Monday, April 28, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 8: Wicket Rules

By the time anyone got around to noticing them, the Ewoks were merely the primitive tribe living on the forest moon of Endor, in orbit of which was constructed the second Death Star, the ultimate weapon of the Galactic Empire.  Their concept of technology was anachronistic at best.  When the Rebels showed up looking to sabotage the shield generator for the Death Star, they were surprised to come across the Ewoks.  As far as everyone was concerned, the Ewoks might as well have not existed at all.

But appearances can be deceiving.  To wit: Palpatine, the Galactic Emperor, was secretly Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith, and had been alive for nearly a thousand years.  He showed up most recently as a modest senator from Naboo.  Yoda was a Jedi master of similar age.  The Wookiee Chewbacca was as well.  And so was Wicket, the Ewok.

And what did Wicket do with his long life, and why was he to all appearances just another rustic tribesman when history caught up with him again?

First of all, he was not in any way connected to the Force.  He was as surprised as anyone else when the apparent god C-3PO began floating as several captured Rebels were to be roasted alive for dinner.  Civilization comes with varying definitions.  Certainly on Endor itself the Ewoks were the unchallenged rulers of the moon.  It wasn't that they chose not to leave or limit their technology.  None of that was necessary.

Wicket was the apprentice of the village medicine man.  He was an amateur mystic.  In his own way, he was as attuned to the the Force as any Jedi or Sith.  With such a long-lived species, it would take a long time replace anyone's role in society.  When everything began, Wicket had only just declared his intention to learn under the medicine man.

This was because of the vision he'd had.  At first he thought it was a dream, something his young mind imagined.  He didn't want to tell anyone, certainly not his parents.  Even his friends would give Wicket a hard time about something like that.  The vision was of another world, far from his own, another person, another time.  The events he saw would only take a few years to begin.  He was still waiting to hear about his application when Palpatine made his move against his mentor, against the Jedi, against the universe, when Chewbacca left Kashyyyk for the first time, when Yoda was himself an apprentice, a padawan.

He saw how those three lives intersected, and how his affected them as well.  What he had to do.  This would be well before the construction of the shield generator, many hundreds of years before, when Yoda still had no clue what was to come, when the Wookiee was still searching for a companion, when Palpatine was still waiting for his moment to strike.  When it was time for Wicket to act.

He never had to leave Endor.  That he knew instinctively.  The first thing he had to do was win the apprenticeship.  Only the medicine man would understand what he'd seen.

When at last he was admitted, they shared the spirit quest.  The medicine man saw what Wicket had seen.  He didn't have to ask a single question.  Instead, they walked over to the spot where the shield generator would one day be constructed, and meditated for a whole day.  The medicine man helped Wicket bridge time, observe hundreds of years into the future, to when a man named Vader and his son would speak about good and evil.  To the Ewoks, ethics were no more than a matter of survival, maintaining their way of life, continuing a tradition that stretched back a long time ago.  They didn't know or understand anything about the coming conflict.  They didn't need to.

In that moment, as Wicket observed father and son, he sensed how important they were.  Neither was part of the vision he'd had, but without them, the vision would never happen.  It was always about the other three, Palpatine and Yoda and Chewbacca, working their way back and forth through each other's lives, in ways that weren't always important to Wicket's vision.

Through the moment of confluence, he saw how the son had and would come into contact with each of them.  In this way, he was able to tap into those moments as well, provide the encouragement the son needed to complete his journey.  As Palpatine's power and influence ebbed, Yoda's life came to an end, and only Chewbacca was left standing.  Only he would come to Endor.

Wicket and Chewbacca would never speak of it.  Chewbacca had always been driven by an inner resolve.  He always knew where he needed to be, who he needed to help.  In a way, that was Wicket's role as well.  If their roles had been reversed, nothing at all would have changed.  That was what Wicket saw.  That was why he was able to be so patient for so long.  Because in a way, he was out there in the universe anyway.  The Ewok and the Wookiee were true kindred spirits.

When the shield generator was at last built, and the Rebels came, Wicket's life was coming to an end.  He would never become the medicine man of his tribe.  It didn't matter.  He'd done what needed to be done.  He saved everyone.

Monday, April 14, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 7: Vader Fought for the Rebellion

The good was in him.

Anakin Skywalker's dreams of fixing the galaxy eventually led him into turning his Jedi ways into an allegiance with the Sith.  At least on the surface.  It was one of the most painful decisions he ever had to make, except the need to forsake the love of his life.  The fact is, even when he became the Sith lord Darth Vader, Anakin never lost his way.  He began as an idealistic dreamer, and that was how he ended his days.

Supreme Chancellor and later Emperor Palpatine came to him in secret.  It was Padme who came to him openly.  Padme, the love of his life.  The only one who understood his dreams.  His life had put him on the path to the Force, but Anakin's vision of the future embraced more practical means.  When Padme became a senator of Naboo, he asked her what it would take to have his home planet of Tatooine similarly represented.  When she told him that it took an established infrastructure and a duly elected representative, he abandoned the idea, knowing that the corrupt Hutt mainstream would have rigged the election, and he had little interest in compromising more than necessary.  Bargaining with the lives of strangers, even friends, was one thing.  Bargaining with family?  He couldn't do that.

So he listened to what Palpatine had to say, went along with the transition from Republic to Empire, watched and even participated in the destruction of the Jedi Order.  Padme's resistance fighters included the man who would adopt Anakin's daughter with her, Bail Organa.  Organa was reasonable.  Although Alderaan was a peaceful world, it knew better than others the price of peace.  Although it tried to live by its ideals, this was a world familiar with compromise.  Every chance he got, Anakin would visit Alderaan, he and Padme together.  This was the reason Organa received custody of Anakin's daughter.  When he became Vader, it no longer mattered where she was.  Padme was dead.  He could no longer retreat to safety.  But he kept Alderaan in his heart.

Alderaan led the cause for the Rebellion, the successor to Padme's resistance.  Anakin knew this, of course.  Everyone knew it.  The Empire simply lacked the ability to confirm it, and without proof, even the cowed members of the other worlds wouldn't stand for it.  That was the whole reason the regional governors had to remain in place until the Death Star could be completed.  This worked to Anakin's advantage.  He could have easily betrayed Alderaan in an instant.  The only reason Palpatine didn't have him do it was because the Emperor overlooked the threat.  He didn't find it significant.  The only threat he understood was connected with the Force, and he had Anakin at his side now, as Vader.  Aside from the two of them, there were no existing viable practitioners remaining, and none who would be rising anytime soon.

Within two generations, that would certainly no longer be a problem.  Anakin was aware that Palpatine had been alive for nearly a millennium.  He wondered if the apparatus that had completed his transformation into Vader would give him a similarly elongated life.  He didn't want to count on it.  He knew that he had a daughter, and he knew about her twin brother.  Palpatine knew about them, too, and only thought about them as possible replacements for Anakin.  Such was his concern about even his most trusted allies.  Anakin wondered if things had gone differently, if he hadn't lost his nerve, if that fight with Obi-Wan had never happened...But he's willingly walked into that.  He'd foreseen it.  It was a necessary sacrifice.  Even Palpatine hadn't seen it coming.  But Anakin had known about it all his life.

When Yoda sensed fear in him, it wasn't for his mother.  It was for himself.

He always knew what he had to do.  He didn't expect to fall in love with Padme, but he knew from the moment he met her that she was the other half of his vision.  Without her it was incomplete.  He was incomplete.  So he endured.  He nurtured the Rebellion, watched it grow.  When his daughter came into his grasp, he pretended he didn't know her.  She reminded him too much of Padme.  His son was different.  He was like the young man Anakin might have been, if he'd never received that vision.  Both children were necessary for the Rebellion to succeed, echoes of their parents.  Only this time, the sacrifice would be complete.  Anakin could finally allow himself to endure what he had caused so many others before.  The noble death.

The only one who knew any of this was Obi-Wan.  He shared the vision with his Jedi brother almost from the start.  It didn't hurt that another had experienced the vision before him, Qui-Gon Jinn, who must have told Obi-Wan about it before he died.  So they both knew what had to happen.  And what Obi-Wan himself would have to sacrifice.

They fought together during the Clone Wars.  At the end, they fought each other.  And what had to happen happened.  What followed was Obi-Wan going into exile, watching over the son and being the last remaining hero whom the daughter could call on, years later.  And then that sacrifice came full circle, too.  No one else knew.

Anakin became hunted for the first time.  He was heartbroken.  But he endured.  What else could he do?  He watched as his children led the Rebellion to upset after upset.  Until his son stood between Anakin and Palpatine.  Nearly became another sacrifice.  But then, Anakin was finally ready to make his move.  He finally put an end to Palpatine, and along with the rest of the Rebellion, the whole Empire.  At last.

But at a price.  His life.  Finally.  But it was always going to end that way.  He only regretted that his redemption came too late.  He couldn't tell his son, his daughter, the truth.  In some ways, he didn't have to.  That was why he died a happy man.  A good man.

Finally reunited with the love of his life.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 6: Leia Was the Jedi Savior

No one knew more about the Jedi than Leia.  She was a regular fangirl.  No one had seen them in twenty years, not since the Purge, the infamous Order 66 and the rise of Darth Vader.  But Leia grew up with the whole history of the Jedi Order.  She wouldn't go to bed until her father had told her more.

One day, her father told her a new story.  It involved Darth Vader, the days of the Purge.  When Leia's birth mother was still alive.  The Naboo queen, Amidala.  The wife of Darth Vader.  Her father told her Vader's other name, Anakin Skywalker, how he had once been a hero of the Old Republic, and one of the greatest warriors during the Clone Wars.  And that's when her father told her something else.

Somehow, she'd always known.  She looked nothing like the Organas, either side.  She'd never been told outright, but she knew in her gut that she hadn't been born on Alderaan, didn't have a trace of its DNA in her.  Vader was her father.

At first, she didn't believe it.  How could she?  It was abhorrent just to consider, let alone accept as fact.  But the more she lived with it, the more it began to explain things.

On Alderaan, it had always been easy to hero worship the extinct Jedi.  It was the only planet in the galaxy that kept the Order alive, even if there were no actual Jedi to serve it.  Alderaan had elders, who had told Leia's father the stories he later told her.  There were craftsmen who forged lightsabers, the ancient, elegant weapon of the Jedi.  Leia trained in the use of these blades.  And she had always gotten the highest marks from among all her tutor's students.

There was a reason after all.  Maybe she always knew.

When she began taking secret missions for the Rebellion, Leia put these thoughts behind her, until she became the captive of Governor Tarkin...and Vader.  Being in the presence of Vader awakened even more of Leia's awareness of what the Jedi called the Force.  They didn't speak of their familial bond at all.  She didn't even think he knew.  But she did.

After the pirate rescued her, along with the farmboy, her brother, the one who brought Obi-Wan Kenodi into Leia's life, she began to explore her potential.  She had heard many stories about Kenobi, both as her father's compatriot and his career as a Jedi.  Like everyone else, she'd assumed he was dead.  The old man on Tatooine, she guessed, was a distant relation.  She hoped, though, that it was the Jedi himself.  She dared herself to believe it.  That was why she slipped the plans for the Death Star into the memory circuits of the droid, when her ship was captured in orbit of Tatooine.  Somehow she knew it would find its way to Kenobi.

Jedi intuition, perhaps.

Kenodi died in her escape from the Death Star.  She was devastated.  She never even got a chance to see him.  The farmboy, her brother, though, had lived in proximity to Kenobi for years.  Had no idea who he was all that time, but had called him friend.  Kenobi gave the farmboy Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber.  But the farmboy was careless.  He lost track of it on the Death Star.  Leia quickly, quietly, retrieved it.

And she began training more earnestly than ever before.  Alderaan itself was now gone, destroyed in a callous demonstration of the Death Star's potential.  She had no one else left to help her.  Even Kenobi was dead.  But she persisted.  She kept the farmboy around.  Kenobi had understood that her brother was a dreamer.  But he was unfocused, undisciplined.  Leia had no such limitations.

One day, the pirate told her he loved her.  She thought it was a joke.  It was in the middle of the evacuation from Hoth.  The Empire was in hot pursuit.  They hid in Cloud City.  Vader came to them.  But he was cornered, isolated.  Trapped.  And Leia saw her moment.  She finally took her lightsaber, Vader's own lightsaber, from a lifetime ago, and engaged him in combat.

It was spectacular.  He never saw it coming.  His instincts had dulled over the years.  He kept babbling about the farmboy.  The Emperor, who was Vader's Sith mentor, had foreseen the threat to come from the son.  Neither ever even considered the daughter.  Leia.

It was spectacular.  She couldn't believe how well she conducted herself, against the feared right hand of the Emperor.  One of the worst scourges the galaxy had ever known.  Whatever he attempted, she was two steps ahead of him.  She was too fast, too mobile.  She danced all over him.  He died, whispering her name, gasping it.  He asked only that she forgive him.  Avenge him.  Seek out the Emperor.

And so that was what she did.

The pirate, whom she'd never really understood, supported her the whole time.  He didn't understand the Force at all, which was probably why he was so valuable.  Then she realized she loved, him, too.  It was this love that gave her the courage to complete her mission, confront the Emperor, right in his home on Coruscant, in the ruins of the old Jedi Temple.  The arrogance of that man.  By then he knew who Leia was.  He should have seen it coming.  But he remained convinced that the farmboy was the true threat, the one who would replace Vader.

So Leia had an even easier time defeating him than she'd had against her own father.  She'd been preparing for it her whole life.  And now, she prepared for the future.  And she was ready for that, too.  No one knew the Jedi like she did.  And no one knew better than her the extreme cost of the old ways.  And how to set them right.

To bring balance to the Force.

Monday, April 7, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 5: Leia Sells Out the Rebellion

It is a moment that lives in infamy.  The day Leia Organa sold out the Rebellion.  The day it all ended.  The day the Empire won.

History has proven a harsh judge of the Alderaan princess.  Yet perhaps there is more to understand of those events than scholars usually afford her.  One must remember that she was a prisoner of the cruel Grand Moff Tarkin, second only to Emperor Palpatine at that time, one of the most tyrannical governors in the history of the galaxy.  The man responsible for the Death Star, remember.  The Death Star, that was used to destroy Alderaan, as Leia watched helplessly.

Really, what else was she supposed to do?

One must also keep in mind that the only figure capable of measuring up to the standards of Palpatine and Tarkin was Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Who just so happened to be Leia's father.  Imagine the psychological torture she endured.  One can only imagine.

Perhaps he pulled her aside.  Perhaps he did it in front of everyone else, the common Stormtroopers, Imperial officers, Tarkin, all of them.  Leia knew she was adopted, of course.  She knew very little about her childhood, was so insulated and isolated that to call her a spoiled brat is actually a term of endearment in Leia's case.  It gave her the resolve she needed.  Until the day she learned the truth, from her own father, who wasn't just Vader after all, but Anakin Skywalker, Leia's biological father.  The man responsible for the death of her mother, Queen Amidala of Naboo.

Imagine.  And did he do it before or after the destruction of Alderaan?  We've all seen the historical holograms, Leia working in the years and decades after the Fall, reluctantly, beside Vader and Tarkin, who succeeded Palpatine as Emperor.  She never smiled again, that much everyone agrees on.  Some called her cruel, the echo of Tarkin, uncaring.  That's what most people say, actually.

But do you really blame her?  She watched her adopted world be blown up, a mere demonstration of the Death Star's capabilities.  After the loss of so many other worlds, one would imagine others might begin to sympathize with her.  But she became easy to blame.  If she had only kept her resolve.  Who are we to judge?  The worst torture imaginable has nothing to do with the body, but rather the mind.  Knowing you will have to live with yourself, knowing what you've done.  Knowing your father is a monster.  Knowing you've become just like him.

In a way, I consider Leia to be a hero.  Someone who endured, far more than anyone else.  The Rebellion was crushed in an instant, once she told Tarkin where to find it.  Obliterated in an instant.  Far more mercy than she ever got.  She was the one who had to watch.  She was the one forced to participate.  She was the one who had to mourn.  A thousand times over.