." Politicians! They were useless! Dad, how have you been able to bear them for so many years?
Once I stopped being a Jedi, I could kill them with impunity and I do when they annoy me. The Jedi frowned on such actions. Sometimes.
Well, I'M not a Jedi, so I already have impunity. Barely stifling a groan, he followed Teal Cloak. I'm starving!
Don't let them take long. They don't have much to summarize. Why don't you eat and then talk to your colleagues to prepare them?
And Kodra. And I want to go for a run in the jungle. And maybe climb a pyramid. I might not get many more chances to do that.
Once we are in charge, you may climb all the pyramids you wish, Son.
He thought there was a slight emphasis on the last word as if Vader thought he had to override Organa's appropriation of their relationship.
# # #
Hours later he was on top of a pyramid he hadn't climbed before. It was farthest from the base, so he thought it would be a thrilling accomplishment. However, it turned out that once you've climbed one pyramid, you've climbed them all. The view from the top was very similar: the dark roof of the jungle, the lights of Yavin Base visible but muted. But there was something more, and it was extraordinary: the night sky.
Two moons glowed too bright reflecting their sun, but he could still see the blanket of stars surrounding him. Billions of stars, billions of lives. He didn't think his dad believed that stars were lives, but Luke was certain of it. Each twinkle represented a life, and he was almost positive he would be able to pick out his friends if he concentrated. He didn't see himself or his dad and wondered where their stars were. Maybe their stars were in the center of another galaxy. Or they were supernovas, long dead but still burning brightly in someone else's sky.
He drank a few mouthfuls of water from his canteen and wiped sweat from his brow. It felt good to run after being cooped in a ship. It felt free. One day he and his dad would explore this way, and his dad would be reminded how good it felt to be free. If he'd ever known.
Luke shook his head. Stupid tears were forming in his eyes. Stupid— stupid! It was stupid to be sad about the past when it couldn't be changed. But he couldn't help his grief when he imagined Anakin Skywalker's life, always a slave. Only his masters had changed.
He let himself cry and wondered: did his Dad ever sob? When he was alone, when their bond was slumbering like it was now, did Anakin cry? Or was it always Vader whose sorrow and agony found outlet in anger? If his emotions could be turned to love, like the feelings he shared with Luke, his life— their lives— would be so much happier. Would killing Palpatine sate Vader's desperate need for revenge? And was it revenge or was it something else? The search for a second chance… the urgent hunger to leave past lives behind and remake himself? The dream to begin again, strong and free. His body would never be whole, but maybe his spirit could be.
He leaned forward and looked down the side of the pyramid, struck by how high he was. He needed to be very, very careful jumping off this. Because what would happen to his dad if he lost Luke? It would be the utter loss of hope for him. He would feel abandoned. Their future— gone. Anakin Skywalker— potentially destroyed by Darth Vader's fury. Or would his father sink into misery and finally succumb? After so many years as Palpatine's thrall, kept prisoner in The Suit, then the promise of a future— would that loss be the end of the man?
Luke inhaled sharply. The distance to the ground was frightening. What had he been thinking to come up here alone at night? He had to get down. What if he broke his legs? No one would know where he was, they wouldn't find him, his bones would—
His communicator beeped. Well. Okay, they might find him. And he had told Kodra where he was going. Luke shook his head at his own folly and pressed the wrist com. "Talk to me."
There was a sigh, so he immediately knew who it was. "Where are you?" Narra demanded.
"I'm sitting on top of the highest pyramid you can see, Mom. Why, is something going on?"
"What's going on is that it's 1900 and you missed dinner and no one has seen you for hours. What are you doing out there? It's dark!"
What, so now he was a special commodity to be over-protected? "I know it's dark. I'll be back soon. I just needed to run out some kinks."
"Uh-huh. Good luck with that," Narra muttered very low, surprising Luke by the rare show of teasing.
He grinned. "I'm jumping down now! See you soon." He remembered that he wanted to take advantage of today's agreeableness. "Do you think there could be dinner waiting for me when I get back? And pie?"
"I suppose. Porkins has already checked the bunk cooler for chanilla. Is it still in Yahoo?"
Oops. "I forgot to bring any. Do me another favor and break the bad news to him?"
"All right. Anything else, Highness?"
"Hey, don't distract me with teasing, I need to focus. It's a long way down, and I don't want to break my neck!"
He heard Narra's indrawn hiss right before he cut the connection. Still chuckling, he began his descent. He didn't need caution. He needed faith.
Enough faith to sustain both him and his dad no matter what happened.