After the Last War is Won

by Tenshi

(NB: I don't believe in Star Wars side novels any more or less than I believe in any other fanfic, and that includes Mr. Zahn.)

There will be miracles
After the last war is won
Science and poetry rule in the new world to come
Prophets and angels
Gave us the power to see
What an amazing future there will be

-- Billy Joel, "Two Thousand Years"

"There's plenty of space up in the old diplomatic quarters," Han said, squinting at the dusty sunlight that broke through dirty broken glass and gaps in the roof to punctuate the dim vaults of the main hall. "You really don't have to bunk down here, kid."

"I'm looking forward to it," Luke answered coolly, as if the ruin of the Jedi Temple was as fine a set of lodgings as the penthouse suite at 500 Republica, into which Leia had protestingly been quartered. Luke gestured with his left hand, the other lost in the folds of his cloak, and perhaps in his mind he saw the former glory of the Temple, and not a maze of toppled columns, disfigured statuary, and sprawling Huttese graffiti. "It's where I belong."

"Belong?" To Han's eyes, Luke was simply a single black shadow in the gray architecture. The floor was dirty with time, but Luke's cloak had swept a clean path in the dust, revealing fragments of bright marble tile, and ominous rust-colored smears, where a singular sort of burden had been dragged away for disposal. The walls were pocked with old blast points and carbon scoring, a mute staccato of violence. "If you say so."

Han Solo was not a man inclined to philosophy. He would have gladly argued (with his blaster, if need be) anyone who said Luke Skywalker was not possessed of certain abilities, but he did not pretend to have worked out how he came about them or what he did with them. Han was a smuggler and a spacer, and those of his calling were likely to scorn faith and the Force if put to them in those terms. But none of them would, for love or money, pass though the waning path of the Duchaa system's thirteenth moon, or whistle in the cockpit, or change their boots while in hyperspace. These were matter-of-fact rules of the trade, as much as plotting coordinates in the navicomputer or adjusting deflector shields. There were things you simply did not mess with, and Han Solo, looking into the uncertain shadows beyond Luke, would not have been surprised if the whole of Duchaa's Cursed Fleet materialized, ready to add the two of them to its hellish eternal convoy.

Luke was laughing at him, as much as Luke ever laughed lately, a sort of half-smile into his shoulder, his hand coming up to his chin.

"I just don't think it's secure, that's all," Han said, hotly. He wasn't sure when he had stopped being the older one, sometime in those lost years of sleep and carbonite. "Not everybody on this planet is thrilled we're here, you know. It wouldn't be too hard for some of the insurgents to charge in here and--"

"Nobody on the side of the Empire is going to come here." Luke said, somber again, but with a faint gleam in his eyes, as of grim triumph. "This is enemy territory to them, and has always been, even like it is now. Why do you think it hasn't been burned to the ground already, after all this time? They just left it with a handful of stormtroopers at the entrances. They're afraid of it. Even the Emperor was afraid of it. He didn't dare tear it down."

"Afraid of a building?" Han, while his own skin crawled and he had to constantly keep from turning over his shoulder as though expecting someone there, could not imagine a man like Palpatine being afraid of a ruined hulk of permacrete and durasteel. "All the Jedi were dead."

Luke looked out over the lower colonnade below, the sweeping staircases littered with rubble. "That doesn't mean they left."

Han's stomach did a funny little sideways shimmy that he usually associated with the first pull of the hyperdrive, and his hands were oddly cold. It was hardly surprising that he failed to find an answer to that.

"So if nobody dared come when the empire was at the height of its power, why would they come now?" Luke raised his eyebrows at the smuggler, who was looking as though he very much did and did not want to look behind him. " If you were still loyal to the Empire, would you come here?"

Han thought it not judicious to say that he personally would not ever darken the door of the place, no matter what his loyalties were. Chewbacca had once, over drinks sometime when the work was slow and the bar empty, spoken of the Massacre as he had heard it at the time, and the memory of his low sorrowful yiffs was enough to make Han's blood run colder than it already was. "There's nothing worth salvage, is there?" He toed a long low carbon mark on the floor, and realized the tile itself had melted in a shallow groove, the sweep of a lightsaber's path. "What are you expecting to find?"

Luke didn't answer, he just knelt where he stood and breathed hard on the floor as though resuscitating a victim of atmosphere loss. The fine grimy veil blossomed backwards from his breath, and on the floor, in blue and white Alderaan marble, great wings unfurled around a shining star. He pulled the glove free from his left hand, and placed his bare palm down in the center of the star. "...Everything."

Han was looking for something to say, feeling out of place at a strange sort of homecoming. He was considering leaving Luke on his own, and joining Chewie by the toppled colossi by the main entry. Han hadn't yet convinced himself that Luke could get by on his own, no matter how often it had been proved, and was still indecisive when he heard Chewie growl challenge and then yurfle a greeting. A moment later and there was the sound of footsteps in the shadows behind them and Luke, standing but not turning, said, "Leia."

"That's unnatural, you know." Han muttered, but still had a smile on his face for the princess, thinking a dose of her common sense would do just the trick to keep Luke from staying alone in this crypt.

Leia, though she surely was more than close enough to see both of them, had stopped walking. Her brisk businesslike pace had slacked almost as soon as she had sidled through the narrow passage between the tilting statues, and looked up at a ceiling lost in shadow. She was turning slowly, stepping back to see better, her eyes flickering from arch to stair to distant balcony.

Han, tired of being ignored, inhaled to bellow, but Luke put his hand on the smuggler's wrist, and shook his head a little. "Give her just a minute, " he said.

Han wasn't sure he wanted to do that, for in the way Leia stood just so in the broken light he could see part of her that even she hadn't really known, and that Han would never really understand, was being illuminated like the Temple beneath the grime. He supposed that it was only fair for Luke to have something of her as well, and he reasoned, albeit uncomfortably, that as long as he had her heart, he could manage to share a little. Luke was her brother, and it was not like Han had ever understood women completely anyway, much less that one. So if she wound up spouting things about the Force, and talking to walls, and playing with swords like Luke, well that was no biggie. It was as much a mystery to Han Solo how she made her hair do the things it did.

All the same, the stillness of her face and the way she lifted her hands made Han hold his breath until she spotted them in the gloom, and smiled, and was practical sharp Leia Organa once again.

"Aren't you two a little old to be playing in the dirt?" She called, hands on hips, voice unrepentantly clear in the hushed ruin.

Han was gratified to see Luke brushing his hands off on his cloak, his face rueful. "You were holed up in conference so long, we ran out of things to do," Han answered, pleased enough that she let him take her hands and squeeze them. Leia felt warm and vibrant, unawed by the silence around them.

"Even diplomats have to eat," Leia said. "You interested?"

"Absolutely." Han was not so much hungry as he was grateful of a reminder of his own corporeality. "You coming?"

Luke had not moved, looking up behind him. "No, you two go ahead." He flashed a smile at the two of them, with Han's arm around Leia's shoulders, and took a step backwards towards the Temple. "I'll catch up later."

Leia's eyebrows drew together, Luke made a vague gesture with his hand, and she nodded faintly. Han felt like he had missed an entire conversation. "Alright," Leia said, and tugged on her smuggler. "C'mon, I'm starving."

"Holler if you get lost, kiddo." Han had a last glimpse of Luke moving into shadow before they stepped out into the patchy sunlight of a Coruscant afternoon, and Han could breathe again. Temples might be peaceful, but all in all, he was a lot happier in a bar.

For Luke Skywalker, walking into the Jedi Temple was like stepping out of impenetrable fog into the middle of Tatooine's most lucid day, when the first sun's dawning was just unfolding on a horizon that seemed as close as his own fingertips, and every dune and rock stood sharp enough to bring blood. Once, a lifetime ago, he had seen a shadow on his mind that was shaped like a simple training remote, and Obi-Wan Kenobi had spoken of a larger world. In all the years after Luke had only caught glimpses of that world, of its scope and beauty, its breathtaking power. But now it rolled away before him, full of light and shadow, green and blue, silver and gold, rich with life and clear water.

To any other eyes the Temple was nothing more than a defaced ruin, a relic of a lost time that would never come again. But Luke saw arches of stone and of light, gardens and fountains and quiet meditation chambers, heard the distant drone of lightsabers and the rippling murmur of voices and footsteps. The Jedi Temple was not dead. It was alive, alive as the deepest heart of Dagobah, and Luke could feel every youngling and master whose foot had so much as stirred on its stairs. Past and future were weights in his hands, one of steel and circuits and one of blood and bone, and Luke was the pivot on which they hung, spinning possibilities and past around him until it blurred into one continuous circle that never really changed.

In the Force, every death in the Temple had been as unconscious as blinking, and as catastrophic as the implosion of a star. Luke felt each blow as though his was the hand that dealt it and his the breast that bore it, and he saw also the dive and ripple it caused in the Force, as scales wobble violently when unfair weight is removed, and eventually swing into balance.

The fall of the Jedi was the removal of that weight, the years of darkness merely the rocking from one side to the next until Luke Skywalker, last of the old Jedi and the first of the new, stood in the Temple and felt the Force more clearly than any Jedi had in centuries. There was balance, and in the broad scope of the Force, achieving it had only been a fingersnap.

The moment did not last, for in the frame of corporeal bodies, beings cannot easily hold on to such things. Had he been a Jedi of the old order, that moment of lucidity could have borne him up for hours or even days, but Luke had only a scant handful of years of training, much of it on his own. He had sagged against a pillar and history caught up with him on a basic sentient level, and that was where Han had found him, pale and drawn into himself.

Now he simply walked where his feet led him. Power had been restored to the Temple grid, but it was apparent that much had been irreparably damaged in the fall. Repulsorlifts stood frozen between floors, doors half-ajar, control panels dark. Much of what Luke saw only saddened him, seeing all too clearly what it must have been like, when the Republic had not yet begun to wane.

It was familiar to him, as though he was only remembering the rooms and corridors, not discovering. He spent an hour in one room righting a rack and replacing the scattered lightsabers that had fallen from its grooved shelves. They were small, too small for any Jedi except perhaps Yoda, and then Luke saw the still neatly arranged rows of blast helmets, and training remotes sitting demurely on their chargers, waiting for the next lesson. Luke smiled, and activated the last saber he held. It hummed obediently to life, child-sized length and only strong enough to leave a warm warning if young fingers were to fumble. The light from the saber made the shadows dance behind him, the silence whisper under the thrum of energy.

The blade was blue. It had been a long time since Luke had seen a blue lightsaber blade, like his father's. Luke looked at the abandoned training gear and the one blast helmet just slightly out of line, placed by hurried young hands fully expecting to pick it up again the next day, and he realized sharply that the silence of the Temple had fallen in that wash of blue light. For the first time he was not sorry he had lost his father's lightsaber.

It was just as well.

Luke turned quickly, even though that voice, bare of vocabulator static, was not yet familiar to him. But no one was there. Luke wasn't really surprised; Obi-Wan he often heard enough to sometimes call it a conversation, and Yoda yammered at him some line from his training days at least once a day, but Anakin he had not heard speak to him, yet. He was there, sure enough, though he had seen none of his masters since Endor, but his father's words had not yet come, as though he was waiting.

Or perhaps Anakin simply wasn't ready yet.

Luke smiled, and gently laid the lightsaber back in the cradle with its fellows. He could respect that.

"Well I guess they don't have to worry about teaching you humility."

Luke sat back on his heels and blew his hair out of his face, looking for a moment like a farm boy fresh off of Tatooine and not the taciturn warrior that had slowly filled his place. His jacket was carefully hung on the ruins of a chair, his shirt sleeves rolled up, and a broad smear of dirt across one cheek. His customary black clothing had gone a distinct shade of gray with accumulated dust, and he sat in the middle of a clean spot on the floor of what had once, three decades ago, been the center of peace and justice in the galaxy. Artoo whistled contentedly around the perimeter of the room, cleaning the few windows that remained intact. The rest of them were covered with hasty durasteel panels until new panes could be prepared, and the cold wind whistled keenly through narrow gaps in the temporary coverings.

"I learned humility when I was nine and 'borrowed' Biggs' Dad's duneskiff and tried to pretend it was a podracer. Hand me that bucket, will you?"

Han eyed the tub of soapy water, just outside the clean circle of tile. "What, can't you just float it over?"

Luke gave him a look that was almost as dirty as the knees of the Jedi's pants, and Han Solo did as he was told.

"So what happened?" Han asked, putting the water down so Luke could dunk his left hand into it. "With the duneskiff?"

Luke smiled to himself as he scrubbed at tile that was doing its level best to be clean again. "It stalled out on me twelve clicks out beyond the Dune Sea, with night coming on. I thought I was dead." Luke ran a fingertip down an almost invisible line where two floor tiles joined. "Ben found me. Brought me back home. Uncle Owen didn't even thank him, just took me back without a word and wore out my backside when we got in the house."

The memory unfolded in his eyes if not in his words. After that twilight rescue he had become Ben Kenobi's Champion, and any boy caught calling the hermit a "crazy old man" would have met swift compensation from the fists of Luke Skywalker. Luke lifted his head, looking somewhere over one of the toppled chairs as though listening, and then laughing as he slopped his cleaning cloth in the bucket.

For no reason he could place, Han felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. It had been creepy enough coming up here alone, through vacant corridors to the one repulsorlift that Artoo had cajoled and wheedled and probably bribed into working again. But somehow all those silent dark halls with their mute bloodstains and carbon scoring were not near as eerie as Luke sitting there and listening to someone or something Han couldn't see or hear.

"You know you could get some cleaning droids on this," Han said, unsubtly moving to the side so that the jammed-open doors of the Council chamber and the yawning corridor beyond were not at his back. "Get it done a lot quicker."

"So that I could do what?" Luke furrowed his brow at a particularly tough bit of scoring. "Hang around while Leia and Mon Mothma and the others plan out a constitution and politics? I'm not any use right now." He sighed, sweaty in spite of the chilly draft. "I want to do this. I need to."

"A little help wouldn't hurt you." Han tried to right one of the chairs, but the supports were severed and melted, lightsaber work. Han looked up to see Luke staring at the ruined base, and the look on his face was like a cold fist around Han's heart. "Luke..." He began, uncertain, "You know we could just clear it all out and build the whole thing over. You don't have to try and fix this mess."

Luke shook himself, and returned to the floor cleaning as if all the TIE fighters in the universe were on his tail. "This mess," He said, as though his words would vibrate all the dirt from the once graceful room, "Is two thousand years of peace that I will not surrender for twenty years of darkness." He worked at the square of already clean tile, teeth clenched, until the golden Alderaan marble went pink under his good hand, abraded knuckles bleeding, unnoticed.

"Hey," Han said, more gently than most had ever heard him, and bent down next to Luke, one hand on his shoulder. "Hey. You've been in here too long by yourself."

Artoo gave a string of whistles that clearly indicated he had been saying that himself for ages, now.

"I want to get it done," Luke said, in a way that would have sounded petulant from anyone else, but from Luke was only tired. "I want to--" He stopped suddenly, but Han could finish that sentence without even trying.

"You can't fix it all in a week, Luke." Han stood up and took Luke with him, beating roughly at the dirty front of Luke's shirt even though it was clearly a lost cause. "Come on. I know you want to make it the way it was before, but Leia isn't copying the old constitution verbatim, either. Keep what was good and do the rest over, Kid. It's just like salvaging a freighter core. Besides," Han looked around the room, and could see that while the structure had been graceful and classical, the door controls were outdated even for thirty years ago, and the chairs would have to be replaced entirely. "When things change they change for a reason."

Luke was silent, and this time Han could hear him listening, perhaps to some voice that echoed Han's reasoning. "All right," He said, and Han took a deep breath for the first time since he had stepped into the cool shadow of the Temple that morning. "You're right."

Han had a squishy sort of feeling that that "you" wasn't singular, and Luke didn't mean Artoo.

"C'mon," He said, steering Luke for more familiar corporeal ground. "When did you last eat something?" He put an arm around Luke's shoulders to lead him out of the Council chamber, Artoo stopping to drop off his window squeegee and then tweeting happily behind.

When Luke returned to the Temple the next morning, he was mildly surprised to find the main hall a bustle of droids and servicebeings, with Leia in the middle of it like a conductor at the Galaxies Opera House.

"I thought Jedi didn't believe in sleeping late," she said, by way of greeting, as her bewildered twin bypassed a pair of cleaning droids intent on shampooing Luke right along with the floor. Beside her, Threepio burbled a greeting over the hum.

"Han kept me out all night with what he calls recon and I call bar-hopping." Luke looked around him, and couldn't quite frown. "And I think you had something to do with it."

"Of course I did." Leia was examining fabric swatches. "The gold, Threepio."

"An excellent choice, Mistress Leia," Threepio enthused, tottling off and pleased as punch to have a job to do, as though chair upholstery was as vital as constitutional amendment.

"I couldn't have you in the way," Leia went on. "You've had all week to mope around, now I think it's only fair to actually get some work done."

"I was working--" Luke began, but something about Leia's eyebrows shut him up rather quickly, even before she spoke.

"I'm sure. And if I may quote Threepio, you and Artoo single handedly restoring the Temple back to a habitable state, not even its former one, would have taken approximately seventy-two standard years, give or take a month. I thought sometime before you die you might want to actually restore the Jedi Order, not spend your life restoring the Jedi Plumbing."

Luke stared, and then really laughed for the first time he could remember in years, neatly disarmed. "It's a shame Yoda never got to train you. He always said I was never practical enough to be a Jedi."

"I'm not surprised," Leia said primly. "Obi-Wan says that if you focused on something long enough to actually learn it instead of jumping ahead, you would have gotten twice as far in half the time." And then Leia busied herself with a small crew of armed Felucian pest controllers, while Luke fumbled to catch up with what she had said.

"What?" he managed, as the Felucians hurried off to remove any trace of conduit worms from the Temple wiring and set up the barrier shielding that had been developed since the Temple was abandoned.

Leia checked something off on the datapad she held in her hand. "Let me show you what we've gotten done," she said, tucking the pad into her vest and linking her arm through Luke's, leading him out of the main entrance and into a side corridor where the cleaning crews had begun their work. Even weighing the meaning of Leia's offhand comment, Luke still managed to be pleasantly surprised. The section of corridor gleamed, down to the grooves around newly replaced transparisteel windows looking out over the bustling morning traffic of the capital. The carpeting on the stairs had been replaced, the lights glowed a muted gold from behind the wall sconces. The delicate sculptures that could be salvaged had been cleaned and placed back in their alcoves. Over the repaired railing on the landing, Luke could see busy droids and a self-important Threepio directing traffic, and the toppled statue blocking the west wing. But here, in front of this window seat, Luke was standing in the Jedi Temple of old, serene and undefeated. Even not knowing that Obi-Wan and Anakin had been inclined to linger here after Council, and had once by the same window spoken in heated tones about a Council assignment not to be on record, he would not have been surprised to see them stroll up and join them.

"What do you think?" Leia asked.

Luke tore himself back from the past and to the present, where Leia leaned against the windowsill and crossed her ankles, surveying her work. "Ben was talking to you?"

"It's not really his name, you know." Leia frowned a little, a tiny shifting of the line between her lips. "Ben. He borrowed it from the old Brekaarian word for "sentinel"."

"...More than he's been talking to me, obviously," Luke continued, joining her by the window. "How long has he been talking to you?"

"Not long." Leia looked at her hands. "Since the first evening after I came to the Temple. I couldn't sleep, that night. It's my new quarters; I haven't gotten used to them. They're too fancy, penthouse nonsense." She paused, and Luke could feel the weight of her memory, gathering behind her eyes. "I went out onto the landing stage, and looked at the city a while-- I was thinking about that constitution clause on slavery we'd been working at all day, and then... well he was just there." She looked at Luke intently. "You've seen him before, haven't you?"

"Off and on," Luke said. "Mostly on Dagobah. Master Yoda sometimes, and ...father."

Leia mulled this over for a moment, as the traffic zoomed by the window. "I've only spoken to Obi-Wan, and he was very kind. Can anyone else see them?"

"I don't really know. Not that I know of. I didn't even know you could."

"Ah." Leia looked up at him sideways, a tight conspiratorial smile and mischief in her eyes. "Just as well, really. I don't think Captain Solo would be too happy with me talking to dashing handsome Jedi, especially in nothing but my nightgown."

Luke was left hanging a second time, wondering if maybe they were talking about two different Kenobis, while Leia peered at the window seat cushion and made a note on her pad. "Leia... you never really met Ben... Obi-Wan, did you?"

Leia shook her head. "No. Though my father used to tell me a great deal about him. He was a great admirer of the Jedi, you know. He never wanted me to grow up with the lies the Empire spread about them." She hesitated. "It's funny, he never said anything about Anakin Skywalker. He must have known him." Her brow furrowed in thought. "I understand why he didn't speak of it. But I wish that he had."

Luke shifted on the windowsill. "Obi-Wan, when he died, you know he was... well he was rather elderly, actually."

"Probably in his sixties, I suppose." Leia looked up at her brother, and her smile blossomed full force, diplomatic skill finding the source of Luke's discomfort. "Luke, just because you remember him being an old man, I hardly think he would want to look like that to someone he'd never met."

Luke muttered something about it probably having more to do with Leia's nightgown, but was obliged to drop the subject at his sister's scandalized look.

"What do you think of the repairs?" Leia asked again, wrapping her vest more snugly around her as though to ward off any prying incorporeal eyes. "You haven't said."

"I think," Luke said after a moment, "That we should leave one part of the Temple unchanged." He ran a hand down the smooth surface of the wall, blast-points erased, paint smooth and pristine.

Leia nodded slowly. "I think you're right."

And so it was, in years to come, the southwest hall and the adjacent landing pad were left untouched by the restoration, keeping their tell-tale marks and bloodstains, so that Jedi who passed that way would always see and remember the past, and the price of arrogance. But long before that time came Luke Skywalker would sit in the newly repaired Council chamber, still smelling of fresh paint and hot new electronics, and stare out at the city beyond. He and Leia had discussed making the Council chamber the one unrenovated area, but Luke had already started cleaning it, and any other meetings in the Temple would have had to take place in the basement, which was hardly practical. And so it had been repaired early on, and though there were several assorted chairs in the circular, high-windowed room, Luke was the only person who regularly sat in one.

The work at the Temple continued. Even now, in the evening, droid teams worked replanting the ravaged gardens, cleaning the vast network of rooms and halls, and repairing and updating the Temple's central computer. They would have had a hard time with that, if Luke had not been told the proper security clearances by the very beings that had last programmed it. Much of the data had been corrupted when the Empire had first tired to tamper with it, but it mostly superficial. Underneath was a wealth of information that, even in the remaining fragments, was so vast that it made Luke's head spin. If he was to restore the order, he would be as much a padawan (the strange word rolled in his mind like a rock not yet smoothed by water) as the students he would teach.

He was thinking about that now, and the new constitution signed into law that morning, as the blue sky deepened and night crept across Coruscant, lighting little fires in the buildings as beings readied themselves for darkness. The new lights installed in the chamber would turn on as it got darker, but right now they hovered with an uncertain gold light, not quite daylight, and not quite dark.

There was a chair waiting for Leia, but Luke had not yet set his heart on her taking it. Her first love was democracy, and right now its calling was stronger even than the Force. Luke had gleaned enough from historical accounts and Obi-Wan to know that a fracture in the old senate and the Jedi Order had contributed to the fall; he nursed a small hope that Leia, as a Jedi herself, would be an ideal liaison between the two. And Luke himself was a soldier for the rebellion long before he was a Jedi; his ties to the new Republic were no less.

All the same, he understood Han for the first time, asking if he really wanted to stay here alone. The Temple was vast and echoing, and Luke rattled in it like the tiny seed in the human-sized Vreen pollen-pod.

Have you seen the Vreet pollen-trees? Some grow to almost a kilometer in height, from that tiny seed.

And Luke knew before he saw him that Obi-Wan was more than a voice, standing there beside him, glowing faint blue with Forcelight. Perhaps it was being in the Council chamber, or the files Luke had been reading about Kenobi and Skywalker and the Clone Wars, but Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared as no broken old hermit, but a Jedi in his prime, as he must have been to Leia. He stood beside Luke's chair, straight and confident, close-cropped hair and beard that were darker with Forcelight than desert-bleached white, only the first hints of age at the corners of his mouth and eyes, looking not more than forty. And deep down Luke was mollified, because Obi-Wan was now simply the Obi-Wan he had always known him to be, and not much different than Luke's first memories of him when he had found Luke nine years old, far from home in a broken-down duneskiff. Only now there was no sadness hanging on him, the weight that had aged him and that Luke had sensed even as a child.

"I wondered," Luke said, "If you were going to stop talking to me altogether, since you had Leia." It probably wasn't a good idea to tease a venerable Force ghost, but Obi-Wan only narrowed his eyes keenly.

"Really, Luke. You've had my undivided attention for almost thirty years now." Obi-Wan was almost smiling. "I only thought it fair to bring your sister up to speed."

"I'm not sure how to begin with her," Luke admitted.

"Let me give it a try," Obi-Wan said. He walked soundlessly past Luke to an empty chair two seats away, and caressed the back of the newly-upholstered seat. He was still smiling, as though lingering over some pleasant memory. "She's more like me than I would have expected. I've spent my life around Jedi who were all flash and fire and rebellion; it's pleasant to talk to someone who prefers diplomacy."

"Full of flash and fire you were once yourself, Master Kenobi." Yoda sat in the eastmost chair in the Council chamber as though twenty years had not budged him, completely unperturbed by the fact that the new pod-chair was clearly visible through his transparent manifestation. "Not so easy to train, were you. Reckless with your weapon, hmm? Forgetful of your commlink?"

"No more than any other padawan, Master." Obi-Wan looked as scandalized as a Jedi-spirit could look, and Luke covered his smile with his hand.

"It also might be said, he was a bit too serious."

And this last one was a voice that Luke did not know at all. Nor was the Jedi, when he shimmered into shape beside Obi-Wan, one that he knew. This was a new thing to Luke, and in spite of all his contact with Obi-Wan, he had never been quite able to believe that it had happened outside his own mind. Luke knew now what Yoda had meant about luminous beings, for here he was meeting one long since shed of his troublesome body, but as real as the chair, or the speeders outside, or Luke himself. Maybe moreso, for Forcelight sluiced off of his image like water from a towering waterfall, and puddled about the hem of his robe, making the other Jedi masters seem dim by comparison.

The Jedi was tall in the same way that trees were, some unspecified height that dwarfed all beside it. As a warrior, he must have been a force to be reckoned with. But he wore his hair long and loose and his smile openly, and had Luke still been nine years old, he might have found that tree to be good climbing and better shelter.

"Though I cannot say he has ever let me down."

And then Luke knew him, from the way Obi-Wan called him "Master," and the way his image shuddered for a moment, uncertain, between a much younger man who was clean-shaven, before settling back to his previous appearance. The Jedi was Qui-Gon Jinn, whose name in the archives bore the strange addendum from Master Yoda: "the first of many to fall."

The Jedi who had found his father on Tatooine, and known him for what he was.

Luke was standing up, and bowing, quite before he realized he was out of his seat.

"I'm the one who is honored, Master Skywalker," Qui-Gon Jinn said, before Luke could even say the preceding statement that had formed in his mind. The Jedi folded his hands in his sleeves and bowed, while Luke attempted some presentation of his credentials to say he was no master. It sort of came out as one long word, and Luke was reminded painfully of how hard he had worked for his poise in Jabba's palace raid.

Qui-Gon eyed him, and Luke empathized with Obi-Wan; he would have lost his lightsaber too, around such a knight. "I don't see any other living Jedi in this room, Skywalker."

"Simply because alone he is, a master it does not make him," Yoda chirped from his chair. "Hasty in your statements you are, Master Qui-Gon."

"I'm afraid I am with Master Yoda on this one." Obi-Wan looked apologetic. "He's barely a youngling, in what he has learned."

A shadow stirred itself in the corner. "No youngling," it said, "And no Jedi master, ever stood against Palpatine, and did not Fall." Where Qui-Gon was pure light, this Jedi was full of shadow, pulling all the light of the other three toward him, and breathing it back out again in smudged shadows. But this was not the smothering blackness of the Dark Side, but the pleasant enfolding darkness of sleep, of eyes closed in meditation, of the night sky punched with stars in a welcoming yawn as his X-wing plunged into endless sky. And, Luke sensed, of the weight of old, profound sorrow. This was Anakin Skywalker.

Night had fallen on Coruscant.

The image that was his father's spiritual projection did not lower his hood, did not venture far from the furthest alcove where he stood, just outside the ring of golden light. When he moved he drew the shadows with him, they hugged his shape like fetters.

"I make a motion," Anakin said, "that Luke Skywalker be considered for mastery."

"A motion?" Obi-Wan repeated. "A motion to what? There is no longer a Council."

Anakin gestured to the assembled spirits. "What are all of you?"

"We can't be a council, Anakin," Obi-Wan said, as though the question had come up hundreds of times before. "We're dead."

Anakin shrugged in his cloak. "Change the rules."

Yoda looked thoughtful, Obi-Wan floored, but Qui-Gon laughed. "I'd second your motion, but I never was a member of the Council." He looked at Luke, and his shade had a conspiratorial glint. "Too many meetings."

"If I am to restore the Order," Luke offered, "I would need your help."

"What say you, Masters?" And here Qui-Gon turned to the only two former Council members in the room, Yoda and Obi-Wan. "Luke can hardly be a Council by himself. He will need advice."

Yoda rubbed his incorporeal chin and considered. "Master Kenobi. You should speak your thoughts."

"Permit me, Master Yoda." Obi-Wan already sounded as though he was in Council, the Great Negotiator, translating not language, but diverse points of view. "As Jedi, the four of us are very different. Anakin is the only Jedi to have ever returned from the Dark. His advice would be invaluable to future Jedi. You have nine hundred years of experience to offer. Master Qui-Gon has a greater grasp of the living Force than either one of us. And I--" He paused, but his opinion of himself had no false humility about it; he was only matter of fact. "I'm only a Jedi, like many before me."

"Advise only, we must," Yoda insisted, fixing Luke with a beady stare. "Voices of the Force we are, but also of the past. The voice of the future you must be. Understand, do you?"

Luke nodded. "I will not allow the order to stagnate by holding to the past, Masters."

"Hmm. Unanimous, the vote must be, for promotion to mastery." Yoda did not smile, but Luke knew his cool expression was one he had worn when Luke had shown unexpected progress. "Master Qui-Gon, long enough have you shirked your duty. On this Council, you must be."

Obi-Wan's image drew up with pride as the Jedi master inclined his head, and accepted his long overdue commission.

"Requested it has been, for Luke Skywalker to be promoted to the rank of Mastery. Concur, I do."

"Aye." Obi-Wan said, and Qui-Gon echoed him. There was a moment of stillness, and Yoda fixed the hooded figure with his beady glare. "Master Skywalker," he prompted. "The rest of the Council awaits your opinion."

Anakin started as though he had been made of flesh and blood, and for a moment the darkness pulsed outward around him, lit by pale flames of blue Forcelight. Slowly, he lifted his hands, and cast back his hood. The remaining shadows scattered away behind him, like fish disturbed by motion, and did not return. "I agree."

"Decided, the Council has. Move to make Luke a member, in order to better restore the order, I do." Yoda paused, and said almost to himself, "Need someone alive in this room, we will."

And so Luke was both made a master and granted a seat on the Council in less time that it had taken the Jedi Council of the Old Republic to order lunch. They resumed their seats (except for Yoda, who had never left his), and while there was much that was said of the past, there was more that was said of the future.

And Coruscant turned, light and shadow shifting by halves over the planet's surface. Four members of the Council always remained, and many were the new padawans of diverse ages and shapes that knew Master Kenobi, and Master Jinn, and Master Yoda, as well as they knew their corporeal masters. But Master Anakin was not often seen by the new inhabitants of the Temple, and those who did rarely forgot his words in a hurry. It was only the youngest of the younglings that were not intimidated by him, for they were born after the shadow of the Empire had lifted, and Darth Vader to them was a phantom long dead, and not the ghostly Jedi so reliable for repairing shorted training sabers or lightwave skimmers. And though he did not often lower his hood, his footsteps kept nightly place in the sleeping Temple's halls, and no shadows were permitted there that were not his own.


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