Thursday, May 29, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 16: House Palpatine vs. House Organa

Every planet's population grows up thinking it's alone in the universe.  It's only natural.  When it seriously considers the possibility of life on other worlds, it's usually manifested in fear of invasion.  Certainly nothing as mundane as the kind of rivalry Naboo and Alderaan experienced between the families of Palpatine and Organa.

Yet that's exactly what happened.  They just didn't like each other.  Everything one wanted, the other seemed to want, too.  And it became ugly.

When Palpatine became ruler of the Galactic Empire, he took it as an opportunity to finally put an end to the feud.  Bail Organa had recently adopted a baby girl, lineage unknown, to most people.  But Palpatine knew it was the daughter of his pupil, Anakin Skywalker.  He didn't particularly care about Anakin's offspring.  He believed Anakin himself was the answer to his dream of extending his influence well past his own life.  Unlike the rest of his family, Palpatine never had any children of his own.  Bail would have been the last of his family, too.  Arguably he agreed to take custody of Anakin's child as one last strike against his rival.

In the years that followed, Bail rose the girl as his own, and she thrived as a member of the Organa family, taking up all of his causes, including the feud with Palpatine.  Such was the reason she proved to be such a nuisance to the Empire, working against her father's old enemy in every way possible.

Until the day Palpatine ordered the destruction of Alderaan.  It was the last thing anyone expected him to do, but in hindsight it was the only outcome possible in his development of the ultimate weapon, the Death Star.  The Empire framed Alderaan's annihilation in strictly procedural terms.  "Used as an example."  "Random selection."  But everyone knew exactly why he'd done it.

Bail's adoptive daughter, the last of the Organas, threw herself into the Rebel cause like never before.  She stopped trying to hide her support.  She found new allies capable of making the boldest decisions, including her own brother.  Their reunion was unexpected.  He wasn't an Organa, but he shared her same yearning for something more, something better than the pettiness that they had separately known all their lives, the futures that were stolen from them.  For her brother, Bail's daughter suspected this had been a change for the better.  For her, only heartbreak.  Maybe that's why she fell in love with the rogue who would never have found her father's approval had they met.

Or maybe they did.  Maybe Bail had engineered, in some peculiar way, his daughter's whole future.  Maybe he'd had the foresight his rival had bragged about for years, but never seemed to benefit from, just a lot of manipulations that worked.  For a time.  But all plans have conclusions.  Palpatine's had already been revealed.  Soon it would be time to see where the Organas' plans had led, where their feud ended, finally, after far too long.

No one expects aliens to become so mundane.  But even the mundane can be spectacular.  And end as mundane all the same.  Some who end up in this predicament understand that.  Some never will.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 15: House Palpatine vs. House Amidala

Who knows how it began?  Suffice to say, it did.  It was by far the ugliest political rivalry in Naboo history, and it mired the whole galaxy, eventually, in its snare.

It was the feud between the houses of Palpatine and Amidala.  As with any feud, lies and truths intermingled freely.  In this instance, the lies got wildly out of control.  The task of historian rarely has such a challenge as this one, but as always, I've got to try.

Both were privileged members of the elite for generations, well before and after anyone really cared about either one.  Each had a long tradition of selection to serve in the Senate of the Old Republic.  It's said things became really nasty when one of them finally came into contention for the role of chancellor.  This was in the final days of the Old Republic, you'll understand, before the days of the Galactic Empire, before the rise of the New Republic and its many reforms.

The only piece of the record I'm willing to concede is that outgoing chancellor Valorum had lost all support from his colleagues.  There was a vote of no confidence held against him, and thusly he found himself forcibly removed from the highest political office in that body.  The matter of his successor was one of the most hotly-debated matters ever remarked upon in the annals.

That is where the dispute between the houses truly warmed up.  Naturally, both wanted their current representatives to be considered for nomination.  Neither, it seems, felt particularly constrained as to what they would say during the campaign, words that would echo throughout history, distortions that came to define them both and who really knows what else.

I have found no proof that Padme Amidala ever served as queen of Naboo, but that's one of the clearest parts of the tradition.  The other is that the Palpatine of that time (this house never seemed to bother with individual names, or they were all lost to time) was also a dark lord of the Sith.  Let me explain that one a little more.  There was once a thriving religion dedicated to what it called the Force.  Many of its key figures we still remember today, though we no longer believe any of it was true.  A foundation myth like any other.  That Palpatine became famous enough to have been included in the old stories is certainly proof that the feud had incredible permeating power.  It's likely that House Amidala first put forth that Palpatine was a Sith, which was the devious flipside of the more altruistic Jedi adherents, holy warriors who helped pave the way for a unifying savior known as Darth Vader ("dark father") who is still regarded as the founder of our world.

It's also possible that House Palpatine itself first offered its representative as a member of the Force religion.  The link to Darth Vader was always strong one way or another.  Depending on the interpretation it's either a positive or negative one.

What's certainly not positive is that Palpatine's link to the Sith became traditionally associated with the anonymous emperor of the Empire, who secretly brought about the destruction of the Old Republic and held the galaxy in a tyrannical grip for two decades.  Various attempts have been made over the years to describe the transitions between Republic and Empire and back again differently, but none of them has ever stuck.

Such is the clinging power of slander.  The feud between these houses serves as a famous cautionary tale, or should, or will, once I help set the record straight.  That's exactly what I intend to do.  I've only scratched the surface, and I intend to continue my research.  I will continue to report my findings.

Friday, May 23, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 14: Tarkin and the Empire

The man who died at the beginning of the end for the Galactic Empire, variously referred to as Governor and Grand Moff but commonly known by his given name, Tarkin, is actually responsible for all the things that were worst about it.

I know, you've heard differently.  You heard things about the "evil" Emperor, his connection to the Sith.  Lies spread by Tarkin's apologists, passed down through history.

The truth is, Tarkin's reign of terror was of his own making.  Originally a loyal soldier in the Grand Army of the Republic (initiated, incidentally, by Palpatine, the erstwhile "Emperor," puppet of Tarkin's machinations), which as history does record was developed as a series of clones rather than recruits, the true enemy of freedom in the galaxy saw his opportunity to seize power at the end of the Clone Wars, installing the figure known as Darth Vader below him.

Vader, as you should understand, was a bogeyman, originally known as Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi knight mortally injured in an epic clash with his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi.  All three served in the clone army as generals, naturally.  It was Tarkin's constant goading that led to the split between them.  He won Skywalker's undying favor by giving him the life support apparatus he would wear until dying aboard the second Death Star.  It should come as no surprise that Kenobi was the other famous casualty of the first one.

Tarkin's lust for power was his own undoing.  He refused to step aside and give control of the Empire to anyone else, and foolishly installed himself as commander of the original Death Star.  With his death, Palpatine's ineffectiveness was exposed, and the Empire quickly crumbled around him.

I doubt the Sith ever existed.  The Jedi certainly did.  Their numbers are their peak were sufficient to protect the whole galaxy.  It was their decline that forced the creation of the clone army, the barbarians at the gate suddenly too much to control without one.  The opportunist Tarkin warped the idea and used it to his own ends.  I urge those seeking the truth about the old times to reconsider the need for such an army now.  Tarkin is a cautionary tale.  That's why I want the truth to be known now.

Well, what do you say?  The price of freedom is great.  Sometimes the cost is freedom itself.  But not always.

[Read another version of the Tarkin narrative here.]

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 13: Yoda and Palpatine

"Troubled am I by this one," Yoda says.

He's seated in a darkened room, far from the rest of the Jedi.  His companion, in fact, is a Sith.  Palpatine, otherwise known as Darth Sidious.  He is not troubled by this fact at all.

"I see great potential in him," Palpatine says.

This is a conversation they've had many times over the years.  This is hardly the first time they've spoken.  They're not friends, exactly, but they can be civil.  A meeting of Force practitioners.  Equals.  And as such, they respect each other, begrudgingly.

"Potential the boy may have, but corrupted he has become," Yoda says.

"You say that about them all," Palpatine.  "How young must they be in order to receive your approval?"

"About age or youth this is not," Yoda says.  "A question of circumstances.  Corrupted the boy has become.  Already.  His path I have already seen.  All his life troubled he will be.  Innocent now, yes.  Lost already is he."

"You say that because you know I already have an interest in him," Palpatine says.

"Untrue is this," Yoda says.  "His future I have seen.  As well his son's."

I have seen it as well," Palpatine.  "I see equal potential in them.  If you give me this boy, I will allow you to have your time with his son.  We will see who is right.  A test, then, Master Yoda."

"Agree with this I do," Yoda.  "Confident am I that I am right.  Clouded, the future is."

"What I don't see I can predict," Palpatine says.

"Assume much do you," Yoda says.

"We will see."

"Try as you might, wrong will you have proven," Yoda says.  "Hopeful his son will be.  Always looking away.  Striving, always, for something more, but trusting.  As with his father, frustrated, but satisfied?  Never.  Willful, but pride he will not know."

"You rely too much on faith, Master Yoda," Palpatine says.

"Perhaps," Yoda says.  "Disappointed I am, often.  Wrong very often I am not."

"You will be wrong about one of them," Palpatine says.

Yoda chooses not to respond.  His mind is already elsewhere.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 12: Darth Yoda


The history of our kind was once documented so well, but that was a long time ago.  One of the things I hope to accomplish under you is revive this tradition of learning.  

A long time ago, there was a Jedi named Yoda.  I say Jedi, but I think you know what I mean.  His was one of the most famous names in the Old Republic, and he was believed to be the most powerful Jedi of his era.  

And yet, history as we know it doesn't adequately explain him, and I've grown tired of believing the record as it is known.  At the time of Darth Sidious's rise as Emperor of the Galactic Empire, his apprentice Darth Vader set about a systematic campaign of wiping out the whole Jedi Order.  He had assistance, as we know, from the famous Order 66, but it was Vader's actions within the Jedi Temple that led the way, his complete destruction of the foundations upon which the Jedi had stood for a millennium.

Two Jedi survived.  One was Obi-Wan Kenobi, who went to live on the desert world of Tatooine, where he oversaw the young life of Vader's son, Luke Skywalker, who would one day destroy both Vader and Sidious.  The other was Yoda, who exiled himself to Dagobah.  No one knew at the time, of course.  Kenobi doesn't matter.  He was a coward.  It's Yoda who bears further investigation.  In lieu of facts at the moment, I present speculation.

I have made a pilgrimage to Dagobah.  The legends are true.  This is a world rich in the Force, specifically what is commonly referred to as the Dark Side.  I asked myself at the time: why would a practitioner renowned as the greatest of all the Jedi make his home there, his first impulse in a hasty retreat?

Because he was one of ours.  And he was all along.

Tradition has it that there are always two of us, no more and no less.  But tradition is a malleable thing, ripe for deviation.  We know Sidious himself often relied on multiple agents, such as Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus, and Sifo Dyas, all operating at the same time.  Indeed, even Darth Vader was groomed while Tyranus was still alive.  The old legends suggest that Sidious was the apprentice of Plagueis.  

I submit, further, that Plagueis had two apprentices: Palpatine and Yoda.

I have no proof, but it explains so much, does it not?  The whole of the Galactic Wars era becomes reshaped when considered from this perspective.  Yoda's exile was meant to give our kind two chances to convert young Skywalker to our ways.  It was only Vader's hesitations that kept his son out of the clutches of the two most impressive members of our sect I know.

That was why Yoda went to Dagobah.  Thwarted in whatever designs he originally had, circumventing the Jedi, perhaps, from discovering Sidious's activities, he chose to retreat rather than be discovered, perhaps by Kenobi, in the event I've misjudged him.  

I will write more once I have discovered some actual proof.  But I have no doubt it exists.

Yours in obedience to the Force,

Friday, May 16, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 11: Yoda was an Ewok

One of the things that's always been a little hard to pin down about the old times is what species, exactly, Yoda was.

You'll know about Yoda well enough, hopefully.  Although in public he kept mostly to the sidelines, his was perhaps the greatest reputation among all the Jedi.  Even if you didn't know that, his short green stature probably helped make him memorable, too.  Because there just aren't that many little green people running around.  In fact, Yoda is pretty much the only one I personally can think of.

And maybe that's because over the course of his long life, Yoda changed.  Maybe he wasn't always green.  Maybe that was a little of the effect the Force had on him over the years.  And so if he wasn't always green, what else might he have been?

Furry.  Yeah, I just said that.

Yoda was furry.  He wasn't just furry, but an Ewok, the most intelligent lifeform on the forest moon of Endor, site of the Rebel Alliance's final victory over the Galactic Empire.  You didn't think that was a coincidence, did you?

The archives show that Yoda spent a great deal of time among the Wookiees, but his penchant for woolly companions was perhaps an act of nostalgia.  Speculation has it that he was once the greatest of the Ewok shamans, that he left them so he could pursue his craft to its fullest potential, keep the danger away from his own kind.

But nature has a way of course-correcting, hence the greatest danger the galaxy ever saw still arriving at the Ewok doorstep.  But not to worry, right?  By that time, Yoda himself was dead.  It should come as no surprise, however, that there were Ewoks among the new Jedi Order, and that some of them...looked strange, too.  None of them green.

Well, just give it some time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 10: Ewok Order

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

There was a forest moon called Endor, and there lived the Ewoks.  Although they were isolated from the rest of the galaxy, and never left this moon, the Ewoks received many visitors.  Once there was a man on a pilgrimage, trying to comprehend the mysteries he had learned about in his studies.  He had not intended to visit the Ewoks, because like everyone else he didn't even know they existed.

When the man first came across them, as was usual the Ewoks took him captive.  Neither understood each other at all.  Deep into that evening, when the Ewoks were still trying to decide what to do with the man, he panicked.  He had never been a violent man, but he had the sense that the natives of this moon meant him harm.  At first he had been willing to cooperate, but as the day wore on so did his patience.  Freeing one hand from the ropes the Ewoks had used to bind him, he threw a fist out, wildly, connecting with nothing, concerning none of his captors at all.  It was a futile effort, but it got the Ewoks thinking.

They turned to their shaman, the wisest among them, and asked him what the man might have been thinking, the sheer futility of his attempt.  But the shaman said the man had been wise, far wiser than any of them had been.  He had known, instinctively, something the shamans of the Ewoks had known for countless generations.  He had known about the Force.

The shaman chose to do something drastic, next.  He ingested some of his most precious herbs, the ones that gave him access to the Force, the ones that helped him commune with the spirits, allowed him to bridge all communication divides.  He then asked the man if he had ever encountered the hidden knowledge of the Force.

At first the man was confused.  He had no idea what the shaman was talking about.  But then he reconsidered.  There had been references to it in some of the oldest books he had studied.  They spoke of ancient sources, beyond the advent of written word in the galaxy, something more...primitive.  He looked at the shaman again, for the first time.

Here, standing before him, was the only living source for power never before realized, at least anywhere besides this moon.  Here was a living conduit of the Force.  It was everything the man had been seeking, nothing like he had imagined.  And suddenly everything made sense.

In time, the man and the shaman shared everything they knew with each other.  They became master and apprentice.  Sometimes the shaman was the master, sometimes the man.  This was the way of things for many years.  One day, the man decided it was time for him to go.  He asked the shaman if he would leave with him.  The shaman said his place was forever on this moon, his art the way of the Ewoks.  The man was sad.  He knew the shaman's people would never understand him, or the Force, the way he did.  In time, even the line of shamans would forget what he knew.  It was the way of things.  But the shaman was adamant, and the man departed without another word.

That was the beginning of the Jedi Order.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 9: Don't Fear the Gungans

On the planet Naboo there lived two sentient species, one of them humanoid and the other amphibian.  Because of general mistrust between the two and also general living preferences, the amphibians lived far off on their own, under the sea.  These were the Gungans.

To all appearances, they were hard to take seriously, but they knew what they were doing.  Of course they did.  They even knew all about the Jedi, their mindtricks.  While it appeared that they could sometimes be easily manipulated at the appeasement of their considerable egos...the truth is, the Gungans were far more significant than they appeared.  In fact, they were the real power behind...everything.

It was the Gungans who manipulated both Valorum and Palpatine to the role of chancellor in the Galactic Republic.  Not being members themselves, I can see where you would be skeptical of this claim, but these were masters of persuasion, after all.  They always got what they wanted.  When they needed Queen Amidala in their pocket, they got that too.  They knew what they were doing.

They knew what Palpatine was all along.  They kept to themselves not for self-preservation, but because it was far wiser to step aside from the chaos they knew would come.  The ruins of their once-great surface kingdom served as an everlasting testament to the Gungan legacy still strong on Naboo.  They were living there when Palpatine first came, his disgraces and, of course, secrets kept well-hidden to the humanoids but plainly apparent to them.  This was when they first considered retreating to different living arrangements.  If Palpatine was going to go about his old tricks, they wanted nothing to do with it, at least until he finally played his hand.  And then they could resurface.

This was achieved in the form of the exile Jar Jar Binks, who often couldn't be bothered to understand the world around him.  He was exactly what everyone assumed the Gungans to be.  But he wasn't so bad.  He had a great amount of courage, and devotion to spare.  Like any of his kind, Binks allowed social norms to be the public excuse he needed to overcome his apparent deficiencies.  Every Gungan knew the Jedi would eventually come to Naboo, and they wouldn't travel to the underwater city unless they had to.  But with Binks on the surface, the Jedi would come to him.  And he would become welcomed into the mainstream Naboo fold before long, even a senator representing the whole world on Coruscant, where he would one day, as with Amidala before him, offer proposals that would further draw out the true nature of Palpatine, forcing him ever closer to at last become his own undoing.  As the Gungans had understood long ago.

The less he was asked to do the more sedate Binks became.  Even respectable, in case anyone was watching.  But in time, once again, this Gungan like every other, would vanish.  And this served their kind very well indeed.