Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Joined the Rebellion

My name is Julian Sunsinger. I joined the Rebellion, but I started out working for the Empire.

I think you have to remember that for twenty years, the Empire was pretty much the only thing the galaxy knew, even the uncivilized places like Tatooine, where I grew up. There were certainly critics, but then, everything has critics. The Jedi had critics, and look where they are now? Okay, where they're trying to be, thanks to Luke.

I want to talk about Luke, the crazy mystic who came out of nowhere (hey Tatooine!) to save us all, but in due time.

I was one of those guys who signed up for the Imperial Academy at the earliest opportunity, not because it was the most attractive prospect for someone who grew up on a planet with a space port as the brightest spot in the whole world, but because it was the only thing that seemed like it meant anything. I wanted to be an officer. I mean, did you see the ships the Empire used to cruise around?

The Empire meant strength, unity, and security. Only the Rebellion talked about how awful it was. The rest of us didn't really care. But I don't know, once I actually entered the program, I started to hear from those who knew it best just how flawed it really was. I had never really given much thought to Emperor Palpatine, for instance, because he'd been there my whole life. Very few pictures of him circulated around, very few public addresses, and anything that leaked did not reflect what I eventually found out, that he was a creepy old man obsessed with the old religion of the Jedi.

Can we stop and talk about the Jedi for a moment? There were tales about how they used to be the guardians of peace and justice, noble knights who fought with electric blades and trained since childhood to perfect supernatural abilities and somehow mastered themselves so that they could operate in any environment with perfect ease. By the time I was born, they were all but extinct, existing only in rumors and legend. I didn't really know what a Jedi was, only that the Empire suggested it was a tradition past its time, a superstition, a lie, something only fools believed.

But when I was told that the vaunted Emperor believed in it, the most important man in the universe, I had to do some digging on my own. I found out about the Clone Wars, the tragedy that helped produced our Stormtroopers, who were descended from Jango Fett, the last of the Mandalorian warriors. I had no idea about any of that. I knew the record. I actually began to suspect that the official record had been altered, that maybe Palpatine wasn't such a good guy after all. Imagine finding out that your leader is a scumbag in addition to a psycho fanatic.

So I ditched my Star Destroyer pals and joined the Rebellion.

It was slow going at first. I found the tiny X-Wing fighters to be claustrophobic. Sure, the Imperial fleet had ships like that, but they were exceptions rather than the rule. We were constantly on the run, we lost all the time. I lost good friends, even if many of them probably never fully trusted me. Then we all found out about the Death Star, and that was the one victory everyone wanted, because it felt like the only one that mattered, the one that would either lead to our victory, or finally end it. Yeah, even we thought that, even if some of us won't admit it even now...

And you know what? It was headed toward disaster. I wasn't in the front lines, but I was there, just like everyone else, following the progress, watching our best pilots get shot down left and right. It was a disaster, just as I'd feared.

Yeah, and then the miracle happened. We all thought it was a fluke. Nobody knew who Luke Skywalker was, even after the big ceremony. He just happened to be the lucky hero that day, the one who got the job done, even after the Emperor's henchman, Darth Vader, targeted him personally.

Oh, and by the way, Darth Vader? He had been another constant for those twenty years under the Empire. But did anyone really believe he existed? Only those unlucky enough to meet him. I mean, how realistic could the guy be, encased in armor with a very obvious respirator, who caused so much terror? And somehow the Rebellion never tried to take him out. You would think that he would have been first priority. But no one believed that he was real.

Except he was. Luke Skywalker believed in him, and couldn't stop talking about him. That's how most of us learned about Luke, by following his obsession with Darth Vader, which only increased in the years following his big moment in the Battle of Yavin. Some of us grew concerned, actually. Me, I wanted to ask him what Tatooine was like the last time he saw it. Did he know any Hutts?

As it turned out, Luke was a Jedi. Yeah, never saw that coming. He never came out and said it, but a lot of us suspected that he blew up the Death Star with a big boost from the Force, the energy Jedi are supposed to draw from in order to execute their powers. (Supposedly it's everywhere.)

Then one day, and for most of us, we never even saw it coming, his interest in Vader became something else. What's worse than an obsession? Whatever Luke discovered after losing his hand, an event he never talked about. In fact, after that, virtually no one saw him again. He probably went back to Tatooine, because that's the kind of thing someone from a desert planet does when he can't think of anything else to do. Because desert planets make you crazy enough to actually miss them. I know from experience, but then, I'm not a Jedi.

Then came the second Death Star, the death of Darth Vader, and the death of the Emperor. So yeah, Death Star.

That was the end of the Empire. The Rebellion transitioned into the New Republic, a successor to what the Empire had once been, before Palpatine. I was reunited with old friends, actually. A lot of the old Imperials found their way back into the Republic, something very few people talk about today. When I talk about the Jedi now, more people know what I'm talking about, but they react the same way I did when I heard about Jedi before Luke Skywalker. It's not easy to digest, any of it, really. The Empire existed for twenty years, and everyone thought it would last forever. Now Palpatine is seen as one of the worst evils to ever exist. To live history is sometimes to be amused by the fickleness of history. Because when you live it, you don't always understand what's going on, even if you think you do. I served the Empire, and then I served the Rebellion, and now I live in the time of the Republic. In some ways, the Republic never went away, and neither did the Jedi. But it's a lot to think about.

I guess that's why I like to talk about these things.

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