One decision can change a life, but some decisions can change Galaxies.
After the jump is a Star Wars fan fiction piece set in an alternative universe where some things are familiar and others, very different.
It started as a thought experiment and a bit of fun. If you get through it, let me know what you think in the comments below. I'm interested to see if anybody can guess the decision that changed the Galaxy (I'm sure you're up to the challenge).
Leia had almost lost count of the days she had spent in this cell with nothing but her thoughts for company. Over and over again she asked herself the same questions: Had the old Jedi Master received her message? Would the plans to the Death Star work as intended?
Blaster fire in the corridor outside broke her from her reverie. Had the Alliance sent someone to rescue her? Perhaps even the last Jedi himself. She had almost given up hope.
With a whoosh, her cell door opened. Two Stormtroopers and a Wookiee burst in. Not what she had expected. The one in the lead whipped off his helmet. He was blonde, fresh-faced and young, possibly her own age. The older man was ruggedly handsome, she supposed, but he had the crooked smile and swagger of a pilot. Or a con artist.
The blonde man blurted, "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you."
"You're who?" Leia asked.
"This is Han Solo," Luke continued, indicating the one with the swagger, "And that's Chewbacca."
"Rrrraaarrrggghh!" groaned the Wookiee, she assumed by way of greeting.
Solo grabbed her by the hand and yanked her unceremoniously towards the doorway. "Come on Princess, we'll have time for introductions later."
The Wookiee was already back out in the corridor, roaring a deafening battle cry as he pinned down the Stormtroopers trying to prevent their escape.
Streaks of red heat sizzled past them, ricocheting off the solid metal walls, narrowly missing them. Above the noise, Leia shouted, "This is some rescue. You came in here, didn't you have a plan for getting out?"
Solo pointed at Luke before leaning out of cover and firing off another round. "He's the brains, sweetheart."
Luke smiled sheepishly.
He was the brains? These idiots were worse off than she thought. They had no chance once the 501st Legion arrived. It was up to her to buy some time. Leia wrestled the blaster from Solo's hands.
"Someone has to save our skins," she announced. Leia fired the blaster at the grill near her feet, making a hole just big enough for them to slip through.
"Into the garbage chute, flyboy."
* * * * *
Luke lay on his back coughing and spluttering, trying to wretch and suck the air back into his lungs at the same time. Luckily, his euphoria at being alive was enough to help him ignore that his mouth was full of fetid garbage water, though he had the feeling the taste would stay with him for a very long time.
The Princess knelt over him, concern evident on her face. Somehow she was composed and beautiful despite having just been almost crushed to death. Her hair was perfect and her white dress seemed impossibly clean. How did she do it?
As their eyes met, he felt a sensation he had never experienced before, like a jolt of electricity running through his entire body. He couldn't explain it, but Luke felt a connection to her, something deeper than simple attraction.
"So, what now?" she asked, helping him to his feet.
Han jogged back from the intersection he had been scouting. "We need to get back to my ship, the Falcon. She's fast enough to get us out of here."
"But what about the tractor beams?" Leia asked.
"My Master has gone to turn them off. They won't be a problem," Luke rasped as they began moving down the gleaming metal hallway.
"Well done back there," Leia said as Han and Chewie ran ahead. She paused briefly, her eyes thoughtful. "The Force is with you. You used it to hold the walls apart, didn't you?"
He could only nod, still too short on breath to answer.
"Impressive," she said admiringly. "Your Master has taught you well."
"Master Yoda is a great teacher."
Leia smiled. "So he got my message after all. We weren't sure if he still lived. I'm looking forward to meeting him."
* * * * *
With a grunt, Yoda pulled the lever down, switching off the tractor beam. Even with the Force sustaining him, guiding him, the effort of reaching the reactor core undetected had taken its toll. The ancient Jedi Master felt every single one of his 900 years.
Reaching under his frayed cloak with gnarled fingers, Yoda pulled the communicator off his belt and whispered into it. "Luke, there are you?"
A moment later, Luke's voice crackled through the speaker, difficult to hear over the sound of blaster fire. "I'm here, Master. We're making our way to the Falcon now. Are the tractor beams down?"
"Mmmm," Yoda said, leaning heavily on his walking stick as he hobbled towards the elevator. "Down they are. Leave now, you should."
Luke's reply was sharp, as Yoda had expected. "What? We're not leaving without you, Master."
The door closed in front of the old Jedi with a very final click. "Go on without me, you must. Confront once more the Emperor, I will. My destiny it is."
Even separated as they were by distance, unliving metal and countless living beings, Yoda felt an unmistakable tremor of fear in the Force, one he had not felt for many years. The last time had been when the boy had fallen into quicksand during his training on Tatooine.
"He's too powerful!" Luke exclaimed. "He'll kill you."
Yoda chuckled softly. "Kill me he cannot, my Padawan. One with the Force am I. Farewell, Luke. Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The Dark Side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny."
He thumbed the communicator off and turned his mind to the battle ahead. The last he would ever fight.
* * * * *
Blaster fire rained from all sides as Han raced for the Millenium Falcon's boarding ramp, Chewie at his side. The kid, the snooty Princess and the droids were only a step behind. If ever there was a bunch of misfits less likely to escape the Empire's flagship, he couldn't imagine it.
Taking cover behind a stack of handy supply crates, Han and Luke lay down covering fire while Chewie and the others boarded.
Ducking to avoid a fresh barrage, Han glanced over at the kid and noticed a dangerous look on his face. "You better not be thinking what I think you're thinking."
Luke met his gaze defiantly. "I have to go after Yoda. I can help him."
Rolling his eyes, Han said bluntly, "Kid, I'm sorry. I liked the little green fella, I really did. But if he's gone to fight the Emperor, he's already dead. It's suicide."
"He's alive," Luke said adamantly. "I can sense it. Make sure the plans get to the Alliance, Han. And take care of yourself." There was a flash of blue light and a distinctive hum as the kid activated his lightsaber.
"Luke," Han said, but he was already gone. "See you around, kid,"
Too bad, Han thought as he pelted up the metal gantry. The kid had potential. Skidding to a halt, he jammed down on the door close mechanism and was three steps into the room before he noticed it: a trail of thick, wet scarlet splashed down the hallway.
"Chewie?" Han called, blaster already in hand. No reply. "I've got a very bad feeling about this," he murmured, an icy cold feeling spreading in the pit of his stomach.
He edged towards the forward cargo hold. The room was as dark and silent as the void of space. He paused, letting his eyes adjust to the dark before continuing. The Falcon was his ship and he knew her better than his own face. No way anyone was getting the drop on him here, lights or not.
The droids hadn't been so lucky. He found C-3PO and R2-D2 deactivate next to each other. Threepio had been cut in half. R2 was nothing more than smoking scrap metal.
Suddenly, all the lights came on at once, the dazzling bright light blinding Solo.
"There's no escape this time, Solo," a familiar voice rasped.
Han knew that voice all too well. "I've heard that before, Boba" he said, doing his best to sound nonchalant despite the fear gripping his heart.
"But have you heard this before?" Fett asked.
There was a soft, mournful bleat. It was a sound that chilled Han to the bone. It was Chewie. His message was simple: I'm sorry. Run.
Squinting, Han saw Boba Fett only a few steps away, unreadable behind his battle damaged helmet. He had one pistol aimed at Han and the other at Chewie, who lay at his feet. The Wookiee was a battered and bleeding mess. Rage and sadness surged through Han but he gritted his teeth and, summoning all of his willpower, pushed the feelings aside momentarily. He had to play it cool if they were going to get out of this.
Edging ever so slowly towards the thermal detonator hidden in a recess in the crate to his left, Han asked, "What have you done with the Princess?"
Boba chuckled. "I wouldn't worry too much about her, if I were you."
"So how much are the Imperials offering you, Boba? Are you sure turning me over to them is the best deal you can get?"
A few more seconds and he would have the detonator. Then it would be the Bounty Hunter's turn to negotiate for his life.
Fett cocked his helmet to one side. "Haven't you wondered why the Stormtroopers aren't swarming the ship by now? They want you dead, Solo. And they've paid me handsomely to do it."
Before Han could react, Fett fired pointblank at Chewie, killing him instantly.
"NO!" Han cried.
Then there was a blinding flash of red light and Han was falling, the ground rising to meet him in slow motion. Funny, he thought, I didn't even see him fire that shot.
The darkness claimed him.
* * * * *
Luke approached the Emperor's Throne Room, using the Force to run faster and longer than should have been humanly possible. Igniting his lightsaber, he cut down the three Imperial Guardsmen protecting the entrance before they even knew he was there.
From within, Luke could hear the unmistakable whizz, spark and hum of a lightsaber duel. The dark interior was illuminated by flashes of green and red, creating a chaotic whirl of colour that made the shadows flicker and dance.
Hurling himself into the room, Luke arrived just in time to see the diminutive figure of Yoda battling a towering man dressed head to toe in black, a long cloak of midnight swirling around him as he moved. The Emperor. The man who had killed Luke's father. He had been a great hero once, the stories said. A Jedi Knight, before he fell to the Dark Side.
Luke could feel waves of dark power radiating off him. He was as much a force of nature as he was a man. It was like standing in the heart of a storm or teetering on the cusp of an event horizon. Yoda was barely holding the Emperor's powerful, relentless strokes at bay.
"If strike me down, you do," grunted Yoda, "More powerful than you can imagine, will I become."
"That is a risk I am willing to take," said the Emperor coldly. And with that, he brought his red lightsaber around in a brutal sideways strike. Yoda made no attempt to defend himself. Closing his eyes, he deactivated his lightsaber.
Luke, Yoda's voice whispered in his mind. Face him alone, you cannot. Run, you must.
And then Luke could feel his presence no more. The little Master's lightsaber clattered to the ground along with his clothing. He was dead.
"YODA!" Luke screamed. Ignoring Yoda's advice, he gathered the Force into him, letting it fill every fibre of his being, and charged. He was moving so quickly time slowed to a crawl and the Emperor himself seemed to be carved from stone.
In a split second, he was face to face with the Dark Lord, close enough to see the red hot coals burning in his eyes, to make out the deep vertical scar that scored the right side of his once-handsome face.
He swung his lightsaber.
The Emperor held up his hand.
Luke went flying backwards across the room, his lightsaber thrown in the opposite direction. He skidded across the polished metal floor and crashed into the wall. It felt as though several of his ribs were broken. The blood he coughed up confirmed it. Still, he was alive.
As Luke struggled to his feet, leaning against the wall for support, the Emperor casually ascended the stairs to his throne without even a backwards look for Skywalker. He leaned back into it, one bare and one black gloved hand on either armrest.
"You should not have come back, Skywalker," Vader said in an unsettlingly soft, faraway voice. "Yoda knew his fate long before he entered this room. Perhaps once he could have bested me. That time has passed."
"He was wise and noble and the last of the Jedi. And you killed him."
"Yes," Vader agreed, almost amiably. "But he was a powerful adversary. Perhaps the best since I killed my old Master, Obi Wan Kenobi, on Mustafar."
"And what of my father?" Luke asked, drawing himself up to his full height, limping towards the Emperor's raised dais. "Master Yoda said you killed him too."
Vader laughed. "Perhaps that is true... from a certain point of view."
"What does that mean?"
A voice from behind answered, melodic, clear, like wind chimes on a chill winter's morning. "He is Anakin Skywalker. Your father. As I am your sister."
Leia sashayed past him towards the throne. Gone was the white outfit, replaced by a sleek black outfit accentuated by slashes of visceral red at the hips and bust. And she had a lightsaber strapped to each thigh. Her hair fell in long, straight strands across her porcelain skin, but somehow she was no longer beautiful. She was proud and cold, except for her eyes, which burned incandescent red like her father's.
Luke shook his head in disbelief. "What? That can't be true. That's impossible!"
Vader leaned forward, fixing Luke in place with the intensity of his gaze. "Search your feelings. You know it to be true."
Try as he might to deny it, Luke knew instinctively that it was the truth. "This is why I'm here, isn't it? This was your plan all along. The Death Star plans..."
Standing with arms folded across her chest at the base of the stairs, Leia said, "Were my idea. An early draft showing a clear design flaw, which I of course eliminated. But we needed to draw Yoda out in to the open and the plans, as well as a captured Princess, were the perfect bait. Once we had him, he would lead us to you." She smiled but there was no warmth in it. "Of course, we never expected he would bring you here to us. Perhaps he was going senile in his old age."
The taunt made Luke's lip curl in anger. "I thought you were on our side. You're one of the Rebellion's most trusted leaders!"
She laughed, softly, wickedly. "A ruse that I can finally give up, now that Yoda is dead and you are here."
Luke stopped in front of his sister, glaring at her. She met his eyes unflinchingly. "And my friends?" he asked.
"Two of the Galaxy's most wanted drug smugglers," Leia replied without emotion. "They paid the price for their crimes. I killed Solo myself. He was too cocky to see it coming."
Luke sneered, feeling anger coursing through his veins, hammering his heart against his ribs. "What about you, sister? When will you pay the price for your crimes?"
Leia's response was full of scorn. "I have done more for the Empire in a day than you have in your lifetime."
"Enough," Vader interjected.
Turning his gaze to the man on the throne, the despotic ruler and murderer who was his father, Luke asked,"What do you want of me?"
Vader extended a gloved hand, palm outwards towards his son. "Join us and together we can rule the Galaxy. We will put an end to war, perhaps even death itself. We will be unstoppable."
For a moment, Luke considered the proposal. Then he thought about Yoda, about Han and Chewie, about the countless millions enslaved or killed in the Emperor's name. Rage exploded within him like a sun going supernova. Skywalker or not, father or not, Vader had to pay for what he had done.
"I'll never join you," he announced.
He Force pulled one of the lightsabers from Leia's waist and leapt high into the air, somersaulting as he activated the weapon. Landing with cat-like grace on the podium, Luke swung with every ounce of anger and Force power he could summon.
Impossibly, an amethyst lightsaber blocked his strike. Leia was at his side. She moved faster than he could have imagined.
Vader laughed deeply, despite the sparking, spitting lightsabers crossed inches away from his face.
"Luke, my son, you already have."