Thursday, July 31, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 36: R2 and 3PO

R2 proves himself in battle.  3PO is created by Anakin Skywalker.  R2 and 3PO meet.  R2 and 3PO become involved in galactic affairs.

Both survive the Clone Wars.  3PO has his memory circuits wiped.  They idle through the next few decades.  They happen to be aboard the ship Darth Vader intercepts, the one carrying Princess Leia and the plans to the Death Star.  Princess Leia hides these plans in R2.  R2 and 3PO are officially drafted into the Rebel Alliance.

R2 frets.  3PO frets.  R2 is nearly eaten by a giant swamp creature.  3PO is nearly obliterated in Cloud City.  Both survive.  3PO becomes a storyteller.

R2 helps guide affairs all along.  3PO seems to be lost the whole time.  R2 and 3PO make a unique pairing.  They're separated countless times, seem entirely mismatched, imperiled more often than anyone else.  Yet they survive.  They survive the whole thing.  And they're in the same position as always, when Luke Skywalker overcomes his father, Anakin, ends the threat of the Empire, of the Sith.

What do either have to do with the Force?  Only what R2 understands functionally.  Which is to say everything.  He knows next to nothing, same as 3PO.  And yet both seem to stumble into exactly the right circumstances.  All the time.

They're pretty heroic.  Forget everyone else.  Follow only these two.  The story remains the same.

These are the droids you're looking for.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 35: Fostering Hope

A long time ago, there was a young man who hated the idea of living out his life on the desert world of Tatooine.  He stared longingly at the horizon as the twin suns set.

His name was Owen Lars.  The son of an idealist who risked and lost everything battling against the terrible forces that plagued his world, Owen married early but found he could never have children of his own.  At first he was overjoyed when he was given custody of his unruly brother-in-law's young boy.  It was a chance at a fresh start, not only for the boy, but for himself.  He saw Anakin Skywalker as the source of all his problems.  And he saw Anakin's boy Luke as the potential to solve all of them.

As Luke grew older, Owen was troubled to see signs of all the problems Anakin had embodied.  He struggled to keep Luke from a similarly bad ending.  He knew the boy resented him for it.  No boy likes to have barriers set around him.  But Owen knew about limits.  He wanted to overcome them, too.  He wanted Luke to help him.  Luke wanted nothing to do with him.  It hurt.

One day, they were purchasing a pair of new droids together.  Luke had been making the case for attending the Imperial Academy again, saying that it was unfair that all his friends had already gone and there he was stuck on the moisture farm fixing evaporators instead of doing something with his life.  The argument continued as soon as they got home.  It never ended.  It didn't help that the boy spent the free time he didn't waste with his friends hanging out in the hut of the old hermit, the one who had given Owen custody of Luke in the first place.  The friend of Anakin.  Luke had no idea who the old hermit was.  But Owen did.  He knew all too well.

He had gotten remote.  He'd never been especially communicative, but lately he'd been on the verge of giving up on the boy.  He knew a losing cause when he saw one.  Such was the story of Tatooine.  He no longer tried explaining himself rationally.  He made vague promises he had no intention of keeping.  He was dismissive.  He didn't even try to tell Luke what he knew about the old hermit.  There had been a time.  But that time was past.

Then the Storm Troopers showed up.  The boy had gone off early in the morning.  He'd been gone too long.  Owen wasn't concerned.  The only danger on this world was dying of boredom.  The soldiers of the Empire asked him about the droids he'd acquired, implied that they were stolen property.  He tried to tell them that was the case with all Jawa goods, with everything on this world.  A world of scavengers.  The only way to survive.  The Storm Troopers didn't care.  They threatened him.  They threatened his wife.

When they left, he realized he had an opportunity.  He suspected the droids were more important than they appeared.  The tracking device told him one of them had run off in the direction of the old hermit.  The moment had come.  There could be only one reason for this.  Finally the galaxy was coming back to Tatooine.  Finally the fight was lost.  He had lost Luke forever.

So he had a decision.  If the boy hesitated, Owen didn't know what to say.  He couldn't live like this anymore.  He needed a new start.  The only way to get one was to create a clean break.

He remembered what Anakin had once done to solve his problems.  He'd done what had to be done.  So Owen tracked down the Jawas that had sold him the droids, and he slaughtered them.  He told himself while he was doing it that it was a necessary evil.  He doubled back home and told his wife that they were leaving, and that they would have to make it look like they hadn't left by choice.  He found a couple of corpses.  It was best to not think of who they had once been.  And they set the corpses, and their whole homestead, on fire.

He knew what the boy would think.  It would be the most logical conclusion.  Affirmation for the course he had already been set on.  A better one, Owen told himself, than his father's.  He could admit that now.  He had released himself from the resentment he'd felt all his life.  Resentment for a life that had never gone his way.

He tried not to think about what he'd done.  He tried to forget.  He told himself his wife would stop looking at him that way, in time.  Still, he had a bad feeling.

They settled on Coruscant.  In previous days it had been a beacon of civilization.  Since the dawn of the Empire, it had come to know oppression.  But Owen had known oppression, too.  This was nothing like it.  From this unique vantage point, he could watch what his adopted son accomplished.  And he could work toward redemption.  He really believed that.

All things were possible, even hope.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 34: Mrs. Solo

People forget so easily.  When she made her first visit to Naboo, Leia Organa instantly became a part of our world's family, a celebrity and a fashion icon and the object of secret lust by who knows how many.  But she came here to serve as queen.

Well, like I said, people forget easily.  Nowadays, because she's still better known as Princess Leia than Queen Leia, because of all the stories of the Rebellion, how she led the forces that defeated the Empire and brought back the Republic, when we're still clinging to the young version of her rather than what she has become, we believe what we want to believe, out of convenience, remember what we want to remember.

Memory is a funny thing.  The introduction of her companion was such a calculated move, so subtle, that over time it became just as difficult to remember her without him as it is to remember that she was royalty through her mother, her birth mother, and not her family from Alderaan, the planet destroyed by the Death Star, her adopted family.  There she had been known as the Lady Leia.  Perhaps no one knew why she was called a princess, perhaps the rest of the galaxy forgot Naboo.

Well, memory.

The companion didn't come until later, when our fair citizens began to question why she was always alone, a virgin queen.  He was first seen in glimpses, a man without a name, someone no one knew, which on this planet is tantamount to labeling him a commoner.  Not even an off-worlder, but someone of inferior social status.  That is to say, someone who didn't matter at all.

Doubtless those around her explained this to the queen.  Doubtless she was amused.  So a name was given to the man, and at first it was only that.  People began to refer to her as Mrs. Solo.

The question remained, who was this man?  Where had he come from?  It fell out of fashion, believing him to be a commoner, a native of Naboo.  She was still exotic enough, associated enough with many other worlds, even the late Alderaan, that this was easily to accept.  But still, from whence did he come?

He came, it seemed, from legend.  That was the story Naboo was fed, over time.  He was Han Solo, they said, the man who helped the Rebellion succeed.  Someone who was no one, like the queen's brother, well-documented Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, naturally, plucked from obscurity and the outskirts of civilization.  Someone who was a commoner somewhere else.

But special, in association with Leia, in his accomplishments, in all the grand stories that began to accumulate around him.

I suggest, don't believe them.  He is just a man, just as the queen is a lonely woman.  She took a companion, many years into her life, when the demands of such a public life began to come with increased expectations, when the novelty of her arrival had worn off.

I don't mean to take away from the glamour of it, but rather would like to introduce a little more reality back into the narrative.  Long live the queen, yes, but let her live her life.  It has been a long reign.  But Naboo will learn to exist without her.

You will be able to survive without the fantasy we've built up around her.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 33: A Wedge in Time

Han Solo was a myth created by the Rebel Alliance to create support among the apathetic, the neutral, the rogue elements of the galaxy who didn't necessarily see anything wrong with the Empire.

Conjuring this man meant that everything he accomplished had to be taken away from someone else.  Some of that credit belongs to Wedge Antilles.

For instance, at the destruction of the first Death Star during the trench run that saw Luke Skywalker successfully hit the target of the exhaust port after everyone else had failed, the story goes that Han Solo randomly appeared at the exact moment fate needed some intervention to keep TIE-Fighters away from Skywalker's X-Wing.  Sounds just a little too convenient, doesn't it?  Because, of course, it is.

Wedge was part of the squadron of fighters that made the assault on the Death Star.  History barely has an excuse as to what else he might have been doing at that moment, slight damage having apparently removed him from the action just before it..  Except it was Wedge who gave Skywalker the crucial support, damaging his own ship in the process, costing him his shot (and he was a remarkable shot).

The thing is, Wedge is probably more crucially involved in the saga of the Empire than anyone.  His father Bail Antilles was part of the early resistance to the Empire, along with Skywalker's mother, and his uncle was one of the finest star pilots during the Clone Wars, rewarded with his own ship, one of the few significantly-sized vessels entrusted to brave space under its own auspices in the era of the Empire.

With the whitewashing of Wedge's record, much of the Antilles legacy became obscured, so that neither his father or uncle are properly understood for the roles they played.  Much reconstruction is still underway.  A family with institutional significance, never corrupted (Skywalker's father was, of course, Darth Vader), always true to the cause of galactic peace, always ready to serve, free of ego...You can see why historians are keen to restore Wedge to his rightful place.  So much emphasis has been placed on others.  It's time to give credit where credit is due.

To give a further record of his activities during the struggle of the Rebellion would prove to be an exhaustive exercise.  Suffice to say, Wedge is indeed a great hero.  He didn't need the Force to become one, either.  Maybe he's not exciting enough, but true heroism needn't draw attention to itself.  True heroism is humble, like all the Antilles.  Like Wedge.

Long live the Antilles line.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 32: Jarful

As best as I could reconstruct from what he told me, since Jar Jar Binks was notoriously difficult to understand even among Gungans, this is his story.  It's sad, because historians have always considered him, well, an idiot, easy to dismiss.  Those you don't understand, right?  Or worse, those you think you understand.  But the truth is, Jar Jar is the hero of all heroes.

When he was younger, he was an outcast.  All Gungans are clumsy on land.  They're naturally amphibious, so they're best in the water.  When they surface, they must adapt to an environment that benefits from none of their strengths.  They are not graceful.  They function.

Now, because he was an outcast, Jar Jar was often isolated.  Gungans are inherently social, and so even isolated individuals are not left completely behind, but as far as he was, Jar Jar had to adapt his personality the same way he had to adapt his slippery limbs to traveling by land.  Most of what he said ended up being almost a private language.  It made sense to him, and for such an individual, that was as much as needed to be accomplished.

He once explained the reason he ended up exiled from his people as being the result of his clumsiness.  This was a view he'd adopted from what others had said of him.  Being curious, being forced to discover so much of the world for himself, Jar Jar often didn't know what he was doing.  This doesn't mean he wasn't capable.  He was competent.  In fact, he was more than competent.  You don't survive on your own if you're not.  And that's what he had to do.  

In the surface world, Jar Jar ended up being saved from the Trade Federation's droid army by a Jedi named Qui-Gon Jinn.  From that point they became inseparable, thanks to what the Gungans understood to be a life debt Jar Jar owed the Jedi.

Except it's really that Jar Jar found his purpose.  All his life he'd been a fish out of water, so to speak, and now he'd discovered where he fit in.  Soon he was accepted as a general in the Gungan army.  He was elected as Senator of Naboo to the Republic.

And he made the call to give Palpatine the powers that ultimately allowed him to transform the Republic into the Empire.  End of story, right?  

Seems natural to assume that Jar Jar bungled his way to the worst evil the galaxy ever knew.  Except that's not really how it ends.  We all know it.  The Jedi return, the Emperor is defeated, peace and justice is restored.  Jar Jar seems nowhere to be found.

Except that pesky friendship with Qui-Gon Jinn.  Not so long after they met, Jinn was killed in a fight with Darth Maul, the demonic Sith apprentice who helped Palpatine rise to power.  History remembers that Jinn's own apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, learned to commune with the dead and as such found a way to appear to his own apprentice, Luke Skywalker, which enabled the happy ending to unfold.  But Jinn didn't appear only to Kenobi.  He in fact came first to Jar Jar Binks.

Jinn was the Jedi who knew what was happening all along.  He was the one who believed in the prophecy that identified the young Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, as the one who would bring balance to the Force.  Jinn's visit to Naboo began the chain of events that finally ended the Sith threat once and for all.  Also there at the beginning?  Jar Jar Binks.

No bumbling coincidence.  Jinn frequently turned chance encounters into fateful developments.  He didn't believe in accidents.  He never treated Jar Jar like an outcast.  He challenged Jar Jar to prove he was intelligent, and that's exactly what the Gungan did.  It was Jinn who realized Jar Jar's potential.  He was the one who suggested Jar Jar could be useful in the Gungan army, could even serve a useful political role.  

They had discussed the future of Palpatine together.  Jinn knew what would happen.  He knew what would become of Anakin.  He knew certain relationships would have to be put in place.  Obi-Wan and Anakin.  Anakin and Palpatine.  Anakin and Queen Amidala.  Anakin and Jar Jar.

Only Jar Jar embraced Anakin for the boy he was.  A kindred spirit.  Does that begin to tell you anything?  No, Jar Jar didn't have darkness within him.  What he had was potential.  Jinn saw that in everyone.  Jar Jar's potential was to act as a catalyst.  After his death, Jinn came back to Jar Jar and told him that he would have to be brave again.  Jar Jar didn't want to do it.  He didn't want to give Palpatine everything he wanted.  Jar Jar's greatest fear was of the worst happening.  It made him jittery.  All his life bad things had happened around him.  He seemed easy to blame.  But Jinn told him the wisest thing any Gungan ever heard: Bad things do happen.  But that's not the end of the story.

Jar Jar knew what he was doing.  For the first time in his life he had the courage to act deliberately.  Not testing himself.  Acting, with conviction.  Standing practically still.  No more nerves.  No more doubts.  Things would get worse.  But they would get better.  It would be Palpatine who could no longer hide.  Jar Jar knew all about that.  He knew those who can't hide seem to expose their worst selves.  Everyone who had always assumed the worst about Jar Jar had helped him realize that, and Jinn that it's not what others say that defines you, but what you believe about yourself.  And for the first time, Jar Jar Binks believed in himself.  Could Palpatine say the same?  Jinn argued he couldn't.  The Jedi said that the Sith Lord's greatest failing was his ego.  Jar Jar lacked such a thing.  Only opposites can ever really cancel each other out.

You haven't heard this about Jar Jar Binks because his is a story of sacrifice.  He was a noble soul.  A hero.  Perhaps the greatest ever.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 31: Fly Casual

Han is gambling with his pal Lando again.  Chewie can't believe it.  His buddy is insane, always taking risks they both know he can't afford.  How many worlds have they already been banned from, which by the way is a terrible way to operate for smugglers?  Then again, as Han says it, if you're able to do something legally in this business, you're not doing it right...

Well, the good news is that they just won themselves a ship.  As far as Chewie can tell, it's a piece of junk.  In fact, that's exactly what everyone says when they see it for the first time.  The exact words.  Every single time.  Sometimes he howls in general protest, apropos of nothing, and Han just shrugs his shoulders.  What else are they going to do?

Han works on the ship every chance he gets.  This turns out to be a terrible development.  When they first met Chewie could get him to play games with him.  It's a relaxing change of pace for Chewie, playing games.  They don't have those on Kashyyyk.  Everything's a matter of life and death!  That's why he was so happy to leave his home planet behind.  Because while Han seems to live his life that way, it's all a con.

Usually, he knows exactly what he's doing.  Everything's a calculated risk.

Since that damn ship, however, he seems to have forgotten that a little, always trying to justify the ship.  He lost Lando as a friend because of it.  Doesn't matter!  Entered the Kessel Run, never stops boasting about it, even though it makes no sense to anyone who's never participated in it, like podracing or death sticks.

It should be noted that although he pretends otherwise, Han is a lousy engineer.  Just don't tell him so.  Chewie learned that the hard way.

After being forced to sign a contract with Jabba the Hutt, they find themselves hanging out on Tatooine, which would not be Chewie's first choice.  He hates it there, especially the collection of freaks at Mos Eisley.  So he spends all his time trying to negotiate side deals with desperate travelers.  That's how he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Han won't have any of it, when Chewie tries explaining the situation to him.  There are two things that are otherwise really important to the galaxy Han doesn't concern himself with: the Empire and the Force.  He's part of a generation that thinks it can pretend neither exists.

This, by the way, is why Chewie has such horrible migraines.

Turns out, as Chewie suspected, getting Han to talk to this guy was worth the risk.  His buddy takes the job as a matter of defiance.  He doesn't believe any of the old man's nonsense (so Han describes it), but sooner than even Chewie thought they're deeply embroiled in everything they previously tried to avoid.  Sure, Han is also trying to avoid the ramifications of burning Jabba the Hutt, but he's finally found a con even he can't handle.  A perfect con.  Perfect faith in something.  Some kind of con.

So Kenobi and his young ally and their two droids lead Han to a princess, with whom he falls immediately in love and succeeds in convincing both of them that this is not really happening, and Chewie finally starts unwinding.  Maybe that damn ship paid off after all.  Lando ends up in their crosshairs again.  Han ends up in carbon freeze, but they get him out of it (eventually), everyone becomes heroes, and Chewie gets to rest easy, fly casual for the first time in ages.

Until he meets the kids.  And then all hell breaks loose again!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 30: Yoda and Chewie

A long time ago, the Jedi named Yoda met a Wookiee named Chewbacca.  Yoda had been flush with the belief that the Jedi had finally done away with the threat of the Sith.  After the death of Darth Plagueis and disappearance of his apprentice, there seemed to be none left of the practitioners of the Dark Side.  Chewbacca, however, cautioned him that it wasn't over.  Yoda didn't believe him.

Many years passed.  When Yoda came back to Kashyyyk, it was because of the Clone Wars.  It had recently been determined that the Sith were back.  It was Chewbacca's contention that they had never gone in the first place, but he chose not to mention it.  Instead he fought alongside Yoda in a fierce defense of his home world.  When the Clone Troopers turned on Yoda, revealing their allegiance to the Sith, Chewbacca ensured that his friend survived, strained relationship or not.

Again they lost contact.  It was Chewbacca's understanding that the Jedi went into exile.  For years he tried to carry on with his life, staying out of galactic affairs.  The Sith ruled the Empire, both in the form of the Emperor himself and his enforcer, Darth Vader.  One day he met a Jedi on Tatooine.  He almost didn't believe it.  The first thing he asked was what had become of his friend.  The Jedi didn't know, but said he would do everything in his power to find out.  He had a friend of his own, a callow youth, who he hoped would one day become a Jedi, too.  Chewbacca was dubious until he realized the opportunity that sat before him.  He was among the select few who knew that Darth Vader was this boy's father.  Telling the Jedi his story, Chewbacca expressed the hope that Yoda might use this as an opportunity for redemption, after his great failure to believe the Sith had not been eliminated all those years ago.

They never saw each other again.  Yoda was dead by the time Vader's son was ready to confront him and end the threat of the Sith.  Chewbacca realized he'd been wrong, too, that he had given up on his friend in his moment of greatest need.  It wasn't enough to save his life.  But at least they had, together if apart, defeated the worst enemy they had known in their long lives.

Friday, July 11, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 29: We Are Wookiees

A long time ago, the Wookiees of Kashyyyk realized a great evil would come into the galaxy.  This was before knowledge of the Force had given way to the competing clans of the Jedi and Sith.

They remained out of the conflict for as long as they could.  Eventually, the Clone Wars came to Kashyyyk, and the Wookiees had to make their stand.  Unfortunately, it was too little too late.  The Emperor had already executed Order 66, designed to assassinate every Jedi in existence, a fortuitous move considering he was a Sith and therefore seemed to have won the long, bitter feud at last.

Except he had miscalculated.  The Jedi master Yoda survived thanks to the protection of the Wookiees.  Except once more they were deadlocked in their deliberations on how to proceed.  Only Chewbacca, Yoda's chief liaison among the Wookiees, chose to continue the fight.  To do so, he had to leave all he had ever known behind, all his people, his world, his family.

For years, not knowing what had become of Yoda, he wandered from planet to planet, accepting increasingly dubious jobs in order to continue his search.  One day he realized the freighter captain he had been working alongside was not the gruff rogue he appeared to be, but rather an idealist who was very much like the Wookiees he missed so much, directionless only because he lacked a purpose, an excuse to do the right thing.

One day Chewbacca found his opening.  He was startled to discover a Jedi living on Tatooine, looking for a transport into space.  He took it as an opportunity to manipulate his new friend into action, because he knew that the Jedi intended to aid the Rebellion against the Empire, the last best hope to end the great evil of the Sith.

Chewbacca only hoped his people were still safe.  As part of his exile he had cut himself off from all contact with home.  He wondered if anyone else had chosen to act, or if indeed all of Kashyyyk.  He feared it wasn't so.  But he now had a new hope.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 28: Darth Padme

Imagine that everyone thinks you're the victim.  Your home world becomes the catalyst for galactic war.  You marry the man of your dreams, but he turns out to be a monster.  You die giving birth to his children.

And everyone believes all of this is caused by the ambitious politician you yourself helped maneuver into power.

Recipe for a perfect cover story, right?  I mean, you already concealed the fact of your marriage to this monster.  No one knew anyway.  Only the man who became the monster.  Convenient.

You were in the perfect position all along to manipulate both men, to drive the message.  The fact of your death was most convenient of all.  You never had to face the consequences.

Padme Amidala, queen and senator of Naboo, you were Darth Sidious, master of the Sith, the ultimate force of evil, the downfall of trillions, the enslaver of countless worlds, the destroyer of the Jedi.

And everyone loves you for it.  Sometimes it pays to sacrifice yourself.  The truth dies with you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 27: Yoda was a Bad, Bad Man

She's running ahead of you, more eager than you've ever seen her.  It only figures though, since she's waited all her life for this moment, finally visiting the shrine of the greatest Sith who ever lived, Darth Sidious.

"This is it!" Elsie practically giggles, too excited to be out of breath.  Nothing else exists for her.  She's crackling with energy, sparks shooting out of all her fingers like guiding strips for you to follow.

"Calm down," you hasten to suggest.  "It's not going anywhere.  It's been here for thousands of years.  It can wait a few more seconds."

"Darth Sidious," Elsie says.  "The man himself.  Yoda."

When she first came to you with her wild theory, naturally you didn't believe her.  History says what it says, after all.  Yoda is remembered as the greatest Jedi, not the greatest Sith.  He all but sacrificed himself so that the Jedi could prevail in the struggle they would still lose, in time.  Sith have patience.  That was what first interested you in them, after all, their deliberate, analytic approach.

Then she outlined her theory, how Yoda framed Palpatine, used their long rivalry to his advantage, manipulated the admittedly ambitious politician into usurping power, his own interest in Sith lore used against him.

Here at last you will have the proof you need, here the last resting place of the great man himself.  To think you used to believe such preposterous myths as all the good little Jedi fading into the Force itself...!  The things we'll believe, right?

Her hands have gone silent, as it were.  "Aim your light this way!" she chimes.  "I want to see exactly what I'm doing."

She produces her lightsaber, opens its blade and plunges it into the ground.  Within moments she withdraws it and draws the necessary remains from it with her mind.  You pull your device from your belt and together you wait for the analysis.

"Exciting!" she says redundantly.  You always loved her, but Elsie does tend to state the obvious.

The device beeps.  You both look down at its display screen together.

It's a good day to be a Sith.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 26: Count the Count

"I'm afraid it will be secure your release."

So spoke Count Dooku to Obi-Wan Kenobi on the planet of Geonosis.  Yet years earlier, it was spoken to Dooku himself, rephrased slightly.

"Afraid am I.  Difficult it will be to untangle you from this business."

The circumstances were, as it might be imagined, Master Yoda speaking with his former star pupil.  After deliberations with the complete Jedi Council, Yoda had pulled Dooku aside.  The Count had frequently seen a troubled look on his mentor's face.  Yoda appeared to bear the weight on the universe on his slight shoulders.  Yet the longer they discussed the possibility of the return of the Sith, the more grim his features became.

"An agent we will need," Yoda had said.

At first Dooku felt nothing but honored.  Like the others he liked to feel appreciated by the master, because they all knew how difficult it was to win Yoda's approval.  The more he thought about it, the worse he felt about it.  No one, aside from Yoda himself, knew more about the Sith than Dooku.  He'd spent his apprenticeship studying the Dark Side.  Fear touched his mind for the first time in his life.

None of them knew who had revived the Sith.  It would require a considerable amount of effort just to discover the Dark Lord's identity.  He prepared himself.  He began to meditate with greater fervor than ever before.  He spent long evenings in silence with Yoda.  They had nothing left to say to each other.  When he departed, they both knew the next time they saw each other, it would be as enemies.  At least as far as the rest of the galaxy was concerned.  His Jedi brethren.

He shuddered.  He all but broke down in tears.   But he felt himself hardening at the same time.  It would require a great deal of strength, of resolve on his part.  And he would be ready.

He would justify Yoda's faith in him.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 25: The Confessions of Mace Windu

It was often Master Windu's practice, when the Jedi Council wasn't in session, to sit alone in meditation.  Occasionally he would allow someone to sit with him, usually an apprentice.  Once in a while, I was given that honor.

Most of the time, these sessions were carried out in complete silence.  One day, he deviated from this practice.  What I'm about to tell you will probably sound like something I made up, but I'm only speaking what I experienced.

He told me:

"It wasn't easy, deceiving them for all those years.  Master Yoda especially.  He was the kindest soul the Force ever allowed me to encounter.  He had no idea that I was his greatest enemy.  I regret that.  We would spend long hours discussing the prophecy, the weakening of the Force, the Sith, all of these matters that I could have revealed to him in great detail.  I was Darth Sidious.

"In a few hours I am going to confront Chancellor Palpatine.  I am going to fake my death.  We have already discussed this, what must happen.  The young Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who is the one who will bring balance to the Force, who will soon slaughter most of the Jedi.  He is in emotional turmoil, as he has been most of his life.  He will believe what we tell him to believe.  Though the Force is strong in him, it blinds him, and in the void he is susceptible.  I will stage my confrontation with Palpatine, and then I will go into exile.

"I've already discussed the idea of exile with Master Yoda.  I believe he will do so himself, when the time is right.  Soon.  Very soon.  He will understand the logic behind it.

"Many years ago, I realized what had to happen in order to reconcile the Force, to bring about the prophecy.  This was before Skywalker was brought before us as a boy.  I was among those who wanted to reject him even though he fit all the necessary criteria for the prophecy to be fulfilled, not because I was blind to what he was but because I needed Master Yoda, and the others, to continue to believe the fiction I had been weaving all along.  Palpatine was useful in all of this.  He was delusional.  I knew of his obsession with Sith legend.  He was always easy to control.  He was also a consummate politician.  He would believe anything that advanced his career.

"You won't breathe a word of this for the same reasons Palpatine and Skywalker will play their parts faithfully.  You want to believe.  You want to believe in the purity of the Jedi.  That is the single conviction that driven me in all my plans.  I saw the Jedi weakening.  Not their abilities.  If anything, their knowledge of the Force had grown too strong, even with the loss of Sith lore.  Anything a Sith knew was insigificant compared to what a Jedi commanded.

"But the Jedi had become pawns.  They were no longer sentinels but puppets.  We were no longer guardians.  I respected Master Yoda so much that I could never contradict him.  I had to make him think that what's to happen was something he could understand.  In a way that's exactly the truth.

"In exile, we will be stronger than we ever were.  Skywalker's role in this will end.  I suspect he will pass it on to his heirs, just as Jedi always have.  This new generation will be free of all restraint, but will better understand their responsibility.  I will watch all of this, as the Jedi did in the days of old, in the shadows.  There grew a misconception that only the Sith operate in this manner, and so that was how I resurrected their name.  This was a form of balance, too.

"The purple blade will fade into history.  The new Jedi under the tradition Skywalker establishes will operate under their own rules, the way it should be.  I sense greatness in our future once again.

"What would you say if you could warn them?  That hope will exist again?  That war and destruction will occur?  These things have always happened.  These are what the Jedi were always meant to shape, not cower from.  We are guardians of destiny.  This is destiny being reshaped, being put back on-course."

He lapsed back into silence just as unexpectedly, and I sat there beside him, afraid for myself.  Yet I chose to embrace the same fate as his.  Exile.  Never to be heard from history again.  Why am I telling you this now?  The record won't change.  No one will believe that Master Windu was Darth Sidious.  It doesn't matter.  Times are changing, though.  I have a bad feeling about this.

I hope by speaking of these matters now, the Force will remind our kind once again what must be done.

The Jerk Who Changed History

I’d been thinking of doing it for so long, that when the opportunity arose I almost didn’t know what to do with it.  But it was obvious enough.  In high school I’d read about an incident that had taken place some time ago, the distant past.  A goat, the school’s mascot, was put down after it attacked a student.  I would save that goat.

This wasn’t just any student, though, but rather Charlie Morris, who went on to become a minor movie star, washed up at the time I finally gained possession of the time machine, his career basically over.  

The thing was, I cared less about Charlie than the goat.  Something told me that the goat was far more significant than it appeared.  I can’t really explain that.  If I tried, I would just sound crazy.  I mean, you’ve probably already formed any number of assumptions about me just based on the fact that I’ve admitted to valuing a goat over a movie star.  I bet even movie stars you personally can’t stand would still rate higher for you than a goat.  Unless you are a chupacabra.  

It didn’t matter.  I felt compelled.  I know, putting it that way isn’t going to help your opinion of me in the slightest.  It’s the truth.  That’s all I can say.

I entered the time machine, set the coordinates to the period of the incident in 1973, and before I knew it, there I was, looking at my old high school, when it was, well, a little more old.  I became aware immediately that I was being observed.  Irrationally, I expected to turn around and see Charlie, or the goat.  But it wasn’t either of them.  It was another kid, a classmate of Charlie’s.  He was staring at me, as if he had been expecting me.

“You jerk,” he said.  That’s exactly what he said.  Not out of surprise, not out of alarm, but spite.  There was anger in his voice.  “I’ve been waiting for you all afternoon, you know.  In some ways, all my life.  And let me tell you, I haven’t been looking forward to this day.  At all.”

“I have no idea how to respond to that,” I replied.

“Unfortunately for both of us,” he continued, “you won’t be going back into that time machine of yours and leaving.  Not right away.  I might as well introduce myself.  One of us should be the good guy.  The name’s Vinnie Epstein.”

“Richard Tartt,” I stammered.  I never stammer.  In addition to thinking I’m crazy, you can also consider me an idiot.  All the evidence you need is right there.

“I know what you’re here to do,” Vinnie said.  “You’re going to save the goat.  You’re going to change history.  From your perspective it hasn’t happened yet.  From my perspective, too.  Technically.  But I saw it, in my dreams, when I was very young.  I always knew this day would come.  I’ve been dreading it, but what could I do?  You’re from too far in the future.  The first time I meet you it’s already too late.”

“That’s great, kid,” I said.  Stupidly.  Access to time machines does not make you smart.  My first mistake was made long before acquiring the time machine.  Stealing it.  I was a teenage hooligan.  I made worse decisions than antagonizing a goat.  I can admit that now.  There’s really no point in trying to make myself sound better.  In your eyes, I’m just getting worse and worse.  I get that.

“You have no idea what it’s been like,” Vinnie said.  I didn’t have a chance to state the obvious before he continued, and suddenly I realized even the obvious to me wasn’t what he’d meant.  Naturally.  “Before you showed up here I never had anyone I could talk to about this vision.  They would have thought I was crazy.  Even I started to wonder.  It was just a dream, right?  It was an easy thing to doubt, after a while.  But now you’re here and everything has been confirmed.  I can’t even believe I ever had the ability to stop you, now.  History has already changed.  Don’t you get it?  Everything you knew and everything I knew doesn’t even matter anymore.  Now it’s exactly what it always was.  The goat didn’t die.  Care to guess what else is different?  I bet you can’t.  Not in a million years.”

He was right.  Before I left, I was a janitor, at this very high school.  The time machine was just another piece of equipment in the science lab.  Imagine that.  In a few short years revolutionary technology becomes the mundane.  Flying cars were the same way.  What do you expect?

I knew immediately that I wasn’t a janitor anymore.  I had swapped fates with Charlie.  Completely.  I can name all my crummy movies now.  And waiting for me when I got back?  Charlie the janitor.  All because a goat lived?  I’m not here to explain that.

The thing is, I felt most bad about Vinnie, the other kid, the real victim, the one I never saw coming.  (Heh.)  The moment I hopped out of the time machine again, barely remembering having actually saved the goat, I wanted to find out whatever happened to him.  That was the only thing I cared about.  

Turns out Vinnie wrote a screenplay about this very incident.  Sat in development hell for years.  He never had a script produced.  This whole thing was so ridiculous, even Hollywood wanted nothing to do with it.  I’m really certain he hates me.