Tuesday, September 30, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 67: The Siblings

Leia always knew.

Growing up on Alderaan, her foster parents were completely upfront with her about who she was and where she'd come from, so that she knew Darth Vader's name was actually Anakin Skywalker.  In time, she understood the importance this information held for the cause of the Rebel Alliance.

As one of the major worlds in the Old Republic, Alderaan maintained a certain status even in the era of the Empire.  Leia's title of Princess didn't originate there but rather on Naboo, since she was the daughter of the late Queen Amidala, Vader's wife.  This gave Leia diplomatic immunity, at least for a while, and allowed her the chance to run what were called "mercy missions," until the grip of the Emperor closed, the Senate was dissolved, and the existence of the Death Star became public knowledge.

She had to act quickly, for Leia was aware that she had become expendable.  First, the plans for the Death Star had to be smuggled to the Rebellion, knowing full well that this would expose her activities once and for all for what they had always been.  She would become at best a prisoner, and at worst another of the executions that had become so commonplace.  There was one thing Leia knew that could save her, a lie, one so cunning that the Emperor himself would be convinced:

She created the existence of a brother.

Quietly, for years, since she was a little girl, Leia had become aware that she had access to the Force.  Without proper training, of course, her abilities could only go so far.  Consequently, she developed her mental powers first and best of all.  She learned that she could implant false visions, and that was exactly what she did.

Vader, her father, would be the easiest to fool.  Leia had been spirited away at the moment of her mother's death, Leia's own birth.  Her first awareness of the Force was when she discovered that she somehow still retained memories of her mother despite that fact, images she received in the womb of the emotional torment caused by her father's descent to the dark side.  The only part of Vader that retained any good was the continuing desire to believe his love for his wife could still overcome everything else he'd become.  His love for family, that is to say.

Vader didn't know about Leia, but he couldn't help noticing if someone bearing the name of Skywalker emerged on Tatooine, someone his Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi had been charged with protecting.  The bait he couldn't refuse.  He would try to reunite with his son, just as the Emperor would try and recruit the boy, to replace the man Kenobi had damaged beyond reasonable repair on the same fateful day of her birth.

It all went according to plan.  Leia recruited a freighter pilot who had a friend willing to play the part, someone who'd been living on Tatooine, become friends with Kenobi, who regrettably would have to be an unwitting pawn in what she had begun calling the sibling affair, perhaps even a sacrifice.  She didn't foresee falling in love with the impostor, however, much less the freighter pilot.

In the end, though, she discovered that like her father, love was her way out of the mess she'd created, something to hold onto.  And unlike her father, something to build on.

And yet, somehow she always knew.

Monday, September 29, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 66: Unfrozen

Half a moment's hesitation.  In that moment, Luke realizes Darth Vader is his father without having to be told.  It makes all the difference.

He ends up encased in carbon freeze.

They say the whole body, including the mind, is put to sleep in this state, but they lie.  The mind is constantly thinking.  Luke's thinks the whole time about what it means for Vader and Anakin Skywalker to, after all, been one and the same.  It means, for instance, that Old Ben lied to him.

He loses track of time, certainly.  It could be hours or days or weeks or years.  His friends could be dead any number of ways.  The vision he'd had back on Dagobah, the one that scared him so much, seemed like it strongly suggested them hurtling toward defeat in the fight against the Empire.  Growing up on a remote world like Tatooine, until the fateful day he chased a rogue droid across the desert, Luke had never considered which side should win.

When he is awake again, when he is struggling to regain his senses, he hears someone laugh.  It's a sound he's never heard before, or at least from a person he's never heard before.  But it feels familiar.  He also hears the distinctive breathing of his father.

The laughter goes away for a moment.  Luke stands up, turns in the direction that is now radiating silence.  "Good," a voice says.  "Now you are ready to take your place by my side."

"I'll never join you," he tries to say, but like everything else about him at the moment, his voice feels like it is still lagging behind.  For the first time in a long time he doesn't even feel the Force.

There's a loud clanging.  The disembodied voice is saying, "The Force is a gateway to many possibilities," almost as if the speaker had read Luke's thoughts.  He feels it surge within him again.  He doesn't know what to think.

"Unlimited power," the voice says, and suddenly Luke can see again, and it is the Emperor standing before him.  Beside them is the lifeless body of Darth Vader.

"Master Yoda told you many things, didn't he?  He wanted you to think there was nothing good about what I've done," the Emperor says.

"He told me enough," Luke says.  "He told me trying is not good enough."

"Not for a Sith lord."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 65: False Hope

A long time ago, Luke Skywalker was visited by an old man who wore a hood over his whole head.  This was not the hermit, Luke's friend, the one his uncle was constantly warning him to stay away from.  The old man was the Emperor, also known as Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, Sith lord.

The old man came with a proposition.  Luke listened.  His uncle's words echoed through his head all day long, and it was all he could do to at least entertain someone else's.  What the old man had to say was shocking.  Luke had heard about his father many times, from his uncle, from the hermit, but never had he seemed real, just a story with vague edges.  The old man told him much more than he'd ever dared imaginable.  Such as:

His father had been a great warrior.  His father had been a Jedi.  His father had made certain decisions in his life.  His father had been killed by the hermit.  His father would have wanted Luke to follow in his footsteps, complete what he had begun.

And what was that, exactly, Luke wanted to know.  It was the first time he spoke after listening to all that the old man had to say.

The old man obliged.  Luke's father was to have been the old man's successor.  The old man had, in fact, invested a lifetime into grooming him in that regard.  All that lost in an instant.  A pity, the old man said.

Luke asked another question.  What could he do?

The old man smiled.  He suggested that Luke seriously consider picking up where his father had left off.  How?  That was now Luke's third question.  The old man said it would be easy.

Luke began to wonder.  Should he, after all, trust this man?  Tatooine was a planet of broken dreams and unfulfilled promise, after all.  This could easily be more of everything he had ever known.  The known haunted Luke.

He said he'd only agree to it if the old man could convince his uncle that it was a good idea.  Not a problem, the old man said.  He said that he could be very persuasive.

Luke wanted to see what that looked like.  Anyone who could convince his uncle to do something he hadn't thought of doing himself would have managed enough magic to convince him to do anything.  He followed the old man home.  He didn't notice that the old man knew exactly where to go without being told.

Luke could sense the hermit in his head, begging him to reconsider.

His uncle relented without any fight at all.  He seemed to think it was a very good idea.  Next year, after the harvest.  Luke had heard that many times before.  It was his uncle's standard response to everything.  But this time it was different.

The old man went away.  Luke forgot the whole thing ever happened.

Time went on.  One day, he was haggling over the price of droids with some of the local Jawa merchants, and this began a chain of events.  Before he knew it, after a series of adventures that until that point would have been represented only in his wildest dreams, he unexpectedly came face-to-face with his father, and then the old man again.  The old man explained to him again that he wanted Luke to succeed him.  Luke had struggled with the revelation that his father had been alive all along.  There was a voice in his head, which sounded like the old man's, that explained that Luke's father had proven to be a disappointment.  Luke found him to be powerful indeed, and this was disappointment?

His father was a desperate man.  He forced the situation to escalate.  Luke struck his father down, but before he died, he murdered the old man, leaving Luke all alone.

Alone with a new calling.  He would succeed the old man after all.  He would become what he had promised him all those years ago, an agent of the Empire.  The last best hope of the Sith.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 64: Soldier of the Empire

When they were growing up, Luke and Biggs spent every spare moment together.  They were the best of friends.  On a world like Tatooine, friendship of this kind was essential.  As they grew older, they'd talk about nothing but leaving the dreary desert behind.  Luke's uncle made things difficult, though.  In time, they made peace with the fact they they wouldn't get to share the fulfillment of their dream.  Biggs went away to the Imperial Academy.  Luke promised to follow.  Who knew what the future would bring?

The Emperor did, as it happens.  The Emperor, also known as Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, the Sith master.  A man who could see the future, quite literally.

The Emperor foresaw the circumstances of his death, and determined that he would do everything in his considerable power to avoid it.  He knew Luke would be the cause, and although the boy also served as his last best hope to ensure the future of the Sith, he would be a necessary sacrifice.  After all, the Emperor had already lived a very long time, and if he could continue avoiding his death, he would always be around to keep the faith alive himself.

When he heard that Luke's childhood friend had enlisted into Imperial service, the Emperor decided that this man would be the agent of his would-be assassin's demise.

For once, he didn't take his new weapon under his own control.  He didn't need to.  Biggs Darklighter didn't have access to the Force.  Except for his unique ability to betray and murder Luke Skywalker, he was useless.

No, the Emperor had Biggs complete his training as a TIE fighter pilot, but also groomed for eventual promotion to the rank of officer.  In that capacity he would have access to high-level planning, and of course assignments, things the lowest levels of the Empire would never even dream of.

One day Biggs was given a deep-cover assignment.  He would pretend to defect to the Rebel Alliance, become a pilot of a different craft, what the Rebels called X-Wings.  As the Emperor knew would happen, the day came when Luke finally rejoined the side of his friend.  They became colleagues, both pilots of the same class of attack ships.

Biggs had become loyal indeed.  Afterwards, the Emperor often wondered why it'd been so easy for him to complete the assignment.  These were friends, perhaps, who had after all grown up very differently.  Privilege always breeds the potential for corruption, the same as poverty.  Perhaps that was it.  If the roles had been reversed, and it had been Biggs who stood to profit the Emperor in the ways of the Force, Luke would have been similarly suited to carry out the same assignment.

When the Rebel fleet made its assault on the Death Star, Luke and Biggs were among the last surviving pilots.

There was a moment when Luke actually saved Biggs's life.  If things had gone differently, Biggs would have died before having the chance to complete his assignment.  But things went according to plan.  The third remaining pilot, Wedge Antilles, was conveniently taken out of the equation when his ship was damaged.  He couldn't stay in formation any longer.  That left only Luke and Biggs.  Luke was given the task of hitting the target that would destroy the Death Star, which provided the necessary distraction.  He never saw it coming.

The Emperor wondered if he'd been right to worry about him after all.  Biggs was offered early retirement, which he took.  He returned to Tatooine, bought the old Skywalker homestead, and spent the rest of his days amassing a considerable fortune, which he one day spent on an old cargo vessel, the Millennium Falcon, which on the fateful day had arrived a moment too late to affect the outcome.  If any any point he'd ever felt regret, Biggs expressed it to no one.  He never had a good friend again, anyway...

Friday, September 26, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 63: It's a Trap!

On countless worlds news spreads of a new weapon.  It takes the shape of a space station but its power is that to destroy entire worlds.  It looks like a small moon.  It is called the Death Star.

It is an instrument of ultimate terror, the last most obvious sign of how corrupted the Galactic Empire has become, twenty years in the making.  Regional governors have been given direct control on these worlds with the dissolution of the Senate.  Panic is rampant.

Except the Death Star isn't real.  It's only a piece of propaganda.  Whether this is a figment conjured by the Empire itself or by the Rebel Alliance, no one knows, and truthfully, no one cares.

This is what it's come to.  Sensationalism.  In the earliest days, that was only possible when talking about the Jedi Knights.  In the days of the Old Republic, people used to talk about the Jedi in much the same way.  Yes, they were a force for good, but so few people actually saw the Jedi that for almost everyone they were all but a figment of the imagination, too.

And their kind disappeared forever at the dawn of the Empire.

Everyone feels the weight of the Empire groaning.  The Emperor himself is aging.  He is the latest of the great historic conquerors who never considered the matter of a successor.  When he dies there will be no one to replace him.  The Empire itself will collapse in his wake.  So the idea of the Death Star is born.  Again, it could be the Empire, creating this idea to give new heft to the crumbling infrastructure.  It could be the Rebellion to speed death along its way.

Does it matter?  It isn't real, and that's all you really need to know.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 62: Hope Springs Eternal

Luke Skywalker turns Darth Vader against the Emperor.  The Emperor is eliminated.  Vader dies.  The second Death Star is destroyed.  Across countless worlds, statues of the tyrannical regime are toppled.

And even after all that, they still lost.  The Rebellion failed.  The Empire endures.

It's inconceivable.  On Coruscant, which was once capitol of the Old Republic, a world that has long been famous for being one big city, a massive urban sprawl, a little girl is huddled in an alley, scared and alone and cold.  Her parents were executed as enemies of the states earlier this year.  She's listened to all the stories of the great heroes who were going to end the reign of the men responsible for making her an orphan.

Now everyone's calling the Rebels what the Empire has long labeled them: terrorists.

Luca is trying to decide if she still considers them heroes herself.  It's hard to make decisions like that on an empty stomach.  The only way she was able to survive the last few months was believing the heroes would succeed.  It was the secret hope of billions.  She hasn't slept in days.  She was told their final assault happened a month ago.  She knows all the names.  Everyone knows all the names.  But names are suddenly meaningless again.

The Empire survived.  Levels and levels of bureaucracy.  Only ideals end cruelly.  That's what she's been thinking.  She's had a long hard life and she's only eight years old.  She wonders if life will always be like this.  She allowed herself to believe in change, and now what?

There are people on this world who want Luca to accept change anyway, social workers who want her off the streets and in a new home.  She's resisted until now.  What other choice does she have?  Good things don't happen.  Life takes you wherever it wants you to go.  Free will is a myth.  If your only options are bad, what's the use of making choices at all?

There are angry voices accompanying the demonstrations that persist, the demonstrations that began as soon as the Stormtroopers landed in the wake of the celebrations.  Many more lives have been lost.  Wasted.  Luca coughs.  She's been doing that a lot, too.

She had a friend until recently, someone to share her misery with, but she died.  Luca doesn't know what caused it, but that's just another of her concerns, if she'll die of it, too.  She understands the galaxy has a lot of wonders, a lot of cures.  She doesn't believe in those, either.  She's starting to wonder if she should even bother with her worries.  What's the point?

Then, something happens.  Normally she's distracted by her thoughts, by the feet that swarm all over the place, by the speeders that flit constantly through the dark skies.  But this is no ordinary moment.  She's losing all hope.  And then she sees it.

For the first time, Luca sees life that isn't humanoid.  It's what she once was told about by her parents.  What was the term her father used, ...wildlife?  How does something like that even survive on Coruscant?

It's a...bird.  Yes.  It's flying, like the speeders, but it's nothing like the speeders.  It's graceful.  She realizes her mouth is hanging open.  She closes it.  Her eyes remain wide with wonder.

She's following it as best she can, but it's soaring so fast.  She loses sight of it for a moment, and then spots it again.  She finds the strength to stand up for the first time today.  It seems like she hasn't moved in months.  Her legs are stiff.  She doesn't feel like a bird at all.  But she doesn't care.  The bird fascinates her.

She wonders if she can find where it rests, when it isn't in the air.  It can't stay there forever, right?  And there it goes!  Touching down as if on cue, hopping along a little.  She's never seen anything like it.

It looks, actually, a little like hope.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 61: Brothers

"You were my brother, Anakin.  I loved you!

"We were going to change everything!  Don't you see?  I believed in you!  I trusted you!  That was why I left Tatooine all those years ago, because we agreed, because you were going to follow me, because we were going to do it together, save the galaxy!  Save the Jedi!  Save each other!

"That isn't going to happen now, is it?  You betrayed me!  What else is there left to say?"

Monday, September 22, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 60: No Days Later

One Stormtrooper says to another, "Hey, did you hear about Darth Vader?"

The other replies, "What, you believe in that myth?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean he doesn't exist.  Vader isn't real.  He's just a bogeyman people far above our pay grade made up.  Imperial propaganda."

"Impossible!" the first Stormtrooper says.

"Hey, believe in fairy tales if you want," the second one says.  "I'm telling you, do the research.  Ask around.  You'll come around to the truth."

"You're bullshitting me," the first one says.

"Let me guess," the second one says, "the big bad Darth Vader was one of the selling points for you when you originally signed up for this gig.  Growing up, you heard about all the great adventures he went on, the victories, the powers, the ruthlessness, the energy blade."


"Of course," the second one says.  "Exactly.  A long time ago, two Jedi, when there still were Jedi, fought each other.  One killed the other.  The victim was being groomed as the right-hand man of the Emperor.  Stands to reason that anyone picked for such an honor was hard to forget.  So he was kept alive, figuratively speaking.  Oh, the costume is real.  I'm friends with three people that I know of who got to wear it.  That's not even how I know the truth about him.  You recruits.  You'll believe anything.  But I guess that's how it's got to be."

"...But did you hear about his latest adventure?"


Thursday, September 18, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 59: Kenobi's Sacrifice

They're all watching, Luke Skywalker, the Stormtroopers, everyone.  Darth Vader battles Obi-Wan Kenobi.  It's a moment from another lifetime.  Kenobi seems to realize that it's not even about him, but a chance for his young charge to escape along with his friends from the Death Star and bring the stolen plans for the weapon to the Rebel Alliance, who will use it to achieve the first of a series of victories that ultimately bring about the end of the Galactic Empire.  He stops fighting.  He holds his lightsaber nobly in front of himself, and allows Vader to strike the killing blow.  "You may strike me down, but I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

Except it never happened.  Why would Kenobi put himself in such a position?  So pointless, considering the Imperial forces actually allow the Rebels to escape, an entire orchestrated but toothless pursuit through the halls of the space station leading to such a dramatic display of heroic sacrifice?

Here's how things really went:

After the Millennium Falcon is brought aboard the Death Star and Han Solo helps everyone aboard evade immediate detection, Kenobi makes the decision to deactivate the troublesome tractor beam himself while Solo and Skywalker rescue the captive Princess Leia.  That's what he says he's going to do, but it's completely unnecessary.  Elsewhere, Vader and Governor Tarkin have already instructed their troops to ignore the interlopers.  They're insignificant, falling into a trap.  What Kenobi instead does is leave the station in a different ship, a TIE fighter he hijacks as a survey mission departs to examine the remnants of Alderaan.

He has no reason to confront Vader.  A long time ago, they fought each other already, and then the Empire won the war and he was the last of the Jedi, along with Yoda, and they both went into exile.  Neither of them could defeat the Sith.  That was how Vader came into existence, in the face of failure.  Kenobi had won that fight and they still lost.  All that was left for him to do was watch over the son of Vader, Luke Skywalker, ensure that the Emperor's obvious plan of fulfilling the prophecy of bringing balance to the Force would play out, whether it meant Vader or his son ending the conflict between the Jedi and the Sith once and for all.  Finally, only one side would be left standing.  And it would be the Sith.  Father would kill son, son kill the father.  It didn't matter.  Only the Emperor, also known as Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, would survive.

He would forever consider himself a coward, but Kenobi didn't have to die in a pointless duel with Vader for any of that to happen.  He believes Skywalker will prove the Emperor wrong.  He will make sure that Yoda finally steps in and train Skywalker.  Kenobi's mentor Qui-Gon Jinn had learned how to project himself after death by way of the Force back among the living.  Kenobi could have done so himself, but what would have been the point?

No, he's there to watch things play out.  He comes back.  First he helps Skywalker and Solo blow up the station, betrays Vader as they pursue Skywalker down the trench.  Then he finally comes clean and tells Skywalker everything.  He makes Yoda do the same.  All their sins revealed.  That was what the Jedi needed to finally defeat the Sith.  Cleanse the darkness.  Yoda dies of old age.  Kenobi lives on, watches as someone else becomes the hero he could never be.  His sacrifice is to live, not die.  In time, his name is completely forgotten.  It's happened to him before.  He retires, again.  An old man in the desert.  Perhaps, one day, he'll be needed again...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 58: Kenobi's Job

He nods at Sifo Dyas as they pass each other in the corridor.  At this stage in his training to become a Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi is lucky to see a colleague as distinguished as him.  Qui-Gon is always careful to keep Obi-Wan by his side.  When he has moments to himself, the padawan has to spend it reporting to his other mentor, Darth Sidious.  The way he understands it, he's not the only one.  He's just gotten his first proof of that.  The nod will be the only acknowledgment the moment ever happened.

The Sith lord is, if anything, less demanding than Qui-Gon.  He asks only that Obi-Wan report in when he can, to study the Dark Side in theory if not in practice, and to keep his ears open.  Qui-Gon was the ideal Jedi master to learn under, the Sith lord is always telling him, someone who doesn't toe the line the way Yoda or Mace Windu would expect or indeed represent.  Qui-Gon questions everything.  And he talks about things like the Prophecy all the time.

Obi-Wan doesn't know and doesn't care to know anything more about the Sith lord than what he sees in front of him.  If the Sith lord has another identity then so be it.  Let the Force be with him and leave it at that.  The padawan minds his own council, exactly as Master Yoda is always saying.  He's also patient to a fault, as even the thoughtful Qui-Gon reminds him constantly.

The darkened chamber is as it always is.  He walks in casually.  The Sith lord is working on something or other.  Another polite nod is exchanged.  That's how it sometimes is.  Sometimes he must listen to a lecture and sometimes nothing at all.  Really, there's no reason at all for him to come.  He already knows what's in store for him; the Sith lord shared his vision of the future at the start of their relationship.  He knows Qui-Gon is right about the Prophecy, and he knows what role he'll play.  He will have to guide two generations of a single, brilliant family, watch as they struggle against their fates.

Already, the weariness has crept into his eyes.  But he will endure.  That's Obi-Wan's job.

Monday, September 15, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 57: The Good Man Palpatine

It was a sacrifice Yoda asked Palpatine to make a long time ago.

When they were young, when the Republic was young, when the prophecy was first made, when the Sith menace was still a public one, Yoda and Palpatine recognized that once defeated the Sith could never again be allowed to challenge the Jedi in that way again.  Those were dark times.

The fall of Darth Plagueis was engineered by the two of them.  Palpatine was to act as the Sith lord's apprentice.  In this capacity, he betrayed and murdered the last of the great practitioners of the Dark Side of the Force.  To prevent it from rising again, Palpatine was to assume the role of the Sith master, carefully cultivating for a thousand years generations of successors until the day the prophecy was to be fulfilled, a day both he and Yoda dreaded.  They knew what must happen.  They knew it would be the end of the Force as it had been practiced since sentient life first discovered its existence.  It was not the loss of knowledge or tradition they feared, but the sacrifice that would be necessary, certainly Palpatine's but Yoda's as well.  They were, in the end, friends first and foremost.  Eventually, they would both have to die, one not living to see the day of victory and the other to die on that day as its hidden symbol.

The last time they directly collaborated was in the life of Count Dooku, who served as apprentice to both of them.  Dooku was the catalyst for the creation of the last of the Sith, a role both Yoda and Palpatine were reluctant to place as a burden on someone else.  It was Palpatine, finally, who insisted the plan reach its fulfillment, who reassured his two friends that he would accept what must be done, in the end, on his own.

In his final moments, Palpatine saw his life flash before his eyes, even before death came for him at last.  It was old magic, something he'd picked up from his long tenure studying Sith lore.  No one was left to mourn him.  He would die the villain.  But it would be worth it.  Finally victory was attained.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 56: Sand in the Hour Glass

A long time ago, the cloners of Kamino came to Tatooine.  This was before Jango Fett, you understand.

Before anything is perfected...it isn't.  Do you understand this?  It's natural.  It's normal.  It's a necessary evil.  But sometimes, true evil can arise from such trial and error.  This is what happened on Tatooine.

The cloners realized they'd lost control too late.  The results of their experimenting broke loose from the lab.  Some say it was a couple of Jawas who broke into the lab who caused the tragedy, others that the Jawas became involved later.  It makes no difference.

A man named Lars was the first victim.  They were vicious, obvious mistakes.  No one knows what went wrong.  All of the cloners who were involved in the testing were slaughtered.  After a series of barbarous raids, a name was given to the subjects for the first time.  As time wore on, given the limits of civilization on Tatooine, the subjects settled down, in their own way.  They earned another name.

The Lars family never forgot.  One day Cliegg Lars, who had taken as a bride a slave he personally liberated, lost her in another of the raids.  The woman's son was visiting Tatooine.  Cliegg told him everything he knew about what had happened, and watched as the son went off with fire in his eyes.  Cliegg smiled.  The Sand People would finally experience what they'd done to others for countless years.

No cloners ever came back.  There are some who wonder, do you blame the victims even when you have a hard time admitting who they are?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 55: Threepio the Father

Shmi is looking at her son as he works on the protocol droid, the one he keeps insisting will "fix everything."  She's frowning.

"Ani, stop and rest for a moment."  She has a plate of Ani's favorite noodles in her hands.  Her hands are shaking.

The boy doesn't listen.  He's always listening, and he's a good boy, but he's lost in a world of his own.  She's conceded that point.  The noodles are starting to stick together.

The protocol droid, it should be said, is coming along nicely.  It's not the droid she objects to.  Any help is more than welcome, and she appreciates that Ani spends so much time trying to improve their lives.

The thing is, the boy didn't start from scratch.

One day, Watto had a client meet her, and it was Ani who recognized the potential of the gadgetry he wanted repaired.  Usually they would never even dream of imposing on Watto or his clients.  But the boy insisted.  Even Watto gives in to him when he gets like that.

Whatever the client needed the gadgetry for ("gadgetry" is all she can ever bring herself to call it), Ani made it do something else.  By instinct.  Like usual.  Without even thinking about it.  That's what she tells herself, anyway.

Before she knew it, the droid was coming together.  It was even talking.  That was the most startling thing about the whole process.  Hearing the voice again.

She doubts Ani remembers the voice at all.  Certainly, the droid possesses no memory.  If it had, she would never have agreed to this in the first place.  She still has no idea why she did at all.

"Oh my!"

He used to say that all the time.  He was such an excitable man.  Maybe because like his son, he'd seen a vision of the future.

She prefers not to think that way, but every now and then, she can't help it.  She misses him.  She's begun pretending he never existed.  The droid is just a droid.  The boy will forget.  Everyone will forget.

And one day, she will forget, too.

The noodles in the plate probably need to be thrown out.  It's always like that.  The boy forgets.  She takes the plate away and washes it clean.  And then gets back to work.

"I love you," she whispers.  "I miss you."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 54: Threepio the Wizard

Luke has just returned from purchasing several new droids from the Jawas.  Along with everything else he has to do on Tatooine, with his uncle, he hated every minute of it.  They tried to sell Luke and Uncle Owen a defective unit, of course.  Thankfully the protocol droid pointed out a useful alternative right away, and there still doesn't seem much of a problem with that one.  Until, that is, it plays the loop of the kidnapped princess and refuses the play the whole thing, and then wanders off and...Well, thank goodness the protocol droid is functioning smoothly.  Oddly eccentric, but not causing any problems.  More useful than most.

As Luke takes...what was its name, C-3PO?...along with him, he's already forgetting the protocol droid was ever significant at all.  Now it's just becoming irritating, and this will probably not change except for the worse.  A migraine.  Luke's getting a migraine.  He doesn't know which of the units to blame.

Soon, improbably, Luke's ended up at the doorstep of Old Ben, where he's spent almost as many hours as the ones with his friends and probably more than the ones he's logged in on the moisture farm.  He's not guilty about that at all.  Old Ben turns out to be the Obi-Wan the kidnapped princess was addressing in her loop.  He may not be the crazy old hermit he seems after all!  Life is full of surprises.

Luke's aged friend is telling him once again about his birth father, the one Uncle Owen constantly dismisses and belittles, the one Luke never met.  Old Ben, or whoever he is, says Luke's father was betrayed and...murdered by the Imperial military figure Darth Vader.  Luke looks around bewilderedly.  He's putting that protocol droid back together after it was busted up in the Sand People attack they narrowly escaped thanks to Old Ben.

Now they're rushing off.  Luke's realizing that things are going to be changing rapidly.  He's becoming lost in his own dreams, which are suddenly becoming reality!  The last thing he cares about is whatever the protocol droid is babbling.  That's become routine at this point.

But Threepio has something important to say, something Luke really ought to hear:

"My construction took so long, even my own mother forgot what was happening.  My body was destroyed, and I was remade.  I was reshaped in the form of a droid I'd once made myself.  That's probably why my mother became so confused.  I'm afraid this is all too easy to understand.  The story of our lives can seem like it's one thing for the longest time, and when it changes, it can be hard to accept that things aren't the same anymore.  I don't know who this Vader person is, but I hope you're not planning to go after him.  Master Luke, I am your father.  Do you hear me?  Oh dear.  Here we go again!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 53: Jabba the Hero

Sometimes perspective can blind you to the truth.  Take Jabba the Hutt, for example.  He's really not such a bad guy once you get to know him, remove all the distractions.

On the desert world of Tatooine, he's one of many of his kind, a middle manager, constantly fighting the interference and misconceptions of others.  Hutts are generally known as gangsters, but that's only because they keep to themselves, have nothing to do with the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance or any other of the many special interests that flit about the stars.  Jabba is a cog in the machine, a part of a business that's much bigger than him, that doesn't particularly care about him, those who work under him, any of that, just so long as at the end of the day, it's business as usual, profits are up, and the clients are happy.

It's a stressful position and he gets little to no sympathy.  He's always got someone angry at him, and he doesn't get to spend enough time with the kids.

And on top of all that, he's got aspirations, and what's more, he's trying to make things better.  He's got all kinds of resistance to those efforts, but he doesn't give up.  He has precious little to work with that is of any value, but he can only use what he has available to him.  One day, a contractor named Han Solo dumps a whole cargo load and goes on the run.  He actually hides in plain sight, right here on Tatooine.  He doesn't seem to think he's done anything wrong!  Yet as far as Jabba's concerned, he's done everything wrong.  No one wants the attention of the Empire.  The Hutts have about as much autonomy as possible, and the Empire has no reason to even care about Hutt business, but when someone like Han makes innocent, legitimate business look like the smuggling he in fact does on the side, what else is Jabba supposed to do but address the situation for what it is, an employee who needs to be handled and probably even terminated?

Unfortunately, other employees aren't much better.  Greedo, for instance, interprets the term "terminated" much differently than Jabba.  This only complicates matters.  All Jabba wants is to quickly resolve one tiny problem.  In his best days Han Solo was the best, but those days are long gone.  He's gotten careless.  Jabba doesn't need the headache.  What he needs are his shipments going where they're supposed to, because he's working toward a goal.  He wants to see other worlds have the same luxury as Tatooine, freedom from the tyranny of intergalactic meddling.  Free to rule themselves.  He knows things aren't perfect here, but they're better than on other worlds.  In his youth, Jabba visited a lot of them.  He was shocked at what he found.  He couldn't return home fast enough!

In a lot of ways, he's no different from the Rebellion, but he's also not a hypocrite.  He's not looking to resurrect the Republic, a system easily corrupted as anyone can see.  He sees value in large structures, continuity, familiarity, comfort.  But he also sees that giving too much away is always a bad thing.  Maybe even he's warped a little, but he's trying, he really is.

Enough of the nonsense.  Enough of delusions of grandeur.  Enough even of bounty hunters!  He'll reach that point.  Use Han Solo as an example.  He hates to stoop to that level, but there are so many expectations, and he can only replace them gradually.  If he can just make it a few years longer, regardless of how many obstructions he sees building up around his efforts, he'll make it.  He'll make everything better.

Jabba will be the hero.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 52: The Sith Myth

Isn't it a tad...convenient that we only know of the existence of the Sith because the Jedi told us?  Keeps the Jedi looking pure if everything that happened was because of some mysterious bogeymen of small numbers who just happened to have been able to manipulate the course of countless worlds.

I'm just saying.

Well, I'm also saying that...the Sith probably didn't really exist.  Think about it.  According to the Jedi, the Sith put one of their own into the role of Chancellor of the Republic, and within a short period of time this man, practically single-handedly mind you, transformed the Republic into the Empire and wiped out the entire Jedi Order.  When you think about it, it's ridiculous, entirely too simplistic.  Those who lived under the shadow of the Empire knew nothing about the Jedi or the Sith until people started claiming a lone Jedi had emerged to finally end that little internal conflict, or whatever you want to call it, the thing that was beneath the surface of what everyone else experienced...

I don't know.  I mean, really?  This guy shows up and not only claims that he's basically responsible for the fall of the Empire, but in order to achieve this great, historic victory, he had to not only defeat the secret Sith manipulator who he claimed was ruling the Empire, but convert his own father back to the side of the Jedi...

It sounds...stupid.

I have no doubt that the Jedi existed.  They exist now.  You can't just manufacture legend that quickly.  Plenty of evidence spontaneously appeared throughout the galaxy, artifacts of an earlier age, confirming they once served the cause of justice, once the Emperor was overthrown.  What I'm saying is, chances are much greater that they stopped being so noble, and were themselves the cause of the dramatic shift in political circumstances over the last few decades.

Call me a conspiracy nut if you want, but that's the only conclusion I can reach.  Politicians will be politicians.  They hardly need some secret society of evil powers to achieve their goals.  Their constituents are more than willing to go along with policies that go against their own interests, and their colleagues are more than willing to play along.  Whatever works at the time, whatever makes the immediate future look good.

The Jedi, though, what excuse do they have?  As far as I can tell, they did have great powers, something no one else had.  Regardless of their numbers, I find it difficult to believe that they could have been toppled from their perch easily.  More likely, they tore themselves apart.  The best of them walked away, and the rest didn't matter anymore anyway.

This guy who we keep hearing about, I doubt he has any real connections to the Jedi of the past, just someone who randomly came into the same kind of powers and realized he could make a name for himself in a time when those powers didn't exist anymore, when the rest of the people who wanted to call themselves heroes were struggling to enact massive reforms and overturn a reign of tyranny that was fast spinning out of control.  (I mean, you have  heard about the so-called "Death Star," haven't you?  Did you hear that there were two of them?)

But who's going to be able to confirm any of this nonsense?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 51: Jedi Fool

A man and his son are walking along.  The son is distracted, as all boys are, and the father is trying to capture his attention, as all fathers do.

"Did I ever tell you about the Jedi?" he asks.

The boy nods.  He's heard all his father's stories a million times.

"Well, this time will be different," the father says.  "This time, I tell you the truth."

The boy actually perks his head, curious.  Is it possible?  Will his father surprise him for a change?

"A long time ago," the father begins, "in a galaxy far, far away," which is not strictly true, but by the time he's done speaking, his son might certainly hope so, "the Jedi were the scourge of many worlds.  It's true!  They spread their numbers and their tyranny with impunity.  The Old Republic struggled for years to curtail them.  There had been a time when the Jedi were trusted, but that lasted long enough for the first of them to reveal their true nature.  It's important for me to note that the Sith were worse, mind you, not that it particularly matters.  They were competing tribes of notoriety, is all.  One day it was predicted that justice would be brought to the Jedi.  Naturally the Jedi themselves suppressed this prophecy for as long as they could, until it was no longer possible, until it came time to be fulfilled.  The Jedi savior destroyed both tribes.  What else would you expect?  That's what happened.  We've been free of their menace ever since."

"Daddy?" the boy asks after a while.

"Yes, son?"

"Is it okay if I still think of one or two of them as heroes?"

"Of course."