Monday, November 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 101: In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

He was a little boy, growing up in slavery.  His mother had been a slave before him, and he was born into it.  It was an insidious kind of slavery, in that for all intents and purposes he was little more than an employee, who reported to work every day, was free to live with his mother in their own home, and he could even pursue his own interests, for instance once he'd convinced his master of the possibilities in podracing, which wasn't all that difficult, he could devote all his spare time to it, and even use what was left over building his own protocol droid.

But he couldn't leave and he wasn't free and all his dreams were confined to a dead world filled with people watching their lives waste away, whose only visitors were opportunists looking to bleed whatever remained.  The worst part was that these visitors brought with them the stories of an entire galaxy, and a boy thrives on stories.  If he's not careful, they can become his whole reality.

His mother said the worst thing was that no one ever helped each other.  Very quickly he learned that she was right.

How do you help the helpless?  How do you fulfill the dreams of dreamers?  With magic?  Ideas, he learned, could be dangerous.  He had friends, like any other boy, and he valued them very much, often enjoying just listening to them chatter, letting his cares slip away, but he knew, somehow, what they thought even when they didn't vocalize it.  He knew on a certain level that he wasn't like them, and that this created a barrier between them.  They scoffed at his dreams.  Because he was a boy, most of the time he didn't really think much of it.  They didn't share the same dreams, but they did with fantasies.  This was how he first heard about the Jedi.

It's easy to have faith when you're young.  You don't have any real experience.  It's when you're older and you think you know everything, instead of merely accepting it, that faith becomes difficult.  There's probably a little of that in the practice the Jedi had in taking their recruits at the youngest possible age, not out of a sense of indoctrination but in the hope that the threshold of faith could be circumvented.  The longer you believe in something, the more you think about it, if given the proper support.  Without it, you begin formulating your own ideas, and ideas can be dangerous.

His idea was the belief that a Jedi couldn't die, that no one could defeat one of them.  This is far more than hero worship.  On a world such as his, there were no such things as heroes, only family.  You put your faith in dreams and family, and that was all.

The more he thought about the Jedi, the more he hoped.  He dreamed about a man who couldn't die, who had all the answers, all the solutions.  Such a man was instantly a part of the boy's family.  How could it be any different?  For the boy, to have formed a connection at all with another person, a real one, nothing trivial like what he shared with his friends, would infinitely improve his life.

The trouble was, he couldn't reconcile his ideal of what a Jedi was supposed to be with that man who couldn't die.  He didn't believe his own fantasy.  He had spent so much time thinking about it, he no longer thought of it as something he shared with his friends, but as something private, something they couldn't understand, like the rest of his life.

An isolated life takes pains to protect that status, as difficult as that may be to comprehend.

The boy was very much alone.  He was a boy in every conventional sense.  To all outward appearances he seemed perfectly normal.  He was not.  He harbored dark thoughts, out of fear, because his life was out of his control.

The fantasy of the Jedi grew to occupy his every waking thought.  He imagined a man who could give him guidance, but this was not the pure Jedi.  This was the man who couldn't die.  The corruption.  The perversion.  The Jedi was the one who represented the contradiction, the thing he couldn't reconcile.

He thought about both a great deal.  In the fantasy, one of them came to rescue him from his plight, but it wasn't the man who couldn't die, the man of guidance, but rather the more generalized image of the Jedi, the idea of the hero, whose only function was to give him a different set of circumstances.  He'd begun to blend the idea of the hero with the image of the angels he'd heard of, who reminded him so much of his mother, the only source of support he had ever trusted, the one he feared on a daily basis would be taken away, if his master ever decided to send him somewhere else.  He began to fear the Jedi would not be able to help him, that a hero was someone who only intervened.  In other words, just another master.  Would the man who couldn't die, the man of guidance, be the same?  That was why he needed the angel, the one who would always support him, who would be there when he finally became free.  She, and he could not think of the angel in any other term, would be the necessary link, perhaps between all of them, the support he would need above all else.

The fantasy began to frighten him.  The more he thought about it, the more it seemed destined to end in disaster.  He had been left in a terrible situation, which he was keenly aware of, which was why he had the fantasy in the first place.  It was a fatal trap.  Even his great hope was pointless, self-defeating, destined for a bad end.

By the way, there are no fairy tales on Tatooine, only cautionary ones...


Sunday, November 2, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 100: Padme Didn't Die

Anakin Skywalker married the former Queen Amidala of Naboo, thereafter known as Padme, one-time senator of the Republic.  In time, he turned his dedication to the Jedi way into a path towards the Dark Side, where he became known as Darth Vader.

When the transformation was complete, after his body became horribly mutilated and scarred in his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar and he stood encased in his life-preserving apparatus, he no longer had a bride.  But Padme didn't die.

She did not go into hiding.  You cannot hide on your home world, where everyone has known you since you were born.  She did not retreat.  She began a grieving process.

She had also just given birth, to twins, who were taken to Tatooine and Alderaan to be raised by foster parents, who could nurture them and give them futures that Padme could no longer envision on her own.  On her own she felt weak, too weak.  All her life she'd been strong, and suddenly she no longer believed in herself.  What else could she do?  What else could be expected of her?  Vader became the personification of evil, a specter even the Empire feared, buried in layers of myth, so that even those who knew him personally didn't know how to behave around him.  They came up with various solutions, and none of them were adequate.

The reverse would have been true of Padme as well, if she'd returned to her life.  She could no longer hide the truth, but she did not want to live with it, either.  There had been reports of her death, of course, and she let them persist so long that they became the basis for her exile.  The same had been said about a few of her Jedi friends, with whom she remained in contact.  One of them was Yoda, the other Kenobi, who agreed to watch over her son on Tatooine.  Theirs was an exclusive club.

In time, she wondered if she would reemerge.  For the time being she was content to nurse her emotional wounds.  On Naboo she was allowed privacy.  She had learned all its secrets a long time ago, and as part of another exclusive club, the royalty of that world, she was privy to those others knew nothing about.  She had trained for her new role all her life.

Yet it was a role without purpose, only that she try to forge ahead, if she could.  On Alderaan her daughter was raised a princess, though it was a life that was in all other ways separated from what she herself had known.  There were no demands on her daughter, but Padme smiled when she saw how Leia took up the crusade against tyranny.  Her son, Luke, toiled in obscurity, exploited by his uncle, but gifted, too, exposed to a world her daughter wouldn't know for years, a world of wonders.  Her son had the advantage of learning what her husband had discovered by accident.  The difference was palpable.  She saw the same restlessness in both of them, but while one had been spoiled, the other spent his time yearning, which was something he inherited from his mother.

No one asked a thing of her.  There was some relief in that, she had to admit.  No more demands.  No more pressure.  No more expectations.  She had to admit some of that had led to everything she had to struggle against regretting, for she loved her children dearly.  She lent her support behind the scenes.  She was the strength behind the leadership of the Rebellion.  She never left it behind.  As her contemporaries grew older and a new generation appeared, she felt the responsibility less and less, and she could finally relax.  When her offspring met for the first time, she wanted to be there, to tell them she loved them, that she was proud.  She knew their journey was not yet complete.  As long as Vader still lived, her own story remained unfinished.

Was there hope for him?  That was what her son thought.  The thought intrigued her.  He worked tirelessly toward his father's redemption, and it was that belief that led to the victory of the Rebellion, the end of the Empire.

And, at last, the day Padme emerged back into the rest of the galaxy.  She had much to tell her children.

101 Star Wars Variations 99: The Sadness

I don't remember my mother well.  She died in childbirth, after all, but I remember the sadness.

The sadness overwhelmed her.  The attending droid said she lost the will to live.  It had come to consume her, and as such as been with her for some time.  The sadness is all I know about her, except for what resides in the public records, which is about as far from personal as you can get.

I know much more about my father, and because of that, I know why my mother was so sad.  You see, Darth Vader was my father.

I could always feel it, as if she had suffused me with it in the womb.  I don't curse her for it, but there were times, when I was younger, when I thought it would consume me, too.  As I grew older, I learned to incorporate the sadness into my life, to channel it, to do what I could, the things I thought would have made my mother...happy.  The public record had much to say about what she believed in, and that shaped my formative interest in the Rebellion, risking everything to strike back at the Empire, even though for all intents and purposes I was just another loyal citizen on one of its many worlds, a prominent one expected to toe the line, give it the support that it in truth badly needed.  I knew how to do that because the whole time, I wished I could have done the same for my mother.  I wish there had been someone in her life who was always there, to give her strength.  That someone should have been my father.  But it wasn't.

I don't know what really happened, but I can imagine.  The last records of my mother relate how she followed Vader to Mustafar.  This journey was in secret, and the records were something buried deeply in the annals of Alderaan, a world that was to become my own but had in those days given a measure of support to my mother.  Not enough, and don't think I don't think about that.

I imagine in these moments that she isn't sad, perhaps for the first time in a long time, but rather angry.  Anger is something she would know intimately, for anger stokes the fire of a Sith Lord, which in the end was what my father became.  The man who should have been the strongest pillar of her life instead corrupted her.  In her final moments, she was no longer strong enough to resist.

Alderaan is a peaceful world, and so was my mother's Naboo, which famously withstood a blockade of the Trade Federation without giving in to violence until circumstances, and a handful of Jedi and an army of Gungans, forced it to act otherwise, as well a Sith, Darth Sidious, who was also responsible for the corruption of her husband, Darth Vader.  She would have become familiar with weapons, during the Clone Wars.  Few could have said otherwise in those dark days, when the entire galaxy tore asunder.  Usually, however, she would never have thought of violence as a solution.

Except this time.  This time she brought with her a weapon, and she trained it on her husband.  Too often in the past she had heard his equivocations, his lies.  She knew now that he was evil.  I've seen hologram that recorded his slaughter of Jedi younglings.  These would have been enough, surely.

She probably never gave him a chance to explain.  Why would she?  She was brave.  She would have shot him more than once, to ensure that the deed was done.  Mustafar is a volcanic world.  Vader burned.  There's no question that he died that day.

Darth Sidious saw to it that something else happened.  He was in possession of dark powers.  He brought Vader back from the dead.

And at the same time, I was being born.  The sadness came back to claim her.  New life was something that she couldn't handle.  It was tied up in too many implications.  She could sense what was happening to Vader.  This was something she couldn't overcome.

I don't blame her at all.  I pity her every day.  I've tried to dedicate my life to her memory.  I've never been able to escape her, or her sadness.

Strangely, I consider this a good thing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 98: The Brother's Son

On a desolate desert world, two brothers become separated at a young age.  Until that point they are inseparable.  One is named Anakin Skywalker and the other becomes known as Darth Vader.

You'll know Anakin's journey well enough, but the one who would be called Vader?

He was torn away from family, and he felt torn away.  He felt rejected.  Every day he felt the burden of what his life was becoming, a tragedy.  Until the day his old life ended, he had believed it was headed in one direction, a happy one, and all of a sudden, it went elsewhere.

He could never explain what happened.

In time, he came to view his brother differently.  He forgot the loving companion of what he would call his innocent days, and came to resent him.  Anakin had every advantage.  Anakin was good with machines.  Anakin had special instincts.  Anakin, in short, excelled.  Everyone noticed Anakin.

Everyone just felt sorry for the one who would be called Vader.

Vader considered himself special, too.  That was the single tormenting thought he held onto.  There would always be moments, when others seemed to notice, but no one acted on it, until Palpatine, until the man who took him under his wing, believed in him.  Corrupted him?  It was too late.  He knew what was happening, and was okay with it.  He couldn't lose his way.  He had already found himself.

He had special abilities, too.  In most respect, they were the same his brother possessed, but like the opposite form.  He could never explain it.  He only hoped one day someone would notice, and so that was all he cared about when Palpatine introduced himself to him.

He became the Sith Lord's apprentice.  It wasn't a demanding life at all.  He observed his brother's Jedi training from a distance, scoffed all the more, hoped one day they would reunite.  He considered that he had finally discovered what he truly was, and hoped his brother would understand.

But Anakin didn't.  As usual, he didn't understand at all.  It led to a tragic encounter, a duel.  Anakin's death.  But Anakin had a son.

This was what changed Vader.  He realized he had another chance.  A shot at redemption?  A chance for someone to see him as something other than what he was?  He no longer saw the difference.  He saw himself as a monster.

Anakin's son thought differently.  It was astonishing.  Vader had no idea how to respond, except to accept what the boy believed.  That Vader was good.  That he deserved the boy's attention.  Not the way he'd gotten Palpatine's.  Not because he was willing to compromise himself.  But because of himself.  And nothing more.

It was a comfortable way to die.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 97: The Good Man Anakin and the Scoundrel Vader

The thing Obi-Wan never knew was that Palpatine's mind games were more extensive than anyone could have ever guessed.

In order to recruit Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, Palpatine took on a new apprentice, Darth Vader, who by all accounts was unremarkable except for his complete lack of scruples.  There was nothing Vader would refuse to do, and he was utterly ruthless.  The problem Palpatine consistently ran into regarding Skywalker was the young Jedi's constant need for reassurance, which was something he could get more easily from his secret bride Padme than anyone else.

Palpatine thought that if he paired Skywalker and Vader together, it would be a mutually beneficial relationship, at least until the point one would have to eliminate the other, which was how it always worked for Sith apprentices.  Naturally Palpatine hoped Skywalker would prevail, given his far greater potential, but if he won, certainly Vader would have proven his worth.

Together, Skywalker and Vader were a formidable combination.  What Skywalker refused to do he allowed Vader to accomplish for him despite his continued reservations.  Theirs was a relationship of a constant dialogue, Skywalker trying to get Vader to consider his nobler qualities, and Vader attempting to unleash Skywalker's darker impulses.

Over time, Skywalker grew less comfortable with the arrangement, but he couldn't tell anyone.  He was ashamed.  If he told Obi-Wan, he risked everything.  If he told Padme, he would lose her trust.  But he'd had a vision of the future, and he feared losing her above all else, and so he continued to trust Palpatine.

Vader's atrocities mounted, and Skywalker became afraid.  He became aware that the only way out of the arrangement would be a sacrifice.

Things came to a head on the volcanic world of Mustafar.  Padme was giving birth elsewhere, and with Skywalker nowhere to be found it was up to Obi-Wan to watch over the process.  She'd been experiencing terrible complications, and the danger to her life was overwhelming.  Obi-Wan alone knew who was the father.  Skywalker was distracted in every way possible.  The guilt of a lifetime poured over him.  It gave him great power, but Vader still had the upper hand.

They dueled in blazing heat, lava spewing all around them.  This would be a fatal encounter for one of them, and they both knew it.

Up until the moment it happened, Skywalker believed Vader would come around and realize that together they were stronger than either one of them would ever be, and could accomplish wonders, perhaps things neither had ever dared dream before.  He had never trusted Palpatine.  That was what he realized in those final moments.

The only thing Palpatine stood to gain from any of this was to avoid yet another usurper.  Palpatine was a survivor.  He knew better than anyone what the best result was.

It was brutal.  Vader was without mercy.  He carved away at Skywalker until there was practically nothing left, and then watched the rest of it burn.  How this had happened to one of the most powerful practitioners of the Force would be unimaginable, except that Palpatine had done everything to undermine him.

For the next twenty years, Obi-Wan convinced himself of many things, once he found out what happened on Mustafar.  But the truth wasn't one of them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 96: The Skywalkers

The death of a marriage is a saga unto itself, and its ramifications can lead to unexpected results.

For instance, the day the Skywalkers broke up.  These days, you'll hear a lot of confusing things about them.  You may even believe that they were brother and sister rather than husband and wife.  Perhaps it's easier to go back to the beginning.

Or rather, the end.

Luke and Leia broke up sometime after the destruction of the Death Star.  Some say it was the pressure of becoming galactic heroes.  By the time they were living on Hoth their relationship had become frigid indeed, and they left going separate ways.  It's easy to assume that Han Solo came between them, the one-time smuggler becoming a friend to one and a lover to the other, but either way someone who couldn't be shared.  Much like their lives.

As the gulf between them widened, the Rebellion had some explaining to do.  It was victory that complicated things.  Suddenly there was nowhere to hide, not from the troops of the Empire, nor the glare of the media on countless worlds.  Once they'd been inseparable but now it was difficult finding them in the same room.

So an explanation had to be made.  It was more like damage control.  The Rebellion couldn't withstand bad publicity.  Fortunately, an observer in the media made the mistake and identified them as siblings for the first time.  Absurd, yes, for anyone who knew the truth, but there was plenty of supporting evidence, or so the interpretation could be.  Luke spent an increasing amount of time on the desert world of Tatooine, a place he'd often visited as a child, while Leia continued life as a celebrity, a role she'd basked in since her days as a princess of Alderaan, a title she'd abandoned when she wanted a common touch to more readily reach the masses.

It was like a splinter of the mind, convincing certain contemporaries that they'd never been lovers, but the more exposure the cause of the Rebellion received, the easier it was to forget, and the more amicable their relationship became again.

Suddenly there was room for other lies.  I'm sure you've heard about Luke's Jedi career?  The last remnants of their earlier days lingered in the form of a romantic destiny one or both of them shared, and a personal score against the Empire's dread warrior Darth Vader, who of course in this version of the saga was their father.  The things people will believe...

So much has been said about the Skywalkers, or rather Skywalker and Organa, as they were known once and again.  Truth and lies.  Wonders never cease.

But that was a long time ago.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 95: Kenobi's Son

From a certain point of view...

In his later years Old Ben almost became an acceptable member of the community.  He even considered relocating from his cave in the dunes to somewhere in town.  He took visitors and people were happy to come.  Even Owen Lars begrudgingly allowed his adopted son Luke Skywalker to visit him.

Things hadn't always been that way.  When he first appeared, Ben Kenobi had been a controversial figure at best, so closely tied with the bloody chaos of the Clone Wars that many people actually feared him.  And with good reason.  There were rumors that he had gone wild and begun murdering his fellow Jedi, including his own friends.

To put it mildly, when he first came to Tatooine, Old Ben didn't play well with others.  It was a self-imposed exile through and through, although in truth no one wanted him around anyway.  There were...incidents, nothing that had gotten too far out of hand, but his reputation had grown increasingly poor.

That was why his son was taken away from him.  The boy was young, too young to have remembered anything, only a baby when they had come.  There was no one who didn't wonder if the boy was even Old Ben's, but there had been medical confirmations, even if they had no bearing in the decision to place him in a foster home.

That home was Owen's.

There was one thing Owen and Old Ben agreed on, and it was the comforting illusion that Luke's only relationship with Old Ben was that of friendship, something that was only possible because of Beru, who fought constantly if quietly for Old Ben, should he ever earn it, to have a chance to prove himself safe, at the very least.  She would visit the hermit periodically to keep tabs.

On Luke's eleventh birthday, she decided it was time.  Old Ben had settled down.  He began holding normal conversations for the first time since arriving.  Until that point he had been almost a mute, antisocial, so that most people assumed he had all but confirmed what was said about him.  On a few occasions, he had flashed a temper, and he was known to hold grudges against those who wronged him.  All that began to change.  He grew restful in his isolation, and at Beru's prodding even learned to reintegrate himself with others.

He brought a gift to present the boy, a small trinket that had no identifiable purpose, probably some Jedi gadget that no longer functioned.  Luke was fascinated.  Owen was sparing in such matters.  It was just what was needed to establish a connection.  Soon the boy was venturing off on his own, with sufficient supervision from droids, to the hermit's cave in the dunes.

Beru watched with melancholy in her eyes, which was at least better than Owen's anger.  He never thought Old Ben was worthy of such a chance, regardless of whatever might have been the truth about him.

As the years advanced, she wondered if Old Ben would ever tell Luke the truth.  She couldn't say why she had ever considered giving him a chance.  But she never regretted it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 94: The Emperor's Man

Palpatine thought of his son as just another asset, a tool at his disposal among the many he had collected over the years as Darth Sidious of the Sith Order, to be put in place and used when necessary.  It took several decades, but the time finally came when Palpatine's interests in the Skywalker family line collided at Cloud City.

You see, Lando Calrissian was Palpatine's son.

You might be forgiven for never having made the connection.  Lando himself might be forgiven, too, if he forgot, since Palpatine was at best a distant father, a neglectful one.  At worst, he didn't exist at all in his son's life, and there was no practical way to even have the connection acknowledged.  Except when it suited Palpatine, who was also known as leader of the Galactic Empire, the Emperor.  This might be part of the reason why Lando prided himself in keeping Bespin as a whole out of Imperial affairs.

It was his aide Lobot who whispered in his ear, simple as that, upon Darth Vader's arrival, that things were about to become interesting.  In other words, Lando should start paying attention, take a personal interest in what was about to happen.  If his father had known him at all, he would never have questioned Lando on that score.  Lando was a professional, a smooth operator.  He had sown his wild oats years ago, during which time he'd come to know a smuggler and all-around rogue named Han Solo.

It was with great reluctance that Lando realized that his old buddy was part of these events.  For all intents and purposes, he had to make it look like Han was in fact his only interest in the affairs to follow.

They'd met at the Imperial Academy, where Han had first earned the military distinction that allowed him to captain his own starships after quickly leaving the fleet itself behind.  Lando himself had performed his expected service and left it far behind, something he only wanted to forget, but Han made that difficult, a constant reminder, but at least one that allowed him to put it in a different context.  His stint in the Imperial fleet had been to that point the only link he'd allowed himself to his father's business.

He'd lost a favored ship to Han in a bet some years previous, and on that basis allowed himself to present a hostile edge between them once Han and his party arrived.  It was all Lando could do to avoid thinking about his own problems.  As things developed, he was sorry to learn that Vader wanted to use Han as an test subject in human carbonation freeze, just another pawn in a galaxy full of them.  Vader was more interested in his own son, Luke Skywalker, who at that point didn't even know they were family.  Lando could sympathize.

Events continued to unfold, one small tragedy after another.  But the Cloud City affair was the one he finally couldn't forgive, much less overlook.  To be neglected his whole life was one thing, but to then be called upon, and not even personally, to ensure that someone else's son would have his life ruined, convinced Lando to choose sides.  He'd never taken with the cause of the Rebellion for the shear reason that he didn't think it could succeed.

But now he had reason to support it.  When Lando played, he played to win.  He hated losing.  And he happened to be very good at winning.  It was what he'd had to do all his life, to make it bearable.  To help him escape.

That was why he sent a message one day to his father, asking him to overlook the final work in the construction of the second Death Star.  Bespin had a hand in the work.  Did his father know or care what Lando was up to?  Probably not.  But it was apathy that would finally prove fatal.  Lando had volunteered to lead the assault on this second Death Star.  He meant to finally have his revenge.

Everything had led to this moment.  Everything had to unfold perfectly.  Han had his part.  Luke had his part.  And there was Lando, by all appearances just another weapon in the Rebellion's arsenal.  When he flew into the heart of the gigantic weapon, he half-expected for it to be the last thing he ever did.

But it wasn't.  As he later heard it, Luke had succeeded in overcoming both Vader and the Emperor.  Han had won the heart of his true love and at last found his own lasting peace.  But it was Lando Calrissian who blew up the Death Star and thus forever ended the sorry life of Palpatine, bastard father and manipulator of worlds.

But not his son.

101 Star Wars Variations 93: Lando's Empire

"I'm telling you, he was working with the Empire all along."

"I don't believe it.  He always said he was proud to keep the Empire out of his business."

"That's what they always say.  The whole thing was a con job."

"You're so cynical."

"I'm a realist.  I believe in things like the truth."

"You're a nutty conspiracy theorist."

"Maybe so, but this time I'm definitely right.  Lando Calrissian was an Imperial agent all along."

"Prove it.  But by all means, don't let the facts get in the way of your argument."

"Fine.  Bespin is the only world, the only world, that doesn't have an Imperial governor.  I know what you'll say.  It was established after the days of the Old Republic, and so never had a senator that needed to be replaced by a regional governor.  The Empire runs better than that.  It's a perfect bureaucratic machine.  Just like, I'll note for the record, Bespin.  Speculation, I know.  Forget that, then.  Why was Calrissian even giving Darth Vader the state visit treatment?  I know what you'll say again: out of fear.  But what did he have to fear?  You'd have to be a conspiracy nut to assume that the Empire would set up a permanent garrison just because Vader felt personally insulted.  It makes no sense otherwise.  It's not like we're a small operation.  We're a significant part of the galactic economy, which is no small fete in this age.  If you believe that it's because we're perfectly autonomous, then maybe I have some deals I want to make with you, if you know what I mean.  By every indication, Calrissian made every effort to accommodate Vader.  That's because he was working alongside him all along.  Face it, we're living by the Empire's rules and you don't even know it."

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

"Then you prove it."

"I don't have to.  You're insane.  You're clearly insane!"

"It would help your cause if you could maybe explain your reasoning."

"I don't have to!"

"Then you concede."

"I give up."

101 Star Wars Variations 92: The Brothers

Jango Fett's son Boba was a clone of himself.  But he had another son, too.

Throughout his life, Jango visited countless worlds, which is only natural given that he was a bounty hunter.  Consequently, he developed the idea that he would never truly have a chance to find true love, start a family, any of that.  Subsequently, he asked the cloners of Kamino to help with that.  The thing is, he ended up having another offspring the natural way anyway.  It happened on a mission to Corellia, a bustling world where someone like Jango could blend in, not in complete anonymity like he enjoyed on Coruscant and also without the conspicuousness he invariably had on more tranquil worlds where he'd have to deprive himself of his distinctive Mandalorian armor, or even populations with established gangster elements like those under Hutt control, where he could operate openly.

No, on Corellia Jango fit in nicely, and he was immediately surprised by that.  It put him off-guard.  He was there long enough where one of the locals succeeded in seducing him.  Imagine that!  She'd been fascinated, not frightened, by him.

He didn't know anything about what resulted from those sultry nights until the day the young Han Solo introduced himself to Boba, who later went and told him about it.  At first Jango dismissed it as a case of boys being boys, who tended to hero-worship him without discerning or worrying about what he did for a living.  But Solo was persistent and resourceful, showing up on other occasions and far outside the Corellian system.  It was enough to convince Jango to take the matter seriously and investigate the claim.

It turned out to be true, of course.

By the time of his death on Geonosis, Jango had managed to forget all about the matter, however.  The army the cloners had created from his genetic material had finally been made public, and it was a spectacle that eclipsed even his own concerns.  It was his son Boba who watched Jango die.  Solo was nowhere to be seen.

But Solo hadn't forgotten.  As the years advanced he became increasingly bitter, although he presented himself as jaded and flippant, thinking more about himself than anyone else.  He was careful to travel in the same circles as Boba, and so that was how he became a smuggler for Jabba the Hutt.  He clearly never got over the fact that it was Boba who was the acknowledged child of the great Jango Fett, and held a burning grudge against him.

It might also have been the reverse, by the way.  These matters aren't especially clear.  Both Boba and Solo led difficult lives to follow.  It might have been that Jango rejected the known son in favor of the tantalizing mystery, the living proof of the life he could have led, one with more choices, more freedom.

The end result was the same.  Boba and Solo became rivals, although more to the point mortal adversaries.  It was Boba who tipped off the Empire to the fact that Solo smuggled for a living.  This wouldn't have meant anything to the Empire except Boba happened to have a working relationship with it, and so his problems were its problems.  In the end, Solo had no choice but to consider the radical alternative, which is to say the Rebellion.

It was Boba, once again, who convinced Darth Vader to lay a trap at Cloud City, which became the moment Vader finally revealed the truth to his own son, Luke Skywalker.  Because of their obsession with matters of family, Boba and Solo forced many things to come to a head.  It was Solo's activities that pressured Princess Leia to reveal her hand in the first place and therefore once and for all declare her allegiance to the Rebellion.  It was Boba's activities that led Captain Antilles to bring his two droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, with him into space (there was a time when droids were big business for people like Boba, or perhaps you'll know Jawa interests in that regard better? especially after they came into short supply after the Trade Federation and Techo Union reduced their interests in that regard).  And of course, it was this whole episode that forced Lando Calrissian to finally declare his allegiance, too.

Lando was a friend of Solo's, by the way.

The saga of the brothers ended on Tatooine.  Jabba had somehow managed to take Solo, Leia, and Skywalker as prisoner, and was set to execute at least two of them.  The popular theory goes that it was the R2 unit along with Calrissian and Leia who saved the day, but it was actually the Wookiee Chewbacca, another of Solo's friends, who was responsible.  The thing Solo had learned early on was that he needed advantages, like allies.  He spent his life making them, but he usually left them strategically placed around the galaxy like assets, which was what he did with Calrissian, for example.  Chewie was different.  Chewie was constantly at Solo's side, and the first one he saw after being freed of the carbonite Boba and Vader had frozen him in at Cloud City.  (Okay, so the first was technically Leia, who was actually the strongest link he had to his father, if you think about it.)  There had been a whole scheme put into place, which was why they had all traveled to Jabba's palace to begin with, how they had become prisoners.

During the daring escape, the trap was sprung and chaos immediately erupted.  Only Chewie knew the depth of the rivalry Solo had with Boba.  He understood how complicated the emotions were, too.  Neither could handle a drawn-out goodbye, if such a thing were even possible.  That was how the Wookiee ended up guiding Skywalker into "accidentally" doing the deed for Solo.

Some things are just perfect like that, messy but perfect.  Also, things like family.  It was only in this way that Solo finally made peace with his father.  Now he truly understood how Jango had led his life all along.

Friday, October 24, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 91: Darth Jango

Palpatine was in trouble for about a minute after Anakin Skywalker died on Mustafar.  But he was still Darth Sidious, and Darth Sidious always had a back-up plan.

He'd already used the genetic material of the bounty hunter Jango Fett to create the clone army that served as the basis for the Empire's Storm Troopers.  The only thing he needed from the once and future Darth Vader was his concentration of midi-chlorians, which is to say the unlimited power he'd craved for a thousand years.

Upon his death, Skywalker effectively relinquished the midi-chlorians to his master.  Thankfully, even though he himself could not directly absorb the conduits of the Force, Palpatine had the opportunity to channel them in a new direction, which of course was what he did.  He had a clone of Fett at his side at all times.  Fett had asked for an unaltered clone to raise as a son, but the cloners had also granted Palpatine, through the original request of Sifo-Dyas, another.  The clone army itself was modified to be more docile.  Palpatine's sense of control was less literal than that.  He thrived more on emotion than intellect but needing both in order to effectively advance the cause of the Dark Side.

Darth Vader, then, was a clone of Jango Fett all along, implanted with the memories of Anakin Skywalker.

On the day Skywalker's son murdered Palpatine, Darth Sidious was once again in trouble, but again for only about a minute.  He transferred his sizable number of midi-chlorians, as well as a part of himself, to the young Jedi.

The effect was not immediately apparent.  It was only the death of Vader, again, at the same time that prevented this final back-up plan from succeeding.  For a time, the young Skywalker considered turning to the Dark Side after all, a temptation he'd considered as part of his quest to redeem his father, something that only made sense from the warped perspective of the Sith, who only think in absolute terms.  Ironically, balance had been lost within the Force after the Jedi unwittingly began behaving in the same way.

The difference, the saving grace, wasn't in the essence of Anakin Skywalker that was transferred to his son, but Jango Fett's.

Fett's desire for offspring was something Palpatine hadn't properly considered.  The elder Skywalker had never considered such things.  His love was for a mother, a wife, someone to share his life with, to depend on, not to see it continue beyond him.  He had always thought in terms of the present.  Fett was different.  He had been a cold man, but in truth he'd spent his life running away from a nightmare but with a constant hope that he could still be redeemed.

You'll notice the theme of redemption, too.

Luke Skywalker overcame Palpatine's corruption because of his restlessness.  It was a trait he shared with his father, but of a different kind.  The elder Skywalker yearned for an improvement to his life, whereas the younger sought...adventure.  Jango Fett's life had been an endless adventure.  The combination of Fett and Vader had created the balance needed to fulfill a prophecy and ensure its lasting success, no matter the desperate dying acts of its greatest threat.

All of that happened before Palpatine even died.  It played out in Luke's mind, a vision he had as he looked at his dying father, realizing what was happening, what might happen.  He saw Jango and Boba Fett, too.  It was in this moment he realized that he had inadvertently caused Boba's death.  It was mourning the Fetts that broke the spell.

In the days and months to come, Luke hoped he could honor both his fathers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 90: Agent Maul

The easiest way to identity a potential recruit is to let someone do it for you.  

The history of Sith practices in this regard is well-documented, but the most surprising member of this club is the exception that proved the rule: Darth Maul.

At first glance, he seems to have been one of the most obvious and exemplary Siths on record, but the truth is, he was a Jedi first, and he remained one throughout his life, up to the very time of his death.  His handler in this double life was Qui-Gon Jinn, who had a vision of the future concerning the matter of the prophecy of bringing balance back to the Force.  Jinn realized that the only way he could convince the Jedi Council to accept the chosen one was to die.  The only way to ensure this outcome was to find himself an accomplice in making sure it happened that way.

Many years earlier he had identified Maul as a potential Jedi recruit, but Maul had been rejected for various reasons.  In secret, he trained the youth anyway and so Maul learned the ways of the Jedi.  Maul felt indebted to Jinn and would have done anything for him, but when he learned his hidden master's plan, he was appalled and at first thoroughly rejected it.  He changed his mind when Jinn revealed his greatest secret: Maul was Jinn's own child.

It was this very reason that was the basis for the Council's initial rejection, because it proved that Jinn had violated one of the most sacred of the Jedi tenets.  When Maul's mother was murdered before his eyes, Jinn realized he had no other choice but to risk his secret being exposed, and besides, he loved the boy.

Together, they suppressed Maul's own memories and thus prepared him for recruitment by the Sith.  As a potential practitioner of the Force, Maul was already enticing bait given his penchant for leading with emotion, something he and his father had worked on for years.  He channeled all of his worst impulses into an aggressive tendency, although they both knew he controlled those impulses perfectly.  Once Darth Sidious approached him, Maul set about the process of faking the development process, appearing to not only learn but be a natural at everything he attempted, his astonishment presented with relish.

It was easy in a way, because Maul's every thought was guided by the certain knowledge of the role he would eventually play as his father's executioner.  The thought never less than sickened him.  He was disgusted with himself, but his love and respect for Jinn overrode everything else.

He became a man of few words, which was his most calculated move.  Father and son had never had the same temperament.  Jinn's stolid behavior had provoked an impish persona in Maul, which was how they ended up creating his signature look, the tribal tattoos that accompanied the horns he'd inherited from his mother.  He considered himself a devil anyway, no matter how often he reminded himself of the ultimate good they would achieve.

As the years wore on, they saw each other less and less, until the day they were reunited on Tatooine served as a genuine shock to them both.  Jinn was amazed at the new fluidity in his son's maneuvers.  By the time they clashed on Naboo, Jinn found himself distracted, and so finally learned a part of the role he had asked Maul to play.

He'd known all along that he would die soon after he'd done his part.  He kept asking himself, was this selfish of him, to accept it knowing that he wouldn't have to live with himself after he'd accomplished their plan?

The surprise on his face, when it happened, was the result of Maul's decision that if he could have done it all over again, he would.  In all those years, he had finally come to understand his father's peace.

He died a Jedi, and a hero.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 89: The Father

For so long, she told everyone that there was no father.  How could she reveal the truth?  But in retrospect, it reveals so much...

You see, Anakin Skywalker's father was a Sand Person.

Shmi had been kidnapped by them twice.  The second time was after Anakin had left Tatooine.  The first was more unpleasant than the second.  You understand, she died the second time.  The first was worse.  The first time, she...

So anyway, that's why she told people that.  It was easier than the truth.   Her whole life was like that, hiding from the truth.  That was what life was like for her.  She shielded so much of it from her son.  Sometimes she wondered if this affected his development, made it impossible for him to deal with awful truths without reacting in anger.  She had never been angry in front of Ani.

This isn't to say that she didn't feel anger.  She felt it for all those who had made it so easy for it to happen.  She felt it for an existence that offered her no alternative.  She felt it for not only feeling powerless, but being powerless.

The only hope she ever felt was when she looked in her son's eyes.  She saw great power in him.  He would never be a victim.  He would always fight.  There was danger within him, too, but was it really worse than what she had known?  She didn't think so.  She believed, she knew that something good had finally happened to her.

The pain would end.  Cliegg took much of it away, but he was a substitute, a beggar with good intentions.  But in the end, just another victim.

Whatever it meant, these...midi-chlorians the Jedi spoke of, perhaps she had had some in her, too.  Perhaps that was the only way she'd had the strength to endure for as long as she did.  They were the only gift, the only inheritance she could give the boy.  Something she'd always had.  Something he could use better.

Like her father before her, Shmi Skywalker would only see her suffering end in death.  But her son would see something else.

He would know wonders...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 88: A Long Time Ago

He's looking at the girl, and the emotions churning within him are threatening to swallow him whole.  He doesn't know how to proceed.

Over the past few days, he's learned a number of startling facts about her and all of it recasts everything he thought he knew from when he first met her two years ago.  He had been working on a difficult case, the riddle about who was responsible for the Hutts gaining permanent control of Tatooine, and there she was one day, randomly and quite improbably, given all that was apparent about her, offering the kind of assistance he could have only dreamed of.

Unlike the others, she lacks a basic sense of social awareness.  She doesn't wear any of the traditional garb, but rather what some of the kids model on the fringes these days.  But it's clear that she's at best a fringe member of the fringe.  She has a tattoo of a bantha on her shoulder.  He saw it when she changed positions as they poured over her notes one day, the neckline of her shirt so wide it slid easily around as she moved.

When he had tracked her down in the cave-like dwelling deep within the dunes, he had no idea what to expect.  Only hermits had ever lived in places like that, one in particular he knew to have been directly involved in the events even before the breakthroughs she helped him make.

To think, she's the daughter of the man who caused all the trouble, who thought he was going to save the whole galaxy from some great evil.

At times she seems fragile, and others more fierce than anyone else he has ever known.  As he understands it, outsiders consider all their kind to be dangerous, but not like her, not when provoked, not when...justified.  He thinks about that.  She's the most justified person he's ever known, now that he knows the whole story, what he's come to call her saga.

A long time ago, her grandfather was born.  He was a dangerous man, too, who provoked evil and caused plenty of trouble himself.  Her father tried to undo all the damage her grandfather had caused, but in the process created more of it.  Her birth was supposed to be the start of something new, but she ended up being more of a scar than a healed wound.  She picked at it constantly.  No one knew the truth.  Not even her.

He knows others refer to their kind as "Sand People," "Tusken Raiders."  What others don't know, or haven't learned yet, is that these people in the margins, they are the ones who changed everything.  In a way, she's a direct reflection of all that.

He finds her beautiful.

Monday, October 20, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 87: Graduating Class

Darth Maul wonders what happened.

A long time ago, he was just another Sand Person, growing up on Tatooine and terrorizing moisture farmers like everyone else.  Then he decided to do something with his life.

A lot of his friends had the same goal, and a lot of them achieved it, too.  The one who didn't was Cliegg Lars.

You see, not all Sand People become Tusken Raiders.  That's only the level of the population that has no ambition, can't rise above poverty, however you want to describe it.  Most Sand People don't even stay on Tatooine.  I mean, given the choice, who would?

If you're not trying to escape Tatooine, you're not really trying.

Maul dreamed of escape his whole life.  It was a certain amount of rebellion that led him to have the horns implanted in his head, of course, rebellion against a family that seemed to have achieved nothing for whole generations.  He formed a circle of friends based on their mutual interest in rejecting the failures that ashamed each of them.

And all of them succeeded except for Cliegg, the bleeding heart who sacrificed his whole life, like everyone else in his pathetic family.

Perhaps it was a bargain with the devil that led Maul to learn and thrive in the ways of the Sith.  He doesn't particularly care.  If it took him away from Tatooine, so much the better.  End of story.

He hopes to never return.  His master is telling him, though, that there's a disturbance in the Force, located somewhere on Tatooine.

He won't go back.  It'll be the death of him.  He won't end up like that stupid martyr Cliegg.

But he's started to realize he won't have a choice in the matter.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 86: Luke's Friend

Owen Lars might have had an awkward way of proving it, but he was only looking after the boy's best interests.  That was why he was so reluctant for Luke to hang out with Biggs Darklighter.

Darklighter was the son of a native tribesman, by birth destined to inherit his father's role as the spirit guide of his people.  In other words, he was a Sand Person.

For years, for many years, the Sand People had fought to reclaim territory stolen from opportunistic immigrants to Tatooine, travelers so desperate they took on the task of finding a living on a harsh world, fleeing from troubles elsewhere.  But Tatooine was not an easy world.  And it already belonged to someone.

On more than one occasion, Owen had heard the war cries of Shaman Darklighter.  His was a local tribe, one of the smaller ones, but he was eager for his presence to be known.  Like others of his kind, the shaman had aligned himself loosely with the Hutts, whose naked greed made them obvious parasites and therefore unsympathetic.  The more isolated Tatooine remained, the better the chances for the Sand People to reclaim their world.

Darklighter was never dangerous.  That much Owen had to admit.  He never raised a violent hand against Luke.  Their friendship was baffling.  Never before had anyone seen such easy camaraderie between a Sand Person and a migrant.

When they were much younger, it was easier to dismiss the relationship as harmless.  As he grew older, however, Darklighter spoke openly about applying to the Imperial Academy.  This was a different level entirely.  The Empire had no real interests on Tatooine, but Owen knew as well as anyone that the Sand People regarded them as another layer of protection against free society, in other words the ability to live where one chose to, the very thing that had led to the colonization of the world by outsiders.

It was a direct sign of corruption.

But what to do about it?  Was Darklighter simply joining an increasing trend among all youths, troubling as that was, or had he come upon this decision as a devoted member of his own kind?  He was one of the few who didn't wear the traditional robes and masking of the Sand People.  That was the only way he'd been able to win even a modicum of trust from Owen.  This was the first time he'd made any move that betrayed anything but innocent behavior.

Perhaps he was his father's son after all.  Owen didn't trust the kind.  He knew Luke's father.

Within a short time, sure enough Luke was asking for permission to attend the Imperial Academy, too.  Owen put his foot down.  He knew how the boy viewed him.  Most of the time, it didn't bother him.

Luke's attitude began to change.  He grew more sullen.  Darklighter was accepted and departed, but he never really left.  Owen was left in a quandary.  He was almost desperate enough to consult the shaman, who lived near the old hermit who was the other thorn in Owen's side, the other unfortunate friend of the boy's.  He always assumed they were in collusion.  Maybe they were.

Maybe things would turn out differently than he thought.  Anyway, damn that friend of Luke's...

101 Star Wars Variations 85: Alias Antilles

The survivors of Alderaan were on the run.  Some of them wanted vengeance.  Wedges Antilles could think only of his duty.

As a long-time officer of the space fleet, Wedge was one of the best X-Wing pilots around, but it wasn't his own history of service that he kept alive in this manner.  When he was a boy, he'd heard the same stories as everyone else about the remarkable political career of Bail Antilles, who at one time was on the short-list for Chancellor of the Republic.  Bail Antilles came from a different line of a widespread family, so that there was hardly any direct relation between them.  The truth was, Wedge's surname was originally something else entirely.  He was adopted.

His reasons for admiring Bail Antilles were different from other youths.  Where they saw only the public career of the man, Wedge began extrapolating a secret history of daring.  While he investigated his birth parents, the exploits of the Antilles kept cropping into the picture.  The people of Alderaan generally knew all about what the Organas had done during the Clone Wars and in service of the budding Rebel Alliance, while the Antilles remained under the radar.

Bail Antilles had served as a spy early in his career.  This was the discovery that set Wedge's imagination afire.  His own parents had been spies, too, part of the legendary Bothan network, and that was how they had come to their early deaths.  Bail Antilles worked alongside them, exposing the corruption at the heart of the Galactic Empire, making public knowledge for the first time the existence of the Sith and their significant roles within it.  His whole political career had been a gamble to learn as much about a certain Senator Palpatine from Naboo as he could.  For the rest of his life, he struggled to convince others of the truth.  Only Alderaan did they believe him.

Wedge had a gut-feeling that he wouldn't find his calling in politics, that he would be needed in the fleet some day.  That day came when he met the young Luke Skywalker.  By that time the Jedi, the one-time rivals of the Sith, were all but extinct.  Wedge realized that Skywalker was the last of their kind, and it would be his mission to ensure that the Jedi survive long enough to finally complete the mission of Bail Antilles.

Maybe it was a small role in the grand scheme, but Wedge felt honored to perform it.  In his own way, he was a great hero.

Friday, October 17, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 84: Queen of the Stone Age

Padme is used to formality.  Her whole life is full of it.  From a young age every moment of every day seemed to be planned, her destiny ordained.

She's spent most of her time wondering what would happen if this careful orchestration were disrupted.

On Naboo, the courtly atmosphere leaves everyone with stiff necks.  She's long wondered what it would be like to meet a Gungan.  In her stolen moments, with the valued assistance of confidential nursemaids, she's long amused herself with the old tales of the days when civilization was more integrated.  There were dark days, days when the ruling class held the Gungans in servility with justifications based on subjective interpretations of intelligence, but there were better ones, too, the heroic nobility of even the most common Gungan leading to breathtaking achievements that inspired the whole world.  What would happen if the two peoples of Naboo were reunited once more?  It would have to be a very careful accident indeed.

Who would have to be responsible?  An outsider.  There's a saying that there's no more perfect an outsider than a Jedi.  You don't have to be a daydreaming queen to know that.  Padme hears reports from many worlds throughout the Republic.  Whenever a Jedi is involved in a matter, it's the closest anything comes to the rigid structure she knows too well.  But what about a rogue Jedi?  What if some crisis were to visit Naboo, and just such a Jedi were to come.  Only a Jedi would be bold enough to break the divide of the Gungans, and a rogue Jedi wise enough to keep it that way.

But what are the chances?  Things would have to get really bad.  She can imagine the ambitious politicians around her sparking chaos, causing tumult behind the scenes that inevitably spreads, perhaps even to the point of galactic war, universal upheaval, a new order.  All around Padme is intrigue that never actually leads to anything, but if it did?  Things would become quite interesting indeed.

Life can be stifling when institutions have calcified.  Such moments breed revolution.  But those living in them find it hard to believe they'll themselves witness at the moment of change.  Change comes hard.  People crave stability.

People other than Padme, anyway.

Some day, all this will change, what everyone around her believes to be a golden age.  The system will break, chaos will ensue.  Things will improve.  But Padme is getting older.  She has been taught to appreciate the virtues of patience.  Patience was never meant to last a lifetime.  The only time she values is when she imagines the possibilities forever denied her.  Gungans running free.  Jedi run amok.  Maybe even love.

More and more of her time is spent this way.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 83: A Princess Diary

Lately I've been feeling depressed.  

Fighting an entire war by yourself will do that to you.  I'm worn out.  Even though I've been at this for a few years now, and by that measure have managed to actually survive that long while risking so much, it's just getting to be too much.  I don't want to belittle the efforts others have made for the cause, but there's no one taking as much of the burden as I am.  Being such a prominent figure already is a blessing and a curse.

I figured out early on that I was adopted, but there was no great secret hidden in my past, no lineage that would've been any better than the life I've had as royalty of Alderaan.  My birth parents simply couldn't raise me themselves.  I've made peace with that.

Sometimes I imagine how things could be different, and of course that's the place to start.  What if my father had been infamous?  What if he were a leading figure of the Empire, even?  Father and daughter eternally opposed.  To make it a true worst-case scenario, what if he were Darth Vader?

No one knows who's under that helmet.  People used to speculate that it was the dark Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who led the slaughter of the whole Order twenty years ago, and that he left behind twin offspring, a boy and a girl.  His remains were discovered on Mustafar eighteen months ago.  It turns out he had a genetic disorder that prevented him from having children.

But imagine if he were.  Imagine if I had a brother.  That would leave him somewhere, yet undiscovered, a potent new weapon in the fight.  That would be wonderful!  The news alone would bolster the Rebellion.

But I feel isolated in other ways, too.  I need someone to love.  I've never met someone capable of keeping up with me.  Chances are when I met this person, we'd get off to a rough start.  They'd have to be something of a rogue, maybe even a scoundrel, someone so raw they wouldn't back down from me, not because of who or even what I am.

If all three were in the picture?  I think I'd be happy.  It'd be messy and complicated and anything but normal, but...I've never known normal, have I?  They would be as normal for me as fighting a one-woman war against the Empire.

But none of that exists.  I'm here all alone.  This may be a fight that outlives me.  That's a little of why I'm feeling depressed today.  Yes, I've given myself over to a new hope.  

A fantasy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 82: The Scoundrel's Dream

It had been a few weeks since the incident with the Imperial Destroyers, and Han was already feeling the heat.

Lesson Number One In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Don't burn him.

He was scared.  He'd admit that to anyone willing to ask, but then, Han Solo had made a life of getting to know people who would never be foolish enough to do such a thing.  Still, the fact remained, he was scared.  The daydreams, something he'd never experienced before, began almost immediately.  He could feel his old pal Greedo breathing down his neck everywhere he turned.

Lesson Number Two In Working For Jabba the Hutt: No one's breath will be very pleasant.

In the dreams, there's a solution to his predicament, one that ends in something other than his premature death.  Everyone who signed a contract with Jabba knew what they were gambling.  There was a time when Han liked to gamble.  Those days were past.

Lesson Number Three In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Your old habits will die easy.

He and Chewie are trying to avoid Greedo, as always, hiding in plain sight at a cantina in Mos Eisley, trying to act real casual, when in walks a desperate boy with a problem even bigger than his.

Lesson Number Four In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Always hold out hope that there's someone worse off than you are.

It's a ticket too good to be true, although of course it is, because it's a daydream.  Jabba won't bother him anymore, even if he never receives the hefty repayment Han owes him.

Lesson Number Five In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Don't get cocky.

Taking care of Greedo suddenly becomes doable.  If he can manage to avoid Boba Fett, he's home clear.  There's a princess involved in this unlikely equation, even, feisty.  Han's in love.

Lesson Number Six In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Never fall in love.

In the past it's always proven to be too much of a hassle.  That's no longer a problem!  Could this dream get any better?  Of course!  Han becomes a hero!  

Lesson Number Seven In Working For Jabba the Hutt: There are no heroes.

Various other details, both pleasant and unfortunate, are involved.  They don't really matter.

Lesson Number Eight In Working For Jabba the Hutt: Everything matters.

Chewie must have had to swerve around something, because Han's reverie ended.  He couldn't even shake himself from the clutches of his miserable life with the irrational hope of finally overcoming it.

Lesson Number Nine In Working For Jabba the Hutt: It's the scoundrel's life for thee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 81: Yoda's Home

There's a cave Yoda never visits.  Okay, almost never visits.

He's chosen to live alone.  There have been...problems when he's lived with others.  He prefers to avoid such problems these days.  In the place he calls home, he's explored every inch of it, and why not?  It all belongs to him.  There's never been another place that feel more like home.

Except for the cave.  The cave plays tricks with his mind.  The first time he visited it, he was completely unprepared.  He was shown himself leading a completely different life.  A life out among the stars.  Yoda has never left Dagobah.

In this vision, he wasn't alone in his abilities.  There were many like him, and what's more, they all looked to him for guidance.  He realized while it was happening that whatever else the cave did, it played on his ego, which until that point Yoda hadn't realized he had, or certainly not like that.

It scared him a great deal.  He stayed away for as long as he could.  But he couldn't stay away forever.

The next time he visited the cave he was prepared.  He expected to see the same thing, and so braced himself to explore this alternate life.  The narrative, as it were, progressed.  Many years passed, although in the real world only a matter of hours.  The seeds of a great tragedy were sewn.  One day he realized a conspiracy had developed around him, an enemy from the past having sprung a trap.  And he was powerless for the first time.  He found himself in retreat.  He voluntarily came back to Dagobah, something he wouldn't have imagined possible.  Even though he had made himself a home, Yoda hated Dagobah.  He hated feeling powerless.  But one day, someone came to visit him.  Yoda was discouraged by what he saw, thought the experience had become a waste of time and robbed him of the one thing he thought he had found.  He walked away.  He left the cave.

Curiosity brought him back a third time.  He'd stayed away for long enough that he'd forgotten how he'd felt and instead began to...hope again.  Maybe it wasn't as bleak as it'd seemed.  Maybe there was a still a...shot at redemption.

The visitor, too, had returned, in the vision.  This time things were different.  Innocence had been lost.  Change suddenly seemed possible again.  But something horrible happened, anyway.  In his vision, Yoda died.

He got up and left the cave immediately.  He didn't return again for a long time.  There were times he thought he'd never return.  He had begun to associate it with fear.

He's been reconsidering.  It's been a process.  Little by little, he's processing all that he's experienced.  If he goes back and the narrative continues?  He feels okay with that.  If he goes back and has learned, as he hopes, to manipulate the visions for himself?  He feels that if that doesn't happen, he'll be okay with that, too.

He's at the entrance of the cave now.  He'll go in.  He can still turn around.  He'll go.  He's not afraid.  He's been living on his own for so long.  This cave is the only place he doesn't go.  Almost never goes.  He's beginning to think that if he can master this cave...he can even return...to civilization...

Monday, October 13, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 80: The Kenobis

"...on some damn fool idealistic crusade," the old hermit is saying.  But Luke is interested in only one thing.  Earlier his friend had dodged his question.  This in itself is hardly unusual.  The hermit shares only what he wants to share.

"Was my father killed in the Clone Wars?"

The hermit pauses.  He's clearly considering his options.  He's told so many versions of the death of Luke's father in the past.  Usually Luke was distracted enough that he'd believe anything, finding the whole thing too distant to seem relevant.  But today's events have brought the wider galaxy to his doorstep.

"He was betrayed and murdered..."

"No," Luke interrupts him.  "You've told me that before.  I don't believe it.  Something tells me that's not how it happened."

The hermit pauses again.

"You're right, of course."

Luke feels brave enough to ask the question over again.

"The girl was talking about someone named Obi-Wan.  Do you know him?"

"Luke, you're going to find...Yes, I knew him.  He was my brother.  My younger...much more...rash...brother.  For years I've told myself differently.  The day he was accepted to become a Jedi learner was the day my life was ruined forever.  It would have been easier if he had been older than me, but younger...But that was long ago.  A long time ago..."

"Don't hide from your past," Luke says.  "Tell me."

"To protect myself, I came here to Tatooine.  I clothed myself in the robes my brother left behind when he...he vanished.  Died.  Was murdered.  I was angry.  I...used you as a means to process my anger.  It was your father...Darth Vader."

Luke doesn't know what to think.  He knows, one way or another, that nothing the hermit says will change what's about to happen.  Everything's changing.

It...feels good.

"Your brother?" he says.  "Tell me more..."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 79: The Phantom Presence

It would be foolish to refuse learning from your enemy.

That's what the Jedi did.  Led by the exiles of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the whole of the Order retreated from public life and began instead to support the rise of the Rebellion on countless worlds.  As control within the Empire diminished to a tyrannical few, the leading figures across a broad spectrum of local governments learned a new kind of power, just as the Jedi themselves did.  No longer dependent on the physical prowess of the Force, these Jedi exercised their mental abilities to astonishing effect, guiding the outcome of battles they could anticipate, in applying lessons learned during the Clone Wars.

As their Sith counterparts had done in the formative development of the Empire, these Jedi learned the art of social cunning, replacing manipulation with cooperation, a practice long forgotten in the moribund days of the Old Republic.

One by one, they faked their deaths.  Since they had already been leading monastic lives, these were not difficult sacrifices for the Jedi to make, except the process of transforming themselves from figures of action to practitioners of the mind.  New discipline was required.  They would each have to depend primarily on themselves.  There would no longer be a Council, but instead an expanded network of master and apprentice, again something borrowed from the Sith.  In essence, each Jedi and their charge would operate independently and in their own way behave as if they were the last of their kind.

One by one, these efforts produced a new generation of heroes, many of whom had no idea the Jedi were responsible for their activities.  The burgeoning expansion of Corellia into space led a freighter captain named Han Solo to Tatooine, for instance, after a brief romance with Aayla Secura sparked him onward.  

As the Rebellion grew more successful and the career of Luke Skywalker began, some Jedi wondered if it was time to emerge from the shadows.

"Perhaps, in time," someone wise responded.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 78: Han Solo's Last Shot

It's a moment that lives in infamy.  The day the Empire's favorite son was assassinated by a lone gunman.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news.  Fathers tell their sons, sons wonder what it was like to have lived in those times, the great romantic idealism of the day, spoiled by those like the gunman who spent all their time decrying the "despotism" of the establishment.

There's a famous image caught by one of the citizens of Cloud City.  Darth Vader's visit has been the source of much gleeful anticipation all day, and almost as many angry words of protest.  Also wounded that day is administrator Lando Calrissian, caught in the same spray of gunfire as Vader.  Vader's daughter Leia Organa is forever frozen in that image clutching for something that will never be identified in the moments directly following the tragedy.  Today we know the complicated family relationship they shared, but at the time their united image was part of the magic that led to such hope for the future, hope that was snapped in a moment by the assassin Han Solo.

The sequence of events has become legend.  Vader has already been in Cloud City all morning.  He's about to celebrate the occasion at a state dinner attended by Calrissian, Organa, and other notables when Solo is brought in.  Solo is armed with a Corellian blaster, which he pulls out as soon as he catches sight of Vader.  For years Vader had been thought of as invincible, surviving grievous wounds during the Clone Wars rescuing fellow soldiers in the wake of their ship's crippling above the skies of Mustafar.  He is a known adherent to an old religion, but that religion doesn't save him this day.  He puts up his hand as if to stop the gunfire with it, but of course that doesn't happen.  It happens in a split-second.  A recording shows the fateful moment unfold.  Solo shoots, Vader falls.  End of an era.

We'll always wonder what might have been.  The culture wars continue, intensifying in the wake of the assassination and lingering for the next few decades, their full impact still yet to be understood.  There has never been another leader like Vader, though many have tried.  We mourn his loss as if it was yesterday, make him bigger than he was, an icon almost larger now than in his own day.  Some underestimate his impact, consign him a minor role in history.  But the wise know better.  We'll never see his like again.  The truth of Solo's motives will never be known.  There are many who believe the conspiracies still propounded throughout the years, but his subsequent death at the hands of the Wookiee named Chewbacca silenced him long ago.

In the end, we have only the impressions of these events, and the characters within them.  We remember, always.

Friday, October 10, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 77: Jawas versus Sand People

The outcast has been watching the dunes for a few hours now.  He's seen his people and their rivals travel across it but not crossing paths.  They're careful not to.  They prefer a war of proxies these days.  Despite their inexhaustible energy, they've grown tired of fighting each other directly.

The sun murders his skin.  Even those who have never been the victim of a Jawa attack wear the traditional attire at this point, but the outcast was certainly attacked.  It was a long time ago.  Jawas wear their robes for the same reasons.  Such a horrible conflict.  What's the point?  He knows all too well, but he can still ask the question.

Some years ago one side or the other contracted a would-be galactic tyrant with too many resources for some assistance.  The relationship proved to be the impetus for an empire.  The details bore the outcast, but they're there for anyone to see, if they'd bother.  Except nobody bothers with Tatooine.  Why would they?  Only the Hutts, but the Hutts have no scruples.  Such are the conditions that breed nothing but corruptive opportunity.

There's an old hermit the outcast knows about.  Every now and then he gives the hermit a helping hand.  What could it hurt?  Today the hermit's young friend seems to have run into some trouble and needs a speedy escape.  The outcast is once again happy to oblige.  He's got nothing but time on his hands.

Some day peace will come to this world.  Well, maybe.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 76: R2 or not R2

One customer is staring at the merchandise the Jawas have presented him and he's scratching his head and is about to say something sarcastic when another customer, whom in the interests of transparency we will confirm does not know the first customer already, recognizes what was about to happen and interjects this instead:

"We all know they rip us off.  Their best stuff is always kept for the Hutts.  That's just the way it is."

"I figured that," the first customer says.

"I'm just saying what we all know," the second customer says.  "Because sometimes it can be easy to forget.  Hey, want to know a secret?"

"Sure," the first customer says.

"This is the sixth day I've come to see their inventory.  I don't even need anything.  I'm keeping tabs.  They keep marching out the same droids.  I've been curious.  They don't seem to actually sell anything.  It's something you can easily overlook.  They haven't even bothered pretending that they're doing anything else.  They just don't care.  This makes me think."

"I'm confused," the first customer says.

"It's all a scam.  A front.  They're secretly working for the Rebellion.  All the way here on Tatooine?  Yeah.  Apparently.  See that droid over there?  It's a decoy.  They've pulled the same trick all six days.  It looks nice, right?  The others look bedraggled, hardly suited to the the needs they're being trotted out to fulfill.  So someone says they want it.  Then it malfunctions as soon as it starts rolling away.  I've been waiting to see if someone finally walks away with one.  I've had my eye on the blue unit.  It looks deceptively conspicuous.  It's the carbon scoring that seems to scare everyone off.  Ridiculous, right?  But there it is."

The first customer at this point is noticeably backing away from the second one.

"I think they're waiting for some deluded protocol droid to sell the blue unit for them," the second customer continues undaunted.  "Those units are always having their memories erased.  They can be convinced of anything.  Two or three mindwipes and they begin constructing their own histories.  Clinical mechanics, I guess.  But the way I see it, they're also the perfect units to unwittingly stumble upon the truth.  One of the great galactic flaws of serendipity.  Got to love it.  Hey, ever seen a Bothan?  They don't exist.  Just another name for Jawas..."

On the seventh day, the blue unit is sold, by the way.  Bet you can guess who got it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 75: Yoda Trader

A long time ago, there was a Jawa who aspired to something greater than the rest of his kind.  His name was Yoda.

These were the days before the Hutts, before the Sand People, before Tattooine was a desert world, when the Jawas were the dominant and in fact only sentient life to be found, before they had spread their influence across the galaxy in their small way, bringing others there, depleting all natural resources, the atmosphere, everything.

Yoda saw all that coming because, of course, he was closely-attuned to the Force, which itself was strong on Tatooine.  He became keenly aware that great disaster was coming to the Force, and he left his home world in order to discover the nature of this threat.

Before this there was no Jedi Order, nor Sith, any organized understanding of the Force at all.  His main ally in establishing any such effort was a man named Palpatine, who was far more interested in exploring the limits of the Force than to, in fact, impose limits, which was the philosophical difference that drove them apart and started a feud that would last a thousand years.  Palpatine had a master, and there were others who had knowledge and practice with the Force before them, but everything that followed came from them.

In time, Yoda forgot his roots, but only consciously.  Subconsciously, his thoughts always returned to Tatooine.  That was how he knew the prophecy of the one who would one day bring balance to the Force, a prophecy he himself had declared after forty days of deep meditation on an out-of-the-way swamp world called Dagobah, would be fulfilled by someone else from Tatooine.  And all the while, his brethren among the Jawas, equally unaware of their role, would always be there to make sure events unfolded as they should.

That was why they spent time collecting assorted scrap and acting as merchants redistributing whatever goods made their way to Tatooine.  All this was to guide them to the moment when an astromech droid designated R2-D2 would lead the Jedi savior to his destiny.

Yoda, his mind focused on other matters, had left Tatooine behind.  Yet Tatooine hadn't forsaken him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 74: Cool Hand Lando

A long time ago, Lando had a chance to offload one of the worst ships he'd ever seen on an unsuspecting friend, someone he hated, actually, a scumbag pirate named Han Solo.  Playing up his considerable charms and laying down the con, he thought he had it made.  But then he won the hand, kept the ship, and his life just kept getting worse.

One day he found himself on the desert world of Tatooine, and finding little resembling civilization, he holed himself in a cantina and proceeded to drink himself into heavy debt.  Thankfully he was smart enough to stay out of Hutt business, but that was about the best Lando could say about himself.

He began listening around as the dubious individuals who came to the establishment with its terribly chintzy music chattered about locals who wanted off this world, and could he blame them?  All he needed was a reason, something to give him a little hope.

Blundering his way through the rabble was a farmboy, who didn't seem liked he knew the difference between a hyperdrive and a cargo hold, but Lando suddenly realized this was exactly the opportunity he'd been waiting for.  The boy sounded panicked, making a poor effort at masking it, and desperate for any help.  Fortunately Lando was available to rescue him from his plight.

Before he knew it, though, the situation degenerated.  The boy and his passengers, an old man and two droids, had attracted Imperial trouble, something Lando had always been smart enough to stay away from, which meant their departure looked more like a hasty retreat, which was about as dignified as things had been going for him, so he didn't sweat it too much.  He decided to play it cool.  The old Lando was returning.

Worse came to worst, and Lando found himself challenging everything he'd ever thought about the galaxy.  Naturally, he became a hero.

Monday, October 6, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 73: Mister Windu

Things would've been so different if his father had lived, even just a little longer.  His father wasn't just anyone, by the way, but Jedi Master Mace Windu.  When he was younger, Lando didn't mind people making the connection, but the older grew the more he realized he had to be more discreet about it, hence the adoption of his mother's maiden name and subsequent erasure of all public records to the contrary, the latter of which helped suggest the course his life was to take.

But he never forgot, and he never stopped trying to understand the life his father had led.  It was famously part of the Jedi code for love to be forbidden, which was to say romantic relationships instantly made impossible.  By all accounts that's exactly what Mace Windu did, too, except as one of the most powerful practitioners of the Force and second only to Yoda as the most significant member of the Jedi Order, there were ways around the rules and he knew all of them.  Lando figured he owed his business savvy to his father, too. 

The Calrissians were a respected family who had spread themselves across numerous worlds, to the point where they forgot which one was supposed to be home.  Lando's father met his wife on Coruscant, so that his bride was hidden in plain sight, and that was where Lando himself was born, so that he would always think of himself as a city-dweller above all else, an environment that was always good to him. 

When he discovered the circumstances surrounding his father's death, it instilled in Lando a certain amount of fear in risks, not small ones like the kind to be found among gamblers, but big ones, such as being concerned with matters of the Empire. 

The thing was, however, that Lando inherited his father's gift with the Force.  It certainly wasn't something he advertized, but a set of skills he dabbled in when he had the chance.  That was how and why he lost his ship to his pal Han Solo, because he knew it was needed elsewhere.  That was also how he ended up in Cloud City, because he knew he needed to be there.

There was a certain amount of cynicism that hindered Lando along the way, a lot of resentment that he had to work on over the years.  He felt abandoned, forsaken, connected to some parts of his inheritance but not others.  There were times he thought his father died a senseless death, and others a noble one.

At any rate, these were all reasons he fancied wearing a cape, too.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 72: Greedo's Shot

They're sitting there in the cantina, both drawing their weapons without the other realizing it, or perhaps knowing each other so well they expect exactly this from each other.  Does it matter, then, which of them shoots first?  Suffice to say, it's a lethal proposition, and they both know it, and it was a long time coming, story of their lives, not just because of what they did for a living and who they worked for, but because, well, they just don't like each other.

And at the end of it, Han Solo was dead and Greedo sat there, stunned that it had finally happened.  He'd finally bested his old rival.  As far as he could tell, Solo had misfired somehow, perhaps since Greedo had gotten his shot off first.  He thought momentarily that it was a tainted victory, but he was satisfied all the same.  He stood to get up, and realized his knees were giving out on him, whether a matter of age or nerves or the shock of the moment.

And then he realized he didn't know where he was going.  The funds would be transferred to his account as soon as the body was delivered, but suddenly that didn't seem like such an urgent matter.  He went to the bar to pay his tab, and he actually flipped the bartender enough to cover both their drinks.  "Sorry about the mess," he said as he turned, trying to play it cool, the way he imagined Solo might.  Truth was, he'd always admired the man, and in fact envied him.

Where was that ship of Solo's?  The thought came into Greedo's head completely unbidden.  Why did he even care?  Maybe he was looking to confiscate it?  Claim it as his own?  He found it in a hangar bay.  There were Stormtroopers crawling all about.  Now he was intrigued.  His old friend had been in serious trouble, it seemed.  He snuck around and entered through the top hatch, climbing upward and shaking his head as he went.  What are you thinking, Greedo?

Once aboard, he came across the Wookiee.  They knew each other well enough, had even worked together.  They both knew that this day had always threatened to happen, and Greedo once again felt a curious sensation in the pit of his stomach, something unsaid telling him that his life was in the process of changing forever.  He noted vaguely that there were passengers aboard.

"Punch it," he said as he settled into the cockpit.  It was crowded; he didn't acknowledge anyone else.  The only thought he had was of escape, now.  The Wookiee complied without comment.  It was the first time Greedo could remember that the Wookiee chose silence, probably out of respect for his old partner.  At least he knew where they were going.  Greedo was content to go for the ride.

When they reached the debris field, he became curious for the first time.  Everyone knew that these were the coordinates for Alderaan.  What had Solo been a part of?  The Rebellion, it occurred to him for the first time.  It reshaped the course of everything Greedo thought he knew.  He forgot about the money.  The Imperial space station pulled them in with a tractor beam, one of the passengers said, "I have a bad feeling about this," and a droid let loose some nervous chatter.  It was reaching the point where there was no turning back.

But Greedo had already made his decision.  He was going to resume Solo's life for him.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 71: Han Legion

"Now that it's all over, let me explain."

Luke was staring dumbfounded after Han stepped forward, at the end of the fight, when the Empire finally stood defeated, after they'd all left Endor, as Leia and other leaders of the Rebellion each turned to him in kind and began offering their profound gratitude. 

"I led the Rebellion.  It was no mistake that I was there on Tatooine that day.  The way Chewie played it, that was just Chewie being Chewie.  He still thinks of me as just a friend and partner.  He agreed to help transport you off the planet, but there was really no other option that day.  He was always skeptical of my other duties, thinks I'm suffering from, I don't know, delusions of grandeur or something.

"I took on the assignment of bringing you into the Rebellion personally.  It was Leia's idea, of course, her being your sister and all.  You had your father's last name.  You were the bait he couldn't refuse, and with him the Emperor.  Simple logic, really.  Everyone knew how serious we were about this plan because I undertook it personally.  I don't believe in modesty: you were always safe, pal.  I made sure of that.

"I mean, I was always there to watch your back, wasn't I?  I miraculously showed up so you could take the shot that destroyed the first Death Star.  My gamble at Cloud City put you at great risk, I admit now, but it all worked out.  It was exactly the thing you needed to realize your full potential.  I don't blame you if you start to get a little mad at me, by the way.

"It was a gamble that paid off, by the way.  Your father and the Emperor, they were obsessed with you from that moment on, and it was exactly the mistake we needed to set all our ducks in a row, as it were.  Eliminate them, eliminate the second Death Star, eliminate the Empire. 

"Need I even mention how-placed Lando was to assist in all of this?  I admit, I didn't think we could pull it off, and I feel sorry, I really do, in resorting to all that trickery to get the job done, but the less you knew the less the enemy knew, the easier to accomplish our goal.  And guess what, pal, we did!  We won.

"End of story, right?"

Friday, October 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 70: Don't Get Cocky

He's still trying to rationalize what he did.  It's been years; in fact, a long time ago.  He's an old man.  History has forgotten him.  No one remembers him at all, in fact.  Even Lando, whom he tried to get a helping hand from not long after the signal event played out, turned him away.  "Not my problem," his old friend had said.

He lost everything because of it, just when it seemed like he had finally turned the corner, erased all his problems, earned a comfortable and lasting retirement.  "It's not my fault," he used to say, to anyone, everyone.  No one listened.  No one believed him.

In another lifetime, one he abandoned, one that never happened, when he showed up in the Falcon, he gave Luke all the clearance he needed to take the shot and destroy the Death Star, just in the nick of time.  They'd parted with the belief that he was certainly not going to return, that he was turning his back on the whole business.  But even before leaving he'd had second thoughts.

The thing is, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  And the other thing is, he realizes now that he was just being greedy.  That was the single thought that had come to possess him, all because of a stray transmission he picked up, an Imperial conversation he realized as taking place between Darth Vader and the Emperor.  One said to the other, Luke is more important than he seems; he's valuable in two ways: as a target that will need to be eliminated, or failing that a useful new recruit.

If he'd never intercepted the transmission...

But he can't think like that.  He did, and his first and only thought was that he could do it.  He could eliminate this threat.  He didn't care, at the time, about anyone or anything else but himself.  He certainly didn't take seriously any of that talk about the Force, which as far as he'd been concerned was just some hokey religion that belonged in the past.

In hindsight, when Luke's sister was asked to fulfill the role intended for him, and he realized who Luke's sister was, and another version of a life that would forever be denied him, a lover who would forever hate him...

He'd made a transmission of his own almost immediately.  He laid out his plan, why it was fool-proof, and demanded payment upfront.  It was granted without question. 

So he turned his ship around and headed back to the Death Star, and at the last possible moment was there to watch as Luke prepared to take his shot.  He took his shot, directly at Luke, who was gone in an instant.

And just like that, he became persona non grata.  He did receive his payment, but that was it.  The Empire denied any relationship with him.  The Rebellion considered him an enemy.  Thanks to Jabba, the Hutts cut him off from everything he had ever known, even with the debt settled.  One way or another, he had acquired a very bad name.  No amount of wealth could change that. 

The Empire lingered for a few years, and then finally collapsed on itself, died of its own accord.  The leaders of the Rebellion assumed control.  Luke's sister led a whole renaissance.  And suddenly he had nothing.

Now he wonders, is he delusional to think it could have played out differently?  Even if he hadn't...He tries not to think about it, he really does.  But it's very hard.  He'll always be known as the man who shot first.