It had been months since Luke Skywalker had fought Darth Vader in Cloud City. A plan had taken shape between Luke, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian to save Han Solo from his carbonite prison at Jabba the Hutt’s palace. In the weeks leading up to the day that they’d infiltrate the palace, Luke stayed on Tatooine living in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s old hut, an ivory colored, dome-shaped desert igloo that had few comforts but enough to stay cool during the day, warm at night and live a simple life. He filled his days with Jedi training, reading Obi-Wan’s journals, practicing lightsaber dueling as best he could and meditating with the Force.
Obi-Wan stressed in his writing the power of silently calming one’s mind, remaining still and reaching out to the Force. Every time, Luke could feel the Force reach back and as the days progressed, he could feel his power growing. He better understood why Obi-Wan and Yoda could live in isolation for so long. With no distractions, a oneness with the Force began to open to Luke and he could feel the presence of the Force flowing through him without having to invite it in. He understood the flow of the Force now: it was like a river with no source or delta, an absolute constant. He realized why he couldn’t do things that Yoda could, like lifting his X-wing from the swamp on Dagobah: like a dam in a great river, his own mind was cutting off the flow of the Force. As he addressed his own doubts and demolished those mental and emotional blocks, he could feel the flow grow stronger, and life itself began to have more clarity. In his meditations, the river of the Force grew to an ocean, and Luke could feel himself as one small contribution to the ever-expanding energy and timelessness that was the Force.
Luke gathered parts to construct a new lightsaber, so he used Obi-Wan’s journals that had detailed instructions that he could easily follow. The kyber crystal, the lightsaber’s power source, hadn’t aligned with the Force and would only do so during powerful Jedi meditation. Once that happened, the mechanical parts of the hilt would come together to form a new, completed weapon.
Luke had been meditating for hours over his lightsaber. He sat cross-legged in Obi-Wan’s hut with the parts to his saber floating in front of him. Tiny screws, the metal chassis, the kyber crystal, the power cell and the rest of the pieces lazily danced in the air. In his meditation with the Force, once he understood how they all fit together, they would come together like puzzle pieces and the Force would flow into the crystal, determining its color and powering the superheated plasma blade.
He wore a black Jedi tunic and hooded cloak pulled over his head, and a dark shadow was cast over his face. As the day wore on, he could feel impatience rising in his mind. He tried keeping it down, but the more he fought the impatience, with it rose frustration, and with that came a full-blown conflict in his mind. The lightsaber parts quivered in the air. He exhaled loudly, not realizing he had been holding his breath. The saber pieces showered down onto the stone floor. It’s useless now. His concentration broken, he knew he needed a break.
He stepped outside the hut into the light of the twin suns, throwing his hood back as he walked toward the edge of the small bluff the hut was built on. He inhaled deeply as he turned his face toward a soft breeze that tousled his blonde hair, and he could smell the subtle fragrance of desert flowers on the wind. He gazed at the view: the Western Dune Sea, a sandy brown expanse broken up by the occasional boulders and low hills. Behind the hut rose Hubba Heights, a low rocky mountain range that ran for miles northwest along the edge of the Dune Sea. A glint of light caught his eye among the dunes. It was coming from the far-away crash site of an old wrecked freighter. Probably disturbed by scavenging Jawa’s.
Luke looked up at the sky, squinting his eyes against the intense light trying to blind him. It’s not even midday yet. He felt jumpy. He’d stayed in one place too long, and he was paying for it with an unused store of energy. He had to go somewhere. He didn’t know where, but he just had to fly.
He walked past the backside of the hut and started down a path. It wound down the side of the rocky brown hill, snaking back and forth around boulders and cliffsides, until it ended at a concealed, tiny valley in-between two hills that held Luke’s X-wing. Whether one was coming from the surrounding hills or from the Dune Sea, the valley couldn’t be seen unless it was the intended destination. Luke didn’t want anyone stealing his only ride off this rock.
He hopped in the pilot’s seat and fired up the engines. The bowl-shape of the little valley echoed the roar from the engines, and dust swirled around the fighter as it lifted off the ground. Luke could only see a brown haze from the dust until he got higher and soared away. He pointed the nose of his starfighter toward the blue sky, and he couldn’t help but smile as the ground of Tatooine shrank away from him. He barrel-rolled as he hit the same level of the clouds. He flew through a couple puffy, sparkling white clouds, then headed north.
After a short while, he started to lower his altitude, until he was flying so close to the ground he could see the rocks and the details in the landscape. He flew around some craggy hills, swooped around a corner, and there it was, his old stomping grounds, Beggar’s Canyon.
He had been excited to see it again, the nostalgia of good childhood memories had driven him to come here, but seeing a place that had once brought him so much joy was suddenly soaked in the reality that everything was different. Luke was a totally different person, and the people who had been with him here wouldn’t know him or they were gone. Forever. He had endured so much change and pain since the last time he was here, it suddenly felt like a huge mistake reintroducing himself to the boy who had raced through this canyon so long ago. The separation between his life now and what it was then felt like a knife tearing him up inside, and as his X-wing sliced through Beggar’s Canyon, Luke wept.
He let tears roll down his face as he remembered an important day years ago.
He was very young, puberty wasn’t in his thoughts yet. The face of Camie Marstrap came into view in his mind’s eye. She was one of his childhood bullies, and before he’d had a chance to duck, Luke got punched in the face by one of Camie’s boyfriends. She laughed as Luke fell to the ground. Sam, the boy who punched him, cackled as he and another boy, Nax, circled Luke with Camie watching.
Luke had just won another starship race through Beggar’s Canyon, beating Sam, and the sore loser was expressing his anger.
“You think you’re such a good pilot, Skywalker? You think you’re going to get into the military academy someday? You’re not, they don’t let trash join the Imperial Navy,” Sam said.
“Look at him squirm around on the ground, like a worm,” laughed Camie.
Sam sniggered, and continued, “If we take that Skyhopper from you, you won’t be able to call yourself a pilot anymore, will you?”
A nearby voice piped up, “If you steal his Skyhopper, that won’t change the fact that he’s still a better pilot than you.”
The trio of preteen bullies looked toward the new kid. Luke turned and looked up at his defender, seeing a robust youth with jet black hair and a dark blue cape standing behind him, with his arms folded across his chest. Luke hadn’t met him before, but he could tell he was a Darklighter.
“What do you care about it, Biggs?” Nax barked.
Biggs’ eyes narrowed, “I don’t like thieves.” His gaze and posture took on a new intensity that made Nax start to back off.
Camie, disgusted at Nax’s perceived cowardice, pushed past him and stood by Sam, yelling at Biggs, “Who do you think you are, Jabba the Hutt?”
Using Camie as a distraction, Sam started to rush at Biggs, but Luke, still on the ground, grabbed his foot, forcing it as high as he could push it. Sam fell face first to the ground as Camie jumped back out of the way. Then Nax lunged at Biggs and swung his fist to get a good blow in. Biggs saw him coming and dodged, shifting his feet and came back with an upper cut to Nax’s jaw. It was a solid hit, slamming Nax backward and onto his backside.
As Sam tried to scramble back to his feet, Luke grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and shoved him back down, pinning him to the ground. He started hitting Sam in the face, as he yelled, “Don’t! You! Ever! Touch! My! SKYHOPPER!” Between each word, Luke was sure to get in a good punch.
Biggs pulled Luke off Sam, and the three would-be thieves scampered away. The two victors stood there in the blazing hot suns for a minute, catching their breath. Biggs commented, “Well, we either just beat those guys and they won’t ever bother us again, or we just made mortal enemies.”
Luke glanced at Biggs with a smirk, but then he got serious. “You didn’t have to help me. Why did you do that?”
Biggs shrugged. “Like I said, I don’t like thieves.”
Luke smiled, extending his hand. “Luke Skywalker.”
“I know. I’m Biggs Darklighter,” he said as he shook Luke’s hand.
“How do you know my name?”
“Are you kidding? You win almost every race you enter, you’re really making a name for yourself as a pilot. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to meet you.”
“Oh, I knew it, it’s about racing,” Luke said with a crooked smile. “Your reasons for helping me fight off those idiots wasn’t just because you’re a do-gooder?”
“No, you looked like you needed a wingman. I just happen to be a good one.”
As he recalled the memory, Luke couldn’t help but smile. He reached the end of the canyon and since he was the only person out here flying, he swooped up in one big arc and sent his starfighter screaming back down toward the mouth of the canyon again. He flew lower this time, and the brown rocky walls loomed over the left and the right side as Luke sped through. An unlucky bird caught the upper right wing of his X-wing, and the thump and small jerk on the fighter startled Luke. Suddenly, it didn’t feel like he was on Tatooine anymore.
He was flying at top speeds down a metal canyon in space, when the screeching of TIE fighters thundered behind him through his earpiece in his helmet. There had to be at least three on his tail.
Wedge Antilles urgently said over his comms, “Fighters coming in, point-three.”
Luke managed to avoid the green blasters shot from the TIEs. The green flashes of light represented death, and he felt the weight of what he had to do. If he failed his mission, all his friends and everything still free in the galaxy was going to die if he was unsuccessful.
“I’m hit, I can’t stay with you,” Wedge said.
“Get clear Wedge, you can’t do any more good back there,” Luke quickly replied.
“Sorry!” Wedge said as he pulled up and flew away.
Luke and Biggs were the only ones left for this trench run. There wasn’t anyone else Luke would rather have watching his six. Other than maybe Solo.
Before Luke could even get his targeting controls ready, the three TIEs swooped down behind Biggs. Their maneuvers were much bolder, and Luke knew they meant to end it. Biggs knew it too.
“Hurry Luke, they’re coming in much faster this time, we can’t hold them!”
The TIEs were gaining on them too quickly; at these speeds they’d surely catch up to them.
Luke barked at his astromech droid, “Artoo, try to increase the power!”
As Luke’s X-wing sped away, Biggs fell further behind. Dread dropped into Luke’s stomach like an iron ball, and refusing to freeze up, he wordlessly willed, please no, not Biggs…
“Hurry up Luke! Quick, quick!”
Luke heard the explosion over his headset that ended his best friend’s life. Tears stung his eyes, but there was no time to think about it. Nothing else but the mission could fill his head now.
He grabbed his targeting controls to lock onto the exhaust port. He was zeroing in, when he heard Ben’s voice echo in his head, “Use the Force, Luke.”
Luke didn’t understand it. How could he hear him, as though Ben were standing right next to him? Am I losing it?
He looked back through his controls, when the voice persisted, “Let go.”
Luke hesitated. He didn’t know if he was losing his mind, but he knew that the voice had to be Ben. He couldn’t explain why, he just knew.
“Luke, trust me.”
I do. I trust you.
And with that, he turned off his targeting computer. The officers back on the Rebel base questioned it, and he reassured them that he was all right.
He started to focus on reaching out to the Force as he scanned for his target, as Ben instructed. Then a violent explosion shook his X-wing, and poor Artoo was rendered useless from the blast.
He could feel the three TIEs getting closer, and as Luke’s connection with the Force went deeper, he could feel a cold, dark power pulsing from one of the fighters behind him. It made his stomach feel sick, but Luke knew he had to keep his mind on the Force to stay alive.
He kept scanning and breathing, trying to keep his thoughts calm. Biggs believed in sacrificing himself for a greater cause, he trusted Luke with his life. The weight of his death was the hope of the whole Rebellion, trusting that Luke would save them. Stay on target… Stay on target…
Another explosion sounded over his comms. Who the hell was that?!
A loud “Yahoo!” shouted into Luke’s headset, deafening him a bit. But that shout was music to Luke’s ears. I knew you’d be back. Han Solo swung overhead in the Millennium Falcon and yelled, “You’re all clear kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home!”
Luke sucked in his breath as he spotted it: the exhaust port. As he gripped the triggers for the proton torpedoes, he remembered Ben’s training. I trust the Force.
Luke squeezed the triggers, and as the torpedoes hit their mark, he thought, this is for you, Biggs.
A dust cloud swirled around Luke’s fighter as he parked it on the surface of Tatooine. He had raced through Beggar’s Canyon and flew several miles southeast. He switched off the controls, and took a deep breath. He rubbed his face with his hand and stared out the window. Reliving these memories was exhausting, but he knew that if he didn’t lay his ghosts to rest, they’d haunt him the rest of his life. He climbed down his X-wing and stood by it, looking over the windswept, cracked earth toward his childhood home.
As he walked toward his family’s old moisture farm, he recalled one of his first memories. He couldn’t have been much older than a toddler…
His beloved uncle and aunt were telling him something.
His aunt smiled tenderly and stroked his rosy cheek as his uncle, standing next to his wife, said, “We want you to grow up knowing the truth about your family, and the truth is that your father and mother are gone… I’m sorry, but they’re dead. Your father was killed during a war called the Clone Wars, and your mother died from childbirth after she had you.”
Uncle Owen’s words confused Luke. He had always called them uncle and aunt, but his young mind never doubted that they were like a father and mother to him. He tried to rationalize it: mothers carried babies in their bellies, so if his aunt never carried Luke like that, did it mean that they weren’t going to take care of him anymore? Were they telling him this because they didn’t love him?
He started to have a falling sensation. He couldn’t work out in his mind what it all meant. His little feet were planted on the solid Tatooine ground in front of the only people Luke had known as parents, but the feeling of falling into an endless black void added to his confusion and fear. He felt cold and alone, and as his uncle and aunt felt further and further away, he wondered, I’m not their boy? I don’t belong to them?
He felt a lump rising in his throat. He looked up at his aunt, and he could hear her humming ever so softly a lullaby, one of his favorites, as her fingers tenderly caressed his hair. Her sweet face smiled down at him, sun beams dancing around her head, making her braids glisten.
She said, “Don’t worry Luke, nothing will change. Everything will be okay.”
Aunt Beru scooped him up into her arms, positioned him on his back and tickled his belly while making cute lizard noises like the sand reptiles living in the desert. Luke giggled and half-heartedly shoved her hands away. He was ticklish but also kind of loved being tickled. To his delight her hand swooped back in, this time tickling his neck. He scrunched his face down, forming a double chin, and his aunt quickly tickled his double chin. He squealed and kicked his legs as they laughed together.
He had completely forgotten the stress that his uncle’s words had caused him. Beru walked to Luke’s bedroom with him in her arms. It was nearly bedtime.
She put him back down and crouched down at his level, giving him a big hug. Her smell filled his nose, a sweet mix of desert flowers, fresh linen and the cookies she had baked that afternoon. She didn’t let go, and whispered in Luke’s ear.
“I didn’t carry you in my belly like some mama’s do with their children, but your uncle and I are like your mother and father in every other way. We’ll always take care of you. We love you so much. And you know what?”
Little Luke waited for her to finish. “There are times when I don’t even think of you as a nephew, I think of you as my son.”
Beru let go of Luke and patted his bed. He scrambled up onto the comfy mattress and blankets as she leaned over him. He laid his head on his pillow, and his big innocent eyes in his small round face gazed up at Beru as she began their nightly ritual of softly humming a lullaby as her petite fingers stroked his face. He loved her caresses.
After a few minutes, as if on cue, the cooing alto of Beru’s voice soothed Luke and made his eyes feel droopy.
Before he fell asleep, he heard her whisper, “Sweet dreams, my blue-eyed boy.”
Beru’s voice echoed as the memory dissolved in Luke’s mind. He knelt in the sandy dirt by a smooth stone grave marker. Etched into it was the name Beru Lars. He swept his hand over the headstone, clearing away some dirt. He glanced to his right, where another grave marker sat for Owen Lars. There were no tears, only guilt. He hung his head and as any semblance of inner peace disappeared into a mental war of self-blame, he whispered, “I’m so sorry you were caught in the crossfire.”
He stayed with them for a while, unmoving, hoping to find a way to atone for their deaths, but Luke came up empty. He leaned down, kissed Beru’s gravestone, then Owen’s. He stood up, gazing at their resting places one last time, then turned and looked over at the homestead. It was still burned and abandoned from the fire that had taken Owen and Beru’s lives. No one had claimed it. Perhaps people were frightened to, since they probably knew by now that the Empire was behind the attack on them.
Luke purposely turned his back on the farmstead, feeling hardened, and walked toward his X-wing. It’s not my problem.
Later that night at Obi-Wan’s hut, Luke couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned for hours. He was exhausted but he couldn’t get the image of the charred homestead out of his head. He thought he had fallen asleep, when suddenly he was back on the moisture farm and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were there. They were having an average day in their home underneath the ground, Owen reading farm reports and Beru was…somewhere. Then Luke smiled. He knew what she was up to, he could smell it from here. She was baking Bantha milk chip cookies. He could hear her humming, and the familiarity of it made him happy. She walked into the dining room where Luke and Owen were and sat the plate of cookies on the table.
She smiled at Luke and said, “Hi sweetie.”
Owen looked up from his reading and just said, “Oh hey, Luke, I didn’t see you come in.”
Luke thought he was going to be in trouble. He was supposed to have fixed the south ridge vaporators this morning, but he had spent all morning with Ben. Luke knew that Owen wouldn’t forget about his request to repair those south ridge units so easily, he must’ve decided to go easy on him. Maybe Uncle Owen felt guilty about yesterday’s conversation over dinner. They had argued about Luke staying on the moisture farm another year to help with the harvest, putting his application to go away to the military academy on hold, again. Maybe, just maybe, Uncle Owen had a little compassion for him. He had to give Luke credit for putting his life on hold to help him with the farm. Aunt Beru would’ve had a big part in Owen’s newfound mercy, but Luke recognized the kindness behind it. Uncle Owen had never been a loving father to Luke, but he had his moments when he reminded his nephew that he cared. As Luke gazed at his aging uncle, he felt warmth for him.
Luke heard subtle footfalls all around the house, but before he could react, a raging fire ignited around the three of them. The suddenness of the blaze made them all cry out in terror, and Luke knew that a fire like this could only be started by expensive equipment, like the flamethrowers Stormtroopers or Mandalorians used.
Beru started screaming in fear.
“It’s the Empire!” Luke yelled.
Owen shouted, “Get out before the fire surrounds us!”
But it was too late. The flames covered the walls and the ceiling within seconds. The heat was searing. The three tried to find a hole in the fire to get out, but to them, the whole world had turned to fire, and the smoke filled their eyes so it was difficult to see anything. The small homestead was bursting with flames as their clothes and hair started to smoke. The blaze had already completely engulfed the room, and any kind of coherent thoughts they had quickly gave way to blind panic. The smoke filled their noses and lungs, and the scent of a burning home made them feel sick.
Beru was weeping and yelling, “Luke! Get out! Don’t worry about us, save yourself!”
Owen tried to shield Beru from the heat as he waved at Luke to go.
“I’m not leaving without you!” Luke shouted and reached to save them, but a wall of fire ignited between them, keeping Luke apart from his uncle and aunt. Beru and Luke tried reaching for one another, but the flames burned their hands. It was useless.
“NO! WE HAVE TO GET OUT!” He desperately screamed.
Beru wept and cried out to Luke. He could feel the blood drain away from his face as the thought came to him, we’re going to die.
Owen had stopped looking for a way out, he and Beru were boxed in and he collapsed as his clothes began to catch fire. Beru was saying something, but no matter how hard Luke tried, he couldn’t hear what she was saying to him. He screamed for them but the fire became a hellish cocoon, and their cries died away as the world became nothing more than an orange haze that licked and clawed at their skin. Luke sank to the ground, his face hit the floor. His cheek could feel the heat on the ground. He reached for his aunt and uncle, and knew no more.
With a big gasp, Luke woke up from his nightmare. He gasped for air and coughed as he realized he was alive. It was a dream. It was all a dream. He propped himself on an elbow, panting as tears ran down his nose and cheeks. Obi-Wan’s words echoed in his mind from that day, “There’s nothing you could’ve done Luke, had you’ve been there. You would’ve been killed too.”
Luke felt a shift in the Force, and in the middle of the room, a short distance from his bed where he was lying, he saw light start to take shape. From the void appeared Ben, cloaked in luminescent Jedi robes. He gazed at Luke compassionately.
He softly spoke, “It’s not your fault, Luke.”
Luke didn’t speak. He stared down his old mentor and felt a flicker of anger in his gut.
“You have to forgive yourself for everything that’s happened to you, because it’s not your fault.”
Luke spat back, “And blame who? Vader? My father?!”
Pain crossed Ben’s eyes. “That’s not why I am here, your questions will be answered in time, I promise, but blaming anyone, whether it’s yourself or Vader, won’t answer your questions, and it certainly won’t help you in any way.”
Without a second thought, Luke said, “Maybe I’m blaming the wrong people, then, maybe it’s all your fault.”
Luke recoiled from his own words. A darkness had fallen over his mind, and suddenly he felt cold and empty.
Obi-Wan stared down Luke. “You are not Vader. Don’t give in to hate. It’s not your way.”
The infectious nature of Ben’s goodness made Luke feel ashamed. He hung his head and said nothing. Ben moved closer, standing over his old bed, gazing down at Luke. Even though Luke’s face was turned away, Obi-Wan could tell he was struggling with his emotions.
Obi-Wan softly said, “It wasn’t your fault.”
Luke was trying to hold back the torrent of emotion that was building, but with Ben’s words, he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He cried hard and cupped his hand over his mouth, trying to stifle the convulsions. But they wouldn’t stop for many minutes. He felt like he was ripping apart as he confronted his own guilt.
Luke realized he was alone and wiped his face with the back of his hand. He sat up in bed, breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, calming himself. He realized he felt lighter. The weight of guilt that had been holding him down without knowing it had lifted.
He was thankful that Ben had come to him. Back on the Death Star, he couldn’t have ever imagined that he’d see him again. He remembered the last time he saw Ben alive…
That hangar in the Death Star was unbelievably huge for a space station. He was running toward the Millennium Falcon to escape the Imperials with Leia, Han, Chewbacca and the droids when he heard the clash of lightsabers. He turned and saw the black form of Darth Vader crossing sabers with one of the last people still alive that Luke cared about, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the man he hoped would be the teacher he never had.
Since Luke first met him, Ben had constantly been expanding Luke’s knowledge in ways he had never imagined. He thought that Ben must be one of the most important people in the Galaxy, since he was one of the last Jedi, and he could hardly believe that someone as significant as Ben wanted to teach him. At that time, Luke could feel that Ben was a close friend already, he’d be there for him now that his uncle and aunt were gone. He would help Luke become a Jedi, and even though Luke hadn’t known Ben very long, he knew that Ben was good. It made Luke trust him. He hadn’t ever experienced having a mentor like Ben, much less a mentor who approved of who Luke was, who even celebrated it.
But then something was wrong. Ben glanced at Luke knowingly, and he expected him to somehow outmaneuver Vader and get the upper hand. But no. He watched, horrified, as Vader struck Ben down. With one stroke of his red lightsaber, Vader killed Luke’s hopes and orphaned him a second time. Fear and anger filled his mind as he started forward, but knowing he couldn’t do anything, he yelled out, “NO!” in a rush of lamented frustration.
The memory faded in Luke’s mind. He got up out of bed and drank some water. He poured some over his face to cool down and tried to relax. What a night, he thought, as he shuffled back to bed and collapsed on the mattress. He laid there on his back, sleep eluding him, gazing out the window at the stars.
If Vader was truly his father, that meant that his father was responsible for the deaths of millions, and he was personally responsible for destroying Luke’s life. It would make sense why Ben didn’t tell him the whole story of his father when they first met, or why Uncle Owen never wanted to talk about it either. But lying by omission was still lying. Luke groaned as he rolled over. According to Ben, Luke couldn’t blame Vader for all that he had done. What could he mean by that? Nothing made sense. No answers were going to be found this night. Luke sighed and closed his eyes.
The Ghost in the Quiet Hours
What felt like a minute later, the sunslight streamed through the windows of the hut, waking Luke. He got up, and washing his face, looked in the mirror. His eyes were puffy and red from the night before. His hair was greasy and wild. That was not beauty sleep, he thought.
He washed up, dressed in some old farming robes he bought on the cheap in Mos Eisley days ago, and went outside to collect the previous night’s water from the vaporator. He cursed under his breath when he saw that it had malfunctioned, again. Luckily he had enough water to get him through the day, but now he’d have to patch up the unit.
As he worked on the vaporator under the increasing heat of the suns, for the umpteenth time Luke wondered why Ben chose this hut to live in. Everything was so old, the only way to avoid spending so much time fixing everything was to scrap it all and buy newer units. But truth be told, he now knew why Ben had lived here.
A small disc-like piece of the vaporator came loose and fell to the ground. Luke reached for it and held it up. It was a circular disc the size of the palm of his hand and attached to it was a rectangular piece, roughly the same width as the circle. It was a gold-colored metal that glinted in the light. It reminded Luke of the medal he was awarded after he blew up the Death Star. As he stared at the metal piece, he marveled at how much he had learned since that awards ceremony three years ago. He remembered going on a walk through the woods near the Yavin Alliance base after the ceremony…
He wasn’t far from the base, but far enough that no one was around and as he walked in a yellow jacket, he felt the heavy necklace weigh on his neck. He held up the medallion to look at it, the award given by the Princess to honor him for destroying the Death Star. He had received it with Han, and he was glad. Han was a good guy, even if he didn’t know it or wouldn’t admit it. Luke hoped Han stayed around, but he couldn’t help feeling that it should’ve been Biggs beside him at the ceremony.
Now that the mission was over, the Alliance would be moving to a new base, since this one on Yavin was compromised, and Luke had a place in a squadron to keep. But everyone here was new. As much as he liked Leia and Han, he’d only known them for several days, and he never imagined that he’d finally join the Rebellion without his longest friend.
Biggs had always been the idealist, the incorruptible rebel who was willing to defend the little guy. Growing up, Luke had been the little guy a few times, and Biggs had not only been his friend and wingman, but his brother. Luke’s childhood memories were filled with Biggs, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine, and it was hard to think that he’d never see them again. Getting used to that would be hard.
Luke remembered how the thought of his homeworld made him think of the hut beyond the Jundland Wastes, where he now labored and trained. He remembered wondering why would’ve someone as important as Obi-Wan Kenobi exile himself there, of all places? There were far more attractive places in the galaxy to lose oneself in.
Even as Luke felt critical of old Ben’s home, the ache of missing him throbbed. He remembered Ben saving his life from the Tusken raiders, and the comfort he gave Luke after his aunt and uncle were killed. There in the woods on Yavin, Luke let himself feel the loss again. He crouched on the ground as his vision blurred from tears, it hit him. Ben was on Tatooine for me. His tears fell to the ground as he considered that Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the last Jedi to have ever lived, gave up his life to protect Luke, only to die later to save him a second time. The weight of this realization hit Luke hard that day on Yavin. It was a sacrifice that humbled him…maybe even made him feel small. Ben had put all his hopes in…Luke. Why? He was no Jedi, how could he champion the cause of the old Order and defeat the Sith? With Ben gone, how could he train? But as his doubts surfaced in his mind, Luke knew it was fear driving his thoughts. And that was something he refused to give in to: fear. Ben had faith in Luke for a reason, and even though he didn’t know those reasons that day, he swore he would trust the Force. He knew the truth about the destruction of the Death Star. It wasn’t superior aim that had made the shot, it was his faith in the Force.
Barely a few minutes had passed before soft footfalls stirred Luke from his grief on the Yavin forest floor. Still crouching on the ground, he looked to his side, and walking toward him between trees and ferns, was the Princess, still in her regal white dress and royal braids from the medal ceremony. Her silver necklace decorating her neck glistened in the sunlight, and the contrast of the bright white gown against the green and brown of the forest reminded Luke of a fallen star.
He awkwardly stood up, brushing his face with the back of his hand, trying to come up with something to say.
“I…I’m sorry Princess…I…” he mumbled.
“Shhh, it’s all right. I saw you and thought you wouldn’t want to be alone,” Leia said.
Luke didn’t know what to say. He just looked at her, taking a moment to be in awe that she had known exactly what he needed, before he knew. He had thought there wasn’t anyone alive who knew him anymore, but he had a feeling that wasn’t true now.
The Princess sat on a fallen log, pulled her long braid over her shoulder, and motioned for Luke to join her. As he sat, she put her arm on his shoulder. The touch felt nice, somehow it made him feel anchored to reality, a little more stable.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she said.
Luke suddenly felt ashamed. Here he was, crying over the few people he’d lost, when she had watched her whole planet explode, yet she was comforting him again, like she did back on the Falcon. How could she still be here and composed, when she had endured what she had? Luke wasn’t sure, but he had heard that Leia was tortured by Imperials before he’d sprung her from imprisonment. If that was true, her mental strength was tougher than his.
“Even if I wanted to talk about it, I wouldn’t know what to say. Everybody I’ve loved since I was a kid is dead,” he said.
As he spoke, Luke’s blue eyes settled on Leia’s brown eyes, and somehow their shared experience of losing their worlds and being orphaned connected them mentally and emotionally in their grief. He knew that they were the same age, but behind those big, sad eyes was an old soul that had seen too much to still be young. Maybe it was the Force, Luke wasn’t sure, but it felt like Leia’s thoughts weren’t a mystery, instead they were only kept from Luke by an invisible thin veil, so nearly tangible he felt like he could reach out and touch it. He thought she felt the same way about him, or something like it.
The strength of their connection was soothing, it was like Leia was carrying some of the weight of Luke’s grief, and he was carrying some of hers. It was comforting, but it was heartbreaking. Luke could feel that Leia used her personality as a nearly impenetrable wall between everyone else and herself. She was strong, stronger than any person Luke had met, but taking a peak behind that wall showed Luke another side of Leia: a young woman who was grieving, scared, and was holding on to her mission in the Rebellion for dear life, because without it, she’d lose her father and her mother all over again. Luke didn’t know how he could, but he wanted to protect her from everything that was causing her pain.
He opened his mind to Leia, not caring if he was vulnerable to her. He usually wanted to appear strong and confident, but right now, he had to let himself feel the strain of everything that had happened, and if there was anyone who would understand that, it would be her. He wondered if she’d be able to feel his thoughts since she didn’t have the Force. Ben said that the Force was in all living things, so he hoped she did.
Luke wrapped his arm around Leia, and she laid her head on his shoulder. They sat there silently on the fallen log, saying nothing. The air was humid but clean, and the scent of the trees, ferns and moist soil was a refreshing change from the usual smells of starship engines and recycled oxygen. Leia’s perfume wafted around them. Luke didn’t recognize the scent, but it reminded him of desert flowers.
As the seconds went by, quiet tears slid down Leia’s face. The galaxy was chaos, and a moment of quiet was all they needed, without having to explain it to each other.
After several minutes, without moving her head off his shoulder, Leia softly asked, “What was Obi-Wan Kenobi like?”
Luke smiled, and a small tear escaped the corner of his eye as he thought of his momentary master again. “He was a good man, and a good Jedi. He was kind to me… I trusted him with my life. But I didn’t call him Obi-Wan. I called him Ben. Ben Kenobi.”
She replied, “Ben… I like that name.”
Luke finished fixing the vaporator, and slid the medallion-like piece into place as his mind left the memory and returned to the present. The last time he saw Leia, she looked at him as a friend. He wondered if she’d still care for him if she knew he might be Vader’s son. The son of the man who tortured her and Han, and stood by as her world was destroyed.
His mind drifted to the last time he saw Vader. If Luke ever had to fight Vader again, could he kill him? Solely based on all that Vader had done to Leia and to the galaxy, Luke knew he could make that choice, but regardless of his feelings about it, Vader had beaten Luke. If he did it once, he could do it again. Luke didn’t want to consider what would happen if they fought again. Only one unproven fact could shift both their fates.
What if Vader was right? Could I kill my own father if I had the chance? he thought. He didn’t want to admit it, but the terrible unease and the sickness in his stomach over the thought gave him an answer.
He looked down at his false right hand. Luke was letting go of a lot of things, but nothing could change the past, and nothing could change what Vader did. The important thing was that Luke was making his own decisions, he wasn’t his father, and he wasn’t Vader, whether or not they were the same person. He’d just have to learn how to live with this one ghost.
The Rise of a Jedi
A week later, Luke decided to meditate with the Force at night under the stars. He wrapped himself in his dark cloak to stay warm as he sat atop a flat boulder on a hill not far from his hut, overlooking the Western Dune Sea to his left and the Jundland Wastes to his right. The stars winked at him from above against a navy backdrop. He could make out the haze and star clusters running in a great arc over his head, revealing the way toward the heart of the galaxy. Tatooine’s three moons were rising beyond the horizon, and their silvery glow was casting eerie shadows as they crept higher in the sky.
Luke preferred night on Tatooine to the day. Because it’s so scorched from the twin suns, the desert came to life at night. Sentient and non-sentient species alike roamed freely when the suns retreated from the sky, and it’s when the vaporators went to work, gathering moisture from the air to nourish the farmers with water the next day. Or at least that’s the idea, he thought. Elusive and rare night bloomers would unfold their petals in beautiful displays of violet and crimson, releasing their soft, sweet fragrance. Only the strongest flowers’ scent would linger through the heat of the daylight hours.
Of course, Luke was never able to enjoy the nighttime when he was growing up here. The creatures that roamed the dunes were dangerous, and the Sand People were always a threat. But now, Luke enjoyed the dark of the night without fear. He was the most dangerous thing out here.
He turned his gaze toward the Western sky. Somewhere up there, many light years away, was Dagobah. A tiny speck of light that housed a friend, and a promise. He felt guilty for leaving Yoda the way he had. He had been so arrogant at the time, clueless to what was coming. When he thought about that last day on the swampy jungle planet, it felt like years ago, even though it was only a few short months ago…
Luke was hurriedly fixing the engines on his X-wing, getting ready to leave Dagobah. It felt like he had been there for months, even though he knew only a handful of weeks had passed for the rest of the galaxy. His starfighter needed a few last minute repairs before he could fly it. His Jedi Master Yoda and the luminescent Force ghost of Obi-Wan were trying to convince him to stay and continue his Jedi training. But he had to leave. His resolve wouldn’t be moved. He had a vision before this of his best friends in the whole galaxy, Han and Leia, being captured and tormented by Darth Vader and other Imperials. He knew that there was something off about their torture and the situation, but he couldn’t leave Han, who had risked his own life to save Luke’s multiple times now, to die in misery. And Leia had already suffered at the hands of the Empire enough already, the thought of Vader hurting even a hair on her head made Luke so angry his hands started to shake. But he must remain calm. He had to focus to keep moving, he couldn’t be too late to save them. He would never forgive himself if he let them die. Vader had killed Luke’s father, and Ben, and he had destroyed the lives of so many others. Luke wouldn’t let Vader take his closest friends away from him too.
His thoughts strayed to his uncle and aunt. They had died because of him. Luke kept the guilt at bay, in this moment Luke had to twist it from something that could crush him to something that drove him forward. Biggs was a casualty of war, but maybe, just maybe, Luke could’ve done something to keep him alive, some sort of diversion or maneuver, or, something…He wasn’t even able to keep Dak alive back on Hoth… No, he had to go. No one else would die because of him. He would do everything in his power to keep anyone else he loved from dying.
“It is you and your abilities the emperor wants, that is why your friends are made to suffer,” Obi-Wan said.
Luke fixed Obi-Wan with a determined gaze and stated, “That’s why I have to go.”
Obi-Wan persisted, “Luke, I don’t want to lose you to the Emperor the way I lost Vader.”
Vader was weak, Luke thought, and with a smirk, he replied to Obi-Wan, “You won’t.”
Luke continued prepping his X-wing for takeoff, but Yoda said, “Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.”
Luke was still loading supplies into his fighter. This isn’t about me, it’s about them!
“Patience!” said Obi-Wan.
Luke had had enough. “And sacrifice Han and Leia?!”
“If you honor what they fight for, yes,” Yoda said.
All Luke’s fiery motivation deflated with a wave of doubt. Conflict raged in Luke’s mind as he was caught between his need to keep his friends safe from real or imagined threats, and his desire to become everything Yoda and Obi-Wan were training him to become. If he was going to be one of the only Jedi in the galaxy, the balance in the Force would be maintained by him. If all is as the Force wills it, it would be no small thing to leave his training. His choices could tip the balance in the galaxy toward darkness or the light.
Obi-Wan said, “If you choose to face Vader, you will do it alone. I cannot interfere.”
Luke sadly looked at his old mentor. He realized nothing had changed. He couldn’t abandon the only friends he had left. What worth would there be in the fight against the Empire if he let everyone he loved become a sacrifice?
“I understand,” Luke said as he climbed into his starfighter. “Artoo, fire up the converters.”
“Luke, don’t give in to hate,” Obi-Wan warned, “That leads to the dark side.”
I’m going to save my friends, that can’t lead to darkness, Luke thought as he nodded.
“Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can,” said Yoda urgently.
This isn’t the end of my training.
“I will. And I’ll return. I promise.”
As the memory faded, he started to calm his mind to prepare for meditation. Like Yoda said, erase my mind of questions.
He focused on his breathing and like an old friend, the Force enveloped him. It was like a silent echo in unseen halls that held everything he was and thought and would ever think, and in the midst of the unfolding light, the dark, and the balance, was Luke: a wispy image of body and consciousness that flowed with the Force as one. The material world fell away into meaninglessness and he stepped into a world where an immortal dance between the living and the cosmic Force fueled all life and energy and held it together.
His consciousness wasn’t on Tatooine anymore, he was somewhere else entirely. Grey clouds surrounded him and the only lights were pale blue and white specks of starry light that streamed off his body and floated through the air. He was in a perfect symbiotic relationship with all things in reality beyond time. Everything about himself and this place was absolute truth, the complications found in life held no power here.
Out of the void walked a person. Luke had never beheld anything so beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Shock waves of power emanated from a dark silhouette of a man wreathed in white starlight. His face emoted anger, sadness and confusion, somehow all at once, but his eyes were serenity and shone with a white light, as two bright suns in his face. At his heart, another light pierced the darkness of his body: the light of joy, radiating like blue flames from his chest. When he opened his mouth, it glowed like the light surrounding him. The being held Luke in place with only a gaze. His penetrating stare was more than intimidating, it was petrifying. He made Luke feel vulnerable and weak.
“Who are you?” Luke asked.
“I am the One,” The being replied. His tenor voice echoed with authority across the clouds. Thunder boomed in the background, but it faded in comparison to the power of the being’s voice.
“The One? I don’t understand.”
“I am Skywalker,” the being said with a reverberating voice.
This made Luke pause.
“That’s my name. Are…we related?”
“I am the Life Force of the One. I exist beyond time. You know me as Skywalker.”
Luke said no more. His confusion wasn’t giving him any questions to ask that would orchestrate answers, so he didn’t know how to understand what was happening. But then he realized his doubt was blinding him to the truth. Yoda said that people are luminous beings. Luke hadn’t given his words a second thought, but now he understood what Yoda was trying to tell him.
Luke approached the being, standing directly in front of him, and held his hands up. The being mirrored him, and their voices melded into one commanding voice, saying, “I am the One.” They fused together and Luke felt an immense weight roll onto his shoulders. He was strong enough to hold it, he stayed standing straight. The gray clouds rolled away, revealing a great arena with high stone walls towering above Luke. The floor of the arena was laid in white stone on one side, with one small area of the stone painted in a black circle. The other side of the arena had black stones, with a small circular space of white stone as an island in the black. Flecks of gold glinted throughout the floor, like a starlit night sky.
A disembodied voice echoed through the arena, “The first to stand where you are, you are not.”
Luke’s face lit up. “Master Yoda!”
“Yes, it is I.”
“Master, what is this place?”
“That is for you to discover. Much you have learned since I saw you last. A powerful Jedi, you will be. Pleased with you, I am.”
Luke smiled. His heart warmed toward Yoda. “I am grateful for what you taught me,” Luke said. He hoped Yoda could feel how true his words were. “What can you teach me here, Master?”
“Trust yourself, and revealed the truth will be. Within you, the power lies. Teach you here further, I cannot. Mind what you have learned.” Yoda’s voice echoed into silence.
“Master Yoda? Master Yoda?” Luke was alone.
The power lies with me, and when I trust myself, the truth will come.
Luke closed his eyes. He breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. His mind drifted to thoughts of Yoda, and what he had said. I’m not the first to stand here.
Luke opened his eyes. “Who was the first? Show me the truth.”
Before him unfolded a vision. It was a dark enclosed room, with many shadows spread across two figures. On the left was Yoda, seated, in his Jedi robes, and on the right was a man, tall even though he was seated as well, wearing black Jedi robes. Luke couldn’t see his face, there were shadows across it, but the feeling from this mysterious man was beautiful and terrifying power. There was so much fear, anger and love emanating from him, it made Luke feel like he had been caught in a storm and would be ripped apart if he came too close.
They were speaking, but Luke couldn’t hear everything they said. Yoda’s voice came in and out of focus, but like a dying echo, the master’s voice in the vision said, “Death is a natural part of life…Attachment leads to jealousy…Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose…”
Suddenly, Luke felt a violent force pull his body backward. He almost fell sideways as he returned to himself sitting on a boulder on Tatooine. He gasped for air as he reestablished his surroundings.
Back in the quantifiable galaxy, Luke felt stunned by his experience. Already, mere minutes after he had experienced it, he was losing in his memory some of the details, but the feeling he had was intoxicating, like a surge of confidence and power had swept over him. But looking back on the meditative events felt like looking at something through a fog. There were a few things he would fight to hold onto: Yoda was pleased with him, and he would become more powerful than he’d ever imagined.
He rose and walked back to his hut. Once inside, Luke confidently walked to a small table against the far side wall where he had his lightsaber parts laid out on a mat. Keeping his hooded cloak on, he carried the mat to the center of the hut’s main room and sitting on the floor and crossing his legs, he laid the mat in front of him. He relaxed his hands on his knees and closed his eyes. He deepened his breathing and slowed his heart. His mind ceased to wander and focused on the light in the Force. The lightsaber parts lifted off the mat and floated in the air a few feet off the floor. The kyber crystal slowly glided to the front of the other pieces, hovering closest to Luke. He opened his eyes and watched as the crystal started to glow. The pearlescent light grew from Luke’s Force connection and life force, brightening to a brilliant white that reflected in his eyes and made them shine like two suns. He felt power leave him as the saber pieces lined up perfectly and came together with a small click sound to form a new Jedi’s lightsaber.
He grabbed the weapon out of the air and examined it. He slid the chassis back and examined the crystal, the micro power grid, all of it, and found one flaw. Oh no. A small wire connecting the blade adjustment and power cell wasn’t working properly. A small problem but disappointing nevertheless. He sighed. He’d have to go back to Mos Eisley at some point before he started the rescue mission for Han and bargain with spare parts dealers again. He waved his left hand through the air, with his index and middle fingers extended. Smirking, he thought, I think I’ll be able to bargain better this time around.
The Calm Before the Storm
A few days later, Luke practiced his lightsaber combat forms outside his hut in the morning suns with a training stick he had carved from a tree branch. The scraggly trees on Tatooine were more like shrubs than actual trees that grew in deep rock crevices out of the suns, just like desert flowers, but not pretty at all. The white wood was light enough that he could carve a slender “blade” that was nearly weightless and a “hilt” that wouldn’t crumble in his grip. He wore his black Jedi tunic and his new lightsaber hung on his belt, but he hadn’t completed it yet. The following day, he’s travel across the dangerous dunes to Mos Eisley to get the part he needed for his saber.
In two days, the team Luke and Leia assembled to save Han would go to Jabba’s palace to stage a rescue. Luke hoped Jabba had a droid shortage.
As Luke nimbly swung his saber trainer through the air, shifting his feet, he worked his way through form five of the lightsaber combat forms. He started to focus on his breathing and tapped into muscle memory as he hit his stride. He began to fall into a meditative state, even as he continued with the saber exercises. This was something Yoda taught him on Dagobah. The connection between the Force and the physical movement started to merge and Luke could feel his power exploding as it flowed through his body and his life force. At this point, he felt like he could raze the hills in the desert to the ground if he wanted to. It took mental discipline and exercises such as this to not only learn the extent of his power, but also how to keep it in control.
He fell deeper into meditation, retreating from the present time into his own memory. He raised his training saber, slashing through the air, when suddenly his surroundings shifted and a great wind hit him, almost knocking him off balance. The training stick had changed to Luke’s blue lightsaber that had belonged to his father, and his heart stopped with fear when he saw Darth Vader coming at him on a narrow platform, high up above a miles-long chasm in the underbelly of a cloud city. Hatred for this Sith overshadowed anything else in his mind, and he raised his lightsaber. He must fight him. He must avenge his father, and Ben, and protect his friends from this monster. Vader had killed countless numbers of people, he had to be stopped.
The blue and the red lightsabers clashed and clawed at each other like thunder and lightning, and it didn’t take long before Luke knew he was outmatched. It took all his skill to even engage Vader, and even then he felt that Vader was playing with him. He pushed Luke further back on the platform, further and further. He tried using the railing to get leverage and come at Vader, successfully nicking the shoulder of his suit, but he continued to parry Luke’s blows away.
Vader caught his blade and with a simple swish, Luke’s arm flew up and blinding pain hit his wrist. A white light of agony filled his vision for a second, and the pain hit his arm and shoulder like nothing he’d ever experienced. The smell of burned flesh and singed clothing filled his nose as he looked at his right arm. Where his hand should have been was a cauterized stump at the end of his forearm. He screamed and grabbed his arm before he fell to the floor of the cold metal causeway. He tucked his injured arm underneath his other arm, and as Vader approached he retreated to the extreme end of the gantry. It was just miles of air all around him, there was nowhere else to go.
“There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you. You do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy,” Vader said.
For a moment Luke couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His greatest enemy, attempting to bring Luke over to his side? His confusion was short lived, and the sound of Vader’s voice and his words filled Luke with fresh rage.
“I’ll never join you!” he yelled defiantly.
“If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”
Luke’s mind was screaming. How dare you speak of Ben and my father!
“He told me enough! It was you who killed him.”
“No. I am your father.”
All the galaxy fell silent. For a half second, Luke felt that familiar black void open beneath him. It felt like his ties to the world were severed, like he was a little boy again back on Tatooine, being told that he was an orphan.
Just as quickly as the world fell silent, with one word it came screaming back. No. He pushed his feelings aside even though his own defiance of this revelation felt vain.
“No. No. That’s not true! That’s impossible!”
“Search your feelings. You know it to be true.”
Luke knew his feelings were telling him the truth, the Force unfolded this cruel surprise in the blink of an eye. The details were utterly irrelevant, the questions it raised vain. The Force sung with this one fact that was always meant to be revealed in this one moment, and the harshness of this reality, despite its sincerity, made Luke recoil in horror. It cannot be true, it cannot be true, Luke thought in repetition for some comfort, but comfort eluded him.
“No. No! NO!” he screamed as his mind raged in turmoil.
“Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way.”
As Vader finished, he extended his hand to Luke. In that second he agreed with Vader. There was only one way out. He looked down and suddenly felt calm. The black void of the deep chasm beneath his feet beckoned and he knew why his ties to this world felt severed. The war had killed everyone who loved him, it had orphaned him. His thoughts strayed to his childhood, and suddenly he missed Aunt Beru’s soft lullabies that would soothe him to sleep as a young boy. He missed her voice so much it ached. He missed the smell of home… The scent of desert flowers was always so comforting. He even missed Uncle Owen, and Ben… Oh how he needed to talk to Ben again. He remembered his old Skyhopper and thought that maybe somewhere, he could fly with Biggs again.
I’m sorry Leia, he thought as he stepped off the platform.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As Luke meditated on this moment in his life, he felt the pull of many different emotions. He felt the pain all over again over the choice he had been forced to make in that second. The thought of death wasn’t new. As a rebel fighter, he had made peace with the fact that he could die a long time ago, but choosing to let himself die like that left a scar. He was glad to still be alive, but it also meant that he had to deal with Vader’s revelation. Luke struggled with believing it. A part of him recognized that there was truth in his claim, but a part of him couldn’t be sure. It didn’t match up with what Ben had told him.
And there was the grief over the loss of the image he had created in his head of his father. When Ben had first told him that he was the son of a Jedi who was once powerful, a great pilot and a good friend to him, Luke created a grandiose image in his head of his father. If Vader was right, all of that would be destroyed. Things were simple for Luke before he had gone to Cloud City: his father and Ben were good, righteous Jedi who had been killed by a monster who had nothing but darkness left in him. Now, everything was confused, and the idea that his father and Vader might be the same person bled Luke’s concept of the light and the dark into a conflicted shade of gray.
Luke leaned further into his meditation. He focused on the memory of him falling into the belly of Cloud City. He inhaled slowly and deep, and exhaled. With each breath, he reached out further to the Force, and in his mind became frozen in those moments of time as he fell. He looked toward Vader. He loomed over the edge of the railing of the gantry, watching Luke fall. His breathing was shallow, and he didn’t turn away. His gaze was fixed on Luke for the whole fall.
Luke reached further, peering into Vader’s feelings. He instantly felt the cold and the emptiness of the Sith Lord, but he kept going. Luke’s mind felt like it was being violently shaken as he kept piercing the darkness of Vader’s mind. As he went deeper, the intense power of Vader’s Force-connection became more exposed and terrifying, like he was approaching a massive storm that could rip him apart. Even as he began to doubt his own strength to remain in this hurricane of raw dark side power, he breached the cruel outer-shell of him and found a mind saturated with fear. The overwhelming weight of Vader’s fear hit Luke with soul-crushing intensity. He gasped to recover from the sudden onslaught. He felt like he was in the middle of a squall in an ocean and he couldn’t get his head above the water. He couldn’t breathe. He had to get out. But before he could, he realized the focus of Vader’s fear: he was watching Luke fall. Vader was afraid of something. He was afraid of something to do with Luke. He was afraid of losing something, he thought.
In the midst of Vader’s mind, Luke saw a flicker of an image that he could tell even Vader barely recognized, but it was there for only a second. Luke stretched his mind to the limit, trying to see what it was. Like a ghost, it was the translucent face of a woman with white flowers in her hair. She was sleeping, but Luke could see she was beautiful. She had porcelain white skin and curly brown hair. Even as Luke saw the apparition, it was gone. And in that second that it disappeared, Luke understood what Vader’s storm of fear truly was about: he was afraid of losing Luke.
Luke pulled out of the memory with a deep gasp for breath. He fell to his knees onto the sandy dirt, trying to catch his breath. His mind was racing. Vader didn’t want to kill me, in some twisted way he wanted me to be with him because it’s what he wants. He just wants me to be with him. He was afraid… He wasn’t afraid of my abilities, he was afraid of losing me… He didn’t want me to die… Does this mean…Could it be…There’s still some form of good in Vader?
Luke was having a hard time breathing. This revelation felt like it could change everything, but ultimately, it raised more questions than it answered. Could he believe that a seed of goodness resided deep in Darth Vader, even after everything he had done? Could he even believe what he saw in this vision?
Regardless of the truth, Vader truly believed Luke was his son. If it was true, what then? Could this be used to turn Vader?
Something deep in Luke’s consciousness whispered… Use Vader’s belief against him. The truth doesn’t change the fact that he’s my enemy. If he won’t kill me because he believes I’m his son, that is a weakness… I could beat him… And I could kill him… After all, it’s what he deserves, death. For all that he’s done, he needs to die…
Luke’s heart started to race. He looked up from the dirt and stared at the horizon across the Dune Sea. Something didn’t feel right. His thoughts didn’t feel like his own. Somehow he felt… Off balance. He stood up and walked to the edge of the bluff. Nothing about the desert had changed, but Luke couldn’t look at it the same way.
His stomach felt twisted in his gut and the deep peace he had come to know in his meditations over the past several weeks felt disturbed. His ruminations on Darth Vader were leaving him cold and empty. The warmth of the suns felt far away. He closed his eyes and clenched his fists hanging at his sides.
“The dark side…” he whispered as a deep frown darkened his face. His journey into the Sith Lord’s mind had come at a cost.
Unclenching his fists, he relaxed his hands, turning his palms forward as he lifted his chin up in a defiant manner. He started to breathe deeply and calm his disturbed heart.
Under his breath, he said, “The light of the Force is with me…”
As he meditated, he could feel the warmth of the suns again. He cleared his mind of questions, reminding himself that Yoda would help him find answers upon his return to Dagobah. His black tunic flapped in the breeze. He turned his face southeast, where beyond the Jundland Wastes and the Jawa Heights rested his aunt and uncle. Beyond that at the Darklighter farm was the empty grave for Biggs. To the northeast, Han Solo was hopefully still alive, imprisoned in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Far overhead beyond the blue sky, Leia orbited the planet in the Millennium Falcon, anxiously waiting to begin their rescue operation in two days. Without meaning to, the biggest lesson his family and friends had taught Luke was the preciousness of life. As a Jedi, it was his duty to defend it.
Looking down at his belt, Luke unhooked his new lightsaber and held it up. He thought it probably would work, despite its little flaw. He had styled it after Obi-Wan’s lightsaber and he was pleased with it. Having made it and given life to the kyber crystal himself, it felt like an extension of his own arm. Luke pushed the power cell button and the saber ignited. To his surprise, the slender blade that erupted from the hilt was green. He admired it, gazing at the electric color that was deceitfully deadly. He whipped it around a few times, feeling it out as it hummed through the air. A ribbon of green blurred around him as he picked up speed. He abruptly stopped the motion and held the lightsaber aloft, extending his arm high in front of him. At least I can see it against the blue sky.
He turned it off and reattached it to his belt. Crossing his arms over his chest, he smiled as he looked across the dunes toward Jabba’s palace where Han Solo waited for salvation from his carbonite sleep. I’m going to save you.
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