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Abruptly, he felt a presence approach in a black Advanced TIE fighter. Anger simmered in his mind. In the end, Starkiller did the only thing he was good at: Vader swerved to avoid the first, but as a result, the second shot grazed his right wing. Starkiller could hear voices in the comlink, frantically asking for an update, but he put them out of his mind, treated them like background noise. He did not give Vader an opportunity to regroup or transfer power to shield that piece of his ship, and exploited the vulnerability for all it was worth.

Maybe that was why there were so many of them — low quality enabled cheap cost, which lead to mass production. After all, the Empire did not care how many people died as long as they won. Vader began to spiral out of control. Starkiller considered briefly going after Vader, but his comlink cracked again and his priorities changed. Starkiller turned into the comm conversaiton again. Starkiller scanned the area, but could not see Luke anywhere. Presumably, he had already moved deeper into the trench. Suddenly, the ship shook as waves of energy emitted from the ship.

Either the Death Star had a serious radiation leakage problem, or—.

As soon as Luke had landed, everybody raced to embrace him and congratulate him on his achievement. Luke, for his part, seemed to still be in shock, athough he told the engineering personnel to repair Artoo. He gave up that right when he chose the Emperor over his wife and brother. The victory party was slowly dwindling down and people were slowly trickling out, heading towards their respective beds. Obi-Wan was the last person to leave the common space aboard Home One , although Starkiller knew for certain that Solo and Chewbacca had nicked an unopened bottle of Corellian brandy earlier, and were set on finishing it off at the Millennium Falcon, which was currently docked in one of the bays.

It was one of those nights. He could practically feel that if he fell asleep, his night would be plagued by nightmares and painful memories, so he decided pre-emptively to skip on that experience.

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Instead, he opted for working on his sketches on more efficient prosthetics, and went to the kitchen for a mug of caf. As he entered the kitchen, however, he was greeted to the sight of Leia sitting at the kitchen table, her face in her hands, her elbows on the table. She was shaking every-so-often. She did not react to his entrance, and he wondered whether she was even aware of his presence. Starkiller stared at her for a moment, then walked up to her and put his right hand on her shoulder.

She startled, her head jerking up in shock. Starkiller could see that her eyes were blood-shot and that her cheeks glistened in that way that usually implied that tears were involved. Before he could take a closer look, Leia wiped away the wetness on her cheeks in a futile attempt to conceal her feelings.

Starkiller tried to catch her eyes. How are you doing? He sat down next to her and sighed. There were simply too many casualties to consider them a victory, no matter what the official report said. She stared at him with desperate eyes, wanting to ask for comfort but her pride stopping her from begging for it. Well, thought Starkiller, that had to be remedied. He wrapped his arms around her and simply held her. She was stiff in his embrace for a few seconds, but eventually relaxed, slowly falling apart emotionally.

Starkiller could feel the stress and the burdens of the last few weeks — no, years , because this was clearly something Leia pushed down and tried to run away from for a very long time — slowly cascading off of her in waves. He held her there, simply comforting her with his presence until finally, the sobbing died down. Leia still shook from the aftermath of the crying and her eyes still red from the tears, but the worst seemed to be over — for now.

Starkiller had no doubt this would become a recurring issue. He resolved to watch over Leia and to be there for her during her future breakdowns. Eventually, she looked up at him but did not say anything for a long time. You tried to prevent it, and it did not work. There is nothing more you could have done. Leia shook her head. Maybe I could have somehow prevented it. He shushed her before she could wind herself up into a frenzy again. It is not your fault Alderaan has been destroyed. If you want to blame anyone, blame Tarkin. He was the one who ordered the strike, even when you gave in to his demands.

Tarkin bears responsibility for this, not you. Starkiller flinched imperceptibly; Leia did not notice, too caught up with her tirade. How dare he parade around the galaxy like he owns it? That is simply pathetic. I know that you blame Vader, and while he has committed some truly unforgivable crimes, right now, you need to center yourself before you do something rash. But it does not change the fact that you should not have had to go through this at your age, you should have had a childhood and a chance to enjoy your innocence before being forced to confront the unfairness of the outside world.

They hunt down everybody who so much as steps a toe out of line. As long as the Empire exists, nobody can live in safety. I myself once lost a person very dear to me, and I acted very rashly and took revenge on the people that caused her death. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say, I did terrible things to them, and I regret my actions deeply. I do not want you to ever feel that way. So what I am trying to say is that, and I cannot believe I am saying this, you need to let your hate go. Remember your people; honour their memories; use your anger to drive you forward, but never let your emotions overwhelm you.

Leia took a deep breath. Well, I didn't expect you to. Think about it, though: Most of the time, Luke Skywalker acted with the maturity of a person many times his age. He was a responsible and levelheaded individual, and had already made Commander in the Rebel Alliance, though he'd been there for just less than half a year. Other days, Luke would act like the child he never really got to be. Today was one of those days. Can you imagine it? Leia yawned in an attempt to wake up. She cursed Luke in six different languages in her head before remembering that he had probably never seen snow before, what with living on a desert planet.

She softened at the thought. Leia herself had seen snow plenty of times; Alderaan was — before it was annihilated, she thought bitterly — a planet of varying climate, and she had experienced a plethora of weather growing up. Luke had probably also awoken the rest of their friends, if his enthusiasm was anything to go by. Five minutes later, when she finally found her morning robe and had gone down to the living area that she and Luke shared with Obi-Wan, Han, Aaron, and Mel'ani, she was proven right.

Obi-Wan was dressed in full Jedi attire, watching everybody else, amusement evident in his eyes. He seemed to have already been up and dressed when Luke barged into his room — it was probably a Jedi thing, Leia mused. Han was wearing only shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, muttering something about 'damned kids not letting him sleep, why wasn't Chewie here, this was kriffin' awful', earning him a sharp look from both Aaron and Obi-Wan.

Aaron and Mel'ani, for their part, were in their sleeping clothes, both desperately trying to stay awake whilst Luke was handing out gifts to everybody, a grin adorning his face. Did anyone celebrate a holiday synonymous with snow on a planet where most of its denizens had, in all probability, never seen snow? She resolved to ask Luke later. Han, Aaron, and Mel'ani were each nursing a mug of caf, while Obi-Wan was drinking tea — Leia didn't know how he could stand to drink it in the morning.

She seemed to share that trait with Aaron, who was blinking at Luke, seeing without really taking anything in. It snows during winter. He accidentally tripped on a caf table and toppled some datapads covered with doodles. One of them showed Darth Vader in a tutu, while another featured the Emperor catching butterflies with a net, a determined expression on his face.

Luke stared at the datapads, too shocked to comment on their content, which gave Leia enough time to hurriedly collect the datapads and hide them before someone else saw her caricatures. She should probably erase those. A few sketches would hardly inflame her further. She needed at least three mugs of caf before she could even begin to function like a human being. He had managed to convince everyone to help him build a snowman, before Leia, sufficiently awake by then, started a snowball fight which lasted for the better part of the hour. After that, the five of them had retreated back inside, where Obi-Wan and Leia had made hot cocoa for everyone Han hadn't initially wanted to drink it, but Leia pressed a mug into his hand with an insistence she normally reserved for idiotic politicians.

You do the same, agreed? His dominant hand, to boot. As far as father-son meetings went, the only way it could have gone worse would be if Vader had actually succeeded in capturing Luke. Back then, it was a temporary sadness, quickly overshadowed by his natural, buoyant personality, but after Bespin— it seemed that whatever had happened during his encounter with Vader, whatever Vader had told him, had changed him forever. Ever since he had joined the Rebellion, he had quickly become the heart of it, the personification of the hope that filled all their hearts.

Vader had extinguished that hope, and Leia could never forgive him for that. She found Obi-Wan in the main area. It was an odd look on a Jedi, Leia decided. Obi-Wan sighed, opening his eyes. Leia let out a relieved sigh. It reminded him of a Padawan, so very long ago, who used to do the same. Obi-Wan frowned, then tilted his head in consideration as an idea occurred to him.


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Perhaps Luke will be more responsive to them? If he could help Luke in a way that, if what Obi-Wan suspected happened on Bespin did happen, neither Leia nor Obi-Wan could, then all the better for it. Although he had done the right thing at the time, he also understood that Luke might not see it that way.

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will...”

In every scenario but this one, it would have been a good thing that Luke had a father figure, but in this particular instance, it was actually a drawback. While he still missed his wife something terrible, he was no longer stifled by grief and, above all, guilt.

He was making progress. It was a slow process, but he was making progress. The entourage waiting for them was… not the one they had expected; Luke and Han were missing. Aaron frowned as he approached Leia. How have you been? What else could have happened? It seemed that Luke had inherited the Skywalker perchant for trouble. Luke started at the voice. Leia and Ben had, for the past two days, tried to get him to open up, even going as far as using the help of the droids, but for the past several hours, nobody had tried approaching the door.

He had taken to trying to meditate, using the techniques Ben and Master Yoda had taught him, but all of his attempts had been futile so far. He was grateful for the respite, especially since Aaron was the only person that he could maybe — possibly — talk to about this. He stood up and, in three quick steps, found the keypad locking the door, and keyed in the code that would unlock it.

The door swished open, revealing Aaron Starkiller, still wearing his travel cloak. Luke stepped aside wordlessly, which was a clear enough message for Aaron. The older man entered the room, twirling around to take in the entire room. Seeing as this was a relatively new base, this room was new as well. Luke waited for Aaron to settled down before sitting down a distance away. At this point, he has probably sold him to Jabba. He told Aaron about the attack on Echo Base, about how Ben had ordered him to go to the Dagobah system to meet Master Yoda — Aaron frowned at that point, but remained silent — and about how Yoda had eventually taken him under his wing.

In a shaky voice, Luke recalled the vision of his friends being tortured by Vader, and about how he had launched a rescue attempt, only to realize that it was all a trap set by Vader to capture him. He skimmed over their duel, before gathering courage and admitting the fact that had been plaguing him since Bespin. It was the first time he had said it out loud, and it felt oddly freeing to have finally put it out there in the open.

Aaron nodded, something clicking in his mind. Blood is thicker than water, as the saying goes. Aaron rolled his eyes. Luke narrowed his eyes. I had a brother figure, but as a result of a series of stupid decisions on my part, I had lost him. Luke put his head in his hands and sighed, then dragged down his palms until they were cupping his nose instead. Aaron smiled as he stood up.

Here's to 20 more years!

You should remember your past, yes, but live in the present. He poked at his food in silence. Nobody had any response to that, although Leia still wore that determined expression on her face. He was thankful for his friends, and even more so towards Aaron for keeping his secret. Even Artoo contributed to the plan, pointing out fallacies the others had missed, although Threepio had been banned after he began fretting that the odds were stacked decidedly against them. In the end, they arrived at a four-stage plan, the first stage of which required them to talk to Lando Calrissian.

As it turned out, Lando harboured enough guilt about the whole affair that he agreed to help them before Chewbacca could even begin to threaten him. Still, they had to try all the possible options, even the ridiculous ones. The third step involved Leia, dressed as a bounty hunter, along with Chewbacca. Lando would then help all four of them escape.

Initially, Leia had suggested that Obi-Wan should go with Luke, but the idea was shot down, first by Luke, who felt that it would be a monumentally bad idea to send the only two surviving Jedi for a perilous mission, and then by Obi-Wan himself, who added that Aaron was more agile than he was, and, therefore, a better choice for this.

Luke and Leia stifled a smile while Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. As Force would have it, every single step of the plan had gone south faster than expected, or, indeed, even feasible. When Luke and Aaron went in, they knew, with a sense of grim determination, that everything rested on their shoulders. Luke then proceeded to use the Force to an extent which, had Anakin Skywalker done it twenty-odd years ago, would have brought about a lecture, courtesy of one Obi-Wan Kenobi, or, Force forbid, Master Windu. The two of them got as far as being presented before Jabba before the Hutt in question pressed a button, which caused the floor beneath them to disappear.

What the hell, Jabba. Aaron stifled a groan. This, of course, provided that they would be able to escape from this particular rancor. Luke nodded in understanding. Between the two of them, they took the rancor down surprisingly quickly. Though he tried to hide it, Aaron felt a sense of vindication as he sliced a leg off from the rancor, causing it to emit a pained sound.

It was moments like these that reminded him that, try as he might, he was still a user of the dark side of the Force as much as of the light. He would never be able to rid himself of it, not if he wanted to still have a connection to the Force — and he had once been subjected to a ysalamir, and knew exactly how it felt to be deprived of that essential part of himself; a few hours in close proximity to the ysalamiri had resulted in a loss of sense of self so absolute that it took him several weeks to recover.

He shuddered to imagine what a prolonged exposure would do to him. Aaron was willing to try to reconcile the two sides. Which brought him back to his current predicament. This was one such situation that, had he been using the Force, he would have drawn his energy from the dark side, albeit in a controlled fashion. Luke finally dealt the killing blow, looking unhappy at the fact, and the beast collapsed. This seemed to upset Jabba more than it probably should, and he ordered them to be thrown into a cell.

The problem was that Luke and Aaron still had their lightsabers, which meant that no guard dared to approach them. Aaron grinned as the guards seemed to all realize that at the same time, and began backing away to what they deemed a safe distance. Aaron exchanged a look with Luke. They then looked back up at Jabba.

His own Padawan, when she had been sixteen, could have beaten Luke in a fight. The masters of old must be rolling in their graves, Aaron thought gleefully. Aaron raised an eyebrow.

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Aaron was mildly proud of himself for constructing the droid to being able to convey emotions. Give us Han Solo, or die. While Jabba considered this, Aaron turned to at Luke. His son was staring at him with profound disapproval in his eyes, even bordering on disappointment. Jabba growled a third time. When Threepio spoke, his voice was filled with relief. It worked wonders on the Hutt, who grumbled in a low time. One of the guards fumbled with the key, dropping it once before he could fit it in the lock.

He turned it and jumped aside just as Aaron arrived at the door. The older man was leaning against the doorway of one of the cabins of the Millennium Falcon. Obi-Wan tilted his head in consideration. Aaron stared at Obi-Wan disbelievingly. Aaron narrowed his eyes. The great Obi-Wan Kenobi, jealous? You both need it. Han was still throwing angry looks at Lando, but agreed that a celebration was a good idea.

The word had spread, and by the evening, it seemed that half of the Rebel Fleet had decided to attend the party. Aaron was just about to leave when something in his peripheral vision caught his eye, a cloak swishing by, almost too quick to see. A moment passed before Mel'ani noticed that her companion was not following her. She whirled around to face him. Mel'ani looked at him in puzzlement, but did not question his decision or press him for answers. If something was wrong, she figured, Starkiller would tell her.

She shrugged and left the room to join the party. As soon as Mel'ani was out of earshot, Starkiller discretely crept closer to the door behind which Obi-Wan Kenobi was hiding. Aaron entered the room, drawing closer to the older man, at the same time also making sure that Obi-Wan noticed his presence.

There Kenobi was, curled up on his bed. His knees were drawn up to his chest, his arms were hugging his knees; his head was buried in his knees. It was an odd position for an old man — a Jedi Master no less — to be found in, but Aaron thought that, considering the circumstances, he deserved a little bit of leeway. Starkiller snorted in derision. At first, Starkiller thought that Obi-Wan would ignore him and return to being his miserable self.

Surprisingly enough, Obi-Wan actually looked up. His face was flushed, his eyes blood-shot, and his cheeks wet with newly shed tears. It would probably involve a pit of gundarks. Obi-Wan was touchy about those. His words finally seemed to get through to Obi-Wan. This is the way it must happen. The Jedi must die if the war is to end. The Jedi are turning us into something terrible. Why would that bother him now, of all times?

How could I not? He was my best friend! He was my brother in all but blood! I knew it, and yet I let him bait me into a duel. Then, as if that alone wasn't enough, I cut off three of his limbs and left him there to die in the lava. I still can't forgive myself for that.

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

Even now I don't understand how I could have helped him. How could I have prevented this from happening? Yes, his marriage to Senator Amidala was a breach of the Jedi Code, but I'd have never betrayed his trust had he said anything! I'd have helped him and supported him if he needed me! I think that's what hurts the most, actually. Not the fact that he turned, although that did hurt. It's not the fact that he killed thousands of Jedi in cold blood and all but eradicated the Jedi Order single-handedly.

Oh, it hurt , but what hurt me the most was the fact that he didn't trust me with his secrets, didn't trust me to choose him over the Jedi. He was my son, my brother, I loved him! I don't want to kill you, but I will if I must. What if I had been there for him when Palpatine tried to lure him over to the dark side? What if I had been just a little more observant, if I had somehow known something was going to happen? What if I had refused to apprehend Grievous? What if I had been the father he had always wished for?

Or the brother he deserved? Aaron had to do something before it was too late. Nothing, you hear me? Obi-Wan sniffed again, but at least he had stopped crying. That had to count for something, Aaron supposed. I wish I could have my little, reckless brother back Aaron squeezed his shoulders. They sat like that for what seemed like hours but was probably just a few minutes, before Obi-Wan pulled away. He seemed happier now, Starkiller noted with satisfaction, or at least slightly less sad.

His tears were also gone. Only his eyes, still red from all the crying, showed that he had been less than fine just a few moments ago. You're not perfect; no one is. I'm glad you told me. For a second, Aaron froze up. He then grinned back at Obi-Wan. He was an honourable person, loyal to people, not to principles. He could have been the most powerful Jedi to ever exist, had he not turned to the dark side.

Obi-Wan suddenly grinned, seemingly to himself. I think the fact that my mentor lied to me about the identity of my father, which led to my father cutting off my hand, does merit some anger. Hate leads to suffering. Starkiller looked up from the Dejarik game he was observing and caught Mel'ani's gaze. They had a silent conversation. Starkiller then went back to his game, and Mel'ani grinned at Obi-Wan. The question, therefore, is rather whether or not Yoda is a reliable source of information. In the background, Mel'ani suddenly had a coughing fit.

Leia patted her back. Mel'ani silently indicated that she was okay and turned her attention back to the ongoing conversation, which had continued despite her interruption. Luke turned back to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan pondered on this. He would have shrugged, but it was not a fitting action for an aged Jedi Master, so he settled for looking thoughtful.

It means that I don't know. Tell Master Yoda hi from me. Luke returned to the Dagobah system just in time to speak with Yoda one last time before the ancient Jedi Master laid down on his bed for his final rest. He longed to become one with the Force, he confessed; the burden of almost a millennia on his tiny yet sturdy shoulders had left its mark, and Yoda sought release.


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  6. In his typical cryptic fashion, Yoda stated that Luke had a sister, then refused to elaborate, instead giving him increasingly vague clues about her identity. Luke gritted his teeth. Sometimes, he hated being the patient one; had Han been in his place, he would have already thrown something at the Jedi Master, while Leia would have just punched—. Luke reconvened with the Rebel Fleet in the Atravis sector, chosen as a base primarily because its violent nature — hidden by the remains of a nebula were two gas giants orbiting each other and siphoning gas off form each other, as well as an unstable lava planet that was prone to periodic natural catastrophes, expelling large amounts of particles into the atmosphere — made performing scans of the area nearly impossible, providing perfect natural concealment from the Empire.

    There, he had discovered that some of Rebel spies had unearthed startling information: Chancellor Mothma had called for a general meeting later in the day. At the sight, he had paused, not wanting to disturb her, but he must have made more noise than he had thought because she looked up, giving him a beaming smile. And so Luke had described his trip. That's all he ever wished for. He didn't want to die in a battle, but peacefully after a fulfilling life. Besides, his spirit is still with us. When I said that his spirit is still with us, I meant that literally. The Jedi believe that whenever somebody dies, they are reunited with the Force.

    Their spirits are literally part of the Force all around us, and can still communicate with us on occasion. You're not the only one with the problem with letting go. Aaron has trouble letting go of people he loves as well. Murmurs arose among the assembly. The general consensus was that this was a suicide mission, and that only a fool would attempt it. In the ensuing silence, Leia looked up at Han, surprise changing to admiration in her face.

    Han glanced up at him. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. Everyone, as one, turned to look in that direction. Cheers then broke out. The crowd parted, revealing Luke at the top of the stairs. Leia moved to Luke, embracing him warmly. The rest of the group approached Luke as the assembly broke up. Now, I heard something about an excursion to Endor? Artoo beeped a singsong observation to Threepio. Luke was working on a back control panel as Han came in and took the pilot's seat.

    Chewie, in the seat next to him, looked like he was trying to figure out the Imperial controls. He growled in annoyance. Chewbacca growled another complaint but stepped aside, letting Aaron take his place. Aaron glanced at Han. Luke sat down next to Chewbacca, who, in turn, sat across from Obi-Wan. Leia came in from the hold, taking a seat behind Han. Aaron hit some switches. Han's glance stuck on something right outside the window: From behind him, Leia nudged him gently.

    Leia put a hand on Han's shoulder. Han snapped back to life. Starkiller, let's see what this piece of junk can do. Nobody had any reply to that. They watched the construction of the Death Star for another moment, studying the intricate flight pattern of the shuttles, transports, TIE fighters, and even a few Star Destroyers around the battle station, before catching a glimpse of the enormous Super Star Destroyer hovering just behind the Death Star. At that, Aaron crooned appreciatively. He then focused on the viewscreen.

    Han took a deep breath, counting to three, before exhaling. The shuttle was silent as its occupants listened anxiously for a response. Han rolled his eyes. There are a lot of command ships. I want a clear escape path should something go south. Luke suddenly flinched away from the viewscreen. No kid should look so exhausted by life — and Luke was still a kid, no matter what he said. I shouldn't have come.

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    Apr 15, Now, who was it that said something like that? Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. First assistant director Colin Fletcher does his best to talk the kids through the pivotal scene where Anakin is about to murder them.

    Not so Phantom Menacing after all. We do take after take. No reaction from the children. The atmosphere is growing tense. Time is Republic credits. Finally some bright spark has an idea. This sends the boy off kilter onto his back foot, before he runs away to hide behind the sanctity of his Jedi chair in absolute terror at monster Christensen.

    I confess that I jumped a little too. And I saw exactly that next Yoda quote when I realized how Star Wars props guys can be very protective of their goods — understandably enough, of course. I know that Anakin has his lightsaber for a certain scene. And so it stays shut away in the padlocked lightsaber chest of drawers. The prop guy comes running up to me with it and happily pops the saber in my hand.

    I pinch myself for good measure.